Byte.com: Tuning Linux For Maximum Performance

“One can safely assume that most people run Linux after
installing it from one of the common distribution CD-ROMs such as
RedHat or Caldera.”

“Your machine probably performs faster and more reliably
compared to what it would do with one of the commercial,
proprietary, Microsoft Windows variants. Most users are aware that
the Linux kernel and the myriad of utilities installed from the
distribution CD are only very generalized versions adapted to run
well on a variety of diverse configurations. You may feel there is
potential for improvement given your particular configuration and
hardware mix. Well, yes, that’s true.”

For one thing, the kernel installed from RedHat or Caldera
distros are compiled for x386 standard Intel CPUs, and re-compiling
for the particular CPU-type you have will give you an edge on
performance and reliability.
The sysadmin is also well advised
to cut away all unwanted fat from the kernel. If you don’t have any
SCSI hardware installed in your system, there is little sense in
having drivers for it in your kernel binary. The same applies for
other hardware types, such as network gear, sound, etc.”