I must say it’s been literally years since I compiled my own custom kernel, although I do recall doing it very often just to stay pretty bleeding edge. Besides it was good practise.
In the last week I took it upon myself to go over this fine art and was quite surprised to see how things have changed. I remember when the kernel had changes to allow the .config file to be available in proc file system, however it seems atleast on my Debian 6.0 install this doesn’t exist and has been left out of the kernel options. Although the config file used one the kernels shipped/installed is available in /boot file system. Don’t understand why they don’t make use of this, as it was a big thing when finally available in the kernel, guess they have reasons.
I also found out that ‘make dep’ is no longer required during the compiling process, in addition, mkinitrd is no more. Been replaced by mkinitramfs which requires the kernel config file in /boot to make the initrd anyways. And last but not least, grub2 no longer requires you to modify a menu.lst to boot the new kernel.
In any case, with a bit of research I managed to compile and install kernel 3.0.4 on a Debian 6.0 host without much fuss.
michaelf@bravo:~$ uname -a Linux bravo 3.0.4 #1 SMP Wed Aug 31 20:59:49 EST 2011 i686 GNU/Linux