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indicates which kernel will be loaded from the available kernels in this file.
The kernels are referenced starting from zero, so a value of 0 indicates to use the first kernel, 1 indicates to use the second, 2 the third, and so on.
This guide is about updating your Linode’s current kernel to a newer version.
Change the "default" value as appropriate to load the new kernel you installed.
Generally, you can change this to 0 and load the top-most kernel listed in  Once the server comes back online, login via SSH as the root user.
You can see above that "default" has a value of 1, which indicates to use the 2.6.18-274.3.1.el5 kernel on reboot.
Changing this to 0 will cause the first kernel listed to be loaded upon reboot.
With the new kernel containing Spectre patches, it refused to load the Realtek Wireless drivers into memory. This makes the distro useless, as it has no network connection.