cd linuxconf-1.17r8 zcat /tmp/diff-1.17r8-1.17r9.gz | patch -p1
But patch alone does not do the trick completely. Patch do not deal with symbolic links, removed files and few other issues. So Linuxconf diff files are not alone. There is always a corresponding fcmd file. Fcmd files are applied using the fcmd-exec command, found in the linuxconf-tools package ( ftp://ftp.solucorp.qc.ca/pub/linuxconf/tools. Here is how you must use the fcmd-exec command. You must use it after using patch.
zcat /tmp/fcmd-1.17r8-1.18r9.gz | fcmd-exec -p1 -
Note that fcmd files are often empty. Using both commands will allow you to track Linuxconf source distribution without downloading 3 megs every week :-)