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Debian Linux Hardware

Installing Linux On a 386 Laptop 260

Posted by timothy
from the for-the-modern-luddite dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a link to Hack A Day's step-by-step guide to installing Linux on a 386 laptop, which looks like a nice rainy-day project, as long as you are a stubborn hardware collector. It gets complicated, though, because 386 support has long since disappeared from most mainstream distros, which is why the writer went with Debian 1.3.1.
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Installing Linux On a 386 Laptop

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  • Re:this is a hack? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @11:16AM (#37079554) Homepage

    Why a hack?

    Because it's not a DX chip (full 32-bit). It won't work "out of the box" and I've spent the last decade using apt, so I'll call it a hack. Looks a lot simpler than ELKS which is the only other way I know to achieve the same thing (early Windoof will run on the same chipset, but requires thunk layers)

    From the Debian Installation manual:-

    However, Debian GNU/Linux squeeze will not run on 386 or earlier processors. Despite the architecture name "i386", support for actual 80386 processors (and their clones) was dropped with the Sarge (r3.1) release of Debian[2]. (No version of Linux has ever supported the 286 or earlier chips in the series.)

    I've managed to install to 386-DX chipsets with 4MB of RAM, but not the SX. Very impressive. Especially given the price I can pick up industrial single card 386-SX boards. Not of interest to gamers and such, but very, very useful non-the-less.

  • Re:this is a hack? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by farrellj (563) * on Saturday August 13, 2011 @11:34AM (#37079704) Homepage Journal

    You said it!

    I used to use a 386sx system as my firewall for my home network back in the 90s. It also was hooked up to my US Robotics Courier modem that I had from my days of running a BBS on Fidonet and PODSnet.

    Now, if he got it to run X, I might consider that a reasonable hack...but just running Linux...lame.

    ttyl
              Farrell

  • Compiler Technology (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TejWC (758299) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @11:35AM (#37079710)

    I was wondering, hypothetically, if somebody where to take the source code of Debian 1.3.1 and compile it with the latest version of GCC and somehow made it compile; I wonder how much faster it will compared to the binary that was released back then. I mean, has compiler technology improved much in the last 14 years when it comes to slow machines like the i386?

  • Re:this is a hack? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) on Saturday August 13, 2011 @01:42PM (#37080330) Homepage

    Internally the SX had 32bits, only the data bus was 16 bits.

    Yes... That was what I meant by "Because it's (the SX) not a DX chip (full 32-bit)" - The problem with the 16-bit data bus was not just limiting the total memory that could be addressed - there was also cache addressing problems. If there was just one 386-SX it'd probably have been better supported - from (fuzzy) memory most of the problems we encountered then (I worked for Compaq at the time) were motherboard ones rather than CPU. I.M.O. IBM made the smart move by ignoring the 386 at the time - they were expensive, and the boards to support them even more so. (and the SL series was an even bigger nightmare).

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