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Upgrades Linux

Linux Nukes 386 Support 464

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the upgrade-time dept.
sfcrazy writes with news that Linus pulled a patch by Ingo Molnar to remove support for the 386 from the kernel. From Ingo's commit log: "Unfortunately there's a nostalgic cost: your old original 386 DX33 system from early 1991 won't be able to boot modern Linux kernels anymore. Sniff." Linus adds: "I'm not sentimental. Good riddance."
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Linux Nukes 386 Support

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  • Dammit (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:24AM (#42260815)

    I'm forking Linux right now to support this under-appreciated processor.

    • Re:Dammit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:36AM (#42260935) Homepage Journal

      If you HAVE a 386, don't you also REALLY want a pre-2.0 kernel, anyway? :-)

      • Re:Dammit (Score:5, Funny)

        by tgd (2822) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:53AM (#42261139)

        If you HAVE a 386, don't you also REALLY want a pre-2.0 kernel, anyway? :-)

        Real men run .99, and wait 16 hours for their kernel to compile.

        (Of course, that was 1/4 the time it took X to compile ...)

      • Re:Dammit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@ g m a i l.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @01:51PM (#42262823) Journal

        Actually what you want is a cat scan to make sure you aren't brain damaged. i'll tell everyone here the same i tell my SMBs when I got them off those power sucking P4s "When you look at how much useful work you get VS how much power the unit takes its simply not worth keeping" and that applies just as much to a 386 as it does to a P4.

        I mean lets face facts folks, you can take one of those AMD Bobcats or Intel Atom setups (Personally prefer the Bobcat as it gets better performance for a pretty similar price) and get a dual core CPU that uses less than 18w under load, most jobs it'll use between 5w-8w, and you can do just about any task you'd have for a low power unit. A 386 when you figure in the PSU and board is simply going to use a lot more power for every unit of work you get out of it because back then nobody really cared about power usage, it was all about the clocks. And if you don't require 386 support frankly a $25 ARM thumbstick will give you much more work per watt while being even lower powered than the Bobcat or Atom.

        So there really isn't a point to keeping any of these old junkers except for the case of nostalgia which if you want it for nostalgia you are gonna be running an OS from that period, like Win 2.0 or the first Slax release, so having support for such an ancient CPU really makes no sense. Personally if it were me I'd cut off support at the P4, anything older than that frankly is gonna be worthless for anything and while I hate the fact the P4 is a power sucking hog you can still get reasonable amounts of work done with a P4, especially if its one of the later ones like the Cedar Mill with hyperthreading or the Pentium D models.

        • Re:Dammit (Score:5, Informative)

          by jpvlsmv (583001) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @02:23PM (#42263191) Homepage Journal

          And if you don't require 386 support frankly a $25 ARM thumbstick will give you much more work per watt while being even lower powered than the Bobcat or Atom.

          Even if you do, your ARM thumbstick can probably emulate the 386 instruction set at a faster rate than the original chips, via Bochs or QEMU.

          --Joe

    • Re:Dammit (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:52AM (#42261121) Homepage Journal
      You would have a really hard time maintaining it. The stuff that was removed allows them to change a whole mess of things that will become incompatible to backport from
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by miroku000 (2791465)

        You would have a really hard time maintaining it. The stuff that was removed allows them to change a whole mess of things that will become incompatible to backport from

        People still using 386's probably don't update very often.

    • Re:Dammit (Score:5, Informative)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:31PM (#42261573) Journal

      I'm honestly surprised that it held on this long.

      Intel EOLed even their embedded 386s sufficiently long ago that I had to go to archive.org to find the discontinuation notice [archive.org]. The last 386 rolled out the door in 2007.

      There still seem to be some other outfits I've never heard of making x86s for embedded applications, but the specs on those boards are sufficiently primitive that they generally seem to be aiming for DOS, not the leading edge of the 3.X kernel tree.

    • Re:Dammit (Score:5, Informative)

      by the_humeister (922869) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:39PM (#42261699)

      Debian dropped 386 support way back when 3.1 came out. Here are the reasons. [debian.org]

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:24AM (#42260819) Homepage Journal

    I'll fork the kernal and keep the 386 dream alive, just as soon as the checkout is complete on my blazing fast 28.8k modem.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:25AM (#42260825)

    I remember furiously masturbating to low resolution pornography on my 386.

    640x480 is perfectly wankable if you ask me...

    Which nobody does.

    Why don't you call me anymore??

  • by jfdavis668 (1414919) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:27AM (#42260839)
    Which kernel version was the last to actually run on a real 80386?
  • by mattytee (1395955) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:27AM (#42260843) Homepage
    "Here's a nickel, kid. Get yourself a better computer."
  • by dmacleod808 (729707) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:28AM (#42260853)
    A 486 with ethernet just for IRC. Since it is now my last vestiges of nostalgia for 1992 since my 386 wont work. Sans modem of course.
    • It's ok give it a few years there will be an i386 Ubuntu emulator just like there are speccy & C64 emulators now :)
    • by Hatta (162192)

      With DOS you can actually IRC from an original IBM 5150 PC. Mike Brutman's mTCP includes an IRC client that runs on any PC. The only thing that keeps me from using it regularly is the lack of multi-server support. mTCP also has an FTP client and FTP server (!) which have become my favorite means for putting files on these old PCs. Far more convenient than zmodem.

  • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:28AM (#42260857)
    No big deal. I'll just keep the i386 CPUs at the current kernel version anyway. It's not like it needs to be bleeding edge anyway. My new embedded CPU boards are 486+/PowerPC/ARM anyway, so this is just a minor inconvenience.
  • If I remember correctly, don't quite a few sats run on i386 and i486 procs? They'll fall from the skies in protest! Oh noes!!

    Realistically speaking, I'm kind of glad to see it go. Especially if they have been having to make things overly complex trying to retain backwards compatibility.

    • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:37AM (#42260943)

      Especially if they have been having to make things overly complex trying to retain backwards compatibility.

      Now, see... if he'd just gone and written a microkernel in ther first place, we could support multiple processor architectures with a single codetree anyway....

      • by Tarlus (1000874) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:50AM (#42261105)

        Tanenbaum, is that you?

      • by harrkev (623093)

        Now, see... if he'd just gone and written a microkernel in ther first place, we could support multiple processor architectures with a single codetree anyway....

        Well, Linus went with a monolithic kernel, but others already HAVE made a microkernel. Every heard of Hurd? I understand that, after only 20 years of development, it will go stable any year now.

        • I was just trying to set the cat among the pigeons, so to speak.

          But now that we're on the subject: it took a monolithic kernel for the project to be manageable to a single coder, and Linus made the original kernel himself. The Hurd isn't finished because a decent microkernel needs a lot of development time. Paradoxical, then, that the Linux community has a critical mass of development talent that could knock together a microkernel achitecture in a couple of months, if they wanted to, but the projects with

  • by Ynot_82 (1023749) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:30AM (#42260885)

    No point supporting i386 anyway
    As far as I'm aware, GNU binutils won't work on anything less than a 486

    I guess you could be affected if you're using some other toolchain, but realistically is pointless keeping support for 386

  • My first server was a 386sx16 with 4MB of memory - sad Gothmolly is sad.

  • by jones_supa (887896) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:35AM (#42260923)

    By the way, I believe that the 387 math coprocessor has been axed on the 64-bit side of the processors and SSE2 is explicitly used for mathematics there instead.

    Going further, I wonder if it is possible to rip the 32-bit parts completely away from the silicon at some point?

    • by kasperd (592156)

      Going further, I wonder if it is possible to rip the 32-bit parts completely away from the silicon at some point?

      Do you want that to happen before or after ripping out the 16-bit parts? Even the latest 64-bit CPUs boot up in 16-bit mode. As far as I recall you still need 32-bit mode because there isn't support for switching directly from 16-bit mode to 64-bit mode.

      Are there any AMD64 (or compatible) CPUs, which can be powered on directly in 64-bit mode? Supporting that would be the first step towards get

  • Aren't there high-reliability, or radiation-hardened versions of old designs that still need to run, out there?

    Wouldn't they want to retain Linux compatibility? Or do these people use different OSs?

  • ...so, does that mean that Linus isn't using that terminal emulator for that 386 of his anymore? :-)
  • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:38AM (#42260965) Journal

    The historical significance of this of course is that Linux was originally written to specifically target the 80386, and it was written with the 386 with *no* portability in mind. So it no longer supports the CPU it was originally written for.

  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @11:48AM (#42261083)

    I'm trying to figure out if any user, worldwide, would be affected by this.

    As pointed out in another comment, there aren't very many applications that will work. If anyone, worldwide, is using it as a desktop OS, they probably are on an older kernel anyway.

    As for embedded systems : since new 386 CPUs have not been produced in 5 years, there's not anyone who would be designing a new embedded system that will use a recent kernel. There's old systems deployed in the field - but why would anyone try to upgrade an old embedded system to a new OS and kernel? A good embedded system is supposed to be reliable and simple enough it needs only minor bug fixes throughout it's deployed lifespan.

    • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:03PM (#42261269) Homepage Journal
      I'm pretty sure there will be no one affected. When I tried getting linux running on a real 486, it was pretty close to impossible with every distribution that claimed 486 support. I'm guessing they test on qemu (486 emulation seems to emulate something more than a real 486). Not one of the maintainers seemed to care. I might add, Debian was the only actual linux to work.
      • by Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @01:01PM (#42262079)
        A couple of years ago I installed Damn Small Linux on a Gateway 2000 I pulled out of a dumpster. It was a 486 machine, and DSL worked reasonably well. DSL came with vim and I installed elinks from a .deb and compiled Pine and pretty soon had the same setup I did in the computer lab back in 1992. In September 2012 DSL put out their first release in 4 years, with very minimal changes from their 2008 release. I assume that it will still work on a 486. I don't know if a distro with a 2.4.31 kernel can be called "modern", but at least it's "recent".
  • My understanding was that the 486 was architecturally very similar.

    What is the new absolute minimum spec for Linux?
  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:01PM (#42261261)

    What's the oldest system anyone has that's still in use?

    I've got a Dell Dimension XPS Pro 200n that's been going nearly 24/7 since the late 90s, shut down only to move locations. It hosts a Citadel BBS for a small group of old timers. I replaced the hard drive last year when it started making alarming noises and crashing randomly but everything else is original. Some day soon, I'm going to virtualize it and find a cheap host. Of course, I've been saying that for over a year.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:28PM (#42261541) Journal

    Considering the limited resources of such old hardware and resource requirements of newer software.... it is better to stay with lightweight older versions of Linux or other OS's to keep these systems in use. One such OS might be AROS.

  • WTF? English fail (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mr_Silver (213637) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:37PM (#42261671)

    sfcrazy writes with news that Linus pulled a patch by Igno Molnar to remove support for the 386 from the kernel.

    At first I thought I was going crazy. If Linux "pulled a patch by Igno" to remove 386 support, then that would mean that he prevented the patch going in. So why does he add "Good riddance" at the bottom?

    So then I read the second link [muktware.com] and it actually says:

    Linus Torvalds, the father of Linux kernel, (actually Ingo Molnar) has pulled the plugs on Intel's 386 processors.

    I've been here a while and this is the first time I can remember that I've seen a story on Slashdot state the complete opposite of what actually happened. Geeeeesh.

  • Look at the patch. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bored (40072) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:42PM (#42261737)

    Sometimes, it seems these "removal" patches are more for religious reasons (aka break it on purpose) than any kind of technical ones. Same thing when firefox removed PPC or windows 2k support.

    In fact I bet if you compiled a non SMP linux kernel it probably still works (assuming it does actually still work on a 486/pentium), as the majority of the patches are related to CAS and page invalidation, which aren't really necessary anyway.

  • by bzipitidoo (647217) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @12:45PM (#42261781) Journal

    This is a big enough change to warrant version 4.0. Otherwise, we might reach kernel version 3.8.6 which won't work on a 386.

    What I don't understand is what change between the 386 and 486 makes dropping the 386 a good idea. What functionality has the 486 got that the 386 doesn't have?

  • by shentino (1139071) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @01:38PM (#42262671)

    Kudos to linux for ditching it only when it became a pain to maintain co-compatibility with newer stuff.

    Instead of yanking it preemptively to cattle-prod people onto the upgrade treadmill.

  • by sootman (158191) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @02:18PM (#42263139) Homepage Journal

    You killed my CPU. Prepare to die. [imdb.com]

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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