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Debian Amiga

Debian m68k Port Resurrected 145

After two years of work, Debian m68k has working build servers, and is slowly working through the backlog of stale packages. "Contrary to some rumours which I've had to debunk over the years, the m68k port did not go into limbo because it was kicked out of the archive; instead, it did because recent versions of glibc require support for thread-local storage, a feature that wasn't available on m68k, and nobody with the required time, willingness, and skill set could be found to implement it. This changed a few years back, when some people wrote the required support, because they were paid to do so in order to make recent Linux run on ColdFire processors again. Since ColdFire and m68k processors are sufficiently similar, that meant the technical problem was solved. However, by that time we'd fallen so far behind that essentially, we needed to rebootstrap the port all over again. Doing that is nontrivial, and most of the m68k porters team just didn't have the time or willingness anymore to work on this; and for a while, it seemed like the m68k port was well and truly dead." The tales of acquiring the needed hardware are pretty interesting (one machine is an Amiga in a custom tower case).
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Debian m68k Port Resurrected

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @01:16PM (#42395773)

    "not every application needs multi-gigaFLOP/second performance or even an integrated FPU"
    Well yeh, not everybody does. But do they even sell cheap 68k chips? And if they do, don't they sell *cheaper* ARM chips! Just because you don't need it, doesn't mean there's any advantage in using this.

    If they make it will they come? Because if nobody uses it, it isn't properly tested, and if it isn't properly tested, nobody will use it.

    68k has had it's day, it's dead, let it go.

  • by solidraven ( 1633185 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @01:34PM (#42395979)
    ARM isn't always the right choice and it does have its problems. Additionally if you have to interface with an old system it's often easier to just grab a M68K or an old Intel 8xxx series device. The interface was already designed in a lot of cases for the older devices. And the M68K is advanced and fast enough to easily interface with modern hardware. So it actually does make for a pretty good bridge when you have to make two incompatible systems work together and don't want to go through the trouble of starting from scratch. Not to mention that the M68K is a great device to introduce people to the hardware side of embedded system design. Fairly cheap, comes in easy to solder packages unlike most ARM processors, robust, well documented, loads of software has been written for it, ...

    Totally worth the effort! It's not because something is old that it's not worth using anymore. Look at the Intel 8051 architecture. You'll find several microcontrollers based on that architecture in your house on this very moment. Sure it's an ancient 8 bit CISC architecture, but most designers are very familiar with it and it's one of the cheapest microcontrollers available so it still sees quite a lot of use. Fun fact is that it's commonly used as USB host controller.
  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @01:41PM (#42396065) Homepage

    Like anything - if someone does the hard work, and it's supported enough, and it doesn't break OTHER architectures, there's no reason why not.

    It just seems that m68k (and other projects along the same lines) have people willing to do all that work, whereas the 386 architecture doesn't (yet?).

    This is the thing I actually quite like about Linux. MCA support? Few used it, fewer wanted it enough to do the so, so bye-bye. But other buses? They are still around. Applies to buses, architectures, drivers, features, even "helper code" of one type or another.

    If someone's willing to put in the back-breaking to get it up to standard, there's no reason to NOT let it in. Unfortunately, that standard has to be high for a number of reasons (e.g. legal obligations like licensing, coding quality, support, ongoing maintenance etc.). And for some, it's so high it doesn't justify the work.

    Linux is a meritocracy, like more open-source code. If there's a reason to do so, and it's done well, it happens. If not, it doesn't. If only parts of law and government were like that.

  • by gnu-sucks ( 561404 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @02:36PM (#42396587) Journal

    Perhaps because you are more of an "appliance operator" you don't appreciate the science and engineering behind the scenes.

    Working with old hardware, like new hardware, presents a lot of challenges. The learning that takes place is very useful.

    Unlike new hardware, old hardware is cheap and plentiful. Yard sales, garages, surplus stores... this is the place to go. For new hardware, you are looking at some money.

    The learning that takes place on the old hardware is useful on problems beyond this "ancient platform". The folks that accomplished this port have flexed their brains around complicated problems, and are thus able to process other complicated problems more efficiently.

    Bottom line, some people are passionate about engineering and science, and do it because they enjoy the learning process.

Trap full -- please empty.