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Debian Operating Systems

Debian Dropping Support For Older CPUs (distrowatch.com) 319

An anonymous reader shares DistroWatch's report that the Debian distribution will soon be dropping support for older, 32-bit processors.
The Debian project supports a wide range of hardware architectures, including 32-bit x86 CPUs. Changes are happening in Debian's development branches which will make older versions of the 32-bit architecture obsolete. Ben Hutchings provides the details:

"Last year it was decided to increase the minimum CPU features for the i386 architecture to 686-class in the Stretch release cycle. This means dropping support for 586-class and hybrid 586/686 processors. (Support for 486-class processors was dropped, somewhat accidentally, in Squeeze.) This was implemented in the Linux kernel packages starting with Linux 4.3, which was uploaded to Unstable in December last year. In case you missed that change, GCC for i386 has recently been changed to target 686-class processors and is generating code that will crash on other processors. Any such systems still running Testing or Unstable will need to be switched to run Stable (Jessie)."
Hutching's announcement includes a list of processors which will no longer be supported after Debian "Jessie".
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Debian Dropping Support For Older CPUs

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  • While it's still possible people would want to run Linux on hardware this old, it's unlikely you're going to be happy with the newest kernel/packages on hardware 20 years old. Finding a copy of an old centos (for example) and compiling old versions of programs manually should be acceptable for any hobbyist in this situation.
  • Possibly a mistake (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BlueCoder ( 223005 )

    It should rather be downgraded to a second or third tier platform. The pentium is not going anywhere those machines will still be running in 50 years still. So long as you keep replacing the caps the machines that survived are proverbially like tanks in comparison now.

    The question is what are you targeting? Only modern whizbang systems? Sounds like Apple.

    Even if those old systems didn't have much they got the job done just fine. The chief problem was and always has been lazy developers that don't know anyth

  • 64-bit (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @07:52AM (#52074493) Homepage

    I was having a conversation with another IT Manager friend of mine and he expressed that he would "have to test for 64-bit Windows" at his site now.

    My jaw hit the floor. I mean, seriously? Granted, we both work in schools so the clients aren't exactly beefy, but the amount of use they get and they hadn't gone past 4Gb (or likely even TO 4Gb properly!) or onto 64-bit operating systems? And at no point had bothered to say "I wonder if these machines I'm intending to use for the next 4 years will actually support 64-bit versions of our software that I will no doubt need to rollout in the future?"

    And the guy had some kind of fixation with printer drivers on 64-bit. There I was thinking "Well, if your managed print providers can't handle a '64-bit compatible' printer driver in this day and age, maybe it's time to look for a new one"

    I was pushing out 64-bit Windows years ago, and the only "problems" I ever had are that basically you have to push 32-bit Office for best results, but that will change with Office 2016 rollouts no doubt.

    On Linux, I don't even look but I'm fairly sure the default is 64-bit for just about anything vaguely recent (Ubuntu LTS from about, what, at least 10.04 or before has had 64-bit?). I know I've had to install the 32-bit libs on Ubuntu more than once over the last five years or so, for certain programs.

    I hate to see support for old hardware dropped, as much as anyone. I tinker with old junk, especially the junk that my workplace can't make use of any more. But, come on. 64-bit? You MUST at least have checked compatibility and taken it into account when purchasing by now.

    You SHOULD at least have migrated to 64-bit everywhere practical already (yes, I still have 32-bit devices, but they are thin-clients, or used for things like digital signage and thus I just don't care as they aren't critical and are easily replaced if I need to).

    And if you've not done this already, this article and maybe the other comments here are the kick in the teeth that you need to do that.

    Especially with 32-bit now instruction sets - how the hell have you been virtualising your stuff with only 4Gb RAM? Or are you not even there yet either? And if you ARE stuck with 32-bit on hardware / operating systems that need 64-bit, guess what technology you need to look into? Virtualisation.

    Honestly guys, I have about 5% of my client stock that can't do more than 4Gb RAM because of motherboard limitations but even they support 64-bit operating systems and instructions as a matter of course.

    For a desktop-focus operating systems, 64-bit should have been the default for, what? Nearly a decade? I'm not sure, it's so long ago that I needed to worry about it.

  • I've looked at the wikipedia page for both the Pentium (586) [wikipedia.org] and Pentium pro (686) [wikipedia.org], and I see that the pro made significant changes under the hood, but I don't see differences in terms of the instruction set (although I may not be reading the article close enough). If the instruction set for the 586 and 686 is identical, then why drop 586 but not 686? I realize that the 586 is slower, but that alone doesn't seem like a good reason to drop support. What am I missing?

  • by MacTO ( 1161105 ) on Monday May 09, 2016 @09:38AM (#52074997)

    The processors being dropped are admittedly ancient and are unlikely to see much use. If any other distribution was dropping it, I would not be concerned in the slightest. The reason why I have an inkling of concern is because Debian is the base for many other Linux distributions, and Debian is designed in a way that is easy to adapt for many low end systems.

    I'm not going to lose any sleep over this decision. If I ever had the need to use hardware with such an old processor, chances are that it would require older software on top of an older distribution on top of an older kernel anyhow. (And chances are the need to use such an old processor would be to drive hardware that requires Windows or DOS rather than Linux.) Still, it is worth discussion.

Of course there's no reason for it, it's just our policy.