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Linux Nukes 386 Support

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the upgrade-time dept.

Upgrades 464

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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464 comments

Dammit (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42260815)

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

Re:Dammit (5, Insightful)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about a year ago | (#42260935)

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

Re:Dammit (5, Funny)

tgd (2822) | about a year ago | (#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 (0)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#42261463)

If a Raspberry Pi can run the latest distro, why can't a machine with eight times as much RAM, disk space, etc. run the exact same thing?

This is a joke, a complete betrayal by a man who ought to know better then to piss off all the people who put him where he is today. There's a REASON why some of us choose Linux over Windows (or should I say "chose"?)

Re:Dammit (3, Informative)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#42261121)

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

Time to fork (5, Funny)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#42260819)

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.

Re:Time to fork (4, Funny)

Parker Lewis (999165) | about a year ago | (#42260835)

Wait for Debian. They'll make a manifest complaining about that.

Re:Time to fork (4, Informative)

Trevelyan (535381) | about a year ago | (#42260919)

See: http://packages.debian.org/search?keywords=linux-image [debian.org]

Debian dropped i386 kernel images a very long time ago; the lowest you can go is 486.
Annoying for me is, that they also dropped i686 without pae. Meaning for my AMD Geodes I either have to roll my own or install 486.

Geode (1)

MtHuurne (602934) | about a year ago | (#42261413)

I'm running a Debian 686-pae kernel on a Geode NX without problems. It seems the Geode LX doesn't support pae though.

Fond Memories (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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??

Re:Fond Memories (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42260911)

16 colors? the real stuff was either 320x200 256 color, or ASCII.

Re:Fond Memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261013)

Monochrome FTW.

Re:Fond Memories (4, Funny)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year ago | (#42261053)

ASCII porn on the line printer.

Re:Fond Memories (5, Funny)

tgd (2822) | about a year ago | (#42261245)

ASCII porn on the line printer.

Don't knock it, man... it was good practice for not being a two pump chump with the ladies. When it takes 15 minutes of watching the paper scroll to get to the good part, you learned to take your time ...

Re:Fond Memories (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261277)

Seriously. I started fapping to CGA porn in the 1200bps BBS days. That's 320x200 in 4 colors from a pallet of 16. Kids today, you have no idea how good you have it!

What was the last version which actually did? (3, Insightful)

jfdavis668 (1414919) | about a year ago | (#42260839)

Which kernel version was the last to actually run on a real 80386?

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (3, Insightful)

FreonTrip (694097) | about a year ago | (#42260917)

I think 2.4 was the last safe bet for 386's, but the mainline support for that terminated about seven years ago. All things considered, the 386 had a pretty fucking good run.

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (4, Informative)

FreonTrip (694097) | about a year ago | (#42261015)

Ack, I was wrong: according to this handy timeline, [wikipedia.org] the last release was 2.4.37 at the very beginning of 2011. Were one to roll his own distribution and cross-compile, you could still make a surprisingly modern Linux run on a 386...

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (1)

harrkev (623093) | about a year ago | (#42261099)

So, how many 386 computers actually have enough RAM to handle a modern kernel?

The size of the kernel had certainly bloated with module & stuff. Yes, I am aware that you COULD custom-compile a kernel with just what you need, but would that even fit in 32Mb RAM (probably a pretty good amount of memory when the 386 was king)?

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#42261177)

My 386 has 4mb of RAM and no math coprocessor. No Linux on this thing.

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261319)

I had a 386/40 with 8MB and got it to run two instances of Quake with heavy swapping in Linux. I think it even got 30 seconds per frame since it was using an emulated math coprocessor.

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (2)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year ago | (#42261181)

32MB? That was a pretty good amount of memory when Pentium was king.

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261471)

My dual pentium MMX box featured 128MB of memory. I think there is a FreeBSD 3.0 hibernating on it.

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261259)

Of course you could. One of my current Linux installations runs on about 32 megabit RAM (i.e. 4MB), with a whole bunch of security features in the kernel (grsecurity etc). If I recall correctly, it runs a 3.6 kernel too.

Re:What was the last version which actually did? (2)

FreonTrip (694097) | about a year ago | (#42261379)

I think most nice 386 'boards maxed out at 16 MB RAM, which would have been garishly expensive in the late '80s to early '90s. You'd have to pare a modern kernel down until you sweated blood just to make a command-line install squeeze into that space without paging out to swap... As has been suggested by others, the 2.4 kernel was probably the last realistic choice, and some would argue that going further back would be wise.

Bearded UNIX admin: (5, Funny)

mattytee (1395955) | about a year ago | (#42260843)

"Here's a nickel, kid. Get yourself a better computer."

Re:Bearded UNIX admin: (0)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#42261057)

Not so fully bearded embedded technician: Not everything that runs Linux is a general-purpose computer.

Re:Bearded UNIX admin: (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261251)

Whatever embedded device you run from 1991, it's highly unlikey that you need to run a 2012 linux on it.

Re:Bearded UNIX admin: (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about a year ago | (#42261317)

However you have better imbedded options then the 386. There isn't anything stopping you from using an older version of the kernel... Which will probably run a lot better anyways.

Re:Bearded UNIX admin: (1)

oobayly (1056050) | about a year ago | (#42261455)

If you're running Linux on an embedded machine, odds are it won't even be able to run a 3.x kernel.

Re:Bearded UNIX admin: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261239)

One of my favs from 1995 Dilbert http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/1995-06-24/

Now I Want... (2)

dmacleod808 (729707) | about a year ago | (#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.

Oh well. (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Oh well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261035)

If you needed to be bleeding edge, you'd never want to be seen anywhere near that 386.

And the Linux Community responds (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42260867)

And the Linux Community responds with a resounding... "meh".

On noes! The satellites! (1)

Dysan2k (126022) | about a year ago | (#42260877)

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.

Re:On noes! The satellites! (4, Insightful)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about a year ago | (#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....

Re:On noes! The satellites! (2)

harrkev (623093) | about a year ago | (#42261151)

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.

Re:On noes! The satellites! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261509)

Ever heard of MINIX? It's been stable for about 15 years now.

No point supporting i386 anyway (4, Informative)

Ynot_82 (1023749) | about a year ago | (#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

Re:No point supporting i386 anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261095)

But doesn't supporting 486 systems mean that it will run on 386 automagically too? I thought that was the whole point of the x86 system that things compiled for a higher x can run on lower x too. Or wait, maybe that is backwards and higher ones can run lower x86s.

Re:No point supporting i386 anyway (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261125)

1) binutils supports i386
So the assertion that it does not is incorrect

2) i386 ceased production in 2007
It turns out that it was still used in embedded systems

3) There is little difference between i386 and i486 architecturally. If you are going to dispense with i386, why not phase out i486?
The i486 production ceased in 2007, too. The Pentium was introduced in 1993 and offered significant architectual improvements/changes. Maybe Pentium should be the baseline for kernel support.

Fucking sellout (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42260895)

More and more linux sellouts these days. Now even Torvalds is a sellout. Ubuntu, Red Hat. All sellouts.

Re:Fucking sellout (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261193)

I know i shouldn't feed the troll but, how exactly are Linus and Red Hat sellouts? Red hat makes a for-pay distro, they're making money, good for them. Linus? I don't even see it

So... (1)

x0d (2506794) | about a year ago | (#42260913)

The patch was from Igno or Ingo?

Re:So... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261111)

Ultimately, Allah.

Silicon (2)

jones_supa (887896) | about a year ago | (#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?

Re:Silicon (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261081)

x87 is still supported in silicon, it's the software conventions that have changed. It's not worth the effort and incompatibility to remove the 16- and 32-bit parts, so they'll stay for the foreseeable future.

Re:Silicon (1)

kasperd (592156) | about a year ago | (#42261149)

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 getting 16-bit and 32-bit modes out of the CPUs.

Rad-hardened processors? (2)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#42260937)

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?

Re:Rad-hardened processors? (4, Insightful)

jimicus (737525) | about a year ago | (#42260985)

There are. But how many of them desperately need to run a 3.7 kernel?

Re:Rad-hardened processors? (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#42261025)

They don't need a bleeding edge kernel.
On that kind of hardware you would be running 2.4 or older.

Historical significance (5, Interesting)

Alioth (221270) | about a year ago | (#42260965)

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.

Re:Historical significance (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#42261217)

This isn't surprising or a new practice. BeOS originally targeted AT&T Hobbit processors. OSX was PowerPC.

Re:Historical significance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261443)

Not sure about BeOS, but OS X descended from NeXTStep which WAS available for IA32 and is based on Mach + BSD both of which are available for multiple architectures. The original Linux code didn't make a lot of use of x86-specific features that are not present on other architectures, there are much better examples of OSes that are not portable, mostly pre-NT Microsoft OSes, e.g. DOS, Windows 9x and OS/2.
And just because an OS is not maintained for a platform doesn't mean it is impossible or particularly difficult. To this day NT remains portable but Microsoft just doesn't bother to maintain a port for irrelevant architectures. E.g. when ARM started to become more and more popular the guys in Redmond were quick to bring their OS to it.

Re:Historical significance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261307)

TFA apparently said Intel stopped production in 2007. Not sure where those chips went though.

Re:Historical significance (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261481)

Space. The last running 386 production line ran so long because it was making the space hardened & certified processors.

Tsk Tsk Tsk (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | about a year ago | (#42260967)

That's not the only machine that you've broken with that mistake ... think it through. What else depends on this version?

Re:Tsk Tsk Tsk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261551)

That's not the only machine that you've broken with that mistake ... think it through. What else depends on this version?

The eight people who studiously maintain the 80386 servers which require this can maintain their own damn kernel. In fact, since they've presumably been maintaining that processor for that many years, if they DON'T know their way around the processor architecture and OS enough, given all the other concessions they've had to make just to keep it going, then they're doing their job wrong.

No0o0o0o0o0o0o0o !!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42260969)

http://www.nooooooooooooooo.com/

"Filter error: Too much repetition." is not an error now.

Embeded systems (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261033)

I think there may be some embedded systems kicking around that still use 386. Some might even still be sold today! But they're probably running a custom 2.0.x kernel, if anything. (Nice, tiny memory footprint) So, forked codebase anyway.

Pfff. 386DX. Decadence! Real men use the FPU emulator.

Linux for embedded applications (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261069)

Linux is becoming the de facto os for embedded applications.

"Linux has been ported to a variety of CPUs which are not only primarily used as the processor of a desktop or server computer, but also ARM, AVR32, ETRAX CRIS, FR-V, H8300, IP7000, m68k, MIPS, mn10300, SuperH, and Xtensa processors, It is also used as an alternative to using a proprietary operating system and toolchain." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embedded_Linux [wikipedia.org]

This latest development means the 386 will join the club of CPUs for which Linux is ported rather than native.

Anyone in the world affected at all? (3, Insightful)

ShooterNeo (555040) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:Anyone in the world affected at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261189)

I know for a fact that a nearby paper mill is still using 386 desktop boards in some of its proprietary equipment controllers -- I sold them two boards I still had in storage a couple of years ago. While I am sure the software they run is some sort of *nix derivative, I am equally certain that it hasn't been updated in about ten years.

Re:Anyone in the world affected at all? (4, Informative)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about a year ago | (#42261269)

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.

oh Linus you so funny (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261205)

Didn't FreeBSD dump this a long long long time ago?

Does Linux support ISA/EISA/MCA busses still too?
Can modern Linux even run in 64MB of ram?
Linus silly dismissal of nostalgia is to hide the fact that he should have eliminated it a LONG time ago

Re:oh Linus you so funny (2)

nielsm (1616577) | about a year ago | (#42261495)

As far as I know, ISA is still used for some legacy hardware, e.g. PS/2 keyboard, PC speaker, floppy controller, but it's almost purely conceptual by now. The ISA bus might not even exist outside a single chip (e.g. SuperIO controller.) I don't know about MCA, but I think that was only on some 386 and 486 IBMs, so that would certainly be irrelevant to have in by now.

Just 386? (2)

91degrees (207121) | about a year ago | (#42261209)

My understanding was that the 486 was architecturally very similar.

What is the new absolute minimum spec for Linux?

Re:Just 386? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261363)

8086, 400kb RAM - use ELKS [sourceforge.net] .

Re:Just 386? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261449)

Wrong: there are more differences between 386 and 486 than between 486 and first Pentium (not MMX).
The most serious differences are, no WP bit in 386, which introduces security holes in any multithreaded program, only global TLB flush on 386 (vs. INVLPG instruction), no byte swap on 386 (bswap, heavily used in networking code).

The Pentium is basically two 486 in parallel wit a beefier FPU. The big architectural change was then the PPro, which is not that different from the latest core-i7 actualy (there are differences but the instruction flow is not that different, the only very different x86 processor from Intel has been the toaster, I mean the P4).

Who has best driver support? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261221)

It's often claimed that Linux supports more hardware than any other operating system. Removing support for old hardware makes me dubious of that claim. It runs on so many platforms: Sparc, MIPS, ARM, you name it. 386 is version 1 of ia32, and if that's too hard to support, I wonder if the captain and first-officer, both, aren't asleep at the wheel.

Sadly, Linux's reputation as being for enthusiats and hobbyists is re-inforced, once more. It's not a good look.

David Newall

How old can you go? (2)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year ago | (#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.

386 dead, but 80 chars untouchable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261365)

Since Linux isn't "sentimental" and monitors are now (even on laptops) supposed to be "huge", can we finally move into the modern era and end the 80 character limit in kernel code?

It's funny how some dinosaurs get to live and others HAVE to die.

I wonder if this could affect general stability. (2)

vovick (1397387) | about a year ago | (#42261393)

Apart from getting rid of obsolete code, you also get rid of an additional target architecture that could potentially reveal certain bugs and implicit assumptions in the platform-independent part of the kernel that do not fire up on other architectures. That said, I have virtually no experience with the kernel and I have no idea whether this argument makes any bit of sense with the code in question.

Re:I wonder if this could affect general stability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261565)

I doubt it would ever make a difference. As far as I know, i386 and it's successors are much more forgiving with compiled code and portability issues than almost all other architectures. It has to do with things like unaligned accesses and in-order I/O, which always work on i386, but not so with certain ARM variants and others.

I assume the complexity they're talking about here is to do with register-level bits and control registers specific to i386 for various synchronization and IPC primitives. The i486 would have added more powerful/flexible system-control registers and features to make all of this stuff less hackish.

Feeling nostalgic but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261445)

My first Linux linux install was on a 386 DX 20. I think it has 50 3.5 diskettes,It ran as a server for 2 years until the end of my first company.

I'll say this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261473)

If you are running a kernel so old, you really don't have to worry about attacks. Who would think anyone would still be running a 386 machine with linux?

Mr. Linus doth protest too much? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42261527)

Every second missive from our dear leader seems to underline how little sentimentality he has or, conversely, how single-mindedly he is focused on practicality. Either he is a heartless bastard (which isn't impossible given the cruel tone of some of his public talks, especially his infamous Git talk at Google), or he is a soft-hearted mope trying to cover up, probably to gain approval from his father.

Either way, I don't trust a person who says 'good riddance' to the processor that started him out in life.

But would you really want to? (2)

3seas (184403) | about a year ago | (#42261541)

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.

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