Dropping pre-i686 from the archive

Patrick McFarland diablod3 at gmail.com
Thu Jan 12 14:07:09 GMT 2006

On Tuesday 03 January 2006 10:13, Jeff Bailey wrote:
> Hi!
> One of the last issues on the ToolchainRoadmapNg spec to be resolved is
> whether or not we should keep support for older than i686 processors.
> The issue arose during BOFs at both UDU and UBZ for two main reasons:
> 1) In practise almost everyone has one, so the libc6-i686 gets quite a
> bit of exercise, and the plain libc does not.  libc6-i686 is installed
> as part of ubuntu-minimal.

But does this make it incompatible with 386s?

> 2) Upstream GCC authors primarily develop on and test for i686 rather
> than i486.  GCC lists "i686-pc-linux-gnu" specifically as a Primary
> Platform[0].

But gcc automatically compiles things compatible for us. Rarely does anyone 
have to manually tweak a program designed to work on 386s to work on 386s.

> Ubuntu has so far had support for the older architectures based partly
> on our Debian heritage but more specifically because we wanted to make
> sure that we are accessible in areas where modern hardware isn't
> available and because Ubuntu should be usable on small systems like
> routers.

486s are starting to become less and less common, due to the hardware 
literally dying of old age, but Pentiums and non-686 newer processors are 
still quite common. As such, K6s, which are not 686 compatible, are still 
quite common.

> With Dapper being supported for 3 years on the desktop on 5 years on the
> server, the Dapper+1 release seems a logical place to revisit these
> policies.  The counter arguments to each of these are:
> 1) The Pentium Pro (the first i686) was released in 1995[1].  At the
> point when Dapper expires, it will have been around for 16 years.
> Hardware older than that seems to be stretching the definition of
> "Modern" slightly. =)  From a desktop point of view, OpenOffice2
> performs extremely poorly on relatively recent hardware[2], so our
> desktop target is generally not older hardware anyway.

Actually, a friend of mine still uses a dual ppro with a gig of memory, and 
even OO2 flies on it.

> 2) i486 for small / embedded systems like routers is an ideal target for
> µbuntu.

µbuntu is an ideal for platforms with less than 256 megs, actually. Even now, 
the default Gnome desktop in Ubuntu is painful on my Duron 1ghz /w 256 megs. 
I could see people running it on machines a mere 5 years old.

I propose this, if you want ubuntu-desktop to be optimized further, 
optimization should be done for 586s, and µbuntu should be optimized for 486s 
and have a very light desktop environment that works in 64 megs or less.

Patrick "Diablo-D3" McFarland || diablod3 at gmail.com
"Computer games don't affect kids; I mean if Pac-Man affected us as kids,
we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching magic pills and
listening to repetitive electronic music." -- Kristian Wilson, Nintendo,
Inc, 1989

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