Kernel 386 installed instead of 686

Matt Patterson matt at
Fri Sep 30 15:06:26 UTC 2005

It is just my opinion, but I feel that the lack of stable binary 
interface between kernels is a HUGE limitation on the viability of linux 
for widespread uptake. MOST users are completely incapable of 
recompiling modules for their specific kernel, thus it is necessary for 
everything to be precompiled. That leaves either a standardized binary 
interface to kernels of different builds, or a standardized kernel for 
each generation of a product as the only options.

Just look at what corporate america and pc support companies do, they 
provide identical hardware, identical software, and then they support 
it. It makes compatibility testing possible, and comprehensive support 
of not so knowledgeable users a possibility. Having near infinite 
variations in configuration is fun and good for a person like myself who 
customizes everything, but if I am working on a friends machine, or on a 
lab of machines, I want standardization.

Even the number of kernels available in Ubuntu starts becoming 
rediculous 386/686/686smp/k7/k7smp. Ubuntu does a good job of providing 
everything for all flavors, but if you start playing with more exotic 
hardware you find more and more things that are compiled for only the 
386 kernel with no facilities for recompiling. This doesnt help me when 
running k7smp!

Just my 2 cents.


Colin Watson wrote:

>On Thu, Sep 29, 2005 at 04:53:02PM -0400, Matt Patterson wrote:
>>Ubuntu ships with a lot of precompiled kernel modules, this requires a 
>>standardized kernel. This is one of the MAJOR improvements that ubuntu 
>>introduces to linux. Why do you think it is so easy to have standardized 
>>drivers in windows? Because the kernel NEVER changes. Thus by running 
>>the default kernel you are guaranteed to have the same thing that the 
>>developer and tester had.
>With respect, I think you're rewriting history a fair bit here. The
>reason Ubuntu CDs only include (and therefore only install) the 386
>kernel is because of CD space limitations, not because of
>standardisation. The distinction among kernel optimisation settings
>rarely makes a difference to third-party modules, but even if it does
>there are plenty of tools in Ubuntu to make it easy to rebuild them for
>any of the optimised kernels.
>Since the Linux kernel deliberately does not export a stable binary
>interface, any third party module vendor must either provide precompiled
>binaries for a single release of a single distribution (which is an
>ultimately doomed approach, although vendors have been doing it for
>years with Red Hat; Ubuntu is by no means the first distribution to ship
>precompiled kernel packages!), or else provide the user with the means
>to rebuild the module for their current kernel. For obvious reasons, we
>much prefer vendors to do the latter, although they certainly might want
>to certify particular releases.
>>I am very happy about the standardized kernel and was disappointed to
>>find that the hoary install dvd seems to be smart enough to install
>>different kernels.
>The install CD has the same smartness, but doesn't have any material to
>work with because we decided we'd rather do other things with the
>available CD space than include lots of kernel images on it.
>I really don't think the optimised kernel packages cause a real
>standardisation problem.

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