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13 December 2012, 11:26

Linux will no longer work on the i386

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Tux icon Linus Torvalds has integrated various changes developed by Intel employee H. Peter Anvin into the main development branch of Linux to remove support for the 386 series of processors from the Linux kernel (1, 2, 3). As a consequence, the Nx586 from Nexgen, a company that was later taken over by AMD, will also no longer be supported; design ideas for this processor were later incorporated into AMD's K6, which continues to be supported.

When submitting the changes, Ingo Molnar wrote that the support for 386 CPUs made some restructuring tasks difficult for the developers – who had already discussed removing the support for these processors, which were popular in the early 1990s, back in August.

Molnar also pointed out to Torvalds that these changes will stop Linux from running on the system for which Torvalds first began to develop Linux. Torvalds responded: "I'm not sentimental. Good riddance" in the git merge comment, while in another response, he suggested also removing the FPU emulation that is required for processors such as the 486sx. However, it seems that this won't happen, because Anvin said he suspects that 486 processors without FPU are still being produced; a test with Qemu demonstrated that Linux still seems to work on such processors.

Since the release of Linux 3.7 two days ago, 5,500 further patches have been added to the main development branch that will produce Linux 3.8, expected to arrive in February. According to the diffstat, the developers added 243,620 lines of code and removed 215,181; relocated code is included in both figures.


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