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The year 2012 may not yet be over, but here in the Linux community another kind of curtain was recently dropped for the last time. It's the end of the line for Linux's support of Intel's 386 chip, specifically, and tears are being shed across the land -- or not. "This tree removes ancient-386-CPUs support and thus zaps quite a bit of complexity," wrote developer Ingo Molnar when submitting the change last week. "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."
I'm a bit bummed only because I pretty recently picked up an i386DX-based module board for an ISA backplane. Then again, it's not like I was going to try running a modern Linux on it (maybe something really low end with a 1.x kernel, or possibly something different like FreeDOS). Plus, it was $4.80 after tax, so it's not like it's a major investment or anything.
I have a question...why? Why would you buy that? it wastes more power than it can do useful work, so other than going "its a piece of history" and sticking it in a glass box it frankly is less than worthless. You can take a $25 ARM stick and get 10 times the useful work while using one tenth the power, and if you actually need X86 support you can get an Atom or Bobcat board for less than $100 that will literally be EIGHTY TIMES faster than a 40MHz 386 while using less power under load than that old machine will use idling thanks to how inefficient those old chips and boards were.
So I just don't get it. If you want some old Commodore or Atari for nostalgia then sure, even the old X86 IF and only IF you are running the same OS they used during that period of history, but why would you try to run anything modern on ancient hardware like that?
Puppy Linux to the rescue!!
I'm an occasional user, but it is just so helpful when you need it.
Older kernel versions, very light hardware needs,
runs in RAM so you don't even need an HDD.
Recommend a try, very small download.
The problem is its has gotten to the point that other than a few rare exceptions (AMD Athlon/Sempron/Duron, Via Cx series, some older laptops) that often the unit will frankly suck down more power than it will do useful work so is pointless to keep.
I was a big fan of saving old hardware from the dump but even i have to admit that now most of the stuff is simply pointless, when you can buy an ARM stick for less than $40 and surf the web on it keeping that power hog space heater box just really doesn't make any sense. heck even if you HAVE to have X86 support you can just keep the box and replace the power hog with an Intel Atom or AMD Bobcat that will run rings around that power hog and which will use so much less power than the old junk that the less than $100 you pay for the thing will quickly be made up by the much lower power and cooling bills.