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SubjectRE: [PATCH] x86/smpboot: Remove 486-isms from the modern AP boot path
On Wed, 1 Apr 2020, David Laight wrote:

> > Even though we supported them by spec I believe we never actually ran MP
> > on any 486 SMP system (Alan Cox might be able to straighten me out on
> > this); none that I know of implemented the MPS even though actual hardware
> > might have used the APIC architecture. Compaq had its competing solution
> > for 486 and newer SMP, actually deployed, the name of which I long forgot.
> > We never supported it due to the lack of documentation combined with the
> > lack of enough incentive for someone to reverse-engineer it.
>
> I also remember one of those Compaq dual 486 boxes.
> We must have has SVR4/Unixware running on it.
>
> I suspect that any such systems would also be too slow and not have
> enough memory to actually run anything recent.

For reasons mentioned above I cannot speak about 486 SMP systems.

However I have a nice Dolch PAC 60 machine, which is a somewhat rugged
luggable computer with an embedded LCD display and a detachable keyboard,
built around a pure EISA 486 baseboard (wiring to an external display is
also supported). Its original purpose was an FDDI network sniffer with a
DOS application meant to assist a field engineer with fault isolation, and
as you may know FDDI used to have rings up to ~100km/60mi in length, so
people often had to travel quite a distance to get a problem tracked down.

It used to boot current Linux with somewhat dated userland until its PSU,
an industrial unit, failed a couple years back, taking the hard disk with
itself due to an overvoltage condition (its +12V output went up to +18V).
I failed to repair the PSU (I suspect a fault in the transformer causing
its windings to short-circuit intermittently, and only the +5V output is
regulated with the remaining ones expected to maintain fixed correlation),
which the box has been designed around, making it difficult to be replaced
with a different PSU.

However I have since managed to track down and install a compatible
replacement PSU from the same manufacturer whose only difference are
slightly higher power ratings, and I have a replacement hard disk for it
too, so I plan to get it back in service soon.

With 16MiB originally installed the machine is somewhat little usable
with current Linux indeed, however the baseboard supports up to 512MiB of
RAM and suitable modules are still available for purchase, even brand new
ones. Once expanded so that constant swapping stops I expect the machine
to perform quite well, as the performance of the CPU/RAM didn't seem to be
a problem with this machine. We actually keep supporting slower systems
in the non-x86 ports.

And as I say, the userland is not (much of) our business and can be
matched to actual hardware; not everyone needs a heavyweight graphical
environment with all the bells and whistles burning machine cycles.

Again, FWIW,

Maciej

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