What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Getting old software/games running on older hardware.

What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby appiah4 » 2017-4-20 @ 19:34

The only one I'm aware of is TinyCore. Is something a little more complete available for pre-i686 computers? Maybe a Slackware branch I'm not aware of? Most everything requires 256MB+ RAM and SSE2 these days it seems.
1987:A500|8MB|ACA500+@42Mhz|C1084S|WB3.1
1993:UMC486-33|8MB|TVGA900B|Edison16Gold|MSDOS6.22
1997:P166MMX|64MB|Mystique220|Voodoo2-1000|SBAWE64PnP|Win98SE
1999:PIII450|256MB|Voodoo3-3000|SBLive!|Win2K
2001:C1300|512MB|Radeon8500|SBLive!5.1|WinXP
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby Jorpho » 2017-4-20 @ 19:58

Depends on what you mean by "complete".

Puppy Linux and Vector Linux might be worth a try.
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby yawetaG » 2017-4-21 @ 08:06

In general, the BSD's have great support for older hardware, better than Linux. FreeBSD is probably the most user-friendly, and Live CD versions are available, although if you really want to install it going with one of the latest versions probably is best.

Not Linux, but close.
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby appiah4 » 2017-4-21 @ 08:16

Jorpho wrote:Depends on what you mean by "complete".

Puppy Linux and Vector Linux might be worth a try.


My understanding of complete is a functional secure kernel, support for modern peripherals, protocols and file systems (USB Mass Storage, NTFS, ext3/4, SMB, NFS, SSH etc.) and a functional XServer with a lightweight WM..

I've been referred to lina-lite which is apparently a very lightweight fork of puppy.. Never heard of vector so I'll check that out. Thanks.

yawetaG wrote:In general, the BSD's have great support for older hardware, better than Linux. FreeBSD is probably the most user-friendly, and Live CD versions are available, although if you really want to install it going with one of the latest versions probably is best.

Not Linux, but close.


Never used BSD before, I wouldn't know which distributions to look into at all.. I'll check Distrowatch for BSD distributions for older hardware.
1987:A500|8MB|ACA500+@42Mhz|C1084S|WB3.1
1993:UMC486-33|8MB|TVGA900B|Edison16Gold|MSDOS6.22
1997:P166MMX|64MB|Mystique220|Voodoo2-1000|SBAWE64PnP|Win98SE
1999:PIII450|256MB|Voodoo3-3000|SBLive!|Win2K
2001:C1300|512MB|Radeon8500|SBLive!5.1|WinXP
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby yawetaG » 2017-4-22 @ 08:07

appiah4 wrote:
yawetaG wrote:In general, the BSD's have great support for older hardware, better than Linux. FreeBSD is probably the most user-friendly, and Live CD versions are available, although if you really want to install it going with one of the latest versions probably is best.

Not Linux, but close.


Never used BSD before, I wouldn't know which distributions to look into at all.. I'll check Distrowatch for BSD distributions for older hardware.


No need for that, most modern BSD's will run on anything from a 486 upwards :cool: You don't need a distribution aimed at older hardware, the current versions will happily install on an older system.

For example, the LiveCD version I linked to booted without a flaw on my Pentium II machine, but loading the GUI took 10 minutes or so because it was a modern graphical interface - so make use of an older GUI (or no GUI) and it'll run with no problems.

I recommend FreeBSD because it has the best documentation and good online support options with friendly people. It also has a Linux compatibility layer, allowing people to run Linux software on their FreeBSD system. FreeBSD supports various platforms: i386 (what you need), amd64, PowerPC (and PPC64), SPARC (!), ARM64, and some more.
So is your system supported? Heck yes!

From the hardware compatibility list for FreeBSD version 11.0:

Almost all i386™-compatible processors with a floating point unit are supported. All Intel® processors beginning with the 80486 are supported, including the 80486, Pentium®, Pentium® Pro, Pentium® II, Pentium® III, Pentium® 4, and variants thereof, such as the Xeon™ and Celeron® processors. All i386™-compatible AMD processors are also supported, including the Am486®, Am5x86®, K5, AMD-K6® (and variants), AMD Athlon™ (including Athlon-MP, Athlon-XP, Athlon-4, and Athlon Thunderbird), and AMD Duron™ processors. The AMD Élan SC520 embedded processor is supported. The Transmeta Crusoe is recognized and supported, as are i386™-compatible processors from Cyrix and NexGen.


FreeBSD is like Linux, but better (IMHO): good hardware support in general*, good up-to-date documentation, you don't get insulted or told to program it yourself if you ask a stupid question, no SystemD, etc. Oh, and it can do everything you asked above.

*some exotic stuff might not be supported, on the other hand some very exotic stuff is supported... :lol:
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby Azarien » 2017-4-22 @ 18:10

Gentoo is a distro that you basically compile yourself from scratch, so theoretically it should be possible to configure it and compile for 586, 486 or perhaps even 386.

But personally I'd also suggest FreeBSD.
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby appiah4 » 2017-4-22 @ 19:57

Azarien wrote:Gentoo is a distro that you basically compile yourself from scratch, so theoretically it should be possible to configure it and compile for 586, 486 or perhaps even 386.

But personally I'd also suggest FreeBSD.


Current distros of gentoo wouldn't surprise me if they came with kernels that can't really be compiled for such old machines. (And indeed the installer requires min. 256MB for compiling the kernel: https://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Handbook:X ... quirements)

I've settled on Damn Small Linux for the moment (Tiny Core did not boot, APIC/APM issues with the kernel), though NTFS has been kind of dodgy on a 2.x kernel; SMB, NFS etc work fine however so I have a mostly functional linux distro on this box, along with a GRUB bootlader. linda-lite fork of Puppy is also a future replacement consideration.

I will also be giving FreeBSD a shot, I'll probably install it as a fourth OS on my Pentium III 450 build (First three being Win98SE, OS/2 Warp4, Sparky Linux R8)
1987:A500|8MB|ACA500+@42Mhz|C1084S|WB3.1
1993:UMC486-33|8MB|TVGA900B|Edison16Gold|MSDOS6.22
1997:P166MMX|64MB|Mystique220|Voodoo2-1000|SBAWE64PnP|Win98SE
1999:PIII450|256MB|Voodoo3-3000|SBLive!|Win2K
2001:C1300|512MB|Radeon8500|SBLive!5.1|WinXP
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby zerker » 2017-4-23 @ 21:22

The main problem I had installing Linux on my retro PC was ram; it's only got 192 MB, and modern Linuxes are hungry for more. Right now I have a positively ancient Red Hat 9.0 on one of my Compact Flash cards. I may give FreeBSD a shot sometime.
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby Jo22 » 2017-4-24 @ 03:42

That's no surprise, Linux has a different philosophy here (ie, free memory equals to wasted memory).

Aside this, it has a rather large kernel now. ;)

https://superuser.com/questions/370586/ ... e-so-small
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/22 ... ated_huge/
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby appiah4 » 2017-4-24 @ 06:53

Damn Small Linux actually didn't work, the issue was USB controllers being terribly wonky with my TX chipset; so I resorted to setting a swap partition, installing Puppy Linux 4.12 Retro and using that. It wasn't terribly fast but it worked and I'm not complaining.

However, it was terribly clunky and I'm not comfortable with keeping it installed. That means I'll probably be removing it and installing FreeBSD at some point in the near future. My first experience with FreeBSD will be on a Pentium 166 MMX with 64MB RAM..

Come to think of it my first experience with Linux was with a Pentium 120 with 32MB RAM.. How the times change but don't at the same time :)
1987:A500|8MB|ACA500+@42Mhz|C1084S|WB3.1
1993:UMC486-33|8MB|TVGA900B|Edison16Gold|MSDOS6.22
1997:P166MMX|64MB|Mystique220|Voodoo2-1000|SBAWE64PnP|Win98SE
1999:PIII450|256MB|Voodoo3-3000|SBLive!|Win2K
2001:C1300|512MB|Radeon8500|SBLive!5.1|WinXP
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby zyga64 » 2017-4-24 @ 07:06

Debian has dropped support for i586 after Jessie Release (8.0). https://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2016/05/msg00001.html
I would try to install system from netinst image available here https://cdimage.debian.org/mirror/cdimage/archive/8.7.0/i386/iso-cd/, and then some of the light DM like i.e. WindowMaker.
If not - maybe earlier release. Wheezy (7) last update (7.11) was released in 2016 https://cdimage.debian.org/mirror/cdimage/archive/7.11.0/i386/iso-cd/
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby Jorpho » 2017-4-24 @ 13:18

appiah4 wrote:However, it was terribly clunky
I would think that would be completely inevitable considering what you are trying to do. But then, I've never tried FreeBSD.
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby Scali » 2017-4-24 @ 13:42

appiah4 wrote:Never used BSD before, I wouldn't know which distributions to look into at all.. I'll check Distrowatch for BSD distributions for older hardware.


BSD isn't quite like linux, so you shouldn't think in terms of 'distributions'.
That is, there are a few x86-based forks of the original 386BSD port of BSD, mainly OpenBSD, FreeBSD and NetBSD, but they are completely different and independent OSes, which just happen to share a common ancestor.

As linux is only the kernel, you need a 'distribution' to turn the kernel into a complete, functioning OS. Mind you, most distributions are 99% the same anyway, just with some individual unique 'flavour' on top.

BSD is a complete OS, not just a kernel, so FreeBSD is what it is. It's not a 'distribution of BSD', it's a particular implementation of BSD, with its own kernel, toolchain etc.
OpenBSD has a different implementation, different kernel, different toolchain etc. They just have similar underpinnings, such as the POSIX API, since they are both descendants of BSD.
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby spiroyster » 2017-4-24 @ 16:51

None.

Linux dropped support for 386 a number of years ago now. Only option would be to use a dsitro with an older kernel (google-fu says 3.8 dropped 386 support) or RYO o.0.

You would need to remove any assembly that is not 386 comptabile (and re-write), and probably need to compile the packages you use (since binaries of may or may not be compatilbe), LFS (Linux From scratch) would be a good start...twould be a project and a half unless you are familair with that kinda thang! :dead:
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby gdjacobs » 2017-4-24 @ 17:04

Mainline has dropped i386 support, but it might still be available via Ben Hutching's 3.2.x long term support branch. Of course, you might have to do LFS for it to work.
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby Jo22 » 2017-4-24 @ 19:08

Found this : https://retrocomputing.stackexchange.co ... -i586-cpus

Minix 3.0 also claims to support 586 machines with just 32MB of main memory..
http://wiki.minix3.org/doku.php?id=user ... quirements
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby mrau » 2017-4-24 @ 19:50

minix is not linux
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby Jo22 » 2017-4-24 @ 20:00

Neither is BSD. ;)

Edit: @Azarien @appiah4 Gentoo.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjGSMUep6_4
Edit2: Wasn't kernel 2.4 touted as beeing the best for legacy computers ?
I remember that in the 2000s, it was often favored over 2.6 for some reasons (ISA support, etc.)
The most recent version of it seems to were included in Slackware 11 (mirror), according to this thread.
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Re: What modern Linux distributions run on i586?

Postby mrau » 2017-4-24 @ 20:12

true, but still BSD is in its use very similar, minix is not
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