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Migrate x86_32 architecture to i686

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openSUSE Distribution
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openSUSE currently builds i586 binaries with a couple exceptions.  As it currently stands openSUSE 11.1 permits a Pentium 1 but requires at least 256MB of RAM with 512MB recommended [1].  The likelihood of a person having a system with an original Pentium and 256MB (esp. 512MB) of RAM is quite low.
Since the i686 architecture was introduced in 1995...2010 or 2011 is a suitable time to migrate the x86_32 target architecture without adversely affecting the majority of users. 
The Fedora Project is making this same transition for Fedora 12 [2]. Any growing pains they experience can be used as guidance for the transition in openSUSE 11.3 or 12.0.
[1] http://www.novell.com/products/opensuse/sysreqs.html
[2] https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Features/F12X86Support

User benefit:

By moving to i686, openSUSE should receive a slight performance increase while maintaining support for an incredibly broad range of x86 chips. Any boost is helpful on systems with less processing power, such as netbooks/nettops or older systems (Pentium 2, original Athlon etc.). Moving to i686 is a way to boost performance the performance of openSUSE at the margins without having to delve into experimental or otherwise under-tested methods.


icons/user_comment.png J. E. wrote: (9 years ago)

What does i686 bring? Just the CMOV instructions. That alone does not convince me, and binaries are already at least compiled with -mtune=i686.

icons/user_comment.png j. j. wrote: (8 years ago)

Hi, I have read and heard much criticism from people with different expertise on computing and many say suse / opensuse is heavy and slow. For example it is one of the disadvantages of Distrowatch (Top Ten Distributions, advantages and disadvantages http://distrowatch.com/dwres.php?resource=major ) perhaps you can improve system performance by optimizing the most modern hardware and current ( common, frequently found in the home and office).

If there are surveys that can observe the number of users who have older computers would be good to go up the link.


icons/user_comment.png J. E. wrote: (8 years ago)

Makes me wonder why users who are concerned about speed don't just get an x86_64 (SSE2 is always included—much more a speed booster than CMOV) in the first place.

icons/user_comment.png R. D. wrote: (7 years ago)

AMD Geode which was still sold in systems a couple of years ago, which might have 512 MiB memory was only i586 not i686 processor. They were used for example in the orginal fit pc. Some other CPUs outside of Intel used in low power designs also were i586. They may not be common, but are perfectly capable SOHO servers. To drop even small part of base seems ruthless, for likely slight performance improvements.

The perceived lack of performance may be because other distro's didn't enable barriers. I have not found well configured openSUSE system to be sluggish in comparison, so long as software selection suits RAM. Reviewers & benchmarkers usually take defaults and show little care to investigate differences.

Where are the numbers to show the benefit of i686 arch over i586 tuned for i686?
Perhaps if certain libaries & programs show significant performance gain, they could be built as i686 rpm's?

Finally, CPU "power" is overated, avoiding page fault from disk, and attempts to reduce cache misses may help older processors far more than, CPU tuning, or simply upgrading the disk. Some recent i3 core CPU based boxes I have used run slower than my elderly Athlon X2 box! Most "slow" computers have too little RAM & poor disks, rather than the CPU limitting them.

Last change: 7 years ago
Score: 13
  • Negative: 6
  • Neutral: 1
  • Positive: 19
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