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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:04AM   Printer-friendly
from the found-at-the-bottom-of-the-closet dept.

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

[Yeo Kheng Meng] had a question: what is the oldest x86 processor that is still supported by a modern Linux kernel? Furthermore, is it actually possible to use modern software with this processor? It's a question that surely involves experimentation, staring into the bluescreen abyss of BIOS configurations, and compiling your own kernel. Considering Linux dropped support for the 386 in 2012, the obvious answer is a 486. This supposition was tested, and the results are fantastic. You can, indeed, install a modern Linux on an ancient desktop.

Source: https://hackaday.com/2018/01/07/go-retro-to-build-a-spectre-and-meltdown-proof-x86-desktop/


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Apparition on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:12AM (8 children)

    by Apparition (6835) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:12AM (#620289) Journal

    I knew a woman that used a Commodore 128 with a 1200 baud modem until around 2002, when she finally upgraded to a 486 with a 33.6k baud modem. Completely usable at the time, frequently went on IRC.

    Time to see if there are any Commodores on sale on eBay. Make Gopher and Usenet great again! ... Is Fidonet still around?

    More on topic, they cheated by compiling the Linux kernel on a modern Thinkpad instead. I wonder how long it would have actually taken to compile Gentoo Linux on it.

    • (Score: 4, Touché) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:38AM

      "Taken" is past tense. They'd probably still have a couple months left to go.

      --
      "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
    • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:22AM (5 children)

      by RS3 (6367) on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:22AM (#620329)

      I wonder how long it would have actually taken to compile Gentoo Linux on it.

      Infinity. By the time the compile is done, source code has been updated, and you're back to compiling. Sigh.

      • (Score: 2) by Arik on Wednesday January 10 2018, @04:15AM (4 children)

        by Arik (4543) on Wednesday January 10 2018, @04:15AM (#620337) Journal
        "Infinity. By the time the compile is done, source code has been updated, and you're back to compiling. Sigh."

        This means you have installed too much stuff. Remove something useless and try again.
        --
        "This font is your font, you can't see my font."
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @08:30AM

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @08:30AM (#620387)

          This was something I did around 2004 (Gentoo on i486), most things weren't really problematic at that time... but don't build libreoffice or something like that. Also take into consideration that some newer software takes large chunks of memory to build (which is normally not available on i486).

        • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Saturday January 13 2018, @11:54PM (2 children)

          by RS3 (6367) on Saturday January 13 2018, @11:54PM (#621997)

          "Infinity. By the time the compile is done, source code has been updated, and you're back to compiling. Sigh."

          This means you have installed too much stuff. Remove something useless and try again.

          I agree with your sentiment- I run systems lean and mean. I don't think you grasped my attempt at humor: the idea was that a compile on a Commodore 128 would take so long- for pretty much anything- that by the time the compile + link is done, someone has released an update to the source code and you're back to compiling. That would be true for the Linux kernel for sure.

          • (Score: 2) by Arik on Sunday January 14 2018, @04:01AM (1 child)

            by Arik (4543) on Sunday January 14 2018, @04:01AM (#622082) Journal
            Oh I got what you were saying, it's just completely inaccurate.

            Now what you said makes sense, don't get me wrong. It's just that you overlooked a very important part of the equation.

            In order to port linux to the c64, you would have to pare it back. And not just a little.

            By the time you hacked out all the stuff that simply could never be made to work on the c64, there wouldn't be all that much to compile. And those constant updates? Almost never touch anything you're using. ;)

            --
            "This font is your font, you can't see my font."
            • (Score: 2) by RS3 on Sunday January 14 2018, @06:02AM

              by RS3 (6367) on Sunday January 14 2018, @06:02AM (#622107)

              No, you're completely inaccurate. It's a c128, not c64. And it would be running an i686 emulator. ;-)

    • (Score: 2, Interesting) by jshmlr on Wednesday January 10 2018, @12:05PM

      by jshmlr (6606) on Wednesday January 10 2018, @12:05PM (#620437) Homepage Journal

      Time to see if there are any Commodores on sale on eBay.

      Get ready to cash in some *coins, the nostalgia index has inflated the prices on retro rigs. Machines had for a tenner a few years ago at the local yard sale can now put you back 3 digits on eBay. Great for closet cleaners, salty for tinkerers and collectors.

      --
      Need nothing, then see what happens.
  • (Score: 5, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:19AM (6 children)

    by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:19AM (#620291) Journal

    Isn't the relevant question: "What is the most modern/powerful x86 processor that is not affected by Meltdown and Spectre" rather than "What is the oldest x86 processor I can run modern Linux on"? Or do you want to have a slower experience?

    There are much newer Intel chips than the 486 that are not affected by Meltdown. Probably no IME too if you throw that criteria in. Although many Intel chips since 1995 are affected by Meltdown, pre-2013 Atom are not. Wimpy as it may be, a 2012 Atom will demolish a 1989 80486.

    This just looks like a cool project that was repackaged as Meltdown/Spectre clickbait on Hackaday.

    --
    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Hyperturtle on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:04PM (2 children)

      by Hyperturtle (2824) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:04PM (#620479)

      yeah

      Why build a machine that is immune to this if one that is patched is faster and runs modern stuff anyway?

      Go retro to go retro, or to fulfil a specific requirement (personal or business.. hobbies are cool too you know). But this article just seems to be clickbait shaped around recent tech news.

      My understanding is that Pentium II's and newer are suspectible, give or take a few in the family around 1995. Pentium Pros and similar competing cpus are not impacted. I have an HP L4 Netserver with four Pentium III 500mhz cpus and it's affected.

      But that doesn't make my HP Proliant with four Pentium Pro 200mhz cpus a good choice compared to that 4x500 P3 computer. Nor is it compared to an Athlon XP 2200+ which is a faster CPU and cheaper to run. It can even be overclocked to some extent (the servers are pretty much as-is). But the best option is that patched i5 or i7 you already have from 5 years ago or last week.

      Whatever you have is good to keep using. Just decide to patch it or not and take precautions. There is no building a new system that performs like a modern computer when using old cpus to "not be impacted. There won't be a performance solution around this problem until they release CPUs that don't have the flaws.

      AMD is the best bet, but their modern CPUs are suspectible to Spectre-- but not Meltdown. 1 out of 2 isn't bad i suppose.

      More to the point, my c64 with wireless internet access with the SD flash card that replaced the floppy drive and a flash rom cartridge that loads programs so fast I am still in denial (minutes to seconds--faster than I ever thought was even possible on the platform) STILL is vulnerable to the WPA2 'krack' or whatever vulnerability that came out not long ago.

      I am seriously not going to dmz my c64 because its wireless capabilities are not likely to be patched any time soon, despite my ability to connect to it via a USB connector I have to copy files faster than over the wifi (it's still limited to... like 38400bps or so, but realistically I telnet out from it to boards at 9600 since I can't read much faster than that and the scroll/pause isn't always reliable depending on the BBS answering...)

      The takeway is that there is no escape. It will all be vulnerable. It is better to react and defend, unless it's just for fun and the risks are small and costs are negligble.

      There's value in building an old system--there's a logic required that doesn't often apply today for many young IT people. They just get a sealed box that gets replaced after a while. Knowing how it all works, and with old gear, can teach a lot... how it works, how to troubleshoot when it doesn't, how light overclocking can make big differences in performance... and most of all patience. because it's just as hard now as it was then, since it is hard to find drivers online and back then it was hard to find drivers online, too.. (Of course for me I do it because I am a masochist, but that's a different problem...)

      That said I wish we didn't have to dream up workarounds for modern problems, and I have systems I am reluctant to patch until I see more evidence of how it impacts peformance. I haven't seen too much about the impact overall, just specific worst case scenarios. But in the end I will end up patching nearly everything that needs it because it's better off slower than compromised.

       

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:59AM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday January 11 2018, @06:59AM (#620828) Journal

        The takeway is that there is no escape. It will all be vulnerable. It is better to react and defend, unless it's just for fun and the risks are small and costs are negligble.

        We'll end up with some neuromorphic + quantum chips in PCs and phones mounting an active defense against intrusion. Or just becoming a more dynamic and interesting way to pwn the system.

        The good news is that the desire for convenience and riskiness of technology means humans will continue to be employed for at least a couple of decades more.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by Hyperturtle on Thursday January 11 2018, @07:22PM

          by Hyperturtle (2824) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 11 2018, @07:22PM (#621048)

          I've been wondering if the transition to mostly robot manufacturing and mining and even cars takes place, who has been planning on how to deal with the resultant loss of revenue because of people that can no longer afford to buy the products being manufactured? We're not at that tipping point, but some industries are closer to it than others.

          They can't keep raising the prices of stuff that isn't selling in order to meet their profit projections -- eventually, people with money have to buy stuff to make those robots worth the price of not ever being a consumer and never contributing to a tax base.

          But I bet if we pooled our resources and made a bitcoin mining robot that was outsourced--we'd make millions!

    • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Thursday January 11 2018, @10:57AM (2 children)

      by Wootery (2341) on Thursday January 11 2018, @10:57AM (#620874)

      "What is the most modern/powerful x86 processor that is not affected by Meltdown and Spectre" rather than "What is the oldest x86 processor I can run modern Linux on"? Or do you want to have a slower experience?

      The question is broader than this, no? Why commit to x86? If I understand correctly, your average 'unpatched' ARM/PowerPC chip is no better so it doesn't help to just dig out that ancient Mac, [blogspot.co.uk] but still.

      Also, as this is SN: roll on RISC-V, I say.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday January 11 2018, @11:12AM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Thursday January 11 2018, @11:12AM (#620882) Journal

        Why commit to x86?

        The same reason why so many are committed to x86, or even Windows: Software.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Thursday January 11 2018, @11:22AM

          by Wootery (2341) on Thursday January 11 2018, @11:22AM (#620889)

          It's pretty clear we aren't talking about mainstream desktop machines or servers, or no-one would have mentioned the 486.

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:28AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:28AM (#620292)

    And compartmentalize things Like a dumb person, wait, this is a board for smarteeerrr people?

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by realDonaldTrump on Wednesday January 10 2018, @06:16PM (1 child)

      by realDonaldTrump (6614) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 10 2018, @06:16PM (#620549) Homepage Journal

      A lot of people thought they were being smart. They put their secrets -- documents, and many things -- into secret cyber compartments. It wasn't smart. Because hackers have Meltdown & Spectre now. And they can get into those compartments, and steal those secrets. Just as easily as if they were on Crooked Hillary's EMAIL server.

      --
      #StopTheBias [twitter.com]
      • (Score: 2) by Wootery on Thursday January 11 2018, @11:24AM

        by Wootery (2341) on Thursday January 11 2018, @11:24AM (#620890)

        These days most CPUs, and many email servers, are indeed out-of-order.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by leftover on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:30AM (17 children)

    by leftover (2448) on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:30AM (#620294)

    How 'bout this: what is the most recent Xeon that is still pre-Management Engine? What if a hypothetical person wanted to build the most high-performance system possible without back doors? A quad-socket server board seems like an interesting place to start. At some point you might want to splice in parts of a newer chipset to get faster and more efficient memory but that is a much higher level of investment. I am just remembering hot-swappable everything from power supplies to memory and wondering if those interfaces could support modular upgrades.

    Bah. Too many projects and windmills to tilt at.

    --
    Bent, folded, spindled, and mutilated.
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by takyon on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:36AM (8 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:36AM (#620297) Journal

      What if a hypothetical person wanted to build the most high-performance system possible without back doors?

      *currently known/suspected back doors

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 4, Touché) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:40AM (7 children)

        All this talk about backdoors without one butt sex joke greatly disappoints me.

        --
        "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
        • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Wednesday January 10 2018, @02:27AM (5 children)

          by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 10 2018, @02:27AM (#620314) Homepage Journal

          I'm more of a boob guy.
          ;)

          --
          --- That's not flying: that's... falling... with more luck than I have. ---
          • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @02:46AM (2 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @02:46AM (#620317)

            You have all been reported as commies and enemies of the computer

            • (Score: -1, Offtopic) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:37AM (1 child)

              by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:37AM (#620331)

              Your suffering from Paranoia

              • (Score: -1, Redundant) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @05:41AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @05:41AM (#620350)

                You're. You are. Contraction.

          • (Score: 3, Funny) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday January 10 2018, @02:56AM

            I'm not knocking knockers but butts win when wisecracking.

            --
            "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
          • (Score: -1, Troll) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:59PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:59PM (#620496)

            > I'm more of a boob guy

            FTFY

        • (Score: 2) by chromas on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:44AM

          by chromas (34) on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:44AM (#620333)

          "That girl's standing right over there and you're telling him about our back doors?"

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:44AM (6 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:44AM (#620332) Journal

      I see no interest in AMD in this thread. I haven't wanted an intel since way back when . . . https://www.computerhope.com/jargon/p/p3.htm [computerhope.com] That's like 19 years of Intel assisted invasion of privacy.

      --
      #eatyourliver #WalkAway #CTRLLeft
      • (Score: 4, Touché) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday January 10 2018, @04:10AM (5 children)

        AMD's PSP is remotely pwnable with no patch in sight as well. Not sure if we've run the story or not yet though.

        --
        "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday January 10 2018, @05:26AM (4 children)

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday January 10 2018, @05:26AM (#620347) Journal

          This? Security Flaw in AMD's Secure Chip-On-Chip Processor Disclosed Online [soylentnews.org]

          Is this talk of AMD allowing people to disable the PSP enough to get you on the AMD train, or do they need to take it out altogether before you will trust them?

          --
          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
          • (Score: 3, Insightful) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday January 10 2018, @12:05PM (3 children)

            When I can disable the PSP/IME entirely with a bios setting or jumper on my motherboard of choice then prove such works by testing current exploits against the box I'll call it good enough. We're not quite there yet though.

            --
            "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
            • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday January 10 2018, @02:45PM (2 children)

              by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 10 2018, @02:45PM (#620470) Journal

              This ^ exactly.

              Has there been a hardware "security" feature that has worked as intended? THAT would be news, wouldn't it?

              --
              #eatyourliver #WalkAway #CTRLLeft
              • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Wednesday January 10 2018, @02:55PM (1 child)

                The power cord. Pull it out of the power supply and your computer is utterly secure from anyone without physical access to the device. Mind you, there is some lag time if your computer includes a battery other than the CMOS one.

                --
                "Buzzy, you're probably the dumbest person I've ever encountered. Well, there is aristarchus, so make it 2nd dumbest."
    • (Score: 1) by cwadge on Wednesday January 10 2018, @06:03AM

      by cwadge (3324) on Wednesday January 10 2018, @06:03AM (#620355) Homepage Journal

      Management Engine backdoors are a totally different set of problems than Meltdown / Spectre present. Even commodity systems without ME functionality are vulnerable to at least one of the latter two.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:44AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:44AM (#620300)

    Sparc? MIPS?

    MIPS is such a simple architecture, compared to x86, that I'm a little optimistic about its chances of being more robust. It has also been through the mill in a hell of a lot of embedded designs.

    MIPS - the chip family that runs your life.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday January 10 2018, @07:23AM

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Wednesday January 10 2018, @07:23AM (#620376) Journal
      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
    • (Score: 2) by TheRaven on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:47PM

      by TheRaven (270) on Wednesday January 10 2018, @01:47PM (#620457) Journal

      MIPS is dying. ImagTech couldn't make money from it and sold it off to some idiot VCs that have no idea what to do with it. All of the existing MIPS vendors are rapidly pushing out ARM SoCs for the same market segments.

      That said, some of the earlier Geode chips were based on a 486-like microarchitecture and ran at a few hundred MHz. They'd probably be immune to Spectre and faster than any other x86 chips that are.

      --
      sudo mod me up
  • (Score: 2) by legont on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:02AM

    by legont (4179) on Wednesday January 10 2018, @03:02AM (#620322)

    I have 1999 ThinkPad 240 running Gentoo. No issues so far.

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @08:54AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @08:54AM (#620391)

    11 minutes to boot and 5.5 minutes to shut down? Is this the default setup with everything compiled in and udev trying to load every module, every service enabled and the machine paging constantly?

    I had a Pentium 120 with 16 MB RAM (he has a 486 with 32 MB RAM, twice as much) booting in 13 seconds and shutting down in 6 seconds not that long ago, and Linux doesn't become much slower over time, as long as you don't enable all the new stuff you probably don't need anyway.

    Of course that P120 wasn't running a web server, DNS server, etc, like my regular PC, but it did run X, fvwm (like my regular PC) and Firefox (Firefox has since dropped support for anything considered "old", being the secure choice for people on older computers is no longer a goal apparently).

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @11:07PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 10 2018, @11:07PM (#620703)

    No security problems there...

    Ok, on a serious note, its time to move to FPGAs, with fully open core code. Take back control.

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