Do we need this junk?

Bernd Walter ticso at
Sat Apr 7 11:18:50 UTC 2007

On Sat, Apr 07, 2007 at 06:44:06PM +1000, Michael Vince wrote:
> This kind of discussion has come up in the past and what makes it a bit 
> more interesting is we again see posts from people proudly saying they 
> are running up to 40 486's and Pentium 1's, last time this type of 
> discussion came up some one told me they were running over 50 pentium 1 
> servers of services (not mini routers etc).
> This is at the time when global warming/energy reduction is in a media 
> frenzy spotlight on a almost now permanent basis, this also includes 
> technology like virtualization. Why these machines can't be placed onto 
> a single modern core 2 server under virtualization like jails is beyond me.
> This also reminds me of when a gentlemen from Nvidia posted ideas for 
> the FreeBSD kernel so that they could better support their chipsets on 
> FreeBSD, some mailing list users blasted him.

Jail doesn't bring enough isolation you need in many cases.
While it is true that a modern big host has more cycles per Watt it is
also often true that an old P1 server grade hardware use less power
than a modern server grade hardware and unless you need that power of
a modern system the P1 is quite sufficient.
Also a modern 486 like a soekris 4501 only consumes 3-5W and if it is
fast enough it is choosen for exactly the reason of power consumption.
The price for the hardware is not lower - it is the bill running the
hardware over a few years in service, which makes such a 486 system
And yes - I'm proud to run low power hosts where they fit for the
And note that we are already talking about a power consumption capable
for solar powered systems running FreeBSD.
Things will likely change over to even less power consuming ARM systems,
but there are still purposes I still buy 486 boards and the 486 will
stay as long as they are fast enough for the service they should do.
They are physically distributed, so virtual hosts are not an option.
It is not that I couldn't run FreeBSD for that service when 486 would
be dropped, but the total cost is much higher because of additional
power costs.

Also the write of cycles of IT hardware vs. industrial are different.
You may talk about hardware in the industrial class filling rooms that
includes a host with special cards.
You can't swap the system for decades, but still want to have it's
software rising with newer requirements.
You still need ISA for modern systems, but you also need ISA for
special hardware which requires keeping old systems online.
It doesn't even have to be bad for power consumption, since e.g. many
of the old systems changed from HDD to flash storage over the years.

> Weather it could work better the other way around is something I don't 
> know, forcing people to recompile bits back into the kernel for their 
> PC-98/486 might work or it might force a new fork of FreeBSD.

We have to recompile the kernel anyway to remove SMP, reduce memory
footprint, etc..., but there is a chance to run a GENERIC kernel for
the first start.
And more importent in the embedded world it is often quite handy to have
packages, because of long compile times - we can't quickly recompile
everything as on fast systems, but we also need security updates and
new features.
I never use packages on beafy systems, but I use them on slow ones.

> I think it's reasonable to think that there can be a mix up in users 
> belief on what FreeBSD is about and where it's focus is on, for example 
> the "about" part of FreeBSD's web site tends to be worded on a more 
> modern advanced focused OS ( ) but at 
> the same time it does list PC-98.

Things don't dissagree.
It is still that there is not so much win for beafy systems when
dropping support for legacy and there is quite a large number of users
with that hardware.

bernd at           info at            support at

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