RFC: Optimizing for 386

Joseph D. Wagner technojoecoolusa at charter.net
Wed Jan 19 16:08:22 UTC 2005

I can count the total number of people in the world who still use a 386 on the fingers of both of my hands.  Why are we still catering to this small group of people?

With the exception of the kernel and glibc, all RPM's are optimized for 386 architecture.  This is a waste of system resources.  Study after study shows that you can achieve a 10% - 40% performance improvement my optimizing code for a specific architecture.  Windows XP may only be optimized for a Pentium, but by golly, at least the whole thing is optimized, not just the kernel and the C library.

Just look at X.  Is anyone seriously trying to get X to run on a 386?  I can understand compiling the text-based programs, like bash, for 386.  You can run a text-only box on a 386 just fine.  Why do that for X?  Why do that for GNOME, KDE, or any graphical program for that matter?

I know that I can recompile of these program from the source code to achieve those optimizations.  However, why should everyone who wants to optimize their systems have to go through that, just so a handful of people with 386 machines can run X out-of-the-box?  Then, we have recompile all over again with the next RPM release.

Why can't the few people who have a 386 be made to recompile X from sources to get it to run on there machines, so the rest of us can enjoy the performance boost from running optimized binaries?

I think we seriously need to rethink the distribution strategy.  At the very least, all graphical programs should be optimized for i686.

Joseph D. Wagner

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