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Bug#319878: kernel-image-2.6-686: the entire range of 2.6 debian kernels do not install on m/cs with <= 48mb RAM

On Mon, Jul 25, 2005 at 03:51:22PM -0700, Matt Taggart wrote:
> Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton writes...

> > i invite you to think ahead to when the 2.4 kernel is no longer
> > maintained.

> > i invite you to consider where debian will stand at that time with
> > respect to older hardware.

> > should debian be possible to install on older hardware in two,
> > three years time, or should people who are not as fortunate and
> > as computer literate as yourself, myself and mr horms, either
> > throw the machine away or utilise an alternative distribution?

> The subject of the minimum system requirements for Debian is probably 
> something the Debian Release team should be tracking if they're not already. I 
> don't know if sarge had minimum system requirements, I didn't find any in a 
> brief scan of the release notes.

I believe Joey Hess is the person who has the best handle on what the actual
minimum requirements are for installing sarge.  Joey, do you have anything
we could add to the sarge release notes for this, if it's not already in

> Can a goal be added to the release goals for etch? Obviously supporting 32mb 
> would be nice since a lot of appliance type systems only have that, but 64mb 
> might be a more reasonable goal. In addition to "minimum" requirements, 
> "recommended" requirements might be a good idea too.

I think 48MB should still be a reasonable goal even with 2.6 kernels,
shouldn't it?  Whether 32 or 48 is the minimum for etch probably depends on
whether we insist on shipping etch as 2.6-only.

On Mon, Jul 25, 2005 at 04:17:10PM -0700, Matt Taggart wrote:
> Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton writes...

> >  my bug report invites you to consider the impact that such
> >  a policy decision "roll your own or install 2.4 on anything
> >  with <= 48mb of ram", made by mr horms, will have on the
> >  debian project.

> In reality, not much. But the nice thing about Debian is that it's built to be 
> able to support the needs of minority groups, so there could be a solution for 
> this group if there are people motivated to work on and maintain it. It's not 
> clear that there are though :(

Curiously, this bug report seems to be about the memory requirements of 2.6
ramdisks.  AIUI, it's still the hope that we'll have switched from
initrd-tools to an initramfs solution for etch, which should have the effect
of dropping the memory requirements significantly.

But I don't think it's the responsibility of the kernel maintainers to hold
back the hands of time where hardware obsoletion in concerned.  If 48MB is
the minimum that 2.6 will support, then someone who cares about machines
with less RAM than that needs to do the work to lower that bar.

Incidentally, I have no idea why this bug was filed against
kernel-image-2.6-686; that package does not contain *any* ramdisks, so
either Luke is complaining about the ramdisk used by d-i to boot 2.6, or the
ramdisk generated by initrd-tools, yes?  I can't tell which one, because his
bug report is uselessly vague and rant-oriented; otherwise, I'd reassign the
bug to the appropriate package.

> There is an organization in Portland, OR, USA called FreeGeek ( 
> http://freegeek.org ) that recycles computer equipment and turns it into as 
> many working computers as possible (running Debian) and donates them to 
> various groups around the world. They maintain a specification of the minimum 
> requirements for the systems they build. Currently this is,

> http://freegeek.org/freekbox.php
>     * Pentium III 500 - 566mhz
>     * 128MB RAM
>     * 9 - 10 GB hard drive
>     * 14x - 24x CD ROM drive
>     * Floppy disk drive
>     * 17 inch color monitor
>     * 56k Modem
>     * 10/100 Network card
>     * Keyboard
>     * Mouse
>     * Speakers

> IMO, at any given time this spec is a good indication of what the minimal 
> system is to even attempt to run Debian on, anything less would be painful.

> If the debian-release team decides to come up with minimum system requirements 
> for etch, I think a good place to aim for i386 would be slightly less than 
> whereever the freekbox spec is at the time.

Oh, well, I still have an AMD K6-450 with 128MB running sarge as my primary
mailserver.  It creaks under spamassassin's load from time to time, but it's
not painful enough for me to deal with trying to swap the hardware out
remotely.  Maybe this box will still be useful through the etch timeframe.

Steve Langasek
postmodern programmer

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