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Re: 80386 support

At Thu, 23 Aug 2012 02:49:40 -0400 (EDT), Mouse 
<mouse%Rodents-Montreal.ORG@localhost> wrote:
Subject: Re: 80386 support
> This is rapdily reaching the point where it no longer has anything to
> do with 80386 support, nor even the i386 port.  Perhaps we should move
> it elsewhere?
> >> [...] I have an hp300 with a grand total of five megabytes of RAM.
> > Could you cross-build it from a more modern machine?
> Possibly...if any of the easily-cross-buildable versions cross-build to
> anything small enough to run on it at all.  The last thing I've even
> tried to run on it is pre-2.0; it's been a long time since I tried, in
> large part because I had trouble and came to the conclusion that I had
> a fried output pin on the HP-IB interface.  I need to test more and
> maybe do some hardware work....

Perhaps this thread is getting a little long in the tooth, but I'd like
to point out a couple of things that I don't think have been quite so
clearly pointed out yet:

1. It really probably is best to think of "small machines", be they old
or not, as "embedded" targets to some degree, particularly if one wants
to run any significant portion of NetBSD on them.  That does mean cross-
compiling, of course, but that's trivial to do these days.

2. Memory and storage requirements for small systems is still _really_
low if you want to go to some slight effort.  I've got a bootable image
file of a "complete" NetBSD-5/i386 systems that's just a tiny bit over
7Mb.  It contains a kernel and a ramdisk image with a 12Mb filesystem
containing a crunchgen binary with almost everything in it (no named for
somewhat silly reasons, and no toolchain, and no manual pages -- not
atypical of what was delivered with some commercial unix systems of days
gone by), as well as a few necessary support files -- enough I think to
go multi-user with a network connection and probably even with sshd
running, though I think I've only tested inetd and telnet.  If I
remember correctly it should boot into multi-user mode in just 16MB of
RAM too, though I've never found a machine with such little RAM that
will still run to prove that.  In theory with the filesystem on external
storage (of which only about 16Mb worth is needed for the install,
kernel included) it should boot multi-user on a machine with only 4Mb of
RAM.  Maybe I can trick my Soekris box into thinking it has (a LOT) less
memory soldered on to test this theory out.....

So, I would suggest that all excuses about NetBSD not still building
for, and running on, tiny machines are just that:  excuses.  Use a
cross-compile host like any other tiny/embedded systems target must do
and all will be A-OK.

And if you want to go really tiny, it seems 2.11BSD, in the form of the
RetroBSD project, will self-host on a PIC32 chip with only 128Kb of RAM.

[[ I do wish dropping i386 support had properly triggered a rename such
that the "i386" port name was dropped at the same time and a more
meaningful acronym were chosen instead, though I don't know for sure
what that would be (does Intel have a generic name for their post-386
range of CPUs?)  Personally I don't think it's too late to do this
either, but I'm sure too many would disagree with me.  It should never
be too late to fix such an egregious error.]]

                                                Greg A. Woods
                                                Planix, Inc.

<woods%planix.com@localhost>       +1 250 762-7675        http://www.planix.com/

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