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Can you feel it? The thrilling static in the air? It’s
because the world’s top 500 supercomputers are now
all run on Linux. The last couple of non-Linux Chinese
holdouts have dropped out of the list, superseded by newer
An unstoppable combination of factors help foster this
environment: generational expertise though open source in
academia, research labs and beyond make it the prime choice
for development. Built-in support for high-performance
commodity components, drives down hardware costs and
speeds development. The modular and scalable nature of the
kernel ensures that it can be tailored to any task. Reliability,
efficiency and more all mean that Linux is now the only choice
for high-performance computing.
That’s lovely, but how does it apply to your perfectly capable
AMD Athlon XP from 2003? All the features of the
Linux kernel that make it perfect for powering supercomputers,
apply to your 15-year old technology, too. If properly motivated,
kernel developers and distro maintainers can still compile and
package compatible kernels and the required software to run
on. It’ll run as fast and smoothly as your hardware allows. But
for how much longer?
This issue we’re looking at how Linux distros are made to
support older hardware, how they’re tuned to run on low-
memory systems and generally run faster on limited hardware.
With more mainline distros cutting 32-bit support − even
though it appears 32-bit systems still account for around 20
per cent of PCs out there − the question is how much longer will
up-to-date software be available for them?
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