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Ubuntu TB Decides On Future Of Non-PAE Kernel

Ubuntu

Published on 13 December 2011 05:38 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Ubuntu
3 Comments

The Ubuntu Technical Board met yesterday and they decided on the future of non-PAE Linux kernels within Ubuntu, a decision that affects 32-bit users on older hardware.

Back during the Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Developer Summit in Orlando, the developers decided they wanted to drop non-PAE kernel support. For 32-bit Linux the PAE kernel allows addressing more than 4GB of system memory, while the kernel without support for PAE isn't. Most hardware that's only 32-bit capable (if your hardware is x86_64 compatible you should be using the 64-bit build by now, really) does have support for Physical Address Extensions, so Ubuntu developer wants to get rid of this extra non-PAE kernel.

Well, many were concerned by Ubuntu dropping non-PAE kernel support. There's still some Intel Pentium M CPUs that were made in the past decade that lacked PAE support, among other reasons people still wanted to see non-PAE kernel support in this next Ubuntu Long Term Support release.

The Ubuntu Technical Board weighed the pros and cons of non-PAE support and came to a decision. The board has decided they will support the non-PAE kernel option until the Ubuntu 12.10 release, so there will still be support in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS. The default i386 kernel in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS will become the PAE-enabled kernel, but the non-PAE flavor will be available.

Below are the details in full from the non-PAE discussion.
Non-PAE kernel disposition
* Kernel team would like to drop non-PAE kernel soon
* TB members generally feel that (1) dropping the current default kernel is too much of a step, and (2) there is still a significant number of users which have non-PAE systems, based on Launchpad bug report data and an ubuntu-devel@ strawpoll
* Maintaining the extra flavour is not much extra work, and not comparable to e. g. the -ti-omap4 kernel which is an entirely separate source tree
* We need a way to prevent upgrades for non-PAE systems. Some options were mentioned:
* Add update-manager check to not offer the upgrade if PAE is not available
* Add libc6/linux preinst to abort the upgrade early if PAE is not available; that's not the best failure mode, but will prevent a safety net for users of `apt-get dist-upgrade`
* '''Agreements''':
* Switch precise over to PAE kernel by default on i386; we retain the option to revert if it causes too much fallout (Colin)
* Drop non-PAE flavour in 12.10; this will give non-PAE systems another 5 years of life time, which is considered enough
* Further discuss upgrade strategy/checks

Now see i686 vs. i686 PAE vs. x86_64 Linux benchmarks from April.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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