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The following is a list of architectures supported by Owl, their flavors and various architecture-specific details.

Architecture flavors.

On many architectures, Owl supports multiple flavors (or versions) of the architecture. For example, i386 and i686 are both versions of the x86 (IA32) architecture. It is possible to build and/or use binary packages intended for an older version of the architecture on your modern hardware.

Packages built for an architecture flavor closest to that implemented in your CPU may provide a small performance improvement (usually 1 to 5% overall on real-world tasks). However, there's a price: you won't be able to move such packages to an older machine and install there. Worse, you may not be able to build packages (or any binaries) for an older architecture flavor on a system where the development libraries were built for a newer one. The packages will appear to build and work, but may in fact require the newer architecture flavor due to code inherited from development libraries installed on the system.

There are two possible solutions to this last problem: you may choose to only use packages for the oldest architecture flavor you may ever need, or you may install development libraries built for the older flavor while using other packages (including dynamic libraries) built for your actual hardware. It is likely that you will find the first solution more practical, even though it doesn't provide the best possible performance.

Note that packages built for an older architecture flavor may be tuned for your newer CPU, to the extent possible within the feature set of the older flavor. This is how all Owl packages are built by default.

Building for a particular architecture flavor.

Architecture flavor may be specified via the ARCHITECTURE= line in buildworld.conf. This line is optional and commented out by default, in which case the default flavor is architecture-specific (a certain flavor of the build host's architecture, in some cases the oldest, in others not).

Cross-builds are not supported: it is not possible to build packages for an architecture different than that of the build host, nor for a flavor of the architecture newer than that implemented in the build host's CPU.

x86, also known as IA32.

Two architecture flavors are defined by default: i386 and i686. The i386 produces packages that will actually run on an i386 or on any newer CPU. Both the i386 and the i686 packages are tuned for an i686, with the only difference being that the i686 packages make use of the instructions only available with this newer architecture flavor.

Although the overall performance improvement with the i686 packages is small, this is our current default. In fact, we do not provide a kernel configuration for i386, so the kernel package will only build for i686.

x86-64, also known as AMD64 and EM64T.

There are no flavors. The identifier for this architecture is x86_64, and it is fully supported.

SPARC.

SPARC was fully supported by the Owl userland up through and including the Owl 2.0 release, although we never provided a tested kernel config (and in fact a 64-bit kernel required for modern hardware would not build on our 32-bit only SPARC userland anyway - one needs to use a third-party 64-bit build of gcc for that). We've last built Owl-current for SPARC in October 2006. After that point, there was no further effort to see if the Owl userland builds for SPARC or not - perhaps it still mostly does as we did not knowingly break the support.

Two architecture flavors are defined: sparc and sparcv9. The sparc assumes at least a SPARC V8, and both produce packages tuned for an UltraSPARC. The sparcv9 packages will actually not work on anything below an Ultra.

The performance improvement with the sparcv9 is minimal (1 to 2%, except for certain functions in glibc and OpenSSL where SPARC V9 assembly versions are provided).

sparc64 is not supported at this stage. It is possible to build Owl userland (32-bit) while running a sparc64 kernel, though (we did).

Alpha.

Alpha was fully supported by the Owl userland up through and including the Owl 2.0 release, although we never provided a tested kernel config. After that point, there was no further effort to see if the Owl userland builds for Alpha or not - perhaps it still mostly does as we did not knowingly break the support.

Two architecture flavors are defined by default: alpha and alphaev56. The choice affects both the use of BWX extensions with alphaev56 and instruction scheduling. That is, packages built for plain alpha target are tuned for older EV4 processors (21064, 21066) and ones built for alphaev56 are tuned for EV56/PCA56 processors (21164A, 21164PC). On an EV5 (21164) processor you may use the suboptimal plain alpha packages. On an EV6+ (21264, 21264A), use the alphaev56 packages.

$Owl: Owl/doc/ARCHITECTURES,v 1.9 2010/07/29 01:40:29 solar Exp $

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