Keeping Older Hardware Useful

Once upon a time there was a popular mantra that Linux based systems keep older hardware in use.

Not really.

A case in point is CentOS 7, which is the community derived version of Red Hat Enterprise. When version 7 was released many “older” drivers were dropped. There might be some hope with the Elrepo repository, but not much.

Just plain dropped.

At work I had access to an older MSI MSI K9MM-V system that still had Windows XP installed. I wanted to create a CentOS 7 test machine. I thought a test machine using this smaller system would be easier on the electric bill than using an older rack server sucking down more than 300 watts. The MSI motherboard only supports 2 GB of RAM maximum, not great for a 64-bit operating system, but this was going to be a test system only.

My first obstacle was the Anaconda installer refusing to find the hard drives. Some digging revealed the problem might be the on-board RAID controller, despite being configured for IDE mode. The following command wiped the drives:

    wipefs -af /dev/sda
    wipefs -af /dev/sdb

Why couldn’t the installer provide some clues why the drives were not recognized? Perhaps even offer to wipe the drives?

Whatever. Onward and upward.

Thereafter CentOS 7 installed. Only to discover that CentOS 7 does not support the motherboard network controller, which needs the via-rhine kernel module. Back to the Elrepo repository.

Which begs the question, Why? Retaining these modules is little more than enabling the option when building the kernel. I am using the 4.4.88 kernel in Slackware 14.2 and the module is available. I checked my Ubuntu installs and the module is available.

Would retaining the module waste any sweat equity from Red Hat engineers? The Red Hat folks could refuse to support the module in their subscription contracts, but why not let users decide if they want or need the module? Why the relentless and hard-core attitude of purging drivers for older hardware? Can users rebuild their own kernel? Sure, but why should most users jump through such hoops?

Posted: Category: Usability Tagged: CentOS

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