default media size [Was: Proposed F18 feature: MiniDebugInfo]

John Reiser jreiser at
Mon May 14 18:49:06 UTC 2012

On 05/12/2012 09:51 PM, Matthew Garrett wrote:
> On Thu, May 10, 2012 at 11:00:48AM -0400, Adam Jackson wrote:
>> So the set of people we'd be inconveniencing is exactly the set of
>> people with no bandwidth and the inability to boot from anything larger
>> than a CD.
> Not only that - the people who have no bandwidth, the inability to boot 
> from anything larger than a CD and no USB ports that can be bootstrapped 
> from a bootloader sitting on a CD or floppy.
> USB has been required by Microsoft's logo program since 1999 and was 
> effectively ubiquitous on Pentium 2 before that, so the set of hardware 
> we're ruling out is at least 13 years old and more realistically 
> probably 15. We've already dropped support for x86 hardware that was in 
> production more recently than that.

Reality can differ from the press releases.  I have two running machines
that contradict the conclusions above.  Instead of 13 or 15 years,
such an effective cutoff would be closer to about 8 years.  I consider
that to be uncomfortably young to be declared obsolete, especially
when the declaration is issued at the end of a release cycle instead of
at the beginning.

The most important issue in this thread is ability to boot from USB2.0.
Although the Microsoft logo endorsement may have required USB since 1999,
USB1.1 (12Mbit/s) was sufficient in the early years, and the ability to boot
from USB also was not required at first.  In my experience, the ability
to boot from USB2.0 was not common in consumer hardware until around 2005
[see "USB mass storage" in ]
which is only 7 years ago.

Below are the details on my counterexamples.

Exactly eleven years ago in May 2001 I purchased new from Dell
an Inspiron 4000 laptop: 700MHz/550MHz Pentium III (Coppermine: sse
but no sse2), 16KB L1, 256KB L2, 64MB RAM, ATI Rage128 graphics,
10GB harddrive, CD drive, outboard floppy, 10/100 ethernet, 33.6Kb
winmodem, VGA out, projector out, serial, parallel, dock, audio in/out,
IrDA, dual PCMCIA slots, 1 PS/2, and 1 USB *1.1* port (12Mbit/s);
WindowsME [logo] installed.  The laptop was positioned towards the high end
of the SOHO (Small Office / Home Office) market.  Its outstanding feature
is a 1024x768 display panel; at the time many others were 800x600.
Over the years the machine has been upgraded to 384MB RAM, 40GB harddrive,
and USB2.0 via PCMCIA card.  With a new battery and charger it still
provides hours of use per charge.

The laptop cannot boot from USB, and the BIOS also has the 1023-cylinder
limit for booting.  None of the Fedora install .iso contain a CD-to-USB
trampoline for booting.  Thus I copy the kernel and initrd onto a small
partition that resides below cylinder 1024, and boot them specifying
root=live:CDLABEL=<label>.  Yesterday I used this technique successfully
to install default Graphical Desktop of Fedora 17 TC5 from 4GB USB2.0 flash
media.  Install took 80 minutes (versus 17 minutes on a 3GHz Core-i5), and
the LED for harddrive activity indicated page thrashing during only a few
packages.  Using DVD it may have taken about 3 hours or more because of time
for seeks and for spin up/down on longer packages.  Gnome3 runs acceptably
in fallback mode; XFCE runs well.  LibreOffice Writer does not lag.  So a
CD-to-USB trampoline with good Usability for booting the installer
might remove the "obsolete" tag on this laptop.

After the laptop, about one year later in 2002 I built a desktop using
ASUS P4B266 board: 1.6 GHz Pentium4 (Northwood: NetBurst with sse2), 2x256MB
DDR ("DDR1"; now 2x512MB), PATA harddrives [upgraded twice], CD drive [upgraded
to DVD], 2x USB1.1, 4x USB2.0, AGP+PCI slots, etc.  Except for being self-built,
the box qualified for WindowsME logo.  Although the hardware was still not "old"
in 2003/2004, the BIOS cannot boot from USB.  Only two weeks ago, both Fry's
and Newegg [leading parts sellers in USA] had a sale on 1GB DDR1 DIMM ($42.)
This machine runs Windows XP, Fedora Core 4 (with Win4Lin), and Fedora 17.
Its only detrimental factors are its louder fans (2nd generation, along with
power supply), and the current ATI Radeon 9250 graphics card [RV280; new in
2006] which Gnome3 does not support except in fallback mode.  XFCE runs well.
Not being able to boot from USB2.0 casts a shadow on this box that is otherwise
"as good as new in 2003/2004", or even more recently than that in some ways.


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