Architectures and Gentoo (Part 1)


In gentoo we support 13 different architectures: alpha, amd64, arm, hppa, ia64, m68k, mips, ppc, ppc64, s390, sh, sparc and x86. Although amd64 and x86 are the most common and popular, they are only 2 architectures of the total 13 we support, so i thought i could write about the rest of the architectures and their status on Gentoo.

I’ll do it in parts because i’ll get burned out too easily!

I think its sad to see a lot of that architectures that were so popular being discontinued, but i guess thats whats the progress is about 🙂 The main problem of arches getting discontinued is that the hardware is slow compared with new hardware, less users because they replace their old alternative architecture computer with an standard amd64/x86 PC. That makes that there’s less users of said architecture, which makes less interesting for linux distributions to support them, then there’s no developers…and then the architecture really dies. IMHO its sad, but thats the way it is.


The alpha processor was phased out by Compaq in 2004, being replaced by ia64. That means that you can’t buy any new hardware that has alpha processors(as to my knowledge). Of course there is some alpha hardware that wasn’t ever used, so you can say there is ‘new’ hardware, as in unused, but there’s no alpha processor manufactured after 2004. There were both workstations and servers.

The alpha status on Gentoo is good, there is three developers on the team: Tobias Klausmann (klausman, Blackb|rd on IRC), Matt Turner (mattst88) and myself. There was a lot of distributions supporting alpha back in 2001, when alpha was well and alive. But as of today, Gentoo is one of the few distributions that support it officially(guess we’re crazy :D).


Well, i don’t think i need to comment on this one…


ARM is one of the architectures that its level of activity is the same as amd64/x86 thanks to its fast-growing use on embedded devices. You can even find notebooks with ARM processors(called smartbooks), phones and NAS(Network Attached Storage) running Linux, WinCE and Android. Everytime they are getting more powerful, at the moment you can find dual-core processors at 1GHz, and thats not going to stop.

The status of ARM on Gentoo is good. We’re five developers: maekke, xmw, dagger, vapier and me. Also there are some users on #gentoo-embedded( which are really helpful. We provide stage3s for a handful of CHOSTS: armv4l, armv4tl, armv5tel, armv6j and armv7a. Which covers most of the devices available. One of the bad things of ARM is that every device available is almost completely different, that means we can’t have install guides of each device if we don’t have the device itself…


HPPA is another of the dead architectures that we support at Gentoo. It was an architecture designed by HP, and was phased out in 2008. It was replaced by ia64 as well. There was both workstations and servers.

The status on Gentoo is good. There is two developers: jer and GMsoft. I can’t speak too much about it because i’m not in the team, but i know its supported and doesn’t have too many issues(at least gentoo-related).

Hope you liked the first part 🙂


7 Responses to “Architectures and Gentoo (Part 1)”

  1. James Le Cuirot Says:

    I’ve installed Gentoo on x86, AMD64, PPC, MIPS and m68k in the past. It’s probably a good thing I don’t have so much free time anymore. 😉

  2. Jokey Says:

    Great sum 😀 Keep up the good work my beloved commit bot! 😀

  3. disi Says:

    I used next to x86 and amd64: armv5tel and armv7a
    Here to mention is Icecream for cluster compiling. Made my life much easier 🙂

    The stages are fine, the most problems I have are to find kernels for the devices. Mostly the manufactures release it without any information about the kernel or any config, so one has to fiddle around to get one working, so is my experience…

  4. Gökdeniz Karadağ Says:

    This summary series is a great idea. It is good to see the minority architectures see some sunlight in this x86 century.

  5. sebastian Says:

    Nice sum up! Thanks for the infos

  6. chithanh Says:

    Very nice post. Do you consider x86-fbsd an architecture too? What about prefix arches?

  7. Shawn Says:

    I’m one of the few people left who still use Gentoo/Alpha; it’s on an old LX164 workstation board based system. I keep it around just for nostalgia purposes, it being the first 64 bit workstation platform years ago.

    For those who have never seen an alpha or just want to know more about where they came from and why they were quite popular for some time :

    For some other side background ; when digital computer was rolled into Compaq, they continued the Alpha program, but slowed down development, instead choosing to sell the architecture (and the design team) to Intel. The great people who designed the Alpha architecture are the same people who designed the Itanium architure, another pure 64 bit powerhouse.

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