I recently bought an inexpensive server that came with dual 3.0 GHz Xeon processors. Based on what little I knew, I assumed this meant I'd be getting two 64-bit processors, but when I went to install Fedora 10, the installer said I had the wrong architecture and that I needed to use an installer for an i686 architecture.
I don't suppose the installer could be wrong about that, but I don't know of any way to verify it. The hardware information in the BIOS setup utility only shows the speed (3.06 GHz), manufacturer ("GenuineIntel"), type ("Intel® Xeon™"), CPUID ("F029") and L2 cache (512K). Nothing about the architecture.
So, bummer. My $380 server wasn't quite as good a deal as I thought it was. But I soldier on.
The next puzzler is that, when I go to download the i686 install CDs, there aren't any. There are only i386, x86_64 and ppc Install CDs, but there is a "Live CD" for i686. Hmmm. What can this mean, I wonder. Well, I think, since I'm installing this on a server, then "Fedora Desktop
Live Media" doesn't sound like the thing for me. Besides, since there are i386 and x86_64 Install CDs, and x86_64 and i686 Live CDs, it kind of sounds like i686 and i386 are interchangeable.
Please don't judge. I'm not stupid, just not terribly knowledgeable about Intel architectures. I'm trying to figure this out, but there is a lot of incomplete, inaccurate, misleading information out there, so you can spend a lot of time going in circles.
So, anyway, I download the i386 install CDs and do my installation, and everything seems to go fine until I reboot and hit the snag with the RAID card not being recognized. This problem has nothing to do with the CPU architecture, but in researching that issue I keep running into the i386/i686 dichotomy and wondering if I did the right thing.
As I now understand it, the i686 is like a more advanced version of the i386, so if you install the i386 version, it will work, but you're not taking advantage of all the capabilities that were added to the i686 architecture. Is that about right?
I've also learned that, to get the i686 version, you have to either use the i686 Live CD or build it yourself, and if you want all your software to be the i686 versions (if available), and you want to be able to update and upgrade everything via yum, you can either install the i686 version from the Live CD or build everything yourself.
So now I'm thinking that the i686 Live CD is the way to go?
But I'm still puzzled about a couple of things:
1. Why is there no i386 Live CD and no i686 install CDs? It just makes it harder figure out which images to download.
2. How does Intel get away with marketing chips with completely different architectures under the name, "Xeon," without even giving buyers a clue as to what they're getting? I mean, they make a big deal about how many cores a chip has, and how fast it is. Don't they think we also care about 32-bit vs. 64-bit?