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Some Linux versions can't handle Pentium 4

Chalk up to the list of Pentium 4 pitfalls the fact that not all versions of the Linux operating system support the new Intel processor.

Chalk up to the list of Pentium 4 pitfalls the fact that not all versions of the Linux operating system support the new Intel processor.

A number of the prepackaged versions of the open-source operating system, including Caldera Systems' eServer desktop and server products, won't run on Pentium 4-based computers because the software cannot identify the chip, Intel executives acknowledged.

Intel, however, said it was up to individual Linux sellers to update their operating system releases to bring them into compliance.

As originally reported on the LinuxGram Web site, the only versions of Linux that Intel has certified as working properly with the Pentium 4 are Red Hat's Red Hat 7.0 and Turbolinux's Turbolinux 6.

Other major Linux releases--including products from Caldera, Corel, MandrakeSoft and SuSE--do not include CPU-identifying information in their CPUID databases.

As a result, when someone tries to install one of those versions of Linux, the operating system doesn't recognize the chip and the installation is suspended.

It is unclear when some of these versions of Linux will be updated to work with the Pentium 4. Corel and SuSE could not immediately be reached for comment.

Darren Davis, Caldera's vice president of engineering, said Caldera made a conscious decision not to add Pentium 4 support to its currently shipping eServer 2.3 and eDesktop 2.4 products. Instead, Caldera plans to add Pentium 4 support to its second-quarter updates for both of those products, which will be based on the Linux 2.4 kernel.

"We'll do what our customers demand," Davis said. He added that so far, there has not been much Pentium 4 interest among Caldera customers.

Intel, for its part, maintained that it was the fault of the Linux software companies that they had not kept pace with Intel's CPU release schedule.

"We went to everyone in the (Linux distribution) community" to ensure they had the CPUID information for the Pentium 4, said George Alfs, Intel's P4 spokesman. "We've had this information out there for quite a while--that's why Turbo and Red Hat already are in compliance."

Caldera's Davis basically agreed with Alfs' characterization, noting that "Intel gave us all the (Pentium 4) information we needed."

He said Caldera decided to aggregate all of its fixes and patches into upcoming upgrades rather than issue a P4 fix separately.

Alfs said that to support Pentium 4, Linux sellers simply need to use the sample CPUID code supplied by Intel or to download the Test 11 release of the Linux 2.4 kernel, which includes the Pentium 4 CPUID code as part of the base release. The final version of Linux 2.4 is expected to be available later this month.

Pentium 4 computers went on sale Nov. 20 after a series of delays. While the Pentium 4 runs at a faster clock speed than other chips on the market, benchmark testers and other analysts have said the chip so far doesn't provide quantum leaps in performance.

It does well on multimedia applications but worse than the fastest Athlon from rival Advanced Micro Devices on business applications.

News.com's Michael Kanellos contributed to this report.