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I have old system with an AMD Athlon 1,2 GHz processor and [SiS] 65x/M650/740 graphics (output from lspci).

Recently I discovered on a german ubuntu page that since version 10.10 some older processors are not longer supported, since ubuntu version 12.04 there are further restrictions.

I guess this is completely related to the used kernel version. This leads me to the following questions:

  • How can I find out which kernel versions support the processor and graphics card mentioned above? Which versions provide optimal support (concerning performance and stability)?
  • When updating a system (for example between two ubuntu versions or more interesting, when running a rolling release like debian testing or archlinux), there seems to be the danger of loosing (optimal) hardware support when the kernel version is updated. Do I have to check the hardware support manually before each update or is it checked automatically in the three distros mentioned above (ubuntu, debian testing, archlinux)?
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This is actually completely UN-related to kernel hardware support. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Linux_supported_architectures

The statement on unsupported processors could depend (technically) on the compiler optimization macros used in building the binary packages distributed.

Most probably, those are minimum distribution requirements for having support in the bug trackers or a basic decent usability (not depending on kernel, but on the tons of resource-hungry graphical environments that any modern distro like to ship as default).

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