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C.2. The Linux Port

The Alpha port of Linux did not happen overnight. It began as a rather humble patch to the Linux kernel. The first kernel patch was developed with funding and support from Digital. Even with all the patches to the kernel, most of the drivers and "userland" of distributions were not "64-bit clean." The mainstream kernel itself was not 64-bit clean until the 2.1.x development kernels. When development work on the 2.1.x kernels began, the Alpha port was adopted directly into the Linux kernel source tree. At this stage, the Alpha port of the Linux kernel was supported directly by the mainstream kernel distributions.

During the development efforts of the 2.1.x kernel, the Linux kernel and its drivers were made 64-bit clean. Most of the unaligned traps in the kernel were corrected, and the userland became much more 64-bit aware. At this time, Red Hat Software, Inc., quickly saw that 64-bit architecture was the direction of the semiconductor market and released a full Alpha port of their Linux distribution, Red Hat Linux 2.1. Other distributions followed, including Debian and SuSE. The distributions are described in the following list:


The Debian Linux distribution is the "official" Free Software Foundation GNU/Linux distribution, providing extensive GNU software solutions by preference when choices are available. A vendor-packaged GNU/Linux distribution is under development by Stampede Software and has a full Alpha port. See http://www.debian.org or http://www.stampede.com.

Red Hat

Red Hat Software, Inc. puts together one of the larger distributions of Linux. It supports many useful features such as RPM for package management and has a full Alpha port of all of its current releases. See http://www.redhat.com.


SuSE's Linux distributions are developed with attention to internationalization needs and graphics interface support. (SuSE is sensitive to European market needs.) SuSE also uses RPM to provide updates and has a full Alpha port. See http://www.suse.com.

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