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What does 386, 586, 686, athlon, etc mean in RPM names?
#include <stddisclaimer.h>

Here is an snippet from the "Processor type and features" section of the 2.5.50 kernel configuration. The order of the processor selections go as follows (I added the "Starts Here" tags):

- 386                               (M386)         -=[386 Starts Here]=-
- 486                               (M486)
- 586/K5/5x86/6x86/6x86MX           (M586)         -=[586 Starts Here]=-
- Pentium-Classic                   (M586TSC)
- Pentium-MMX                       (M586MMX)
- Pentium-Pro/Celeron/Pentium-II    (M686)         -=[686 Starts Here]=-
- Pentium-III/Celeron(Coppermine)   (MPENTIUMIII)
- Pentium-4                         (MPENTIUM4)
- K6/K6-II/K6-III                   (MK6)
- Athlon/Duron/K7                   (MK7)
- Elan                              (MELAN)
- Crusoe                            (MCRUSOE)
- Winchip-C6                        (MWINCHIPC6)
- Winchip-2                         (MWINCHIP2)
- Winchip-2A/Winchip-3              (MWINCHIP3D)
- CyrixIII/VIA-C3                   (MCYRIXIII)

And if you click on the the first one (386) here is the note associated with it:

 386 (M386)

    This is the processor type of your CPU. This information is used for
    optimizing purposes. In order to compile a kernel that can run on
    all x86 CPU types (albeit not optimally fast), you can specify
    "386" here.

    The kernel will not necessarily run on earlier architectures than
    the one you have chosen, e.g. a Pentium optimized kernel will run on
    a PPro, but not necessarily on a i486.

    Here are the settings recommended for greatest speed:
    - "386" for the AMD/Cyrix/Intel 386DX/DXL/SL/SLC/SX, Cyrix/TI
    486DLC/DLC2, UMC 486SX-S and NexGen Nx586. Only "386" kernels
    will run on a 386 class machine.
    - "486" for the AMD/Cyrix/IBM/Intel 486DX/DX2/DX4 or
    SL/SLC/SLC2/SLC3/SX/SX2 and UMC U5D or U5S.
    - "586" for generic Pentium CPUs lacking the TSC
    (time stamp counter) register.
    - "Pentium-Classic" for the Intel Pentium.
    - "Pentium-MMX" for the Intel Pentium MMX.
    - "Pentium-Pro" for the Intel Pentium Pro/Celeron/Pentium II.
    - "Pentium-III" for the Intel Pentium III
    and Celerons based on the Coppermine core.
    - "Pentium-4" for the Intel Pentium 4.
    - "K6" for the AMD K6, K6-II and K6-III (aka K6-3D).
    - "Athlon" for the AMD K7 family (Athlon/Duron/Thunderbird).
    - "Crusoe" for the Transmeta Crusoe series.
    - "Winchip-C6" for original IDT Winchip.
    - "Winchip-2" for IDT Winchip 2.
    - "Winchip-2A" for IDT Winchips with 3dNow! capabilities.
    - "CyrixIII/VIA C3" for VIA Cyrix III or VIA C3.br

    If you don't know what to do, choose "386".

The i386/i586/i686/athlon/etc in RPM names are compiled using the same methodology. Look on this list, wherever your processor falls you should be able to run software compiled at the same level or lower.

For instance, you could run software included in a *.i386.rpm on any x86 platform but an i586 RPM would only be able to be run on Pentium or higher x86 architectures. For i686 RPMs you will need a Pentium Pro, Celeron, Pentium-II or higher.

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