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SubjectRH7.2 running 2.4.9-21-SMP (dual Xeon's) yields "Illegal instructions" during builds
I am getting intermittent "Illegal instruction" errors during builds
of the software I am developing, and it appears to be kernel
related. I have been investigating this problem for several weeks, and
I have exhausted all the means of investigation known to me (detailed
below). There is evidence to suggest it is not a RAM problem or a
random hardware problem (see below). I can "solve" the problem by
running the non-SMP kernel and ignoring the second processor, but this
is not a particularly satisfying solution. I am wondering if someone
can suggest some additional things I can do to understand and fix this
problem. I would appreciate if you could CC me on replies.


Here is an excerpt from the make log to show the effects of the problem:

make[2]: Entering directory
rm -rf .libs _libs
rm -f *.lo
make[2]: Leaving directory
Making clean in papers
make[1]: *** [clean-recursive] Illegal instruction
make[1]: Leaving directory
make: *** [clean-recursive] Error 1
****** make clean failed ******

Sometimes, the build runs to completion and succeeds. When it fails, it
fails in a different spot each time. It doesn't always list "Illegal
instruction" as the error. Here is another error message I've seen:

make[3]: *** [installcheck-local] Error 132

I could show you a lot more examples, but they don't seem to indicate more
than the examples I've shown here. The package we build can be downloaded
The build uses the autotools suite, Sun's JDK 1.3.1_02, gcc, g++, g77, and

On one occasion, random processes started dying on the machine. I had to
reboot to recover.

The failure rate of our nightly build is between 20-40%. These failures
exclude any that relate to things we can trace back to our coding
mistakes. The nightly builds do a sequence of configure, build and
regression testing.


HARDWARE Dell Precision Workstation 530
PROCESSORS Dual Intel Xeon Processors 1500MHz
O/S RH 7.2 (upgraded from 7.1) running RH's 2.4.9-21 SMP

$ /sbin/lsmod
Module Size Used by
nfsd 71232 8 (autoclean)
autofs 11556 1 (autoclean)
nfs 79840 3 (autoclean)
lockd 53184 1 (autoclean) [nfsd nfs]
sunrpc 64816 1 (autoclean) [nfsd nfs lockd]
3c59x 26504 1
usb-uhci 21668 0 (unused)
usbcore 51808 1 [usb-uhci]
aic7xxx 114624 6
sd_mod 11900 6
scsi_mod 98584 2 [aic7xxx sd_mod]

An identical machine has the same intermittent problems that my box does.


1. Upgrade to from an earlier kernel to RH 2.4.9-21 SMP

The new kernel didn't change anything.

2. Ran Dell's memory checker on the RAM for an hour. It checked out

The fact that another machine next door has the exact same problems
suggests that it isn't a random hardware problem unless they both came
from the same bad batch.

3. Open my case to vent additional heat.

Someone suggested that the CPUs might be overheating and that opening
the case might solve the problem. It didn't solve the problem. My
machine is in a well air conditioned room, and it didn't seem
excessively hot when I opened the case. I haven't overclocked the
machine or anything like that.

4. Disable X11 server and reboot to avoid loading nVIDIA kernel module.

This may have lowered the frequency of problems, but it did not
eliminate the problem. Our nightly build still failed roughly
20% of the time with "Illegal instruction" errors or other
unexplainable failures.

5. Run the non-SMP 2.4.9-21 effectively turning off the second processor
(X11 still disabled)

This seems to have "solved" the problem. I've run over 22 nightly
builds, two at a time, on the system without a single failure.
Running with just one processor is better than running an unstable
two processor system, but it seems like I should be able to figure
out how to have a stable two processor system.

I have not tried compiling my own kernel because I don't have root on this
machine yet. I work in an environment where they try to centralize machine
administration, so I need special permission to get root. There is also a
desire to stick with generic RH software components. Going through the
process above is part of what I've done to justify getting root, so I can
try installing a more recent kernel.

Do you agree that this is likely to be a kernel problem? Is upgrading
the kernel my best course of action?

Here is what I get when running the non-SMP kernel.
$ uname -a
Linux 2.4.9-21 #1 Thu Jan 17 14:16:30 EST
2002 i686 unknown
$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor : 0
vendor_id : GenuineIntel
cpu family : 15
model : 0
model name : Intel(R) Xeon(TM) CPU 1500MHz
stepping : 10
cpu MHz : 1495.463
cache size : 256 KB
fdiv_bug : no
hlt_bug : no
f00f_bug : no
coma_bug : no
fpu : yes
fpu_exception : yes
cpuid level : 2
wp : yes
flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca
cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm
bogomips : 2981.88

Thanks in advance,


Tom Epperly
Center for Applied Scientific Computing Phone: 925-424-3159
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Fax: 925-424-2477
L-661, P.O. Box 808, Livermore, CA 94551 Email:

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