back to article Linux letting go: 32-bit builds on the way out

Major Linux distributions are in agreement: it's time to stop developing new versions for 32-bit processors. Simply: it's a waste of time, both to create the 32-bit port, and to keep 32-bit hardware around to test it on. At the end of June, Ubuntu developer Dimitri Ledkov chipped into the debate with this mailing list post, …

  1. bombastic bob Silver badge

    what about RPi?

    someone out there is cluelessly forgetting EMBEDDED SYSTEMS, and the Raspberry Pi, when they so ARROGANTLY PROCLAIM that everything MUST be 64-bit now... like 32-bit is now STONE AGE or whatever.

    they're starting to sound a bit like Micro-shaft... [best sung like it's from musical theater or something]

    1. Jordan Davenport

      Re: what about RPi?

      They're talking about dropping 32-bit x86; the Raspberry Pi is ARM and as such will not be affected by this decision.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: what about RPi?

        When AArch64 takes over ARM, then we'll be having a similar discussion regarding 32-bit ARM builds too. Probably similar for armel vs armhf.

        1. Chris Evans

          Re: what about RPi?

          "When AArch64 takes over ARM, then we'll be having a similar discussion " I expect there to be billions of 32bit ARM systems being produced for many years to come, the IoT isn't going to go significantly 64bit for many years if ever. There are still many 8bit systems being produced!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: what about RPi?

            I expect there to be billions of 32bit ARM systems being produced for many years to come, the IoT isn't going to go significantly 64bit for many years if ever. There are still many 8bit systems being produced!

            Yep, I realise this… I write code for some of them, mainly AVR. It'll probably be decades before the Linux-based stuff is all 64-bit ARM, as it's presently the new-kid-on-the-block. Embedded is a very conservative market and rarely does 64-bit address space make sense.

            It will happen some day though, yes, 8-bit is still around, but your home router is likely going to be a 32-bit machine now, and some day, they may go 64-bit there when the chips are considered "worthwhile".

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: what about RPi?

        Exactly my initial thought. Headline is "dropping 32-bit" not "dropping 32-bit i86". Sloppy writing.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          Re: what about RPi?

          I know, I know. In these busy days we can't be expected to read an article; all the salient information must be there in the headline.

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: what about RPi?

            It is technically not incorrect, just not specific enough (particularly for the likes of the average El Reg reader who are used to computers doing exactly what they are told to do, even if it wasn't what was intended). However it is the duty of the headline writer to make it relevant as well as interest catching and in this it worked as it not only caught your eye but you even took the time to comment.

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: what about RPi?

          well that's the point, the IMPLICATION of 'x86' is why I ask the question, "what about RPi"? But if all they meant is x86, then there may be some point to that, except for us legacy computer users who might have an old Toshiba laptop laying about that still works, doesn't support PAE, but has plenty of RAM and disk space to run Linux (and works well for testing certain things, particularly bluetooth connectivity and microcontroller-related serial port stuff). Oh, wait, I _do_ have one of those!

          They're also forgetting it's possible to load a 32-bit build onto a 64-bit CPU... (so testing on newer hardware is STILL possible).

          In any case, there's also another bit of 'forgetting' going on here: we forget that 64-bit binaries run SLIGHTLY SLOWER than 32-bit binaries, because the data and instructions are (by default) BIGGER than they would be for 32-bit, so you suck more RAM through the pipeline. The binary files are also slightly larger, and memory requirement is slightly higher.

          Further, how many programs _NEED_ >2Gb of RAM space in order to operate? Not a lot, yeah, unless they're coded by _IDIOTS_ that waste resources, assuming "no limits", and/or rely on 'garbage collection' to compensate for a lack of knowledge of 'malloc' and 'free' (Mozilla, that's YOU).

          In any case, the RPi and other 'embedded' platforms (x86 included) are reasons NOT to dump 32-bit in general. But, we've seen bad decisions before. I suppose a FORK will happen, just like for systemd, just like for Gnome 2 (now MATE), just like for Open Office and 'MySQL' (when they were sold, so "something" would STAY OPEN).

          /me points out that "faster hardware and more RAM" is *NOT* justification to use inefficient code, because you CAN now - Micro-shaft does EXACTLY that, and we hate it, don't we? Rather, it should be reason to produce MORE inexpensive hardware (with yester-year's specs) that can be used for mundane purposes, like embedded systems basically are.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            64 bit x86 is not slower

            Because 32 bit x86 is so register starved, 64 bit x86 is faster in most cases. 32 bit ARM isn't register starved, but 64 bit AArch cleaned up the API and added some new stuff like CMOV instructions so it too may be faster in the majority of cases.

            When Apple shipped the first 64 bit ARM SoC three years ago, the results of benchmarks run on it (as well as Apple's internal results) show it is faster running 64 bit code because of those API changes. Had it been slower, there probably would have been less of a rush for everyone else to catch up, since 64 bits is otherwise useless until you go beyond 4GB RAM in the device - something which is only now happening with a couple Android phones shipping with 6 GB.

            If you have code that is very pointer heavy then doubling the size of the pointers shrinks the effective size of the cache and can make it run slower, but this is a pretty small effect in the single digits. If you have code for which this is a problem you can continue running the 32 bit version even on a 64 bit OS, at least until 32 bit support is ripped out of the CPU entirely (Apple will probably do that with the next major redesign of their 64 bit core, but I doubt anyone else will for a long time)

            1. asdf Silver badge

              Re: 64 bit x86 is not slower

              >64 bit x86 is not slower

              No but it also won't run as many apps comfortably in a 512 meg (or less) memory VM either.

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: what about RPi?

        "They're talking about dropping 32-bit x86;"

        I guess that means I need to update my 4MB 386sx16 laptop then.

        1. PaulFrederick

          Re: what about RPi?

          Linux dropped i386 support in 2012. By Linux I mean the mainstream kernel too.

          1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

            Re: what about RPi?

            @PaulFrederic yes, Linux kernel ripped support for 30 years old CPU, but it still supports and will support 32bit instruction set/mode of intel processors for a long time.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: what about RPi?

      Companies like Red Hat dropping 32 bit support isn't going to make your Raspberry Pi stop working. It will only make it impossible for you to run purchase paid support from Red Hat for it. Someone will probably still compile 32 bit versions of it, just like CentOS recompiles Red Hat. Someone else will probably backport security fixes to the last supported 32 bit version so you can continue to using that.

      By the time those sources dry up, you won't be able to buy a Raspberry Pi with a 32 bit CPU.

  2. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Netbooks

    There are still a number of Netbooks around. With their Atom processors they are incapable of 64 bit operation but still work quite well with less demanding Linux builds. Ubuntu developers are saying that people with old hardware that they do not wish to upgrade or who cannot afford to upgrade are no longer worthy of consideration.

    Cheap lightweight Netbooks still have a place as computers to take on holidays - the light weight does not burden a holiday maker excessively and the cheapness means that if it gets broken (or stolen) it is not a major expense.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Netbooks

      I have plenty of 32-bit kit too… one laptop here is a P4M 2GHz, so circa 2004, and look after plenty of 32-bit kit for various customers. The latter is going to hurt, as there's some proprietary software we run on there that is only compiled for i386, and we need to link that against things like Python.

      Basically it comes down to this: they can no longer justify the expenditure of resources, however, as it is open source, we are free to take over that role.

      I've been doing my own builds of Gentoo for years now, the last stage3 tarball I've downloaded recently was using musl instead of glibc; the last glibc-based stage3 I downloaded was downloaded some time around 2010, everything I've used since then has been updated in-house.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Netbooks

        Also, while some distros are dropping 32 bit versions others are intended for older kit. Distrowatch lists several not based on Ubuntu (many based on Debian) which can run on 32 bit processors.

        The question for any distro (or software vendor actually) is when does one cease supporting obsolete kit. that has not been manufactured in years or even decades. It really depends on your users. Ubuntu and others have probably seen a sharp drop in 32 downloads in the last few years.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Netbooks

        Upvote for pre-compiled propitiatory software. It might cause GPL purists to choke on their hair shirts but any realistic definition of freedom should include freedom to run such software if it's your choice.

    2. J 3
      IT Angle

      Re: Netbooks

      Er... I wouldn't use such blanket statements. My circa 2011 Asus netbook has an Atom (N550) processor and it has been happily running 64-bit Linux distros from the very beginning.

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Netbooks

        Yup, so is my 2010 Acer Aspire One (N450).

    3. AdamWill

      Re: Netbooks

      "Ubuntu developers are saying that people with old hardware that they do not wish to upgrade or who cannot afford to upgrade are no longer worthy of consideration."

      No, they're saying that they no longer want to consider them, in order to devote their limited resources to 'considering' larger user bases. In an ideal world full of rainbows and unicorns OS distributors would be able to make things work perfectly on all hardware ever. In the real world this is not the case, and deciding what hardware to support to what extent is a constant question of making trade-offs, and people getting all irate and stroppy and insisting on taking those decisions excessively personally ('worthy of consideration'? really?) doesn't really help.

      There's *always* still some working example of old hardware somewhere. People have working 8088s and Commodore Pets and lord knows what else. That doesn't oblige all OS vendors to keep supporting them. We (I work on Fedora, which stopped considering i686 a release-blocking arch with Fedora 24) have generally decided there's a point at which supporting old hardware is more trouble than it's worth; this is why we no longer actually work on i386s, or i486s, or (for most distros) i586s. That point is coming up fast for i686.

      If there's enough demand for it, there'll be niche distros that support these old systems; heck, you could create one. But the mainstream distros, as the name suggests, are there to support *mainstream* hardware. We have to make cost/benefit decisions at some point.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: Netbooks

        I have an IMSAI 8080, though it needs a bit of work.

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Netbooks

      Thin clients too. They last ages (compared to your average PC). I still have a perfectly alive, kicking and usable/useful old HP unit running a 800MHz Crusoe. At the same time we have reached the point where it will not even be supported by GCC in next Debian release.

    5. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Netbooks

      I've been running 64bit Ubuntu on my Acer Aspire Atom (N450), bought in 2010 for ages - it might be a little quicker with a 32bit version, but it runs.

      So not all atoms are incapable.

    6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Netbooks

      "Cheap lightweight Netbooks still have a place as computers to take on holidays"

      They're also handy to take into libraries and archives if you're a researcher. Then there are the Atom mini-ITX boards that make quite nice quiet MythTV etc. boxes.

      However, given that this is open source there'll be people prepared to continue building 32-bit versions.

    7. User McUser

      64-bit Atom

      Only two of the Atom branded chips (N270 and N280) are 32-bit (IA32) only.

      All other CPUs produced under that moniker are 64-bit (AMD64.)

      1. The Unexpected Bill

        Re: User McUser - 64-bit Atom

        That's not quite universally true. There are a few later Atom processors, like the Z2760 I'm using right now, that are much later and 32-bit only. The Z2760 was released in the 3rd quarter of 2012.

        I'm not sure why Intel manufactured such chips, only that they did.

    8. CFWhitman

      Re: Netbooks

      Well, most netbooks still in use sport 64 bit processors. A lot of Atom processors are 64 bit (including most of those placed in netbooks, especially since 2010).

      In my experience, the netbooks that don't have 64 bit processors don't run that well with Ubuntu based distributions anyway (even Lubuntu and Bodhi seem a bit heavy for them). The ones that I have are running Debian. Other 32 bit machines I have access to all run Debian, Slackware, or Salix rather than an Ubuntu variant.

      So, is it time for Linux to start phasing out 32 bit x86 processors? No. Is it time for Ubuntu to start phasing them out? Perhaps.

  3. Magani
    Linux

    Thinks Bubble

    I always thought one of the attractions of Linux was being able to repurpose old kit.

    It'll be some time before I have 'old' 64 bit kit.

    This penguin is unhappy.

    1. svim

      Re: Thinks Bubble

      Slackware just released its 14.2 version, Debian also continues to its 32-bit support an example being 8.4 was updated to 8.5 not too long ago. Those are just two examples out of dozens of other distros that are still in for the long haul. Canonical may rule over a large market share of Linux uses but it's in no way representing the entire Linux community. Older 32-bit systems of course continue to be declining in number but there's still a lot of legacy hardware out there.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Thinks Bubble

        As a side note, Slackware 14.2 also ignores the entire systemd concept. See:

        http://www.slackware.com/changelog/stable.php?cpu=i386

        I have it running on this ~14 year old laptop. Works great!

      2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: Thinks Bubble

        Debian also continues to its 32-bit support an example being 8.4 was...

        The decision is not with Debian. The 32 bit support will be drastically reduced in the next GCC. Only 32-bit Athlon, P3 and P4 will be supported. Anything before that bites the bullet. I have several perfectly functional fanless Via and Crusoe systems which will need to be finally retired and replaced by Razzies as a result of this cut-off.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Thinks Bubble

      They stopped supporting the 386 in 2012, when the processor was released in 1985 and Linux in 1991. 2012 was 6 years after Intel actually ceased production.

      The first chips to support 64-bit were in 2003 / 2004. Do you really have chips older than a K8 or Pentium 4 running around in active service? That's 13 years. That's not bad at all. You probably can't even buy the early 64-bit capable chips any more, and haven't been able to for years. Certain Atoms etc. were cheap for a reason - like buying Cyrix was, back in the day.

      Seriously, all your stuff moved to 64-bit a decade ago. You can't honestly have been using more than 3-something GB in all that time either. That's some serious long-term support, and by the time they are actually removed (look at the timeline!) they'll be so old as to be unobtainable. Which is exactly their argument - how the hell do they test things if they can't build several compile-farm computers of them?

      Nobody is stopping you, in several years time, running an old kernel or another distro and carrying on. But even Ubuntu LTS is only 5-or-so years at best, and they're not going to include it in the next one, so you have more than adequate warning.

      Replacement machines to usurp any machine of this era are literally junk-heap material now.

      1. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Thinks Bubble

        The first chips to support 64-bit were in 2003 / 2004. Do you really have chips older than a K8 or Pentium 4 running around in active service?

        Replacement machines to usurp any machine of this era are literally junk-heap material now.

        But as someone pointed out earlier - netbooks. Yes, there were netbooks with 64-bit capable Atoms, but the majority of netbooks produced in that short period when they were very popular are both 32-bit and usually limited to 2GB maximum RAM.

        You would really struggle to buy anything looking like a netbook these days. "Replacement machines" are not "junk-heap material".

        Obviously the reason you can no longer buy netbooks is because nobody wants to buy them so the manufacturers stopped making them. My EeePC may be eight years old, but it does well enough for web browsing and occasionally something more creative (I've used it for MIDI sequencing, Arduino development, writing essays) and it certainly has a more usable keyboard than most fondleslabs or convertibles. If there were a direct replacement I might actually be in the market within the next couple of years, but there isn't.

        With the launch of Leap (42.1) last November my Linux of choice, OpenSuse, ditched 32 bit support and I moved to Mint for the EeePC.

        M.

      2. M7S

        Re: Thinks Bubble @ Lee D

        "Do you really have chips older than a K8 or Pentium 4 running around in active service"

        Yes. Alas replacement of particular items of "personal" kit such as a rugged laptop is rather outside of budget.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thinks Bubble

        It's funny how many can't see beyond their bedroom systems. AFAIK, there are still AMD and others 32 bit embedded processors available (i.e the Geode LX), and some embeddable system vendors does offer 32 bit systems. Not your average bedroom system, but quite common in some specific environments, where low power consumption is welcome and not much RAM is needed. Usually not the kind of applications you can run in a container or a VM. It looks to me even Ubuntu guys now are blindsided and look only at the cloud datacenter, ignoring all those other small devices that are running Linux because it runs well enough on those embedded systems as well. Oh well, there's always FreeBSD...

        1. djack

          Re: Thinks Bubble

          That is perfectly true, but no-one in their right mind* would be running Ubuntu on such an embedded system anyway. Ubuntu != Linux, the operating systems designed and suitable for that sort of role will continue functioning for a long time to come.

          *OK, there may be some geek points available for using an industrial system as a desktop, but that's hardly normal.

        2. Pookietoo

          Re: there's always FreeBSD

          There will probably be people back-porting stuff from newer GNU and Linux releases to keep 32-bit environments somewhat up-to-date, in a "security fixes but no new features" sort of way. In many embedded situations it may not matter that updates aren't available anyway - it it ain't broke don't fix it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thinks Bubble

      I've got plenty of "old" 64-bit kit… SGI Indys were released in 1993, but not being x86, they aren't the context of this article.

      Actually, for what it's worth, it's worth having a squiz at /proc/cpuinfo and perhaps checking http://ark.intel.com/ as some older kit will run 64-bit.

      The following are some examples that will run 64-bit Linux:

      - 64-bit capable Pentium 4 CPUs

      - 64-bit capable Atoms

      1. Updraft102 Silver badge

        Re: Thinks Bubble

        And on the AMD side, my 11 year old, single core, 1.6 GHz Turion laptop ran Win 10 x64 without any problems that were not attributable to its <1 GB of RAM. I only put 10 x64 on it as a test; I had no intention of leaving it (and certainly not paying for it once the no-activation grace period ran out); it was back to its non-internet duty as a call screener under Win XP soon enough.

        It has been obsolete for a long time, but even it can run x64 if it needs to. Whether it's actually a good idea or not is another discussion... as it is incapable of recognizing enough RAM (max is 2GB according to the manufacturer) to warrant 64-bit addressing, it's still a natural match for 32-bit, which should be more efficient with its limited RAM, all else being equal.

        As others have mentioned, that's the nice thing about open source. When a developer of proprietary software decides to call it quits, that's it. With open source, there are others who can take it up, and with Linux specifically, there are lots of other distros that support 32-bit and will likely continue to do so.

      2. Pookietoo

        Re: 64-bit capable Pentium 4 CPUs

        P4 was a nasty evolutionary cul-de-sac, does anyone actually choose to run these today when old Intel Core systems are cheap as chips? I have some earlier Pentium systems (and some even older) for which I might conceivably find a use, sitting in a corner quietly doing something low-powered or attached to a specific piece of hardware, but really Raspberry Pi has made most of those obsolete too.

    4. AdamWill

      Re: Thinks Bubble

      The last vaguely mainstream 32-bit CPU Intel released was in, I believe, 2006. There were 32-bit Atom CPUs up to 2010, by the looks of things, but those were pretty niche-y and you're probably not going to have an awesome experience running a full-fat modern distro on one of those in any case. Almost any 32-bit x86 system you have, in other words, must be at least 6 years old and is far more likely to be over 10 years old. That's really pretty old.

      The weird Atom tablets / convertibles from the last few years have 64-bit CPUs but 32-bit firmwares; they don't actually need 32-bit distributions, it's possible for 64-bit distributions to run on them with a bit of nifty bootloader footwork.

  4. joed

    think about tablets

    There's also number of brand new cheap tablets and laptops (waiting for Linux conversion) with 1GB (yep, OEMs did it with MS' blessings) and 2GB. Even 4GB "premium" units would not benefit much of 64bit OS. Sure, it'd be slightly more secure but even less usable (due to increased RAM requirements).

    1. Nick Stallman

      Re: think about tablets

      4gig tablets will very much gain benefit from 64bits - 32bits can not ever use all of 4gigs of memory.

      Try it. Approx 0.5gig will magically vanish when you load a 32bit OS on a computer with 4gigs of ram.

      Remember the bits are used for address space, RAM isn't the only thing in the address space.

      Your graphics card's ram is automatically subtracted from the 4gig of RAM, plus various IO things take their share as well.

      32bit address space doesn't equal 4gig of RAM.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: think about tablets

        I thought they addressed that with PAE.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: think about tablets

        Try it. Approx 0.5gig will magically vanish when you load a 32bit OS on a computer with 4gigs of ram.

        Only if PAE is turned off or the OS was made by Microsoft.

        root@host:~# free -m

        total used free shared buffers cached

        Mem: 5042 4741 301 0 0 3641

        -/+ buffers/cache: 1100 3942

        Swap: 0 0 0

        root@host:~# uname -a

        Linux host 3.2.0-97-generic-pae #137-Ubuntu SMP Thu Dec 17 21:37:53 UTC 2015 i686 i686 i386 GNU/Linux

        1. Zakhar

          Re: think about tablets

          But on the other hand, :i386 binaries are smaller and take less RAM, that is simply because instructions are shorter and pointer are 4bytes instead of 8.

          That is why I have installed a 32bits version on my mothers laptop, although it is perfectly capable of running 64bits, even being a low end Celeron from 8 years ago. What is limiting here is that the PC has only 1G of RAM.

          On 1G of RAM, when you run a 64bits version of Ubuntu will eat up like 600M of RAM just to boot to the session.

          With a 32bit version, you save around 25 to 30% of that (150 to 200M) which in fact makes it much faster to use.

          But well... as they say they might drop it for 18.10, it means 18.04 LTS will still have a 32bit version, and that will be supported up to 2023.

          By that time, this PC will be 15+ years old and if it is not already dead, it could be time to buy a more recent one seen how cheap low end PC are now that they are desperate to sell PCs!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: think about tablets

        Not true.

        Some 32 bit OS were limited to 4GB, but as an example, 32bit version of Windows 2003 server came in 2G,4G and 64G flavors

        Your are right on your last statement, but not for the reasons you think.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: think about tablets

          Some 32 bit OS were limited to 4GB, but as an example, 32bit version of Windows 2003 server came in 2G,4G and 64G flavors

          Yep, maybe. Desktop OSes pretty much do have that restriction, the server ones as I recall went 64-bit only a little while back (Win2008R2 is 64-bit only from what I've seen). I seem to recall Microsoft had trouble getting driver makers to produce proper PAE-aware drivers, which is why they imposed a 3.5GB limit.

          Win2003 sounds about the time when they would have been doing such experiments.

      4. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: think about tablets

        "32bits can not ever use all of 4gigs of memory"

        Of course it can; native data word size does not limit maximum memory size. Even a 32-bit address bus can support more than a 32-bit address space with latching.

        A data word size able to hold the maximum address is advantageous but not essential.

        1. Wilseus

          Re: think about tablets

          "32bits can not ever use all of 4gigs of memory"

          Of course it can; native data word size does not limit maximum memory size. Even a 32-bit address bus can support more than a 32-bit address space with latching.

          A data word size able to hold the maximum address is advantageous but not essential.

          Of course, that's why we had processors like the 6502 which had an 8-bit word size and a 16-bit address space.

    2. Zakhar

      Re: think about tablets

      "brand new cheap tablets"

      Those would be ARM (because Intel does not make "cheap"!), thus not concerned by this news.

      1. I am the liquor

        Re: think about tablets

        "Those would be ARM (because Intel does not make "cheap"!), thus not concerned by this news."

        Looking on Amazon I can see Intel Atom-based tablets for under £60.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: think about tablets

          Looking on Amazon I can see Intel Atom-based tablets for under £60.

          EOL items gathering dust somewhere since Intel decided to get out of the market. Intel doesn't do cheap.

          1. I am the liquor

            Re: think about tablets

            "EOL items gathering dust somewhere since Intel decided to get out of the market. Intel doesn't do cheap."

            No. I think you need to check your facts. You can even get something with a brand name on for not much more. You can walk into PC World today and buy an Asus Z170C with an Atom X3 processor for £80.

            1. dajames Silver badge

              Re: think about tablets

              You can walk into PC World today and buy an Asus Z170C with an Atom X3 processor for £80.

              The Atom X3 is 64-bit, though, so that's not really germane to the discussion.

      2. Pookietoo

        Re: Intel does not make "cheap"

        My Intel Android tablet was cheap because Intel was paying manufacturers to make them, to try to get a foot in the door of the tablet market. I don't know if they're still engaged in this folly.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: Intel does not make "cheap"

          They're not

  5. Stephen Horne

    I'm personally fine with the 32-bit builds going - I run plenty of old hardware, but I use it to run old operating systems and old software anyway - but some of the arguments seem a bit odd.

    > it's a waste of time ... and to keep 32-bit hardware around to test it on.

    Modern 64-bit hardware still supports 32-bit code and 32-bit instruction sets. For that matter, as part of supporting 32-bit, it still supports 16-bit. If you need special hardware to test on, it's not just for the 32-bit instruction set.

    > if users desperately need to run 32-bit legacy applications, the'll have to do so in containers or virtual machines.

    Which proves the point - virtual machines aren't emulators, they can only host 32-bit operating systems on 64-bit guests because amd64-compatible processors still provide the 32-bit x86 instruction set.

    I've never cared (or even noticed, and I haven't checked even now) that 64-bit Linux doesn't support 32-bit binaries, but 64-bit Windows obviously still runs 32-bit apps. There was probably even an occasional squeal of pain when it was decided that 64-bit Windows would drop 16-bit support, though that 16-bit support is IIRC still present in 32-bit versions of Windows Vista, 7, 8 and 10.

    1. thames

      The 16/32/64 bit limits are due to Intel design decisions. You can switch between 32 and 16 modes, or between 64 and 32 bit modes, but you can't switch between 64 and 16 bit modes.

      If you need to run old 16 bit software (e.g. MS-DOS programs), your best bet is to run it in an emulator.

      And 64 bit Linux can run 32 bit binaries, you just have to make sure that the appropriate 32 bit libraries are added. It's done via installing the appropriate architecture, which then draws in all the 32 bit dependencies. I'm not sure if all distros can do this, but Ubuntu, and I believe Debian, can.

      Usually you don't have to worry about this on Linux, as 32 bit-only software is rather rare. Most Linux distros went 64 bit many years ago. MS Windows is so far behind in this area because of third party software.

      1. bazza Silver badge

        Most Linux distros went 64 bit many years ago. MS Windows is so far behind in this area because of third party software.

        Huh, what? MS have done a good job of making the choice between 32 and 64 bit largely irrelevant. There's so much software that doesn't need to be 64 bit, so why bother compiling it for 64 bit? Especially as MS have made it painless for end users to mix both on their 64 bit PC.

        The only performance advantage with 64 bit software is that the SSE part of Intel processors give you more floating point registers in a 64 bit process than a 32 bit process running on the same chip gets. This is probably an artificial constraint Intel designed in to make their early 64 bit CPUs look a lot faster than their 32 bit ones, a marketing drive to make 32 bit generally look obsolete and undesirable. And judging by your post, that marketing worked.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          The only performance advantage with 64 bit software is that the SSE part of Intel processors give you more floating point registers in a 64 bit process than a 32 bit process running on the same chip gets

          That, along with the claim that 64-bit chips need more memory, would be true if the width of the architecture was the only thing that mattered. It isn't. I've seen some stuff from ARM where they claim that memory use is lower on 64-bit because the code is more efficient: what the hardware can do and what the compiler does are at least as important.

          Microsoft has done a miserable job x86 to x86-64. I don't know about Windows 10 but for Windows 7 you have to have x86-64 version of the OS to be able to run x86-64 programs; x86 programs are stored in another part of the OS. Had they been less obsessed with market segmentation this distinction would have been removed years ago and legacy stuff would just run in the emulators that NT copied from OS/2.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Running 32 bit binaries on 64 bit Linux

        Wow, I guess I've been doing something impossible for years now. Just because you haven't bothered to educate yourself about how 64 bit Linux works, don't go spreading FUD by claiming that it can't run 32 bit binaries.

        1. PaulFrederick

          Re: Running 32 bit binaries on 64 bit Linux

          The last time I tried to run a 32 bit binary on a 64 bit Linux system it did not work. But that was a bug with that particular distro. Fedora 16 I believe it was? This strange process called sd (exec) popped up and it locked the system up. So after that experience it was back to good old reliable 32 bits on Debian for me. I haven't tried running 64 bits since either.

      3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Usually you don't have to worry about this on Linux, as 32 bit-only software is rather rare."

        That depends. If you have and use legacy 32-bit S/W it's not at all rare.

        1. Chemist

          "That depends. If you have and use legacy 32-bit S/W it's not at all rare."

          Certainly a lot of the stuff I've written was compiled for 32-bit Linux and still runs fine on 64-bit OpenSUSE. I've never bothered to recompile it ( lots of small do-one-job programs) but all newer stuff is 64 bit

      4. LDS Silver badge

        Windows Server has been 64 bit only since 2008R2.

        It added 64 bit support with XP and 2003. Most server applications are available only as 64 bit versions.

        The desktop version still offers 32 bit versions because there are reasons to run them when needed - exactly for compatibility reason. You may be surprised there are still people needing to run Win16 applications (I've seen medical equipment needing it).

        That's a strong selling point, and only a moron would lose customers to assert a "larger bitness".

        Anyway, for large native applications, moving to 64 bit is not just "recompile and go". Those using scripting engines have usually less issues.

      5. Adrian Harvey
        Boffin

        This (16-bit code on 64-bit OS) is somewhat a Windows limitation, due to the way certain registers are handled. 64 bit Wine on Linux can (and does) run 16-bit Windows binaries. Some more detail here: https://www.wine-staging.com/news/2016-02-10-blog-wine-16bit.html

    2. roytrubshaw
      Unhappy

      "... but 64-bit Windows obviously still runs 32-bit apps."

      Only because there's a full 32-bit windows emulation built into all 64-bit versions (WIW - Windows In Windows)!

      Is this "two for the price of one"-deal the only time that you get more for your money than you expect from Micro$haft?

      :)

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        I thought that was WOW (Windows On Windows or Win32 On Win64). Anyway, Linux has an equivalent with multilib support, which allows multiple versions of a library to be kept organized, meaning a version of a library for 32-on-64 compatibility can be kept on hand but separate from a native-64 version.

    3. joeldillon

      64-bit Linux can run 32-bit binaries just fine.

    4. CFWhitman

      > "I've never cared (or even noticed, and I haven't checked even now) that 64-bit Linux doesn't support 32-bit binaries, but 64-bit Windows obviously still runs 32-bit apps."

      Just for information's sake, 64 bit Linux runs 32 bit applications just fine as long as all the 32 bit libraries/dependencies are satisfied. I keep 32 bit libraries on most of my 64 bit machines for one reason or another (often the reason being 32 bit Wine support).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's always FreeBSD

    Guess the topic says it all. The current version, 10.3, has no such issues as can be seen in the Hardware release notes. amd64, i386, ia64, pc98, powerpc and sparc64 are all supported.

    Anyway, I think it's a dumb move and one only driven by money (Ubuntu is a semi-commercial distribution after all). It would be sad if this would set a trend, because one of the good things about the open source Unix-like environments has always been that they're not so resource hungry as some "other" operating systems are. And I also think it heavily takes the hobby aspect away; comparable to Sony which eventually removed the "Install other OS" feature from the PS3.

    I also can help think that they might be underestimating how much older hardware people actually still use. But anyway, at this point there are still plenty of alternatives.

    1. wolfetone

      Re: There's always FreeBSD

      Ubuntu like to think they're trend setters, but they get it wrong more often than they get it right.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge

        Re: There's always FreeBSD

        "Ubuntu like to think they're trend setters, but they get it wrong more often than they get it right."

        unity and gnome 3 - there's two right there.

        And here's a thought: does dropping 32-bit support _INCLUDE_ the 32-bit 'binary compatibility' libraries? sure they're in a separate library directory, with an appropriate name [I forget where they go], and you have to deliberately install those packages. HOWEVER, if they're no longer AVAILABLE in future releases, THAT could be a BIG problem...

        1. Tom 64
          Mushroom

          Re: There's always FreeBSD

          Yup, I installed Ubuntu on my netbook and it performed like an absolute dog.

          Switched it out for Crunchbang++ and it now flys along.

          Methinks perhaps the Ubuntu folk are too lazy to optimise their shitty UI

    2. oiseau Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: There's always FreeBSD

      Hello:

      " ... because one of the good things about the open source Unix-like environments has always been that they're not so resource hungry as some "other" operating systems are."

      ---

      " ... they might be underestimating how much older hardware people actually still use. But anyway, at this point there are still plenty of alternatives."

      Quite so.

      One of the things that made me look closely at Linux (~ 8 years ago) and definitely caught my attention was that it could be run on older hardware, the type of hardware I have *always* used.

      I experimented a lot with Debian and Ubuntu on old laptops but never made the definite switch.

      Up to last year my main home rig ran a Pentium 4 SL6PG 3.06GHZ/512/533 with 1.5Gb RAM, SCSI U160 drives, a Matrox G450 Dual, XPSP3.

      I was fed up with MS but could not run Linux due to the Matrox (deal breaker) not being supported in the kernel so I got *newer* hardware. If not for that, it would still be running perfectly well with no problems at all.

      I am now quite happy with a Sun Ultra 24 with a Q9550, 8Gb RAM, SAS drives and a Nvidia Quadro FX370, all of it ca. 2011 kit which works perfectly well and will probaly do so for a long time.

      Not *everyone* out there has, can afford or actually needs lightning fast marketing driven new hardware.

      Cheers,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There's always FreeBSD

        I am now quite happy with a Sun Ultra 24 with a Q9550, 8Gb RAM, SAS drives and a Nvidia Quadro FX370, all of it ca. 2011 kit which works perfectly well and will probaly do so for a long time.

        Not *everyone* out there has, can afford or actually needs lightning fast marketing driven new hardware.

        I don't get the point of your post?

        I was running Windows XP64 on a Q6600 9 years ago, but I say that just to show you are running 64-bit harddware. Your point about people not considering those with old hardware, in relation to the topic is redundant, and in fact proves that the devs are right, even those that consider themselves to have 'old hardware' are still running 64-bits more than capable hardware.

  7. thames

    Third Party Software

    The posting from the Ubuntu developer Dimitri Ledkov makes it clear what the problem is, and it's something the Reg story skipped:

    "The key point here is lack of upstream software support and upstream security support on i386, rather than actual hardware being out of stock and/or old."

    The issue is that a lot of the 3rd party software which Ubuntu and other distros ship are dropping support for, or never officially supported, x86-32. This includes things like Google Chrome, Docker, ZFS, etc. That means no security support from the software authors, as well as normal bugs and functionality fixes.

    This means that full-size distros are being boxed into a corner as they can't realistically support software which the original third party supplier isn't interested in having run on x86-32.

    Right now, there's no definite plan on what to do, as Ledkov (Ubuntu) is asking for suggestions after tossing out some rough ideas of his own. He's suggesting continuing support for older 32 bit applications out until April of 2023, so it's not like anything is going to get turned off tomorrow. However, these are the time scales you have to think on when you're running a commercial distro.

    In other words, this is being driven more by third party software suppliers than by the distros themselves.

    By the way, I thought that Ubuntu dropped 32 bit x-86 server a while ago? They just been keeping 32 bit x86 desktop for people who have older hardware with limited RAM (I assume old laptops).

    1. AdamWill

      Re: Third Party Software

      It's not just third-party software. It's stuff like, well, the kernel. Upstream kernel developers are less and less interested in keeping i686 codepaths working, and they frequently just don't any more.

      1. Pookietoo

        Re: keeping i686 codepaths working

        i686 is too recent for some of my hardware anyway. :-)

  8. ChubbyBehemoth

    Not surprising

    No doubt you can still download an old distro that does support your legacy 32bit. But no, no security updates and bug fixes. For the geek crowd that does need a 32bit distro, no doubt there will be the option to just compile your own based on the old stuff. I have an old IBM x41 T, that doesn't get upgraded much. It works as intended and has little exposure. At some point the hardware will fail due to use, probably way before 2023. If so, I will probably bury my favourite pet.

    And yes, commercially 32bit x86 is quite dead already. Get over your loss..

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Not surprising

      I'll keep this SFW, great, commercially? Sorry, but my linux stuff is on old hardware given to me because it was deemed EOL, not some new shiny overpriced piece of plastic crap that might pass for a computer for a year or two. Our storage shelf has many 64bit pc's that are no longer ready for primetime, welcome to our disposable future. I never thought I would hear the FOSS community embrace this philosophy... :-{

      1. David 138

        Re: Not surprising

        by old you mean EXTREMELY old 64bit chips have been more or less standard for a decade. I would be hard pressed to find a CPU that wasnt 64bit compatible. Christ you could pick a 64bit pos laptop up for peanuts!

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: Not surprising

          "you could pick a 64bit pos laptop up for peanuts!"

          Unfortunately you might need a huge store of peanuts to replace the 32-bit versions of S/W.

        2. PaulFrederick

          Re: Not surprising

          Maybe so. But I cannot pick up new files for peanuts. Which is to say I am dependent on 32 bit compatibility due to data formatting.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Not surprising

      "And yes, commercially 32bit x86 is quite dead already."

      What an odd comment. I have commercial 32bit x86 S/W which is still running and frequently used.

    3. Tom 64

      Re: Not surprising

      "And yes, commercially 32bit x86 is quite dead already. Get over your loss.."

      Actually no. Intel only very recently stopped production of the 386 - it was being used in embedded markets. I believe they are still churning out 486, 586 and 686 chips for the same markets, all of which are 32bit.

  9. cd / && rm -rf *
    Thumb Up

    Adios i386. You had a good long run.

  10. Tom 7 Silver badge

    The foss community is not embracing a disposable future.

    No-one is obliged to maintain your equipment for free!

    i386 will get some support. OK it wont be for all those fancy new capabilities of multicore 64 bit machines with massive GPU's on board - but then that's not of any use to an old machine anyway is it?

    Ditto massive CPU heavy desktops.

    With luck a group will keep an eye on security and kernel developments and backport those to popular 32 bit distributions but FFS this is not like MS shitting on your machine with W10.

    1. Fatman Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The foss community is not embracing a disposable future.

      <quote>FFS this is not like MS shitting on your machine with W10.</quote>

      Have an upvote for that!

  11. jtaylor

    Sky is not falling

    When I read the article, I got the mistaken impression that the major Linux distros are dropping support for all 32-bit architectures including ARM.

    It was quite a relief to read the referenced post and learn that it's only Ubuntu dropping the i386 architecture.

    Ubuntu desktop seems largely to target Windows converts, so I suspect this is really not a big deal.

    The headline certainly caught my attention, though. And that's the purpose of a headline, right?

    P.S. Of course there's RPi and CentOS and Gentoo and the BSDs, but those don't have qute the same...culture...as Ubuntu.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Sky is not falling

      "Ubuntu desktop seems largely to target Windows converts, so I suspect this is really not a big deal."

      No bad thing, although judging from the Reg. commentators in the last year, a lot of techies fleeing Win10 only mention Mint. Personally I fled 16 years ago.

      Either are good starters.

  12. Nigel 11

    Goodbye Skype?

    Skype hasn't been supported on Linux for ages but there's an i386 binary for Fedora 14 (or something of that vintage) that still works if you install a load of i386 library packages onto your 64-bit system. Presumably when they stop building i386, it will become impossible to use Skype on Linux. Although I suppose if there is enough demand some volunteer will step in to continue building the necessary i386 packages.

    Is the need any wider? Are there other binary-only proprietary things that folks might want to keep using in the Linux world?

    1. Neil Alexander

      Re: Goodbye Skype?

      "it will become impossible to use Skype on Linux"

      That can only be a blessing.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Goodbye Skype?

      "Are there other binary-only proprietary things that folks might want to keep using in the Linux world?"

      Yes.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Goodbye Skype?

      "Are there other binary-only proprietary things that folks might want to keep using in the Linux world?"

      Yes. Chrome probably is the most popular example though Google offers a 64-bit version. Steam reportedly has 1500 games for Linux - of which most (all?) are prorietary.

      Wikipedia: List of proprietary software for Linux

      Some of those listed programs are obsolete but I personally have several clients running Oracle under Linux, even some old 32-bit 9i installations.

  13. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Bringing this in in 18.10 means that there is one more LTS release (18.04) for Ubuntu on 32 bit Intel hardware, and as the article points out, this means that there will be security updates well into the 2020s (Ubuntu LTS has four years before the repositories stop being updated, and years more before they are retired).

    Even though I use older kit for all of my systems, I seriously doubt that even I will have non x86-64 Intel kit doing serious work. As it is now, my daily system, a Thinkpad, is a Core 2 duo, as is my desktop mule that I use for things too large for my laptop (and I have some Core 2 quads sitting in a drawer waiting to be deployed).

    I have a quick-and-dirty Atom based netbook running 32 bit Ubuntu, and my mostly retired Linux firewall is still 32 bit, but both of these are close to the end of their life. My wife's laptop is not 64 bit capable, but it probably won't last until 32 bit support is dropped.

  14. MacroRodent Silver badge
    Holmes

    32-bit compatibility

    From article: "and if users desperately need to run 32-bit legacy applications, the'll have to do so in containers or virtual machines."

    A strange statement. Actually, the x86_64 version of the Linux kernel runs 32-bit applications perfectly transparently, if the distribution provides the 32-bit versions of shared libraries, and they are installed. Or at least that is how it is in Red Hat and OpenSUSE, where 32-bit libs live in /lib and /usr/lib, and 64-bit libs in /lib64 and /usr/lib64, so installing them side by side is no problem.

    I'm not that familiar with Ubuntu and other Debian derivatives. Maybe they use /lib and /usr/lib also in 64-bit systems, in which case I can see why they have extra trouble here. Too bad, they could have avoided it.

  15. Kwpolska

    32-bit hardware?!

    > (actually, more so, do you know how hard it is to find 32-bit hardware these days?)

    What an idiot. A 64-bit CPU can run a 32-bit (x86) build of Linux just fine.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Make your voice heard or better still

    Volunteer to take over 32bit dev & support.

  17. Enverex

    Multilib?

    The article starts out talking about dropping 32bit versions of distros, but then the wording later on seems to imply that they're dropping multilib support too (e.g. the ability to run 32bit applications under a 64bit Linux install). So, which is it?

    The latter will be a major issue, for example many commercial Linux native games and programs don't even have 64bit versions.

    1. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Multilib?

      "wording later on seems to imply that they're dropping multilib support too (e.g. the ability to run 32bit applications under a 64bit Linux install). So, which is it?"

      Good question. I run a few 32bit only apps, and Wine I think needs some 32bit libs (alsa, OpenGL), and usually recommends 32bit windows programs and prefix for best results (not that 32bit windows programs are in any way related to this discussion).

      I would think/hope multilib is not at issue here, it's the building and testing of 32bit versions of the distros where entire repos have to be compiled and packaged twice and tested twice for both 32bit and 64bit.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those of us that have been running 64bit O/S's in the enterprise for close on a quarter of a century are perplexed as to why we're even having this debate in the 21st century!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "in the enterprise"

      Your very own qualification of "in the enterprise" makes you aware that there are those using Linux in other environments and you're still perplexed?

  19. Bruce Hoult

    Couple of facts about ARM...

    Just want to mention a couple of things I noticed in comments:

    -- the current standard Raspberry Pi model (Pi 3) is in fact 64 bit ARMv8 already. There is not yet OS support for 64 bits .. but that's kind of related to this article :-) I expect there will be soon enough. Of course there are still older models in service, and the Zero is not even ARMv7 (no Thumb2).

    -- the armel vs armhf issue seems to have been decided for a while. All the common Linux distros seem to have already adopted armhf. Tizen is still armel. That's probably the most important one. Interestingly, armel vs armhf doesn't affect the kernel interface. No syscalls pass FP values directly as arguments, so the kernel is absolutely agnostic on this issue, and you can run both armel and armhf userland on the same kernel at the same time. I know this: I'm doing it every day to do armel dev on Pi and Odroid boards running armhf distros of Linux.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Couple of facts about ARM...

      Yep, I'm aware of the latter point you raise. However, this won't help you if the host CPU is armel…

      There's a fleet of systems at the new residential development at Barangaroo in Sydney, and a similar one at the University of Queensland Nathan campus, both of which incorporate machines running armel CPUs (Freescale iMX286). Barangaroo has mostly ARM machines.

      They also have machines running i386 code: there's a library for MacroView SCADA that we link as a Python module, which means we need the Python installation to be i386 as well. We're working to get rid of the i386 dependency, it's in our road map. We'll probably have that done before i386 support is dropped by Debian, but until then, we need to maintain it.

      The (distributed) application does real-time water and energy monitoring, so pretty important

  20. Alan Denman

    Bunch of idiots

    Linux is for those who want to avoid upgrade tax, therefore 32 bit users are the most enthusiastic.

    Bye Bye Ubuntu.

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      Re: Bunch of idiots

      "Linux is for those who want to avoid upgrade tax..."

      Interesting then that many of us are just now moving to Linux to avoid the first-ever "free" upgrade version of Windows.

      1. PaulFrederick

        Re: Bunch of idiots

        You missed out on a lot of good years. Because Linux today is not as good as it used to be. First Systemd, and now this!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bunch of idiots

          Because computer technology moves on. We don't live in a world of static, fixed-location hardware anymore. Now it's dynamically-allocated stuff, even hotplugging, and sysvinit is not designed for dynamic systems.

  21. Chika
    Facepalm

    Tee hee!

    This all reminds me of the days when games consoles made a big thing about being 16-bit or 32-bit or 64-bit or whatever.

    Do the math, as one (now defunct) company said.

    1. Chika

      Re: Tee hee!

      One downvote so far! Could there actually still be a Jaguar user left out there? ;)

  22. JulieM Silver badge

    Fair Enough

    It's Linux. It's Open Source. It will build and run on just about anything with a C compiler.

    There is nothing stopping anyone from making their own 32-bit builds. But the major distributions have to consider how long to keep propping up ancient architectures that are going out of fashion, versus cool new stuff to include. And 32-bit x86 *is* going out of fashion.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Fair Enough

      32-bir x86 may be going out of fashion but a lot of the old hardware will still work long after your new laptop dies and people like the old stuff - I've just upgraded from a 3 year old laptop to a new all singing all dancing jobie but after a couple of months I'm still typing using the wrong keys cos its still 'unfamiliar'.

      My personal hope is someone will make a battery and screen that you can shove a RaspberryPi in so you can just get used to one of those and in 10 years when you can get an 8 core 4ghz, 16GB ram Pi13 for £30 you can just slide out your Pi12 (and pop that in the office cloud cluster) and pop the ssd into the new one and slide it back in the screen, sudo apt-get update;sudo apt-get upgrade and you're off.

      1. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: Fair Enough

        All the old software will still build from Source Code on 32-bit architectures (barring schoolkid errors of the type that confounded early 64-bit builds of Mozilla and OpenOffice.org, anyway; and they must have crept in while the Source Code was still caged from inquisitive eyes). There will undoubtedly emerge a distribution with a focus on supporting old-but-still-usable hardware, if there is sufficient interest.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge

        Re: Fair Enough

        My personal hope is someone will make a battery and screen that you can shove a RaspberryPi in...

        Pi-top

        HTH

        M.

      3. doke

        Re: Fair Enough

        adafruit has an article on making a raspberry pi notebook kit. I don't think it's going to compete with a real notebook anytime soon. However, it looks like an interesting toy.

        https://learn.adafruit.com/mini-raspberry-pi-handheld-notebook-palmtop/overview

  23. John Klos

    Err... We like to code poorly...

    "We want to make lots of bad assumptions, and running code on more than one version of one architecture is HARD! Look at Adobe - they took years to make all their software 64 bit. That. Yep."

  24. schlechtj

    Still making 32bit x86 processors

    Just last year I bought a tablet with a 32bit atom processor running Windows 8.1 ( now upgraded to 10) 32 bit. How hard can it be to find hardware still being sold at Best Buy?

  25. Reiver

    Games

    These days the main user for closed source 32-bit binaries are games - of which are still half being made 32-bit rather than 64-bit. With the Steam runtime being based on Ubuntu, maybe the Ubuntu team think we're all exclusively using Steam and damn any old games. Or rather more likely they're want games to use Snap or Flatpak.

    Just not a fan of having outdated libraries out with the distribution. So I usually disable the libraries included in games and the Steam runtime which are duplicated in the system.

  26. tony2heads
    Coat

    32bit pah

    I have an abacus running Warp (well the frame is bent)

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. danny_0x98

    Well, kids, back when I was a forty-something, in the OS wars of legend, we would hear how Linux was better than Windows on old processors. And there would be spec wars over 486 deployments.

    Good times.

    So, kids, you don't want any of my still-running self-built 32 bit systems. Curse you mobile; curse you to hell!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perspective.....

    ...a huge number of the comments make me laugh, or maybe I'm crying, people talk of ancient and 2004 in the same sentance, nooooo.... the 21st century is only 16 years old, nothing from 20xx is 'ancient' it's 'new-fangled'

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perspective.....

      10 years is a long time in the IT world where desktops get refreshed every 3-6 years.

  30. Amias

    efficency

    if you are still using a 32bit system you could replace it with a new faster 64bit that will use less power.

    i have a hunch that the 64bit system will be so much more power efficent that you will recoup the cost of the new machine in electricity savings over a year or so. no i have no maths to back this up.

  31. picturethis
    Unhappy

    32-bit needed for VMs.

    The quote from the article:

    "His proposal is that Ubuntu version 18.10 would be 64-bit-only, and if users desperately need to run 32-bit legacy applications, the'll have to do so in containers or virtual machines"

    completely misses the point. His statement shows a lack of understanding what happens in the real world. I run 32-bit OS's in a VM because it's a waste of resources to run a 64-bit OS in a VM for what I need to do. A 64-bit OS will generally run slower and consumes more memory for what I need to do in the VM.

    So, for me, getting rid of 32-bit builds would be a bad/sad thing..

  32. Mage Silver badge

    it's a waste of time

    Rubbish.

    One of the great values of Linux is an x86 32bit version for embedded x86 and older hardware. Why should I replace perfectly working HW at huge expense for crappy modern stuff that has no parallel or serial or PS/2 ports etc. Or no PCMCIA/Cardbus slot.

    This is about 10 to 20 years too soon.

    Third party issues?

    "This includes things like Google Chrome, Docker"

    Not interest in those ANYWAY, especially on the 32 bit legacy HW and applications.

  33. purrpie

    Use NetBSD.

    It has amazing i386 support and doesn't drop platforms just because they're slightly inconvenient.

    Firefox won't crash on you on i586 or older because we fixed the bug with ffmpeg.

    It has great security (mandatory W^X), is lightweight, and a dedicated team of developers going back to 1993.

    It's a little bit unfriendly to users, but mostly because it's very "bare". meaning it'd be very light on your hardware.

  34. ted frater

    I could use some help here, ive just aquired a lovely HP core duo, not core 2 duo and my tech friend has put a 32 bit version of mint in it a couple of months ago. Hes not around right now so the question is, can i put the 64 bit version on this laptop HP/compaq nx9420 with 3gigs of ram? It does everything i need inc Utube and cd videos without any delays. Im told its some 9/10 yrs old, but like new. 1920 by 1200 screen mat not shiny.

    thanks

    Ted.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge
      Linux

      In short: No, it will not run a 64-bit OS.

      However, it will be a minimum of 5-7 years before 32-bit support may be completely gone from any distro - even from Ubuntu, which has given the shortest timeline. Even then, there will be smaller, more niche-oriented distros that will continue to support the 32-bit OS & libraries. I wouldn't be surprised if Mint takes one of those for an Upstream provider for their 32-bit offering. Mint already offers a Debian(directly) derived version, and Debian has not committed, or commented, that 32-bit is out.

      Also, it bears mentioning that the whole "killing 32-bit" thing is a proposal from a Ubuntu developer, and a comment about the cost of it from OpenSUSE. No road-maps have been updated, no proposals accepted, or even formally submitted. This is the beginning of the conversation about if i686 should be discontinued.

    2. PaulFrederick

      type cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep "lm "

      When you see this:

      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 pbe nx lm constant_tsc arch_perfmon pebs bts aperfmperf pni dtes64 monitor ds_cpl est tm2 ssse3 cx16 xtpr pdcm lahf_lm dtherm

      that means you have a 64 bit processor. Because "lm" is the long mode flag.

      I have a Pentium(R) Dual-Core CPU E5200 myself. So I know it is 64 bit. Although I do not run a 64 bit kernel on mine. I just don't like 64 bits. I've had too many compatibility issues with it in the past. Been there, done that. Switched back too.

      I'll switch when the clock overflows, maybe. That's in 2036 I believe? I don't run Linux so corporations can dictate my choices for me.

  35. gerryg
    Childcatcher

    Check TDE for a way forward

    When KDE abandoned KDE 3, Timothy Pearson took all the code and created TDE*

    Since about 1997 I have been a parasite on openSUSE infrastructure (bought a couple of boxed sets, back in the day). I remember them abandoning 16 bit.

    It seems to me, that if <pick your distro>'s commercial model finds supporting 32 bit too expensive then that is not their problem.

    Get together, do it yourself. Pick Gentoo

    That is the flipside of freedom. Don't want to do it yourself? Accept that you are a parasite and move on

    *from the website

    Contribute to the TDE Project

    Creating TDE requires significant computing resources and bandwidth. Please consider helping to keep us online with a donation on our donations page. Without your financial assistance, TDE would not be possible!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Check TDE for a way forward

      Since about 1997 I have been a parasite on openSUSE infrastructure (bought a couple of boxed sets, back in the day). I remember them abandoning 16 bit.

      I've been using Linux since Red Hat 4.1 in 1996…and I do not ever recall anyone running 16-bit Linux.

      The closest I've heard of a n-bit Linux where n < 32 was someone running Linux on an AVR chip with a SIMM wired in. It did so by emulating an ARM, so from the Linux perspective, was just a very slow 32-bit ARM implemented on an 8-bit MCU.

  36. Herby

    This all begs the question...

    Is any manufacturer making any 32 bit x86 boxen?

    If the boards are still in current production, they really should be supported. I understand that my 16meg 386sx box won't run a 4.x Linux kernel, but I really don't expect it to.

    Then again, there IS bloat everywhere. The program /bin/true is over 29k bytes which sounds excessive if you ask me.

  37. Fungus Bob Silver badge

    Real lightweight Linux distros

    Sadly, many "lightweight Linux distros are now based on some variant of Ubuntu. The following non-exhaustive list is Linux distros designed for older hardware and *not* based on Ubuntu.

    Puppy Linux

    Macpup

    Toutou Linux

    Legacy OS

    Quirky

    BunsenLabs Linux

    CrunchBang++

    SparkyLinux

    antiX

    MX Linux

    ConnochaetOS

    Absolute Linux

    VectorLinux

    Porteus

    LinuxConsole

    Tiny Core Linux

    Nanolinux

    Arch

    So what's all this nonsense I keep hearing about too many Linux variants?

  38. PaulFrederick

    Ah,

    Why do you have to keep 32 bit hardware around to test 32 bit software on? Heck they developed 64 bit Linux on 32 bit hardware. They did that with an emulator, of course. But 64 bit hardware can natively run 8, 16, and 32 bit code. Duh!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Ah,

      Because of errata that would've been corrected in the 64-bit chips but can cause serious trouble on the originals (think the "f0 0f" bug).

  39. channel extended

    1 bit cpu.

    I have a simple messaging app for automobile drivers. It only requires a single bit for operation.

    Finger up, message sent. Finger down, message queued.

  40. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    ...and in 4 years 64-bits will be superseded by 128-bits...

    ...will have to see if my prediction will hold true.

    With the way things are going, I will not be surprised if 64-bits aren't good anymore, and 128-bits systems start to come in...

    ...or else it's just a pipe dream.

    1. Swarthy Silver badge

      Re: ...and in 4 years 64-bits will be superseded by 128-bits...

      I think the bus-widening trend for CPUs got derailed but the core-multiplying trend. Why engineer a 128-bit bus, when you can just do 2x 64-bit operations at the same time, or better, 4x 64-bit ops to emulate a 256-bit operation? Or..

      All without having to design a new bus, architecture, addressing scheme, etc. Just chuck more cores at it.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: ...and in 4 years 64-bits will be superseded by 128-bits...

        Not to mention 64 bits' worth of memory addressing appears to reach a total so high the human mind has trouble comprehending it. It took a while for programs to necessarily use more than 4GB of memory at a time, the absolute limit of 32-bit addressing, but we can still picture 4 billion. But trying to picture the same thing happening at 64-bits tends to get people lost. That's why the current trend in CPUs isn't to physically wire for all 64 bits: just 48 or so (split between bottom--user memory--and top--kernel memory, each getting 47 bits worth).

  41. Gis Bun

    Watch there will be huge backlash when the end comes and those unhappy will switch over to Windows. :-)

  42. Ramazan
    Devil

    Major Linux distributions what? Wait, all the two of them - Debian and RHEL? Oops, no, some "Ubunty" and "OpenSUSE" distros? Never heard of them before, why should I care?

  43. Bela Lubkin

    The testing burden is real

    Operating system initialization is extremely CPU- and chipset-specific. Showing that your OS tests successfully in 32-bit mode on a modern 64-bit x86 CPU is not at all the same as showing that it actually works on real 32-bit hardware. I'm talking about differences in page table setup, various control registers, workarounds for ancient bugs like "f00f" and the FP divide bug, etc.

    (Aside: a good rule of thumb about OS testing is: if you haven't tested it, IT DOESN'T WORK. This isn't an actual identity, but it's close. Changes *here* have unanticipated effects *there*, so it's really necessary to test every supported scenario against every release.)

    So, don't make any changes to 32-bit init code? But huge swaths of the x86 code is shared between 32- and 64-bit paths. An attempt to freeze the 32-bit init code would involve changes all over the shared x86 arch part of the kernel. This would be potentially disruptive of the 64-bit path, thus nearly impossible to get merged into the mainline kernel. So now you're asking distros to maintain a forked kernel for arbitrarily long.

    Init code isn't the only pain point. Even if you get the OS to boot, you'll eventually find other subtle issues leading to data corruption, panics, etc., unless you are rigorously testing on real 32-bit hardware.

    Meanwhile, old hardware can continue to run the same old software that it already runs. Nothing a distro does is going to reach out and retroactively destroy existing x86_32-supporting OS releases.

    Embedded users shouldn't be too bothered since they rarely use "full fat" desktop versions of any distro. Many embedded systems build their entire userland themselves and don't really rely on a "distro" at all. It is irrelevant that they can't acquire things like modern browsers able to handle the latest web site tricks. (For most embedded applications, it would be a serious security problem if it was even *possible* to install a full browser...)

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And how old is LP64?

    Oh, the deadweight of iaxp86...

  45. duncangareth

    There is a problem...

    In the so-called "Third World" or whatever the correct term is these days, people scrape together their meagre resources and manage to buy old PCs which are incapable of running 64bit software, but they want their children to have a slight chance of becoming computer literate. Consequently, there is still a need for 32bit distros, particularly those with a small footprint.

    In North America, Europe and other developed countries, people can afford to be arrogant about computer hardware. In places where the average person earns less than US$5 per day, paying US50 for an old piece of hardware is a realistic proposition. A new computer system is beyond the reach of many.

    Perhaps, instead of dumping last year's model in a skip or "recycling" it, the rich people should consider giving it to someone who would see it as something highly desirable.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: There is a problem...

      But isn't one issue with older hardware is that they're inefficient when it comes to power consumption? And you're talking a world where electricity may not be a given.

      Such a world would be better suited for power-sipping ARM-based units which are also more compact and could even be powered by batteries.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019