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

Ubuntu joins calls for users to let go of i386 versions

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, saying bluntly that 32-bit ports are a waste of resources.

“Building i386 images is not 'for free', it comes at the cost of utilising our build farm, QA and validation time. Whilst we have scalable build-farms, i386 still requires all packages, autopackage tests, and ISOs to be revalidated across our infrastructure.”

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.

Even that timeline would mean 32-bit versions will go very gently into their good night: i386 would be sunsetted as the host architecture in April 2021, and legacy application security support would continue until April 2023.

In this Reddit thread, the OpenSUSE Chairman account says 32-bit support “doubles our testing burden (actually, more so, do you know how hard it is to find 32-bit hardware these days?). It also doubles our build load on OBS”.

Whatever timetable is decided on, it's a safe bet that letting i386 enter the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul will be far less contentious than questions of system daemons. ®

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