So let’s see how this flies in the wide world of FOSS….
Stephen Smoogen blogs recently that he’s pitching a proposal for a 64-bit only Fedora starting with Fedora 23 — that’s not the next one, but the one after that; maybe Fedora 24, if it is not possible by Fedora 23.
For those of you keeping score at home, Smoogen is a long-time Fedora contributor who now serves on Fedora’s EPEL Steering Committee. And EPEL? That’s what’s commonly known as Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux, “a Fedora Special Interest Group that creates, maintains, and manages a high quality set of additional packages for Enterprise Linux, including, but not limited to, Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), CentOS and Scientific Linux (SL), Oracle Linux (OL),” according to their wiki.
Smoogen writes in introducing his self-described “Devil’s Proposal” the following: “I am going to make the uncomfortable and ugly proposal to drop 32 bit in Fedora 23 and only look at 64 bit architectures as primary architectures.”
Continuing, and I’ll paraphrase here, all 32 bit architectures would be moved to being secondary architectures, with their own build teams to maintain builds. Then he wraps up the initial paragraph with, “At the moment that would make the only 64 bit primary architecture x86_64 with arm64 and ppc64 possible candidates for mainstream support in F24 (if they aren’t ready by Fedora 23).”
Let’s put aside the incalculable enormity of bad in this proposal, which could very well be immeasurable. Let’s go instead to Smoogen’s reasons: First, he has a graph that shows use in 32-bit is down; a graph which also shows 64-bit use down as well, but let’s not quibble. Second, and probably the only rational reason (albeit a stretch) notes changes in builder options work better and faster, if at all, in 64-bit. Third, and this is the humdinger, “I don’t have a Pentium III to try and replicate your problem with” as a reason developers are developing solely for 64-bit.
You know, I get it. I understand the symbiotic relationship between the Fedora Project and Red Hat, and how the former serves as a de facto test bed for development that, sooner or later, ends up in Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Scientific Linux and CentOS (and even Oracle Linux). I even get that Red Hat may no longer have a need for 32-bit development. I also get that while 32-bit hardware use in developed countries is on the decline, I’d like to see statistics on 32-bit hardware use in developing countries before I’m ready to say that 32-bit is irrelevant.
Yeah, there’s subtext here: This type of first-world thinking where we can’t be bothered with anything less than the latest and greatest contributes to the digital divide between rich and poor nations. But I digress.
Closer to home, here’s something else I understand: The complete myth that Fedora can only be used by the Linux wizards out there because of the tiresome “bleeding edge” mantra many spout for no other reason than they don’t know better. The reality is that with a few very, very simple tweaks (like this, for starters), Fedora is an excellent daily-use distro that anyone — anyone — can use.
Which ironically leads us to this oh-so-welcoming paragraph toward the end of Smoogen’s blog post: “This may also mean that people with older hardware end up dropping Fedora altogether and going to Debian or Arch. I would actually say that the people doing so are being active and taking control of their destinies which is better than waiting for hand-scraps.”
So that’s redlining the GTFO tachometer for those who have used 32-bit Fedora, no? Got a 32-bit machine? Go be active and control your own destiny, and don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out. We’re only offering you scraps anyway….
I’d make popcorn and get comfortable to watch how Fedora Ambassadors spin that to the wider FOSS public, especially in explaining how that dovetails into the “friends” aspect of Fedora’s four foundations.
My guess is that this proposal will be debated among those in the Fedora Project, and my hope is that it crashes and burns. Smoogen made a “Devil’s Proposal,” but I hope he was prepared to catch hell for it.