back to article Fedora inches closer to dropping x86-32 support

Following discussion on the mailing list, the Fedora team is taking another small step away from x86-32 support, with developers urged to stop building i686 versions of "leaf packages" – in other words, packages that nothing else depends upon. This means building applications for 32-bit chips, not the Linux distribution itself …

  1. nintendoeats Silver badge

    If Microsoft dropped support for 32-bit applications tomorrow, I'd be having a fit right now (and it looks like I would be forced to move to WINE to play Max Payne).

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      I've got a 32 bit box with Xubuntu installed on it. I was rather surprised when I upgraded it and it installed a VM to run the latest 64 bit version! Not tried wine on it though!

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

        [Article author here]

        I am intrigued by this.

        You had x86-32 Xubuntu, you say? That means no later than 18.10, as that was the last release. 19.04 and onwards were x86-64 only:

        There was nothing to upgrade *to,* from 18.10.

        Therefore, I am guessing you meant 18.04? That was the last LTS release of Xubuntu on x86-32.

        So, I guess you mean you had Xubuntu 18.04 and you upgraded to the next LTS, 20.04? Is that right?

        And it installed a VM _on its own_?

        What, VirtualBox? KVM?

        This sounds very odd and I would love to know more.

    2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

      [Author here]

      Well, FWIW, that's the position Mac owners were in. OS X 10.14 was the last release to run 32-bit code. 10.15 and newer (11, 12) only run 64-bit code.

      Which is why I haven't upgraded my iMac past Mojave yet. I have some 32-bit apps for which no updates are available.

      At some point, it is more or less bound to happen.

      1. Ace2 Bronze badge

        Civ IV is dead because it’s still 32 bit. It doesn’t even work in a VM, because Apple doesn’t provide any support for 3D acceleration under virtualization. Such a waste.

        They should make 32b support optional, like the Rosetta install.

      2. IvyKing

        I'm in the same boat with a 2018 era MBP, as I am staying with Mojave because there is one 32 bit app, rpnScientific, that is very useful. Figure I have a couple of more years of getting support for applications, then upgrade to an M2 MBP.

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      I wonder how many programs use a 32 bit installer, I found a lot of my programs which were 32 bit had 16 bit installers when I upgraded to a 64 bit version of Windows 7.

    4. gerryg

      This wasn't an overnight thing. Your solution would be to build 32bit Gentoo.

      If there were serious demand then you could become quite popular.

      It's free as in: feel free to do what you want with it, not as in: free to expect someone to do it for you.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fun to ensue

    Can't wait to see my previous employer try to deploy a 32 bit application (that about 200 users connect to) on a new rollout that doesn't support 32 bit executables. Yeah, it's evil, but can't wait to hear the aftermath of the testing.

    "What do you mean it won't run?"

    1. JulieM

      Re: Fun to ensue

      What's wrong with just repeating the configure and make steps?

  3. karlkarl Silver badge

    I wonder if there are more 32-bit Intel machines running Fedora Linux in the wild compared to ARM(64) (i.e Raspberry Pi, Jetson Nano, Pcduino, etc) running Fedora Linux.

    I rekon there is so it seems a bit strange to drop that and focus on a more niche platform. Raspberry Pi isn't necessarily niche, but Raspberry Pi running Fedora is.

    That said, part of my reason to use older hardware is to also use the older operating systems (and lighter software) so I am not exactly affected by it.

    1. AdamWill


      There almost certainly aren't, because - as the article says - it hasn't been possible to do this for several releases. We stopped shipping i686 images years ago. We still build packages for i686 in order to allow 32-bit only third-party applications to run on 64-bit installs. This proposal is essentially about trying to strip that set of packages down to only the ones that are necessary for widely-popular 32-bit only third-party apps (like wine).

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge


    The Steam client for Linux is still only 32bit, despite promises of a modern version Real Soon Now for at least 4 years.

    It's the only reason I still have the i386 architecture on my machine.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Steam

      They're hoping to release it to time with the Year of Linux on the Desktop

  5. chivo243 Silver badge

    In other words...

    anything running a 32bit processor is landfill fill... Or it gets no support. Time marches on, and some things get left in the dust.

    1. Ace2 Bronze badge

      Re: In other words...

      This is about 32 bit binaries, not 32 bit processors.

      1. rcxb1

        Re: In other words...

        Can't have one without the other.

        1. nintendoeats Silver badge

          Re: In other words...

          Huh? Did x64 CPUs break x86 compatibility when I wasn't looking? Don't think so.

    2. rcxb1

      Re: In other words...

      > anything running a 32bit processor is landfill

      They're not landfill. There are always collectors of old PCs, running old operating systems.

      The last 32-bit only x86 CPUs introduced were Atoms back in 2010. The rest of Intel's line-up supported x86-64 at least 4 years before that, and for AMD you can go back to 2003 for the first x86-64 CPUs. That's just shy of 20 years, so rather old systems are still alive and well.

      Something that old is not worth keeping alive for normal uses, though. Their electric bill will quickly pay for a much newer and higher-end system that's much more energy efficient. Of course there are legacy applications, but those don't often handle an OS upgrade gracefully, either, so they're virtual time machines which won't benefit from continued OS support anyhow.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: In other words...

        Those of us who don't want the security risks of the Intel IME and the AMD PSP chips run older hardware, which needs 32-bit support.

        1. rcxb1

          Re: In other words...

          There's a 10-year window after x86-64 was introduced, before AMD PSP came along. Not quite as long between Intel adopting x86-64 and introducing the IME, but you've got options there as well. Plenty of options.

          Not to mention, you can buy a cheap RPi without those, which is likely to outperform any i686 processor.

        2. Not Irrelevant

          Re: In other words...

          The problem with that idea is that those CPUs have their own vulnerabilities. If you really care about that you'd be better off with a totally different architecture. x86 is either locked into platform security controllers or full of already exploited holes.

    3. JulieM

      Re: In other words...

      Not at all! Any software that doesn't try to use more than 4GB of memory will build on a 32-bit architecture.

    4. RAMChYLD

      Re: In other words...

      Unless someone makes a PCIe version of the Gravis Ultrasound and SoundBlaster AWE32/64 and lets DOSBOX interface with it, I think not.

  6. rcxb1

    > This will in time have knock-on effects on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL),

    Doubtful. RHEL7 dropped support for booting i686 systems years ago. Fortunately CentOS made its own spin-off, relying on the i686 RHEL7 packages (compiled for compatibility). Having installed it on an old laptop, I can speak from experience that a tremendous amount of software is missing i686 versions, requiring compiling from the SRPM. Not pleasant at all on an old CPU. Pretty clear it's the end-of-the-line for i686 CPUs.

    The last 32-bit only x86 CPUs were Atoms back in 2010, and most x86 CPUs 5+ years old than that supported x86-64. You can go back to 2003 for the first x86-64 CPUs, so you can keep rather old systems alive.

    It's a shame, though. The 32-bit version of Firefox has minimum RAM requirements of 512K, while the 64-bit version requires a minimum of 2GB. I run the 32-bit version just for that reason.

  7. AdamWill

    Not decided yet

    "Following discussion on the mailing list, the Fedora team is taking another small step away from x86-32 support, with developers urged to stop building i686 versions of "leaf packages" – in other words, packages that nothing else depends upon."

    This is not quite right, due to a misunderstanding of the Change process. Fedora is a very open project, so major proposals like this have to be publicly proposed and discussed. That's the point this Change is at. It has been proposed, and now is under discussion. That's why the mailing list thread title has "proposal" in it. It has not yet been approved by FESCo (which is the body that approves or rejects Changes). Nobody is actually being "urged" to do this as of yet; they only would be if the Change is approved.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Say goodbye to running old games. Except those that can be resold to nostalgia customers as "Enhanced Editions", that is.

    Oh well, most proprietary applications can at least be recompiled to be 64-bit, at a cost of a bit of developer time (or, possibly, a LOT of developer time untangling old build system horrors) and the sudden appearance of hard to debug bugs in the new versions. Unless the dependent libraries don't exist in 64-bit form (non open source or abandoned)... you'd think that at this point, those applications that are painless to port to 64 bit have already been ported.

    Doesn't really do *too* much to help with Y2038 either, the ugly casts etc. hidden under the hood will still be there, waiting.

  9. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Ubuntu and wine

    Yeah, I'm running Ubuntu 18.04 32-bit on one system. Effectively, they didn't ship a graphical CD installer but had everything else. I think I upgraded it from 16.04, but you could also run that "netboot" CD (or actually network boot it with PXE.. it's about a 50MB CD), pick "Ubuntu desktop" in the text installer and end up with a Ubuntu desktop install. Not sure why they bothered not building the install CD considering they still built literally everything else.

    As for any newer hardware -- Ubuntu and other modern Linux distros truly have no need for 32-bit libs whatsoever, there is not any "legacy code" lurking in there that uses them or anything. But, Steam itself, Steam's Proton (for running windows games) and Wine, those need it. Steam needs 32-bit libs I think primarily for running the older Linux games that are 32-bit (of course, you'd also need those 32-bit libs running the same games outside Steam, it's nice to keep enough 32-bit libs available for doing so.) Proton and Wine, technically you can install only amd64 build of wine, it only needs 64-bit Linux libraries then but also only runs 64-bit Windows apps. But this would be annoying, even if you have 64-bit apps, they may have a 32-bit "setup.exe" for instance. So typically the 32-bit wine package is also installed, uses 32-bit Linux libs and used for running 32-bit (as well as 16-bit and some DOS) applications.

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