32 or 64 bit cover discs?

Comments, suggestions and questions about Linux Format magazine and the coverdiscs

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Should we include 64 bit distros on the cover DVDs?

Poll ended at Wed Dec 14, 2011 2:21 pm

No, 32 bit works for everyone
4
21%
Every distro should come with 32 bit and 64 bit versions
3
16%
Yes, 32 bit is old hat and should be ignored
0
No votes
Compromise by including some distros as 64 bit instead of 32 bit
12
63%
 
Total votes : 19

32 or 64 bit cover discs?

Postby nelz » Sun Dec 04, 2011 2:21 pm

As the discussion about 32 bit vs 64 bit distros on the DVDs has arisen yet again, I think a poll is order. Do we duplicate distros, say "screw the dinosaurs", provide a mixture or stick with the current approach?

It goes without saying that the question is only relevant for those distros that come in both flavours.
Last edited by nelz on Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby heiowge » Sun Dec 04, 2011 5:10 pm

I think full blown modern distros that need modern hardware to run (Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, Fedora, Mint 12 etc) should be 64 bit versions on the disc. Older machines would struggle with them and netbooks need the ISO version anyway.

Distros aimed at lower spec should be 32 bit. Netbook distros need to be 32 bit and not the bootable version since they dont have DVD drives anyway.
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Postby nelz » Sun Dec 04, 2011 6:51 pm

From next issue, the DVDs will use a hybrid ISO format, which means you can dd the disc to a USB stick and it will boot. ISO images are a waste of space because you are still including two versions of the same distro.

Sent from my netbook running a 64 bit distro :P
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Postby heiowge » Sun Dec 04, 2011 9:05 pm

nelz wrote:Sent from my netbook running a 64 bit distro :P


Point taken. Although I have to admit I rarely see a 64 bit netbook (or one that declares itself as such), but I reckon most can't handle enough RAM to make 64 bit that much better.
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Postby nelz » Sun Dec 04, 2011 11:12 pm

It's not necessarily better, but it is possible, negating the argument that 32 bit is needed for netbooks (at least the more recent ones). I have three Atom powered systems here, up to three years old, all have 64 bit CPUs.
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Postby wyliecoyoteuk » Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:01 am

Granted, it is only the bottom end
N2xx, Z5xx, and Z6xx processors that lack 64bit (and the last 2 are MID not netbook processors).

Unfortunately, both of our Acer Aspire One netbooks (AA110L) use N270 Atoms, which are 32 bit only.
These are both about 3 years old now, but thousands were sold.
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Postby nelz » Mon Dec 05, 2011 10:37 am

Oh yes, there are 32 bit netbooks. All I'm saying is that they are not a special case - there are both architectures out there, just like desktops and laptops.

Heck, I even have a 400MHz Geode (basically an i486) box here, although I haven't tried booting an LXFDVD on it... yet.
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Compromise

Postby Nuke » Mon Dec 05, 2011 2:18 pm

As I have suggested in the discussion, 64-bit should be the standard, but always include a 32-bit version of one of the more newbie-friendly distros, which newbies can be recommended to use in the "On the Disc" magazine pages.

OTOH, if someone wants a 32-bit Debian, Smoothwall, Arch or Centos then they should be expert enough and committed enough to find and download a 32-bit version for themselves. Those are not newbie distros.
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Postby Bruno » Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:17 pm

My pragmatic side says stay with 32-bit, as all can benefit but my wanting-to-have-the-lastest-and-greatest-stuff side says it would be nice to see a 64 bit distro once and a while, so I've voted for: "Compromise by including some distros as 64 bit instead of 32 bit." However, there are some compelling arguments for staying with 32 bit distros. For straters, they will run on 32 and 64 bit PCs. They are also good for those who occasionally write into the mag to thank Mike for including distro "X" who are based in the back of beyond and run skipware without an internet connection to whom the cover discs provide their only easy means of upgrading their distros.

There have been comments about memory limitations with 32 bit distros. I'm not sure how compelling these are at the moment. For sure, 64 bit systems can address more than 4 GiB of RAM but, if my understanding is correct, 32 bit kernels that support PAE can exceed this 4 GiB limit by dividing memory into 4 GiB chunks. Also, for desktop users (the main focus of LXF), 4 GiB is plenty (famous last words) for everyday computing and I still don't see many of-the-shelf PCs that have more RAM fitted. Of course, power users will need more, so I don't deny there will be people here will have more RAM installed and of course the trend amongst PC vendors is for increasing the amount of RAM installed with the progression of time.

However, at some point 64 bit will take over, the question is when? Wasn't there a poll on here (I've searched but I can't find it) or in the mag recently that showed the proportion of 32 bit and 64 bit installations? As I recall, it was close to 50:50, no more than five or six percentage points away in favour of 32 bit. Perhaps we could decide on a point at which we should switch, either via an intermediate, mixed architecture stage or not.

Personally, my situation mirrors this (hopefully not imagined) poll. I have a seven-year-old desktop and a six-year-old laptop that are both 32 bit and two modern "nettops" that are both 64 bit, the nettops are 64 bit installations. Whilst I would not expect to get things entirely my own way with selection of distros on the disc (it's good to share) my favourite distro in both versions, if I get at least one version, it saves me a download when it comes to upgrading time, so I'm happy. That's my tuppen'orth.
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Postby Bazza » Mon Dec 05, 2011 7:53 pm

There are three columns you missed...

Would you like 8 bit distros? ;o]

What about 16 bit versions? ;o}

I really couldn't care less! ;oD


I know, I KNOW, Linux was devised around the '386 I.S. in full 32 bit mode.

There is one problem with going up in DATA and ADDRESS space and that
is, for people like me and approaching my age, it is getting harder to learn
the fundamentals and foibles that go hand in hand with the ever spiralling
technology. (BTW spiralling is mis-spelt, [and mis-spelt], according to
Debian - good eh! I think this is much more important)... ;o/
73...

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The problem with 32 bit only or 64 bit only

Postby markdean » Sat Dec 10, 2011 4:24 pm

Here's the problem I have with going all one or the other:

It devalues the subscription. I'm paying a premium for both the content and the cover discs-and yes, to me, it's worth it. However, I don't get much use out of the 32 bit discs. Although I have some 32 bit systems that are used for lab type computers, all my computers have been 64 bit for at least 5 years and my memory sizes have all been 4GB or more for that same amount of time. So when a cover disk is 32 bit, while yes, I can technically use it, it isn't my preference and it doesn't allow me to use my hardware to its fullest extent. PAE is _not_ a replacement for a native 64 bit kernel.

So there's several ways to handle this. The easiest may be to have one side 64 the other 32. Or maybe have a 32 bit subscription and a 64 bit one.

One thing to consider, most distros are gradually dropping support for older CPUs. An actual i386 (actual 80386) kernel is getting rarer and rarer with i686 (Pentium Pro or better) being more standard for 32 bit kernel. At some point, distros are going to drop 32 bit anyways.
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Postby wyliecoyoteuk » Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:16 pm

That argument could be applied to my subscription- I never use the cover disks, so why should I subsidise those who do?
The cost of having 32bit and 64bit subs, or disk and nodisk subs would simply increase the overhead of running the mag.
However, I don't complain that I have a piece of unused plastic with my magazine (and I have every issue).
The disk is useful for many, but I would be surprised if there are many people who lack access to broadband and also require a 64 bit version.
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Postby Rhakios » Sun Dec 11, 2011 12:52 pm

wyliecoyoteuk wrote:That argument could be applied to my subscription- I never use the cover disks, so why should I subsidise those who do?


You'll never run short of Linux-themed coasters?

;)
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Postby geek73666 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 8:56 am

Isn't Linux format always going on about how Linux can 'resurrect old machines'? Using 64-bit distros would make that hard, especially for older machines.
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Postby heiowge » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:21 am

Agreed, but in all fairness, a pre-64 bit machine might struggle to run Fedora 16 or the like. I see no reason to release that as a 32 bit version on the disc. Lubuntu, yes. Puppy, yes. OpenSuse 12.1, no. Ubuntu 11.10 no.
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