Seven years ago, Linus Torvalds dropped “ancient-386-CPUs” support from the Linux kernel, dismissing it with “good riddance.” While 32-bit Linux lingered on, it was no longer part of Linux’s mainstream. Gradually, distributions such as Arch Linux dumped it, as well. Then, Canonical decided to boot 32-bit Linux out of Ubuntu, and people threw a fit. Canonical backed off and returned some 32-bit Linux libraries. Now, it’s time to see what people think of Fedora Linux dropping support for its last 32-bit — i686 — Linux.
This has been coming for some time. Fedora’s developer first proposed getting rid of this 32-kernel when it was putting together Fedora 27 in 2017. The last 32-bit version was given a reprieve to see if the Fedora community would keep it afloat without any Red Hat help. It didn’t.
So, in the Fedora Wiki, the developers said:
The i686 kernel is of limited use as most x86 hardware support 64-bit these days. It has been in a status of “community supported” for several Fedora releases now. As such, it gets very little testing, and issues frequently appear upstream. These tend to go unnoticed for long periods of time. When issues are found, it is often a long time before they are fixed because they are considered low priority by most developers upstream. This can leave other architectures waiting for important updates, and provides a less than desirable experience for people choosing to run a 32bit kernel. With this proposal, the i686 kernel will no longer be built. A kernel headers package will still exist, and all 32bit packages should continue to build as normal. The main difference is there would no longer be bootable 32bit images.
Fedora kernel maintainer Justin Forbes explained:
“There are not enough members of the community willing to do the work to maintain the architecture. Don’t worry, though — Fedora is not dropping all 32-bit packages. Many i686 packages are still being built to ensure things like multilib, wine, and Steam will continue to work.”
Multilib is a library that enables users to run 32-bit programs on 64-bit Linux distributions.
Valve, the company behind Steam, pushed Ubuntu the hardest when Canonical has announced it would no longer support these libraries. Since Steam games will still run on Fedora going forward there, Fedora won’t face the backlash Ubuntu faced.
That said, if you’re still running an older 32-bit i686 machine, you won’t be able to run Fedora 31, which is due out Oct. 29. You will, however, get support for Fedora 30 through May 2020.
Still, it must be said that, since the last major i686 CPU, the Pentium 3, stopped shipping in March 2003, it’s probably time to get a new machine. Nostalgia is all fine and good — I still have a z80-powered KayPro 1 from 1986 running — but I don’t expect the latest software to run on it. And neither should you with your older PCs.
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