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Debian Software Hardware Linux

Debian Release Mgr. Proposes Dropping Some Archs 377

Posted by timothy
from the notion-that-could-become-an-idea-and-maybe-a-concept dept.
smerdyakov writes "In this story posted by Andrew Orlowski of the Register Debian Release manager Steve Langasek has announced that support will be dropped for all but four computer architectures. Among the reasons cited for doing this are improving testing coordination, 'a more limber release process' and ultimately a ('hopefully') shorter release cyle. The main architectures to survive will be Intel x86, AMD64, PowerPC and IA-64." Actually, the story says clearly that this is only a proposal at this point, but it's definitely something to watch.
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Debian Release Mgr. Proposes Dropping Some Archs

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  • Re:Now... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Storlek (860226) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:16PM (#11937406)
    This isn't about the kernel, it's about the distro. Linux won't stop running on other systems, Debian's just not going to support them. Maintaining a distribution on so many architectures is a lot of work that doesn't yield a very high return, and dropping the less common ones is really a very smart move.
  • by abrotman (323016) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:17PM (#11937433)
    Original email [debian.org]

    They seem to imply it is a proposal to drop the actual releasing after sarge .. They will still have support for the other architectures, but seem to imply it must meet certain criteria to be considered for release.

    IMHO: requiring a level of 98% is too high and only releasing if you can still buy is rediculous. Debian still mostly compiles for 386(on x86) and it's hard to buy a 386 these days.
  • by Florian Weimer (88405) <fw@deneb.enyo.de> on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:18PM (#11937448) Homepage
    Seeing as they're the major systems out there. But IA-64? I've barely heard of that, and TFA says Microsoft dropped XP for that. Can anyone elaborate as to why this one was kept?

    For IA64, kernel, toolchain and libc are maintained by upstream, and Debian itself has sufficient IA64 know-how, as well. That's why it's practical to keep it.
  • This is not final (Score:5, Informative)

    by alfino (173081) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:18PM (#11937451)
    As an active Debian developer, I simply want to state: this is anything but final and not at all decided. I am only one of many developers against the proposed scheme, and especially against the way in which the scheme was devised -- in a closed meeting with only a few select members, and completely without soliciting any input from the community.

    In the long run, Debian may well have to concentrate more on some architectures than others, but a radical step such as the one proposed will probably not fly well with the community. Since our users are our top priority, you can expect many more emails on the topic before anything will happen.
  • by Sc00ter (99550) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:20PM (#11937462) Homepage
    You do know you can get apt for other dists right?

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:22PM (#11937490) Homepage Journal
    " Seeing as they're the major systems out there. But IA-64? I've barely heard of that, and TFA says Microsoft dropped XP for that. Can anyone elaborate as to why this one was kept?"

    I was thinking along the same lines. Heck, I'd think that sparc's are more prevalent out there than the IA-64....

  • by confusion here (827020) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:22PM (#11937495)
    Yes. Ubuntu is based on debian.
  • by El_Muerte_TDS (592157) <elmuerte.drunksnipers@com> on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:23PM (#11937514) Homepage
    is that only those 4 archs will be actively supported in Debian _releases_. Other architectures will still exist and maintained but not be included in the shifts from unstable->testing->stable.

    If it's that it might be a good things, granting the more popular(?) architectures a smaller turnaround time for stable releases.

    Or maybe hell freezes over.
  • IA-64 vs AMD64 (Score:5, Informative)

    by cbr2702 (750255) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:27PM (#11937565) Homepage
    Not at all. The IA-64 is Intel's Itanium architecture which was massively redesigned. It is not compatable at all with x86 or AMD64 and is actually closer to the PowerPC, as both are RISC chips. The Itanium hasn't done very well (IBM just stopped selling it for their own POWER arch) but it it still used, and probably is at least #4 on servers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:31PM (#11937611)
    Ok, then, decent apt repositories.

    I have debian on servers and suse on desktops at work; and while I believe we have everything apt for SuSE set up correctly with all the popular apt repositories; you still get a tiny fraction of the packages.

  • by glen604 (750214) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:41PM (#11937730)
    gentoo runs quite a few mips architectures.. check out their support here:
    http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/mips-requirements.xml [gentoo.org]
  • Excuse me? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nasarius (593729) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:41PM (#11937731)
    Gentoo supports at least as many architectures as Debian. A cursory glance at packages.gentoo.org will tell you that.
  • Why keep IA-64? (Score:5, Informative)

    by James Youngman (3732) <jay @ g n u.org> on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:46PM (#11937782) Homepage
    Why bother keeping IA-64? Debian has more alpha users than ia64. There are more SPARC users. Heck, there are even more HPPA users than ia64 users. All the details are available at the Debian Popularity Contest [debian.org].
  • by forkazoo (138186) <wrosecrans.gmail@com> on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:46PM (#11937783) Homepage
    Most of us who use strange architectures really won't be that terribly effected. I have an Alpha box, SPARC boxen, and some MIPS hardware, etc, so I guess I qualify. (I've never actually run Linux on the MIPS hardware, though)

    Most of the folks using SPARC Linux, like me, use older boxes. They work now, and there isn't a huge number of new systems being sold with the expectation of running Linux. Most of the new SPARC hardware will be running Solaris. Since my Ultra1's work just fine under debian, I don't really care about having up-to-the-minute software on them. If I do, I can still compile the latest kernel, or whatever. I just won't be able to install from an official "release" iso set. I assume there will be unnoficial iso's available, just like always.

    And, thankfully, I do have "common" PPC hardware, so I can stay up to date on those boxes with the mainstream releases! :)
  • misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by macshit (157376) * <miles.gnu@org> on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:51PM (#11937843) Homepage
    The phrase "dropping support" is misleading. They're dropping the "stable" release for these archs. They are moved into a category called "second class citizen" architectures.

    "unstable" -- which is what hacker-type individuals tend to run anyway (and is both much more up-to-date and not particularly unstable) -- will continue for all. As most of the affected archs fall into the "mostly for hackers" category, this change should have little real impact. I suppose the exception might be the sparc.

    The benefit of all this is (besides, maybe, faster releases) that they have a plan for adding new scc archs easily.

    [I think the "scc" archs will also not use the Debian mirror network, but probably don't have enough users to receive any real benefit from it either.]
  • by Poldark (867737) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:56PM (#11937889)
    Debian will continue supporting the rest of the architectures... but only in the unstable tree.

    All the users running rare platforms can continue using debian, and upgrading their distribution, but they won't have a stable release.

    I think this is the way to go...
  • Re:IA-64 vs AMD64 (Score:3, Informative)

    by ComputerSlicer23 (516509) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:04PM (#11937978)
    Your confusing, x86-64 (what non-chip vendors generally refer to it as) and IA64. EMT64 I believe is the Intel name for it. AMD64 is obviously the AMD name for it. I believe it has also been referred to as IA32E by Intel (IA32 is a name they use to refer to the x86 ISA).. If you read the "others" story, and the pages it links to from you own post you'd see that.

    x86-64 is a natural extension of x86 to 64 bits (just like 386 turned the x86 family into 32-bit). IA64 if the name used for Itanimum (or Itanic if you are a "The Register" reader). It is completely different in nearly every way from x86. It was Intel's clean break from their old architecture. It was a joint venture started by Intel and HP in the early 90's. I remember the hype back in '94 that it was the future, and would be so incredibly cool. It was Intel's move into SPARC/MIPS/Alpha/etc quality server chips. Little did they know, that their own engineers and sales force would make economies of scale work out so that the horrific x86 architecture would end up being cost effective, and essentially end all of the other chip lines except SPARC the Itanic was supposed to compete with.

    Kirby

  • My understanding is that it isn't so much the kernel (although that's certainly an issue) as the userspace applications. For example, going from 32 to 64 bits breaks a lot of badly-written software, as does that annoyingly still-present issue of endianness. Debian currently treats all platforms as equal, meaning that a problem compiling X.org on some weird 48-bit middle-endian system used by 15 people can delay including that package on x86 and x64 as well.

    If everything was well-written and accounted for differing word lengths, byte orders, etc. then we wouldn't be having this conversation. Unfortunately, that's not the case. On the plus side, Debian's dedication to platform equality means that a lot of bugs get exposed (and fixed) that no one would ever know about if the world only ran x86. This is a good thing for everyone, even those where that software already worked as expected.

  • Re:Now... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Qzukk (229616) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:34PM (#11938320) Journal
    Even the trolls can't be bothered to read the damned thing. Debian will still be available on all those plaforms, but Debian Stable won't be after Sarge releases.

    If this proposal passes.
  • Re:Debian.. PFHT.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Phleg (523632) <stephen&touset,org> on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:41PM (#11938393)

    Well, I'm sure Debian has their reasons, but I suspect they're suffering due to some of their fans dropping it for other distros. Late releases, stupid politics and aged packages isn't doing this distro any justice.

    Debian doesn't suffer from lack of users by any stretch of the imagination. Contrary to what you see on Slashdot, most Debian users understand that the delays going into Sarge and the heated discussions about GFDL licenses are painful but necessary.

  • Re:Dropping ARM??? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pavon (30274) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:42PM (#11938405)
    Actually, they didn't make a decision to cut or keep any particular distros, contrary to how the summary makes it sound. The actual email [debian.org] is worth reading.

    The way I understood it was that each architecture would continue to be included in unstable, but when time came to release stable, the architectures that were not up to snuff would not be included in stable. In other words, they are not going to hold off on releasing stable for the architectures that are ready just because some other, less actively devloped ones are not. This seems fair. If someone wants their favorite architecture to be included in the next stable release then they can volenteer to get it up to stable quality, or commit themselves to maintaining it (security patches) after it is released. Otherwise they can just keep using the unstable. This is better than forcing everyone to use unstable, by holding debian back from releasing stable on a timely basis.

    The second set of requirements (for SCC) also make sense. If you have less than 50 users, or cannot support the infrastructure needed make mirrors, there is no reason that all the ftpmasters should have to mirror a full branch of code for you - it is overkill. Those 50 people can get together set up their own apt-get repository for their binary packages.

    There are several things that I did not like about this plan however, like the non-merit-based requirement, of requiring a machine to be purchasable new. If there are people that are willing to do the work, who cares if the machine is in production or not.

    I also don't like the fact that there is no official option for the less active arch's to make stable releases uncoupled from the main stable timescale. Suppose that a minor arch, has enough support to do a stable release every 3 years compared to the x86's 18 month cycle. Choosing to target every other stable release won't work because while there is twice as much time between releases the bottleneck is the time between feature freeze and release, and that will still be determined by the x86 team's (faster) schedule. Furthermore, all the stable releases for all the architectures really should have the same package versions. This will save effort supporting the releases in the future (security patches etc), and keep user confusion down to a minimum. One possible solution would be if they kept the requirements listed, but did not require them to be met at the same time as the x86 branch - let the architectures enter stable when they are ready, with a time limit of say 2 or 3 release cycles of the x86 branch.

    In general, requiring all the architectures to walk in lockstep is a real problem that debian needs to fix, but they should do so in a manner that allows the less active architectures to continue to have stable releases at their own pace, while not holding back the x86 line.

  • Re:Yesssssss..... (Score:3, Informative)

    by andreyw (798182) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:49PM (#11938473) Homepage
    Sure... 4004->8008->8080(->8085??)->8086->80286->IA32

    But I am not sure where you're getting your PowerPC storyline from. AFAIK POWER1 grew out of the ROMP processor used in IBM RT-PC machines (precursor to RS/6000). PowerPC project spawned from the POWER project, AFAIK, but with the 970 whatever differences the two architectures had have apparently disappeared.
  • by gb006k (606815) on Monday March 14, 2005 @08:12PM (#11938710)

    Hey, if you guys would just read the actual announcement from Steve: http://lists.debian.org/debian-devel-announce/2005 /03/msg00012.html [debian.org]

    You would see that support is NOT being dropped. Rather, the proposal just allows the common architectures to be released before the uncommon ones are fully tested. This seems like an excellent plan, rather than having to wait forever for Debian releases.

  • by molo (94384) on Monday March 14, 2005 @08:21PM (#11938788) Journal
    I see from the list of ports that they include only one MIPSs port, while Debian includes two: "mips" and "mipsel" (little endian). They are binary incompatible and run on entirely different hardware. Big-endian MIPS runs on SGIs and such while little-endian MIPS runs on Decstations and such.

    I don't know which Gentoo has, but it doesn't have both.

    -molo
  • Re:This is not final (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2005 @08:47PM (#11939018)
    Gentoo does not do releases. It is a continuous stream of changes and new version.

    Gentoo "releases" are more or less a snapshot taken in order to do installation CD for people to do an initial installation. They do some testing for releases but it is not really the level of Debian.

    Debian does real releases in that all software will be well-tested and for some amount of time. Then, theses releases will be supported, that is, security fixes will be back ported to the versions of software in release.

  • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:14PM (#11940134) Homepage
    ### I mean, debian is the only distro that supports all the exotic architectures.

    Well, no, they don't. What Debian does is running their deb Packages through a autobuilder for the given arch and do some surrounding work to get it going. In practice the result is not all that good, since you end up with either a bunch of packages dropped for that arch or simply build into a non-working state. At least that was my experince with trying Debian on Alpha, sure it somehow worked but it was a whole lot less smooth then x86 Debian.

    So their step now to drop them from stable isn't something spectacular, but just adjusting their doing to face the reality. They simply can't get all the archs into stable state and especially not in time so that the packages in stable stay usefull, so its simply better not wasting time with it when past has shown that the result will be useless anyway for most of the people out there.

    Beside from that it doesn't mean that Debian is all of a sudden purging the other archs from their ftp servers, just that those archs won't make it into the 'stable' release process.

    Last not least what Debian really need is more frequent releases, if dropping a few seldomly used archs helps, then it helps Debian as a whole and in turn maybe even those archs. I for one prefer some exotic arch well supported in 'unstable' then badly supported in 'stable'.
  • Re:Embed Me (Score:3, Informative)

    by Maljin Jolt (746064) on Monday March 14, 2005 @11:49PM (#11940349) Journal
    I believe nothing is lost for you, because in theory, .ipk and .deb are identical inside, while .deb uses ar and .ipk tar for archive compression. You can make an ipk out of some old arm deb with scripts (dig for them somewhere at handhelds.org CVS):
    pkg-deb-unbuild
    ipkg-build
  • by Kent Recal (714863) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @04:16AM (#11941387)
    A machine installed today may look nothing like a machine installed tomorrow.

    You may want to take a look at FAI (Fully Automatic Installation - google will find it). We've been using it quite successfully for that kind of maintenance.

    You basically set up a local debian mirror (snapshot of the real tree) and use it to deploy your machines (FAI does it great) and as only apt-source for them. Whenever it's time to update a pkg you test it, then just drop it to your mirror where the clients can pick it up via apt-get upgrade.
  • by noahm (4459) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @11:41AM (#11943414) Homepage Journal
    You may want to take a look at FAI (Fully Automatic Installation - google will find it). We've been using it quite successfully for that kind of maintenance.

    We already use FAI. It has installed over 200 hosts for us. It's a nice system, and makes enterprise deployment possible (doing several hundred stand-alone installs is simply unreasonable, IMHO), but it doesn't eliminate any of the problems with Debian releases. Maintaining local snapshots of sarge is somewhat helpful, but then you're awfully close to running your own distribution. You have to be very aware of what's going to change when you update the snapshot. Unless you plan on updating the entire snapshot periodically, you are going to have to worry about dependencies and various package relationship problems. But if you update the whole snapshot, then you've got to be sure that the new packages aren't going to hose your existing machines, or otherwise interfere with the general user experience.

    noah

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