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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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  • Dropping ARM??? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:12PM (#11937359) Homepage Journal
    That might really hurt embedded developers. Seems like embedded users would be far more likely to use Deb than IA-64 users.
  • by theolein (316044) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:14PM (#11937383) Journal
    I mean, debian is the only distro that supports all the exotic architectures. If debian only supports the main architectures in futre, what then will the difference be between them and SuSE, Mandrake, Ubuntu and Gentoo for that matter?
  • apt

    That's what drew me to Debian, that's what keeps me with Debian.
  • by caryw (131578) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [nnamedeiwyrac]> on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:17PM (#11937423) Homepage
    While Linux is well known for being exteremly cross-platform, 99.9% of installs will be on one of those four architectures. It would make sense to concentrate solely on those four rather than adding support for every Amiga and 68XXX setup out there. Especially now with Debian becoming a very strong player in the linux server community (now that RedHat is concentrating mainly on paid contracts and has allowed Fedora Core to become bulky and buggy.)

    Besides, if you really want to run *nix on your Atari go download NetBSD [netbsd.org].
    - Cary
    --Fairfax Underground [fairfaxunderground.com]: Where Fairfax County comes out to play
  • by Thud457 (234763) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:18PM (#11937440) Homepage Journal
    Aren't porting and actively supporting two different things?
  • by MurkyWater (866956) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:18PM (#11937442)
    As the article mentions there's been a lot of debate since the proposal was posted. I don't think that it is a completely unreasonable proposal. From what I've seen, there is too much time between releases, and this does seem as if it would speed things up a little, due to the lower amount of testing necessary.

    I'm not sure how developers and users of the possible unsupported architectures would feel. I'd imagine that they would be pretty upset. There's no reason why they couldn't continue working on their respective platforms on their own, and have whatever release cycle they would like. I've seen an i586 Debian project, but I don't know how successful it is. I also know Slackware recently picked up S/390 support, and Gentoo has a wide range of architectures that it supports. Switching flavors always seems like another possible option.

  • IA64? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bstadil (7110) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:18PM (#11937443) Homepage
    Why not let HP and Intel carry the support banner for IA86.

    The few machines sold hardly matters. HP 'claims" they will sppnd $3B on IA64 over next 5 years surely they can afford to pay for Linux on this dud of a processor.

    Or better still pay the Debian guys

  • Re:Dropping ARM??? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gl4ss (559668) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:20PM (#11937467) Homepage Journal
    not that likely to use a full deb.

    and there's barely any arm desktops/servers.

  • Re:Older Hardware (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Triumph The Insult C (586706) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:21PM (#11937476) Homepage Journal
    OpenBSD [openbsd.org] runs just fine on older sparc hardware. NetBSD [netbsd.org] too
  • Forks? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by marsjays (473206) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:23PM (#11937509)
    Will dropping support for other than the four major platforms (if it's done) split the Debian developers into two or more groups, one developing Debian for the major platforms and the other(s) specializing on some other platform, for example ARM?
  • Re:Dropping ARM??? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:24PM (#11937527)
    Maybe I'm dumb, but how many embedded developers go and use off-the-shelf versions of Debian. I'd imagine that ARM embedded developers do a bunch of work to customize their Linux versions. To my knowledge this release process is more about the ISOs that appear on debian.org rather than supporting ARM in the underlying source tree.
  • by cyngus (753668) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:25PM (#11937537)
    About five minutes after Debian drops support for the other architectures, someone will start "New Debian" and fork off and keep supporting them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:29PM (#11937594)
    The only people buying Itaniums were forced to by HP. Outside of that, SGI ships, what perhaps a few thousand Itaniums a year? The Itanic is sunk.

  • Re:Older Hardware (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:30PM (#11937602)
    Come on, stop kissing girls for a minute and realize that there is certain historical value to keeping running the variety of quality hardware that was available in the 1980's. Various kinds of historical preservation is seen as valuable in other fields culture, why not also in computers?
  • Re:Now... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by misleb (129952) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:34PM (#11937649)
    ... [Linux] zealots are gonna console themselves on this.

    If it significantly improves the Debian release cycle, yes.

    If it were the other way round, you'd hear them praising themselves on how Linux is great as it's available on all platforms.

    Umm, it still would be avaiable on so many platforms. Debian is just one distribution. I'm sure there will be people who will maintain a Debian-like system for all the existing archs. All they have to do is rebuild the packages and maintain an installer for the architecture in question. They just won't be officially "Debian." But thanks for Trolling.

    -matthew

  • by Mustang Matt (133426) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:37PM (#11937686)
    I've never understood why the kernel can't be seperated from the distribution. If all applications were written on top of a platform like java or php or whatever, couldn't the kernel come from anywhere and if there was support for the application platform apps would run?
  • Re:The hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:37PM (#11937687)

    THANK THE LORD!

    Someone at Debian is finally getting a fucking clue. I've been telling stupid Debian zealots this for years... your distro is dying because everything has to move in lockstep. Take a look at the Linux kernel -- it's x86, and yet there are loads of ports which move at their own speed. Debian is a slug of a distro because it moves at the speed of the absolutely *LEAST* developed port. Split them off focus on the x86 distro... and let the other catch up or die off. Debian is smothering... and all the puffed up insane zealotry about how other platforms are supported just as well as x86 is worthless if your distro is 5 years out of date.

  • by monsterlemon (713644) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:44PM (#11937766)
    Those saying "NetBSD here I come" might like to think about what this actually means before running away screaming. Basically, it's a *proposal* to help deal with the things that hold Debian back. Nobody is talking about trying less hard to make things work on the "dropped" architectures, rather being clear that Debian is unable to support them to the degree required to provide an official "stable" release.

    How many of the MIPS, m68k etc. users here are actually using plain *woody* at the moment anyway, as opposed to sarge or sid?

    So how much difference will this really make?

    (and if you're really dead set on *BSD, have a look at http://www.debian.org/ports under the "Non-Linux ports" and have a crack at helping get the FreeBSD or NetBSD ports working on your arch!)

    Cheers,

    Nick
  • by hummassa (157160) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:45PM (#11937773) Homepage Journal
    Someone at Debian is finally getting a fucking clue. I've been telling stupid Debian zealots this for years... your distro is dying because everything has to move in lockstep.
    Interesting, from where I am it seems to be pretty much alive, thank you.
    Take a look at the Linux kernel -- it's x86, and yet there are loads of ports which move at their own speed. Debian is a slug of a distro because it moves at the speed of the absolutely *LEAST* developed port.
    There is always sid.
    Split them off focus on the x86 distro... and let the other catch up or die off.
    And then the only thing that sets Debian apart from the other distros (quality, determined by lots of portability issues spotted, bad code spotted this way, lots of different archs using the same distro, etc. will be dead. People will just use Ubuntu, if they want to use something x86-ppc only.
    Debian is smothering... and all the puffed up insane zealotry about how other platforms are supported just as well as x86 is worthless if your distro is 5 years out of date.
    Interesting, I run Debian, with kde 3.4 over kernel 2.6.10 and my distro does not feel 5 years out of date.
  • by Ulric (531205) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:45PM (#11937774) Homepage
    Slackware has also had, and dropped, support for Alpha and Sparc. Maintaining a distribution for different architectures is a lot of (expensive/unpaid) work.

    I think the best way to handle this is to have a few supported architectures and let maintainers port to the rest. That way the release schedules of the most important platforms won't be held back, which I believe is a major problem for Debian today.

  • Re:The hell? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lisandro (799651) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:49PM (#11937819)
    It's a good point, but then again, Debian was always the NetBSD of Linux: it ran on everything and it ran well - there's a reason for them to be so anal about the "stable" branch, it really is stable. You can always get the unstable one (which is damn fine in my experience), or move to some apt-based distro if you want to be on the bleeding edge of things.

    For guys mantaining stuff like Sparc servers or developing on ARM it was a great choice.

  • by Ulric (531205) on Monday March 14, 2005 @06:55PM (#11937879) Homepage
    I'm not a Debian user, but I understand that the long release cycles are viewed as a problem by those who are. Do you think it will be possible to solve that problem without dropping a few architectures, and if so, how?

    I understand that Gentoo supports several architectures, including several (alpha, sparc) that would not be supported with this scheme. How come they don't seem to have a problem getting releases out the door? (You may not have more of a clue than I do, but perhaps someone else does.)

  • by selfabuse (681350) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:00PM (#11937937)
    but it sure runs great on a Zaurus w/ a microdrive or a big SD card. Also, a lot of the software that has been ported to the Zaurus has been done by modifying the debian ARM versions. Losing support in Debian for upcoming versions would put a big hamper on porting new software to the Zaurus.
  • by misleb (129952) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:07PM (#11938013)
    In my experience, apt is not the same when implemented on other dists. One the surface the commands are the same, but the integration isn't there. Neither are the normal debian repositories. Like you can't upgrade the whole system with apt-get dist-upgrade.

    -matthew
  • Not apt... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mwa (26272) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:13PM (#11938095)
    Although apt is great, the Debian Policy Manual [debian.org] is what makes apt (and everything else on Debian) Just Work(TM). Apt and various other dependency management tools are available for other distributions, but without a consistently applied policy no automatic tool can work the miracles that Debian's apt can.
  • Re:Excuse me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phleg (523632) <stephen@NOSpaM.touset.org> on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:20PM (#11938166)
    Um, no.

    Porting and supporting are two very different things.
  • by emidln (806452) <adam4300@kettering.edu> on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:25PM (#11938216) Homepage
    No, they do QA for around 5,000 that a lot of people use on a lot of platforms not limited to NetBSD and its various supported platforms. pkgsrc is a great infrastructure and all the packages currently on my desktop with the exception of gyach, which is an obscure Yahoo chat client that debian doesn't support either for that matter.

    apt/dpkg is neat, but I like the ease AND utility of pkgsrc. How easy is it to port the entire apt/dpkg packages tree to a new operating system? That is all of the packages available on Debian that can reasonably work on another POSIX system should be available for a quick build and install, including cross-compilation and setup if necessary. This is somewhere that, to my knowledge, Debian is still lacking. I don't even know if this would be an advantageous feature for Debian, but I know it helps me a lot maintaining various Linux, BSD, and Unix distros on various architectures.
  • by Usquebaugh (230216) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:31PM (#11938290)
    >> Interesting, I run Debian, with kde 3.4 over
    >> kernel 2.6.10 and my distro does not feel 5 years
    >> out of date.

    I would guess you're not running stable or testing but unstable. I run testing and it's too far behind the idea of release early and often. I'll probably go to unstable this evening.

    Debian takes too long to do releases. It's not NetBSD it should change to a tiered release structure. The four mentioned are a good idea.

    In short the time frame between Debian releases is indefensible, it takes to long.
  • Re:Debian.. PFHT.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kfg (145172) on Monday March 14, 2005 @07:57PM (#11938569)
    "Debian doesn't suffer from lack of users by any stretch of the imagination."

    Mostly because "suffering due to some of their fans dropping if for other distros" is an undefined concept in relation to Debian, in the mathematical sense.

    But people will persist in using market driven concepts with regard to non-market driven distros, and Linux in general, won't they?

    A lack of developers would be a real problem, but other than submitting bugs the number of users is simply irrelevant to the Debian development process.

    KFG
  • by dir-wizard (549259) on Monday March 14, 2005 @08:44PM (#11938991) Homepage
    Agreed. The entire reason why I switched to Debian was the fact that they had current support for the sparc architecture. Both SuSE and RedHat dropped it long ago....

    I happened upon a palette of old sparc 2's and now use them for firewalls and web servers. In my experience the kernels running Debian's 'Testing' version have never shown a problem.

  • dropping archs (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dexomn (147950) on Monday March 14, 2005 @09:26PM (#11939380)
    I've got an old sparc classic running a load of woody that was installed in June of `01. It runs great for a 50MHz sun4m with 72MB of ram that is up 24/7. I suppose I will still be happy with it if it caught on fire and didn't unmount my filesystems before powering off. Thanks to Debian I have had several years of enjoyment out of a machine that was not at all enjoyable previous to becoming a penguin.

    If rajr bites the dust, he will likely be replaced by a newer, faster, x86. I would be compelled to run something newer than woody on this machine.

    So I will be moving on to something more mainstream in my little home user world. I think this bears some resemblence to what is happening in the business world in terms of replacing older, not-so-common hardware and software(where applicable).

    Whatever happens I'll (thankfully) still be able to enjoy free software.

    -Bill
  • No, don't do it! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rice_burners_suck (243660) on Monday March 14, 2005 @10:20PM (#11939768)
    I am among the crowd that believes that increasing the number of platforms on which a given program runs generally improves the stability and performance of that program.

    Bugs that are not apparent under the operating conditions of one platform become very apparent under those of another, for one thing. Also, different timings present in different hardware can uncover the strange situations that result from erroneous multitasking programming. Infrequent intermittant problems become more noticeable, and therefore get fixed.

    I hope Debian doesn't choose to drop other architectures.

  • by noahm (4459) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @12:11AM (#11940448) Homepage Journal
    Interesting, I run Debian, with kde 3.4 over kernel 2.6.10 and my distro does not feel 5 years out of date.

    Sure, you run sid. You know what that means? It means that this proposal won't affect you at all. (additionally, I'm sure you run x86, along with what, 98% of all other debian users?)

    The thing is, you're the type of user who doesn't need predictable release cycles. You can get by on the bleeding edge and run software for which a new package release may be uploaded on any given day.

    A lot of Debian users are in very different positions. I, for example, run Debian in an enterprise environment, with literally hundreds of servers and workstations. woody is simply not an option in this environment. Hardware support (both kernel and user space) is dreadfully lacking, and we'd have to backport most of the software we use every day anyway. We'd end up running something so bastardized that we'd no longer see many of the benefits of running Debian at all. So we were forced to go with something more current. We chose sarge, with the understanding that we'd have to be responsible for the security of our systems, with little help from Debian. But of course, there are problems there, too. Sarge changes every day. A machine installed today may look nothing like a machine installed tomorrow. Additionally, we simply have no way of knowing when sarge will be released. The saying within Debian has always been "we'll release when it's ready", but of course, there's never a published metric for readiness, so there's simply no way of knowing when that will be.

    Basically, right now, Debian really doesn't have a good release for enterprise users. That really sucks, since IMHO Debian provides a software infrastructure that makes it really appealing for large scale deployments. I really hope this new proposal is a step toward a shorter and more predictable release cycle!

    noah

    (Debian developer, sysadmin, and user since 1997)

  • by billstewart (78916) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @06:07AM (#11941719) Journal
    Most of the smaller distros out there are really Debian with a bunch of stuff stripped out and replaced with Busybox and whatever tools make sense for the target environment (security, system repair, media players, etc.) A few of them are more minimal roll-your-owns, and the embedded world also has the uCLinux crowd and vendors like MonteVista, but there's a huge amount of Debian usage in the small/medium appliance world.
  • by z1d0v (789072) on Tuesday March 15, 2005 @11:03AM (#11943107)
    Perhaps Debian isn't trying to address the embedded segment.

    It isn't. OTOH you can check the debian-based distro familiar [handhelds.org] for embedded devices (for PDAs such as the HP ipaq for example).

    There's also emdebian [emdebian.org], but I don't know if it'll change its different arch support after the mainstream Debian decides to drop some of them.

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