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Dropping/splitting (proper) i386 support

Nice summary.  Comments below.

On Apr 27, Nathanael Nerode (neroden@twcny.rr.com) wrote:
 > This is an attempt to summarize some points.
 > 3. How much impact will this have on users?
 > * Two people have reported live 386 systems (not clear if they're using 
 > Debian):
 > 4. Conclusion.
 > The i386 support is marginal, there are very few users of it, and it's 
 > significantly impeding the rest of the distribution.
 > There are several ways to deal with this.
 > * Drop i386 support entirely; 'i386' architecture becomes 'i486'.
 > The most dramatic option. 

Is it really that dramatic?  Suppose we drop the 386 in sarge; people can run
woody on their 386s forever.  Just because Debian releases a new version
doesn't mean there are only two options: (1) ensuring Debian supports the 386,
or (2) forcing every 386 owner to run out and replace hardware so they can run
the new version.

I realize there are some people using a 386 who would need security updates,
so their choice in this case would be to backport the fixes themselves, or buy
a brand spanking new 486.  Oh, well, no surprise that administering a secure
machine is not free, as in beer.

 > * Drop i386 support mostly.  'i386' architecture becomes 'i486'.
 > Start a 'Debian-real-i386' subproject, with a 'real-i386' architecture,
 > but don't require that any packages build on it in order to go into 
 > testing or to release Debian; it would be a bonus architecture, with
 > a limited number of packages avaiable.
 > This seems to be the most immediately feasible option.  Several people 
 > have already indicated their approval of this idea.  I wouldn't wait for 
 > sarge to release, but do it ASAP. (Since C++ is already semi-broken on 
 > 386s, this would likely make things better for i386 in fact; at least 
 > it would have a specific functioning project.)
 > This is assuming someone with a real i386 is willing to lead a
 > 'Debian-real-i386' project (which wouldn't be a huge amount of work,
 > really; upstream support is usually pretty good, you don't have to actually
 > compile packages on your slow 386, just test them there, and you don't have
 > to worry about ABI compatibility with anyone much).  If nobody is willing
 > then I'd say there just isn't enough support and 386 should be dropped
 > outright.

I am in favor of dropping the 386 altogether, but this is acceptable as an
alternative.  If people would rather work on keeping 386 software up to date
than just run woody forever, more power to them.  It doesn't seem like it
would cost much on anyone else's part to enable this.

Neil Roeth

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