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Confusion about 32/64-bit user space

I am a tad confused here, so bear with me...

Okay: I have an Ultra 10, on which I've installed Debian 3.0r0. As I
understand it, the kernel operates in 64-bit mode, while any programs I
write and run operate in 32-bit mode. Is that correct?

Is there anyway to change user space such that it is 64-bit?

This came up when I built gcc 3.2; the configure script couldn't figure out
my installation. As it is explained to me by someone in the gcc mailing
list, what I managed to build was a 32-bit version of the compilers, given
that my user space is 32-bit.

Why isn't user space 64-bit by default? Is it that many GNU/Linux programs
aren't compatible with 64-bit?

Scott Robert Ladd
Coyote Gulch Productions,  http://www.coyotegulch.com
No ads -- just very free (and somewhat unusual) code.

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