64-bit GNU/Linux is totally ready for mainstream use

When I was installing Ubuntu GNU/Linux with KDE on my latest desktop purchase, I faced a seemingly agonizing decision between 32-bit and 64-bit. There are all sorts of peripheral arguments over performance, but the main arguments on each side are that 32-bit can only support 4 GB of RAM (not technically true) and that 64-bit has limited application support and is more buggy.

Well, I’m happy to report that all of the supposed caveats of 64-bit GNU/Linux completely failed to materialize. After over a week of heavy usage of 64-bit Ubuntu, and installation of a few hundred applications, I haven’t run across a single problem stemming from my decision to use 64-bit. So I would say the choice of 64-bit is a no-brainer. 64-bit has reached maturity, and all of the supposed problems with it are problems of the past. 64-bit is the future of computing (just like 32-bit was the future of computing back when 16-bit was still common). It’s better to make the switch now than to find yourself a year or two down the line facing a 64-bit reinstallation of a 32-bit system. This choice is pretty much set in stone when you install an operating system; there is no upgrade path. So make the correct choice now.

I should point out that not all processors support 64-bit OSes. The older the processor, the less likely it is to offer 64-bit support. So do your due diligence before you accidentally end up downloading the wrong version of a GNU/Linux distribution ISO.

3 Responses to “64-bit GNU/Linux is totally ready for mainstream use”

  1. Greg Maxwell Says:

    After several years of x86/64 use on Fedora I like to extend a welcome to Ubuntu for its membership in the 21st century. ;)

    I occasionally download some old source code with issues with sizeof void * != sizeof int… but it usually only takes me a minute or two to fix them since most with these problems are small. .. or I just compile them -m32 .. but it’s been a long time since I’ve resorted to that.

    Linux has had native 64 bit in its ranks since the mid 90s (Thanks to Dec alpha and later, Ultrasparc, and PPC64)… so the x86_64 is build on a mature base. Windows is in a much more difficult position because none of the historic 64 bit platforms it supported were popular enough to work out the bugs, and because virtually everything for windows is propritary coders with a special interest in 64 bit support aren’t able to go around and fix other people’s software like they can in Linux.

  2. Cyde Weys Says:

    Ubuntu has had 64-bit versions for several releases now. I apologize if this post gave any indication to the contrary. All I was really trying to say is that 64-bit is new to me!

    And yeah, not having the code available for proprietary software is a huge problem. In general, as you say, not too much needs to be done to make 32-bit software work in a 64-bit world, but there’s so much proprietary software out there that is no longer actively developed and that has no source available that will fall to the wayside. Free Software has no such problems!

  3. jeem Says:

    64-bit only gives me trouble in Gentoo when I want to use a program that’s only stable in the x86 tree. I can usually find another program or muster up the courage to run ~amd64, though.

    That said, Gentoo maintains a couple 32-bit ebuilds on the amd64 portage tree. The only one that comes to mind ATM is “mozilla-firefox-bin”; it’s a 32-bit build of Firefox that streamlines a lot of potential plugin issues.