Is the 64bit desktop really still so far off?
By Philip Antoniades on Feb 04, 2009
Lately I find myself running quite a few large compiles and virtual machines, so I tricked out my Thinkpad T61 with a full 4 GB of RAM. Anyone with a more than a casual acquaintance with 32-bit operating systems and/or the powers of 2 will quickly see the problem I faced - on next boot Suse proudly reported I had a full 3.8G of RAM available.
Now, to a man of my age that means that there is more memory laying fallow on this machine than I have had in most of the machines I've worked on throughout my career, and that's just a shame. So I decided to dual-boot and try out a 64-bit distribution.
At this point let's reflect - when was the last time you actually worked on a 32bit desktop? Can you buy a laptop with a true 32-bit processor in it? Shouldn't this charade have ended long ago?
Well, I tried Fedora 10 x86_64, and I can tell you the charade has not ended. There is hope: For your browsing pleasure, Adobe now has an alpha available of their 64 bit flash plugin for linux, and my own employer just this month released update 6 of the JDK/JRE featuring for the first time a 64 bit Java plugin for mozilla. That's right, folks, 64 bit linux will soon have cutting edge technology like Flash and Java applets in production-ready form!
Now for the bad news. Webex does not like the 64-bit Java environment (though admittedly I have yet to try the actual release, I have been using the final beta), which is a showstopper for me. Skype is still in 32-bit form, and while it works fine for chat & voice I never did get video to do anything but crash it. And I've found some really bad (freeze-your-laptop bad) bugs with the nvidia driver and NetworkManager - more and worse than this laptop has seen in a lot of distro-hopping.
The more cynical may say that my experience of instability could be chalked up to the fact that I'm not acutally comparing apples to apples - I went from OpenSuse 11.0 to Fedora 10 as well. I will say OpenSuse is the most stable distro I've used, but I don't think Fedora is so lacking to explain the experience. I'm temped to re-install the whole box OpenSuse 11.1 in both flavors of bitness... but I'll probably just go to 11.1 x86.
I will still feel wasteful and depressed every time I run `free`, though.