[kwlug-disc] 64bit installs

Cedric Puddy cedric at thinkers.org
Thu Dec 23 09:21:51 EST 2010

On 2010-12-22, at 1:49 AM, Khalid Baheyeldin wrote:

> On Wed, Dec 22, 2010 at 1:51 AM, Insurance Squared Inc. <gcooke at insurancesquared.com> wrote:
> After my new computer purchase a few weeks ago, upgrading to 4 gigs of ram and some shiny DDR 3 and a 64 bit processor, I figured I'd best get into a 64 bit OS.  So I installed a current version of Mandriva 64bit.
> The experience was an epic fail.  I've put my wife's computer back to 32 bit mandriva and I'm in the process of reverting mine to 32 bit as well.
> Recent installs of linux have just plain worked.  The 64 bit version however was like a flashback to 2000, nothing worked.  No sound.  No youtube videos.  No adobe flash.  Losing a half a gig of ram for no clear reason (why when I was your age, we were happy to have just a half a gig).  And all sorts of weird problems with LAMP on my desktop.  In fact I needed to build a new site on my desktop and was unable to get wordpress running after a half day of tinkering.  It was quicker to reinstall 32 bit linux than continue working on the 64 bit version.
> I'm not unhappy, just saddened that the 64 bit OS doesn't work for desktop use.  And perhaps weirdly enough, I don't think there was any noticeable speed benefit to the 64bit.
> I can't talk about Mandriva, since I have not used them in many years.
> But I am typing this on a 64bit Kubuntu 10.04 64bit laptop with no issues.
> Sound has worked on it from day one. The mic worked initially, then stopped
> working, and I found out that it was a combination of alsamixer having levels
> set too high and a misconfiguration in Skype. Everything is back to normal.
> Adobe Flash works fine, and is sandboxed in its own wrapper process around
> the 32-bit version. That makes it nicer since killing it when it runs astray does
> not kill all the browser windows.
> All my new computers are 64 bits. The only ones that are 32bits are those
> who have CPUs that cannot support 64bits (e.g. the Sempron print server).
> -- 
> Khalid M. Baheyeldin
> 2bits.com, Inc.
> http://2bits.com
> Drupal optimization, development, customization and consulting.
> Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability. --  Edsger W.Dijkstra
> Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. --   Leonardo da Vinci
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I haven't been doing many 32 bit installs of late -- on the desktop side, I've most recently installed Ubuntu on a bunch of Dell Latitude laptops, and no problem of any kind surfaced.  You can often find me installing CentOS on servers (one of my clients does codecs for broadcast and set-top video, and use lots of 64 bit CentOS, for example).  I've been rolling with 64 bit by default since about 2006 and have had very little pain (though I have occasionally wished that Linux had the "universal binary" bit that Mac OS X has -- though I understand there are reasons that make it an unworthy goal :)

Now, maybe I've been blinded by having too much RAM, but I'm surprised by the "losing half a gig" bit -- generally it's 32-bit systems that you've cranked up past 3.5 Gb without PAE*  where you see that sort of thing.  On 64 bit systems, your address space is far larger than the amount of RAM that can be currently physically installed, so you don't have that happening, and I can't think what else might have "eaten your ram".

64 bit systems *are not* any faster than 32 bit systems, and (in an apples to apples, GHz to GHz comparison) generally run a little slower, and have a bit higher memory usage.  The big-win for 64 bit is elbow room -- the stupid optimization tricks, PAE boondoggles, and various other limits that caused pain for programs that need lots of RAM/address space become irrelevant, and those programs are able to run much better as a result.

If you don't have any single process that needs more than 1 or 2 Gb of RAM, then 32 bit is fine.  But it's astonishing to me how much footprint programs like to be able to take, given the chance, and how many things (especially on the "media rich" side of life) love to gobble up the RAM.

When I'm supporting engineers running simulations, many of their jobs want 6, 8 20, sometimes 30 Gb of RAM -- obviously we run 64 bit there.

For things like hosting, on the other hand, which is all about a vast number of small processes doing a vast number of little things for users, 64 bit is not nearly so critical.  Likewise, many desktops can go either way, to little consequence.

The main benefit, in my view, to getting *everyone* up on 64 bit is that it's easier to support one stream of drivers and infrastructure than two, and the sooner we get to the point where we don't have to have the mainstream world straddling two architectures, the easier systems guys who churn out the foundations upon which we all build will have it, and the more time they'll have for cool stuff as opposed to regression testing i386 builds :P


*(Physical Address Extensions -- depending on the user/kernel memory split that your kernel was compiled with, a portion of the address space is reserved for the kernel, and when you have as much or more physical RAM than you have address space, you can see that "bite" taken out.  You probably know that, but I'll be someone on this list doesn't :P   Wikipedia provides detailed coverage here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_Address_Extension )

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