Proposal: Let's drop i386

Tobin Davis gruemaster at
Sat May 12 16:40:06 UTC 2018

I've been following this thread for a while, and have some questions.  Are
we talking about dropping Ubuntu x86 images or i386 packages from the
repo?  If the former, I don't see an issue here, as the subs (Lubuntu,
core, etc) can still build release images.  But if Ubuntu is dropping i386
packages, that brings up a huge issue with software compatibility, at a
very bad time (at least for me and the projects I support).  I work with
FPGA accelerators, both at Intel and for a startup.  A majority of the
tools we use (Quartus, Modelsim in particular) only support 32bit (and very
old at that).  The companies developing these tools are all too happy to
ONLY support Redhat Enterprise 6 (and barely RHEL 7), and so far refuse to
budge.  A wide variety of our customer base prefer Ubuntu and have their
infrastructure geared towards this, so I have had to be very creative in
getting everything working for them (adding 32bit support, swapping out the
linker that ships with these tools, etc). If Ubuntu drops i386 all
together, this can have a major impact on the whole FPGAaaS model.

Outside of that, I also have a large collection of older software (games
mainly) that are still fun, but also 32bit only.  Dropping i386 would
render them entirely useless, or force people away from Ubuntu.

The real issue is the costs of maintainership.  I know for a fact that
Ubuntu uses automation for everything in disposable VMs, so the overhead is
minimal (far less than ArmHF or Armel).  That leaves the FTBFS issues,
which if it is in Universe and obscure (Haskell), can safely be ignored or
reported upstream.  Main should be very well supported on all architectures
the packages upstream were designed for, so that should minimize issues.
This leaves image and installer testing.  My vote is to drop the images
(except core as it is very useful for embedded projects which Intel still
sells 32bit only chips for IoT.  This at least keeps Ubuntu as a prime
development environment for these devices.

This is just my opinion based on what I see in the market outside of
desktops, and not representative of the companies I work for.

Tobin Davis

On Sat, May 12, 2018 at 8:31 AM, Dimitri John Ledkov <xnox at>

> On 11 May 2018 at 16:32, Fiedler Roman <Roman.Fiedler at> wrote:
> >
> > > Von: ubuntu-devel [mailto:ubuntu-devel-bounces at] Im
> > >
> > > Hello,
> > >
> > > Less and less non-amd64-compatible i386 hardware is available for
> > > consumers to buy today from anything but computer part recycling
> centers.
> > > The last of these machines were manufactured over a decade ago, and
> > > support from an increasing number of upstream projects has ended. ...
> > >
> > > ...
> >  >
> > > We still have a relatively high number if i386 downloads but that
> doesn't
> > > mean users machines are not capable of amd64. For the flavors remaining
> > > today on i386 here are some i386 to amd64 ratios for 18.04:
> > >
> > > Lubuntu cdimage - 0.87
> > > Lubuntu tracker - 0.64
> > > ...
> >
> > This decision is not only about numbers, but somehow also about ethics.
> The number of e.g. wheel-chair users or other disabled persons might not be
> relevant for a society/economy in terms of numbers. But we honor the value
> of freedom, also for those, who are not that well off than we are. Those
> would not be able to participate in the same way, if we would not assist
> them by providing support for that minority.
> >
> > So for the i386 discussion, there might be only two distinct groups of
> users worth considering:
> >
> > a) Those, who cannot afford newer systems due to economical reasons.
> >
> > b) Those, who do not want to consume more resources due to ethical
> considerations (that's the one for me): how many people could fed or how
> much CO2 prevented, if all systems were some percent smaller on disk/RAM,
> including IT-system production and operation related resource usage?
> Wasting resources is also about freedom, as we deprive others who cannot
> afford them/fight for them in the same way we can do.
> >
> "Consume more resources" is a bit vague. Environmental impact is
> correlated with performance-per-watt measurements. That improves with
> the newer generation of lithography, better support of newer and more
> efficient instruction sets, ability to dynamically clock-down cpu
> cores etc. Thus newer generation CPUs are better performance wise on
> environment front. Depending on how much newer it is, it may even make
> economic sense to upgrade old hardware. Unless one operates complete
> off-grid, on self-harvested renewable energy, e.g.
> An example of this is comparing Intel Core Duo (65nm litography) as
> used in the last 32bit only Macbook from 2006 with the MacBook Retina
> (14nm) from 2015 about 10 years gap. The same number of cores, with
> comparable maximum frequency, Yet Thermal Design Power went down from
> 31W to 4.5 W (turbo 6W, low 3.5W, target average 4.5W). Dissipated
> heat is a proxy measurement for environmental impact. And the fact
> that later models are now fan-less, indicates better thermal dynamics,
> less power consumption, and overall nicer for the environment.
> I beat myself up a bit for still using a 22nm Ivy Bridge CPU with TDP
> of 77W, when I can get a new tower for less than 300 quid, which would
> come with a 14nm processor and TDP of just 35W. Electric saving alone
> for me would be at least 40 quid per annum.
> I have at least migrated my always-on servers to ARM64.
> HDDs consume more energy than SSDs; similarly newer (faster
> clock/dynamicly clocked, and operating at a lower voltage / amps) RAM
> consume less energy. If newer platforms were not more power efficient,
> we would not see public clouds / datacentres upgrading their platforms
> as aggressively as they do.
> The question comes down to, that some users simply cannot afford any
> upgrades at all. That makes me feel sad, and it is an indicator of
> poverty to me. I hope such users have access to and are better served
> by mobile phones / tablets with ARM processors for basic computing,
> information and communication needs. But I also fear that such users
> cannot afford to download security updates and choose to spend their
> MBs on downloading web pages and communicating instead.
> Doing a brief search in the UK there appear to be charities /
> sponsored schemes for affordable computing
> and for around 100 quid one can get multi-core 64-bit based, 3GB of
> RAM desktops, laptops, netbooks. See for example
> . I do not see it as prohibitively
> unattainable, but I do guess this is still a luxury and not the case
> for many other countries around the world.
> --
> Regards,
> Dimitri.
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