64-bit - is it worth it?

Stuart Jansen sjansen at buscaluz.org
Sat Apr 19 13:29:42 MDT 2008

On Sat, 2008-04-19 at 09:56 -0600, Hans Fugal wrote:
> I know many of you have been riding the 64-bit wave for some time now. 
> What are the remaining pitfalls? Will I be constantly fighting with 
> software to get it to run?

That depends on what you want to do. 

First, reasons to go 64:

1) You have more than 3GB of RAM. (Because of the way the Linux kernel
manages memory, the cut off is actually 3GB, not the widely quoted 4GB.)
2) You want to use one of those rare programs that are 64bit only.
3) You believe the rumors of improved performance. (My work has never
given me reason to confirm or discredit this claim.)
4) You want the cool points.

Now reasons not to go 64:

1) You have so little RAM the increased word size is actually
2) You have so little HD space the increased file sizes are actually
3) You use software that has to be compiled from source, only works with
32bit libraries, and has a brain dead build system so frightening you'd
rather have a root canal than teach it to build 32bit code on a 64bit
OS. (This happened to me a couple years ago, but should be pretty rare
by now.)
4) You already have enough cool points.

That's it. Really. The reasons to avoid 64bit installs are really that
lame these days. Of course, the reasons to go 64bit aren't all that
compelling yet either.

(Unless you plan on making heavy use of virtualization. Having >3GB RAM
is pretty handy when you need to run multiple VMs at the same time. And
yes, I'm aware of PAE but its downside is so steep that with cheap 64bit
chips available I no longer consider it a valid solution.)

That said, I've personally found it easier to use 64bit Fedora or SUSE
than Ubuntu or Debian. Fedora and SUSE have been multilib (no 32bit
chroot) for years . Debian's decision to go pure 64 (32bit in chroot)
used to make running 64bit Ubuntu more of a hassle. But that was years
ago. I've been running 64bit Ubuntu 710 since January and so far I've
had zero complaints.

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