Fedora no longer builds kernels for 32-bit x86

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The upcoming version 31 of the Linux distribution Fedora will no longer contain a kernel intended for the 32-bit variant of the x86 architecture. This was decided unanimously by the technical management committee of the distribution (Fesco). Installation images intended for this architecture will no longer be generated by Fedora.

This procedure is not new. For example, the commercial Linux distributors Red Hat and Suse have already decided against creating kernel variants for this obsolete architecture. The direct consequence of this decision is that the kernel and thus the entire distribution will no longer run on pure 32-bit x86 CPUs. These chips have not been sold for about ten years. 64-bit x86 CPUs have been around for about 15 years.

However, the support for running 32-bit programs on this kernel remains the same as with the other distributions. In addition, the decision taken so far provides for the maintenance of packages for the 32-bit x86 architecture in a separate repository. So Fedora users could upgrade to the next version, but would continue to use their outdated kernel.

A more far-reaching proposal is also to stop building packages for the architecture and to stop maintaining the above 32-bit repositories for Fedora 31. As an upgrade, users of the 32-bit version of Fedora would then only have to reinstall the 64-bit version. But even in this case, the support for running some 32-bit applications would be retained, since the team provides corresponding runtime environments for 64-bit installations within the framework of so-called multilib maintenance.

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Mette Frederiksen is a The Washington Newsday correspondent. With her coverage of general science, NASA and the interface between technology and society, Frederiksen has been in the Science Desk's Technology Beat since joining Washington Newsday in 2018.

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