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Gamers Spoke And Canonical Listened, 32-Bit Support For Ubuntu Linux Returns

Most of the world might be running Windows for the operating system on PCs, but there is a healthy contingent of folks who prefer Ubuntu Linux made by Canonical. Dell unveiled new workstations in May that run Ubuntu Linux specifically for that community. Canonical didn't make gamers happy when it announced that it would end support for 32-bit applications starting with the next release. Valve also announced that it was dropping support for Ubuntu in Steam.

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The gaming community rallied against Canonical's decision to end support for 32-bit applications with enough vigor that Canonical has reversed its decision. It has decided to support select 32-bit i386 packages for Ubuntu version 19.10 and 20.04 LTS. When there is a specific need, Canonical has promised to enable support for the applications.

Canonical has stated that it will work with WINE, Ubuntu Studio, and gaming communities to address the end of life for 32-bit libraries using container technology. Valve engineer Pierre-Loup Griffais said in a tweet that Valve would be looking at options "to minimize breakage for existing users, but switch the focus to a different distribution, currently [to be determined]."

Canonical has said that Snaps and LXD enable complete 32-bit environments and bundled libraries to solve the issues in the long term. Canonical did state on its Ubuntu blog that there is "real risk" to anyone who uses software that gets little testing. It writes that most 32-bit x86 packages "are hardly used at all."

That means there are more bugs and fewer eyeballs looking at the software. It also points out that the motivation to drop 32-bit support was due to the Spectre and Meltdown attacks being unavailable to 32-bit systems. Those mitigations did leave some Ubuntu machines unable to boot. That is what led it to stop creating Ubuntu install media for i386 last year and to consider dropping the port altogether at a future date.

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