64-bit vs. i386 and Ubuntu vs. Kubuntu CDs

EDIT: Søren points out that the server CDs are in fact 64 bit. However I think the point made below is still valid for the desktop CDs.

There were a few comments to my latest blog post about the lack of 64-bit CDs in the LoCo CD box, and the reduced number of Kubuntu CDs compared to the number of Ubuntu CDs.

I don’t agree with this critique. As I see it, the CDs are for handing out and passing on to people who are completely new to the Linux / (K)Ubuntu game. These people don’t necessarily know what hardware is in their computer and a question like “Do you have at 64 bit processor?” won’t make sense to them. Worst case scenario the question will make the user feel stupid (not a good starting point for a great user experience with the new software) or the user will answer incorrectly, and will end up with a CD that doesn’t work with their hardware.
Sure, support for huge amounts of ram is nice, but I still think it is rare that the average user has and needs this (yet). And the user who does need it will be aware of the difficulties, and know to either ask the person who hands out the CD or do the research of how to get 64 bit support.

As to the number of Kubuntu vs. Ubuntu CDs I know this is a issue that a lot of people feel very strongly about. But the fact is that the average user who has never used anything else than Microsoft Windows doesn’t know the difference between Gnome and KDE (or the difference between Thunderbird and Evolution or the difference between Emacs and Vi…). The big strength of FOSS is the choices. But that is also one of the weaknesses. When you come along as a new user you are in no way qualified to make the choice between several different software packages, if you have no idea what the differences is. So you need someone else to make that choice for you. And if you find out you prefer another program than the one installed by default, the solution is often not further away than Synaptic or a link on the web: install kubuntu-desktop
(This link installs kde on a Ubuntu system. If I remember correctly it needs to fetch 100MB or more and will make KDE your default desktop environment. If you don’t know what that means, you don’t need to do it.)

That is why I think it is fine that Canonical has chosen to ship more plain Ubuntu CDs than Kubuntu and no 64-bit CDs at all. It limits the number of choices that the use can’t be expected to make anyway. And if you are well informed enough to make the choice you should also be expected to know what to do to get the system you want.

BOINC 64 bit

I have been playing around with BOINC the last couple of days. It took me some time to figure out a couple of things though.

My laptop runs 64 bit which can be a problem with some of the projects using Boinc. Einstein@Home (as well as many other projects) doesn’t support 64 bit. So with a standard install I would get error messages looking like this one:

Message from server: platform 'x86_64-pc-linux-gnu' not found

There is (as always) a fix – this should work in general, but I have for obvious reasons only tried it on my own Ubuntu laptop. First you need to be able to run 32 bit applications. This is done by installing ia32 libraries:

sudo aptitude install ia32-libs

Then you have to tell the Boinc client to request work as if it was a 32 bit pc. This is done by shutting down the boinc client

sudo /etc/init.d/boinc-client stop

and then, in the file /var/lib/boinc-client/client_state.xml replacing the line


with this one:


and start the Boinc client again

sudo /etc/init.d/boinc-client start

Another option is to put your 64 bit processor to use and work on some of the projects that actually support 64 bit…
Here is a list of projects supposed to have native 64 bit applications (I have only tried ABC@home my self):

Of course the two options above does kind of exclude each other. I have not found a way to report one platform to some projects and another platform to others. It would seem nice with a ‘fallback’ platform to be reported if the x86_64 fails, but maybe that will come in the future. On the other hand it seems like a good idea to use only optimized applications on 64 bit hardware. The last approach is the one I’m using currently.
You can see my progress here: