Ubuntu is dropping i386 support and WINE developers are irked

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As of version 19.10, Ubuntu will no longer support i386. With the arrival of Eoan Ermine, Ubuntu is severing 32-bit ties, and some developers are concerned.

The move is not entirely unexpected. The Ubuntu developers had previously said it would make an i386 decision in the middle of 2019. That time having rolled around, the Ubuntu engineering team says that it "has reviewed the facts before us and concluded that we should not continue to carry i386 forward as an architecture". WINE developers are among those unhappy with the decision.

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In an announcement on the Ubuntu blog, Will Cooke points out that "in light of the strong possibility that we might not include i386 as a release architecture in 20.04 LTS, we took the proactive step to disable upgrades from 18.04 to 18.10 for i386 systems, to avoid accidentally stranding users on an interim release with 9 months of support instead of letting them continue to run Ubuntu 18.04 LTS with its 5 years of standard support".

But the big news here is that "i386 will not be included as an architecture for the 19.10 release, and we will shortly begin the process of disabling it for the eoan series across Ubuntu infrastructure".

Cooke goes on to say:

While this means we will not provide 32-bit builds of new upstream versions of libraries, there are a number of ways that 32-bit applications can continue to be made available to users of later Ubuntu releases, as detailed here. We will be working to polish the 32-bit support story over the course of the 19.10 development cycle.

While the i386 architecture is something of a relic, there are many who are unhappy with Ubuntu's decision. Vincent Povirk of CodeWeavers says:

In practice, the only cases where 64-bit only wine will be useful are when 64-bit applications are packaged some other way (such as a .zip, Steam Play, or packaging specifically for Wine) or for running Wine builtins like msidb.

While Snaps have been pushed as something of a solution, it has been dismissed as being little more than temporary.

There is a robust discussion of the matter taking place on the WINE developer mailing list.

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