In the wake of analyst Andrew Garcia's Windows 7 64-bit migration woes, Labs' Jason Brooks considers the bumps he's encountered on his own journey to 64-bit on the Ubuntu Linux machines he runs at home and work.
My fellow Labs analyst Andrew Garcia has chronicled his Windows 7 64-bit migration woes
tale that led me to consider the bumps I've encountered on my own road
to 64-bit on the Ubuntu Linux machines I run at home and work.
The issues that bedeviled Andrew-missing drivers and a 32-bit-only
Cisco VPN client-weren't a problem for me, due largely to the fact that
Linux-based operating systems tend to insulate users from a lot of the
OS, driver and application integration work required to run a Windows
All of the drivers I need for my machines either come bundled with
the Ubuntu install disk or sit waiting to be fetched and installed from
Ubuntu's networked software repositories. Most of these drivers are
maintained within the Linux kernel project-an organizational structure
that's helped to smooth the 64-bit migration path.
What's more, Linux has a rather long history with the x86-64 architecture. The first x86-64 OS that I reviewed was SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 8
, which hit the streets in the first half of 2003, some two years before Microsoft took up the platform
As for Andrew's issues with access to our company's Cisco VPN, a
Cisco VPN client, courtesy of the open-source vpnc project and the TUN
driver that ships as part of the Linux kernel, has been available to
me-out of the box, and complete with a GUI configuration interface-for
the past few years.
Now, before this column turns into an unadulterated Linux-on-x86-64
love fest, I must say that my experience moving to 64-bit hasn't been
trouble-free. The integration work that Linux distributors and upstream
projects take on helps to smooth the path, but those integration
efforts are largely limited to the open source code on my machines.
While open-source applications satisfy most of my computing needs,
there's one proprietary piece of code that I can't manage to do
without: Adobe's Flash player. Adobe doesn't yet offer a stable 64-bit
Flash plug-in, and 64-bit browsers expect to interface with 64-bit
plug-ins. Microsoft works around this architecture mismatch by
presenting Windows x64 users with a 32-bit version of Internet Explorer.
The 64-bit version of Ubuntu 9.04 takes a different route, offering
up a 64-bit version of Firefox along with an unseen helper application
that papers over the architecture mismatch. In the months I've spent
using this cross-architecture combo, however, I've experienced frequent
Flash outages that occur when that little helper app silently crashes
in the background.
Adobe has a 64-bit version of the Flash plug-in in development, and
an alpha version of the plug-in is even available for Linux (and, for
now, only Linux), but installing the plug-in means stepping outside of
the packaging system that keeps Linux system administration easy and
automated. What's more, the time I've spent with the alpha version of
Adobe's plug-in has convinced me that the alpha label is warranted.
Eventually, Adobe will ship a stable version of its 64-bit Flash
plug-in, and the Ubuntu team will drop its flaky helper application.
Then, my Flash experience should improve-that is, with the exception of
the weekly zero-day vulnerabilities that seem to plague the plug-in.
A more satisfying solution, both from a system maintenance and a
security standpoint, would require the rise of an open-source Flash
plug-in. I hope that the work Adobe has begun around its Open Screen
project will eventually mean a Flash plug-in that's just as
well-integrated and up-to-date as the rest of my desktop.
Executive Editor Jason Brooks can be reached at email@example.com.