To 64-bit or not to 64-bit? My thoughts.

So there has been a discussion going on Planet Ubuntu about whether one should run a 64-bit distro on their hardware. As has been expressed, for most users, it doesn't make a difference, except come 2038.

However, if you plan to do any music/audio/video production on Linux, 64-bit is the way to go. The biggest advantage, is being able to make use of much more memory for your video/audio/graphics work. That alone is enough of a reason, however running 64 bit helps in other ways as well, such as being able to use binaries that have CPU optimizations such as sse enabled by default. For 32-bit binaries, while most modern CPUs support these optimizations, the binaries have to be built for the lowest common denominator, that being, machines that may only have sse, and not sse2, or may only have mmx. All x86_64 (64-bit amd/intel) CPUs have had things like sse since their inception, so if the program can take advantage of it, it will.

These optimizations can make a big difference when processing that huge image, or rendering that video clip, or mastering that 24 track audio recording, probably saving you enough time to get that other important thing done that you needed completed yesterday. :)

Submitted by winstoun (not verified) on Tue, 11/27/2007 - 20:02.

Very nice this blog =)

Submitted by TheMuso on Tue, 11/27/2007 - 23:14.

Thanks very much.

Submitted by aleska (not verified) on Wed, 11/28/2007 - 02:49.

I'm curious, do these benefits really only extend to creation of videos, graphics, music, or are they also observed in playback? Does running in 64-bit help performance when the running a video, and having lots of other applications open? Or is that really only something RAM can address? Thanks!

Submitted by TheMuso on Wed, 11/28/2007 - 07:46.

Yes, such CPU optimizations would benefit playback, but likely not as much as creation/processing. As for playing media content, having multiple cores helps more with several apps open, but again, CPU optimizations do help a little.

Submitted by troll (not verified) on Wed, 11/28/2007 - 03:56.

Although Internet media makes just a small part of video, you have to keep in mind that roughly 90% of online videos are Flash. Which is still no-go on 64-bit platforms.

Submitted by TheMuso on Wed, 11/28/2007 - 07:48.

Yes, but I'm not talking about viewing video from the net, which is likely compressed down so much that it requires barely any resources compared to watching a high definition video in your player of choice.

And, there are solutions to using flash on 64-bit, such as gnash for YouTube for a start, and then there are ways of running 32-bit flash on 64-bit, so 64-bit is not entirely no go.

Submitted by Thomas (not verified) on Wed, 11/28/2007 - 20:51.

I think the way forward is backward compatibility, just like any other system does it. 32bit libraries go in lib and lib32, and 64bit libraries are out of the way in lib64. Of course this is very different from the current "pure 64" approach, so much so that it may be easier to start the migration from scratch with the 32bit version. (The current work would not be lost, because all the bug fixes are in the source code.)

Without this compatibility, the pure 64 approach will never be suitable for main stream. People want compatibility, and they want an upgrade path. Without these, the casual user will always go with the easy option, and that means 32bit Ubuntu.

Submitted by jim (not verified) on Thu, 11/29/2007 - 15:34.

After playing around with 64 bit for a while, I finally reinstalled it on my desktop. I haven't done any transcoding yet but was wondering if it would also be faster. I like thoggen, for example, but it's REALLY slow. I also use avidemux. Would these kinds of apps also see a speed increase? Thanks.

Submitted by TheMuso on Thu, 11/29/2007 - 16:50.

I'd say so, yes.

Submitted by wow gold (not verified) on Sat, 10/11/2008 - 20:57.

Well, AMD's cleaning up its 32-bit product line, so even if there's no real performance gain right now in running a 64-bit OS, you'll have the benefit of upgrading easily once you can really get better performance.

My advice, go for either a Gigabyte or an Asus motherboard, just make sure you choose one with an nForce-4 chipset and Socket 939, that should make you future-proof, at least for the next 3-4 years.

I'm running Gentoo on my AMD64 box, and it works just fine, except for some 32-bit compatibility issues, like wine and Win32 codecs, but other than that, it's just perfect.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 05/07/2009 - 11:43.

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