13 years ago I switched from 32-bit Solaris to 64-bit and everything just worked. So when I installed Ubuntu 7.10 on my home PC I never considered installing anything except the "best" 64-bit version. As I noted, most things work, even if you have to beat the package manager into submission, insisting that 64-bit x86 is upwards compatible with 32-bit x86. But you have to be really careful with that –force-architecture flag because Linux doesn’t seem to allow multiple versions of system libraries, and if you overwrite a critical library routine with an incompatible version, you’re hosed.
It turns out that amd64 compatibility on Linux has long been a hot topic, leading some people to debate the merits of falling back to 32-bit Linux. Flash player won’t work. Java browser plugin and web start won’t work. (I’m embarrassed by that one!) My VPN client software won’t work. As someone commented about flash on a discussion forum:
Stop saying something is available on Linux when what you mean is that it is available on Linux, with Intel processor, in 32-bit mode.
But wait, isn’t open source supposed to remove all compatibility issues? Well, after compiling a lot of packages I’d add to the advice above, please say if you mean it works on Red Hat distro only, or if you mean kernel 2.6.9 or later, or if you mean uni-processor only.
I found a great workaround for flash. Simply install the Windows version of Firefox using wine. On Ubuntu 7.10 I didn’t even have to use the command line instructions listed in the howto. The installer just made a desktop icon for me, which I renamed from "Firefox" to "Windows Firefox" and I just click it to run. I haven’t yet found a workaround for the Java plugin, which prevents me from using many web applications like WebEx.
Like flash, the VPN software is proprietary closed source code, so compatibility updates are under sole control of the owner. Using Solaris on the same PC the VPN worked flawlessly. Open source Solaris includes punchin implementing ipsec. So rather than wait for the proprietary VPN vendor to decide amd64 is worthy of their time to do a compilation, I might do better to investigate Linux implementations of ipsec.
So for things I want to use at home, Linux is looking less "open" than Solaris. (See Jim Laurent’s comparison.) But I still love Ubuntu!