Retiring the sparc32 Debian port... or not?

According to Jurij Smakov's announcement, the Debian port for 32bit SPARC machines is about to be retired.

This is really sad in my opinion, as we should rather support more architectures instead of less architectures. After all, Debian is "The Universal Operating System" [1].

Now, I know that my opinion doesn't matter much in this case, but many other people who own sparc32 boxes seem to feel the same, judging from the thread which was started by the announcement.

Also, I do realize that nobody wants to retire the port just for fun. To my understanding there is one major problem which needs to be sorted out in order to "save" the sparc32 support in Debian (and also in Linux!):

There is no Linux kernel maintainer for the sparc32 Linux code at the moment!

This seems to be the root of the whole problem. It makes maintaining a Debian port for sparc32 really hard, as you can surely imagine. Also, there seem to be too few people who actively work on the surrounding toolchain stuff (gcc, binutils, etc) which is also very important.

My suggestion would be to not drop the Debian support for now, but rather set the status to "needs help" or something and actively search for contributors and/or maintainers. Heck, list it on Unmaintained Free Software, or write a "call for help" Slashdot article, post the issue on all Linux-/Debian-/SPARC-related mailing lists etc. etc. (or write funny blog posts, heh).

I guess if two or three experienced SPARC developers would step up and take care of the kernel and toolchain maintenance for sparc32, there would be no reason to drop it anytime soon.



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sparc32 usage?

For the most part, most sparc32 machines should be retired.
So this is all the non-ultra suns. Ex: Sparc 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20.

Non-profit organizations realized at least 4 years ago that those machines are just to expensive to run.

How much longer?

It is long known that noone seems to be interested in maintaining sparc32 specific code in the kernel or toolchain anymore. Don't sound like this was a secret. People who would be able to support it and are involved in that part of development know about that sparc32 is on the downside since quite some months. Noone stepped up in that time, so the mail to debian-devel-announce is not a surprise, it is a long standing issue and just the final conclusion after a long search.

There is always also the chance that people who think it would be a good idea to continue it _invest_ into the future of the port. If enough people are willing to support the onward development for sparc32 propably someone capable might get hired to do it. If you are looking for Free Software as in Free Beer it's not your call how it tastes.

Let it go

If Slashdot would accept random calls for volunteers, it would sink even lower. Also, Linux and Debian-related lists shouldn't all be spammed just for sparc32. Discussing the issue on SPARC mailing lists seems a bit obvious and was probably already done.