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Somehow, 32 in 64 doesn’t go…

So I’m sitting at SFO waiting for my flight to Singapore and jdub reminds me that it’s not much of a blog if it doesn’t contain anything.

We released version 5.0 of VMware Workstation back in April, and it’s been getting quite a bit of indirect publicity as of late thanks to the whole OSX-in-a-VM thing that’s been going on lately; no complaints there. Well, another thing that’s been going on lately is that lots of people are getting 64bit systems and running 64bit distros on them.

Great, you say.

Not so great if you’re a non-trivial 32bit app, like Workstation is. It’s been a rather depressing experience to see the catalog of inequities that 32bit apps suffer from, despite claims of proper 32bit support:

  • Charset conversion faliure: This one seems to affect every single 64bit distro I’ve seen workstation run on. Maybe it’s something silly that we’re doing, but I can’t really see how. Unless you’re running in ‘C’ or a UTF8 locale, you get a bunch of warnings explaining how glibc couldn’t convert from UTF8 to your current locale’s charset. I never see any obvious problem; it seems that 32bit gconv libraries are present, but it definitely isn’t happy.
  • Themes: Pretty obvious what can go wrong here – no 32bit theme engine for the current theme. Can you say ugly?
  • fc4 and librsvg: Now, librsvg and the svg gdkpixbuf loader are pretty core components these days, yet fc4 doesn’t include a 32bit librsvg anymore – although I guess you can probably get away with using the fc3 package or one from the 32bit build of the distro.
  • SuSE 9.3 and dbus: Well, they were nice enough to include 32bit versions of libdbus, libhal and libdbus-qt but what about libdbus-glib. Not a trace. So, if you’re a 32bit gtk app that wants to register a dbus connection with the glib main loop…

And although it’s a largely historical matter now, I was always impressed that the first 64bit RedHat distro shared the /etc/gtk-2.0 between the 32 and 64bit libs, resulting in 32bit apps trying, and failing, to use the 64bit theme engines and pixbuf loaders.

I’m not particularly surprised, but it’s pretty clear that the testing done for 32bit compatibility is pretty narrow, and I would expect that it’s limited to making sure that 32bit firefox works (good old flash…) Any app with more extensive dependencies is going to be in trouble.

I’m sure you can guess what’s become a rather high priority for us.