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Debian Project holds Sparc port's hand, switches off life support

No more support for bedridden Sun hardware going forward

Following years of waning popularity, the Debian GNU/Linux Project has dropped support for the Sparc architecture, effective immediately.

"As Sparc isn't exactly the most alive architecture anymore," Debian maintainer Joerg Jaspert wrote in a mailing list post last week, "not in [Debian 8.x] jessie and unlikely to be in [Debian 9] stretch, I am going to remove it from the archive this weekend."

Sure enough, come Monday, Japsert had scrubbed the Sparc code from the Debian "unstable," "experimental," and "jesse-upgrades" source code trees, in addition to a couple of other trees that are used for internal support.

"The relevant parts of the dists/tree have been cleaned out already, removing the actual files from the pool/hierarchy will happen using the usual automagical stuff ... so starting in about 1.5 days and then spread out a bit over the following [archive-update] runs," Jaspert wrote.

Before the code's removal, Debian could be built to run on Sun-4u (UltraSparc) and Sun-4v (Niagara processor) machines, using a 64-bit kernel with most userland applications running as 32-bit.

The move puts lovers of aging Sun Microsystems hardware in a bit of a lurch, as Debian was one of the few remaining Linux distributions to still support the older Sparc architecture.

Red Hat dropped Sparc support in version 7 of its eponymous Linux in 2000 – back in the days before it was calling it Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Suse dropped support around 2002, and while Ubuntu had a Sparc version as recently as 2010, it hasn't been actively maintained since.

The Sparc code won't be removed from already-released versions of Debian, so those versions should continue to power aging Sun servers, even as the code gathers dust.

Jaspert added that removing the old Sparc code "does not block it coming back as Sparc64," meaning only the newer Sparc processors would be supported. For that to happen, though, someone would have to step up to maintain it, and there doesn't seem to be anyone who's champing at the bit. ®

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