If these 64-bit systems are going to use wrappers and other tricks to maintain compatibility with vendors unwilling to support the platform, is there any point to having it?
Perhaps deep inside many developers and tech enthusiasts there is a little sadist that enjoys frivolous installations. Or maybe the attention span of those developers is so low they constantly need to be entertained by new things as they remain on the bleeding edge.
Whatever the exact reasoning, my entertainment for the weekend was a Vista installation on an AMD64. I have real issues installing 32-bit operating systems on 64-bit machines, so the only choice was the x64 Ultimate version of Vista.
Installation proceeded swimmingly, although Windows still loves to overwrite any MBR that it can get its hands on — this means that a LiveCD needs to be within reach to setup grub again.
On this installation I am greeted by Aero and all the advertised eye candy — I'm using a supported video card this time — things are looking grand indeed.
It was time to take OneCare for a spin, but OneCare had other opinions. Microsoft cannot give anti-virus support for 64-bit Vista, a surprising turn of events. The hitherto trusty AVG anti-virus also fails to install on 64-bit, but fortunately Google points me in the direction of an anti-virus solution.
The browser experience on the other hand was easy. Flash had no problems, even Java installed with minimal fuss — it was far too easy. Murphy's law kicked in when I discovered that buried amongst the "All Programs" menu was an "Internet Explorer" entry and an "Internet Explorer (64-bit)" entry.
I had been duped! The entire time I was using a 32-bit browser, that's why the plugins had no issues.
In a conversation I had with Adobe last year, I was told that 64-bit versions of Flash were rather low on their priorities list and that there was minimal demand for it.
If Vista's IE version is running in 32-bit mode then there will be no demand from Windows users for a proper 64-bit version of Flash, leaving the only people without Flash as those on 64-bit Linux right?
Not everything is as it seems, because that same day with Flash 9 and a new version of ndiswrapper, I now have Flash on AMD64 Gentoo.
Which leaves me faced with quite a conundrum. If these so-called 64-bit systems are going to use wrappers and other tricks to maintain compatibility with vendors unwilling to support the platform, is there any point to having it?
From a pragmatic point of view I would have to say no. It's just too much effort trying to get around the problems that one has, especially with Windows programs at the moment.
Although it does provide an interesting viewpoint to see which vendors are actually innovative and which ones will only move once they are pushed.