Debian: No longer a “Universal” operating system

The Debian project has removed support for the MIPS architecture. This is the latest CPU architecture to be removed from Debian, betraying their tagline of being “The Universal Operating System”.

I take issue not only with their removal of the MIPS architecture, but of their reasoning for doing it.

The removal was […] because the architecture is one of the last big-endian architecture Debian supports
Paul Wise, Debian Announcement

For a project that claims to be a “Universal” operating system, this is a disgrace. As I’ve noted time and again, modern POWER systems support both endians. Since then, more and more 64-bit ARM chips are also gaining big endian support, such as the Banana Pi and PINE64. The Debian announcement even notes that modern MIPS chips can switch endianness at runtime.

It saddens me to see Debian falling behind the curve of technology, as we move towards computers which can use whatever endianness is appropriate for the situation. If you are personally affected by this removal, as I am, your only option right now is to use Gentoo or FreeBSD. Since Adélie and Void both support big-endian PowerPC, I am hopeful that both distros will work to support MIPS as well.

9 thoughts on “Debian: No longer a “Universal” operating system”

  1. And after this rant of yours, what is Debian supposed to do? Keep a dead-in-the-water architecture that no one wants to maintain, and that increases complexity of the project packaging system? One month later and nobody step to keep MIPS.

    Second detail here is that, you seem to not understand processor architectures at all. It’s cristal clear that they are dropping support to “32-bit big-endian MIPS CPUs”, not to big-endian PowerPC.

    Third. Did you know Linux, starting from 3.8 dropped support to i386 too(80386 processors basically)? Does that makes all distributions less universal? And, here is the funny fact: Linus did this to reduce complexity, same way Debian is doing to decrease complexity to all remaining MIPS variants.

    You are calling Debian “not universal anymore” and mixing these subjects to reinforce your theory:
    – ARM related boards mixing subjects with endianess
    – Interexchanging MIPS and PowerPC info that are not related AT ALL.
    – Linking distros or FreeBSD, and they support less architectures than Debian, or don’t even support MIPS.

    Congratulations. You just got your clickbait title onto Lobste. rs(which lead me here)…


    1. I mentioned PowerPC and ARM because they have also had their big endian ports dropped from Debian, and that if they had actually accepted my contributions to the big endian PowerPC port, perhaps they wouldn’t have had so many issues with their big-endian MIPS port.

      My theory that it is no longer a “Universal” OS is supported by the points I made in my article.


      1. Maybe i’m missing some knowledge but, it’s not clear how you co-relate your supposed contributions with big endian PowerPC port(citation needed, lacking references) and how they would eventually save big-endian 32 bit MIPS from deprecation caused by the problems Debian is facing today.

        If some architecture isn’t actively used/maintained by it’s users, it will get ripped off anyway, and that is what happened with that specific MIPS 32-bit, not the entire MIPS architecture.

        Other thing: 32-bit big-endian. This is the problem, not the isolated fact of being “big-endian”.


  2. Their non-redacted reason for doing it:
    The removal was due to the limited 2GB virtual address space and because
    the architecture is one of the last big-endian architecture Debian
    supports, the porting effort became increasingly difficult.


  3. In your post, I’m failing to see what the fuzz is about:
    1) as mentioned, most mips support both endian systems, so why not migrating to
    mipsel as suggested by the debian developers ?

    2) debian is non-profit, and you do not pay for using it. The proper way to respond
    is not complaining but contributing. You could step up and agree to “take care”
    and provide “hardware for the build daemon”

    My experience with debian (I’m a user, and some of my software is packaged in debian) is that the package manager are quite responsive.


    1. I tried to “step up and take care” of the 64-bit PowerPC port, too, even offering a 64-thread POWER9 build box. Nobody was interested. It’s hard to gain traction in the Debian community if you aren’t already a Debian developer, and my life is too full of other libre work to play their games.

      After continually losing my battles with trying to *contribute* to Debian, all that is left is for me to lament what they once were to what they are now.


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