Fedora Dropping Official PowerPC Support

by Ostatic Staff - May. 10, 2010

Fedora 13 will bring a lot of interesting new features when it's released in late May, but also interesting is what's going to be missing. For example, official support for PowerPC. So what happens now, and what's the right thing to do for users on niche platforms?

PowerPC has never been a major platform for Linux, but it had a loyal following when Apple was still selling PowerPC-based systems. Fedora was one of the last hold-outs for PowerPC, along with Debian. openSUSE continued support for PowerPC up until the 11.2 release that came out last fall. Sony's decision to remove Linux support from the PS3 probably had some effect on this, now that no mainstream companies are selling client systems based on PowerPC.

Though some PPC users get up in arms about the change, it's simply not worth it for a community distribution to officially support platforms that only have a tiny fraction of the user base. And the community response often bears out the decision. Though the openSUSE community was welcome to pick up and maintain the distribution, to this date it hasn't happened. There simply aren't enough users to carry the load.

Fedora will also allow the community to pick up PowerPC support if enough users care to do so. It's been moved to their secondary architectures for Fedora. What does that mean? In short, the build systems for Fedora will create packages for each platform, but if builds fail for the primary architectures, it's considered fatal. They can't be put in the repository if they don't work. If there are any other bugs that affect the platform, it holds up release.

For secondary architectures, build failures and bugs won't stop a release. They are released independently of the main project.

Fedora's SIG (special interest group) way of handling niche architectures is a good one. It allows parts of the community to focus on areas that don't make sense for the larger project. And supporting PowerPC at this point doesn't make sense for any Linux distribution, really. It hits less than 1% of the user base. Most projects have more work than hands as-is. In most cases, time spent supporting an architecture or package that doesn't reach even 1% of the user base is wasted time.

It's not the end of the road for PowerPC on Linux in total, though. There's still Yellow Dog Linux, and Debian, but the options for PowerPC are thinning.