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Per the general end-of-life policy, as the 18.04 LTS release of Ubuntu will go out of support five years later in April 2023, questions asked about it afterwards will be closed on sight as off-topic, with the user directed to upgrade to a supported release.

However, I think there's an argument to make that we should continue to allow questions about it even after that date.

One major factor is that this is the last supported version of Ubuntu with a 32-bit release. All newer currently supported official versions are exclusively 64-bit releases. This means that users who are running a 32-bit build will be unable to upgrade to a newer release. This includes the following categories of users:

  • users with 32-bit processors
  • users who've installed a 32-bit build on a 64-bit processor long ago and have generally otherwise been upgrading for support
  • users who'd otherwise install a 64-bit build but are running some software that has compatibility issues with 64-bit builds

It's worth noting that for many years now, Ubuntu has supported PAE, meaning that 32-bit versions can address 64 GiB of RAM instead of only 4 GiB, and a processor supporting PAE has been a required prerequisite to install Ubuntu.

Additionally, some official flavors of Ubuntu, such as Lubuntu, don't support upgrading from 18.04 LTS to newer builds, even on 64-bit releases.

In summary, while it's generally been easy in the past to upgrade from an unsupported release to a supported one, it would be difficult for a lot of users to upgrade from 18.04 LTS to newer versions for the above reasons, and I'd expect a lot of users would continue to use it even after April 2023. Doing so requires at best a complete clean install (for the second bullet above and for flavors that don't support upgrading), and at worst is completely impossible.

Would it be a good idea to make an exception to the normal end-of-life policy for the 18.04 LTS releases of Ubuntu and allow questions about it to be asked even afterwards?

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  • Those who need continued 18.04 'support' can use ESM but they will get limited support. Once a release goes into ESM it is beyond the purview of community support, and we won't have the capacity to assist if the 18.04 repos go into a locked mode. Let me put this another way: if 19.04 - a long dead EOL release - was the last 32-bit supported Ubuntu, would you be making this argument for the 9 month release instead? Because technically speaking, anything that goes End of Life is no longer supportable, regardless of the 32bit/64bit issue
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Jan 30 at 20:28
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    @ThomasWard At the time 19.04 became EOL, 18.04 existed as a supported 32-bit release. On the other hand, when 18.04 becomes EOL, there will be no other supported 32-bit release.
    – gparyani
    Jan 30 at 21:20
  • that's a decision that's beyond you and me. The point of "End of Life" is a device or release is no longer supported. 32bit has been dead in Ubuntu since actually 19.04 - why do we on Ask Ubuntu need to continue supporting hardware which Upstream Ubuntu no longer supports, or to extend this, if a specific product goes end of life why do we need to continue to support it beyond its death date when we can't do things like "suggest updating the software affected" or "install specific software" when the repositories go away?
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Jan 30 at 21:24
  • In your three cases: (1) Users with 32bit processors are required to find an alternative system for their aging hardware - the 32bit OS drop was decided by Canonical and Ubuntu itself, years ago. (2) 32bit build on 64bit OS can still install a new Ubuntu that's 64bit and backup their data first. (3) Software that has compat with 64bit environments is for the most part 'legacy software' nowadays, and that's usually the case of users using software that stopped being developed and is suffering bitrot as well (not in our control)
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Jan 30 at 21:29
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    @ThomasWard Not every question has the answer of "install/update software", and of the ones that do, they can be closed as duplicates of a canonical (the dictionary word, not the company) post. Just because Canonical (the company) says that a certain release is no longer supported doesn't mean that we, as a community, should stop answering questions about it if they still have useful answers today (e.g. a setting needs to be changed, there's a hardware fault, etc.).
    – gparyani
    Jan 30 at 21:35
  • It'd be nice if you linked me to the discussion where EOL releases were determined to be off-topic. I've searched on this and found prior discussions which conclude that such questions should be on-topic, and the policy linked from EOL announcements is simply a clarification that that doesn't include paid extended support from Canonical.
    – gparyani
    Jan 30 at 21:37
  • That decision came LONG AGO before I was even here. I don't have that original decision, because I believe that was created back when Ask Ubuntu was created during design/proposal, and wasn't a meta decision. HOWEVER, there have been requests to drop the EOL thing in the past and it was not received well by the community.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Jan 30 at 22:02
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    @ThomasWard That's strange, because I'm finding past discussions from after you registered here that have highly-voted answers that state that EOL Ubuntu releases should still be allowed here. I was wondering if something changed from the time of those past discussions, which is why I asked for a newer discussion.
    – gparyani
    Jan 30 at 23:09
  • Hey @gparyani ! Welcome to AU meta. I would like to thank you for bringing up this topic. Changing the off-topic policy in AU is quite a sensitive thing IMO (according to personal experience). Everyone has their opinion regarding this and this causes (or has already caused) conflicts. I suggest you to go through these links: meta.askubuntu.com/q/19510, meta.askubuntu.com/q/19616, chat.stackexchange.com/search?q=EoL&room=201, meta.askubuntu.com/q/19689, etc. Feel free to ping me in Island of castaway thoughts chatroom to talk to me about the policy issues. Jan 31 at 18:29
  • Why should we provide community support on an operating system that doesn't get security updates? I don't find it to be relevant that this is the last release that supports 32-bit hardware. The whole idea of ending support is that support is ending... If people want to continue to use 18.04 on ESM, they can, and ESM has its own support options. Otherwise, there will be no community supported versions of Ubuntu for 32-bit only hardware once 18.04 reaches end of support. People will use ESM or another distro. There's no logical reason why we should make an exception here.
    – Nmath
    Feb 1 at 23:02
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    @ThomasWard (first comment): "Once a release goes into ESM it is beyond the purview of community support" - Nothing is ever beyond the purview of community support. Just because Canonical wants to EOL something doesn't mean we have to stop helping users who can't upgrade for some reason.
    – Vikki
    Feb 27 at 7:22
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    @Nmath: "Otherwise, there will be no community supported versions of Ubuntu for 32-bit only hardware once 18.04 reaches end of support" - Only if we decide for some reason that Canonical no longer officially supporting 18.04 somehow means that we have to stop providing community support for it. "Why should we provide community support on an operating system that doesn't get security updates?" - The beauty of having a FOSS operating system is that you can write your own security updates (or ask someone more-technically-inclined to do so), even if the original vendor won't anymore.
    – Vikki
    Feb 27 at 7:25

1 Answer 1

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I don't think we should make an exception. Here's why:

  • It's a hassle. If Canonical is no longer supporting 18.04, those systems won't get updates, and downloading packages will be harder, as the system is EoSS. General maintenance will be difficult, as package authors will stop supporting EoSS releases (because, you know, they're EoSS). Also, there won't be security updates for old releases which is bad.
  • I believe that if someone really needs/wants to use a 32-bit system, they're better off using the 32-bit version of Debian than an EoSS Ubuntu release. Ubuntu is based on Debian, and while some things are different (networking, for one), given that they are simaler in a bunch of ways (package management, basic command line tools, etc.), I think users that have a 32-bit system will be better off with Debian because it will still get updates and is supported (although those questions belong on Unix SE, not here).
  • Those questions aren't helpful. They're mostly only useful to the OP, and maybe a few future visitors. Instead, I think we should have a canonical question (or several) that answers things like the following. I've added a sample answer. I think that would be more useful to more people, and would be a good alternative to supporting an EoSS release.
    • Q: Software XYZ only runs on a 32 bit system, but I want to use a 64-bit OS for support

      A: ...

    • Q: I have a 32-bit CPU, but I like Ubuntu. What should I do?

      A: Sorry, if you use Ubuntu you won't get security updates, and PPAs won't support your old release. Consider using 32-bit Debian instead.

    • Q: I have a 64-bit CPU, but a 32-bit release. How can I update to a supported 64-bit release while keeping my files?

      A: ...

So, I don't think we should support EoSS releases, even if it means we won't help people with 32-bit systems. A canonical question (or several) about what to do if you have a 32-bit system might be good (although that's a separate discussion).

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  • cocomac, I am not sure if EoL is the appropriate term in your post. EoSS might be the appropriate term. Please check this: meta.askubuntu.com/q/19658. Jan 31 at 18:52
  • @RandomPerson Oops, you're correct. I didn't know that term existed, but I've edited my answer. Thanks!
    – cocomac
    Jan 31 at 20:13
  • "Also, there won't be security updates for old releases which is bad" - for a FOSS OS like Ubuntu, "no OEM-provided security updates" ≠ "no security updates".
    – Vikki
    Mar 22 at 2:10

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