We can be thankful that some years ago, John "Maddog" Hall convinced DEC to provide an Alpha box to Linus, so many 64-bit issues were solved way back then. Because there have been a continuous stream of (less popular) 64-bit processors which run Linux, the 64-bit code base has matured quite nicely.
This is being written on the currently cheapest of the 64-bit boxes, a 333 MHz Sun Ultra 5, which is running Aurora Linux 1.0 (a port based on RH 7.3 with later kernels and patches). The 64-bit code is mostly limited to kernel space, though, because it adds so little utility on a system which maxes out at 1GB of memory. When I rebuilt apache on our 270 MHz Ultra 5, I compiled it for 64-bit, and it works just fine. The capability to compile 64-bit applications is there, but really there is no advantage for most applications and most users. If one had a Sun 64-bit box that could hold more memory, then perhaps it would be of more beneift.
So hurrah for the 64-bit i86 family processors, which will bring 64-bit processing to the masses. And hurrah for the mainstream 64-bit Linux distributions, which are available _today_. None of this niche stuff anymore!
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