During UDS there was a discussion to drop non-PAE kernel in 12.04 LTS as Linux kernel with PAE support can already take care of 32bit systems with 4GB RAM or more.
Most of the modern computers come with PAE (Physical Address Extensions) support by default however many older computers do not support PAE. If only PAE kernel flavor is provided in LTS, Ubuntu may not be installable in these old computers and one of the main uses of Linux distributions is to make old computers work.
So this topic was much debated on mailing list. In a Technical Board Meeting couple of days back, a decision was taken that will please everyone. Drop of non-PAE kernel have been postponed to 12.10 i.e P+1. Since this is LTS release, non-PAE kernel flavors will be provided for another 5 years as LTS versions are supported for this period.
Logs from meeting:
- Kernel team would like to drop non-PAE kernel soon
- TB members generally feel that (1) dropping the current default kernel is too much of a step, and (2) there is still a significant number of users which have non-PAE systems, based on Launchpad bug report data and an ubuntu-devel@ strawpoll
- Maintaining the extra flavour is not much extra work, and not comparable to e. g. the -ti-omap4 kernel which is an entirely separate source tree
- We need a way to prevent upgrades for non-PAE systems. Some options were mentioned: Add update-manager check to not offer the upgrade if PAE is not available; Add libc6/linux preinst to abort the upgrade early if PAE is not available; that's not the best failure mode, but will prevent a safety net for users of apt-get dist-upgrade
- Switch precise over to PAE kernel by default on i386; we retain the option to revert if it causes too much fallout (Colin)
- Drop non-PAE flavour in 12.10; this will give non-PAE systems another 5 years of life time, which is considered enough
- Further discuss upgrade strategy/checks