Multiarch has been coming RSN for an extremely lengthy meaning of the word “soon”. I remember watching Tollef give a presentation about it at DebConf4 and I’m pretty sure it’s been talked about at every DebConf since then as well. Deemed the “correct” answer to the issue of running i386 binaries on x86_64 machines, or old ARM ABI programs on more modern hardware, it’s always seemed to be at least another Debian release away.

Not so anymore. Through foolishness I ended up buying a Brother HL3040CN when I first moved to the US. It was a cheap networked laser printer and it touted Linux support. Quality wise it’s been fine. I don’t use it a lot, but unlike an inkjet I don’t have to worry about not using it for a month and then needing to print something in a hurry and having to clean print heads etc. Where it falls down is that I failed to check that “Linux support” involved source. No. Instead it involves an i386 binary (at least packaged as a .deb, but in a horrible fashion). Up until now I’ve mostly been printing from my laptop, so all the drivers are installed there. I’ve got some guests this week and they needed to print their boarding passes, so I decided it was time to make the house server act as a print server too. It’s an AMD64 box and before now I haven’t had any need to run i386 code on it, so when I installed the driver deb it failed to work. Normally I’d just install ia32-libs, but this time I decided to try multiarch. So I did:

# dpkg --add-architecture i386
# apt-get update
# apt-get install libc6:i386

and magically I was now able to run the printer driver binary. I know there’s a lot more work still to be done (I need to check if I can ditch ia32-libs on my laptop which runs a few more i386 only apps), but this is pretty cool - thanks to all those involved in making it happen!

Update: I tried to install all the multiarch bits required for Skype on my laptop but hit an issue with libqtgui4:i386 which ends up pulling in liblcms1:i386 which isn’t yet multiarch enabled. There was already a bug, #637732 filed by vorlon, and mhy did the appropriate NMU a week ago, so it should hopefully hit testing in the next week. Thanks guys.