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The Vortex86MX+ from DM&P (aka Xcore86+ when sold by NorhTec, which sells thin clients, netbooks & low power home servers based on it) was released at the end of last year, so is about half a year old...
(Also, this chip is officially only i586 compatible, so obviously there is no PAE and other fancy stuff either...)
People using older hardware should switch desktops anyway, unity/gnome3/kde4 are heavy weight. Someone with a processor too old to support 64 bits should switch to Xubuntu or Lubuntu, also to avoid the non pae issues.
Yes it should be the default. Been using 64 bits for 5 years don't see the reason not to unless your hardware can't handle it, which means an old p4 or such which are better served by a light desktop.
Agreed. I've been using 64-bit for several years now, and it's been completely painless for the last few releases. There's also been some benchmarks only a few weeks ago which showed that 64-bit was faster than 32-bit in several areas, so there's other benefits aside from support for more memory. The biggest difference, as far as I see it is going to be:
A friend of mine is doing heavy computer vision stuff with Matlab. Recently he ran out of memory on 32-bit Windows. Luckily for him, the /3GB boot option gave enough virtual memory to complete his processing but bigger images would require even more memory. Running the 32-bit version under 64-bit OS (Windows or Linux) would give him 4GB of virtual address space. So one could say that switching to 64-bit OS protects your investment because you won't have to buy a new 64-bit version of the application. Of course, on Windows you have to check if the application supports more than 2GB virtual address space - it's a flag in the PE file format, but 32-bit Linux apps should be fine because the default memory split has been 3G/1G for quite some time, and consequently no one has been stupid enough to use the most significant bit of the pointers for flags.