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I use Cross Linux from Scratch (CLFS) on my ix86 and x86_64 machines in a cluster of six machines. I also use it on an old G4 PowerPC machine. It is easy, if somewhat time consuming, to install. The book provides instructions for a multilib x86_64 build. It is one of the most standards compliant x86_64 distributions I've come across. Switching between the 32-bit and 64-bit tool chain is as simple as using the -m32 or -m64 switch. I've tried other multilib x86_64 distros that provide a 32-bit tool chain AND a 64-bit tool chain rather than one multilib tool chain like CLFS. Keeping architecture specific configuration files (e.g.,mysql_config) separate is done by appending a -32 or -64 to the file name. CLFS provides the multiarch_wrapper program. This is a small C application that reads the USE_ARCH environment variable which is set to either 32 or 64, and selects the correct file to use. This is the only wrapper program required. 32-bit applications run like Firefox don't require wrappers to use 32-bit plugins. Just build the 32-bit version of Firefox and install the plugins just as you would on an ix86 platform. Instructions for over 1000 packages can be found at the CBLFS Wiki (http://cblfs.cross-lfs.org/index.php/Main_Page). There is also a CLFS Hints Wiki (http://hints.cross-lfs.org/index.php/Main_Page). Boot time is acceptable. One of my machines (http://cross-lfs.org/%7Earowland/bootchart.png) boots to run level 3 in under 25 seconds.
Debian offers many thousands of packages from the default repositories. I still had to add a couple of additional repositories to get all of the packages that I wanted. In my mind that is the only negative about Debian, it is "too" stable sometimes. Of course, I haven't found a Linux distro yet that is really unstable.
Stability is one reason I chose Debian because I didn't feel that I needed to be cutting edge for the things I do with the computer. Unfortunately, not every FOSS project out there has the same philosophy as the Debian team regarding stability. I found myself having to install from source more than I wanted to be able to take advantage of some of the latest releases of the software I was using.
I also had an older machine when I became a Linux revolutionary. Debian worked fine on the older machine, but when I built a new box, Debian wasn't taking advantage of the hardware features available. This was the case with Etch as well.
On the other hand, Debian is easy to install. My 12-year old installed Debian 3.0 and only asked me one question. The only thing he asked was whether the URL for one of the Debain mirrors was Michigan State. Not a show-stopper; he could've picked any mirror and installed successfully.
I also like apt-get and the GUI Synaptic. In my experience, apt-get does do a better job of resolving dependencies than rpm. Both are easy to use also. Once again, my 12-year old installs, removes, and updates packages all the time and hasn't busted a thing.
Overall Debian is an outstanding distribution. I certainly respect the Debian team's philosophy regarding stability. However, seriously assess your computing needs, you might find like I did that you're more cutting edge than you think.