• July 14, 2013
  • nightmorph

i pulled the slow magnetic hdd running gentoo from my thinkpad r61i; swapped it with a 2009-era 32GB ssd running archbang, a variant of arch linux.

it’s been several years since i last tried arch, and i wanted a desktop environment installed & preconfigured. archbang offers a minimal openbox desktop with a few basic programs: web browser, terminal, text editor, file manager, etc.

arch is fast. from cold boot to logged-in at the desktop: 5.5 seconds. that’s on an old supertalent ssd, artificially limited to SATA-I speeds by the thinkpad’s BIOS; the hardware is capable of running at SATA-II. even topped out at 150MB/sec read/write, this system is screaming fast. apps execute instantly, queries and searches complete as soon as i hit Enter, and even heavyweight firefox only takes a second or so to load. my experience is vastly improved over the same environment on gentoo, on the magnetic hdd.

gentoo didn’t run this fast on this drive when it was installed in my now-defunct desktop. i switched to a more useful xfce desktop, which didn’t affect boot/login times at all; still under 6 seconds.

so, why arch, and not gentoo? apparently, my music-making environment went through too many upgrades and changes between 2011 and now. i probably should have left it as-is once i got a working setup for live performances and studio production. it mostly doesn’t work anymore. kernel changes, upstream audio package changes, lots of factors. it’s impossible to diagnose, so i’m temporarily without a gentoo system, at least until i swap disks.

the upstream developer of my primary audio software runs arch, so i figured i may get better support & overall user experience by running the same OS and environment. i haven’t yet configured my desktop for realtime/low-latency audio work besides install the ck kernel. arch has most of my usual music stack available as binary packages, so i’ll only have to compile a few apps from the AUR.

i really like installing binary packages, rather than having to spend a whole day building them on this slow 2007-era CPU. and, since this is an exceptionally light flavor of arch, i don’t have the bloat and slowdown i experienced when using ubuntu for music production.

i’m not sure if i’ll keep arch installed or not, but this has been an interesting trip so far.

Documentation status report, part 2

  • July 23, 2010
  • nightmorph

Been meaning to provide a follow-up to the last documentation report for a few days now, as well as a couple other news items.

Gentoo in the press

LWN ran an article on Linux distributions for PowerPC machines. Gentoo gets the top mention.

Package maintenance

I had the treecleaner team remove a package I maintain, WhaawMP. I hadn’t used it in a long time and was no longer interested in maintaining it. Upstream seemed to be dead, and there were several user interface bugs and crashers in daily use. Also, I didn’t want to put in the work on trying to make the ebuild comply with the stupid Python3 stabilization forced on all our users. Thanks to Jeremy for punting it. If you’re looking for a lightweight video player alternative, please read the comment I left on the bug. bug 315067

Documentation status

Now, down to the docs work I’ve done, mostly on the 21st and 22nd, after the last status report. The biggest news is that I finished rewriting the handbooks for the autobuilds. In two days, I did four architecture handbooks. I put in some long hours, but it felt good to finally have them all done.

Handbook updates

  • Sparc: updated the handbook for the autobuilds. Also fixed the kernel config “conditionals” by adding in version strings to the handbook index code, so that the latest stable version magically appears in the guide. Truly XSL is an awesome thing. The former GDP lead once said that writing for the handbook is almost like programming it. The code is designed to take variables, drop them in place for given conditions, and to test for those conditions depending on the presence of other variables (which we call “keys”), which architecture you’re viewing, etc, and then drop those variables in to the rendered page. Once the XSL framework is in place, though, maintaining the GuideXML in the handbooks is much easier. We just drop the newest variable for LiveCD ISO size into the appropriate arch index, and it shows up as “115 MB” in that handbook. You can see some of our keys and how we use them.
  • PPC: updated handbook for the autobuilds. bug 260403, bug 292726, bug 234310
  • PPC: fixed the abstracts in the index. There was a lot of abstracts in the toplevel index. Abstracts are supposed to be in each chapter, so that the index just picks them up and includes them in the rendered page. Our XSL is frickin’ amazing.
  • PPC: removed the warning and kernel config for voluntary preemption. I asked the PPC team if this old warning was still valid, and it turns out that the preempt code in the kernel actually works okay. Thanks to Joe for investigating.
  • PPC64: updated handbook for the autobuilds. bug 260403, bug 292726, bug 234310
  • MIPS: updated handbook. MIPS still doesn’t have weekly stages or LiveCDs. Because MIPS media dates back to 2008, there are some things I can’t fix in the handbook, like using eselect for profile management. If it’s not in the stages or CDs, I can’t document it. The profiles in particular have been significantly reworked for 10.0, and like everything else, will require some heavy rewrites in the handbook. The team is aware of how ancient their releases are, and are working to put out new media for more recent MIPS chips. bug 260403, bug 292726, bug 234310
  • AMD64: fixed a broken link to the AMD64 FAQ

Desktop doc updates

  • Xfce guide: updated the firefox package name. I was watching #gentoo-commits and happened to notice that nirbheek changed the name from mozilla-firefox to just firefox.

Other doc updates

  • OpenRC migration: added a note on kernel module variables and how OpenRC assigns priority. bug 269349
  • vpnc guide: updated the kernel configuration and adjusted the GuideXML to match coding standards. Thanks to tanderson for reporting via IRC. Also changed the text on vpnc overwriting /etc/resolv.conf. Old versions didn’t overwrite it, but recent releases do. bug 330345
  • Optimization guide: I updated the GCC documentation links to point at the 4.4 series, since it’s been stable for awhile now. The links were pointing to the old 4.3 series.

Project page updates

Website updates

  • Where: removed the last reference to 2008.0 media, as the handbooks have all been switched to the autobuilds. Only HPPA still referred to the 2008.0 LiveCD, since that’s the last available release. That information has been in the HPPA handbooks for a long time.
  • Contact: added another note saying that PR does not provide user support. We’ve been getting a lot of emails asking us for support, so I’ve been adding notes to our project page and the toplevel contact page.
  • Lists: updated the list of mailing lists with information on closed and inactive list. Thanks to Jeremy for the patch. bug 291860