finally rebuilding

I’ve put this off for a long time, but I’m finally rebuilding my desktop from scratch. Actually, my one at work, too. Today is a state holiday here in Utah, and it’s great taking a day off in the middle of the week. I honestly have no idea what time it even is right now.

Anyway, at home my box is a dual-core AMD Athlon64 something or other. I’ve stopped building boxes a while ago after realizing that while it may be only around $300 to get started, it ends up costing another $400 for all the stuff I really wanna get on there, like a decent video card and quiet power supply, so this has been my box for a while. In fact, I’m running the exact same motherboard in my media server as well. It’s actually really nice knowing that I can swap hardware between the two boxes in a pinch (which has already happened) without worrying about the specs.

This box has been doing great, and I really don’t use it for much more than just surfing the web, writing email and of course Gentoo development. I’ve had problems on and off with XFCE and X. Exiting out would kill all input, and I could never figure out the cause. It wouldn’t matter which video driver or video card I used, so I just worked around it — I’d switch to the shell if I wanted to kill X, instead of just logging out, etc. But, one thing I sorely miss is using tuxonice, so today I finally decided to take the plunge and scratch it all.

It has been a long time coming, too. I can’t even remember the last time I installed the system on here. Generally speaking, I usually reinstall anyway just to clear out cruft and what not about every 18 months or so. It’s also a good way to keep me on my toes with new installs — my biggest problem is *still* forgetting to change my root password from a fresh stage3 install.

I’ve gotten pretty far, as I’m writing this in Seamonkey right now, and I started this morning. I’ve already been going through the list of stuff I had installed and it’s amazing how many applications I try out and then completely forget about. I’m actually excited to try out the new jobs and resume options in portage, see how that changes things around.

Actually, the thing that kicked off the reinstall at home was that I finally broke down and decided to do my one at work, first. The box is also a dual-core 64-bit machine, but it’s an Intel Pentium D. Now, for some reason, I have *never* had much luck with any of the Intel boxes. I always have some stupid problem where they just end up unresponsive for some reason that I’ve never had on the AMD boxes. I’ve never been able to pin it down, and so I’ve been methodically getting rid of any Intel-based boxes I have around.

This one at work is particularly painful though, though it’s mostly my fault. It’s only got 512 megs of RAM in there which is the obvious bottleneck in today’s modern desktop scenario — especially for a Linux workstation like mine where running a dozen applications all at once is the norm. At first I tried to resist doing anything about it so I changed my CFLAGS to -Os to save on memory (which I probably should have done in the first place), and while that helped, everything of course slowed down by a huge magnitude. Still, at least I wasn’t having jerkiness — it just took everything twice as long to load and save.

I finally broke down this week and shelled out $50 to buy 2 gigs of RAM for the machine. I haven’t been watching computer prices at all recently, so I was quite surprised by how cheap it was. In fact, I’m tempted to put more in my box at home. I’m sure that’ll fix things up alright. In the meantime, it’s reinstalling right now, chugging along, and seeming to do fine. I think I needed my head cleared of all the crap more than that box did, really. Sometimes, even though we technically don’t need to reinstall, it’s just a good mental relief knowing that you’ve done everything you can to make things run better. That’s a hard belief to argue against.

One thing I also did on my box at home is I finally switched over to ~amd64. I’m running unstable, which may not seem that big of a deal, but my policy over the last six years or so of using Gentoo, on my desktop at least, was to use the stable tree. Slowly, though, one by one, on all my other boxes, I’d switch them over to unstable and just run that tree, and I found that more often than not, it runs just fine without a hitch. I first switched over with my myth box, when I realized that my package.keywords file was longer than my arm — if there was one thing I always wanted the very latest bleeding edge code of, it was all the bugfixes and improvements for the multimedia software. The myth box is an obvious choice, and even then, you get it to a working point and then just leave it alone for an eternity. Those last two sentences just contradicted each other, I realize, but anyway, the point was — well, I forget.

Ooh, this –jobs option is pretty cool. Good work, Zack. :) Gentoo rocks, what more can I say.  After all this time, I’m still a fan.

3 Comments

Filed under Gentoo

3 responses to “finally rebuilding

  1. Tamas

    The -Os in GCC does not help with memory constrained systems, as it reduces only the code size, which makes up only a negligible proportion of an average desktop applications memory usage.

    Also generally it’s not slower than other optimization levels in GCC. It uses almost the same optimizations as -O2, except for missing a couple ones that increase the code size. The result should be a 0-5% performance hit, however the smaller code helps with cache locality, thus it sometimes improves performance over -O2.

    Furthermore, compiler optimization barely makes any difference for typical desktop applications, they are hardly CPU bound.

  2. I basically also wanted to say what Tamas already said.
    I guess I can add that if you have big CPU caches, which a Pentium D has I believe, then I don’t see how -Os can be good in any way. I generally don’t think twice about using -O2 if I have 1MB of L2 cache at least. If it’s some old thing with some 256KB CPU cache, then I do ponder for a while before choosing though

  3. Steve

    For a modern desktop, building with -Os you won’t notice much differences, yes … but in working with small systems with an incredible small amount of space and memory, your compiler settings will make a huge difference.

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