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Upgrades X Linux

Kernel 2.6.31 To Speed Up Linux Desktop 360

Posted by Soulskill
from the zoom-zoom dept.
Dan Jones writes "As the Linux community looks forward to another kernel release, the kernel hackers have been working on improving the memory management so that the X desktop responsiveness is doubled under high memory pressure. The result is an improved desktop experience. Benchmarks on memory-tight desktops show clock time and major faults reduced by 50 per cent, and pswpin numbers (memory reads from disk) are reduced to about one-third. Another improvement coming with 2.6.31 is kernel mode-setting support for ATI Radeon graphics cards, enabling faster user switching and a more seamless startup experience. Peripheral developments that will also improve the Linux desktop experience include support for the new USB 3.0 specification and a new Firewire stack. Even minor Linux releases have heaps of new features these days!"
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Kernel 2.6.31 To Speed Up Linux Desktop

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  • by Aggrajag (716041) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:29PM (#29324285)
    • by zdzichu (100333) <zdzichu@[ ].pl ['irc' in gap]> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:19PM (#29325863) Homepage Journal

      Fedora developer read it for sure:

      * Fri Aug 07 2009 Kristian HÃgsberg - 2.8.0-4
      - Add dri2-page-flip.patch to enable full screen pageflipping.
          Fixes XKCD #619.

      xorg-x11-drv-intel-2.8.0-4.fc12 [fedoraproject.org]

  • by ultrabot (200914) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:33PM (#29324331)

    From TFA:

    The result is an improved desktop experience; benchmarks on memory tight desktops show clock time and major faults reduced by 50 per cent, and pswpin numbers (memory reads from disk) are reduced to about one-third. That means X desktop responsiveness is doubled under high memory pressure.

    Furthermore, memory flushing benchmarks in a file server shows the number of major faults going from 50 to 3 during 10 per cent cache hot reads.

    And on next paragraph...

    Linux foundner Linus Torvalds, first developed the operating system for his desktop and it rose to promince as a commodity Unix server.

  • by sherl0k (1215370) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:36PM (#29324349)
    I can honestly say that the system does feel a lot snappier, more responsive, and just overall a much more pleasant user experience. Everything's just a lot smoother. The kernel team is doing a pretty awesome job of speeding things up. Kudos.
    • by HangingChad (677530) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:52PM (#29324431) Homepage

      The kernel team is doing a pretty awesome job of speeding things up. Kudos.

      Seconded. It also says good things about the state of the kernel and development team that they can focus on optimization and the user experience. It wasn't that long ago the focus was on getting wireless to work. We've come such a long way. Very impressive. Well done.

    • by Rebar (110559) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:30PM (#29324731)

      The Break-In process of the new Linux kernel takes time. There is a significant change in Video Performance as the kernel break in. There is still a perception that Linux kernels have a short break in time or worse yet, don't require break in. Some hackers used a second computer to break in the Linux kernel, and transfer the image to their primary computer. This method will not appreciably reduce the break in time required for the kernel. Linux kernel Break-In must be done in the position where you plan to use it.

      The System Performance Stages of the kernel are as follows:

      * First Stage of Break-In = The system will feel very open, clear and with good detail resolution and dynamics. The greens and lower reds will have elevated intensity levels. The lower output of the blue and green information is due to reduced bandwidth performance at this Stage. In some systems, especially with aluminum or titanium heatsinks, the greens and blues may appear edgy or even fatiguing. The visual stage will appear OK with some lack of Focus. It will take from 5 to 15 hours of break-in for the kernel to reach the Second Stage of Break-In.

      * Second Stage of Break-In = The blues and greens will appear less elevated and up front as the monitor intensity level increases. This is followed by the reds starting fill in. The lack of Focus may become more noticeable and the visual stage will start to widen and have more depth. It will take an additional 15 to 35 hours to reach the Third Stage of Break-In.

      * Third Stage of Break-In = The system response time will completely flatten out. The presentation will become very clean and less up front. The lack of Focus is disappearing and the imaging will improve as will the low level detail resolution. The Green comes in and it is very tight and you will see lower Red frequencies than your other kernel provided. In effect the visual signature of the kernel will seem to disappear and the X-window presentation will be very real and non-fatiguing. It will take an additional 30 to 50 hours to reach the Final Stage of Kernel Performance.

      * Fourth and Final Stage of Kernel Performance = The Visual Stage will be wider than your monitor with excellent depth, height and precise localization of individual icons on the desktop. The hue of the icons will be very accurate over the entire desktop. Symbolic links have excellent referencing ability. The metallic sound of your hard drive is very lifelike. Rhythm, Pace and Dynamics are effortless. Many users find they are now viewing the X-window system at lower Light Levels due to the effortless presentation. You will start to see subtle visual cues like the programmer turning his head while he is programming. You will find you are viewing the Window Manager and forgetting about evaluating your system.

    • by centuren (106470)

      I can honestly say that the system does feel a lot snappier, more responsive, and just overall a much more pleasant user experience. Everything's just a lot smoother. The kernel team is doing a pretty awesome job of speeding things up. Kudos.

      That's good to hear; I've been waiting for such news concerning the kernel to help inspire me to fire up my desktop again and finish the last install I started (I left it at a stock kernel and mouse buttons not configured for my MX1000). It's been all too easy to use my laptop for everything, but new kernel features that noticeably improve the user experience have always been exciting. I remember the difference preemptive multitasking made to the desktop experience when it was introduced. It made a huge dif

  • Benchmarks (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pm_rat_poison (1295589) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:36PM (#29324353)
    Phoronix [phoronix.com] has published benchmarks of an ubuntu system with kernel 2.6.31-rc5
  • Just like folks at Apple realized with their OS X, we in the Linux world, need an alternative to X. I heard that Google Chrome OS will get rid of it entirely. I would like to hear from anyone who disagrees.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eyepeepackets (33477)

      X works really good for what it's designed for and I'd hate to have to live without it. That said, what I also would like is a custom version for gaming which turns down or off features not needed for gaming. Wouldn't it be nice if users could build a custom X as easy as custom kernels?

      • >a custom version for gaming which turns down or off features not needed for gaming ...gaming needs as many or more "features" as anything non-gaming...

        if you want better game performance, look for driver improvements and mesa improvements (including gallium3d).

      • by QuoteMstr (55051)
        You can compile x.org yourself [x.org], you know. Actually, since you don't need to reboot to run a new X, it's easier than compiling a new kernel. That said, what exactly would you turn off? I'm reminded of the famous "simply too many notes [youtube.com]" scene from Amadeus.

        Emperor Joseph II:My dear young man, don't take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.
        Mozart: Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by centuren (106470)

        X works really good for what it's designed for and I'd hate to have to live without it. That said, what I also would like is a custom version for gaming which turns down or off features not needed for gaming. Wouldn't it be nice if users could build a custom X as easy as custom kernels?

        I agree that X works well for it's designed purpose, and that said I agree that we have further need as we move beyond what it was designed to do (and into the issues we run into with a modern desktop, such as gaming).

        I find I struggle a bit with X on each new install (I like to switch around and use different Linux distros as the mood to tinker comes and goes). After working in an OSX-based development shop with Logitech MX1000s at each desk, I became spoiled on the 12 buttons (10 if you don't count the wh

    • by the linux geek (799780) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:59PM (#29324489)
      I would love to see somebody tell me what's wrong with X without referencing the UNIX Haters Handbook or anything else more than ten years old. I've been using it for a LONG time, in various proprietary and open-source incarnations, and it's come a long way. Xorg generally even works without an xorg.conf these days, and no other windowing system comes close to X's networking/remote-access features.
      • Most complains about X nowadays a really complains about poor support from video card manufacturers.

    • by impaledsunset (1337701) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:06PM (#29324543)

      I disagree. Do you have any reason why you want to get rid of X?

      X's code base is ugly at places, and writing pure-X11 applications isn't the most fun thing in the world, but I can't think of (m)any shortcomings that lead to any trouble in real world usage that can't be fixed. Also, X has to offer a lot of things that any new thing wouldn't have. You might not use many of the features you get for free with X, but some of us do. X's architecture can be seen as a shortcoming, but it's also an advantage in many situation. Remote X for example is a great thing.

      The biggest problem is all the applications that are currently written for X. You can't rewrite everything, and it is not even worth it. Really. X is working fine, and it's getting better. The same goes for the drivers, and everything that's already in.

      And if Google Chrome OS's windowing system doesn't support the X protocol, I can assure you I won't be using it.

      • by centuren (106470)

        I disagree. Do you have any reason why you want to get rid of X?

        As you say, X is getting better. It would take an incredibly strong argument to make the point that X should be rewritten from scratch, since, as you point out, it has so many applications. There are shortcomings that I associate with X, but they tend get lost in the overall effort to configure a new system install to work just how I want with my specific hardware. These fall into the general Linux-system shortcomings bucket where extra work is required for final touches, and as the various programs at faul

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ultrabot (200914)

      Just like folks at Apple realized with their OS X, we in the Linux world, need an alternative to X. I heard that Google Chrome OS will get rid of it entirely. I would like to hear from anyone who disagrees.

      Nouveau guys seem to disagree:

      http://icps.u-strasbg.fr/~marchesin/nvdri/fosdem1.pdf [u-strasbg.fr]

    • xinput 2 is here. xkb2 is coming. evdev is here. exa and uxa are here. kms is here for some drivers already. the basics of gallium3d are here, the rest, including drivers, is coming. xcb is here, it just needs to be used more. input and output hotplug and autoconfiguration are here. With all this there is no need to replace X. The basic design is ok and the details have come a long way since xfree86.

    • by Tweenk (1274968)

      X is not a problem. X is actually one of the best parts of the Linux graphics stack, and it allows very nice things like running graphical applications remotely. Moreover, DRI allows applications to bypass the X server entirely. The actual problems are the drivers, and a lack of standardized APIs for things like video acceleration that work regardless of the card manufacturer. However, this area is slowly improving, for example take a good look at Gallium3D. When this matures, the amount of effort required

    • by QuoteMstr (55051) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:47PM (#29324919)

      I would like to hear from anyone who disagrees.

      Troll. But I'll bite.

      X11 is a whipping boy for anyone who's ever had a complaint about a Unix GUI. No matter whether it's a badly-designed application, an unstable driver, or poor kernel scheduling, or a deranged toolkit drag-and-drop model, people always fault X11. And no matter what the root cause of the problem, the solution is always to throw out the X protocol and design something else. People like you fail to account for the possibility that there's actually very little wrong with X, and that it can certainly be the basis for a modern, functional GUI.

      There was a very interesting comment [slashdot.org] on Slashdot a few years ago by Mike Paquette (who wrote Apple's Quartz) explaining why Apple didn't use X11 for OS X. The funny thing, in retrospect, is that every single feature mentioned in Paquette's post has now been implemented for X11, and that's with volunteer work. If Apple had invested resources into making this happen for X instead of reinventing the wheel, everyone would have been better off. Yet despite these additional features, we still retain full network transparency along with full compatibility stretching back to the 80s.

      Don't confuse "newer" and "better". X11's architecture is quite good, and is among one of the better designs for a windowing system ever created. It's clean, extensible, fast, and network-transparent. It defines mechanism, not policy, and does its job extremely well. That it's been extended to support all kinds of modern features is a testament to the strength of its original design.

      If it weren't for the soul-crushing stupidity, it'd be hilarious that people claim X is slow. X ran quickly on computers with 1/000 the performance of even a modest desktop system today, but it's slow on these modern computers? That makes no sense. People claim that X's network transparency puts it at a performance disadvantage, but neglect that Unix Sockets, used for local communication, are among the faster IPC mechanisms in existence. Criticism of X as a platform is baseless.

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        Don't confuse "newer" and "better"

        Insightful.

        X ran quickly on computers with 1/000 the performance of even a modest desktop system today, but it's slow on these modern computers?

        You, sir, know what you're talking about. If only more were like you.

      • X ran quickly on computers with 1/000 the performance of even a modest desktop system today, but it's slow on these modern computers?

        I don't mind X, but what applications did people run on those computers?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > I would like to hear from anyone who disagrees.

      No, you are just a fool speaking of things he knows nothing of. You should go into politics.

      I'll give 10-1 odds what you are actually wanting to replace is GNOME, KDE, Qt or Gtk and you haven't a fracking clue what part X actually plays in your desktop experience. You ain't the first newbie blathering on about replacing X and you won't be the last. Some have actually attempted to do it... I didn't follow closely but they never made it past talking and d

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dbIII (701233)
      You just don't know what X can do. As an example, I have a router that can only be configured from the office (as it should). This morning one of the links was down. I logged into my work machine from home, opened a web browser there which appeared on my home computer screen, went to the page for the router configuration and fixed it with a few clicks. Now while VNC or remote desktop could do that it is slower and harder to use than just having the application you want appear on the screen you want as i
  • I honestly don't know, why is it needed? Isn't this the third one in about 5 years now?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TJamieson (218336)
      Replying to myself... whee!

      It is not a new FireWire stack, rather the "second" stack that has been experimental for a few years is no longer marked experimental. However, the maintainer still says to use the old stack for many applications.
  • by eddy (18759) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:53PM (#29324439) Homepage Journal

    From the kernelnewbies article:

    This version adds Kernel Mode Setting (KMS) support for ATI Radeon. Hardware supported is R1XX,R2XX,R3XX,R4XX,R5XX (radeon up to X1950). Works is underway to provide support for R6XX, R7XX and newer hardware (radeon from HD2XXX to HD4XXX).

    With the HD5850 and HD5870 weeks away (don't buy a new card till they're out, you'll hate yourself!), this means you have to be three GENERATIONS behind the curve for this yet unreleased kernel feature to be of use.

  • by wonkavader (605434) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:51PM (#29324969)
    From the article:

    The advent of Windows 7 in October may drive Linux's desktop market share down even futher.
    It's not all doom and gloom for the penguin, however...

    Thank goodness. I was so worried and depressed.

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