Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Upgrades X Linux

Kernel 2.6.31 To Speed Up Linux Desktop 360

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!"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Kernel 2.6.31 To Speed Up Linux Desktop

Comments Filter:
  • 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.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by abigor ( 540274 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:43PM (#29324395)

    No, it doesn't imply that at all. It's simply saying that Linux desktop users brag about irrelevent new "features", while basic things that everyone else takes for granted don't work properly.

  • Yeah (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:45PM (#29324399)

    RAM is cheap and I have plenty of it. What about improving desktop performance when memory is not a limiting resource?
    Honestly, there's something very wrong with a current state of Linux desktop when Windows 7 GUI runs faster that KDE 4.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by marcansoft ( 727665 ) <(hector) (at) (> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:50PM (#29324417) Homepage

    Whichever way you put it, the fact that this "basic thing that everyone else takes for granted" doesn't work is is Adobe's fault, not the Linux community's fault. It would have made a lot more sense if the complaint were about some actual bug in Linux distros, not a problem with a historically shoddy proprietary plugin.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScytheBlade1 ( 772156 ) <> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:52PM (#29324429) Homepage Journal
    It may seem to imply that, but that isn't the goal. The goal of that comic is to show the difference between linux gurus who can rebuild their kernel six times a day and get it right every time, and "your average XP --> Ubuntu switcher."

    I'm a guy who took gentoo and rebuilt it in my home directory about fifty times with a set of scripts I developed, getting smaller and more specific every time until I could write it to a CF card and drop it in my embedded router that runs at 33MHz, and still run/startup faster than your average home router.

    I have a friend who uses Kubuntu (which really is a terrible KDE distro) who is definitely more adept in linux than your average switcher, but he doesn't spend his time memorizing internals or rebuilding kernels either.

    To me, I can see that comic and go "neat, that's a lot of CPUs" along with pegging Adobe for being a problem: "yeah, adobe sucks at cross platform." My friend goes "neat, that's a lot of CPUs" and "yeah linux is terrible in that area."
    Both pairs of statements are true. (And don't call me on the technicality that "linux is terrible in that area." Quit being hyperliteral; that's my entire point!)
  • 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.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @01:56PM (#29324471)

    As someone who uses Windows but has an open mind, I don't care who is at fault.

  • 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.
  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Randle_Revar ( 229304 ) <> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:01PM (#29324503) Homepage Journal

    full screen flash is a dumb idea anyway

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:05PM (#29324529)

    If you need a bleeding-edge card, you're gaming, and to be frank, Linux is not the best environment for gaming. If, on the other hand, you're interested in solid 2D work with decent acceleration, a solid older card is just the thing. I just picked up a dirt-cheap R400-based card myself. (I'd have stuck with my trusty Matrox G450, but the driver will probably never support modern multihead with xrandr 1.3.)

  • 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 ultrabot ( 200914 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:07PM (#29324549)

    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: []

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MPAB ( 1074440 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:08PM (#29324567)

    The comic didn't imply the kernel. Purists that wash their hands while saying "Linux is just a kernel, not my fault if it cannot (run x, recognize y or perform z)" are the target of this comic which tries to explain why linux (as a whole OS-and-software alternative) is not ready for the desktop.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by OriginalSolver ( 552648 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:10PM (#29324573)
    No where is Linux defined as a server OS. Linux may be used primarily on servers but it is also used on desktops,imbedded systems and phones. Linux is many things to many people.
  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anarchduke ( 1551707 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:19PM (#29324641)
    Hey, you want to know why linux doesn't have more desktop market penetration? Guess what, the average person would try linux and open their favorite youtube video [] and get pissed off at linux because it doesn't do full screen flash well.

    You think that in the same situation Microsoft wouldn't have somone calling Adobe to get the full screen flash video working properly? They understand that it is always the operating system's fault when something goes wrong, no matter what the truth is.

    Microsoft may be a giant corporate asshole, but they understand that people's perceptions no matter how misguided will impact the popularity of their product. Look at Vista, at release there were a lot of problems. Now at service pack 2, Vista is performing much better, but its brand name is still mud because of the problems. I personally think this was part of the plan. Windows 7 is coming out, and it is looking to be what Vista should have been.

    In the end, the "Windows" brand hasn't been damaged, the "Vista" brand was. And Windows 7 will hit the market sounding like some sort of savior for computers.

    Meanwhile, Linux advocates still want to know why the average person won't leave windows.
  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by reub2000 ( 705806 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:31PM (#29324743)
    What's broken here is that a completely closed off format has become standard on the internet.
  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by centuren ( 106470 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @02:40PM (#29324841) Homepage Journal

    ScytheBlade1 is right:

    The comic didn't imply the kernel. Purists that wash their hands while saying "Linux is just a kernel, not my fault if it cannot (run x, recognize y or perform z)" are the target of this comic which tries to explain why linux (as a whole OS-and-software alternative) is not ready for the desktop.

    Indeed, the xkcd in question [] (a link to the page, not the image) doesn't hang on technical accuracy. It's absolutely a commentary on issues with the "Linux Desktop", with developers putting a relatively rare server concern such as support for thousands of CPUs ahead of something that pretty much every PC user expects to have (the ability to watch Hulu smoothly).

    To nit-pick, however, the comic does seem to imply the kernel. In the alt-text you find:

    "I hear many of you finally have smooth Flash support, but me and my Intel card are still waiting on a kernel patch somewhere in the pipeline before we can watch Jon Stewart smoothly."

    The author is waiting on a Linux kernel patch to fix the Flash issues he has with his Intel card.

    That's one of the more annoying XKCDs as far as I'm concerned. It seems to imply that the full-screen Flash video woes are somehow the kernel's fault. I used to like XKCD, but it seems to be getting dumber and dumber each day.

    When Markansoft says the above, it's clear that he prizes technical accuracy in the comic enough to forgo appreciation of the general point of humour. However, is the comic's implication really wrong? I don't know much about how Flash works with hardware, or if it requires any specific support for a chipset. The author seems pretty sure he needs a patch for his hardware set up before he can get the same quality of Flash performance already enjoyed by other Linux users. That certainly doesn't remove Adobe and their cross-platform unfriendliness from the situation, but Linux distros are made from work arounds, and the comic's target is the priorities of developers, not Adobe's open source policies.

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> 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 [] 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.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by negRo_slim ( 636783 ) <> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @03:03PM (#29325069) Homepage

    The only folks who use Flash fullscreen are people watching online porn. :)

    Well, and YouTube,

    and Hulu.

  • by DarkOx ( 621550 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @03:07PM (#29325103) Journal

    Totally wrong, you must be new here.

    OSS existed both in free and non-free forms. The non-free implementation was missing some featured and supported few cards. OSS was very limited where mixing of multiple audio sources was concerned.

    So if you wanted sound effects while you listening to music OSS probably was not enough for you. These is where the sound daemons came into play. They acted as a single OSS client and did all the mixing operations for other software to connect with.

    ALSA - provided an architecture to handle modern multi channel boards and do mixing. It also improved the abstraction of particular drivers; so it was easier to add support for new cards. The libraries make it much easier to write clients for as well.

    OSS emulation is popular because there is still a great deal of OSS client software around and hey you get most of the ALSA benifents of multi-client support and functional drivers for just about every card under the sun even while using OSS emulation so there is no good reason no to use.

    Sound is a solved problem if you are still having problem with sound on your linux desktop then you must:

    1.You have some very exotic hardware or needs. There are still some gaps in the super low latency realm for people trying to do sound engineering and such.

    3.You are using really and I mean really cheap hardware that is missing important features and was doing way to much in software on that other platform. Drop $20 and get a new audio card, or get a motherboard with a chip set form a company whose name you can at least pronounce, if you want to use onboard audio.

    3.You are using a really old distribution

    4.You are using a really poor distribution

    5.You failed to read the documentation and have badly mis-configured your system.

  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @03:18PM (#29325195)

    > 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 designing... In the end, once you actually study things and start planning you realize that whatever you wanted to do can be done on X and you get the device support for free instead of spending man decades reinventing a whole hell of a lot of wheels.

    > Just like folks at Apple realized with their OS X, we in the Linux world, need an alternative to X.

    See? Total lack of clue. What happened with OS X is with Steve's return Apple got NextStep as their long sought replacement for OS 9. OS X 10.0 is pretty much NextStep with an OS 9 emulator app tossed in. NextStep has always been Display Postscript based so no suprise there... and no rejection of X. Then they tossed in an rootless X server so it could run traditional *NIX apps.

    > I heard that Google Chrome OS will get rid of it entirely.

    Only is Google is a bunch of mindless idiots. Hint: Google isn't a bunch of mindless idiots, they understand what X provides. Remember, X provides mechanism, not policy. That means you can implement pretty much any UI atop it. Witness WINE implementing Win32 and in many cases having it run faster atop X than GDI.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by causality ( 777677 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @03:24PM (#29325273)
    I wish there were a Greasemonkey script for Slashdot that would remove from visibility any and all posts containing "XKCD". That way my view of the discussion would look like no such posts existed. While I'd love to endlessly debate the intended message of a guy who draws stick figure comics, it really doesn't have much to do with the latest improvements to the Linux kernel other than mentioning the words. That, and I just don't find XKCD to be endlessly interesting the way a lot of folks here do. It doesn't help that most of the ones mentioned here are quite stereotypical (like the whole "geeks care about things that average users don't, whodathunkit?!" theme). Even if I did find XKCD to be endlessly interesting, I wouldn't bring it up at every possible opportunity. Now go ahead and flame me because I don't think your trendy (around here, anyway) comic is all that clever.
  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @03:37PM (#29325371)

    This is no excuse. The Open Source community has brought us Samba for goodness sake.

    Reverse-engineering and making an open implementation of a simple web plugin should be harder than reverse-engineering and implementing Windows domain, RPC named pipes, and file sharing protocols? :)

    Not to mention the fact that Adobe has made SWF, FLV, and RMTP open specifications.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @03:57PM (#29325575)

    > As someone who uses Windows but has an open mind, I don't care who is at fault.

    Fair enough on one level but totally unfair on the one that matters here. If the criticism of the Linux community is they concentrate their effort on things that mortals care little for this one doesn't work since the performance of Flash Player is entirely out of their hands.

    Flash sucks everywhere, just to varying degrees depending on platform. Go watch the fun in the netbook space as the Intel Atom is being unfairly blamed by clueless pundits for the inability of netbooks with the newer 1280x720 and 1388x768 displays to play full screen Flash video (on Windows XP btw.). We nerds on slashdot know better of course, the problem is Adobe being mindless idiots who can't figure out how to properly use a scaled video surface.

    I'd like some green group to calculate how many YouTube videos have been played and how many GigaWatt Hours of electricity have been wasted on software colorspace conversion and scaling because Adobe can't figure out how to use well documented and commonly available features on every video card made in the last fifteen years.

  • Re:Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by centuren ( 106470 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:07PM (#29325719) Homepage Journal

    Why does this matter, really? Linux is a server OS, why are they spending any time on useless trivia? Compare the number of working linux boxes used for servers versus desktops, and ask the same question again.

    I get the same question each time I ask the question: it matters because I don't manage servers anymore, and the news about improvements to the "Linux Desktop" is much more relevant to me. Not only because I like to play around with Linux and any related innovations, but also because I believe that 1) Windows won't always be as easy to acquire without cost as it has been for as long as I can remember, 2) I (or a friend/family member) won't always have money to spend on a Mac, and 3) with those conditions on the table, there will be many situations where suddenly a Linux desktop system is the best option. That is, having to spend $100 on an OS places value on a Linux desktop regardless of how much they are outnumbered by Linux servers, especially when money is tight.

    Of course, I'm intentionally thinking ahead in reaction to your question. My initial response is the most accurate. Improvements on the Linux desktop are just vastly more relevant and interesting to me than server issues. That might shift if I move back into a position where I'm managing servers, but probably not very much (I think there's more of a status quo).

    "A lot" is two words. You wouldn't say "alittle", would you?

    I applaud the effort to stamp out the incorrect use of "alot" in place of "a lot", but I'll add my unsolicited advice that it would read better as: "A lot is two words. You wouldn't say "agoup", would you?. Agroup, aton, abunch all match it up with "lot" as a noun, rather than just the modern adopted usage as a synonym to "many".

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:14PM (#29325799)

    Well, with SVG and the video tag, that is about to change! Big time!

    I'm a professional, and man, watch those demos in at least Firefox 3.5 (or something comparable): []

    The ability to integrate Flash-like FX, Video and Audio SEAMLESSLY with (X)HTML and CSS (and every other supported XML language, like MathML), is just beyond words... It's what I'm waiting for, for at least a decade! And the performance of both environments gets closer and closer to being equal.
    With that, soon nobody needs or even wants Flash anymore.

    I'll just use those features, and frankly, I can stand "losing" even 50% of the users for it. Those are the dumbest part of the population anyway. You only have problems with those. They can go to AOL or whatever. I have enough clients. :)

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The MAZZTer ( 911996 ) <<megazzt> <at> <>> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @04:27PM (#29325955) Homepage
    As someone who uses Windows who sees exactly the same poor performance in Flash, I KNOW who's at fault.
  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Saturday September 05, 2009 @09:12PM (#29327995) Journal

    No shit. Trying to sell Linux at retail is a fricking nightmare from hell. Which printers on sale at Walmart this week work in Linux? Will these wireless cards at Best Buy work out of the box? Damned if I know, and the poor bastard behind the counter at Staples sure as hell ain't gonna know either. Which is why i have said time and time again there needs to be a stable ABI and a "Tux the penguin" certification process. That way retailers like me can just go "look for the fat penguin" and know that the items will "just work".

    So while I congratulate the kernel guys for these new tweaks, until any of my customers can walk into Walmart and buy hardware without it being a minefield I don't really see this helping Linux adoption much. The Windows customers can look for the "works with Windows x" Winflag, the Apple customers look for the Apple logo, the Linux customers are just SOL unless they study like it was a fricking test just to buy some hardware at Staples. Until that changes getting better memory response isn't really gonna help much IMHO. It is like those OSes that fit on a single floppy. Good for a little "how did they do that" entertainment but not really usable for the vast majority.

    I personally hope for the day I see just as many Linux laptops as Windows ones in Walmart, and little fat Tux logos on nearly every piece of hardware, but with the zealotry of RMS and the "source code or nothing!" crowd I won't hold my breath. Damned shame, as the newer Linux distros are really nice, with lots of cool features, but trying to find hardware that works is just too big of a PITA to allow me to sell them at retail.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Saturday September 05, 2009 @10:07PM (#29328253)

    You are conflating things. I am not (hypothetically here) raging at the Linux community to fix flash, I am simply not experimenting with Linux because I care about flash working reasonably well, and apparently, it doesn't. The underlying reason isn't particularly relevant if I care about having flash.

    So again, the point isn't that I will capriciously blame anyone and everyone for anything, the point is that if I see a problem that prevents me from doing something I want to do day-to-day, I'm not even going to try. That the community bears the brunt of Adobe's lack of interest is unfortunate, but there you go.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by walshy007 ( 906710 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @01:21AM (#29329187)

    Which is why i have said time and time again there needs to be a stable ABI and a "Tux the penguin" certification process.

    Certification process fair enough, but a stable ABI is not needed for that, any piece of hardware that has a recognized in kernel tree driver driver should simply be plugged in and see if it works, if it does without any real issues, certification can be done

    Trusting random companies with ring 0 privileged code your machine is a big leap of faith when you can't see the code, almost all of the bsod's you see these days on windows aren't microsoft's fault at all, but the fault of shitty drivers by third party companies. Some of us like the quality ensured by having in kernel frequently audited drivers

    But still, allowing binary blobs is not needed for certification that *blah* works on linux. Linux does have the largest in-built hardware support of any modern os.

  • Re:Obligatory XKCD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vivaelamor ( 1418031 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @07:18AM (#29330349)
    I don't think reverse engineering a network protocol is anywhere close to as hard as reverse engineering something like flash.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant