Linux comes full circle?
johngay at eircom.net
Wed Jan 29 05:24:35 PST 2003
Or History is destined to repeat itself.
Back in the old days:
When Men were REAL Men,
Women were REAL Women,
And small, fuzzy blue creatures from Alpha Centari were REAL small, fuzzy
blue creatures from Alpha Centari . . .
Sorry, wrong list ;-)
Beck in the days when programers were REAL programmers and had to compile
everything from scratch:
A young Computer Programming student who didn't know any better decided to
build his own Operating System. It grew and became very popular among the
programming elite. Mainly because the only way to use it was to compile it
under some other operating system first.
As the system became more stable, and more people started using it, many
different pre-compiled versions came out. Each of these had their own
benefits, but they became the norm. Rarely did anyone compile for themselves
any more. Now it was easy to just install from bootable disks, CD's and DVD's.
Now we find ourselves back where more and more people ARE compiling from
scratch again. Thanks to this particular project, along with several others,
it's no longer the domain of the programming elite. Many people with limited
Linux experience are managing to do it. The real question is, WHY?
My first reason for trying it was I wanted to run my favourite Desktop, KDE
on an old PentiumMMX box and the Debian, compiled for 386 was just too slow.
After trying re-compiling a few packages for improved performance, I was
pointed to this project. With the excelent documantation to hold my hand, I
was able to compile a full KDE system from scratch in almost two weeks.
The added benefit was the process explains what is being installed and why
it's needed. This gave me a greater understanding of Linux in general. So,
we'll call this the second reason to compile from scratch.
Third, there are many different processors in home computers these days. Each
has different levels of optimizations and accelerations available. Debian is
compiled for 386 as the lowest common denominator. Mandrake is compiled for
Pentium, since many systems now are Pentium or higher. Also, GCC can not
optimize for MMX or PIII instructions, these need to be catered for in the
sources to take advantage of them.
However, XFree86, for one DOES cater for these instructions. You can set
flags in the host.def file to provide the extra optimizations. MPlayer also
can take advantage of these instructions.
So this means it's more important than ever to compile from scratch to take
advantage of the best your particular system can do.
So, in summary, Why compile from scratch?
1 To learn more about what make Linux tick and why you have so many packages
2 You can get extra performance from older hardware by optimizing the build
for that particular system rather than some common base system.
3 You can tailor your build for your particular system. Taking advantage of
extra optimizations in certain packages.
The last two seem identical, but there are certain differences. On old
hardware, it's important to compile for the right target for best
performance. This makes a slow system run better. On newer systems, you can
make a good system run even better.
Just my thoughts on the state of Linux today.
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