With the release yesterday of the Linux 2.6.29 kernel, we have set out to explore how the desktop performance has evolved over the past six major kernel releases. On a few occasions in the past we have provided kernel benchmarks (at one point even benchmarking 12 kernels), but this time around we have included nearly two dozen benchmarks using the Phoronix Test Suite. How has the Linux performance evolved since the release of the Linux 2.6.24 kernel back in early 2008? Well, simply put, the Linux 2.6.29 kernel in a few areas does pack some serious performance benefits.
In past kernel benchmarking articles we have built our vanilla kernels from source, but now that Canonical provides a mainline kernel PPA of each kernel release built in a standard configuration without any extra Ubuntu patches and configuration options, we opted to use this Ubuntu package repository. On a clean Ubuntu 8.10 (x86_64) system we had installed the Linux 2.6.24, Linux 2.6.25, Linux 2.6.26, Linux 2.6.27, Linux 2.6.28, and Linux 2.6.29 kernels (click on each of the links for more information about a specific kernel release) from this repository hosted on Launchpad. Between kernel tests, the distribution was left in the same conditions. All other packages on the Ubuntu 8.10 system were left at their stock versions including the X Server 1.5.2, GCC 4.3.2, GNOME 2.24.1, xf86-video-intel 2.4.1, Mesa 7.2, and the EXT3 file-system.
The hardware we used for this round of Linux kernel testing included an Intel Core 2 Duo E6400, ASRock G43Twins-FullHD motherboard, integrated Intel GMA graphics, 2GB of DDR2 system memory, and a 200GB Seagate ST3200826AS SATA HDD. The tests we ran on each kernel with this hardware were LZMA compression, 7-Zip compression, LAME MP3 encoding, FLAC audio encoding, FFmpeg, Fhourstones, GnuPG, OpenSSL, SQLite, GraphicsMagick, SciMark, RAMspeed, Flexible IO Tester, RAMspeed, Bork File Encrypter, and Sunflow Rendering System. All tests are available through the Phoronix Test Suite for managing and running the entire testing process.
For those unfamiliar with the Phoronix Test Suite, it is our GPLv3 performance profiling software that provides an extensible architecture whereby tests (written via an XML specification and a small set of scripts) can automate various tests in a standardized, completely automated, and repeatable way. The Phoronix Test Suite automates everything from the test installation, to the detection of installed hardware/software components, to presenting a results viewer and graphs. The Phoronix Test Suite is supported on Linux, OpenSolaris, Mac OS X, and *BSD operating systems. For this testing we used the latest development version of Phoronix Test Suite 1.8 "Selbu", which delivers a GTK2 GUI, drag-and-drop benchmarking, reference system comparisons, and a host of other features. With Phoronix Test Suite 1.8 there are nearly 90 individual test profiles and 40+ test suites. More information on the Phoronix Test Suite is available at Phoronix-Test-Suite.com. Questions concerning our testing can be directed to the Phoronix Forums.