Three years ago Intel had released PowerTop, an open-source utility for Linux that would analyze how well your laptop was conserving power and would allow users to easily tune their system for maximum battery life via simple power optimizations. By simply running this utility, some users were able to significantly extend their battery life. However, is this utility still useful and needed with a modern Linux desktop? The most recent release of PowerTop (v1.11) was a year and a half ago, so we are seeing how well PowerTop is still able to reduce the power consumption of Intel notebooks/netbooks running Linux.
Yesterday we reported that Ubuntu 10.10 gained Btrfs installation support and since then we have been trying out this Btrfs support in Ubuntu "Maverick Meerkat" and have a fresh set of Btrfs benchmarks to serve up.
Last month we looked at the cost of running Compiz by means of looking at how the window manager affected the frame-rate of several different games and whether compositing was used. We also tested out several different drivers and pieces of hardware. When Compiz was running rather than GNOME's Metacity it often caused a measurable drop in the OpenGL performance and then we later found this to be the case too with KDE's KWin. Today we are seeing if and how using Mutter, the window manager for the GNOME 3.0 desktop that uses Clutter-based compositing, will affect the performance of several different open-source games.
With MeeGo using Btrfs by default, Canonical making plans for Btrfs in as soon as Ubuntu 10.10, and Novell now pushing Btrfs in openSUSE, among other milestones for this advanced Linux file-system, we decided to see where the Btrfs performance is now at with the Linux 2.6.35 kernel that's currently in development. We compare the Btrfs performance to EXT4 and see how some of the different mount options are affecting the file-system's performance in different benchmarks.
For the past six months we have been monitoring the performance of the very latest Linux kernel code on a daily basis across multiple systems. We have spotted a few regressions -- both positive and negative -- on occasion using our automated daily testing of the Linux kernel, but nothing like what we have encountered the past few days: the Linux 2.6.35 kernel performance has fallen hard. In fact, the performance has fallen very hard in a number of tests and right now, we would consider it a disaster. While the 2.6.35 code has not even seen its first release candidate yet, there are some massive performance drops in a variety of different tests that have yet to be corrected and nothing like we have encountered with previous kernel release cycles especially for a regression that has lived now for about one week.
With its continuing commitment to provide quarterly updates to its industry-leading automated testing and benchmarking platform, Phoronix Media has announced the immediate availability of Phoronix Test Suite 2.6 (codenamed "Lyngen").
Last week we published Arch Linux vs. Ubuntu benchmarks to finally lay to rest that for the overall system performance the speed of the rolling Arch Linux distribution is not too different from that of Ubuntu when running with similar package versions. One of the areas, however, where the performance was different with the "out of the box" experience was the OpenGL gaming where Ubuntu was using Compiz by default where as Arch had Metacity. This surprised many so we published another article entitled The Cost Of Running Compiz where we showed the performance penalties of a compositing window manager with different hardware and drivers. This led some to ask whether the performance of KWin also causes the OpenGL frame-rate to drop, so here are those KDE benchmarks.
Earlier this week we published benchmarks comparing Arch Linux and Ubuntu. There were only a few areas where the two Linux distributions actually performed differently with many of their core packages being similar, but one of the areas where the results were vastly different was with the OpenGL performance as Ubuntu uses Compiz by default (when a supported GPU driver is detected) where as Arch does not. This had surprised many within our forums so we decided to carry out a number of tests with different hardware and drivers to show off what the real performance cost is of running Compiz as a desktop compositing manager in different configurations.
The Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) has been in the mainline Linux kernel since Linux 2.6.20 in early 2007 and over time it has become one of the most widely used virtualization platforms on Linux. Ubuntu uses KVM, Fedora uses KVM, and Red Hat Enterprise Linux has even switched from Xen to preferring KVM, among others. While occasionally we deliver new KVM virtualization benchmarks, we decided to investigate how the performance of KVM virtualization has changed -- if at all -- over the past two years for better or worse.
As we reported this morning, via a blog post and keynote to kick-off the start of the Ubuntu Developer Summit this week for engaging in Ubuntu 10.10 development activities, Mark Shuttleworth announced Ubuntu Light and Ubuntu Unity. Ubuntu Light is a new spin of Ubuntu that is being offered up to OEMs that are looking to offer Ubuntu Linux as part of a dual-boot installation on their PCs. Unity is the new Ubuntu desktop interface that is used by Ubuntu Light.
Last week in a FreeBSD status report we talked about the Chromium web-browser support on FreeBSD improving through a new subscription program whereby most of the FreeBSD patches are being kept closed-source for some length of time before being committed back upstream as open-source and reaching the hands of the non-subscribers. This caused some to question the work, but the developer behind this FreeBSD-Chromium subscription program, Sprewell, has written an editorial that we are now publishing. This details his beliefs concerning the future of open-source software business models.
With the recent release of GCC 4.5 and the forthcoming release of LLVM 2.7 that is expected in the coming days, we have decided to see how the performance of GCC compares to that of LLVM. For this testing we have results from GCC 4.3/4.4/4.5 compared to LLVM with its GCC front-end (LLVM-GCC) and against Clang, which is the native C/C++ compiler front-end for the Low-Level Virtual Machine.
Last week GCC 4.5.0 entered the world with improvements to the experimental C++0x support, Graphite-powered automatic parallelization support, compatibility with new ARM processors, Intel Atom and AMD Orochi optimizations, link-time optimization, and GCC plug-in support. Over the weekend we decided to benchmark this major update to the GNU Compiler Collection to see how its performance compares to that of GCC 4.3 and 4.4.
One of the benefits of Btrfs besides offering competitive performance against other Linux file-systems and SSD optimizations is its support for sub-volumes and writable snapshots. While Btrfs is still in development and is not yet used as a default file-system by any Linux distribution, Red Hat has been looking to capitalize upon the capabilities of Btrfs by introducing support for system rollbacks into Fedora. The Btrfs-based system rollback support has been a feature for Fedora 13 so with the release of the Fedora 13 Beta earlier this week we decided to further investigate this feature.
File-system benchmarks have become quite common to Phoronix in the age of EXT4 and Btrfs with these new file-systems driving much of the interest and as we have also been finding the Linux file-system performance to change between kernel releases (and in some cases, the performance has changed a great deal). Most recently we delivered benchmarks of EXT4 vs. Btrfs vs. Reiser4, but now a month later we are back with more Linux file-system benchmarks as we look to see if the disk performance has changed with the Linux 2.6.34 kernel.
Most of the time at Phoronix we focus on looking at the Linux graphics performance of the software drivers and hardware, since traditionally that has been one of the most troubling areas of Linux hardware support. Tides though have turned as AMD continues to back their own open-source strategy with providing documentation and pushing out code that enables open-source hardware support from 3D acceleration to power management, while Intel continues to back their fully open-source model too. Another area of hardware support that has caused much grief for users has been with printer support. Printers are not nearly as complex as a modern-day graphics processor, but the different vendors have not been quick to offer up any Linux support -- and binary-only drivers frequently back the ones that do. There is one printer manufacturer though that as of last year has begun supporting Linux from top to bottom with their entire line-up of printers. Not only are they providing CUPS drivers, but also they are even printing Tux in the corner of every box they ship right besides the Windows and Apple logos. Do you know who we are talking about? Probably not, but it's Lexmark. After months of wrangling within the company, Lexmark has stepped up to become a Linux and open-source friendly company. We are seeing how far this Linux support extends as we try out the Lexmark Pro905 Platinum multi-function printer.
According to the release plans, the release of X Server 1.8 should take place, and while in reality it will likely not be released today, its release is coming soon. When this release does arrive, it will add a new set of features to the X.Org stack and a number of other minor improvements and bug-fixes.
Phoromatic, our remote test management system that makes it incredibly simple to deploy the Phoronix Test Suite across an array of systems within an organization or around the world, has been in development for more than a year. We publicly announced this unique enterprise solution when developing Phoronix Test Suite 2.0 and it publicly went into beta with Phoronix Test Suite 2.2 where it became possible to easily build a benchmarking test farm using our Phoronix software. Before ending out the year we launched Phoromatic Tracker with an initial reference implementation to monitor the Linux kernel performance on a daily basis and in a fully automated manner. Phoromatic has been a huge success, but today we are announcing that Phoromatic has reached a 1.0 status and additionally we are providing the Ubuntu Linux community with a new performance tracker in collaboration with Canonical.
The release of Ubuntu 10.04 LTS "Lucid Lynx" is quickly approaching next month and it will arrive with a whole set of new features and improvements including a faster boot process, a long-awaited new theme, the Nouveau driver to replace the crippled xf86-video-nv driver, the unveiling of the Ubuntu One Music Store, integration of Plymouth, Ubuntu ARM advancements, and many other advancements for this Linux distribution. While it may not be as exciting as looking at these new end-user features, in this article we are testing out the available kernels for Ubuntu 10.04. Besides the standard Linux 2.6.32 kernel used in the Lucid release, there is also a specialized server kernel as well as a new -preempt kernel is now available. We are looking at how these different kernels perform and how they compare to the mainline Linux kernels with the 2.6.32, 2.6.33, and 2.6.34-rc1 releases.
Fedora 13 Alpha was released yesterday with a plethora of new features and updated packages for this Red Hat Linux distribution. Aside from the features like Btrfs system rollback support and PolicyKit One support for Qt/KDE applications to excite end-users, each Fedora release always pulls in the very latest Linux graphics code. Fedora was the first distribution shipping with the Nouveau driver, then its KMS driver, and now with Fedora 13 it's the first OS deploying Nouveau's Gallium3D driver (there's benchmarks behind that link). Fedora 13 is also carrying the latest packages for the unreleased X Server 1.8, DisplayPort monitor support for more graphics cards, the latest ATI driver code from the xf86-video-ati DDX to the in-development DRM, and then there is the very latest Intel work too. To get an idea for the direction that the Intel 3D support is heading in this release, we have carried out a few quick OpenGL benchmarks.
Xfce, LXDE, and other desktop environments are often referenced as being lighter-eight Linux desktop environments than KDE and GNOME, but what are the measurable performance differences between them? Curious how much of a quantitative impact the GNOME, KDE, Xfce, and LXDE desktops have on netbook systems, we carried out a small set of tests to look at the differences in memory usage, battery power consumption, and thermal performance.
There is no shortage of EXT4 benchmarks from comparing this evolutionary file-system's performance on netbooks to how it battles the Btrfs file-system to its performance recession. We have even benchmarked it on USB flash drives and on high-end SSDs. We have also delivered numerous Btrfs benchmarks. In this article though we are finally delivering something that has long been requested and that is Reiser4 file-system benchmarks running directly against EXT4 and Btrfs. We have also thrown in the original ReiserFS file-system for comparison too.
At Phoronix we have been benchmarking the Linux kernel on a daily basis using Phoromatic Tracker, a sub-component of Phoromatic and the Phoronix Test Suite. We launched our first system in the Linux kernel testing farm just prior to the Linux 2.6.33 kernel development cycle and found a number of notable regressions during the past three months. Now with the Linux 2.6.34 kernel development cycle getting into swing, we have added an additional two systems to our daily kernel benchmarking farm. One of the systems is an Atom Z520 system but what makes it more interesting is that the system is using a Btrfs file-system and then the second new system added to the kernel tracker is a 64-bit setup. However, to provide a historical look at the Linux kernel performance, we have ran some fresh benchmarks going back to the Linux 2.6.24 kernel and ending with the recently released Linux 2.6.33 kernel.
In December we wrote that Ubuntu 10.04 already shortened the boot time, which has been a great focus amongst Canonical and Ubuntu developers as they strive for a ten second boot. A lot has changed since that article was published last year, including the introduction of Plymouth and many kernel mode-setting improvements along with the introduction of Nouveau for NVIDIA KMS support. We've ran a new boot performance comparison on two laptops and a netbook as we see how the boot times are looking with Ubuntu 10.04 LTS when compared to Ubuntu 9.10. We have also looked at how the power consumption has changed in the Lucid Lynx for these mobile devices.
This weekend at the Southern California Linux Expo in Los Angeles, Matthew Tippett and I presented a talk entitled Five Stages of Benchmark Loss: PTS and You. In this hour-long talk, we covered Linux benchmarking, what has been learned over the years of benchmarking at Phoronix, the Phoronix Test Suite, and the five stages that users and developers generally go through when they lose out on benchmarking results. For those that were unable to attend this event, here are the slides and recordings.
Last month we published benchmarks of EXT4 comparing this file-system's performance when it was first marked stable in the mainline kernel and then where it is at now in the Linux kernel while testing every major release in between. This article was followed up by a Btrfs versus EXT4 comparison using the Linux 2.6.33 kernel to see how the two most talked about Linux file-systems are battling it out with the latest kernel. After those Linux file-system benchmarks were published, we received a request from Canonical to look at the EXT3 performance too. With that said, we have done just that and have published EXT3, EXT4, and Btrfs benchmarks from Ubuntu 9.10 and a Ubuntu 10.04 development snapshot from an Intel Atom netbook.
Phoronix Media has announced the immediate release of Phoronix Test Suite 2.4 (codenamed "Lenvik"), as the latest update to their open-source testing framework that delivers immediate and measurable advantages to its customers. The Phoronix Test Suite 2.4 software is compatible with a greater number of operating systems, introduces support for mobile platforms, offers a new range of test profiles, and other features to further solidify its premiere position within the computer benchmarking industry.
Earlier this week we published extensive benchmarks of EXT4 that looked at the performance of this Linux file-system under every major kernel release since it was declared stable in the Linux 2.6.28 release. EXT4 has encountered many significant performance losses over time as its developers batten up the data security, but there have been some improvements too. At the same time though the developers working on the still-experimental Btrfs file-system continue to move along and push forward changes with each kernel cycle. Just last month we delivered Btrfs comparative benchmarks using the Linux 2.6.32 kernel, but already out of our own personal interest and requests from readers, we have new tests atop the latest Linux 2.6.33 kernel.
Over the past week there has been a lot of talk about the EXT4 file-system following the announcement that Google is migrating their EXT2 file-systems to EXT4. Their reasons for this transition to EXT4 are attributed to the easy migration process and Google engineers are pleased with this file-system's performance. However, as we mentioned in that news post last week and in many other articles over the past weeks and months, EXT4 is not as great of a contender as it was in the past, well, for some tests at least. The performance of the EXT4 file-system commonly goes down with new kernel releases and not up, as kernel developers continue to introduce new safeguards to address potential data loss problems that initially plagued some EXT4 users. For our latest EXT4 benchmarks we have numbers that show this file-system's performance using a vanilla 2.6.28 kernel (when EXT4 was marked as stable) and then every major kernel release up through the latest Linux 2.6.33 release candidate.
For those that may have forgot, at the start of December we launched the Phoronix Kernel Test Farm to begin benchmarking the Linux kernel on a daily basis using the automated tools that we provide via the Phoronix Test Suite and Phoromatic. Towards the middle of December we then unveiled the Phoromatic Tracker, which exposes these test results in real-time to the public. Well, it's now been a month of monitoring the kernel's performance and the entire Linux 2.6.33 kernel development cycle thus far, with many interesting findings.
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