December 13, 2010 -- Oracle's been vigorously working on their VM VirtualBox 4.0 software and in just the past week they have delivered two public betas that bring a number of new features. Among the changes there is support for Intel HD audio / ICH9 to guest VMs, the concept of extension packs, user-interface improvements, support for limiting a virtual machine's CPU time and I/O bandwidth, 3D acceleration fixes for guests, and a great number of bug-fixes. How though is this updated Oracle/Sun virtualization platform comparing to the older VirtualBox 3.2 release and that of the upstream Linux KVM (the Kernel-based Virtual Machine) that most Linux distributions rely upon? Here are a number of benchmarks that seek to answer this very question.
December 08, 2010 -- Last month we reported on the 200 line Linux kernel patch that does wonders for improving the desktop responsiveness of the system. There was certainly much interest (over 100,000 views to both of our YouTube videos demonstrating the change) but this patch really didn't speed up the system per se but rather improved the desktop interactivity and reduced latency by creating task-groups per TTY so that the processes had more equal access to the CPU. There is though an entirely different patch-set now beginning to generate interest among early adopters that does improve the kernel performance itself in compute and memory intensive applications and it's the Transparent Hugepage Support patch-set. Here are our initial tests of the latest kernel patches that will hopefully be finding their way into the mainline Linux kernel soon.
December 03, 2010 -- Earlier this week I noted there's new Apple hardware in our labs being used to tighten up our Mac OS X support within the Phoronix Test Suite, OpenBenchmarking.org, Phoromatic, etc. However, in the middle of working on Iveland, I have been carrying out a few Mac OS X benchmarks comparing its performance under the 2010 Apple Mac Book Pro to other operating systems. With the Core i5 notebook being much faster than the past Apple Mac Minis used in comparisons like looking at their enhanced OpenGL stack and benchmarking Mac OS X against Linux and Windows 7, the results are more interesting and there's also a greater variety of testing possibilities now with the recent Phoronix Test Suite advancements. Next week there are some very interesting Apple-related benchmarks to be published, but before the weekend here are a few tests from this Apple Mac Book Pro looking at its power consumption under Mac OS X 10.6.5 and Ubuntu 10.10.
December 02, 2010 -- There is the first beta release of the Adobe 10.2 Flash Player now available for Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X, and Linux platforms that brings a variety of improvements since the Flash Player 10.1 release from earlier this year. For Linux users this Adobe Flash update is quite important since it finally delivers GPU-based video acceleration support via their new Stage Video technology that is now supported on all platforms. Adobe's Stage Video offloads the entire video process to the GPU and in this article are some initial tests illustrating the benefits of this Flash update for Linux users.
December 01, 2010 -- A few weeks ago there were benchmarks of GCC, LLVM-GCC, DragonEgg, and Clang. In this compiler performance comparison the releases of GCC 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, and a 4.6 development snapshot were benchmarked. On the LLVM side there was LLVM-GCC 4.2, DragonEgg with GCC 4.5 and LLVM 2.8, and then Clang with LLVM 2.8. This combination of eight open-source compilers were tested on three distinct Intel and AMD systems (even a 12-thread Core i7 Gulftown), but all of which were 64-bit capable and contained relatively high-end processors from their respective series. To complement this earlier article, available now are some new GCC/LLVM benchmarks but this time an older Intel Atom CPU was used to look at the 32-bit compiler performance on a slower, low-power netbook.
November 25, 2010 -- When Wayland started out in 2008 it was very difficult to build and run this lightweight, next-generation display server. Wayland leverages the very latest Linux graphics technologies and at that time all of Wayland's dependencies had to be patched or built from branched sources and Wayland even had its own EGL implementation at the time (Eagle) rather than Mesa and overall it was just a high barrier to entry. Wayland at that time also worked with only the open-source Intel driver, while now it can work with most any KMS / GEM / Mesa driver. It was not until recently that it became possible to build Wayland from mainline components beginning to ship in new Linux distributions, thereby making it much easier to experiment with the open-source display server. Now it's to a point where you can just run a simple script and be up and running with a Wayland Display Server in just minutes.
November 24, 2010 -- When publishing ATI Gallium3D benchmarks this week that compared the performance of the Radeon HD 4870 and Radeon HD 5770 graphics cards with this next-generation driver architecture to the classic open-source Mesa driver and AMD's high-performance proprietary Catalyst driver, the results were what one would mostly expect. The Gallium3D driver was faster than the classic Mesa driver in most tests, but both drivers seriously lagged behind the proprietary driver. Even on older generation ATI Radeon graphics cards this is the case. This though has led many to effectively ask, "what's keeping the open-source drivers from performing like the proprietary driver?" It all comes down to low-level optimizations as is discussed in this Phoronix Forums thread. There are very large development teams for the different Catalyst driver components within AMD and much of this work is shared across all platforms, but on the open-source Linux side there's very few paid full-time developers and just a number of part-time, community developers to cover the entire driver stack.
November 22, 2010 -- In August we delivered the news that Linux was soon to receive a native ZFS Linux kernel module. The Sun (now Oracle) ZFS file-system has long been sought after for Linux, though less now since Btrfs has emerged, but incompatibilities between the CDDL and GPL licenses have barred such support from entering the mainline Linux kernel. There has been ZFS-FUSE to run the ZFS file-system in user-space, but it comes with slow performance. There has also been work by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in porting ZFS to Linux as a native Linux kernel module. This LLNL ZFS work though is incomplete but still progressing due to a US Department of Energy contract. It is though via this work that developers in India at KQ Infotech have made working a Linux kernel module for ZFS. In this article are some new details on KQ Infotech's ZFS kernel module and our results from testing out the ZFS file-system on Linux.
November 17, 2010 -- Last month I said what OpenBenchmarking.org is and how it should change the benchmarking / automated testing landscape once it's released in conjunction with Phoronix test Suite 3.0 "Iveland" early next year. I have also showed off the new graphing capabilities for this software and provided another update at the end of last month. Here now is another update with some more exciting details.
November 16, 2010 -- In recent weeks and months there has been quite a bit of work towards improving the responsiveness of the Linux desktop with some very significant milestones building up recently and new patches continuing to come. This work is greatly improving the experience of the Linux desktop when the computer is withstanding a great deal of CPU load and memory strain. Fortunately, the exciting improvements are far from over. There is a new patch that has not yet been merged but has undergone a few revisions over the past several weeks and it is quite small -- just over 200 lines of code -- but it does wonders for the Linux desktop.