Archive for July, 2007

Sony NGW-TZ, the pretty subnotebook that doesn’t wanna be

Monday, July 30th, 2007

For some time I keep an eye on normal PC laptops as the Mac world degenerates more and more to real junk quality. Most annoying right now is the high-frequency noise of the MacBook that is killing my nerves while I try to think about the innovative code and algorithms in our company and the ongoing battery issues that even sometimes keep the MacBook from powering on at all and all the other tiny details that are imperfect.

Now the Sony TZ series comes quite near to a good ultra-portable. Of course the CPU of the 1.1kg device only runs at 1 or 1.2 GHz (depending on how much money you have to spare), but that’s pretty fine for my normal business, programming tasks with the resouce efficent Linux kernel anyway (Vista anyone ?). But the Sony TZ series has some extremly annoying design bugs that really keep me from grabbing one:

  • no digital video output, no DVI nor HDMI nor Display Port - only good old VGA
  • glossy finish exactly where you touch it all the time: the keyboard area
  • as usual for Sony, the network port is mounted upside down. You have to lift the device to un-plug the network cable while on most other devices on the world you can comfortable press the RJ-45 nipple from the top.
  • superflous, sparkling media keys on the front side
  • and if you ever use Windows (thanks God I don’t) you get ugly black/white, “back to the 80s” on-screen notifications on brightness and volume change (as it was for previous Sony devices aas well)

The rest of the sub-notebook is really pretty neat, obviously because Sony was influenced by the MacBook design and nearly copied the keyboard 1:1 … :-)

However last but not least comes the price tag, and starting at 1.999 € (in Germany) for the entry model, over 2.699 € - for the model which has a black display cover, comes with 2 GB instead of 1 GB memory, 100 GB instead of 80 GB hard-disk and a finger print reader - up to 2.899 € for the top model - which comes with a 1.2 GHz (instead of 1 GHz) Core 2 Duo ULV CPU. Last but not least for 2.999 € you can get a 32 GB SSD (solid state disk) extra, special, ueber edition, … These prices are just insane. Other people get a whole car for that money!

And even despite the insane price I even still considered purchasing one (the least expensive one that is), but well - no digital video output to connect a high-definition display on my desk really kills the whole baby.

Debian retiring sparc32 port

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

As gone thru the media, Debian is retireing the sparc32 port. However, despite the lack of an upstream Linux kernel sparc32 maintainer, our T2 SDE will just continue to support sparc32 - so if you need an up-to-date and optimized distribution for your older SPARC boxes, or new ESA satelites just give T2 a try.

Notes on Linux File-System performance

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

For the past 5 years I just used ReiserFS (3) for all file-systems, as it was the first and then fastest journaling filesystem that made it into the Linux kernel. However since then Ext3 made progress and with XFS and JFS new player hit the Linux kernel “game”, I recently gave the alternatives a little test-run and just wanted to drop my tiny, unnumbered notes on the topic.

First of all I should mention that I have quite an exessive workload - even on my laptop’s /home partitions. This is due to my full-system development with multiple complete root filesystems and deep ccache directories beeing created as part of my development with and on the T2 SDE.

Testing XFS (somewhere around 2.6.19) oopsed the kernel a couple of times already in the first hours, so I went on testing JFS. While JFS never oopsed in my testing it shared the same slightly slower initially performing on operations like “svn st” on the multiple-thousand files T2 working copy with XFS. JFS does not come with in-kernel log replay after crashes or power outage - the user-space fsck.jfs is needed to perform this job. This decreased in-kernel code complexity, however your distribution must support fsck’ing JFS, especially the root (/) partition if you want to use JFS on it. As the Ext2/3 family was way too slow on the multi million files partition, I kept using JFS for half a year. However, it degenerated significantly in performance over time to a point where it was no fun to work anymore. Right now I even cleanup temporary files as well as the resulting root filesystems sandboxes created over the past 6 months in oder to backup the whole partition and re-format with reiserfs (v3), but unfortunatle just wiping the ccache directories already took over an hour so far:

removing build/ccache-arm-1 ...
removing build/ccache-avr32-1 ...
removing build/ccache-x86-64 ...

and is still going on :-( with an average disk-load of just 300kB/s and and CPU load (of the Core 2 DUo @ 2GHz) of just 1%/0% … :-(

At least the disk-io while removing increased to 700kB/s, now - so I have the hope that removing the various complete systems (== the next million files to delete), becomes a little more performant.

I also tested reiser4 which in contrast to to XFS did not oops and showed quite a performace increase over reiser (v3), however with reiser4 not beeing in the mainline kernel and the still ongoing cleanup and rewriting and uncertain future, I rather do not put my data at that risk. It’s on-the-fly compression however would probably be a nice benefit for the laptop HD and the many plain/text files resulting while compiling whole systems.