moonjihad (moonjihad) wrote,

Gentoo : Linux for Overclockers

Yesterday, I installed Gentoo Linux on my computer. Or rather, I started installing it — it hasn't yet finished. Even though I haven't used it for 24 hours, I already hate it. And by using it, I mean running lynx and vim because that's the only thing that would compile within a reasonable timeframe. Yes, I'm typing this entry using lynx and vim. On a 80x25 terminal.

What's the big deal with Gentoo anyway? I have no idea, really. Portage is just a gigantic repository of shells scripts that consist of wget, ./configure and make install that is updated with rsync. Okay, there's more to it but that's the general impression it leaves.

So let's talk about the setup procedure. Wait… what setup procedure? The setup CD — which didn't boot by itself — ditches you to a bash prompt, with the ever so helpful RTFM. To install your system you are expected to extract a base system tarball, chroot to that environment , edit your make.conf so that it passes appropriate arguments to the compiler and then start building your system.

Editing your make.conf is the opportunity to customize your system and RICE IT TO THE MAXXX. Although the manual doesn't use those terms, it still talks about “optimization” and application startup time.

Apparently, Gentoo ricers haven't heard that the time needed to complete a task is equal to the sum of its components if there is no parallelism. Actually, I'll confuse the Gentoo ricers by using algebra: given the jobs duration j n , the total time t to execute the first i tasks n i is defined by the equation t = n ij n , assuming that all jobs j n where n c are completed before the current job j c and that the delay between job j n and j n 1 is null. Knowing this, it's a good thing to optimize a set of jobs k if the time l needed to optimize the set of jobs k is smaller than the difference of the the sum of the durations of the of job set k and the sum of the durations of the optimized job set k ' .

To put it in simpler words, if you spend four hours compiling KDE and configuring your CFLAGS and USE settings, you're losing your time unless you're getting more than four hours worth of speed gains, assuming that you are sitting idling in front of the screen for those four hours compiling KDE. Even if you don't, you still lost the two or five or fifteen minutes you spent tweaking your make.conf unless your system is that much faster.

Considering that most programs aren't CPU-bound nowadays — just check how much of that multiple gigahertz CPU you are using — you could gain a lot more speed by optimizing the thing that slows down computers the most : you. Just check how often you are waiting for the computer to do something against the frequency at which the computer is waiting for you to do something.

Grab a book on say, basic Linux usage, and instead of having programs go faster, you'll go faster. That way, the next time you install Linux and have problems with sound, you'll fix the permissions on the sound device right away rather than randomly poking at things until they work. And no amount of tweaking your CFLAGS can get you that much optimization.

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