Sunday, 23 May 2010

A Swift Boot

Yesterday there was an install party at the Orewa Library - I did not expect a huge turn-out and I didn't get it. Promotion was minimal, even the in-library posters had been placed where they were unlikely to be seen.

Even so - there were three installations, all of which were completely flawless with no problems at all - even the tricky proprietary video card. I was able to demonstrate the full features in post-install.

A couple of teens waiting for the library computers used one of my laptops on wireless and there was some Q&A. Overall a relaxed and mellow day. This compared to the first one where there were more installations but also more problems, some of which took me into the next day.

One of the machines featured a very light version of windows seven. There is no question that the experience is vastly improved over Vista - though I have not had a look under the hood to check out what is actually going on. One of the more discussed elements is the perceived boot-time. That's not too surprising, the time to boot is the most conspicuous part of performance to the user.  c. XP MS had a habit of faking a fast-boot by presenting the graphical desktop before it could be used for anything. W7 seems to be doing something of that as well, but also something different. My impression, shared by others, is that 10.04 is still faster to boot.

The curious thing is that the oem windows installs are fast because they don't have to guess what HW is installed, the vendor has done that tweaking for you (a true comparison would be between boxed installs) Apple has an even better idea about the HW, while all the linuxes pretty much have to waste time probing the motherboard. One of the recognised ways to speed up a gnu/linux install is to compile it for the exact HW installed and assume nothing will change. In which case, boot times under 10 seconds are routine. This is why Mark Shuttleworth thinks a 10sec boot time for Ubuntu is feasible - the idea is to do all the hardware and feature detection and setup simultaneously. I can get sub-10-sec boot-times right now if I don't expect a GUI.

The best way to get a fast linux boot is to put it on the ROM - this is how core-boot works. Misses out the bios step completely, and already has all the HW info built in. Most processes are already running before the main system is up, so there is less to do. This puts boot times under six seconds.

Unfortunately, core-boot has to be installed at the factory.

In the old days, you could turn on your computer and the OS was up in the time it took for the screen to warm up - 1-2 seconds. The long boot times are indicative of the amount of work we expect modern computers to do just to give us a pretty work-space. Is it possible that we are heading to that sort of thing again?

No comments:

Post a Comment