Thursday, August 30, 2007


Having used SLS (Soft Landing Systems an ancient now defunked distribution. IIRC SLS was the first 'packaged' distribution), Slackware then when moved to an x86_64 system, Slamd64 before finally settling on Bluewhite64. I currently have over 500 packages of my own creation. That is, I download the sources and configure, compile and install a lot of stuff myself, usually with a Bluewhite64 package of the result. It never ceases to amaze me how people claim optimisations over and above the stock -march=i486 -mcpu=i686, or in some cases -march=i386, Slackware uses or the stock i386 debian is built with, results in faster load and execution times.

Gentoo users are the biggest culprits for doing this. They claim, and worse some even think and believe, that because their systems are built from the ground up (this is no longer completely true as even stage1 comes with a pre-built base install last time I checked) with some semi insane GCC settings that their OS somehow, magically, is faster than all the other Linux distributions that come pre built via packages.

As an aside, the myth that says Gentoo gives you more knowledge than other distribution is just that. A myth. Portage does all work with the user giving some, often ignored, flags to it. Portage then goes and downloads the sources, builds then installs it. No black magic there at all.

Gentoo users through this mistaken belief can be seen on various mailing lists, web forums, blogs and Usenet arguing over little known, little useful, hidden GCC flags again in the mistaken belief that these flags offer them optimisations over and above what every other OS uses.

Gentoo users are not alone in this belief but their userbase is way over and above the most vocal about it. There are other distributions that make the same claims. Sourcemage, Rock Linux are two others that come immediately to mind at the time of writing.

I cannot find the link now but a while ago there was a binary speed comparison of Gentoo, Mandrake (now Mandriva) and Debian. Debian was compiled for i386, mandrake for i586 and Gentoo for i686. I don't recall what GCC flags where used but I do seem to recall that the flags used where pretty ordinary. It turned out that Debian's i386 compiled binaries were faster in every way. The report was vilified by Gentoo fanboys at the time but what the report did show was that setting insane GCC flags does not always mean one will get a faster system load time and execution time.

The truth is that most optimisations for GCC have nothing whatsoever to do with speed but do have something to do with the resultant binary size(s). This binary size can and does give the illusion that the binary can and does load and run faster.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Where has he gone?

This blog was created not be me, Jeepster, but by a very good friend of mine called

Ho hum....

I hate misinformation with a passion and beleive me there is a lot of misinformation about a GNU/Linux on the Internet. I was browsing around the Internet looking for nothing in particular when I happened upon the following link: Now, having been a Linux user since around the very early 1990's I take issue with some of the bogus things mentioned in the above article. Let us look at this persons "Requirements" one by one. Here is his list of "Requirements": 1. It must have a GUI interface for installing and configuring the system. 2. Existing hardware must remain usable and the new operating system must make it "just work" without my having to edit text-based configuration files. 3. Existing software must remain usable unless the new operating system has equivalent features to the ones I use, and I can switch without losing data or doing much work. 4. Because I need to use software that has no Linux substitute, the Linux distribution must make it easy to create a dual-boot system. It has to recognize and preserve the existing operating system and its data during installation, and give me access to the data on the Windows drives after installation. Further this person says his "Requirements" are "non-negotiable". Obviously a very arrogant person who writes fluff at best and utter junk, like the article above, at worse. Option 1 in this persons list of "non-negotiable requirements" is the funniest of all of them. The question is, what constitutes a GUI? Most people consider a GUI to mean real drivers for the graphics card and real and proper windows, buttons, icons etc. The MS Window installer does not use a GUI, it uses bit mapped graphics which imitates what we all know as being a GUI. On Linux this is called the framebuffer or sometimes the VESA buffer is used. Given that this person claims to know his stuff does not bode well for whatever else he waffles on about. Throughout the article there are errors and misleading information that is so blatant is stops being funny after page 1. Anyway. Item 2 on his "non-negotiable requirements" list is almost as funny of item 1. The vast majority of hardware under MS Windows immediately after the installation phase is used in the most basic of basic states until one installs the proper driver. Under Linux the vast majority of hardware is in the most usable state from the minute the kernel loads the driver during the install phase. There is a huge difference between these two methods and those differences are at best glossed over in this article and at worst totally disregarded. Further in this persons Item 2 it is stated that the hardware must just work without the need to edit text based files. Now, given that MS Windows has all manner of "Wizards", some of which just work whilst others simply do not and almost every change requires a reboot, I think editing the odd text based file is a much prefer method as they are almost always guaranteed to "just work". Redhat, Mandriva and SuSe to name but a few all have similar wizards. Still, it has to be said that the vast majority of hardware "just works" under Linux and of those obscure bits that rely on deeply embedded MS Windows files often installed by MS Windows only drivers are not worth bothering with anyway, because those types of hardware use way too much CPU time to do their thing. Item 3 in this persons "non-negotiable requirements" list is an obscure one. The person states that "Existing software must remain usable". I do not fully understand the meaning here as it should be obvious that MS Windows software will not work on a Linux distribution as the under laying file system formats are not compatible, unless one uses cedega or qemu both of which run MS Windows within Linux. Some software packages, like the Picasso one this person mentioned run under a Linux OS but is wrapped up in Wine, another MS Windows emulator. If however, this person meant that under Linux his DATA files should be usable from the MS Windows world then that is a different thing altogether. Apart from some deeply proprietary formats the vast majority are usable under a Linux distribution. OpenOffice, which can be directly compared to MS Office, can open, edit and save in all manner of formats, some MS, some Linux but the majority of major MS formats can be opened, edited and saved back to the MS format. The programs under a Linux based OS may not be the same (how could they be when the program creators do not produce a Linux version?) but the fact is that the vast majority of file formats, be they text based ones, movie and sound based ones or even the ubiquitous MS Office formats are usable under a Linux OS but using a different program. OpenOffice in place of MS Office or Mplayer plus codecs in place of MS Media Player plus codecs etc etc. Finally, this persons Item 4. This person states that he uses some applications that have no Linux equivalents. While I agree that this situation does happen, the situation is getting less and less but there are still some areas Linux has not gone to that the MS world has. The person also mentions a dual boot situation. Now, given that both Lilo or grub (two boot loaders under a Linux OS) have been able to do this since, well, since they more or less first came onto the market and if given the choice between a Linux based boot loader and an MS boot loader I personally would go with the Linux based one every time. Why? Well, the MS operating System does not like sharing with anything and is often times the culprit when in a dual boot situation the Linux OS side suddenly either stops working or simply gets deleted. Also, when you install MS Windows it will automatically over write whatever is in the MBR irregardless of whether you wanted it to. The Linux based counterparts however will allow not only a dual boot situation but a triple or quad etc boot option. And just so this person knows it is not a Linux OS that stuffs up the MBR (Master Boot record which holds all the partitions and OS information) but the MS Windows one. The MS boot loader, or rather the MS installer does no sniffing of the MBR at all, while its Linux based counterparts do, and simply overwrites whatever was in the MBR. So, there we have it. Someone who has not the first clue about Operating Systems writing blatant rubbish about operating Systems. If these people are to gain any credibility whatsoever they should at least learn that about which they speak. Installing a Linux based OS nowadays is easier than installing its MS Windows counterpart. It will not over write whatever is in the MBR. It will open, edit and save almost all formats be they text based one, XML based ones, film based ones and music based ones. Apart from games, and even that area is getting less and less, there is very little MS Windows can do that a Linux OS cannot. This person used Ubuntu as his marker for his or her "non-negotiable requirements" which is a good choice as Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu or any other flavour of Ubuntu does all the things one would expect from a Linux OS trying to immitate MS Windows in every area. There are other Linux Distributions out there that operate in a similar fashion but there is only one MS Windows (Windows95, Windows98, WindowsXP, and MS Windows Vista are not differing OS's in the same way that the many and varied Linux distributions are). For anyone thinking of installing a Linux OS either as the only OS on the hard drive or as a dual boot you would do well to ignore this blatantly bias rubbish as portrayed in the article above and go and find someone, somewhere that knows what they are talking about. This person in the above mentioned article clearly and unequivocally does not.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

My foray into the murky world of Operating Systems.

Or, A potted history of my computer usage.

This blog post can also be found elsewhere. They where both written by myself.

While this blog host is worldwide the stuff at the end is for local to me people and companies. That said, if you are located somewhere far away from my locality, which is Hull, UK, then we can still talk via email, ICQ and even MSN and who knows, perhaps I can offer you or your company some remote services, which are incidentally something I excel at. Read on then decide for yourself which way you want to go.

I have used the Linux kernel and the same GNU based distribution since 1991. Yes, I was one of the masochists back in those days who saw Linus Torvalds work and the associated GNU tools as something radically different from what was quickly emerging as the default operating system ("OS").

I had previously used the Amiga OS, which was so far ahead in what it offered that even in todays OS world it would not be out of place. I started by foray into the murky waters of computers with a Commodore-PET, carried on through the C64/128 phase then the Plus4. Then along came the Amiga 1000. I immediately saw this machine for what it was and jumped on it. Over the following few years I went through the entire Amiga range ending up with what was their finest hour, the Amiga 3000 Tower.

By now it was 1991 at which time it had become painfully obvious the Amiga was going nowhere fast. Over the next few years I started looking at what else was available. IBM, and compatibles, where everywhere but lacked something I had grown used to having with the Amiga. Apple had machines out but they too lacked that something. Eventually, around 1996 and knowing nothing about them at that time, I bought my first and only pre-build IBM compatible machine which came with the awful MS Windows OS of that time. The OS itself stayed on that machine just long enough to download a Linux distribution, Slackware as it turned out, and install it. I have never used another OS on my main workstation since that time.

I had used NetBSD on my Amiga 3000 Tower setup since around 1990. Running it alongside the Amiga OS. It wasn't until around 1996 that I sold all my Amiga equipment and went full time into the Linux world which I have remained with ever since.

And that is my potted history of computer OS's I have used over the years.

I have said I started using Linux around 1991 and that is correct. Someone had given me an IBM clone on which had, if I remember correctly, MS Windows 1.0 or maybe 2.0, I forget. I ran this box alongside my Amigas for about 5 years, never upgrading it, save for an extra floppy drive and generally not doing much at all with it as it paled in comparison to my Amiga. Anyway, that OS, on the IBM clone. was quickly replaced with what was at that time the all new Linux kernel add in some GNU tools and a new OS was born.

What did the GNU/Linux combination have that the Amiga had that MS Windows, then and now, had that made me decide to use it? Freedom. Freedom to tinker with the underlaying OS and bend it whichever way I wanted to bend it. No MS OS has ever allowed for this and that alone made using the, any, MS OS a huge no-go for me.

Fast forward to today.

Through all of those machines and OS's I have been on a learning curve. Sometimes that curve has been steep, very very steep, and other times it has been easy. I am now the proud owner of several certificates which proclaim to the world I am fit and able to do all manner of IT related work.

I build all my own machines now as they work out cheaper that way plus one gets the ability to add-in whatever hardware one wants and often needs. Plus, I can tailor the hardware to ensure it works 100% with my choice of OS, which is GNU/Linux. Of course, today that tailoring of hardware is not really required anymore as GNU/Linux works with just about everything available, save for a few hardware pieces that tie themselves so close to the MS OS the coders and hackers cannot be bothered to create code that would make them work. If a hardware vendor is so short sighted they only make hardware that works on one OS then that hardware is not worth the time of day in my humble opinion anyway.

As a final note. If you enjoyed reading this and if you are located in Kingston upon Hull or at least somewhere close to it, and you are thinking of using a Linux OS within your company or as an individual at home, but the very thought of it is giving you nightmares, then feel free to contact me and if you want I will help you install a Linux based OS of your choosing. Perhaps you need someone to explain the finer points of the GNU/Linux OS versus MS OS, and there are many plus points for GNU/Linux over an MS OS, GNU/Linux is in 99.9% of cases cheaper to run and has no license fee mess to worry about, plus there is help everywhere on the Internet plus a few good GNU/Linux users locally who can offer guidance if you so need it. But the plus and minus things are best left for another blog post or possibly put somewhere on the Internet for all to see, read, inwardly digest and finally a decision made.

To my credit I have built from scratch upwards of 50 seat networks for various companies, that have at their heart a GNU/Linux based server. So, if you are such a person of company but are afraid of what GNU/Linux offers or perhaps the installation phase bothers you for some reason then feel free to contact me and we can perhaps have a chat about it. One thing you will find, be you an individual at home or the owner or manager of a small to medium company, GNU/Linux is not hard to install and with someone like myself at your elbow it will all become easy.

The savings that your company, be it a 2,4,16,32 or 64 seat one are not something your company can ignore or at least should not ignore.

As a side note and something that is, I am sure, always in your mind. I do not charge much, in point of fact I am confident you will find my services cheaper than most, if not all, of those who offer the same services, which is surely a plus for you. I charge nothing at all for email contact so what have you got to lose? Nothing, so go on. Contact me and let me show you the cost savings you can surely make.

Friday, August 3, 2007


Yesterday I got talking to an old old friend via MSN. Needless to say or indeed sad to say, but the guy was really into Microsoft operating Systems. I am sure you all know or realise I am a staunch Linux advocate. This dividing of the ways led to an interesting discussion which lasted just over 4 hours on and off.

He, as do most Microsoft using people, think that Microsoft innovated everything that comprises an Operating System. He even went so far as to say "Microsoft invented everything we use on the desktop and innovated everything we see on it". This rankled somewhat so I set about putting the record straight.

He was utterly disbelieving of the fact that through the years Microsoft has  actually innovated almost nothing, ever and has in fact assimilated companies who posed a threat to their near monopoly on the desktop as well as stolen code and called it their own, rehashed other peoples ideas and called it their own idea. The only things they have innovated on has been out of desperation of what others had done and even then because they innovated something that someone else had already done it is not true innovation.

The conversation was long, I will not be relaying it all here as a lot of it was just 'catch-up' chat. However, here are a few examples of the kind of things he believed that simply where not true or correct.

He was enamored with Internet Explorers tabbed browsing until I told him that we in the Linux community have had tabbed browsing for at least 2 years before Microsoft copied it. He was full of praise for some new Microsft terminal that has "scripting abilities" then I explained about the Bash shell and all the other console and terminals we in the Linux community have had for at least 10 years. Tabbed terminals? Same again, we have had them for years. The list went on and on and on and in every single case where he believed Microsoft has been first to market I corrected him and told him they where simply playing 'catch up' with what we in the Linux community have taken for granted for a long long time.

Microsoft does not innovate, they either buy out ideas and call them thier own or copy ideas already in use on other Operating Systems.

We ended the conversation with him promising to try a Linux distrubution but before he left he asked "Where do I get it from and if there is more then one which one should I use?". I answered with "Why bother? If you are happy with what you are using then stick with it". Then he said something I never expected. "Microsoft Vista is a bear and costs way too much for what it is, anyway, I was going to go back to Microsoft XP but now you have intrigued me with this thing you use called Linux so I want to take a look before reinstalling XP". So, I told him of Distrowatch and that if he is asking me for a recommendation for someone like him then I would have to say Ubuntu.

And that, as they say, was that. Off-line he went. I expect that either later today, it is almost 8:30am here in Blighty, he will come on line and then I can ask him if is using or even tried Ubuntu. I expect the answer to be yes, he had tried it but...And he will be using the same broken Operating System as he had always used.

Whatever will be will be.

Perhaps later or possibly tomorrow, I shall report on what he tells me.