I don’t intend to sound jaded or know-it-all, but it’s unusual that anything in the Linux world should surprise me. By that I mean that I have expectations for certain software and certain distros, and thus far in my relatively short experience with Linux, everything can be comfortably cubbyholed.
Ubuntu is full-featured but kind of slow. Fedora is the same, as are most of the other well-rounded distributions. Arch is fast, and lets you control your system down to the minute detail. Crux is brutally honest, as other source-based distros probably are. Ultralightweights like Slitaz, Puppy and Tiny Core are so bewilderingly fast as to defy logic.
That’s just what I’ve learned as life has gone on, and what I’ve come to expect. No harm in that. No danger in having expectations.
Except that occasionally somebody in that list above steps out of their box, and I’m left struggling to understand how it’s possible. This time, it’s Ubuntu that has me scratching my head, and questioning my personal belief system.
For some reason, through some sort of arcane technological magic, my Ubuntu 9.04 system boots in under a minute.
The hardware is this machine, the same one I have been using since early 2006 when I realized Linux was going to save me thousands of dollars in hardware upgrades demanded by Redmond. One gigahertz, a 7200rpm 60Gb system drive, 512Mb of PC133, a ground-level Nvidia card and a decent wireless card.
Up until now, I had a hard time getting Ubuntu to boot in under three minutes. In fact, about a year ago when I still had a 2Ghz machine, three minutes was still the best I could do. And the only way to get Gnome to finish loading any faster was to put together a custom kernel, and inject that into it’s electronic heart, like epinephrin.
So I have no explanation. I built a system with the desktop ISO, I installed the full Ubuntu Gnome suite, and I used ext4, just for a change.
Aha, maybe that’s it.
I had heard ext4 was yielding some speed increases, but I’d also heard the opposite — that it was dragging down older systems and making them unresponsive. The obvious corollary was that, like many things, ext4 was probably best on newer, higher-end hardware.
But this sub-one-minute-booting machine is nothing short of a shocker. I measured it three or four times, and every time it’s ducking in under the 1 minute mark.
And that’s when the drive light stops, not when the cursor appears. I dislike that the startup sound plays and the system appears ready before it actually can do anything — that’s an old Windows trick that doesn’t fool me — but I can’t find fault since it’s only another eight or nine seconds before the entire system is ready.
So there it is. Finally, an Ubuntu system that can put Gnome in my face in less than a minute from the Grub bootloader. Somebody out there deserves a gold smilie: