It took me a while, but I finally ironed out my upgrade from kernel 188.8.131.52 to 2.6.34 this morning, on my Pentium machine. Ordinarily I don’t wait so long to make a jump, but things were going very well with 184.108.40.206, and since there is rarely any good reason to shift up, I let it stagnate for a while.
But fear of obsolescence is a powerful thing, and realizing I had a kernel that dated back the better part of a year made me a little queasy. I know in the back of my mind that a 14-year-old machine has little to benefit between a kernel written in September 2009 and one written a few weeks ago, but it seemed worth the effort.
Not that it was a huge effort though. Usually I roll configuration between kernels with
make oldconfig, but this time I started from a clean page, and pruned out all the unnecessary parts. It took me a little while to fine-tune the framebuffer and a network parts, and the sound was the last thing I needed to fix. And now it’s done.
The odd part of the entire experience, and the reason why I mention it here, is that while the machine is slowly and faithfully correcting the modules I set, there’s no slowdown or lag or performance hit. That’s strange to me because on other hardware, for example my long-running Inspiron, compiling or building a kernel more or less precluded using the machine outside of very trivial tasks.
But this Pentium barely notices. Memory use peaks around 22-29Mb (alongside all the other software I normally run) and the CPU is pegged at 100 percent of course, but I can still type at normal speed, switch windows in screen or ttys at the console, manage remote systems with ssh, etc., etc., and not notice any stutter or lapse.
I wonder why that is?
Of course, this is all moot point because it still takes 20 minutes to compile a single sound module, and most of a day and night to build an entire kernel. Praising it for not lagging while it meanders through the chore of building new software is like praising a snail for traveling in a straight line for a day. You’re still frighteningly slow, and hardly covered any distance.
But it does mean that troubleshooting is a little easier, even if it takes longer. I can wait 20 minutes for a module to build, see if it works, and then go back to what I was doing without waiting or needing to switch machines.
And all that being said, if there are a large number of packages to update or if there is a particularly large program to build (such as gcc), I yank the drive and connect it over USB to the fast computer. That’s why I bought the fast one, and I’m not such a glutton for punishment that I have to build software for days and days at 120Mhz. There are limits to my fanaticism.