Accepting things as they are

I installed Arch Linux the other day on my fastest machine while I looked for a small glitch in a Crux port I was testing. I kept it on the machine for a day or so, before moving back to Crux, and continuing my troubleshooting.

As always, the speed difference between Crux and Arch was noticeable, particularly in boot times. It’s something I’ve mentioned repeatedly in the past so I won’t belabor the point here; what’s important is that, although I intended to keep that Arch system around for a day or two, I lost any inclination to try and speed it up, even for the short term.

I have a lot of wacky tricks somewhere in the archives of this site, listing ways to speed up Arch’s general performance. Take out autoloading. Omit extraneous modules. Rebuild mkinitcpio with almost nothing in it. Most of them are here, if they sound intriguing you.

But, as I have mentioned in the past, tweaking and coddling Arch Linux to approach its asymptote for speed isn’t interesting any longer. I find there’s as much a baseline for performance in Arch, on my hardware, as there is in Ubuntu, and fighting to get beyond that point is counterintuitive. I applaud you if you have recompiled an entire Arch system with custom flags, but I must admit the idea seems odd.

Perhaps it’s because I’m slowly learning to accept distributions the way they are. It’s a tough lesson, but the more I realize that some systems are just naturally faster than others, the less time I spend pushing against that limit, and the better I enjoy using the machines.

So yes, when I install a full Ubuntu suite, like I did a few weeks ago, I set the machine to login automatically. But it wasn’t in an effort to improve the boot time, it was because logging in through GDM is an added step for me.

And when I install Arch I keep a folder of downloaded packages on hand so I can expedite the installation process, but I don’t bother jury-rigging the startup scripts anymore, to shave two or three seconds off a 30-second boot time. It doesn’t seem necessary.

For Crux, I do occasionally tamper with CFLAGS, and I know I can cut the boot time on the aforementioned Inspiron down to around 12.5 seconds (Grub-to-X) with a systemwide optimization. But Crux can be a bit unforgiving in those situations, which is to say, things start to break.

And so even my Crux systems are less tweaked and more stable. That’s a good thing really, because a broken Crux installation is an investment of part of your life … lost completely.

So perhaps I am reaching some state of balance, where I choose a distro on the basis of its inherent qualities, rather than trying to twist it into something it isn’t. Learning to accept things as they are, so to speak. 😉

10 thoughts on “Accepting things as they are

  1. Walter

    Hi, I’ve been following this blog with interest, despite my very basic knowledge of Linux does not let me fully appreciate all of your posts.
    This lats one though did trigger a question: since you can do so much optimization in any of the distribution, why don’t you make an image of the disk after installation/optimization, so that “next time” you can just flush the image instead of doing a re-install? That would be faster and will leave all the tweaks in place for you to enjoy.
    Just a thought.
    Regards, and thanks for such interesting blog.

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      Not a bad idea, Walter. I’ll look into that. I used to do that a very long time ago with my early Ubuntu systems (and even earlier with some Windows systems) but shied away from it after a while. Thanks for reminding me.

  2. Dieter_be

    I agree with your ‘building is better then tearing down’ attitude, however I think everyone has a personal preference for a “default balance point” between “features by default” and “bloat by default”.

    Indeed with your interest in older platforms and stuff I can understand you want a system that does less then Arch by default. Just like many people like the features of *ntu/fedora/.. even with it’s bloat.

    I for one like those few things that Arch adds (udev, initcpio hooks etc), it could be more lightweight but I rather keep those few features.

    I don’t know if you have seen . By replacing /etc/rc.sysinit some people seem to be able to cut their boot time almost in half.

    PS: you still have invalid links ( .. ) which renders this post very ugly in my feed reader. (liferea).

    1. K.Mandla Post author

      You’re right, and I try to respect everyone’s interpretation of what is a feature, and what is bloat. I think if I worked with machines that were newer, or had more external “things” that needed more versatility, I would probably have a higher tolerance for some of the flexibility of Arch or Ubuntu.

      But unfortunately yes, with so many old machines, my threshold for additives is rather low.

      I hadn’t seen that fast-boot page; thanks. I’ll have to tinker with that.

      I think those misformed links are being added at some point by one of the blog clients I’m using. I think maybe ScribeFire is adding them when I use the link insertion tool. If I see them, I’ll trim them out. 😉

  3. ing

    If I didn’t know better I’d almost say that was Gnome viewpoint; “configuration is a chore so lets just set some sane defaults and use that” 😉

  4. Luca

    You have also got to take into account how much time getting the speedups is costing you. I used to use Gentoo, but it required so much effort on my part to maintain it, that I have moved away. Although my current system (Fedora 10) is slower, it requires minimal effort on my part.

  5. Guitar John

    When I started reading your blog, I was interested in the whole idea of a simpler, light weight Ubuntu. But my slowest machine is my wife’s Dell 2200 with a 1.4 GHz Celeron M and 500 MB RAM. And it runs a default Ubuntu just fine, although Open Office is very slow, even with the speed-up tricks.

    I’m switching all three computers to Xubuntu with the release of 9.04 just to lighten the load a bit, but I lack the time to spend much time tweaking things these days.

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