Monday, 27 August 2007

Linux desktop going backwards?

Disappointed to find out that the upcoming version of Ubuntu will not be featuring the Completely Fair Scheduler improvements that accompany Linux 2.6.23, I decided to roll my own kernel on my Gutsy-installed laptop so I could enjoy the benefits anyway. I'm not unfamiliar with this - I used to use Gentoo and tried a variety of custom-build kernels "back in the day" when 2.6 was raw and significant improvements were fast and furious. These days the differences between kernels and new features tends to be small so I haven't had to delve into kernel compilation since switching to Ubuntu but I have been lured back into it by the poor quality of Linux 2.6.22 (various IO issues) by Linux standards and the massive performance gain of CFS in terms of desktop responsiveness and predictability under load.

If you know your way around Linux, compiling a kernel isn't that difficult. There's plenty of good guides around for the popular distributions - I used this one for reference - and was pretty quickly done with that part. The only tricky bit is if you care about 3D acceleration and have ATI or nVidia graphics chipsets to cater for. My laptop comes with an nVidia graphics chipset. The various Ubuntu-specific kernel compilation guides recommend using the driver installation package from the nVidia website, so I grabbed that and ran it.

What the hell is this? I have to QUIT X to install these drivers? I'm relatively long in the tooth with Linux and I have never had to quit X to actually accomplish something like that. Hell, I have upgraded my entire OS (think Ubuntu Breezey -> Dapper -> Feisty -> Gutsy) without* quitting X. And this bloodey driver has the balls to demand I quit X so it can compile itself, place itself in a few directories, and modify my xorg.conf file if I let it?

* Of course at some point you have to restart various things... but whilst installing / upgrading software, being able to continue using the software in memory is a UNIX norm.

Almost as galling as this backwards step in Linux desktop configuration is the reaction I got when I posted this in the Ubuntu forums. People seem to think it's completely OK to have to crap out to a terminal-only environment to do this. The Windows mentality of "please reboot" as soon as a gentle breeze picks up seems to be creeping into the much more robust Linux arena.

I hope this is an isolated package and not a trend. Please, nVidia, sort this out. We should not have to quit X just to install your drivers. Even better, be useful and donate some funds to the Nouveau project so we don't have to rely on your binary blobs any more.

1 comment:

James Tyrrell said...

Not to be picky but your title 'Linux desktop going backwards' and your in your finishing statements 'Please, nVidia, sort this out. We should not have to quit X' is sort of showing it's not the Linux desktop at all.

This is an nVidia issue, the users on the Ubuntu forum can't really fix it in a meaningful way. I guess they just grin and bear it so they get advanced 3D effects on their system. Until nVidia steps in line with ATI and Intel it's not going to improve any time soon.