X11 in a jail with NVidia hard­ware

Just be­fore christ­mas I de­cided I will spend the “im­mense” amount of 40 EUR for a graphic card for a sys­tem which was without one. The sys­tem is sup­posed to re­place my dy­ing home-​server. I already moved everything, ex­cept my Desktop-​in-​a-​Jail (ac­tu­ally it is my home-​cinema-​jail).

The old sys­tem had a Radeon 9200SE, and it was enough for what I used it for. Now… for a few bucks you can get a lot more horsepower today. After look­ing around a little bit I de­cided to buy a NVidia card. I made this de­cision be­cause it looks like I can get bet­ter driver sup­port for it. So I got a Ge­Force GT 520 with 1 GB of RAM (I doubt I will be able to use that much RAM) and without a fan.

With the Radeon 9200SE I was not able to get the 3D stuff ac­tiv­ated (at least in the jail, I did not try without), Xorg com­plains about a miss­ing ag­p­gart mod­ule but I have AGP in the ker­nel (no /​dev/​agpgart out­side the jail). I did not spend time to in­vest­ig­ate this, as the main pur­pose – play­ing movies – worked. Now with the NVidia card I de­cided to give the 3D part a try again.

After adding the NVidia device entries to the jail, and a little bit of fight­ing with the Xorg-​HAL in­ter­ac­tion, I got a work­ing desktop. The biggest prob­lem to verify that 3D is work­ing was, that I did not had xdri­info in­stalled. After in­stalling it, I no­ticed that it does not work with the NVidia driver.  :-(  Next stop nvidia-​settings: runs great, dis­plays a nice FreeBSD+NVidia logo, and … tells me that OpenGL is con­figured. Hmmm… OK, but I want to see it!

As I de­cided to switch from Gnome to KDE 4 at  the same time (I was us­ing KDE when it was at V 0.x, switched to Gnome as it looked nicer to me, and now I switch back after read­ing all the stuff in the net that KDE 4 is “bet­ter” than Gnome 3), I was a little bit out of know­ledge how to see the 3D stuff in ac­tion. So I quickly went to the set­tings and searched for some­thing which looks like it may use 3D. To my sur­prise, it was already us­ing 3D stuff. Nice. I fully real­ized how nice, when play­ing a video and us­ing Alt-​Tab to switch win­dows: the video was play­ing full speed scaled down in the window-​switcher-​thumbnail-​view.

That was too easy. I am happy about it.

Now that I have a work­ing setup of X11-​in-​a-​jail for Radeon and Ge­Force cards, I want to cleanup my changes to the ker­nel and the con­fig files (devfs.rules) and have a look to get this com­mit­ted. A big part of this work is prob­ably writ­ing doc­u­ment­a­tion (most prob­ably in the wiki).

I still want to see some fancy 3D stuff now. I tried to in­stall x11-​clocks/​glclock, but the build fails with an un­defined ref­er­ence to „glPoly­gonOff­se­tEXT“. :-( Any re­com­mend­a­tion for a fancy 3D dis­play? My pri­or­ity is on “fancy/​nice” with as less vi­ol­ence as pos­sible. Most prob­ably I will look at it once and then dein­stall it again, so it should be avail­able in the Ports Col­lec­tion (or in­cluded in KDE 4).

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Tun­ing guide in the wiki

In the light of the re­cent bench­mark dis­cus­sion, a vo­lun­teer im­por­ted the tun­ing man-​page into the wiki. Some com­ments at some places for pos­sible im­prove­ments are already made. Please go over there, have a look, and par­ti­cip­ate please (testing/​verification/​discussion/​improvements/​…).

As al­ways, feel free to re­gister with First­nameLast­name and tell a FreeBSD com­mit­ter to add you to the con­trib­ut­ors group for write ac­cess (you also get the be­ne­fit to be able to re­gister for an email no­ti­fic­a­tion for spe­cific pages).

A phoronix bench­mark cre­ates a huge bench­mark­ing dis­cus­sion

The re­cent Phoronix bench­mark which com­pared a re­lease can­did­ate of FreeBSD 9 with Or­acle Linux Server 6.1 cre­ated a huge dis­cus­sion in the FreeBSD mailing­lists. The reason was that some people think the num­bers presen­ted there give a wrong pic­ture of FreeBSD. Partly be­cause not all bench­mark num­bers are presen­ted in the most prom­in­ent page (as linked above), but only at a dif­fer­ent place. This gives the im­pres­sion that FreeBSD is in­ferior in this bench­mark while it just puts the fo­cus (for a reason, ac­cord­ing to some people) on a dif­fer­ent part of the bench­mark (to be more spe­cific, blo­g­bench is do­ing disk reads and writes in par­al­lel, FreeBSD gives higher pri­or­ity to writes than to reads, FreeBSD 9 out­per­forms OLS 6.1 in the writes while OLS 6.1 shines with the reads, and only the reads are presen­ted on the first page). Other com­plaints are that it is told that the de­fault in­stall was used (in this case UFS as the FS), when it was not (ZFS as the FS).

The au­thor of the Phoronix art­icle par­ti­cip­ated in parts of the dis­cus­sion and asked for spe­cific im­prove­ment sug­ges­tions. A FreeBSD com­mit­ter seems to be already work­ing to get some is­sues re­solved. What I do not like per­son­ally, is that the art­icle is not up­dated with a re­mark that some things presen­ted do not re­flect the real­ity and a retest is ne­ces­sary.

As there was much talk in the thread but not much ob­vi­ous activ­ity from our side to re­solve some is­sues, I star­ted to im­prove the FreeBSD wiki page about bench­mark­ing so that we are able to point to it in case someone wants to bench­mark FreeBSD. Oth­ers already chimed in and im­proved some things too. It is far from per­fect, some more eyes – and more im­port­antly some more fin­gers which add con­tent – are needed. Please go to the wiki page and try to help out (if you are afraid to write some­thing in the wiki, please at least tell your sug­ges­tions on a FreeBSD mailing­list so that oth­ers can im­prove the wiki page).

What we need too, is a wiki page about FreeBSD tun­ing (a first step would be to take the man-​page and con­vert it into a wiki page, then to im­prove it, and then to feed back the changes to the man-​page while keep­ing the wiki page to be able to cross ref­er­ence parts from the bench­mark­ing page).

I already told about this in the thread about the Phoronix bench­mark: every­one is wel­come to im­prove the situ­ation. Do not talk, write some­thing. No mat­ter if it is an im­prove­ment to the bench­mark­ing page, tun­ing ad­vise, or a tool which in­spects the sys­tem and sug­gests some tun­ing. If you want to help in the wiki, cre­ate a First­nameLast­name ac­count and ask a FreeBSD comit­ter for write ac­cess.

A while ago (IIRC we have to think in months or even years) there was some frame­work for auto­matic FreeBSD bench­mark­ing. Un­for­tu­nately the au­thor run out of time. The frame­work was able to in­stall a FreeBSD sys­tem on a ma­chine, run some spe­cified bench­mark (not much bench­marks where in­teg­rated), and then in­stall an­other FreeBSD ver­sion to run the same bench­mark, or to re­in­stall the same ver­sion to run an­other bench­mark. IIRC there was also some DB be­hind which col­lec­ted the res­ults and maybe there was even some way to com­pare them. It would be nice if someone could get some time to talk with the au­thor to get the frame­work and set it up some­where, so that we have a con­trolled en­vir­on­ment where we can do our own bench­marks in an auto­matic and re­peat­able fash­ion with sev­eral FreeBSD ver­sions.