Alexander Leidinger

Just another weblog


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).

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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.

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