Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back to Basics

I seem to be seing stories about how software is getting slowe all the time. Part of the reason is that we expect it to do a lot more stuff, but do we really needed. The most entertaining Benchmark was comparing an Apple plus I beliefve wit ha Duel core Athlon 64. The Apple seemed to complete most common tasks faster than the more modern computer.

The biggest difference was in terms of boot time. Recently I have been dissatisfied at how long my somewhat dated (Pentium III) laptop was taking to boot. My most common use case for the laptop is

  1. power up
  2. start a terminal
  3. Navigate to a file
  4. edit the file with VIM
  5. save & shut down

with that use case, why am i waiting so long for the thing to boot. Granted I didn't time it but it was definetly longer than I needed to do what I wanted to do. So I decided to try something

I made some space and installed a minimal Debian, added the programs I really use (but no X11)
and away I went. After a little bit of tweeking (and some helP) I got a framebuffered console and a nice large font (which still gives me just over 80 characters accross.

end result is that I now have a 25 second wait from pressing the power button to login prompt, and a system which does exactly what I need, and nothing I don't.

and on those rare occasions when I would like to do something more I still have Ubuntu installed in a separate partition and can ask grub to boot into it for me. All it all it was a reasonably simple process, and it just goes to show that the console should not be discounted.

In many instances it is stil the tight interface for the job and it is a pity that things like getting autoconfguring the framebuffer and getting a good font selected are not automateded in any way.