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Monthly Archives: November 2006

Here is my Arch Linux desktop with gnome + adesklets. gdesklets is very slow, my system is not able to run the same. adesklets is a wonderful light weight desktop widget tool.

arch-desk.png

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Why Arch Linux?
When the life goes smooth, we get bored. When everything goes smooth we need some challenge to face and conquer. This is applicable for Linux distribution world also. After started admiring with Ubuntu, I did not want to be locked with it. I test a distribution only if it is having some unique feature in it. Zenwalk is one such promising. Here is my review on it. I came to know about Arch, which is optimized for i686 processors, so it is meant for recent generation of processors. So I downloaded base Arch Linux CD. My workstation is bit old with PIII/192MB/Intel-82815-Graphics which is suitable for this i686 optimized system.

Installation:
It is NOT Live CD. Once you boot with base installation CD, you will get a quick and clean shell prompt with basic instruction for installation displayed on console. It is evident that installation is only for power user, not for click and go kind of people. You have to run “/arch/setup”, which is a installation tool. Here is the step by step installation:
1. Selecting installation source between CDROM and network
2. Partitioning of hard disk using cfdisk.
3. Installing base packages from CD (Since mine is just base installation CD)
4. Configuring the system – Here the power user comes. You will be shown /etc/rc.conf, /etc/hosts, /etc/fstab, /etc/mkinitrd.conf, /etc/modprobe.conf, /etc/modules.conf and /etc/resolv.conf files are presented to you through editor. You can apply your real knowledge in linux in this step. No wizard configuration. If you don’t have enough linux experience, it is difficult to understand this step. I did configure /etc/rc.conf, /etc/hosts and /etc/fstab files only which is enough for my system.
6. Kernel selection – I selected 2.6.X kernel
7. GRUB/LILO bootloader selection and you have to manually edit the /boot/grub/menu.lst or /etc/lilo.conf and install.
8. Reboot.

Package management:
Here the package manager is called pacman, which is definitely a apt-get competing tool. Very simple command line options makes it usable by any one. The first thing I did was reading man pacman as directed by installation guide. I updated my system with repository using command pacman -Syu. It updated my kernel, so rebooted. Then installed GNOME desktop. To find out the exact package name, I used pacman -Ss <keyword> which is dead easy. pacman -S <pkg-name> installes package and pacman -R <pkg-name> removes the package. All dependencies are taken care while installing. A few times I faced problem of missing dependenices which I have not faced so far in apt-get in debian/ubuntu. It is rare case, but pacman is really wonderful to use. Though GUI front end for pacman are available, I find pacman command line tool itself more comfortable than any GUI version of pacman.

Performance:
Since I have installed base CD, no bloated applications and services at startup. After reboot I found Arch Linux rocks. No other distribution in my workstation responds to applications as fast as Arch. I can feel the difference very much. I have tried Ubuntu with i686 kernel, but it is not as fast as Arch. In Arch, all applications are also built for i686. There the performance plays. I get this advantage without having the hassles of building from source.
After update I got all latest and greatest applications with the bonus of stability. Though I have latest GNOME 2.16, Firefox 2.0.1, Thunderbird 1.5.0.8, Brasero 0.4.4 (Disk burning), F-Spot 0.2.2, GNumeric 1.6.3, OpenOffice.org 2.0.4, etc. I have not faced any crash in last 2 months of testing period (Yes, I did a lot of work on Arch Linux for 2 months before writing this review). It is rock stable. Click the below thumbnail to see my GNOME 2.16 desktop.

Screenshot of my GNOME 2.16 desktop

Features:
/etc/rc.conf is the master file for system configuration. Here you can configure locale, time zone, key map, module loading and black listing, hostname, network configuration, daemons startup, etc. in this one single file. This BSD kind of startup is really nice.
makepkg tool is also found which takes care of installation from source. It does dependencies check (both runtime and compile time), downloading source package, building and creating <package>-<version>.pkg.tar.gz file. Once it is created you can install it with pacman -A <package>-<version>.pkg.tar.gz command.
A great community is awaiting for you to help for Arch Linux. It has wonderful Wiki page, forum, community repository, etc. Wiki page needs more organized way of compiling the wonderful articles.

Conclusion:
After 2 months of testing and feeling its terrific performance I have moved my production home directory to Arch Linux. Hope that is the right way to appreciate a distro. Great distro has come from great people. Keep it up, Arch guys. You people are doing a wonderful job. Arch Linux is for every one except installation which is only for power user.

The Microsoft has released Windows CE 6.0 version yesterday. The most exciting feature for me is the share kernel source (Since I don’t do any active platform building nowadays, I don’t bother much about other features in this shiny new version. You may refer this link for more info on that.

Why I consider open kernel source as important feature in Windows CE? Reason is obvious. Windows CE is not a Server or Desktop oriented OS, but it is closely bound with hardware of the system. In my ex-profession, our team had to live with Windows CE. We intended to tune the OS to our ever changing requirements, the effort continues still. Since we have struggled a lot with debugging device driver code and not knowing the limitation of Windows CE API (which is a small sub set of Win32 API), this is definitely a big boost to my friends who work in that project still. The following are expected impact due to shared kernel source on any Windows CE based project:

1. Hard core developer of Platform builder, who takes care of configuring the system according to the hardware configuration will get more help from the kernel source which sits very much in his own IDE. Debugging the kernel mode drivers will no more be a nightmare.

2. Windows CE kernel can be customized for smaller foot print and better performance. This is absolutely necessary in the embedded world.

3. This will pause the people who intend to move to Embedded Linux for technical compulsion, and have them to re look at Window CE. The chances for support to Windows CE from both technologist and management are very well there.

4. The Shared Source License has been simplified which may affect the production cost of the end product. Any body who knows, can post a comment on this. Here is a link on license details.

5. Getting a shared source kernel for paying big $$$$ for microsoft is reasonable now… happy to see this 🙂 🙂

Happy kernel hacking, my dear Windows CE friends!