The Art of Gentoo (on Sparc64)

Further to my question over whether Gentoo was worth the effort, I decided to actually install it. Somewhat prompted by Ron‘s insistence a while back that Gentoo is great, a chat with a guy called Mark Welch from uni and also from Fizz‘s comments.

I got frustrated over Christmas that my degree doesn’t cover anything that doesn’t run in Windows and therefore on x86 hardware and so I bought an old iMac and a Sun Sparc Ultra 10 workstation. (Sidenote: man is CDE butt ugly).

Well I must have been well treated by Linux because I couldn’t work out how to turn the DHCP client on in Solaris 9 (never used Solaris before) and as we all know, computers are pretty fucking boring without a net connection these days. Yeah I could have figured it out in the end, but the management console was starting to fail to open and a few other things so I figured I’d never use Solaris for anything anyway and decided to install Linux on it. I think Sun are sending me a copy of Solaris 10 for entering some competition or other anyway.

It seems nobody really does a mainstream Sparc64 Linux anymore apart Debian and Gentoo. Debian is my distro of choice but I’m not really sure whats in the box so I need hardware detection and I can’t be arsed to wait 9 months or however long it’s going to take for Sarge to appear, I don’t think they’ve even gone into a freeze yet. So it’s Gentoo.

And well, it seems cool but not one you’d give to a beginner to install. I chose the stage 2 Live CD method as it offered the most control without having to know all my hardware.

Hmm I had to fudge some things. All of the hardware worked out of the box so far. I could probably do with tweaking the hard disk performance with hdparm but I’ll worry about that later when I’ve had time to learn whether my hdparm out was any good and how to tune it.

livecd root # hdparm -tT /dev/hda

Timing O_DIRECT cached reads: 716 MB in 2.00 seconds = 358.00 MB/sec
Timing O_DIRECT disk reads: 38 MB in 3.08 seconds = 12.34 MB/sec

livecd root # hdparm /dev/hda

multcount = 16 (on)
IO_support = 0 (default 16-bit)
unmaskirq = 0 (off)
using_dma = 1 (on)
keepsettings = 0 (off)
readonly = 0 (off)
readahead = 8 (on)
geometry = 38792/16/63, sectors = 20020396032, start = 0

I’ve never really bothered to compile stuff apart from my own kernels and a few things that weren’t packaged by Mandrake when I used it years ago, so I’ve never learned about compiler optimisations and whatnot. I opted for:

USE=”X gtk gnome alsa -kde -qt”
CFLAGS=”-mcpu=ultrasparc -O3 -pipe”

I have no idea how good a choice I made (advice gratefully received) but ultimately when I know what I’m doing I’ll rebuild the entire system. I will use it mainly as a backup desktop machine running Gnome. I might use it as a home server later on.

I let mirrorselect choose my mirrors for me and the performance was dismal. For some reason, all my mirrors were in the Netherlands (apparently Holland is only part of the Netherlands and it annoys the hell out the Dutch that people think the country is called Holland) but all my downloads were coming from Korean and Taiwanese mirrors which took 3 minutes to time out, which they did a lot. After 50 minutes I had about 12 packages so ‘control-C’ed emerge and manually added the British Blueyonder mirror to /etc/make.conf and the whole lot came down in about 20 minutes. (Note to self: bash filename auto-completion doesn’t work in a web browser window ;)). I use Blueyonder as my Debian apt source and know I can get a sustained 59KB/s transfer on a 512Kb ADSL link.

I left it compiling overnight as it was about 2am when I started and it was all done when I woke up. I stupidly forgot to log out of the SSH session on my desktop machine with the loud PSU and run emerge system locally on my Sun box. I had to wear earplugs overnight…

But it all went fine. Now I’m at the Configuration File Protection and Configuring the Kernel stage but I just don’t have time to absorb all of this reading and sit there and set it all up. I still don’t really know whats in the box, lsmod only lists ext3, jdb and openpromfs so everything else must be compiled in to the kernel image (doh, must remember to use lspci…). I did note from dmesg that I have a Sun Happy Meal ethernet card 🙂 That made me smile, I’ve seen that in the kernel source over the last few years and thought it was a cute name for a network card 😉 I wonder if Sun or McDonalds came up with it first.

So I now have a half complete Gentoo installation, I just have to do the reading and finish it off before, I assume, installing all the apps that I want and worrying about booloaders and stuff. I think that will be a(nother) weekend job…

I bumped into Fizz last night actually, we were both pretty drunk and he asked me if I’d read his comments. I think we mumbled to each other for a few seconds about Gentoo. I think he was more interested in the girl I was with to be honest but it was still good to see him and exchange drunkitudes 😀

One thought on “The Art of Gentoo (on Sparc64)

  1. I blame the sambuca! I think it was the bizare randomness of bumping into you and your lady friend. Mind you, five minutes ago I was being spoken to by the bouncers for lying on the floor screaming to rage so anything would have amused me at that point! 🙂 Hope you had a good night!

Comments are closed.