Linux 4.1 kernel: Finally, a movement in the upwards direction

No musings yesterday because I was having quite a time getting Linux to play well. I spent yesterday configuring the rest of the kernel until around 21:00, when I started searching for and applying all the patches I wanted. Found a small bug in the CPU optimisation patch that Gentoo uses (via grsecurity); namely, it doesn’t enable P6_NOP for anything higher than a Core 2. I manually edited the patch and applied it.

I built the kernel, ran # emerge @module-rebuild, signed the newly built modules, and rebooted in to my new system… Or I would have, if it had been able to read the init RAM disk. Doing the Apple EFI dance to switch between 3.18 to rebuild and 4.1 to test was not my idea of a good time, but after a while, I found the issue. There’s something broken somewhere and it would not read XZ-compressed ones. I used my fallback algorithm, LZO (chosen because it’s free and very fast), and it booted right up. Only now, I couldn’t start KDE.

Typically, I start KDE by using $ X_SESSION=KDE-4 startx; I don’t use KDM or XDM because I regularly test breaking changes to i915 that may cause X to hardlock, rendering my laptop useless. This time, however, it complained ‘xterm: command not found’. Unsure why it was trying to load xterm, I checked around and I found no answer. I still haven’t figured this out. The workaround I’m using is $ XINITRC=/etc/X11/Sessions/KDE-4 xinit which acts the same as the old command, only it’s longer and less readable.

Then I had a world of i915 bugs that I will omit from my blog mainly because they were mostly configuration error and the ones that weren’t were resolved by re-merging media-libs/mesa.

After all of that was over, I checked on my wireless chip. Lo and behold, for the first time since I’ve started using draft-n wireless networking on Linux in 2009, it was actually associating successfully to a 5GHz 802.11n AP! The speed is only 150mbit/s; the chip supports 300mbit, so I am not sure why that is, but I am still happy to be finally untethered from my Ethernet cord!

Some benchmarks.

Running emerge -1 openssl

Kernel / Sched Wall Time System Time
3.18 / CFQ 5m 3s 59s
4.1 / CFQ 4m 57s 55s
4.1 / BFQ 4m 53s 52s

That’s a pretty nice win for BFQ, and a huge improvement over 3.18. Note this is all on the same hardware, on a fresh boot, with nothing in fscache.

Playing 720p MPEG-4 video in VLC

Kernel On-Die Temperature CPU % used
3.18 71° C 31.2%
4.1 63° C 46.3%

Each measurement was taken at 2 minutes into playing the video. Not sure why the CPU’s a bit more active, but wow, that temperature reduction is serious!

Overall, I am very, very happy with this upgrade. The Linux 4 series seems to be all about making things smoother, faster, and more battery-friendly. I’ll update later with a benchmark of battery life.

If you have a MacBook Pro from the 2011 era (or you’re just curious), you can view my config file online. Special thanks to Elly and Horst for guidance, patchsets, and keeping me company while I was going insane with menuconfig. 🙂

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