Smoothwall Firewall project

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Ubuntu 10.10 is released and raises the bar for the Linux desktop again

Well, we have been testing it for five months, and playing with all the new features and functions that the latest software from the open source community can give us. So, if you want to be pleased with just how easy this release is to install or upgrade, then give it a try.

You can read the full release notes at the Ubuntu web site for more detailed information on exactly what each version of this Linux distribution is going to deliver, but it has impressed me on every server, desktop and virtual image I have installed it onto or into, and this post is coming from my just up dated work laptop.

Ubuntu is not every Linux users friend, and I understand some of the resistance, but most open minded open source people can see a definite role for this in the whole open source universe. I use a great deal of Linux, in many different forms, but if you want a desktop that just works, then certainly look no further.

If you are currently using Ubuntu 10.04 LTS, you will need to modify your software sources to allow updates from newer releases, and not just LTS releases. Once you have done that, you will be offered the choice of this new version. This will ask a few simple questions, download about 1,000 files, and prompt you during the process for a few answers. That's it , you are now on the latest version.

An amusing thing about the date of release, is that it was 101010, which in decimal is 42. Douglas Adams has already informed us that this is the meaning of life, the universe and everything, so you can't get much higher praise than that. We can now use this release of Ubuntu to figure out what the question was ;-)

Anyway, go and grab a copy and give it whirl , you won't be disappointed.

Saturday 2 October 2010

Using SSD and hybrid disks to speed up your computer

I have been reading for a while about the advantages of using SSD disks for starting/booting your computer, which can be especially useful on a laptop, which you are far more likely to restart. Well I decided to put this into action and see what speed improvements these changes would make, and how it would improve the speed in several tests.

The hardware:
Dell Inspiron 6400 Laptop with 4GB Ram and an Intel Core 2 duo P8700 2.5 Ghz
OS Ubuntu 10.04.1 LTS fully patched
Primary new disk drive Kingston SSDnow V+ 64 GB
Secondary disk Seagate Momentus XL hybrid drive 500 GB / 4GB SSD

After considerable thought, and reading that the SSD disk would be good for 1 million reads, I decided that I would use two disk's instead of one, and all variable data would go on the hybrid drive. This would be true for any OS, basically if the partition is going to be written to on a regular basis , then move it onto an external disk. Luckily the Dell comes with a built in eSata connector, which offers really good performance for an external unit, and I wouldn't recommend using USB 2 or firewire unless thats all you have.

I therefore moved the following disk partitions onto the Seagte hybrid drive - /tmp, /var, /home - and made sure that their UUID's were correctly configured on the internal Kingston SSD disk in /etc/fstab. The hybrid Seagate drive is housed in an Icy Box external eSata 2.5" enclosure which works really well.

So to the tests, with the original 2.5" Seagate Momentus 7200 250GB internal disk. I used my stop watch, and with the SSD fitted I suspect some of timings are do my lack of ability to react that quickly.

1) From the end of the BIOS post to a login prompt averaged - 30 seconds
2) Loading firefox 3.6.8 with 25 tabs open - 18 seconds
3) loading Google Chrome with 25 tabs - 10 seconds

with the new configuration

1) From the end of the BIOS post to a login prompt averaged - 5 seconds
2) Loading firefox 3.6.8 with 25 tabs open - 4 seconds
3) loading Google Chrome with 25 tabs - 2 seconds

It is obvious that the new system is significantly faster than it was previously, so the claims being made by the SSD manufacturers are true, your system will be quicker. I would also comment, that everything now works at a much smarter rate, and I have no doubts if I had tested more applications the same performance boost would have been measured.

This was not a cheap experiment however, and the two drives cost me in excess of £250. I was looking for a speed boost with my virtualization requirements, and that is what I have achieved, but unless you have a real need for this performance improvement , then you may well find your money better spent of other needs. I would also now like to try this with the latest Intel processors to see if I can squeeze even more performance out of the laptop.