[PC-BSD Testing] Ubuntu 9.10 boot optimizations: 5 second startup with an SSD

Jeff dejamuse at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 22 09:35:40 PDT 2009

          Ubuntu 9.10 boot optimizations: 5 second startup with an SSD
latest Ubuntu 9.10 alpha release includes significant improvements to
boot performance. Tests show that the popular Linux distribution can
now boot in mere seconds on a computer with a solid state drive.

          Ryan Paul
          | Ars Technica - September 21, 2009
Canonical has announced the availability of Ubuntu 9.10 alpha 6, the
final alpha release before the transition to beta testing. Ubuntu 9.10,
codenamed Karmic Koala, introduces a number of important architectural
improvements and also improves boot performance, especially on
computers with solid state hard drives.

Earlier this year, Canonical revealed plans to significantly
optimize boot performance. It aims to deliver 10-second startups for
the Ubuntu 10.04 release, which is due in 2010. In the latest Karmic
alpha, the team has already taken some important steps toward achieving
this goal. Their roadmap indicates that 25 seconds is the target for
Karmic, and the reference device used to benchmark progress is the Dell
Mini 9 netbook. We did some testing of our own to see how the OS is
coming along.

                                I installed Ubuntu 9.10 alpha 6 on a Dell Inspiron 1420n, the Ubuntu laptop that I reviewed in 2007.
I conducted extensive startup performance testing and used the
bootchart utility to measure the results. My average boot time was 22 seconds, with Xorg starting roughly 13 seconds into the boot process.

Users with solid state drives will see a far more dramatic
improvement in boot performance. Canonical external developer relations
coordinator Jorge Castro (a former Ars Linux contributor) supplied us
with a boot chart
from his computer, which has an SSD and boots Karmic alpha 6 in only
five seconds. If you examine his chart, you will see that Xorg comes up
in only two seconds.

One of the most significant technical factors contributing to awesome SSD boot performance is the inclusion of sreadahead,
a system service that uses prefetching to load data that is used by the
boot process before it is needed. It will also cache the prefetched
data and store it so that it can be used during subsequent boots, but
it's less effective on conventional hard disks where seek latency
introduces some challenges. Ubuntu developer Scott James Remnant
explained some of the technical nuances in a mailing list post a few months ago.

In Ubuntu 6.10, which was released several years ago, Canonical
introduced a new event-based boot daemon called Upstart to replace the
traditional System-V init. One of the primary advantages of Upstart is
that it is highly conducive to parallelizing the boot process. In
previous versions of Ubuntu, Upstart has largely been used with
traditional init scripts. Karmic is the first version where it's really
being used to its full potential. On an interesting side note, Upstart
has been gaining a whole lot of traction in the mobile space and is
used in both the Palm Pre and Nokia's upcoming N900.
Not just boot time
In addition to the improvements to boot performance, a number of
other significant enhancements are also featured in Ubuntu 9.10. This
is the first Ubuntu version to use GRUB2 and Ext4 by default. Another
major change is the adoption of DeviceKit, which will displace HAL, the
previous hardware abstraction layer. Pidgin has been replaced in favor
of Empathy, a new instant messaging client built on the Telepathy
framework that has been adopted by the GNOME community. Client software
for Canonical's Ubuntu One cloud storage service is also included by default for the first time.

Ubuntu 9.10 alpha 6 is available for download
from the Ubuntu web site. According to the release schedule, the first
beta is due on October 1, and the final release is coming on October 29.

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