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1 neysx 1.1 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
2 swift 1.10 <!-- $Header: /var/cvsroot/gentoo/xml/htdocs/doc/en/gentoo-alpha-faq.xml,v 1.9 2011/09/04 17:53:40 swift Exp $ -->
3 neysx 1.1
4     <!DOCTYPE guide SYSTEM "/dtd/guide.dtd">
5 swift 1.9 <guide>
6 neysx 1.1
7     <title>Gentoo Linux/Alpha Frequently Asked Questions</title>
8     <author title="Author">
9 nightmorph 1.2 <mail link="tcort@gentoo.org">Thomas Cort</mail>
10 neysx 1.1 </author>
11 yoswink 1.4 <author title="Author">
12     <mail link="grknight2k@bluebottle.com">Brian Evans</mail>
13     </author>
14 nightmorph 1.6 <author title="Editor">
15     <mail link="nightmorph"/>
16     </author>
17 swift 1.8 <author title="Author">
18     <mail link="mattst88">Matt Turner</mail>
19     </author>
20 neysx 1.1
21     <abstract>
22     This FAQ is intended to answer some of the most frequently asked questions
23     relating to Gentoo/Alpha and Linux/Alpha in general.
24     </abstract>
25    
26     <!-- The content of this document is licensed under the CC-BY-SA license -->
27     <!-- See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5 -->
28     <license/>
29    
30 swift 1.10 <version>3</version>
31     <date>2013-07-22</date>
32 neysx 1.1
33 neysx 1.5 <faqindex>
34 neysx 1.1 <title>About this Document</title>
35    
36     <section>
37     <title>Introduction</title>
38     <body>
39    
40     <p>
41     This document contains answers to the most commonly asked questions about
42     Gentoo/Alpha and Alpha/Linux. It's aimed at both new users and experienced
43     users alike.
44     </p>
45    
46     </body>
47     </section>
48 neysx 1.5 </faqindex>
49 neysx 1.1
50     <chapter>
51     <title>About the Gentoo/Alpha Project</title>
52     <section id="what">
53     <title>What is Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
54     <body>
55    
56     <p>
57     The Gentoo/Alpha project is responsible for keeping the Gentoo distribution
58     updated and current for the Alpha platform. This primarily includes keywording
59 nightmorph 1.3 packages, porting software, and making new releases. The Gentoo/Alpha project
60     aims to provide a usable environment for both desktops and servers.
61 neysx 1.1 </p>
62    
63     </body>
64     </section>
65     </chapter>
66    
67     <chapter>
68     <title>The Alpha Architecture</title>
69     <section id="dead">
70     <title>Isn't the Alpha architecture dead?</title>
71     <body>
72    
73     <p>
74 swift 1.8 Kind of, yes. HP stopped taking orders for new Alpha systems on April 27, 2007.
75     and for Alpha options and upgrades on April 25, 2008. See their <uri
76     link="http://h18002.www1.hp.com/alphaserver/evolution.html">planning page</uri>
77     for more details.
78 neysx 1.1 </p>
79    
80     </body>
81     </section>
82 nightmorph 1.2 <section id="bitapps">
83 neysx 1.1 <title>Can I run 32-bit applications?</title>
84     <body>
85    
86     <p>
87     No, all Alpha systems use a pure 64 bit kernel and a pure 64 bit userland. You
88     cannot even force gcc to output 32 bit code using the <c>-m32</c> compiler
89     flag.
90     </p>
91    
92     </body>
93     </section>
94     <section id="endian">
95     <title>Is Alpha big endian or little endian?</title>
96     <body>
97    
98     <p>
99 swift 1.8 Alpha systems are little endian. A large Cray system using Alphas was big
100     endian, but Linux will never support it.
101 neysx 1.1 </p>
102    
103     </body>
104     </section>
105     <section id="i386">
106     <title>Can I run Linux/x86 applications on Alpha?</title>
107     <body>
108    
109     <p>
110 swift 1.8 No, not without a x86 emulator like <uri
111     link="http://wiki.qemu.org/Main_Page">qemu</uri>. In the past DEC/Compaq/HP
112 neysx 1.1 maintained a program called <c>em86</c> which allowed Linux/x86 applications to
113     be run on Linux/Alpha systems. However, the program is closed source and no
114     longer maintained upstream. There are no <c>em86</c> binaries available that
115 swift 1.8 are compatible with gcc-3's ABI.
116 neysx 1.1 </p>
117    
118     </body>
119     </section>
120     <section id="why">
121     <title>Why install Gentoo on Alpha?</title>
122     <body>
123    
124     <p>
125     Admittedly, you can find faster 64-bit systems out there, like amd64. However,
126     that doesn't mean that Alpha systems are useless. The following are a few good
127     reasons why you'd want to install Linux on this sort of hardware:
128     </p>
129    
130     <ul>
131     <li>
132     You can turn an old computer into something useful. Older Alphas make great
133     routers and servers. Their desktop performance isn't that bad either.
134     </li>
135     <li>You will learn about unusual computer hardware.</li>
136     <li>
137     It's cool. How many people can say they've got Linux running on an Alpha?
138     </li>
139     </ul>
140    
141     </body>
142     </section>
143     <section id="where">
144     <title>Where can I buy Alpha hardware?</title>
145     <body>
146    
147     <p>
148 swift 1.8 Alpha hardware generally isn't available at your local computer store.
149     <uri link="http://ebay.com">eBay</uri> is usually a
150 neysx 1.1 good option, assuming that the shipping doesn't cost you too much. There are
151 swift 1.8 several used equipment dealers that can be found via Google, however most of
152 neysx 1.1 them charge too much.
153     </p>
154    
155     </body>
156     </section>
157     </chapter>
158    
159     <chapter>
160 nightmorph 1.3 <title>Hardware</title>
161     <section id="ascase">
162 yoswink 1.4 <title>I opened up the case on an AlphaServer and now it won't power
163 nightmorph 1.3 on, what do I do?</title>
164     <body>
165    
166     <p>
167     Make sure the top panel of the case is on and properly in place. The middle of
168     the top panel of the case has a small piece of metal oriented downwards. When
169     the top panel is put back in place properly, the small piece of metal will
170     press down on a switch. When the switch isn't pressed down, the system will
171     refuse to power on.
172     </p>
173    
174     </body>
175     </section>
176     </chapter>
177    
178     <chapter>
179 neysx 1.1 <title>Alpha Specific Compiler Flags</title>
180     <section id="CFLAGS">
181     <title>Is the use of Alpha specific compiler flags recommended?</title>
182     <body>
183    
184     <p>
185     As with all compiler optimizations, don't over do it. Use these flags with care
186     and they will give you a stable, speedy system; use them too aggressively and
187     you could seriously break your system. When in doubt, leave it out. If you need
188     further clarification, check the <c>gcc</c> man page.
189     </p>
190    
191     </body>
192     </section>
193     <section id="MCPU">
194     <title>
195     How do I optimize for a specific instruction set and scheduling model?
196     </title>
197     <body>
198    
199     <p>
200     You can optimize for a specific instruction set and scheduling model with
201     <c>-mcpu=XXX</c>, where XXX is your cpu type. Valid cpu types are <c>ev4</c>,
202     <c>ev45</c>, <c>ev5</c>, <c>ev56</c>, <c>pca56</c>, <c>ev6</c> and <c>ev67</c>.
203     If you do not use the <c>-mcpu=XXX</c> flag, then <c>gcc</c> will default to
204     the cpu type of the machine it was compiled on. <c>-mcpu=</c> is equivalent to
205     the <c>-march=</c> flag on x86.
206     </p>
207    
208 yoswink 1.4 <note>
209     AlphaServer 800 users should set <c>ev5</c>. There are known issues setting
210     <c>ev56</c> particularly with Xorg causing a full system lock up.
211     </note>
212    
213 neysx 1.1 </body>
214     </section>
215     <section id="MTUNE">
216     <title>
217     How do I specify the scheduling model without changing the instruction set?
218     </title>
219     <body>
220    
221     <p>
222     You can specify the scheduling model without changing the instruction set with
223     <c>-mtune=XXX</c>, where XXX is your cpu type. Valid cpu types are <c>ev4</c>,
224     <c>ev45</c>, <c>ev5</c>, <c>ev56</c>, <c>pca56</c>, <c>ev6</c> and <c>ev67</c>.
225     <c>-mtune=</c> is implied by <c>-mcpu=</c>, so you don't need to specify this
226     with if you set <c>-mcpu=</c>. <c>-mtune=</c> is equivalent to the
227     <c>-mcpu=</c> flag on x86.
228     </p>
229    
230     </body>
231     </section>
232     <section id="mieee">
233     <title>How do I enable software assisted floating point numbers?</title>
234     <body>
235    
236     <p>
237     You can enable software assisted floating point numbers with <c>-mieee</c>.
238     This will enable software assistance to correctly support denormalized numbers
239     and exceptional IEEE values such as not-a-number and plus/minus infinity.
240     </p>
241    
242     <p>
243     This should be in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> unless you really know what you are
244     doing.
245     </p>
246    
247     </body>
248     </section>
249     <section id="MEMLAT">
250     <title>How do I specify the memory latency of my system?</title>
251     <body>
252    
253     <p>
254     You can specify the memory latency of your system with
255     <c>-mmemory-latency=XXX</c>, where XXX is the number of clock cycles. This sets
256     the latency time that the scheduler should assume for memory references.
257     <c>gcc</c> has some predefined "typical" values that are also accepted by
258     <c>-mmemory-latency=XXX</c>. Those values are <c>L1</c> for Dcache, <c>L2</c>
259     for Scache, <c>L3</c> for Bcache, and <c>main</c> for main memory.
260     </p>
261    
262     <p>
263     This flag should probably not be use in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as the value
264     you choose is highly dependent on the memory access pattern of the application
265     you are compiling.
266     </p>
267    
268     </body>
269     </section>
270     <section id="SMALLDATA">
271     <title>
272     How do I specify that static data should be placed in the small data area?
273     </title>
274     <body>
275    
276     <p>
277     You can specify that static data should be placed in the small data area with
278     <c>-msmall-data</c>. This will cause <c>gcc</c> to take advantage of some
279     features of the Alpha architecture by storing heavily used pieces of data in
280     specific sections called the small memory sections. The sections are limited to
281 swift 1.8 64KiB which means accessing anything stored in them will only take one
282 neysx 1.1 instruction.
283     </p>
284    
285     <p>
286     <c>-fPIC</c> will override <c>-msmall-data</c>, so you should use the
287     <c>-fpic</c> flag instead if you do not want <c>-msmall-data</c> to be
288     overridden.
289     </p>
290    
291     <p>
292     This flag should probably not be used in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as some
293 swift 1.8 objects require more than 64KiB to be stored, and this will cause a gp_overflow
294 neysx 1.1 ld error.
295     </p>
296    
297     </body>
298     </section>
299     <section id="SMALLTEXT">
300     <title>
301     How do I specify that object code should be placed in the small text area?
302     </title>
303     <body>
304    
305     <p>
306     You can specify that object code should be placed in the small text area with
307     <c>-msmall-text</c>. This will cause <c>gcc</c> to assume that the entire
308     program (or library) fits in 4MB, and is thus reachable with a branch
309     instruction. This reduces the number of instructions required for a function
310     call from 4 to 1.
311     </p>
312    
313     <p>
314     This flag should probably not be used in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as some
315     programs (or libraries) are larger than 4MB, and this will cause an ld error.
316     </p>
317    
318     </body>
319     </section>
320     <section id="CFLAGSERR">
321     <title>
322     What do I do if any of these compiler flags cause a compile, linker, or
323     runtime error?
324     </title>
325     <body>
326    
327     <p>
328     As <uri link="#CFLAGS">already mentioned</uri>, please use these <c>CFLAGS</c>
329     cautiously. They may break your system. If you experience problems, try using
330     less aggressive <c>CFLAGS</c> before <uri link="#bugs">filing a bug
331     report</uri>.
332     </p>
333    
334     </body>
335     </section>
336     </chapter>
337    
338     <chapter>
339     <title>Alpha Booting and Bootloaders</title>
340     <section id="SRM">
341     <title>What is SRM?</title>
342     <body>
343    
344     <p>
345     SRM is based on the Alpha Console Subsystem specification, which provides an
346     operating environment for OpenVMS, Tru64 UNIX, and Linux operating systems. See
347     the <uri link="http://www.alphalinux.org/faq/SRM-HOWTO/"> SRM Howto</uri> for
348     more information about SRM.
349     </p>
350    
351     </body>
352     </section>
353     <section id="ARC">
354     <title>What is ARC?</title>
355     <body>
356    
357     <p>
358     ARC is based on the Advanced RISC Computing (ARC) specification, which provides
359     an operating environment for Windows NT.
360     </p>
361    
362     </body>
363     </section>
364     <section id="ARCvsSRM">
365     <title>How can I tell if which firmware my Alpha has, ARC or SRM?</title>
366     <body>
367    
368     <p>
369     When you power your system on you will see a screen with a blue background and
370     white text if it is using SRM. You will see a graphical boot system if it is
371     using ARC.
372     </p>
373    
374     </body>
375     </section>
376     <section id="whichbootloader">
377     <title>Which bootloader do I use?</title>
378     <body>
379    
380     <p>
381     If your Alpha system supports SRM, then you should use aboot. If your system
382     supports both SRM and ARCs (ARC, AlphaBIOS, ARCSBIOS), then you should follow
383     <uri link="http://www.alphalinux.org/faq/x31.html">the SRM Firmware Howto</uri>
384     for switching to SRM and use aboot. If your system can only use ARCs (Ruffian,
385 swift 1.8 xl, etc.) then you will need to choose milo.
386 neysx 1.1 </p>
387    
388     </body>
389     </section>
390 nightmorph 1.3 <section id="abootfs">
391 swift 1.8 <title>Can aboot boot kernels from EXT4, XFS, ReiserFS, or JFS partitions?</title>
392 nightmorph 1.3 <body>
393    
394     <p>
395     No, <c>aboot</c> only supports booting kernels from <c>ext2</c> and <c>ext3</c>
396     partitions. You may still use other files systems for your root partition, you
397     just need to create a <path>/boot</path> partition with either <c>ext2</c> or
398     <c>ext3</c> on it.
399     </p>
400    
401     <p>
402 swift 1.8 Support for ext4 is planned. In fact, there are patches floating
403     around that add support for <uri
404     link="https://bugs.gentoo.org/show_bug.cgi?id=106855">ReiserFS</uri>, <uri
405     link="https://bugs.gentoo.org/show_bug.cgi?id=107103">XFS</uri>, and <uri
406     link="http://alphalinux.org/wiki/index.php/Aboot_EXT4_support">ext4</uri>.
407 nightmorph 1.3 </p>
408    
409     </body>
410     </section>
411 neysx 1.1 </chapter>
412     <chapter>
413 nightmorph 1.3 <title>Software</title>
414 neysx 1.1
415     <section id="javasupport">
416     <title>How is Java support in Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
417     <body>
418    
419     <p>
420 swift 1.8 Compaq/HP offered binary packages, called <c>compaq-jre</c> and <c>compaq-jdk</c>.
421     They stopped all support, and the packages were removed from Gentoo on October
422     11, 2006. Since then, we haven't supported Java.
423 neysx 1.1 </p>
424    
425     </body>
426     </section>
427    
428     <section id="currentjava">
429     <title>Will there ever be working Java support?</title>
430     <body>
431    
432     <p>
433 swift 1.8 It's possible to use <c>icedtea</c> on Alpha, but we have no plans to
434     support it, due to the high maintenance costs involved with testing hundreds of
435     additional packages.
436 neysx 1.1 </p>
437    
438     </body>
439     </section>
440 nightmorph 1.3 <section id="dotnetsupport">
441     <title>How is .NET support in Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
442     <body>
443    
444     <p>
445     Neither of the two main open source efforts, <uri
446     link="http://www.mono-project.com/Main_Page">mono</uri> nor <uri
447     link="http://www.dotgnu.org/">DotGNU</uri>, support the alpha architecture.
448     </p>
449    
450     </body>
451     </section>
452     <section id="dotnetneeded">
453     <title>What is needed for .NET support?</title>
454     <body>
455    
456     <p>
457 swift 1.8 Bringing .NET to Alpha isn't a simple task. It requires coding all of the
458 nightmorph 1.3 assembly language code generation macros for the JIT (just in time) compiler
459     and coding architecture specific functions (register allocators, etc).
460     </p>
461    
462     </body>
463     </section>
464 neysx 1.1 </chapter>
465    
466     <chapter>
467     <title>Alpha Linux Kernel</title>
468     <section id="whichkernel">
469     <title>Which kernel sources should I use?</title>
470     <body>
471    
472     <p>
473 yoswink 1.7 We recommend using <c>gentoo-sources</c> but <c>vanilla-sources</c> is
474     also supported by Gentoo/Alpha. You should read the <uri
475     link="/doc/en/gentoo-kernel.xml">Gentoo Kernel Guide</uri> to determine which
476     one is right for your needs.
477 neysx 1.1 </p>
478    
479     </body>
480     </section>
481 yoswink 1.7 <section id="kernel24">
482     <title>My system is broken with kernel-2.6, Can I build a 2.4 bassed system?</title>
483     <body>
484    
485     <p>
486     Gentoo/Alpha stopped supporting 2.4 kernel and profile in January 2008.
487     Technically you can build a 2.4 Gentoo System (the kernel is in the tree) but
488     you will have to mask all the 2.6 only packages by yourself and you won't have
489     support from developers.
490     </p>
491    
492     <p>
493 swift 1.8 Gentoo/Alpha will review all bug reports about non-working 2.6 systems and
494 yoswink 1.7 will try to help as much as we can.
495     </p>
496    
497     </body>
498     </section>
499    
500 neysx 1.1 <section id="selinux">
501     <title>Are hardened-sources supported?</title>
502     <body>
503    
504     <p>
505 yoswink 1.7 Short answer is no. They were supported some time ago, but we lost the hardware
506 swift 1.8 and the maintainer so now they are not supported. If you are interested
507 yoswink 1.7 and want to continue the initial work, please let us know.
508 neysx 1.1 </p>
509    
510     </body>
511     </section>
512     <section id="smpkernel">
513     <title>Does the 2.6 kernel support Alpha SMP?</title>
514     <body>
515    
516     <p>
517 swift 1.8 There were some times in the past when it was broken. However, modern kernel
518     versions are known to work well.
519 neysx 1.1 </p>
520    
521     </body>
522     </section>
523     </chapter>
524    
525     <chapter>
526     <title>Helping out the Gentoo/Alpha Project</title>
527     <section id="bugs">
528     <title>How do I report bugs?</title>
529     <body>
530    
531     <p>
532     If you find a bug or you want to send us patches, then you need to file a bug
533 nightmorph 1.3 report. It only takes you a little bit of your time, and your help is really
534 swift 1.10 appreciated. Please follow the <uri
535     link="https://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/Bugzilla_HOWTO">Gentoo Bug Reporting Guide</uri>.
536 neysx 1.1 </p>
537    
538     </body>
539     </section>
540     <section id="project">
541     <title>How can I help the Gentoo/Alpha Project?</title>
542     <body>
543    
544     <p>
545     Users can help us by:
546     </p>
547    
548     <ul>
549     <li>Filing clear and concise <uri link="#bugs">bug reports</uri>.</li>
550     <li>Testing software that does not yet have the <c>~alpha</c> keyword.</li>
551     <li>
552     Answering questions on the <uri link="/main/en/lists.xml">mailing
553     lists</uri>, <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html">
554     forum</uri> and IRC channel.
555     </li>
556     <li>Sending patches</li>
557 yoswink 1.4 <li>Becoming an <uri
558 nightmorph 1.3 link="http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/base/alpha/AT/index.xml">AT</uri>
559     </li>
560 neysx 1.1 </ul>
561    
562     </body>
563     </section>
564     <section id="archtest">
565     <title>Is there an Alpha Arch Testers Project?</title>
566     <body>
567    
568     <p>
569 nightmorph 1.3 Yes, see the <uri link="http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/base/alpha/AT/index.xml">
570     Gentoo Linux Alpha Arch Testers Project</uri> page for details.
571 neysx 1.1 </p>
572    
573     </body>
574     </section>
575     </chapter>
576    
577     <chapter>
578 yoswink 1.4 <title>Troubleshooting</title>
579     <section id="tshoot-xorg">
580 swift 1.8 <title>Why is Xorg locking up my Alpha?</title>
581 yoswink 1.4 <body>
582    
583     <p>
584     This is usually caused by a bad -mcpu setting. For example, the AlphaServer
585     800 needs to be compiled with the <c>ev5</c> flag for xorg <b>and</b> glibc.
586     Failing to do so will cause undesired results.
587     </p>
588    
589     </body>
590     </section>
591     </chapter>
592    
593     <chapter>
594 neysx 1.1 <title>Other Resources</title>
595     <section id="noforum">
596     <title>Why is there no Gentoo on Alpha forum?</title>
597     <body>
598    
599     <p>
600     On the <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org">Gentoo Forums</uri> there are
601     several arch specific categories like <uri
602     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-24.html">Gentoo on PPC</uri> and
603 nightmorph 1.3 <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-24.html">Gentoo on
604     Sparc</uri>. There is no Gentoo on Alpha category because there simply isn't
605     enough Gentoo/Alpha activity on the forums to warrant one. All Alpha related
606     posts should go in the <uri
607     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html"> Gentoo on Alternative
608     Architectures</uri> category.
609 neysx 1.1 </p>
610    
611     </body>
612     </section>
613     <section id="othergentoo">
614     <title>Where can I get more help or information about Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
615     <body>
616    
617     <p>
618     If any of your questions weren't answered here, you can try other resources
619     like the <uri link="/doc/en/handbook/handbook-alpha.xml">Alpha Handbook</uri>
620     or <uri link="/proj/en/base/alpha/">our project homepage</uri>. You can also
621     ask us at <c>#gentoo-alpha</c> on <c>irc.freenode.net</c>, <uri
622     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html">Gentoo on Alternative
623     Architectures Forum</uri>, or on the <mail>gentoo-alpha@lists.gentoo.org</mail>
624     mailing list.
625     </p>
626    
627     </body>
628     </section>
629     <section id="other">
630     <title>Where can I get more help or information about Alpha/Linux?</title>
631     <body>
632    
633     <p>
634 swift 1.8 <uri link="http://alphalinux.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page">AlphaLinux.org</uri>
635     is a central repository for all things Alpha/Linux.
636 neysx 1.1 </p>
637    
638     </body>
639     </section>
640     </chapter>
641     </guide>

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