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1 neysx 1.1 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
2 neysx 1.5 <!-- $Header: /var/cvsroot/gentoo/xml/htdocs/doc/en/gentoo-alpha-faq.xml,v 1.4 2007/07/13 18:39:46 yoswink Exp $ -->
3 neysx 1.1
4     <!DOCTYPE guide SYSTEM "/dtd/guide.dtd">
5     <guide link="/doc/en/gentoo-alpha-faq.xml">
6    
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 neysx 1.1
15     <abstract>
16     This FAQ is intended to answer some of the most frequently asked questions
17     relating to Gentoo/Alpha and Linux/Alpha in general.
18     </abstract>
19    
20     <!-- The content of this document is licensed under the CC-BY-SA license -->
21     <!-- See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5 -->
22     <license/>
23    
24 yoswink 1.4 <version>1.3</version>
25     <date>2007-07-13</date>
26 neysx 1.1
27 neysx 1.5 <faqindex>
28 neysx 1.1 <title>About this Document</title>
29    
30     <section>
31     <title>Introduction</title>
32     <body>
33    
34     <p>
35     This document contains answers to the most commonly asked questions about
36     Gentoo/Alpha and Alpha/Linux. It's aimed at both new users and experienced
37     users alike.
38     </p>
39    
40     </body>
41     </section>
42 neysx 1.5 </faqindex>
43 neysx 1.1
44     <chapter>
45     <title>About the Gentoo/Alpha Project</title>
46     <section id="what">
47     <title>What is Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
48     <body>
49    
50     <p>
51     The Gentoo/Alpha project is responsible for keeping the Gentoo distribution
52     updated and current for the Alpha platform. This primarily includes keywording
53 nightmorph 1.3 packages, porting software, and making new releases. The Gentoo/Alpha project
54     aims to provide a usable environment for both desktops and servers.
55 neysx 1.1 </p>
56    
57     </body>
58     </section>
59     <section id="status">
60     <title>What is the current status of the Gentoo/Alpha Project?</title>
61     <body>
62    
63     <p>
64 nightmorph 1.3 You can find out about the current status of the Gentoo/Alpha project via
65     status reports. These reports inform the public about what we've been up to.
66     New status reports will be posted about once every 6 months. Current and past
67     status report can be found on the <uri
68     link="/proj/en/base/alpha/status/index.xml">Status Reports Project page</uri>.
69 neysx 1.1 </p>
70    
71     </body>
72     </section>
73     </chapter>
74    
75     <chapter>
76     <title>The Alpha Architecture</title>
77     <section id="dead">
78     <title>Isn't the Alpha architecture dead?</title>
79     <body>
80    
81     <p>
82     Not yet! HP will be taking orders for new Alpha systems until October 27, 2006
83     and Alpha options and upgrades until November 2, 2007. See their <uri
84     link="http://h18002.www1.hp.com/alphaserver/planning2005.html">planning
85     page</uri> for more details.
86     </p>
87    
88     </body>
89     </section>
90 nightmorph 1.2 <section id="bitapps">
91 neysx 1.1 <title>Can I run 32-bit applications?</title>
92     <body>
93    
94     <p>
95     No, all Alpha systems use a pure 64 bit kernel and a pure 64 bit userland. You
96     cannot even force gcc to output 32 bit code using the <c>-m32</c> compiler
97     flag.
98     </p>
99    
100     </body>
101     </section>
102     <section id="endian">
103     <title>Is Alpha big endian or little endian?</title>
104     <body>
105    
106     <p>
107     All Alpha systems support both little and big endian. However, Linux only uses
108     little endian.
109     </p>
110    
111     </body>
112     </section>
113     <section id="i386">
114     <title>Can I run Linux/x86 applications on Alpha?</title>
115     <body>
116    
117     <p>
118     No, not without a full x86 system emulator like <uri
119     link="http://bochs.sourceforge.net/">bochs</uri>. In the past DEC/Compaq/HP
120     maintained a program called <c>em86</c> which allowed Linux/x86 applications to
121     be run on Linux/Alpha systems. However, the program is closed source and no
122     longer maintained upstream. There are no <c>em86</c> binaries available that
123     are compatible with gcc3's ABI.
124     </p>
125    
126     </body>
127     </section>
128     <section id="why">
129     <title>Why install Gentoo on Alpha?</title>
130     <body>
131    
132     <p>
133     Admittedly, you can find faster 64-bit systems out there, like amd64. However,
134     that doesn't mean that Alpha systems are useless. The following are a few good
135     reasons why you'd want to install Linux on this sort of hardware:
136     </p>
137    
138     <ul>
139     <li>
140     You can turn an old computer into something useful. Older Alphas make great
141     routers and servers. Their desktop performance isn't that bad either.
142     </li>
143     <li>You will learn about unusual computer hardware.</li>
144     <li>
145     It's cool. How many people can say they've got Linux running on an Alpha?
146     </li>
147     </ul>
148    
149     </body>
150     </section>
151     <section id="where">
152     <title>Where can I buy Alpha hardware?</title>
153     <body>
154    
155     <p>
156     Alpha hardware generally isn't available at your local computer store. If you
157     want a new Alpha you're going to have to contact <uri
158     link="http://h18002.www1.hp.com/alphaserver/">HP</uri>. If you want a used
159     Alpha (more economical), <uri link="http://ebay.com">eBay</uri> is usually a
160     good option, assuming that the shipping doesn't cost you too much. There are
161     several used equipment dealers that can be found via google, however most of
162     them charge too much.
163     </p>
164    
165     </body>
166     </section>
167     </chapter>
168    
169     <chapter>
170 nightmorph 1.3 <title>Hardware</title>
171     <section id="ascase">
172 yoswink 1.4 <title>I opened up the case on an AlphaServer and now it won't power
173 nightmorph 1.3 on, what do I do?</title>
174     <body>
175    
176     <p>
177     Make sure the top panel of the case is on and properly in place. The middle of
178     the top panel of the case has a small piece of metal oriented downwards. When
179     the top panel is put back in place properly, the small piece of metal will
180     press down on a switch. When the switch isn't pressed down, the system will
181     refuse to power on.
182     </p>
183    
184     </body>
185     </section>
186     </chapter>
187    
188     <chapter>
189 neysx 1.1 <title>Alpha Specific Compiler Flags</title>
190     <section id="CFLAGS">
191     <title>Is the use of Alpha specific compiler flags recommended?</title>
192     <body>
193    
194     <p>
195     As with all compiler optimizations, don't over do it. Use these flags with care
196     and they will give you a stable, speedy system; use them too aggressively and
197     you could seriously break your system. When in doubt, leave it out. If you need
198     further clarification, check the <c>gcc</c> man page.
199     </p>
200    
201     </body>
202     </section>
203     <section id="MCPU">
204     <title>
205     How do I optimize for a specific instruction set and scheduling model?
206     </title>
207     <body>
208    
209     <p>
210     You can optimize for a specific instruction set and scheduling model with
211     <c>-mcpu=XXX</c>, where XXX is your cpu type. Valid cpu types are <c>ev4</c>,
212     <c>ev45</c>, <c>ev5</c>, <c>ev56</c>, <c>pca56</c>, <c>ev6</c> and <c>ev67</c>.
213     If you do not use the <c>-mcpu=XXX</c> flag, then <c>gcc</c> will default to
214     the cpu type of the machine it was compiled on. <c>-mcpu=</c> is equivalent to
215     the <c>-march=</c> flag on x86.
216     </p>
217    
218 yoswink 1.4 <note>
219     AlphaServer 800 users should set <c>ev5</c>. There are known issues setting
220     <c>ev56</c> particularly with Xorg causing a full system lock up.
221     </note>
222    
223 neysx 1.1 </body>
224     </section>
225     <section id="MTUNE">
226     <title>
227     How do I specify the scheduling model without changing the instruction set?
228     </title>
229     <body>
230    
231     <p>
232     You can specify the scheduling model without changing the instruction set with
233     <c>-mtune=XXX</c>, where XXX is your cpu type. Valid cpu types are <c>ev4</c>,
234     <c>ev45</c>, <c>ev5</c>, <c>ev56</c>, <c>pca56</c>, <c>ev6</c> and <c>ev67</c>.
235     <c>-mtune=</c> is implied by <c>-mcpu=</c>, so you don't need to specify this
236     with if you set <c>-mcpu=</c>. <c>-mtune=</c> is equivalent to the
237     <c>-mcpu=</c> flag on x86.
238     </p>
239    
240     </body>
241     </section>
242     <section id="mieee">
243     <title>How do I enable software assisted floating point numbers?</title>
244     <body>
245    
246     <p>
247     You can enable software assisted floating point numbers with <c>-mieee</c>.
248     This will enable software assistance to correctly support denormalized numbers
249     and exceptional IEEE values such as not-a-number and plus/minus infinity.
250     </p>
251    
252     <p>
253     This should be in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> unless you really know what you are
254     doing.
255     </p>
256    
257     </body>
258     </section>
259     <section id="MEMLAT">
260     <title>How do I specify the memory latency of my system?</title>
261     <body>
262    
263     <p>
264     You can specify the memory latency of your system with
265     <c>-mmemory-latency=XXX</c>, where XXX is the number of clock cycles. This sets
266     the latency time that the scheduler should assume for memory references.
267     <c>gcc</c> has some predefined "typical" values that are also accepted by
268     <c>-mmemory-latency=XXX</c>. Those values are <c>L1</c> for Dcache, <c>L2</c>
269     for Scache, <c>L3</c> for Bcache, and <c>main</c> for main memory.
270     </p>
271    
272     <p>
273     This flag should probably not be use in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as the value
274     you choose is highly dependent on the memory access pattern of the application
275     you are compiling.
276     </p>
277    
278     </body>
279     </section>
280     <section id="SMALLDATA">
281     <title>
282     How do I specify that static data should be placed in the small data area?
283     </title>
284     <body>
285    
286     <p>
287     You can specify that static data should be placed in the small data area with
288     <c>-msmall-data</c>. This will cause <c>gcc</c> to take advantage of some
289     features of the Alpha architecture by storing heavily used pieces of data in
290     specific sections called the small memory sections. The sections are limited to
291     64kb which means accessing anything stored in them will only take one
292     instruction.
293     </p>
294    
295     <p>
296     <c>-fPIC</c> will override <c>-msmall-data</c>, so you should use the
297     <c>-fpic</c> flag instead if you do not want <c>-msmall-data</c> to be
298     overridden.
299     </p>
300    
301     <p>
302     This flag should probably not be used in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as some
303     objects require more than 64kb to be stored, and this will cause a gp_overflow
304     ld error.
305     </p>
306    
307     </body>
308     </section>
309     <section id="SMALLTEXT">
310     <title>
311     How do I specify that object code should be placed in the small text area?
312     </title>
313     <body>
314    
315     <p>
316     You can specify that object code should be placed in the small text area with
317     <c>-msmall-text</c>. This will cause <c>gcc</c> to assume that the entire
318     program (or library) fits in 4MB, and is thus reachable with a branch
319     instruction. This reduces the number of instructions required for a function
320     call from 4 to 1.
321     </p>
322    
323     <p>
324     This flag should probably not be used in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as some
325     programs (or libraries) are larger than 4MB, and this will cause an ld error.
326     </p>
327    
328     </body>
329     </section>
330     <section id="CFLAGSERR">
331     <title>
332     What do I do if any of these compiler flags cause a compile, linker, or
333     runtime error?
334     </title>
335     <body>
336    
337     <p>
338     As <uri link="#CFLAGS">already mentioned</uri>, please use these <c>CFLAGS</c>
339     cautiously. They may break your system. If you experience problems, try using
340     less aggressive <c>CFLAGS</c> before <uri link="#bugs">filing a bug
341     report</uri>.
342     </p>
343    
344     </body>
345     </section>
346     </chapter>
347    
348     <chapter>
349     <title>Alpha Booting and Bootloaders</title>
350     <section id="SRM">
351     <title>What is SRM?</title>
352     <body>
353    
354     <p>
355     SRM is based on the Alpha Console Subsystem specification, which provides an
356     operating environment for OpenVMS, Tru64 UNIX, and Linux operating systems. See
357     the <uri link="http://www.alphalinux.org/faq/SRM-HOWTO/"> SRM Howto</uri> for
358     more information about SRM.
359     </p>
360    
361     </body>
362     </section>
363     <section id="ARC">
364     <title>What is ARC?</title>
365     <body>
366    
367     <p>
368     ARC is based on the Advanced RISC Computing (ARC) specification, which provides
369     an operating environment for Windows NT.
370     </p>
371    
372     </body>
373     </section>
374     <section id="ARCvsSRM">
375     <title>How can I tell if which firmware my Alpha has, ARC or SRM?</title>
376     <body>
377    
378     <p>
379     When you power your system on you will see a screen with a blue background and
380     white text if it is using SRM. You will see a graphical boot system if it is
381     using ARC.
382     </p>
383    
384     </body>
385     </section>
386     <section id="whichbootloader">
387     <title>Which bootloader do I use?</title>
388     <body>
389    
390     <p>
391     If your Alpha system supports SRM, then you should use aboot. If your system
392     supports both SRM and ARCs (ARC, AlphaBIOS, ARCSBIOS), then you should follow
393     <uri link="http://www.alphalinux.org/faq/x31.html">the SRM Firmware Howto</uri>
394     for switching to SRM and use aboot. If your system can only use ARCs (Ruffian,
395     nautilus, xl, etc.) then you will need to choose milo.
396     </p>
397    
398     </body>
399     </section>
400 nightmorph 1.3 <section id="abootfs">
401     <title>Can aboot boot kernels from xfs, reiserfs, or jfs partitions?</title>
402     <body>
403    
404     <p>
405     No, <c>aboot</c> only supports booting kernels from <c>ext2</c> and <c>ext3</c>
406     partitions. You may still use other files systems for your root partition, you
407     just need to create a <path>/boot</path> partition with either <c>ext2</c> or
408     <c>ext3</c> on it.
409     </p>
410    
411     <p>
412     Support for reiserfs and xfs is planned. In fact, there are patches floating
413     around that add support for those two file systems. However, the use of those
414     patches is unsupported.
415     </p>
416    
417     </body>
418     </section>
419 neysx 1.1 </chapter>
420     <chapter>
421 nightmorph 1.3 <title>Software</title>
422 neysx 1.1
423     <section id="javasupport">
424     <title>How is Java support in Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
425     <body>
426    
427     <p>
428 yoswink 1.4 There was only one option for Java VM and Java SDK on Gentoo/Alpha.
429 neysx 1.1 The packages are called <c>compaq-jre</c> and <c>compaq-jdk</c>.
430 yoswink 1.4 Sadly, Compaq/HP stopped all support and was removed from Gentoo on
431     October 11, 2006.
432 neysx 1.1 </p>
433    
434     </body>
435     </section>
436    
437     <section id="currentjava">
438     <title>Will there ever be working Java support?</title>
439     <body>
440    
441     <p>
442     We really hope so. We are following the development of the jdk from <uri
443     link="http://sablevm.org">SableVM</uri>. It isn't ready yet, but we hope with
444     time that it will be a full drop in replacement jdk.
445     </p>
446    
447     </body>
448     </section>
449 nightmorph 1.3 <section id="dotnetsupport">
450     <title>How is .NET support in Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
451     <body>
452    
453     <p>
454     Neither of the two main open source efforts, <uri
455     link="http://www.mono-project.com/Main_Page">mono</uri> nor <uri
456     link="http://www.dotgnu.org/">DotGNU</uri>, support the alpha architecture.
457     </p>
458    
459     </body>
460     </section>
461     <section id="dotnetneeded">
462     <title>What is needed for .NET support?</title>
463     <body>
464    
465     <p>
466     Bringing .NET to alpha isn't a simple task. It requires coding all of the
467     assembly language code generation macros for the JIT (just in time) compiler
468     and coding architecture specific functions (register allocators, etc).
469     </p>
470    
471     </body>
472     </section>
473 neysx 1.1 </chapter>
474    
475     <chapter>
476     <title>Alpha Linux Kernel</title>
477     <section id="whichkernel">
478     <title>Which kernel sources should I use?</title>
479     <body>
480    
481     <p>
482     <c>gentoo-sources</c> and <c>vanilla-sources</c> are both supported. You
483     should read the <uri link="/doc/en/gentoo-kernel.xml">Gentoo Kernel Guide</uri>
484     to determine which one is right for your needs.
485     </p>
486    
487     </body>
488     </section>
489     <section id="selinux">
490     <title>Are hardened-sources supported?</title>
491     <body>
492    
493     <p>
494     <c>hardened-sources</c> and SELinux support is being worked on by Stephen
495 nightmorph 1.3 Bennett (<mail link="spb@gentoo.org">spb</mail>). <c>hardened-sources</c> is
496     currently keyworded for alpha. We hope to see an SELinux profile for Alpha in
497     the tree as soon as we feel confident about it.
498 neysx 1.1 </p>
499    
500     </body>
501     </section>
502     <section id="smpkernel">
503     <title>Does the 2.6 kernel support Alpha SMP?</title>
504     <body>
505    
506     <p>
507 nightmorph 1.3 There were some times in the past when it was broken. However, <c>2.6.15.1</c>
508     and <c>2.6.16.19</c> are both known to work well. If you find that SMP is
509     broken and want SMP support you will need revert to the one of the versions
510     mentioned above or use a 2.4 kernel. If you really need to run the latest 2.6
511     kernel on an SMP box and you don't care that only one of your processors is
512     getting used, then you could configure the 2.6 kernel without SMP support.
513 neysx 1.1 </p>
514    
515     </body>
516     </section>
517     </chapter>
518    
519     <chapter>
520     <title>Helping out the Gentoo/Alpha Project</title>
521     <section id="bugs">
522     <title>How do I report bugs?</title>
523     <body>
524    
525     <p>
526     If you find a bug or you want to send us patches, then you need to file a bug
527 nightmorph 1.3 report. It only takes you a little bit of your time, and your help is really
528     appreciated. Please follow the <uri link="/doc/en/bugzilla-howto.xml">Gentoo
529     Bug Reporting Guide</uri>.
530 neysx 1.1 </p>
531    
532     </body>
533     </section>
534     <section id="project">
535     <title>How can I help the Gentoo/Alpha Project?</title>
536     <body>
537    
538     <p>
539     Users can help us by:
540     </p>
541    
542     <ul>
543     <li>Filing clear and concise <uri link="#bugs">bug reports</uri>.</li>
544     <li>Testing software that does not yet have the <c>~alpha</c> keyword.</li>
545     <li>
546     Answering questions on the <uri link="/main/en/lists.xml">mailing
547     lists</uri>, <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html">
548     forum</uri> and IRC channel.
549     </li>
550     <li>Sending patches</li>
551 yoswink 1.4 <li>Becoming an <uri
552 nightmorph 1.3 link="http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/base/alpha/AT/index.xml">AT</uri>
553     </li>
554 neysx 1.1 </ul>
555    
556     </body>
557     </section>
558     <section id="archtest">
559     <title>Is there an Alpha Arch Testers Project?</title>
560     <body>
561    
562     <p>
563 nightmorph 1.3 Yes, see the <uri link="http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/base/alpha/AT/index.xml">
564     Gentoo Linux Alpha Arch Testers Project</uri> page for details.
565 neysx 1.1 </p>
566    
567     </body>
568     </section>
569     </chapter>
570    
571     <chapter>
572 yoswink 1.4 <title>Troubleshooting</title>
573     <section id="tshoot-xorg">
574     <title>Why is my Xorg locking up my Alpha?</title>
575     <body>
576    
577     <p>
578     This is usually caused by a bad -mcpu setting. For example, the AlphaServer
579     800 needs to be compiled with the <c>ev5</c> flag for xorg <b>and</b> glibc.
580     Failing to do so will cause undesired results.
581     </p>
582    
583     </body>
584     </section>
585     </chapter>
586    
587     <chapter>
588 neysx 1.1 <title>Other Resources</title>
589     <section id="noforum">
590     <title>Why is there no Gentoo on Alpha forum?</title>
591     <body>
592    
593     <p>
594     On the <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org">Gentoo Forums</uri> there are
595     several arch specific categories like <uri
596     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-24.html">Gentoo on PPC</uri> and
597 nightmorph 1.3 <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-24.html">Gentoo on
598     Sparc</uri>. There is no Gentoo on Alpha category because there simply isn't
599     enough Gentoo/Alpha activity on the forums to warrant one. All Alpha related
600     posts should go in the <uri
601     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html"> Gentoo on Alternative
602     Architectures</uri> category.
603 neysx 1.1 </p>
604    
605     </body>
606     </section>
607     <section id="othergentoo">
608     <title>Where can I get more help or information about Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
609     <body>
610    
611     <p>
612     If any of your questions weren't answered here, you can try other resources
613     like the <uri link="/doc/en/handbook/handbook-alpha.xml">Alpha Handbook</uri>
614     or <uri link="/proj/en/base/alpha/">our project homepage</uri>. You can also
615     ask us at <c>#gentoo-alpha</c> on <c>irc.freenode.net</c>, <uri
616     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html">Gentoo on Alternative
617     Architectures Forum</uri>, or on the <mail>gentoo-alpha@lists.gentoo.org</mail>
618     mailing list.
619     </p>
620    
621     </body>
622     </section>
623     <section id="other">
624     <title>Where can I get more help or information about Alpha/Linux?</title>
625     <body>
626    
627     <p>
628     <uri link="http://alphalinux.org/">AlphaLinux.org</uri> is a central repository
629     for all things Alpha/Linux.
630     </p>
631    
632     </body>
633     </section>
634     </chapter>
635     </guide>

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