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updated Alpha FAQ

1 neysx 1.1 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
2 nightmorph 1.6 <!-- $Header: /var/cvsroot/gentoo/xml/htdocs/doc/en/gentoo-alpha-faq.xml,v 1.5 2007/08/25 09:49:21 neysx 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 nightmorph 1.6 <author title="Editor">
15     <mail link="nightmorph"/>
16     </author>
17 neysx 1.1
18     <abstract>
19     This FAQ is intended to answer some of the most frequently asked questions
20     relating to Gentoo/Alpha and Linux/Alpha in general.
21     </abstract>
22    
23     <!-- The content of this document is licensed under the CC-BY-SA license -->
24     <!-- See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5 -->
25     <license/>
26    
27 nightmorph 1.6 <version>1.4</version>
28     <date>2008-01-01</date>
29 neysx 1.1
30 neysx 1.5 <faqindex>
31 neysx 1.1 <title>About this Document</title>
32    
33     <section>
34     <title>Introduction</title>
35     <body>
36    
37     <p>
38     This document contains answers to the most commonly asked questions about
39     Gentoo/Alpha and Alpha/Linux. It's aimed at both new users and experienced
40     users alike.
41     </p>
42    
43     </body>
44     </section>
45 neysx 1.5 </faqindex>
46 neysx 1.1
47     <chapter>
48     <title>About the Gentoo/Alpha Project</title>
49     <section id="what">
50     <title>What is Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
51     <body>
52    
53     <p>
54     The Gentoo/Alpha project is responsible for keeping the Gentoo distribution
55     updated and current for the Alpha platform. This primarily includes keywording
56 nightmorph 1.3 packages, porting software, and making new releases. The Gentoo/Alpha project
57     aims to provide a usable environment for both desktops and servers.
58 neysx 1.1 </p>
59    
60     </body>
61     </section>
62     <section id="status">
63     <title>What is the current status of the Gentoo/Alpha Project?</title>
64     <body>
65    
66     <p>
67 nightmorph 1.3 You can find out about the current status of the Gentoo/Alpha project via
68     status reports. These reports inform the public about what we've been up to.
69     New status reports will be posted about once every 6 months. Current and past
70     status report can be found on the <uri
71     link="/proj/en/base/alpha/status/index.xml">Status Reports Project page</uri>.
72 neysx 1.1 </p>
73    
74     </body>
75     </section>
76     </chapter>
77    
78     <chapter>
79     <title>The Alpha Architecture</title>
80     <section id="dead">
81     <title>Isn't the Alpha architecture dead?</title>
82     <body>
83    
84     <p>
85 nightmorph 1.6 Not quite! HP stopped taking orders for new Alpha systems on April 27, 2007.
86     They will take orders for Alpha options and upgrades until April 25, 2008. See
87     their <uri link="http://h18002.www1.hp.com/alphaserver/evolution.html">planning
88 neysx 1.1 page</uri> for more details.
89     </p>
90    
91     </body>
92     </section>
93 nightmorph 1.2 <section id="bitapps">
94 neysx 1.1 <title>Can I run 32-bit applications?</title>
95     <body>
96    
97     <p>
98     No, all Alpha systems use a pure 64 bit kernel and a pure 64 bit userland. You
99     cannot even force gcc to output 32 bit code using the <c>-m32</c> compiler
100     flag.
101     </p>
102    
103     </body>
104     </section>
105     <section id="endian">
106     <title>Is Alpha big endian or little endian?</title>
107     <body>
108    
109     <p>
110     All Alpha systems support both little and big endian. However, Linux only uses
111     little endian.
112     </p>
113    
114     </body>
115     </section>
116     <section id="i386">
117     <title>Can I run Linux/x86 applications on Alpha?</title>
118     <body>
119    
120     <p>
121     No, not without a full x86 system emulator like <uri
122     link="http://bochs.sourceforge.net/">bochs</uri>. In the past DEC/Compaq/HP
123     maintained a program called <c>em86</c> which allowed Linux/x86 applications to
124     be run on Linux/Alpha systems. However, the program is closed source and no
125     longer maintained upstream. There are no <c>em86</c> binaries available that
126     are compatible with gcc3's ABI.
127     </p>
128    
129     </body>
130     </section>
131     <section id="why">
132     <title>Why install Gentoo on Alpha?</title>
133     <body>
134    
135     <p>
136     Admittedly, you can find faster 64-bit systems out there, like amd64. However,
137     that doesn't mean that Alpha systems are useless. The following are a few good
138     reasons why you'd want to install Linux on this sort of hardware:
139     </p>
140    
141     <ul>
142     <li>
143     You can turn an old computer into something useful. Older Alphas make great
144     routers and servers. Their desktop performance isn't that bad either.
145     </li>
146     <li>You will learn about unusual computer hardware.</li>
147     <li>
148     It's cool. How many people can say they've got Linux running on an Alpha?
149     </li>
150     </ul>
151    
152     </body>
153     </section>
154     <section id="where">
155     <title>Where can I buy Alpha hardware?</title>
156     <body>
157    
158     <p>
159     Alpha hardware generally isn't available at your local computer store. If you
160     want a new Alpha you're going to have to contact <uri
161     link="http://h18002.www1.hp.com/alphaserver/">HP</uri>. If you want a used
162     Alpha (more economical), <uri link="http://ebay.com">eBay</uri> is usually a
163     good option, assuming that the shipping doesn't cost you too much. There are
164     several used equipment dealers that can be found via google, however most of
165     them charge too much.
166     </p>
167    
168     </body>
169     </section>
170     </chapter>
171    
172     <chapter>
173 nightmorph 1.3 <title>Hardware</title>
174     <section id="ascase">
175 yoswink 1.4 <title>I opened up the case on an AlphaServer and now it won't power
176 nightmorph 1.3 on, what do I do?</title>
177     <body>
178    
179     <p>
180     Make sure the top panel of the case is on and properly in place. The middle of
181     the top panel of the case has a small piece of metal oriented downwards. When
182     the top panel is put back in place properly, the small piece of metal will
183     press down on a switch. When the switch isn't pressed down, the system will
184     refuse to power on.
185     </p>
186    
187     </body>
188     </section>
189     </chapter>
190    
191     <chapter>
192 neysx 1.1 <title>Alpha Specific Compiler Flags</title>
193     <section id="CFLAGS">
194     <title>Is the use of Alpha specific compiler flags recommended?</title>
195     <body>
196    
197     <p>
198     As with all compiler optimizations, don't over do it. Use these flags with care
199     and they will give you a stable, speedy system; use them too aggressively and
200     you could seriously break your system. When in doubt, leave it out. If you need
201     further clarification, check the <c>gcc</c> man page.
202     </p>
203    
204     </body>
205     </section>
206     <section id="MCPU">
207     <title>
208     How do I optimize for a specific instruction set and scheduling model?
209     </title>
210     <body>
211    
212     <p>
213     You can optimize for a specific instruction set and scheduling model with
214     <c>-mcpu=XXX</c>, where XXX is your cpu type. Valid cpu types are <c>ev4</c>,
215     <c>ev45</c>, <c>ev5</c>, <c>ev56</c>, <c>pca56</c>, <c>ev6</c> and <c>ev67</c>.
216     If you do not use the <c>-mcpu=XXX</c> flag, then <c>gcc</c> will default to
217     the cpu type of the machine it was compiled on. <c>-mcpu=</c> is equivalent to
218     the <c>-march=</c> flag on x86.
219     </p>
220    
221 yoswink 1.4 <note>
222     AlphaServer 800 users should set <c>ev5</c>. There are known issues setting
223     <c>ev56</c> particularly with Xorg causing a full system lock up.
224     </note>
225    
226 neysx 1.1 </body>
227     </section>
228     <section id="MTUNE">
229     <title>
230     How do I specify the scheduling model without changing the instruction set?
231     </title>
232     <body>
233    
234     <p>
235     You can specify the scheduling model without changing the instruction set with
236     <c>-mtune=XXX</c>, where XXX is your cpu type. Valid cpu types are <c>ev4</c>,
237     <c>ev45</c>, <c>ev5</c>, <c>ev56</c>, <c>pca56</c>, <c>ev6</c> and <c>ev67</c>.
238     <c>-mtune=</c> is implied by <c>-mcpu=</c>, so you don't need to specify this
239     with if you set <c>-mcpu=</c>. <c>-mtune=</c> is equivalent to the
240     <c>-mcpu=</c> flag on x86.
241     </p>
242    
243     </body>
244     </section>
245     <section id="mieee">
246     <title>How do I enable software assisted floating point numbers?</title>
247     <body>
248    
249     <p>
250     You can enable software assisted floating point numbers with <c>-mieee</c>.
251     This will enable software assistance to correctly support denormalized numbers
252     and exceptional IEEE values such as not-a-number and plus/minus infinity.
253     </p>
254    
255     <p>
256     This should be in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> unless you really know what you are
257     doing.
258     </p>
259    
260     </body>
261     </section>
262     <section id="MEMLAT">
263     <title>How do I specify the memory latency of my system?</title>
264     <body>
265    
266     <p>
267     You can specify the memory latency of your system with
268     <c>-mmemory-latency=XXX</c>, where XXX is the number of clock cycles. This sets
269     the latency time that the scheduler should assume for memory references.
270     <c>gcc</c> has some predefined "typical" values that are also accepted by
271     <c>-mmemory-latency=XXX</c>. Those values are <c>L1</c> for Dcache, <c>L2</c>
272     for Scache, <c>L3</c> for Bcache, and <c>main</c> for main memory.
273     </p>
274    
275     <p>
276     This flag should probably not be use in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as the value
277     you choose is highly dependent on the memory access pattern of the application
278     you are compiling.
279     </p>
280    
281     </body>
282     </section>
283     <section id="SMALLDATA">
284     <title>
285     How do I specify that static data should be placed in the small data area?
286     </title>
287     <body>
288    
289     <p>
290     You can specify that static data should be placed in the small data area with
291     <c>-msmall-data</c>. This will cause <c>gcc</c> to take advantage of some
292     features of the Alpha architecture by storing heavily used pieces of data in
293     specific sections called the small memory sections. The sections are limited to
294     64kb which means accessing anything stored in them will only take one
295     instruction.
296     </p>
297    
298     <p>
299     <c>-fPIC</c> will override <c>-msmall-data</c>, so you should use the
300     <c>-fpic</c> flag instead if you do not want <c>-msmall-data</c> to be
301     overridden.
302     </p>
303    
304     <p>
305     This flag should probably not be used in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as some
306     objects require more than 64kb to be stored, and this will cause a gp_overflow
307     ld error.
308     </p>
309    
310     </body>
311     </section>
312     <section id="SMALLTEXT">
313     <title>
314     How do I specify that object code should be placed in the small text area?
315     </title>
316     <body>
317    
318     <p>
319     You can specify that object code should be placed in the small text area with
320     <c>-msmall-text</c>. This will cause <c>gcc</c> to assume that the entire
321     program (or library) fits in 4MB, and is thus reachable with a branch
322     instruction. This reduces the number of instructions required for a function
323     call from 4 to 1.
324     </p>
325    
326     <p>
327     This flag should probably not be used in your global <c>CFLAGS</c> as some
328     programs (or libraries) are larger than 4MB, and this will cause an ld error.
329     </p>
330    
331     </body>
332     </section>
333     <section id="CFLAGSERR">
334     <title>
335     What do I do if any of these compiler flags cause a compile, linker, or
336     runtime error?
337     </title>
338     <body>
339    
340     <p>
341     As <uri link="#CFLAGS">already mentioned</uri>, please use these <c>CFLAGS</c>
342     cautiously. They may break your system. If you experience problems, try using
343     less aggressive <c>CFLAGS</c> before <uri link="#bugs">filing a bug
344     report</uri>.
345     </p>
346    
347     </body>
348     </section>
349     </chapter>
350    
351     <chapter>
352     <title>Alpha Booting and Bootloaders</title>
353     <section id="SRM">
354     <title>What is SRM?</title>
355     <body>
356    
357     <p>
358     SRM is based on the Alpha Console Subsystem specification, which provides an
359     operating environment for OpenVMS, Tru64 UNIX, and Linux operating systems. See
360     the <uri link="http://www.alphalinux.org/faq/SRM-HOWTO/"> SRM Howto</uri> for
361     more information about SRM.
362     </p>
363    
364     </body>
365     </section>
366     <section id="ARC">
367     <title>What is ARC?</title>
368     <body>
369    
370     <p>
371     ARC is based on the Advanced RISC Computing (ARC) specification, which provides
372     an operating environment for Windows NT.
373     </p>
374    
375     </body>
376     </section>
377     <section id="ARCvsSRM">
378     <title>How can I tell if which firmware my Alpha has, ARC or SRM?</title>
379     <body>
380    
381     <p>
382     When you power your system on you will see a screen with a blue background and
383     white text if it is using SRM. You will see a graphical boot system if it is
384     using ARC.
385     </p>
386    
387     </body>
388     </section>
389     <section id="whichbootloader">
390     <title>Which bootloader do I use?</title>
391     <body>
392    
393     <p>
394     If your Alpha system supports SRM, then you should use aboot. If your system
395     supports both SRM and ARCs (ARC, AlphaBIOS, ARCSBIOS), then you should follow
396     <uri link="http://www.alphalinux.org/faq/x31.html">the SRM Firmware Howto</uri>
397     for switching to SRM and use aboot. If your system can only use ARCs (Ruffian,
398     nautilus, xl, etc.) then you will need to choose milo.
399     </p>
400    
401     </body>
402     </section>
403 nightmorph 1.3 <section id="abootfs">
404     <title>Can aboot boot kernels from xfs, reiserfs, or jfs partitions?</title>
405     <body>
406    
407     <p>
408     No, <c>aboot</c> only supports booting kernels from <c>ext2</c> and <c>ext3</c>
409     partitions. You may still use other files systems for your root partition, you
410     just need to create a <path>/boot</path> partition with either <c>ext2</c> or
411     <c>ext3</c> on it.
412     </p>
413    
414     <p>
415     Support for reiserfs and xfs is planned. In fact, there are patches floating
416     around that add support for those two file systems. However, the use of those
417     patches is unsupported.
418     </p>
419    
420     </body>
421     </section>
422 neysx 1.1 </chapter>
423     <chapter>
424 nightmorph 1.3 <title>Software</title>
425 neysx 1.1
426     <section id="javasupport">
427     <title>How is Java support in Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
428     <body>
429    
430     <p>
431 nightmorph 1.6 There was only one option for Java VM and Java SDK on Gentoo/Alpha. The
432     packages were called <c>compaq-jre</c> and <c>compaq-jdk</c>. Sadly, Compaq/HP
433     stopped all support and the packages were removed from Gentoo on October 11,
434     2006.
435 neysx 1.1 </p>
436    
437     </body>
438     </section>
439    
440     <section id="currentjava">
441     <title>Will there ever be working Java support?</title>
442     <body>
443    
444     <p>
445     We really hope so. We are following the development of the jdk from <uri
446     link="http://sablevm.org">SableVM</uri>. It isn't ready yet, but we hope with
447     time that it will be a full drop in replacement jdk.
448     </p>
449    
450     </body>
451     </section>
452 nightmorph 1.3 <section id="dotnetsupport">
453     <title>How is .NET support in Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
454     <body>
455    
456     <p>
457     Neither of the two main open source efforts, <uri
458     link="http://www.mono-project.com/Main_Page">mono</uri> nor <uri
459     link="http://www.dotgnu.org/">DotGNU</uri>, support the alpha architecture.
460     </p>
461    
462     </body>
463     </section>
464     <section id="dotnetneeded">
465     <title>What is needed for .NET support?</title>
466     <body>
467    
468     <p>
469     Bringing .NET to alpha isn't a simple task. It requires coding all of the
470     assembly language code generation macros for the JIT (just in time) compiler
471     and coding architecture specific functions (register allocators, etc).
472     </p>
473    
474     </body>
475     </section>
476 neysx 1.1 </chapter>
477    
478     <chapter>
479     <title>Alpha Linux Kernel</title>
480     <section id="whichkernel">
481     <title>Which kernel sources should I use?</title>
482     <body>
483    
484     <p>
485     <c>gentoo-sources</c> and <c>vanilla-sources</c> are both supported. You
486     should read the <uri link="/doc/en/gentoo-kernel.xml">Gentoo Kernel Guide</uri>
487     to determine which one is right for your needs.
488     </p>
489    
490     </body>
491     </section>
492     <section id="selinux">
493     <title>Are hardened-sources supported?</title>
494     <body>
495    
496     <p>
497     <c>hardened-sources</c> and SELinux support is being worked on by Stephen
498 nightmorph 1.3 Bennett (<mail link="spb@gentoo.org">spb</mail>). <c>hardened-sources</c> is
499     currently keyworded for alpha. We hope to see an SELinux profile for Alpha in
500     the tree as soon as we feel confident about it.
501 neysx 1.1 </p>
502    
503     </body>
504     </section>
505     <section id="smpkernel">
506     <title>Does the 2.6 kernel support Alpha SMP?</title>
507     <body>
508    
509     <p>
510 nightmorph 1.3 There were some times in the past when it was broken. However, <c>2.6.15.1</c>
511     and <c>2.6.16.19</c> are both known to work well. If you find that SMP is
512     broken and want SMP support you will need revert to the one of the versions
513     mentioned above or use a 2.4 kernel. If you really need to run the latest 2.6
514     kernel on an SMP box and you don't care that only one of your processors is
515     getting used, then you could configure the 2.6 kernel without SMP support.
516 neysx 1.1 </p>
517    
518     </body>
519     </section>
520     </chapter>
521    
522     <chapter>
523     <title>Helping out the Gentoo/Alpha Project</title>
524     <section id="bugs">
525     <title>How do I report bugs?</title>
526     <body>
527    
528     <p>
529     If you find a bug or you want to send us patches, then you need to file a bug
530 nightmorph 1.3 report. It only takes you a little bit of your time, and your help is really
531     appreciated. Please follow the <uri link="/doc/en/bugzilla-howto.xml">Gentoo
532     Bug Reporting Guide</uri>.
533 neysx 1.1 </p>
534    
535     </body>
536     </section>
537     <section id="project">
538     <title>How can I help the Gentoo/Alpha Project?</title>
539     <body>
540    
541     <p>
542     Users can help us by:
543     </p>
544    
545     <ul>
546     <li>Filing clear and concise <uri link="#bugs">bug reports</uri>.</li>
547     <li>Testing software that does not yet have the <c>~alpha</c> keyword.</li>
548     <li>
549     Answering questions on the <uri link="/main/en/lists.xml">mailing
550     lists</uri>, <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html">
551     forum</uri> and IRC channel.
552     </li>
553     <li>Sending patches</li>
554 yoswink 1.4 <li>Becoming an <uri
555 nightmorph 1.3 link="http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/base/alpha/AT/index.xml">AT</uri>
556     </li>
557 neysx 1.1 </ul>
558    
559     </body>
560     </section>
561     <section id="archtest">
562     <title>Is there an Alpha Arch Testers Project?</title>
563     <body>
564    
565     <p>
566 nightmorph 1.3 Yes, see the <uri link="http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/base/alpha/AT/index.xml">
567     Gentoo Linux Alpha Arch Testers Project</uri> page for details.
568 neysx 1.1 </p>
569    
570     </body>
571     </section>
572     </chapter>
573    
574     <chapter>
575 yoswink 1.4 <title>Troubleshooting</title>
576     <section id="tshoot-xorg">
577     <title>Why is my Xorg locking up my Alpha?</title>
578     <body>
579    
580     <p>
581     This is usually caused by a bad -mcpu setting. For example, the AlphaServer
582     800 needs to be compiled with the <c>ev5</c> flag for xorg <b>and</b> glibc.
583     Failing to do so will cause undesired results.
584     </p>
585    
586     </body>
587     </section>
588     </chapter>
589    
590     <chapter>
591 neysx 1.1 <title>Other Resources</title>
592     <section id="noforum">
593     <title>Why is there no Gentoo on Alpha forum?</title>
594     <body>
595    
596     <p>
597     On the <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org">Gentoo Forums</uri> there are
598     several arch specific categories like <uri
599     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-24.html">Gentoo on PPC</uri> and
600 nightmorph 1.3 <uri link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-24.html">Gentoo on
601     Sparc</uri>. There is no Gentoo on Alpha category because there simply isn't
602     enough Gentoo/Alpha activity on the forums to warrant one. All Alpha related
603     posts should go in the <uri
604     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html"> Gentoo on Alternative
605     Architectures</uri> category.
606 neysx 1.1 </p>
607    
608     </body>
609     </section>
610     <section id="othergentoo">
611     <title>Where can I get more help or information about Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
612     <body>
613    
614     <p>
615     If any of your questions weren't answered here, you can try other resources
616     like the <uri link="/doc/en/handbook/handbook-alpha.xml">Alpha Handbook</uri>
617     or <uri link="/proj/en/base/alpha/">our project homepage</uri>. You can also
618     ask us at <c>#gentoo-alpha</c> on <c>irc.freenode.net</c>, <uri
619     link="http://forums.gentoo.org/viewforum-f-32.html">Gentoo on Alternative
620     Architectures Forum</uri>, or on the <mail>gentoo-alpha@lists.gentoo.org</mail>
621     mailing list.
622     </p>
623    
624     </body>
625     </section>
626     <section id="other">
627     <title>Where can I get more help or information about Alpha/Linux?</title>
628     <body>
629    
630     <p>
631     <uri link="http://alphalinux.org/">AlphaLinux.org</uri> is a central repository
632     for all things Alpha/Linux.
633     </p>
634    
635     </body>
636     </section>
637     </chapter>
638     </guide>

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