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1 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
2 <!-- $Header: /var/cvsroot/gentoo/xml/htdocs/doc/en/gentoo-alpha-faq.xml,v 1.4 2007/07/13 18:39:46 yoswink Exp $ -->
3
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 <mail link="tcort@gentoo.org">Thomas Cort</mail>
10 </author>
11 <author title="Author">
12 <mail link="grknight2k@bluebottle.com">Brian Evans</mail>
13 </author>
14
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 <version>1.3</version>
25 <date>2007-07-13</date>
26
27 <faqindex>
28 <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 </faqindex>
43
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 packages, porting software, and making new releases. The Gentoo/Alpha project
54 aims to provide a usable environment for both desktops and servers.
55 </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 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 </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 <section id="bitapps">
91 <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 <title>Hardware</title>
171 <section id="ascase">
172 <title>I opened up the case on an AlphaServer and now it won't power
173 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 <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 <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 </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 <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 </chapter>
420 <chapter>
421 <title>Software</title>
422
423 <section id="javasupport">
424 <title>How is Java support in Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
425 <body>
426
427 <p>
428 There was only one option for Java VM and Java SDK on Gentoo/Alpha.
429 The packages are called <c>compaq-jre</c> and <c>compaq-jdk</c>.
430 Sadly, Compaq/HP stopped all support and was removed from Gentoo on
431 October 11, 2006.
432 </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 <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 </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 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 </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 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 </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 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 </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 <li>Becoming an <uri
552 link="http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/base/alpha/AT/index.xml">AT</uri>
553 </li>
554 </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 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 </p>
566
567 </body>
568 </section>
569 </chapter>
570
571 <chapter>
572 <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 <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 <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 </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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