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updated Alpha FAQ

1 <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
2 <!-- $Header: /var/cvsroot/gentoo/xml/htdocs/doc/en/gentoo-alpha-faq.xml,v 1.5 2007/08/25 09:49:21 neysx 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 <author title="Editor">
15 <mail link="nightmorph"/>
16 </author>
17
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 <version>1.4</version>
28 <date>2008-01-01</date>
29
30 <faqindex>
31 <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 </faqindex>
46
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 packages, porting software, and making new releases. The Gentoo/Alpha project
57 aims to provide a usable environment for both desktops and servers.
58 </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 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 </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 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 page</uri> for more details.
89 </p>
90
91 </body>
92 </section>
93 <section id="bitapps">
94 <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 <title>Hardware</title>
174 <section id="ascase">
175 <title>I opened up the case on an AlphaServer and now it won't power
176 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 <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 <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 </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 <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 </chapter>
423 <chapter>
424 <title>Software</title>
425
426 <section id="javasupport">
427 <title>How is Java support in Gentoo/Alpha?</title>
428 <body>
429
430 <p>
431 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 </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 <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 </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 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 </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 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 </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 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 </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 <li>Becoming an <uri
555 link="http://www.gentoo.org/proj/en/base/alpha/AT/index.xml">AT</uri>
556 </li>
557 </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 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 </p>
569
570 </body>
571 </section>
572 </chapter>
573
574 <chapter>
575 <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 <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 <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 </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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