Linux on Desktops

By: Linus Torvalds (, July 25, 2007 12:03 pm
Room: Moderated Discussions
Shankhadeep ( on 7/25/07 wrote:
>Con quit because he believed that there is no enough focus
>on desktop performance in kernel development.

I disagree. I personally have always thought that the
desktop is the most interesting niche of all - because it's
the one that shows the most varied load usage, but also
because it tends to be the one that has the tightest
requirements by far (ie people notice things on a
desktop that they would never notice anywhere else).

Sound skipping is the canonical example: because people
notice audio latencies easily in the tenth-of-a-second
range, sound fragments are much smaller than that, and you
can clearly hear skipping a fragment even if we're talking

So millisecond latencies together with unpredictable IO,
and often insufficient memory (do you really think that
server loads swap under benchmarks? Think again. But it's
normal for desktop use) makes the desktop much more of a
challenge (and thus much more interesting) than servers.

In fact, I will argue (and have argued) that the reason
Wintel was set to kicking traditional UNIX butt a decade
ago was exactly that traditional UNIX had left the desktop
behind, and was often technically inferior as a result.

One of the real problematic issues with the desktop loads
is that they are often hard to quantify. Throughput is just
a lot more easier to benchmark than latency. And the
things that humans notice (visual and audible latency)
are the hardest one to test for.

>One of the key points was that the current cpu scheduler
>in standard kernels isn't appropriate for desktops.

Well, that's really where Con's issue is. I merged the
improved scheduler a few weeks ago, I just didn't merge
his version.

The reason? There were things like double-blind studies
comparing the two, and there really was no difference. And
as a top-level maintainer, I need to not just look at
things like that, but also at whether I can trust the
developer to stick around and fix up the inevitable
problems that come from big changes like that.

So when I have a choice between two code bases, both of
which perform equally well, but one of which is from the
current scheduler maintainer (admittedly egged on by the
fact that Con was able to improve noticeably on his older
version) who I know is responsible, the thing really is
pretty much a no-brainer.

Con was attacking people who reported problems. Ingo (the
author of the other patch) was trying to help them track
down the cause of the problem.

Who do you think gets his code merged?

>As we are approaching quad cpu desktops in the mainstream
>will there be a renewed focus on improving Linux
>performance on the desktop?

Quad core actually tends to make for fewer issues
in scheduling, since you have more leeway, and simply have
more resources to throw at it (SMT, in contrast, can make
for some hard-to-schedule cases, because of the possible
imbalance between threads. That exists with full cores too,
but it's not quite as noticeable).

Multi-core brings other issues, of course (ie you need to
make sure your locking is right etc), but that's one thing
that we've generally solved long ago.

So I do think that the desktop will continue to be the area
that really pushes the envelope (it's simply that much more
complex than any other use), but I don't think multi-core
is really where the issues will likely be.

And I'll personally continue to consider the desktop the
most interesting area - the way I always have. Because it's
actually the main area I use Linux myself. I don't run any
servers, and while I have a few embedded Linux devices,
the desktop is where I work 99% of the time.

< Previous Post in ThreadNext Post in Thread >
TopicPosted ByDate
Linux on DesktopsShankhadeep2007/07/25 10:46 AM
  Linux on DesktopsPaul2007/07/25 11:42 AM
    Linux on DesktopsShankhadeep2007/07/25 02:15 PM
      Linux on DesktopsMax2007/07/25 02:43 PM
        Linux on DesktopsJasonB2007/07/26 11:38 PM
    Linux on DesktopsFoo_2007/07/26 02:53 AM
      Linux on DesktopsMichael S2007/07/26 04:22 AM
      Linux on DesktopsPaul2007/07/26 01:56 PM
        Linux on DesktopsFoo_2007/07/26 02:34 PM
          Linux on DesktopsJukka Larja2007/07/27 04:42 AM
            Linux on DesktopsShankhadeep2007/07/27 11:52 AM
              Linux on DesktopsShankhadeep2007/07/27 12:00 PM
                Linux on Desktops_Arthur2007/07/27 02:56 PM
  Linux on DesktopsLinus Torvalds2007/07/25 12:03 PM
    Linux on DesktopsShankhadeep2007/07/25 01:36 PM
      Linux on DesktopsArun Ramakrishnan2007/07/25 08:11 PM
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