CHOST: i586 vs. i486 on AMD Geode LX

On my blog post about Installing Gentoo on ALIX.3D3 Mart Raudsepp made an interesting comment: He pointed out, that on AMD Geode CPUs it might be better to use i486 CHOST instead of my used i586, because the CPU is more like a i486 as far as instruction scheduling and times go.

This sounded interesting, so I googled for some benchmark test to measure differences. I found nbench, which measures performance by executing some typical algorithms and compares them to a Pentium 90 based system. So I installed it and run on the i586 CHOST system, then rebuild it completely to i486 CHOST and run it again. Continue reading

Using Geode's AES engine on ALIX.3D3

The AMD Geode LX800 CPU has an on-chip AES 128-bit crypto accelerations block and a true random number generator. Using this block for encryption and decryption is a lot faster than software implemented algorithms and it unloads the CPU. There are two main purposes where en/decryption is needed:

  • Storing files
  • Communication over network (IPSEC, OpenVPN, WPA2, ...)

I'll focus on the first point in this article using LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup).

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Updating BIOS on ALIX.3D3 within Linux

Usually BIOS updating means booting DOS and running a proprietary tool from the board vendor. A few days ago, coreboot's flashrom 0.9 has realeased. It's an open-source tool which supports program almost all flash chips used on x86 mainboards. Its compatibility list includes Geode™ CS5530/A, which can be found on the ALIX.3D3 board. So why not using flashrom to update ALIX.3D3 BIOS.

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Ethernet bonding with Linux and 802.3ad

2 NIC + SwitchNowadays, most desktop mainboards provide more than one gigabit ethernet port. Connecting them both to the same switch causes most Linux distros by default to get a individual IP on each device and route traffic only on the primary device (based on device metric) or round-robin. A single connection always starts at one IP and so all traffic goes through one device, limiting maximum bandwidth to 1 GBit.

Here comes bonding (sometimes called (port) trunking or link aggregation) to play. It connects two ore more ethernet ports to one virtual port with only one MAC and so mostly one IP address. Wheres earlier only two hosts (with the same OS running) or two switches (from the same vendor) could be connected, nowadays there's a standard protocol which makes it easy: LACP which is part of IEEE 802.3ad. Continue reading

Changing scheduling parameters in Linux

Process scheduling within Linux is done by the kernel, following different aspects. Usually it's goal is to share all resources fairly among all running processes.

Sometimes, there's a need to tell the kernel explicitly to prior some process, bind some process to a special CPU and so on.

Changing process priorities is commonly known:

nice -n 10 make

runs the program make with a priority of 10 (-20 meaning most favorable and 19 least favorable scheduling). If you want to change a priority of a running program, renice is your choice. Continue reading