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Old 06-14-2012, 07:48 AM   #1
mogmog
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Lost with too many options: SMP, 64bit or not etc


Hi,
Had my first taste of Linux with Ubuntu 8 & liked that. Came to reinstall on another Pc & got v11.10 with Unity which runs like treacle on that machine.

I have 4 pcs onto which I would like to put linux:
2 are 64bit capable Dells with 4gb ram (9200 & E520), one is my GIS/graphics pc, a Tyan mobo dual xeon (2004) 4gb ram 64bit capable. Getting on abit but still delivers.
Finally, another similar but 32bit only dual xeon workstation (got Ubuntu 10) currently only with 2gb ram.

1/ Is there any advantage in limiting my choice to a 64bit kernel? I tried a live Vector disk on one of the Dells & it was excellent but no 64bit.

2/Does 32bit Linux have the same memory addressing limits as Windows? ie can it see more than 3.5/4gb?

3/If I run 64 bit am I correct in thinking that Linux software needs to be compiled to run on 64bit (not so much of that around? I'm thinking particularly of gvSIG, which is my serious use and a 64bit version of that seems very unlikely)

4/What would give me good use of my dual cpu machines? (I know its old tech but they've got to earn some money before I can replace them as I'm just starting up in biz.)

5/I'd ideally want 1 flavour of Linux although understand it might be best to install different versions of that on the other Pcs - my GIS pc needs to work hard whereas the others are general desktop stuff/homework. If I need more than 1 flavour then so be it.
Needs to fairly mainstream and be user-friendly to encourage adoption by other family members although the kids are keen. Also, whilst I like to get involved a bit, I need to focus on my work rather than the OS. Ubuntu seemed to fit the bill but they've blown it methinks.

6/Finally, where can I find out about general concepts of Linux, and perhaps its Windows equivalent functions, as well as all the sudo/bash stuff which is so not obvious to outsiders

Lots of questions...have already spent a lot of time looking for answers...

Many thanks for any advice.
 
Old 06-14-2012, 08:21 AM   #2
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1. running 64bit OS on a 64bit system is probably a bit better (than a 32bit OS), but you will not find big differences
2. 32bit linux has almost the same restriction, but there is an extension: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_Address_Extension
3. 64bit OS will be able to run 32bit code as well.
4. all linux will do almost the same job, it mainly does not depend on the distro but the kernel itself.
5. probably you can use the same distro for all your PCs
6. from my point of view: I do not suggest you to compare windows and linux, do not try to find similar menus or equivalent functionalities, you will hardly find such things.
 
Old 06-14-2012, 08:57 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
I have 4 pcs onto which I would like to put linux:
...
Finally, another similar but 32bit only dual xeon
...
1/ Is there any advantage in limiting my choice to a 64bit kernel?
That question doesn't seem to fit your described requirements.
Your 32-bit only system can't run a 64-bit kernel.
What are you really trying to ask?

Quote:
2/Does 32bit Linux have the same memory addressing limits as Windows? ie can it see more than 3.5/4gb?
The PAE option in 32 bit Linux removes the three and fraction GB limit on physical ram. (The PAE option in 32 bit Windows does not remove that limit).

Quote:
3/If I run 64 bit am I correct in thinking that Linux software needs to be compiled to run on 64bit
No. You may need to install some extra packages to support certain 32 bit software. In Debian based distributions (contrasted with Red Hat based), the package management typically won't figure out the dependency tree for you when installing 32 bit software. So it may take some extra effort to discover and install the 32 bit .so files that the desired 32 bit application might need. But once installed properly, 32 bit software runs as smoothly and easily on 64 bit Linux as 64 bit software does.

Quote:
4/What would give me good use of my dual cpu machines?
I'm not sure of the point of that question. Whether a machine is too slow or otherwise limited to be useful depends on the applications you want to use much more than it depends on the OS.
 
Old 06-14-2012, 09:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
1/ Is there any advantage in limiting my choice to a 64bit kernel? I tried a live Vector disk on one of the Dells & it was excellent but no 64bit.
Not really; if you've tried Vector (XFCE?) and really liked it you might even think about installing that somewhere, and see how you get on.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
2/Does 32bit Linux have the same memory addressing limits as Windows? ie can it see more than 3.5/4gb?
The OS (with PAE) can see more memory than that, but each individual process can only work within the 32 bit addressing limits. For most people, most of the time, that isn't much of a limitation (but it might be for you in the GIS case, I don't know).

Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
3/If I run 64 bit am I correct in thinking that Linux software needs to be compiled to run on 64bit (not so much of that around? I'm thinking particularly of gvSIG, which is my serious use and a 64bit version of that seems very unlikely)
To run in 64 bit mode, the software needs to be specially compiled, but in the open source world, this is common and not really a limitation. When you move outside of Open Source software, you are at the mercy of the proprietary software supplier, but, as has been mentioned earlier, it can still be run in 32 bit mode, if you have the appropriate libraries.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
5/I'd ideally want 1 flavour of Linux although understand it might be best to install different versions of that on the other Pcs - my GIS pc needs to work hard whereas the others are general desktop stuff/homework. If I need more than 1 flavour then so be it.
Needs to fairly mainstream and be user-friendly to encourage adoption by other family members although the kids are keen. Also, whilst I like to get involved a bit, I need to focus on my work rather than the OS. Ubuntu seemed to fit the bill but they've blown it methinks.
I know nothing of your GIS system, so I can't offer any advice - it might make sense to keep one box on Windows to run that, I don't know. I really think that having found something that you like (Vector - XFCE?) you should have a closer look at that to see if it is suitable for your more general usage. If not, you might want to look at other distros which offer the same GUI.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
6/Finally, where can I find out about general concepts of Linux, and perhaps its Windows equivalent functions, as well as all the sudo/bash stuff which is so not obvious to outsiders
Have a look at this to start with; you'll find lots of stuff under a search for 'linux beginners guide' or 'tutorial', if you do a search. You don't necessarily have to know much of the 'sudo/bash stuff' at all, if you don't want to, but the command line is the fastest, most efficient, way to accomplish many admin tasks.

The one thing about which I have a bit of a concern is that there is a lot to learn (not all of which you have to learn now) and it might be a distraction from running your business. If you could restrict the learning to one, or a few, specific areas then it would be easier to point you at specifics that won't be too much of a distraction.
 
Old 06-14-2012, 08:10 PM   #5
chrism01
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Some comments:

1. 64/32 bit: most if not all Linux systems offer both, but the entire industry is well into the 64 bit era.
Personally I'd use that if your HW supports it.
Note that (at least for Redhat and derivatives eg Centos), the 64 bit install includes 32 libs as well (technically known as multi-lib setup) and will run either/both 64+32 bit apps automatically. IOW the OS is smart enough to know what to do without needing any special help from you.

The PAE thing is only useful on 32bit HW that has >4GB of RAM; you apparently don't, so it's not gong to help.
The addressing limit is still 3.5GB (approx) per 32bit process in any case.
Here's a table I saved from somewhere
Quote:
CPU Kernel (*) Application Virtual Address Size
32 or 64 bit 32 bit (smp **) 32 bit slightly under 3GB
32 or 64 bit 32 bit (hugemem ***) 32 bit slightly over 3.7GB
64 bit 64 bit 32 bit 4GB
64 bit 64 bit 64 bit more than 256GB
2. I would try to use only one distro if possible; much easier to maintain etc.
Newbies for personal use are often recommended Ubuntu of some kind or Mint.
Personally I use Centos (free version of RHEL ) both for personal use+work.
Note that paying for RHEL includes updates+support; Centos only gives you updates...

3. To learn Linux, try this tutorial http://rute.2038bug.com/index.html.gz
For a large list of free to read manuals etc try www.linuxtopia.org

Welcome to LQ
 
Old 06-15-2012, 07:14 AM   #6
johnsfine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrism01 View Post
The PAE thing is only useful on 32bit HW that has >4GB of RAM;
Incorrect. The Motherboard/BIOS sets a limit on physical ram for non PAE 32-bit OSs. That limit is always lower than 4GB and sometimes lower than 3GB. Three and three eighths GB is a very common amount. But each BIOS/Motherboard combination may be different.

If you have 4GB and you want to use as much as possible of that 4GB in a 32 bit OS, you need PAE.

Quote:
you apparently don't, so it's not gong to help.
If the OP really wanted to run the exact same Linux kernel on all those system (a non 64-bit capable system and at least one system with 4GB of ram) then a PAE kernel would be a good choice.

But even though it probably is a good idea to run the same distribution and version of that distribution, it would add very little extra effort to run 32 bit non PAE on the 2GB system but 64-bit on the 4GB systems. So if you drop the stated goal of running the same OS across all systems, that might eliminate any reason the OP has to use PAE.

Note some BIOS/Motherboard combinations don't change that limit regardless of the OS (64-bit and 32-bit PAE and 32-bit non PAE all get the same limit significantly lower than 4GB). On such hardware, even if you have 4GB installed, you can't use even close to all of it no matter what OS you choose.

Quote:
The addressing limit is still 3.5GB (approx) per 32bit process in any case.
The per process virtual limit is 3GB in 32-bit Linux with or without PAE. Even if physical ram is nowhere near as big as 3GB, you still have 3GB virtual per process. Even if physical ram used with PAE is 16GB, you still have 3GB virtual per process.

Quote:
Here's a table I saved from somewhere
That is an obsolete table. Hugemem is obsolete. Hugemem was a kludge to both avoid exhasting kernel virtual addressing (as 32-bit PAE systems tend to do at around 16GB physical) and allow nearly 4GB virtual per process. Hugemem had a lot of compatibility problems. Before 64 bit CPUs were common, hugemem was an important kludge needed for the largest 32 bit servers. Now, there is no justification for trying to run anything that big in 32 bit.

Last edited by johnsfine; 06-15-2012 at 07:21 AM.
 
Old 06-18-2012, 07:56 AM   #7
mogmog
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64bit or not etc

Thanks for the input chaps. Given me a fair bit to digest over the next few days.
 
Old 08-02-2012, 07:57 AM   #8
mogmog
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less lost

Thanks again, a number of my questions have been solved. But:

Recap:I have 4 pcs onto which I would like to put linux to dual boot with XP as I'm tied to this for various reasons.
2 are 64bit capable Dells with 4gb ram (9200 & E520 kids secondary school homework, video/music editing/programming). Potential to increase RAM if need proven.

Main PC is my GIS/graphics pc, a Tyan motherboard dual xeon (2004) currently 4gb ram, 64bit capable. Would increase RAM if beneficial. Getting on abit but still delivers.

Finally, another similar but 32bit only dual xeon workstation (got XP & Ubuntu 11.10 as it upgraded from Hardy Heron which ran OK) currently only with 2gb ram. Hopefully be retired soon but it aint broke...

Quote:
Johnsfine said:
Your 32-bit only system can't run a 64-bit kernel.What are you really trying to ask?
I was hoping for a Linux which had both 32 & 64 bit versions (Vector doesn't), so I only had to deal with one learning curve of desktops, commands etc.

I was hoping that, with a RAM injection, running 64bit OS on my GIS PC would buy it another year or two...
My key issue is a programme called gvSIG which runs on Java. It will apparently run on 64bit with compatibility libraries (variously libXext.so.6 or ia32 I believe)- this I can understand. But it would not be able to see all my RAM. From the replies, it is not clear to me if the PAE extension would help here?

I also use Inkscape & Gimp which appear to compilable in 64 bit, but not entirely clear whether that means they will see >3.x gb RAM

One of my original questions: What would give me good use of my dual cpu machines? was intended to determine if any particular kernel/distro or whatever would be able to use both CPUs? I know that my version of ArcGIS (proprietary software) cannot, which is one of the reasons why I'm looking around. It may be that all Linuxes do, rendering this question irrelevant.

Finally (??) How does one choose a distro? How do the differences manifest themselves? I am aware there are different desktops KDE, Gnome etc but people get very excited about these and rational comparisons seem to go out the window. Again, how can I compare desktops, what are the pros & cons? I have spent some time looking at these but stuff is either out of date or partisan or too involved etc.

Many thanks
 
Old 08-02-2012, 08:29 AM   #9
brianL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
so I only had to deal with one learning curve of desktops, commands etc.
You can have any desktop environment on any distro. And a lot of commands are common to all distros. Package management and release cycles are the main differences: some release to a strict schedule (Ubuntu and Fedora, for example), and others release when they're ready (Slackware and Debian).

Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
Finally (??) How does one choose a distro? How do the differences manifest themselves? I am aware there are different desktops KDE, Gnome etc but people get very excited about these and rational comparisons seem to go out the window. Again, how can I compare desktops, what are the pros & cons? I have spent some time looking at these but stuff is either out of date or partisan or too involved etc.
A lot of us, me included, choose by distrohopping: trying a few distros for a few days or whatever, then settling for what suits us best. If you ask which is the best distro, you'll get loads of different answers. Same with desktop environments/window managers.
 
Old 08-02-2012, 08:59 AM   #10
johnsfine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
I was hoping for a Linux which had both 32 & 64 bit versions (Vector doesn't), so I only had to deal with one learning curve of desktops, commands etc.
Good plan. Most distros have both 32 and 64, so that shouldn't limit you much.

Quote:
My key issue is a programme called gvSIG which runs on Java. It will apparently run on 64bit with compatibility libraries (variously libXext.so.6 or ia32 I believe)- this I can understand. But it would not be able to see all my RAM. From the replies, it is not clear to me if the PAE extension would help here?
A Java program in the form of a .jar file ought to run at whatever bit size the Java install on your system uses. A Java program might be compiled in some other form that is specific to a bit size.

You seem to be saying this Java program must run in 32 bit mode. I don't know whether that is correct, but if so, it isn't a big deal. 32 bit programs run fine in 64 bit Linux.

In 32 bit Linux, a program can use up to 3GB of virtual ram (regardless of whether you have PAE). That 3GB of virtual ram may involve scattered pages from anywhere in physical ram (in addition to pages on disk).

A 32 bit program in 64 bit Linux is limited to 4GB of virtual ram (instead of 3GB). If you have over 4GB physical ram, it can't use all your ram, but it can use any of your ram. It is not limited to using the first physical 4GB.

Normally the limitation that one process can only use 3GB or 4GB of virtual ram does not prevent you from making good use of much more than 4GB physical ram. A typical system runs many processes, plus the kernel itself, plus file caching.

Quote:
I also use Inkscape & Gimp which appear to compilable in 64 bit, but not entirely clear whether that means they will see >3.x gb RAM
The 3.x GB limit is a limit of physical ram per system, which you need to understand is very different from virtual ram per process. The 3.x GB limit of physical ram per system is a limit on non PAE 32 bit kernels and a limit (regardless of kernel) on some motherboards.

Quote:
One of my original questions: What would give me good use of my dual cpu machines? was intended to determine if any particular kernel/distro or whatever would be able to use both CPUs?
The distributed kernels of any distribution, that is not absurdly obsolete, can use both CPUs. That is not a factor in selecting distribution.

Last edited by johnsfine; 08-02-2012 at 09:00 AM.
 
Old 08-02-2012, 10:16 AM   #11
273
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I seem to recall somebody on this site linking to a Sun specification page which suggests that Java programs are limited to 3GB of RAM regardless of architecture, possibly because the Java VM is 32 bit?
As for GIMP and Inkscape -- the packages on 64 bit distributions will almost certainly be compiled as 64 bit so they should have no limit* on the memory they are able to address.
If normal Ubuntu is running slow but you've some experience with it then it's worth using XFCE or LXDE as your desktop or, for a new install, using Xubuntu or Lubuntu which come with those desktops as default instead of Unity. The various Ubuntu versions all come in 64 bit and 32 bit versions.


*Well, a limit that's so high it's irrelevant on the desktop (about 256TB I think?).

Last edited by 273; 08-02-2012 at 10:24 AM. Reason: Typo
 
Old 08-02-2012, 10:20 AM   #12
mogmog
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Desktops & Distros

BrianL,
Thanks - didn't realise the iterchangeability of desktops. I thought that Linux had branched into a few main streams(eg Debian, Slackware based etc & you threw your lot in with one of these.

Luckily just bought a cake of DVDs. I'm just about to pop a Lubuntu disk in, as the lghtweight LXDE appealed.

I was trying not to ask about 'the best' system as I've seen the results of that sort of question, which is why I was trying to determine HOW to compare them. I'd love to put this to bed and settle on a course of action. And the kids keep banging on about getting Linux on their machines (not least because Minecraft runs better!)

The Ubuntu family may be the answer with Xubuntu/Lubuntu for the older machines & Ubuntu Studio for my son. Would keep the learning curve down. And it comes in 32/64 bit.

Johnsfine

Thanks for the explanation on the RAM thing. My knowledge runs out here and this helps a lot.
My understanding is that eg for a big raster calculation or rendering in GIS or GIMP, the more RAM you have the better (notwithstanding other factors, clock & bus speeds etc which I can't alter). Is that correct? If so, being able to see extra RAM would be an advantage, but if gvSIG will only run in 32 bit and the PAE doesn't help here then that's a dead end. Re the Java & 32 bit, again I'm floundering at the edge of my knowledge. Something possibly to do with JAI which is licensed & unlikely to be available in 64bit (http://gvsigce.sourceforge.net/wiki/...AI)_and_64_bit)

Quote:
A 32 bit program in 64 bit Linux is limited to 4GB of virtual ram (instead of 3GB). If you have over 4GB physical ram, it can't use all your ram, but it can use any of your ram. It is not limited to using the first physical 4GB.
So if I had 8gb RAM, on a 64 bit system, (OS uses some) if Gimp was using 3gb of it, Inkscape could use 3gb of the remainder instead of having to wait for it to be released? And even if each application is limited to 4gb that is still >25% more than under 32 bit. But if it is really running at 64 bit it will be able to use any of the unused 8gb.

Against which is the increased RAM usage of 64bit software which can be counterproductive at lower RAM levels (4-8gb-ish?)
Just read an interesting post http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopi...f=201&t=105736 about this.

I'm about to boot up with 32bit Lubuntu & see how that fares.

Thanks
 
Old 08-02-2012, 10:48 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogmog View Post
But if it is really running at 64 bit it will be able to use any of the unused 8gb.
I can't tell whether you understand (probably you do). A 32 bit program under a 64 bit kernel can use pages anywhere in the total ram. Even if you had hundreds of GB of physical ram (far more than a 32 bit PAE kernel can access) a 32 bit program can still have its pages distributed anywhere in ram. If you had 400GB of ram, a hundred different processes each running a 32 bit program could each use a different 4GB, all at the same time.

Quote:
Against which is the increased RAM usage of 64bit software which can be counterproductive at lower RAM levels (4-8gb-ish?)
Just read an interesting post http://forums.linuxmint.com/viewtopi...f=201&t=105736 about this.
I'm not sure how that person measured ram use (it is much harder to measure than you would expect). I think those results are wrong. It depends a lot on the specific programs involved, but generally the increase in ram use for 64 bit is much smaller than that post claims. Also, it doesn't scale up: The increase is primarily in the program's overhead, not in the memory it uses for its actual task. So a program like gimp might need many MB more to work with a low res photo in 64 bit than it needs in 32 bit and that might be a significant percentage of its small memory use. But if you work with giant high res photos and need GB of ram, the difference between 64 bit and 32 bit will be a similar total number of MB rather than a similar %.

If I had under 1GB of ram, I would consider the increase in ram overhead of 64 bit to be a big reason to stack with 32 bit. At 3GB or more physical per system, I think the extra ram use of 64 bit isn't worth worrying about.

Last edited by johnsfine; 08-02-2012 at 10:51 AM.
 
Old 08-02-2012, 11:03 AM   #14
DavidMcCann
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Vector now has a 64-bit version, so you could consider that for everything. Don't bother with Vector SOHO, Vector Standard is just fine.
 
Old 08-02-2012, 11:25 AM   #15
mogmog
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getting there...

Quote:
Originally Posted by 273 View Post
I seem to recall somebody on this site linking to a Sun specification page which suggests that Java programs are limited to 3GB of RAM regardless of architecture, possibly because the Java VM is 32 bit?.
I haven't delved into it but Minecraft (popular with certain factions in our household), which runs on Java, has a 64bit version - suggests some sort of 64bit capability or fudge?, but this doesn't help gvSIG, which for the foreseeable future is rooted in 32bit.

Quote:
As for GIMP and Inkscape -- the packages on 64 bit distributions will almost certainly be compiled as 64 bit so they should have no limit* on the memory they are able to address.
If normal Ubuntu is running slow but you've some experience with it then it's worth using XFCE or LXDE as your desktop or, for a new install, using Xubuntu or Lubuntu which come with those desktops as default instead of Unity. The various Ubuntu versions all come in 64 bit and 32 bit versions.
Thanks for the confirmation about Gimp & Inkscape.


*Well, a limit that's so high it's irrelevant on the desktop (about 256TB I think?) - mine can do 16gb-not bad for its age. Would have been a monster in its day.
 
  


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