Monday, May 28, 2018

A weekend on the new computer (or, introducing "TenNineFox")

This Memorial Day weekend I pulled the Sonnet FireWire card from my Quad G5 and put it to sleep. I mean, I put it in sleep mode, and sat down with the Talos II to see if I could get Firefox building and running, and then QEMU (and to see if the G5 would stay asleep for more than a few hours, since I don't need a hot and noisy 230+ watt computer running next to my less hot but noisier 180W one). One glitch with this was switching the KVM away from the G5 caused it to wake up again, so I wrote a little Perl script to fork and log me out, and in the child process run a trivial AppleScript to tell application "Finder" to sleep. Then I could just run that from a remote login session from the T2, and the G5 would peacefully rest at about 20 watts or so.

First was to grab all the updates. This fixed amdgpu for X11 and now I'm running a fully accelerated GNOME desktop on the AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100. I got Sabrent Bluetooth and USB audio dongles, which "just worked" with Linux, and even got VLC to play some Blu-ray movies (as well as VLC can play them, given that BD+ is still not a solved problem). The T2 firmware update to 1.04 also diminished some of the fan hunting I was hearing and while it's still louder than the G5, it's definitely getting better and better. I'm thinking of getting one of the Supermicro "superquiet" PSUs next, since I notice its higher-pitch fan sound more than the case fans. The only hardware glitch still left over is that I can't figure out why Linux won't recognize the Sonnet FireWire/USB PCIe combo card. It should work, the chipsets should be supported. More on that later.

Next was to get working on builds. After most of Saturday spent hacking on it, I'm pleased to note that Firefox 60 will compile on the T2 with a minimal .mozconfig if you apply this patch, this patch and this patch, and chmod -x /usr/bin/ because the Firefox build system insists, nay, demands to use the (useless on PowerPC) gold linker; I don't even know why Fedora bothers installing it. You also need to turn jemalloc off because it barfs on the default PPC64 page size of 64K. The official Fedora 28 build of Firefox 60, which actually does work, apparently cheats a little by disabling tests and WebRTC, part of what those patches address, though I'm uncertain how they got around the jemalloc or WASM signal handlers issue. It runs fully multiprocess and I'm looking at enabling WebGL next. Even though JavaScript in Firefox 60 on the T2 is about twice as slow as the G5 in TenFourFox FPR7 (remember, no JIT), everything else is tremendously faster due to the 32 threads (8 cores, SMT-4 each), the monstrous cache and the 3+ GHz clock speed, so you really only notice it's not quite as fast as it ought to be on pages with a lot of scripts. So imagine what it will be like when I get the POWER9 JIT, I mean, nothing! I said nothing! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain! If you build Firefox with -O3 -mcpu=power9, you get about a 3-5% speed boost over the -O2 mcpu=power8 Fedora build, which is worth it because it only takes the Talos 20 minutes to build Firefox at -j24 (compared to 3.5 hours with the Quad G5 in Highest performance mode roaring away at -j3). For posterity, here is the .mozconfig I'm currently using, which I intend to refine further:

mk_add_options MOZ_MAKE_FLAGS="-j24"
ac_add_options --enable-application=browser
ac_add_options --enable-optimize="-O3 -mcpu=power9"
ac_add_options --disable-jemalloc

You may call this the first build of "TenNineFox" if you like. :) Some mochitests fail which I'm investigating, but the test suite can run. By the way, Firefox Containers is awesome. I like to segregate my higher-security items like billpay and banking from the browser, which I use a TenFourFoxBox for on the G5, but with a Container it's integrated into the same browser instance and still keeps the cookies and data separate. Cool stuff.

On to QEMU. QEMU will build relatively uneventfully from source, or you can pre-install the Fedora package if you're lazy. Using the generic Power Mac profile mac99 both MacOS 9.1 and 10.4 start up largely happily under qemu-system-ppc, though there is an odd glitch with 9.1 where I have to quadruple-click on anything to get it detected as a double-click. However, while it was certainly useable, it didn't feel very fast. The System Profiler within the emulated Tiger instance said it was a "1GHz G4" with a "400MHz FSB." This seemed low, and the reason it is was ... drumroll please ... it was running with CPU emulation.

After some checking, I confirmed KVM was indeed installed on this system, so I tried running a 64-bit guest with qemu-system-ppc64 emulating an IBM pSeries machine with KVM-HV. That started up and ran at a nice clip, noticeably faster when I turned on KVM, so I tried to run the 32-bit guest with KVM-PR (which ought to emulate the proper CPU) and got an error message. Even the 64-bit guest that ran just dandy with KVM-HV wouldn't run with KVM-PR. Some digging determined that the KVM-PR kernel module existed, but did not load. Some more digging turned up that KVM-PR wouldn't load with modprobe. Even more digging turned up that ... KVM-PR doesn't run on bare-metal POWER9 yet, and unfortunately all PowerNV machines like the T2 are bare-metal.

This is a bummer, but it sounds like an eventually solveable problem. In the meantime, QEMU's performance as a Power Mac emulator is currently acceptable on the T2, just unspectacular. I'll be setting up an install of OS 9 to start with and getting some of my old software loaded into a workspace, and possibly hacking QEMU to autorelease the mouse and switch workspaces with a key combination so I can just jump back and forth easily. When the issues with KVM-PR are ironed out, then everything should "just work," just faster.

For yuks, I tried installing a couple earlier emulation efforts. SheepShaver is the one most people know, and it will compile (if you update config.{guess,sub} and tell configure to use the PowerPC emulator; it will not run natively), but it will not start. Even with sudo sysctl vm.mmap_min_addr=0 and sudo setsebool -P mmap_low_allowed 1 to get the kernel and SELinux to allow its unusual memory mapping requirements, it threw an error message saying it could not allocate enough memory and unceremoniously aborted. On a 32GB system trying to emulate a 256MB Mac a low-memory state seemed unlikely, so I'm guessing this may be a 64-bit bug. I then tried the other well-known Power Mac emulator, PearPC. This also required a new autoconf and a number of hacks to get it to build with current releases of gcc, but it does work, and it does start, and it's even worse, about 20% the speed of QEMU. The reason for this is that QEMU actually has a trivial JIT (TCG), while PearPC is a strict interpreter on systems that don't have JIT support, so while you could do stuff it felt like a 601 was running it instead.

The other parts of the weekend was figuring out what I needed to port over, and how to make the Talos happy on my highly Mac-centric network. Installing gvfs-afp and hfsplus-tools was easy and got the T2 talking to the G4 file server running 10.4.11. I don't like the Linux font set much, so I'll be copying my font folder from the G5 over and converting things with Fondu as necessary. VLC will play CDs, but I will probably try to port my command-line player since it's easier for me to manipulate. I also need to move my Quake PAKs and Doom WADs over, because everyone needs a coffee break now and then, and finally get my Pixel XL to backup its photos to it. I also added even more Mac key combinations to AutoKey to maintain my Mac command-key muscle memory.

Anyway, after I've submitted this post I'll power down the Talos tonight and wake the G5 back up again tomorrow to continue work on TenFourFox FPR8, having slept peacefully and properly over the entire holiday weekend. Now that same-site cookies are working, it's time to get some sort of basic CSS grid support operational (or at least whitelisted for those sites that need it), and I still want to finish idle callback support and date-time picker support. After all, even though the T2 is getting closer and closer to being suitable as my main computer, there's still a lot I'll need to keep the G5 around for, so I'm certainly not planning to get rid of it. Or, you know, "put it to sleep" in the veterinary sense. Just because it's old doesn't mean it's useless.


  1. What's up with Linux Firewire these days?? I have a LXDE box sitting to the side of my PowerMac that has Firewire, but no working WiFi, and I thought "why not share internet from the PowerMac??". NOPE - Doesn't work anymore.

    Well long-story short, while this used to work (with a fixed IP), it appears nobody is maintaining the packages for it above Serena (Debian) and after posting to THREE Linux boards for suggestions (not getting even one reply), it is quite apparent that this is a dead issue for the Linux Tribe. The only thing they care about regarding Firewire is Audio/Video transfer.

    Also, was a bummer to see //afp go away too. My old Mint17 system talked flawlessly with the PowerMac (//smb works OK, but Tiger never lets you share drives other than boot - "LAME") - but with Spectre/Meltdown it just isn't safe to keep an x86/AMD64 Linux box online without updating to the new Kernel.

    Well as the British Empire used to say (subtextualy) "Online and Downward!"

  2. Any idea where to get a PCIe expansion card? I would like to be able to turn one of the PCIe x8 slots on the main board into 8 PCIe x1 slots. That will allow me use a WiFi card, 7-Port USB card, Sound Card, Thunderbolt card, Bluetooth card, and an LTE card. All of which are supported on Linux.
    I do personally think that with 2 chips, they could have easily provided more PCIe slots, with 48-lanes per chip, they could easily run 96 lanes, which means 3x PCIe x16 slots and 6x PCIe x8 slots which gives you a very nice potential for I/O

    1. That sounds like you'd need some serious bifurcation or I guess octofurcation support. I don't think that's supported by the hardware, at least not in its current form. Raptor is supposedly testing cards that provide x4x4x8, say my secret sources, but I'm not sure an x1x1x1x1x1x1x1x1 is possible.

  3. Hi have you tried getting KVM-PR running nested, on top of KVM-HV? Perhaps this can solve the problem you had?

    1. That seems like that would suck, but more to the point I'm not even sure it would work properly. Does this work for you?

      I do have an idea where to proceed with it next thanks to some help from the Ozlabs folks, though it will need some code work.

    2. I don’t have a Talos yet! Reading all your blog articles and the Phoronix forum in the mean time, while I resist the temptation take out my plastic....

  4. It is cool to learn of your work on the PPC TFF browser. Even those of us who are non-technical have a deep appreciation for the time and effort involved. I don't think that those of us who use our PPC machines as their daily ride can possibly thank you enough!

    1. I couldn't agree more. Cameron, keep doing what you're doing. You're holding back a lot of technology otherwise bound for the dumps, and we're all grateful. Truly.


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