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Re: lenny+1 and the future of the alpha port?

On Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 10:05:36AM -0400, Lennart Sorensen wrote:

> I hadn't noticed too many apha build failures lately.  I figured that
> was because the alpha is 64bit little endian just like amd64 and hence
> the problems should be mostly the same.  Making gcc and java work is
> always an issue of course.


68+131+13 failed packages; not counting any java packages that have been
dropped already from alpha via P-a-s.

This count was in the range of 20 or so packages at the beginning of the
lenny release cycle, but I haven't noticed anyone besides me doing much work
on keeping the count down, and I haven't been doing so either for the past
months given my decreasing interest in having my alpha running at home as a
dedicated porting system.

> > Can you quantify how long is "a long time" for you?  I'm happy that Debian
> > has helped you get 10 years (13, by the time lenny ends) out of this
> > hardware!  But beyond that point, is continuing to use that hardware really
> > the most effective solution for you?  (Not a rhetorical question - I'm
> > interested to know under what circumstances it makes sense to continue
> > running alpha hardware, instead of consolidating on current-generation amd64
> > hardware.)

> Sometimes it isn't about what is most efficient.  Besides if you have a
> working machine why buy a new one (unless electricity starts to cost too
> much to justify the old one running).

It was precisely my point that I think that replacing an old alpha with a
lower-power, modern machine would pay for itself in electricity savings in a
reasonably short amount of time.

> Besides some people love being able to keep old hardware running.  It's
> bad enough that Microsoft wants to make anything 4 or 5 years old obsolete
> and unable to run current software for no good reason, but does Debian
> have to?

So your point in posting was to make insulting rhetorical comparisons and
browbeat developers into carrying on supporting an architecture that has
ceased to be useful to them (and almost everyone else in the world)?

If people love being able to keep their alphas running, let them step up to
do the work.  Right now all I see is a dying port, and I'm trying to make
sure that the last one out turns off the lights.

> > In practice, my current role is in the area of minor updates to keep the
> > kernel and installer in shape for release.  There is code hacking that
> > *needs* to be done to keep alpha as a full-fledged port, but neither I nor
> > anyone else is doing this work.

> Is there anywhere that has a list of what is in need of being done?
> Looking through the BTS is not exactly the most efficient way to find
> the things that need doing.

There's the list of failed packages, as well as
(which is a lot more informative than I expected it to be, really).  And
then there's the need for someone to take care of the kernel builds on an
ongoing basis, and the particular issues that you quoted from my mail.

> Hmm, I won't touch java, and I don't know much about atlas (although
> that doesn't mean it couldn't be fixed, except I think it might use
> assembly).  Fixing X ought to be doable as should be the framebuffer.

Does "doable" mean that this is something that you're going to try to do?

> > In English, we have an expression: "throwing good money after bad".  Yes,
> > there's an environmental cost associated with the initial production of the
> > machine (not just in terms of energy but also in pollution), but that's
> > already done and can't be undone.  Computers can be had today that are more
> > powerful *and* more energy efficient, for relatively little money - how long
> > would a more energy-efficient machine have to run in place of your alpha, in
> > order to pay for itself in electricity savings?

> > For me, I know the answer is "not long".

> Certainly true, but there are a few silly people around (like me) that
> just loves weird old hardware and keeping it working (even if that takes
> a soldering iron once in a while to fix things).  If nothing else than
> to show it can be done.

It's great that Debian can fill so many different needs for different
people, but frankly, if your goal is to show that you can keep old hardware
working, you don't need a supported, recent OS to do that, and I don't think
the Debian project should carry a port along for no other reason than this.

Steve Langasek                   Give me a lever long enough and a Free OS
Debian Developer                   to set it on, and I can move the world.
Ubuntu Developer                                    http://www.debian.org/
slangasek@ubuntu.com                                     vorlon@debian.org

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