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Re: The State of Alpha Linux

Hi Matt!

Matt Turner wrote:
The State of Alpha Linux

We're all subscribed to this list because we use a dying platform.

You think it's dying? :-P

> We
do what we can to keep it going, but in recent months the State of
Alpha Linux has been deteriorating at an accelerated rate.

Let me outline some issues facing us today:
   1.We have no glibc/Alpha maintainer [1]

What can we do here? Who can take over this job. What skills are required to take over the job? How much time does one have to spend to do the job? If someone would volunteer, whom does he or she have to contact?

   2.Kernel development for Alpha is comatose

I do see some commits from time to time... Well, not much enhancements of course... But there would be a few things that should be ported from x86 to alpha...

   3.We can't run modern X.Org [2]

At the moment. I guess it's just a fair bit of work and then we would be able to run modern xorg.

To make things worse, for such a small group of users, we're much too
segregated and disorganized. For instance, how many (of the only four)
Gentoo/Alpha maintainers are subscribed to this list? Debian/Alpha?

I don't know if any other Alpha distribution maintainer is subscribed here, but I do include debian-alpha m/l now and klausman (I think he's one of the Gentoo Alpha maintainers).

How many realized we were without a glibc maintainer? That we can't
use X.Org 7.4?

I can say, I did.

If this trend continues, we will completely first lose X.Org support.

AFAIK, Ivan works on this, isn't he?

I even had an X.Org developer tell me he didn't care [about Alpha
support] when I pinged him about an Alpha bug he had originally filed

What is the problem for the developers? They don't have alphas they can access? We can help in this case.

We'll later lose glibc support. As it stands now, Alpha isn't even in
the main tree [4]. I'm not sure what version Debian ships, but Gentoo
is 3 versions behind at 2.6.1. Newer than that and the test suite
causes a hard lock [5]. How much longer is it going to be before 2.6
is incompatible with the latest version and we begin to lose the
ability to use other modern software?

2.9 runs fine and I'm trying to keep up 2 date with trunk to find bugs as early as possible and patch it so it works. Also I'm using Gentoo and Debian patches and post bugs in glibc bugzilla.

So from my perspective glibc is not a problem.
gcc (as of 4.3.x) isn't a problem as well. From time to time there are build problems, but normally easy to fix and I 'zilla them...

While we may never lose kernel support, it will certainly begin to lag
behind other platforms more and more.

We do already lag behind; Eg. uptrace/ptrace, Execshield (only as dummy functions at the moment). I don't know the current state of selinux, but it might be horrible... I don't use selinux, so I don't worry to much...

> Bugs begin to take longer and
longer to be fixed [6]. Release candidate kernels as late in the cycle
as rc-8 of the 2.6.28 series fail to compile on Alpha [7]. This is
definitely a worrying sign.

Right. Time to worry. Fedora Alpha is currently at I've never tried anything newer than that yet...

It is certainly expected that as a platform ages, it slowly loses its
users and developers. In 1999, many average users knew or we're
interested in learning Alpha assembly language, were interested in
support for Alpha among Free Software, and were interested in
programming for the platform. Obviously this cannot be the case today.
We don't expect that it should.

Right. But for some mysterious reasons, Alphas are still very expensive and if you put one on ebay, you will sell it.

We, the ones who do wish to see our platform live on, even if only a
little longer, should focus on fixing what we can and maintaining what
we already have.

Sure! I'm trying to be as transparent in my work as I can. 'zilla every little bug. Have packages in koji, ... Try to keep modified packages with tagged with AXP and add appropriate changelog entry...

I hope this already helped other people out there... But I don't know.

Whether Fedora adds Alpha as a Second Tier Architecture is trivial in
comparison to these issues. We should focus on making sure we have
working software for Fedora/Alpha before we consider how to properly
market it.

Right. But at this point I must say. It's hard for me/us to keep patches locally. I can not send in a bugzilla report for everything and wait for the maintainers to actually DO it... I don't know what a good solution for this would be?

We, the small band of Alpha users, need to work together. We have the
same problems, why should we work separately on them?

We should not and we should have a central point to discuss problems... This list would be fine - at least for me. Can we ask all kind of Alpha maintainers (eg. kernel, gcc, xorg, ... ) to subscribe to this list?

In order to facilitate better communication among Alpha users,
developers, please use the Alpha IRC channel on Freenode, #alpha, and
the Wiki [8]. If you have unused hardware that may be useful to
developers, consider donating it.

From here, it's up to us to find solutions to these problems.

Ideas and Suggestions requested.

Matt, thanks for this mail!


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