Why is FreeBSD so SLOW?

Stijn Hoop stijn at win.tue.nl
Wed Apr 23 04:34:29 PDT 2003


On Wed, Apr 23, 2003 at 01:04:08PM +0200, Jalle wrote:
> Now, everyone says that FreeBSD is supposed to be so fast and reliable. 
> Reliable, I fully agree! But fast? No, it's actually much slower on my 
> machine than any Windows distro ever was! Sure, only running in text mode 
> is fast as hell, but no good for everyday use. I've tried several WMs and 
> Desktop Suites, like Enlightenment (e16 and e17), Blackbox, Gnome2, KDE3 
> etc. They're great n' all, but as soon as I switch to graphical UI 
> everything slows down to a snail's pace! Even a simple terminal is slow.

Define 'slow'. I know this isn't easy, but it may simply be a case
of expecting too much. On the other hand:

> I've played around with Linux a couple of times, and with several flavors 
> (Mandrake, Debian, RedHat, Gentoo), and they where all MUCH faster using a 
> graphical interface than FreeBSD!

So you can see a difference? Can you specify what exactly is faster? Is
this measurable (for example with time(1) or other calculations)?

> I have a Pentium III 450 MHz with 320 MB RAM, a SoundBlaster AWE 64 Gold 
> and a Matrox G400 MAX video card. I know, this is not top-of-the-line 
> hardware, but that doesn't mean that it should run three or four (or more) 
> times faster under Linux, right?

No, it shouldn't. FWIW I have nearly the same setup at home (except for a G450
and a crappier soundcard) but I'm pretty happy considering how old the
hardware is (3 years or so).

> So, to the point! I like FreeBSD (I prefer using FBSD before Windows or 
> Linux), and I would like to keep using it. But if I can't watch a movie or 
> use a decent file manager I will have to switch to Linux. Oh yeah, BTW, is 
> there really NO WAY of getting simultaneous sounds in FreeBSD?!? I think 
> that's kinda crappy. I mean MS did it, why can't we?

Some programs can play sounds at the same time, most of the time they use a
special mixer daemon for that purpose, like esound. However the application
must have support for that.

Anyway, I can play movies just fine, I can listen to mp3's while rebuilding my
FreeBSD world or ports, about the only thing that is a bit 'slow' in my eyes
is the startup time of my browser (phoenix) but that's to be expected on a

> Finally the QUESTION: Why is my FreeBSD box so slow? I figure, if FreeBSD 
> in general was so slow, then noone would really use it. Are there any 
> "standard tricks" in the book that speeds up a slow X server or WM, or just 
> FreeBSD in general?

It's not very easy to give advice without knowing more about your FreeBSD
installation and your hardware.

- what FreeBSD version do you have installed?
- wat are the contents of /var/run/dmesg.boot?
- are there any log messages on the console?
- as for the movie playing, what is the output of 'xdpyinfo | grep -i xvideo'?

There are also a few general tips that will enable speedups:

- make sure your kernel only has the 'cpu I686_CPU' option and not
  the 'cpu I386_CPU' or lower options. This will make it use
  instructions that are only available on higher processors, but those
  are definitely faster.
- build and install your own world with CPUTYPE=p3 in /etc/make.conf
  But be prepared to reinstall without using CPUTYPE if your system
  behaves strangely after this -- it is 'unsupported' to do this
  (although I'm running such a world for a pretty long time now).
- similarly, recompile your installed ports with this setting -- it
  will make a difference.

Those are just some of the general pointers, but you do need to be
a bit more specific.



The sexual urge of the camel is stranger than anyone thinks.
He's lived for years on the desert, and tried to seduce the Sphinx.
But the Sphinxs center of pleasure lies buried deep in the Nile,
which accounts for the hump on the camel and the Sphinxs inscrutable smile.
		-- Frantic Fran, http://www.franticfran.com/jokes.htm
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