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Stx 1.0 r2: He Wanted Testers!...

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To quote DistroWatch, "STX Linux is a Slackware-based distribution featuring the light-weight Equinox Desktop Environment and suitable for installation on older computers." Stibs released version 1.0 rc2 yesterday as announced on DistroWatch and PcLinuxOnline. They state:

* Mostly complete Linux Desktop
* Lightweight (about 1.1 GB installed, 368 MB ISO)
* Slackware 10.2 based (Slax Kernel 2.6.13.2) with Slapt-Get and Gslapt
* EDE 1.0.4 desktop w/ Gnome system tools (FRGnome base) * Works nicely on old Hardware (Oldest system tested so far: K5/75, 64 MB RAM, 130 MB Swap ... very slow but works)
* Harddisk Installer from Pocketlinux
* Very much like Windows(TM) 98/2000 - means easy switching.

I was a slightly intrigued when I saw the announcement on DistroWatch for Stx, but I was quite a bit behind in my projects for the weekend so I didn't really pay much attention to it until I saw the announcement on PcLinuxOnline. There STIBS posted his announcement as a request for "Distro testers wanted ..." This got my attention. When I read the information posted, all other reviews like Frugalware and Foresight would have to wait. This project sounded very interesting.

And very interesting it was. The installer was very much like the slackware installer I've seen numerous times now. The project page speaks of a livecd, but this iso came in the form of a hard drive installer. It was an easy install asking only a few question and none about package choices. There was no user setup or network config or any of the advance options we saw with KateOS. However, the system does come with a "demo" user, so you can still use it right away. If all hardware detection goes as planned and if you don't have a video chipset not properly supported by Xorg, one is booted to a graphical login manager. Type in the username: demo with the password: demo and you're off to the races. Once inside you can set up your normal user if desired. But I'm getting ahead of myself. ...The install was a no brainer.

Booting goes really well and the hardware detection was excellent. Although sitting on a 2.4 kernel, everything functioned as hoped, except that same nasty 'detecting my add-in ethernet card first' again. I'm going to have to yank that joker outta here! But printer detection went well and my scanner was auto-configured for me. Sound worked - really well, as did xmms (which sometimes doesn't in some of these distros).

After login, one is pleasantly ushered into the Equinox Desktop Environment. I got my first taste of ede when I installed it on my LFS install. I liked it then, and I like it now. It's very cute, lightweight, and very functional - a lot of nice options. I often wondered why more distros didn't choose this desktop and I think it was an excellent choice for Stx. And because it is so badly overlooked, it's a welcome change. ...Something different. It was very stable with nary a crash or freeze experienced. Kudos! Another good thing, the reboot and shutdown options worked in the logoff dialog of ede. Mine were grayed out in that same mentioned LFS.

The list of available applications was quite impressive for a 350mb download. It included the whole suite of mozilla. Mozilla is being thrown over these days for counterparts like Firefox and Flock, however, Mozilla is still the only one that comes with a complete suite of applications like a webpage builder, address book, irc client, and mail and newgroup. Again an excellent choice I think.

        

The gaming suite of The Ace of Penguins is included to help waste your valuable time. I think this was another intuitive choice in that it offers so much in one complete and uniform package. One can play mojahnog, minesweeper, solitaire, Freecell, or pegged.

The office catagory is headlined by TextMaker and PlanMaker as we similarly saw in Berry. As stated then, I really like Textmaker because of its lightweight and rock solid performance. Another insightful choice on the part of Stibs. Perusing the forums, I saw this information concerning TextMaker.

Textmaker 2002 which is included is freeware, Planmaker is crippleware free to use. You can only edit 1 sheet but I haven't found something better yet which doesn't require half of Gnome ...

STIBS

This is either a new development, or something I overlooked when putting together my LFS install. In addition, it may be possible this is the case with Berry, that I reported as a time-limited demo. In any case, this is a wonderful development. No more deleting the /textmaker directory and reinstalling every 30 days for me now. Big Grin (oppps, did I just say that?)

Some of the graphic applications include a pdf viewer, Xfi image viewer, Inkscape, flphoto picture album. Others include gimp and xsane. I thought gimp wasn't included, but saw it in the slapt-get repositories. But then was confused by it's offer to "re-install" it instead of installing. I installed (upgraded to) 2.3.5 before I saw the errata:

I missed a Symlink for Gimp: After login to STX, open a terminal, su to root and: ln -s /usr/bin/gimp-2.3 /usr/bin/gimp .

        

Multimedia was hit and miss. Xmms worked wonderfully, but I had trouble with xine wanting to play any movie files I had. I messed around in the config for a while, but didn't have much luck. Stx comes with aumix and ede has its own mixer as well. Graveman is included for cd and dvd burning. There wasn't much in the way of browser plugin support, however jre is installable thru gslapt.

Internet applications include gaim, putty, gFTP, D4X, and LinNeighborhood among a few others as well as the above mentioned mozilla suite for irc, contacts, and such.

Another great find was XFE, X File Explorer, a file manager. Where was this when I was setting up my LFS? Big Grin But it's a real nice file manager for its size and fits in with ede really well as if it was a native app. In fact, it may be now, I need to check on that. (note to self: check on that.)

Then there's all this other neato stuff, in the areas of utilities, system tools and whatnot.

        

Amongst the many regular user applications found in Stx, is one stand-out, their own Stx Control Center. This is a really nice looking application that contains many useful system utilities, monitors, and configuration tools. Included inside the control center as well as alone in the menu is gslapt. If you haven't heard of it, it's a package manager for the slackware system based on, resembling, and functioning similarly to synaptic. It uses slapt-get for the back-end, again a slackware counterpart to Debian's apt-get. I'm not sure what was up with it, but it had slackware/current repositories setup for use, but many applications I searched for didn't show up. I'm going to have to add some more repositories to mine here I guess. In addition, from the control center one can add users, configure their net connection (dsl or dial-up), their display, monitor their system and so much more. Here's but a taste, other screenshots in the gallery.

        

        

One big drawback of the system was no compiler. In addition, with the repositories provided, there wasn't one in gslapt either. I think this is one area Stibs might seriously need to give some thought. A slack-based system, even with slapt-get, needs to come with a compiler. They don't always install from a package manager completely functional. Given the current size of the iso of ~350mb, I don't think the added mbs required would make much difference and it's really needed. (hint hint)

Another, perhaps personal preference, is the name. Stx needs an updated name. I kept pronouncing it "stux" and we already have a stux. s-t-x don't exactly roll off the tongue either and just didn't stick in my head. I think Stibs' Linux would be cool. Well... just a thought...

So, I guess you can probably tell that I, as a representative of Tuxmachines, can say that Tuxmachines really liked Stx Linux. ...We really really liked Stx Linux. ...a lot. It was an easy install, required little user configuration, complete for its size, light, fast, stable, fun and the fonts were gorgeous. I think his choices in applications show an almost eerie insightfulness rare in small distro developers. He states that he had it running on a p1 with 64 mb ram, if I can find or make a boot floppy for it, I'm gonna test this baby on my old laptop. Great job Stibs, I loooved it!

Download yours.

My Screenshots and Theirs.

Stx Linux Homepage.

slight corrections:

- Kernel is 2.6.13.2 from Slax
- boot floppy image is in /bootfloppy on the CDROM 2gether w/ rawrite (give your old laptop a spin =)

What really interests me, is what problems did you have with videos? In Moz is the GXine plugin registered, Flash is also installed (about:plugins). I played mpegs and wmv's from my harddisk and it didn't mutter (didn't test ram's and mov's). Maybe we can solve this 4 u quickly if you tell me a bit more about it =).
Thanx for this great review!
STIBS
PS:atang1, thx for pointing out the compressed fs option!

Re: slight corrections:

stibs wrote:

- Kernel is 2.6.13.2 from Slax

I coulda swore when I did a uname -a, it came back 2.4.something like 29. I'll double check when I get back from work this afternoon.

stibs wrote:

- boot floppy image is in /bootfloppy on the CDROM 2gether w/ rawrite (give your old laptop a spin =)

Cool! I haven't had time to look to hard yet, but was gonna check out the iso directories in hope. wonderful. I need a binary replacement for gentoo on that old laptop. It just can't handle all the compiling anymore. :D[/quote]

stibs wrote:

What really interests me, is what problems did you have with videos? In Moz is the GXine plugin registered, Flash is also installed (about:plugins). I played mpegs and wmv's from my harddisk and it didn't mutter (didn't test ram's and mov's). Maybe we can solve this 4 u quickly if you tell me a bit more about it =).

I couldn't say. All it kept saying was something like, 'this file ain't an asx format.' I just kinda figured the libraries weren't present. I was using vesa, so perhaps that had something to do with it. But then again, on the other hand, vesa usually does video just fine, even if sometimes in some distros, the player may drop frames. I've always found xine to be hit or miss. Mplayer almost always works.

I'll double check those browser plugins as well. I didn't look at the list or anything, I just went to a couple sites and got that 'place holder' image deal like when a plugin is needed.

stibs wrote:

Thanx for this great review!

STIBS


PS:atang1, thx for pointing out the compressed fs option!

Thank you.

Re: slight corrections:

srlinuxx wrote:
stibs wrote:

- Kernel is 2.6.13.2 from Slax

I coulda swore when I did a uname -a, it came back 2.4.something like 29. I'll double check when I get back from work this afternoon.

Ohhh, ok, I see where I musta got that impression... the (stripped down) kernel source is 2.4.31 in /usr/src. Well, I'm redfaced now. Big Grin

Sorry.

One of these days I'll post a review without major mistakes. Big Grin

Re: Difficulties...

> Wizzards in the instalation script

An FLTK based installer for graphical installation process is in the making. When I use xvesa it should perform on most hardware quite nicely. Screenshots: http://blog.mikeasoft.com/2005/09/23/stx-installer/

> several versions of STX can be selectively installed on different vintage of computers.

Problem for me is, I don't have enough resources and I don't want to make it too commercial that I need a company behind me as well as I don't want it become a BIG open source project.

> If hardware is more advanced, then more programs from a kpackage repository or CnR warehouse can add more power like Linspire.

Something like that is planned as well as FTP install facilities, even for low spec hardware.

Thx for all your suggestions =)
STIBS

Re: Difficulties...

stibs wrote:

> Wizzards in the instalation script

An FLTK based installer for graphical installation process is in the making. When I use xvesa it should perform on most hardware quite nicely. Screenshots: http://blog.mikeasoft.com/2005/09/23/stx-installer/

wooosh! that looks slick! ...can't wait.

Re: Open source or proprietary for STX ?

atang1 wrote:
If you are near San Francisco, talk to some venture capital people who will steal your company.

Rofl, thank goodness I'm at the opposite side of the world. Germany here. /me doesn't have to beat the Bushes, we can ignore them mostly.

atang1 wrote:
If you do get big money, don't forget us at Tuxmachines who work with you to make better Linux thru proprietary information technology.

Never =)

STIBS

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Moving (parts of) the Cling REPL in Clang

Motivation
===

Over the last decade we have developed an interactive, interpretative 
C++ (aka REPL) as part of the high-energy physics (HEP) data analysis 
project -- ROOT [1-2]. We invested a significant  effort to replace the 
CINT C++ interpreter with a newly implemented REPL based on llvm -- 
cling [3]. The cling infrastructure is a core component of the data 
analysis framework of ROOT and runs in production for approximately 5 
years.

Cling is also  a standalone tool, which has a growing community outside 
of our field. Cling’s user community includes users in finance, biology 
and in a few companies with proprietary software. For example, there is 
a xeus-cling jupyter kernel [4]. One of the major challenges we face to 
foster that community is  our cling-related patches in llvm and clang 
forks. The benefits of using the LLVM community standards for code 
reviews, release cycles and integration has been mentioned a number of 
times by our "external" users.

Last year we were awarded an NSF grant to improve cling's sustainability 
and make it a standalone tool. We thank the LLVM Foundation Board for 
supporting us with a non-binding letter of collaboration which was 
essential for getting this grant.


Background
===

Cling is a C++ interpreter built on top of clang and llvm. In a 
nutshell, it uses clang's incremental compilation facilities to process 
code chunk-by-chunk by assuming an ever-growing translation unit [5]. 
Then code is lowered into llvm IR and run by the llvm jit. Cling has 
implemented some language "extensions" such as execution statements on 
the global scope and error recovery. Cling is in the core of HEP -- it 
is heavily used during data analysis of exabytes of particle physics 
data coming from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) and other particle 
physics experiments.


Plans
===

The project foresees three main directions -- move parts of cling 
upstream along with the clang and llvm features that enable them; extend 
and generalize the language interoperability layer around cling; and 
extend and generalize the OpenCL/CUDA support in cling. We are at the 
early stages of the project and this email intends to be an RFC for the 
first part -- upstreaming parts of cling. Please do share your thoughts 
on the rest, too.


Moving Parts of Cling Upstream
---

Over the years we have slowly moved some patches upstream. However we 
still have around 100 patches in the clang fork. Most of them are in the 
context of extending the incremental compilation support for clang. The 
incremental compilation poses some challenges in the clang 
infrastructure. For example, we need to tune CodeGen to work with 
multiple llvm::Module instances, and finalize per each 
end-of-translation unit (we have multiple of them). Other changes 
include small adjustments in the FileManager's caching mechanism, and 
bug fixes in the SourceManager (code which can be reached mostly from 
within our setup). One conclusion we can draw from our research is that 
the clang infrastructure fits amazingly well to something which was not 
its main use case. The grand total of our diffs against clang-9 is: `62 
files changed, 1294 insertions(+), 231 deletions(-)`. Cling is currently 
being upgraded from llvm-5 to llvm-9.

A major weakness of cling's infrastructure is that it does not work with 
the clang Action infrastructure due to the lack of an 
IncrementalAction.  A possible way forward would be to implement a 
clang::IncrementalAction as a starting point. This way we should be able 
to reduce the amount of setup necessary to use the incremental 
infrastructure in clang. However, this will be a bit of a testing 
challenge -- cling lives downstream and some of the new code may be 
impossible to pick straight away and use. Building a mainline example 
tool such as clang-repl which gives us a way to test that incremental 
case or repurpose the already existing clang-interpreter may  be able to 
address the issue. The major risk of the task is avoiding code in the 
clang mainline which is untested by its HEP production environment.
There are several other types of patches to the ROOT fork of Clang, 
including ones  in the context of performance,towards  C++ modules 
support (D41416), and storage (does not have a patch yet but has an open 
projects entry and somebody working on it). These patches can be 
considered in parallel independently on the rest.

Extend and Generalize the Language Interoperability Layer Around Cling
---

HEP has extensive experience with on-demand python interoperability 
using cppyy[6], which is built around the type information provided by 
cling. Unlike tools with custom parsers such as swig and sip and tools 
built on top of C-APIs such as boost.python and pybind11, cling can 
provide information about memory management patterns (eg refcounting) 
and instantiate templates on the fly.We feel that functionality may not 
be of general interest to the llvm community but we will prepare another 
RFC and send it here later on to gather feedback.


Extend and Generalize the OpenCL/CUDA Support in Cling
---

Cling can incrementally compile CUDA code [7-8] allowing easier set up 
and enabling some interesting use cases. There are a number of planned 
improvements including talking to HIP [9] and SYCL to support more 
hardware architectures.



The primary focus of our work is to upstreaming functionality required 
to build an incremental compiler and rework cling build against vanilla 
clang and llvm. The last two points are to give the scope of the work 
which we will be doing the next 2-3 years. We will send here RFCs for 
both of them to trigger technical discussion if there is interest in 
pursuing this direction.


Collaboration
===

Open source development nowadays relies on reviewers. LLVM is no 
different and we will probably disturb a good number of people in the 
community ;)We would like to invite anybody interested in joining our 
incremental C++ activities to our open every second week calls. 
Announcements will be done via google group: compiler-research-announce 
(https://groups.google.com/g/compiler-research-announce).



Many thanks!


David & Vassil

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