Is Fast Booting A Red Herring? - InformationWeek

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2/23/2009
11:53 AM
Serdar Yegulalp
Serdar Yegulalp
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Is Fast Booting A Red Herring?

Seems like every open source OS project these days is throwing at least some of its effort behind speeding up boot times. Mark Shuttleworth mentions it in his discussion of Ubuntu 9.10; the Moblin alpha is all about getting up to speed in seconds; and so on. But with suspend/resume and other power conservation measures also standard now, what's the big deal about boot time?

Seems like every open source OS project these days is throwing at least some of its effort behind speeding up boot times. Mark Shuttleworth mentions it in his discussion of Ubuntu 9.10; the Moblin alpha is all about getting up to speed in seconds; and so on. But with suspend/resume and other power conservation measures also standard now, what's the big deal about boot time?

First, some perspective on how much of a time difference we're talking about. Here's a movie I compiled over the weekend that shows the boot sequence for Ubuntu 9.04 -- still in beta, but what I've tried out appears to be quite stable. It boots and shuts down a bit snappier than the 8.04 / 8.10 versions, but it's still quite lengthy.

Now check out the boot time for the Moblin alpha build currently making the rounds. Barely 20 seconds from boot time to desktop.

And finally, for the sake of further perspective, the Haiku OS boot sequence, which beats everything I've seen so far (despite Haiku OS itself being little more than a lab curiosity right now).

Flashy movies aside, though, is there a real advantage to having faster boot times when most of us don't shut down and reboot to begin with? And if so, is it worth touting as a feature on the same order as, say, support for cellular network connectivity?

My thinking is that there are several good reasons to work on shortening boot time as an actual feature, and not simply as a frill or a frivolity.

  1. Learning how to speed up boot time is a good way to learn how to speed up other processes that involve overlapped I/O or competition for resources. It's one of the most common scenarios for device contention, and so the more to be learned from that, the better.
  2. Everyone has to boot their computer sometime. Even though the total number of times any of us has to reboot our machines has gone down over time, it's still something nobody enjoys sitting through. We might as well find ways to get it over with as quickly as possible.
  3. First impressions mean a lot. If someone sees that it takes minutes on end to boot a system, that's a strike against using it -- even if they don't plan on rebooting often.

Based on what I've seen, if they can get Ubuntu booting as fast as Moblin, I have that many more reasons to turn people on to it.


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