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Debian 10 Buster: First impressions on a 2017 laptop with an M.2 NVMe SSD (passthejoe.net)
54 points by passthejoe on Sept 2, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments

> I don’t know how much of it is Debian 10 and how much is swapping a 5400-RPM hard drive with an M.2 NVMe SSD, but my 2-year-old laptop is FLYING now that I’ve ditched Windows 10 and the 1 GB magnetic drive that came with it.

It's mostly the SSD. Linux is great but the disk is a real choke point for a lot of system performance.

> It's mostly the SSD. Linux is great but the disk is a real choke point for a lot of system performance.

On Windows 10 it's definitely worse for sure. I don't know what they did since Win7 but it's pretty much unusable without an SSD now whereas a Debian would still run quite okay although slower.

It's the "modern" WinRT applications for sure. When you're running a 5400 RPM HDD and the calculator application needs several seconds to cold start, you know they must have made some pretty terrible design decisions.

I feel the same with the switch from HDD to SSD on Mac.. without a SSD, MacOS is really slow

And yet Apple still sells their base model 2019 iMacs with HDDs.

In my case it was Windows Defender. Disabling it made a huge difference.

Linux might pull data off the disk less often than windows and mac.

I wouldn't be so sure. Linux still makes very good use of spinning rust media, and on a modern system with 2GB+ RAM (and a reasonably light distro like Debian) much of it ends up being used as disk cache so drive speeds aren't even that relevant. SSD's do speed up the boot process though, I'll give you that.

The thing is they went from Windows on spinning rust to Linux on an SSD.

* Modern windows has a really hard time on spinning rust, they'd have seen extreme performance improvements going to windows on an SSD

* Linux deals better with spinning rust, they'd have seen performance improvements going to linux on spinning rust

The SSD is still going to be most of the performance improvements. The gap between a 5400 HDD and an SSD (even more so NVMe) is just ridiculous on every single metric, there's orders of magnitude differences in throughput (especially on random reads or writes) and even more so latency and concurrency.

A 1TB laptop hard drive has ~100MB/s of I/O usually (unless its dying). Newer hard drives tend to be pretty snappy under Debian, unless your disk is degraded (eg: dying blocks causing I/O to chug, watch for SMART errors).

The problem with HDDs is rarely the sequential speed but the IOPS; of which you get around 100 per second.

The problem is that since the majority of machines have SSDs now developers no longer optimise the number of IOPS or care about it; or notice it at all - as SSDs have orders of magnitude more IOPS performance than a HDD. Combine that with many people having quite a few background programs that will spew IOPS randomly you'd be surprised how fast the disk gets slow.

Even MacOS which until recently (and maybe even now) sells machines with a HDD as standard; with pretty much no extra software installed is unbearably unusable on a HDD.

SSDs are basically required at this point.

> A 1TB laptop hard drive has ~100MB/s of I/O usually (unless its dying).

For sequential transfers, yes. But that's hardly ever the relevant figure for whether your system feels fast. You should be looking at the random read performance, where your hard drive is good for ~120 IOs per second and your SSD is good for several thousand at a minimum.

This. Last magnetic laptop drive I had was measuring under 10MB per second with small random reads. On a fragged old OS install it’s unbelievably impactful. Back in windows 98 days simply copying my data to a second partiton, erasing and reinstalling the OS and copying ALL the data back would get me back to like new for a few months. When a drive is nearly full “defrag” is not that successful. Similar things happen with nearly full SSDs via other mechanisms

If you were getting multiple MB/s, then your random reads weren't particularly small. A 1TB 3.5" 7200 RPM hard drive gives only 0.25–0.6MB/s for 4kB random reads depending on how much it is short stroked.

100MB/s of sequential transfers. Change that to 4k IO's and it can drop to 500KB/s on a laptop hard drive easily.

> And hearing about arduous, days-long efforts to install Windows 10 on an M.2 SSD didn’t excite me about trying it.

what? it works fine

Not using UEFI does not work that well, then you're back to MBR and the continual fight between Windows and GRUB.

I run a dual boot Win10/Fedora30 system (UEFI on a SATA3 SSD), it's pretty good, both Windows and Fedora.

Why would you not use UEFI?

People seem to be afraid they get one of those broken UEFI implementations from 8-10 years ago. So they choose the BIOS Legacy mode which nowadays is more likely to be broken because of lack of testing.

He just wanted to try out Debian, most likely :-)

Not good hearing only "things" from biased people

Long time Debian user here, since Debian 6. My main laptop is a Dell Inspiron 3000 AMD E2 6110 Quad core with integrated Radeon R2 8 GB RAM and Standard 500 Gb 5400RPM hard drive. The OS is Debian 10 with Gnome3(Previously the laptop had Debian 8). I just want to say that Debian 10 is fast in this hardware and I mean fast. The system is so responsive. Everything works and was properly detected. Everything is very polished. Extraordinary work from the Debian team.

It is fast - that was the first thing I noticed as well.

About 1/2 an hour later the screen went black and the machine stopped responding to key presses. Eventually I resurrected by flipping to a text console and back, (Ctrl-Alt-F1, Crtl-Alt-F7).

It turned out it was putting itself to sleep. After a few minutes. While on AC. And my fart arsing about wasn't fixing the problem - it was just soaking up time while X took its own sweet time to wake up (the text consoles were available immediately).

And then this happened on other laptops I installed it on. Fixing it by disabling suspend when on AC is a nightmare. Every program + it's dog seems to have had a go at setting it - xscrensaver, window managers, display managers, X itself and systemd. Which one wins (ie the one you have to use to fix it, because it set it last) is a lottery.

Maybe they can put fixing that mess on the list for bullseye.

When you get a SSD you are going to kick yourself for not doing it sooner.

Personally if i had that configuration I would stop what i was doing and go get one, unless of course it means not feeding your family.

> I really don’t need the newest of everything, especially if my hardware is working well

this sounds dubious if one has, say, a web browser installed or other consumer-type software. you almost surely want the latest security updates (which are for better or worse often packaged alongside cosmetic or other performance updates) for a piece of software like this.

for this reason i've moved to a releaseless distro. the idea that i can't get the latest firefox without upgrading my "operating system" version to a new release seems harmful for most types of software:

- imagine updating an app required you to upgrade your iOS/android version

- imagine updating a plugin requires updating your browser

etc. it's anti-modular and so i can't support it.

Security fixes are backported to Debian stable release packages. Any respectable, production-ready, stable/LTS distro does this.

Obviously you don't get the new features and functionality that may be introduced in an upstream major release, but security patches are covered.

The extra work (presumably it's non trivial) to do this could be spent on further hardening the current version if they didn't need to be supported though.

Debian's current, supported version is the stable version. The reason why it's only released every two years and why it feels so 'old', is because it takes Debian Developers many months to "further harden" it before release. It wouldn't make sense to release it under a quicker schedule. Debian does offer "rolling" channels with prompt updates (testing, unstable) but those are officially not meant for real, production use.

I'm not talking about Debian, I'm talking about the old versions of third party software shipped with Debian that have to continue being supported with security updates.

For Chromium, Debian Stable always keeps it up to update with the latest upstream version.

for this reason i've moved to a releaseless distro. the idea that i can't get the latest firefox without upgrading my "operating system" version to a new release seems harmful for most types of software:

Hehehe, that's exactly what "releaseless" distros like Arch do, you have to update everything to have the latest of anything (unless you want breakage).

Very surprised this made the front page. Everyone should have shifted to ssds years ago for laptops. The productivity win was a no brainer a very long time ago.

Last time I got a new laptop (which probably was a few years ago now) the price just wasn't reasonable for a large enough SSD, 512GB is my minimum for it's occasional multimedia uses and database work.

Even now prices have apparently come down but larger drives often only come with high end SKU's. Looking at the MS Surface page (https://www.microsoft.com/en-au/store/config/Surface-Laptop-...) 512GB is only available if I also get 16GB of RAM and a core i7 model, which is well beyond my needs and desire to pay for. 1TB is only comes with the silver model.

So even my next laptop might feature spinning rust, if any exist. On the plus side HDD's add a level of chunkiness I like in laptops.

The surface laptop is uniquely awful among windows laptops for how hard it is to replace anything. For a normal laptop, the cost of self-upgrading to a 1TB SSD is $100-$170, and it takes less than five minutes to install.

I see the same almost everywhere, on HP's site (https://store.hp.com/us/en/vwa/laptops/form=Standard-laptop) they have some cheap laptops with 1TB HDD's but even now the cheapest with 512GB SSD's start at 3 times the price.

Upgrading myself is probably the best option, but there's a minefields of things I'm not confident with when it comes to mobile hardware.

IME running linux, especially a lightweight distro, makes more of a performance difference than an SSD anyway, at least with my usage.

Edit -also at $170 it would just about be doubling the price of an otherwise acceptable laptop, so hardly a huge win.

The price gouging for larger drives is common all over. The inability to do it yourself is rare.

There's very little that can go wrong when cloning a 2TB or less drive and it requires $10 of extra hardware.

If you're happy with installing your OS from scratch, like you would when switching to linux, then there is basically zero reason to hesitate on putting in a new drive. Drive bays are designed for easy access.

The Surface Laptop is microsoft seeing modern macbooks and going "Apple is not going far enough". Literally everything is soldered, and then the laptop is completely glued shut.

> So even my next laptop might feature spinning rust, if any exist. On the plus side HDD's add a level of chunkiness I like in laptops.

"Chunky" laptops will have replaceable parts (which really is not the case of the surface laptop). Getting an aftermarket TB SSD (whether m.2 or SATA) costs 100~200 and takes a few minutes to swap in. You do not want to BTO this sort of upgrades unless you know aftermarket upgrade is not an option (because everything is soldered as in the surface laptop or most modern MBPs), manufacturers way overprice RAM and storage.

Going to an SSD is like going EV vs petrol car. You'll be blown away by how obviously inefficient decades-old technology feels. Even a cheaper SSD is much faster than a top-of-the-line HDD - and the analogy to EVs hold here as well.

Yes, I was running Windows 10 on a 7200rpm drive. Reinstalled onto a cheap $50 SATA 256GB SSD (AOPEN SU800): night and day difference. Blew me away.

Obviously M.2 or NVME or PCIE would be a lot better. But even old SATA still made a huge difference.

For power users (as one of the other child posts states) the extra space afforded by HDDs did have a use case a couple years ago.

As an application drive, or a drive in a device where the only other moving parts are input keys and fans, SSDs are completely the way to go. Even if dropped weirdly at least the data is probably recoverable.

Unless it's cheep bulk or high-write turn over spinning rust makes less and less sense. Though the cost for bulk storage still favors it. (Given the write endurance, I'd also prefer SSDs to be at least half as expensive.)

Power users can easily handle installing two drives. And if a laptop is letting you choose between a hard drive and an M.2 SSD, then it can also fit both at once.

At least in the context and time frame I was referencing, a vast and overwhelming majority of laptops only had a single 2.5 "inch" drive slot.

Also, I'm not aware (offhand) of any M.2 form factor spinning rust, which brings us more to the topic of types of flash memory.

I run a AMD A8-7410 with 8GB RAM laptop from 2015. I too recently upgraded to a SSD. Unlike OP, mine is a internal SSD. The improvements have been ridiculous. The only regret is why I did not upgrade earlier.

By the way, I don't think anything can help android studio. It has improved but gradle is still slow.

edit: I too run debian buster.

Android Studio is heavy, but throwing hardware at it does help.

With 8GB RAM I'd check if you're not reaching into swap already. Android Studio alone uses a good chunk of that. Then add an emulator, and a memory hungry browser, and you're swapping.

Thanks for the tip, I will definitely look at it.

I think I might as well get a decent Ryzen 3/5 desktop just for Android Studio.

NVMe makes a huge difference to KDE login time. It's basically instant. On HDD it's excruciatingly slow, due to a ton of parallel I/O that happens during login process.

I login every day on KDE with a magnetic hard disk (Ubuntu 19.04), and the login time is really short (few seconds). Perhaps is your setup. Do you config to init a awful quantity of scripts/task at login ?

It was more than 90 seconds for me. I'm not going back to HDD for $HOME for sure ;) Nothing special was configured. I also suspect, that splash screen was bugged. I always disable it now.

Faster that Windows! Don't looks impressive if Debian is running on a SDD and Windows on a magnetic hard disk. However, even on a magnetic hard disk, any modern Linux is more faster that Windows. Specially if is windows 10.

I don't know what M$ did, but every time that I used Windows 10, I see it hitting very hard the hard disk without doing nothing.

Using Gnome 3 was a performance problem? I've never really saw it that way. Even when I switched to tiling it was never a big motivation.

I think you mean a 1 TB magnetic drive.

I don't think the Debian 10 DVD itself fits on a 1GB DVD

Yeah, we all knew what he meant, and felt no need to correct the obvious.

Also, the Debian 10 netinstall ISO is 334MB, and is all I have ever used.

He cites the 1GB size TWICE, though...

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