Updates for the Starcraft-using-Wine article

One A110 netbook running Starcraft

Just FYI, I've updated my Playing Starcraft on Linux using Wine article from a few days ago, adding some more info about:

  • Brood War installation.
  • Multiplayer LAN games, firewall settings for network gaming.
  • Playing Starcraft on netbooks (which works astonishingly well), tested on my One A110 VIA VX800 netbook.

Please read the updated article for details.

Speed up Linux crypto operations on the One A110 laptop with VIA Padlock

One Mini A110 subnotebook

OK, so I've been hacking on and testing my shiny new One A110 mini-laptop during the last few days and I must say I'm very happy with it. I'll write up some more details later (check the wiki if you're impatient), but today I want to highlight a very nice feature of this laptop (compared to, for instance, the Eee PC): The VIA C7-M ULV CPU in the laptop has VIA Padlock support.

VIA Padlock is a hardware feature in recent VIA CPUs which provides hardware-accelerated AES and SHA-1/SHA-256 support, among other things. This can be used in Linux (with the proper drivers and patches) to improve performance of dm-crypt, OpenSSL (and all programs using it), scp, sha1sum, OpenVPN, etc. etc.

I have written a quite extensive VIA Padlock HOWTO and benchmarks in the A110 wiki (but all of this will work on other systems which have VIA Padlock, too). To summarize, here are the most important benchmarks:

dm-crypt (256bit AES, cbc-essiv:sha256)

VIA Padlock dm-crypt benchmark

Without VIA Padlock support:

$ hdparm -tT /dev/mapper/hdc2_crypt
 Timing cached reads:   448 MB in  2.00 seconds = 223.47 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads:   22 MB in  3.07 seconds =   7.17 MB/sec

With VIA Padlock support:

$ hdparm -tT /dev/mapper/hdc2_crypt
 Timing cached reads:   502 MB in  2.00 seconds = 250.41 MB/sec
 Timing buffered disk reads:   90 MB in  3.07 seconds =  29.36 MB/sec

The native speed of the SSD in the laptop is 31.01 MB/sec, so there is almost no performance penalty when using VIA Padlock.


VIA Padlock OpenSSL benchmark

OpenSSL speed benchmark, first line without Padlock, second line with Padlock enabled:

$ openssl speed -evp aes-256-cbc [-engine padlock]
type             16 bytes     64 bytes    256 bytes   1024 bytes   8192 bytes
aes-256-cbc       9187.18k    10572.28k    11054.32k    11179.36k    11218.02k
aes-256-cbc      47955.92k   150619.73k   325730.73k   458320.11k   520520.79k


VIA Padlock scp benchmark

Without VIA Padlock support:

$ scp -c aes256-cbc bigfile.dat localhost:/dev/null
bigfile.dat                100%  159MB   5.9MB/s   00:27

With VIA Padlock support:

$ scp -c aes256-cbc bigfile.dat localhost:/dev/null
bigfile.dat                100%  159MB  14.5MB/s   00:11


A real speed benchmark is pending (not measurable easily on 100MBit LAN, will try on a slower link), but as OpenVPN uses OpenSSL it should have roughly the same speedup iff you tell OpenVPN to use AES (it uses Blowfish per default).

Also, there's a measurable difference in CPU load while tranferring large files over OpenVPN: 8% CPU load with VIA Padlock (vs. 20% CPU load without VIA Padlock).

sha1sum / phe_sum

VIA Padlock sha1sum / phe_sum benchmark

phe_sum is a small C program which can be used as drop-in replacement for sha1sum (which doesn't support VIA Padlock yet). Quick benchmark:

sha1sum, without VIA Padlock:

$ time sha1sum bigfile.dat
real    0m6.511s
user    0m5.864s
sys     0m0.412s

phe_sum (with VIA Padlock support):

$ time ./phe_sum bigfile.dat
real    0m1.149s
user    0m0.704s
sys     0m0.424s

All in all VIA Padlock gives you a pretty impressive speedup for many crypto-using applications on Linux, which is especially useful on the A110 mini-laptop (think OpenVPN or scp for mobile usage, and dm-crypt for an encrypted SSD, of course).

One A110 mini-laptop with pre-installed Linux for 199.- plus Debian installation HOWTO

One Mini A110 subnotebook

OK, so I've spent my last money on the One Mini A110 subnotebook recently. Yep, yet another ASUS Eee PC clone, but this one has the great benefit of costing only 199.- Euros and has similar specs as the Eee PC 2G Surf (700), I think.

This is really a great little machine as far as I can tell. It's a VIA C7-M ULV 1GHz with 512MB DDR2 RAM and a 2 GB Solid-State-Disk (SSD), 7" screen at supposedly 800x480, VGA out, card reader slot for SD/MMC/MS, 2x USB, wireless, modem, audio. No webcam, no bluetooth.

Yesterday I created a wiki at a110wiki.de (for the A110, but also the A120 from the same vendor, which has a 4 GB SSD), where A110 users can collect information, HOWTOs, photos, etc. There's already quite some content there, especially some early tutorials and photos on the inner workings of the A110.

Today I've installed a stock Debian unstable distro on the SSD with 2.6.25 kernel, and I'm currently checking which parts of the hardware work out of the box, and which need further fixing. There's a a bunch of source code tarballs and patches on the vendor website, but most of it seems to be meant for 2.6.22, we'll see if and/or how much work it'll take to merge all this upstream (if it's not already done)...

My Debian Installation HOWTO is also available from the wiki, of course; I'll add more info and photos during the day.

Now for all interested parties: The vendor of the A110 has (again) announced a special weekend offer (valid until Sunday, June 1, 2008, i.e. tomorrow) where they'll sell the A110 for 199,- Euros again, the regular price will be 229,- Euros after that. So if you're thinking about buying one, now is probably the right time.

Check the wiki for issues which are important to you, some quirks remain at this point (but will probably mostly be figured out sooner or later), e.g. the wifi seems to have issues (the vendor said they'll send a driver update to all affected customers), the RAM is builtin and can't be upgraded, and some other, more or less important issues, depending on what you expect from the laptop.

For real-time communication there's also the #a110 IRC channel on Freenode.

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