Linux SSD partition alignment tips

Yes, this is another post on the internet about properly aligning your SSD partitions on Linux. It’s mostly my notes that I have gathered from other posts around the net. Please read the whole post before starting to create partitions on your SSD.

Intro
I bought myself a brand new SSD for Xmas, OCZ Agilty 3 120Gb. But I also bought a CDROM caddy so that I could replace my useless macbook CDROM drive, last time I used it was probably 2009 or 2010. So my plan was to put the old, original macbook SATA hard disk inside the caddy and use the SSD as the primary one. Sounds easy right ? Well you just need patience, lots of patience in order to remove all necessary screws in order to get the CDROM drive out and replace it with the caddy. Instructions for this procedure can be found at iFixIt.com.

Create Partitions on the SSD disk
Before one begins some definitions!

Heads = Tracks per cylinder
Sectors = Sectors per track

The goal here is to have the partitions aligned to the SSD’s Erase Block Size.
Googling around the net I found out that OCZ always uses 512Kb as Erase Block Size. If one uses fdisk with 32 Heads and 32 Sectors that makes a cylinder size of 1024b = 1Kb. Multiplying with 512 (sector size), which is fdisk’s default unit size, that makes it 512kb (=32*32*512)! Exactly the Erase Block Size that’s needed. So one needs to start fdisk issuing the following command:
# fdisk -H32 -S32 /dev/sdb
where /dev/sdb is the SSD.

It is very important to remember to start the first partition from the 2nd unit (or 512kb if you prefer). Due to MS-DOS compatibility if the first partition were to start at the first cylinder, it would skip one track. So it would actually start at 32(sectors)*512(sector size)=16Kb, messing up the alignment.

Then create necessary partitions as needed.

LVM alignment
So, the partitions on the SSD are aligned, but what if one wants to use LVM ? Then LVM’s overhead has to be taken into account as well.
To create an aligned PV based on the partitions that have already been created one needs to use the “–dataalignment” option found in newer versions of LVM utilities.
# pvcreate --dataalignment 512k /dev/sdb3
To check the alignment use the following command:

# pvs /dev/sdb3 -o+pe_start
  PV         VG   Fmt  Attr PSize   PFree  1st PE 
  /dev/sdb3  ssd  lvm2 a-   111.46g 81.46g 512.00k

Check that “1st PE” is what is actually needed for the alignment.

Proceed creating VGs and LVs as needed.

Formatting Partitions with ext4
There’s no reason to use ext3 on SSD, one needs to take advantage of ext4 SSD features. I prefer 4K as block size.
For a further explanation of the following formulas read Linux RAID Wiki – RAID setup
stride = chunk (Sector size) / block size = 512Kb / 4K = 128
stripe-width is usually calculated by a formula that uses multiple disks. Since there’s only one disk in this scenario, stripe-width is equal to stride.
stripe-width = 128

# mkfs.ext4 -O extent -b 4096 -E stride=128,stripe-width=128 /dev/mapper/ssd-debian

Mounting the partition
To enable SSD TRIM support, which protects the disk from wearing off, one needs to enable the discard option while mounting the partition. Edit /etc/fstab and add the discard mount option (and noatime if you want to).
/dev/mapper/ssd-deb / ext4 discard,noatime,errors=remount-ro 0 1

Note 1: As of 2.6.37 Linux Kernel supports TRIM on device mapper. Previous kernel versions will report errors upon trying to mount an LVM partition with discard mount option. If you have an older kernel either don’t use LVM on your SSD yet or upgrade your kernel!
Note 2: Read the links posted below for a complete blog post over TRIM command. Apparently it’s not always the best choice

That’s basically it…

Extra – copying the old root partition to the new disk

# mkdir /mnt/ssd/
# mount /dev/mapper/ssd-debian /mnt/ssd/
# rsync -aPEHv --exclude=/dev --exclude=/proc --exclude=/sys --exclude=/mnt --exclude=/var/cache/apt/archives/ / /mnt/ssd/
# mkdir /mnt/ssd/dev
# mkdir /mnt/ssd/proc
# mkdir /mnt/ssd/sys
# mkdir /mnt/ssd/mnt
# cp -avp /dev/console /mnt/ssd/dev/
# cp -avp /dev/urandom /mnt/ssd/dev/
# cp -avp /dev/zero /mnt/ssd/dev/
# cp -avp /dev/random /mnt/ssd/dev/
# Edit /mnt/ssd/etc/fstab to change the device names
# Update grub

Using the above commands one avoids copying unneeded directories like /dev, /sys, etc that will be recreated later. Don’t forget to at least copy the above 4 devices in the new /mnt/ssd/dev dir, else the partition won’t be bootable.

References
1. Aligning Filesystems to an SSD’s Erase Block Size (link goes to archive.org since original article has unfortunately disappeared from the web)
2. [linux-lvm] Re: Aligning PVs on SSDs?
3. Aligning an SSD on Linux (excellent article!)
4. ArchWiki – Solid State Drives
5. SSD performance tips for RHEL6 and Fedora
6. Re: [dm-devel] trim support (discard)
7. How to check TRIM is working on your SSD running Linux
8. Impact of ext4′s discard option on my SSD (very useful insight on TRIM command, read the comments as well)

Thanks
Thanks fly to @apoikos for helping me with the CDROM replacement and @faidonl for his original SSD alignment tips :)

Handling right clicks on a macbook running Linux – The 2011 Awesome Edition

2 years ago I had written a post about handling right clicks on a macbook running linux. Along with changing my window manager of choice, I think I’ve found a better/more elegant solution to that problem.

On my computer’s workspaces one will normally find one or two browser windows open, some instant messaging applications (skype,pidgin), an mp3 player (audacious2) and terminals. Lots of them. I need them to ssh to the servers I monitor/administer and for coding (with vim of course!). I even use one for my email client (mutt). So I need my terminals to be as efficient as possible. After many trials over the years I’ve decided on using urxvt as my terminal of choice.

About a month ago I gave awesome a try and since then it’s been my window manager of choice instead of fluxbox. The reason behind this is mostly fluxbox’s inability to tile terminal (call me urxvt) windows efficiently while changing resolutions. I mostly use my laptop with an external 23” monitor but I wanted to be able to tile my terminals independently of using only my laptop’s screen or both laptop’s and the external one. In fluxbox you can make a window appear on specific area of the screen, so I could open 3-4 terminals on a specific workspace/monitor. Resizing though one of them to fit some monitoring program more efficiently didn’t resize the others ‘automagically’ as well. So, I had to manually resize all open windows of that workspace. Yes, this is horrible from a usability point of view, luckily I didn’t have to do it that frequently. So, I gave awesome a try for its tiling features. I really miss though fluxbox’s tabbing features that I constantly used along with it’s amazing keybindings flexibility (Rant: isn’t it stupid that you have to write your keybindings in lua for awesome and in haskell for xmonad ?) but the tiling capabilities of awesome are currently more important to me.

So while my previous solution for right clicking without a mouse worked pretty well for fluxbox, in my new awesome world I’ve replaced it with xautomation tools. First of all, one needs to install xautomation tools

aptitude install xautomation

Then find clientbuttons configuration part in the default ~/.config/awesome/rc.lua and add this line to it:

awful.button({ modkey }, 2, function () awful.util.spawn("xte 'mouseclick 3'") end)

restart awesome and try modkey + 3 finger tap on your touchpad. You should be seeing a right click “menu”.
If you don’t know what 3 finger tap is or how to configure it, read the 2009 article.

That’s it, no more xbindkeys + xvkbd for awesome.

Handling right clicks on a macbook running Linux

I’ve finally settled down to a solution that I am happy with. I used to have the following options inside my Xorg.conf:
Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Synaptics Touchpad"
Driver "synaptics"
[...snip...]
Option "TapButton1" "1"
Option "TapButton2" "3"
Option "TapButton3" "2"
Option "VertTwoFingerScroll" "1"
Option "HorizTwoFingerScroll" "1"
[...snip...]

This works like this:
i) a single tap is a left click
ii) a two-finger tap is a right click
iii) a three-finger tap is a middle click
and you could scroll horizontally and vertically using two fingers on the touchpad, like Mac OS X.
The problem with this setup is that I used to have a lot of accidental double tappings while scrolling with two fingers horizontally or vertically. This of course produced unwanted right clicks.

I wanted a solution that I could get right click in somehow like Mac OS X does it, using ctrl+tap/ctrl+click. I found a solution that emulated ctrl+click as a right click but then many applications started misbehaving. Firefox for example uses ctrl+click on Linux to open a link on a new tab, when I used ctrl+click as a right click, Firefox stopped opening the links. So I went to plan B.

CMD key(apple key)-click as a right click.

To achieve that:
a) install xvkbd.
Debian: apt-get install xvkbd
Gentoo: emerge xvkbd
b) install xbindkeys.
Debian: apt-get install xbindkeys
Gentoo: emerge xbindkeys
c) create the default .xbindkeysrc file: xbindkeys –defaults > ~/.xbindkeysrc
d) edit it and put the following inside: "xvkbd -text '\m3'"
mod4 + b:1 (mouse)

e) edit xorg.conf and set this: Option "TapButton2" "0"
This effectively disables double tapping as a right click.
f) restart X
g) open a terminal and start xbindkeys from it: $ xbindkeys -n -v
Now press CMD key and tap the touchpad or click the touchpad button. You should be greeted with a fresh right click!

If all went well put xbindkeys in your DE’s autostart.

The following works flawlessly on XFCE/LXDE. CMD-click or CMD-tap opens XFCE’s menu or LXDE’s desktop menu.

On fluxbox though there is still a problem. It’s very common for fluxbox key config to look something like the following:
OnDesktop Mouse1 :hideMenus
OnDesktop Mouse2 :workspaceMenu
OnDesktop Mouse3 :rootMenu
OnDesktop Mouse4 :nextWorkspace
OnDesktop Mouse5 :prevWorkspace

So to open the RootMenu, which is the basic menu with the applications shortcuts for fluxbox, one needs to actually right click on the Desktop. That worked with TabButton2=3 but it does not work right now. To get around that problem I binded the key left to (1/!) which is normally the (±/§) key on Macs to the Menu key using xmodmap.
$ cat .xmodmap
keycode 94 = Menu

I never used that key anyway…

I’ve now got my precious right click back without accidental miss-clicks. yihaa!

References: FreeBSD on an Apple MacBook