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From Laura Vance <>
Subject Re: [users@httpd] Favorite Linux Distribution
Date Wed, 09 Feb 2005 15:45:12 GMT

I'm replying to the thread in general, not one specific post, so I 
removed all references to the other material to hopefully prevent hard 
feelings.... but since this is an Internet mailing list, I'm sure 
someone will feel that I have slighted them.

Running an X server with a GUI front end does not hurt performance of a 
system unless you're concerned about less than 1% of the overall CPU 
performance.  My highest used system typically average less than 25% of 
normal CPU usage so 1% isn't hurting anything when there's still 75% 
available.  That system is running apache as an app server getting over 
25,000 accesses per day.  My other support servers are usually sitting 
around 5-10% CPU usage.  If you look at KSysGuard (in the KDE 
environment), you will see that X doesn't use much of the system speed 
at all.  Now, if you have all kinds of bells and whistles set up like 
mousepedometer or something else that needs realtime feedback from your 
GUI, then it's the program, not the GUI itself.  I run the X system on 
my Linux servers primarily to have a graphical representation of the 
server health (CPU usage, memory usage, network traffic, etc), because 
my supervisors are more greatly influenced by a graph instead of a set 
of numbers.  As an example, I used the graphs to show why we needed to 
double our Internet pipe size.  Plus, at a glance from a distance, I can 
see exactly what the system is doing.

As for stability, none of my servers crash because of the X server 
running.  X isn't even the highest memory usage program running.  My 
servers only go down if I take them down (such as building power failed 
and I need to take the servers down before the UPS loses power).  Or I 
didn't test a cgi program properly, and it turns into a runaway 
process... and yes, this would kill the machine even if I wasn't running 
the X server.  The servers here regularly stay up for months at a time 
with no issues whatsoever.  And in the 3 years that they've been online, 
they have never come down because of the X server.

The third main argument seems to be security issues.  When I run as an 
unprivileged user, I cannot get into anything that requires special 
permissions.  When I try to run something that would impact the system 
instead of just my portion of it, I have to enter the root password.  If 
a GUI is less secure, it's because the person running the system gave 
permissions to the user running the GUI beyond normal unprivileged 
rights.  Then when you run as the root user, it's the same risk wether 
you're using a GUI or shell environment.  The only times that any of my 
servers have been hacked, it was because of the SSL version that I was 
running in support of my apache installation.  Again, this would've 
happened even if I hadn't installed the X system at all.

I understand that this may not be the case for everyone, and everyone's 
mileage may vary, but if you have a server running the X system it does 
not automatically mean that the system is less stable.  What you do with 
the X system is what makes it more or less stable.

Laura Vance
Systems Engineer
Winfree Academy Charter Schools

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