Speeding up ARM compilation

Compiling on the ARM (Mele) is slow. I recently tried to build the latest version of Seamonkey (SM) 2.20 for FatdogArm. As I said in this post, each build takes about 15-18 hours on the Mele. Yes, it is that slow. Now in the case of SM 2.20 it is even worse. Even after 24 hours it failed to build - because apparently 512MB RAM is now no longer enough to build it (it fails at the link phase). I tried twice - each totalling about 24 hours - and both failed. That's two days wasted.

I wanted to try again but I wanted to have a better way than this. I can't be spending 24hours for every build. There must be a better way than this.

Fortunately, there is - enter distcc, a distributed C compiler. distcc allows you to combine the power of several machines to simultaneously compile a single package. The machines don't even have to be identical, if they have the appropriate cross-compiler installed they can be used to join compilation-cluster of other platforms.

Using distcc, the ARM machine acts as the main controller, spreading the compilation load to other, faster machines. From the package build standpoint, however, it still looks and feels like native compilation. Thus, all the ease of native compilation with the speed of cross-compilation.

Using Fatdog64 in combination with FatdogArm, I managed to cutdown the "compilation phase" of SM 2.20 from 15 hours to 3 hours (plus another 3 hours for linking on either side). That's a 5-fold increase in speed, allowing me to perform 4 builds in 24 hours.

Do I get your attention already? This is how to do it.

The fight with SM is still on-going though. Despite the fact that I can compile much faster now, SM still refuses to build because it trashes the swapfile during libxul.so linking stage. In simple words - it is running out of memory. My Mele only has 512MB and apparently it's not good enough, and I don't have any other hardware with more memory, so I'm now building it using distcc-assisted Qemu (here for details of running FatdogArm in Qemu) - using the Vexpress emulation with 1GB RAM. This is similar to what Aboriginal Linux does. For SM build, however, it is very slow, because while the C and C++ compilation is much faster, SM has tons of python code as part of its build system - and python code can't be farmed out to other machines . Still, without distcc, I wouldn't even consider to do it in Qemu at all.

Posted on 7 Sep 2013, 5:28 - Categories: FatdogArm Linux Arm Fatdog64
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