Impact of Spectre and Meltdown Protection on Virtual Machine Performance

A year ago I wrote about the 2D graphics performance impact of the Windows 10 (1803) update inside a virtual machine. As it turned out, the performance impact was related to the Spectre vulnerability patch that Microsoft had introduced. However, the same patch had practically no performance impact on a Windows 10 bare-metal installation.

Time has passed and I wanted to see if there has been any progress. Right now I’m running Windows 10 (1903) with Nvidia driver release 431.36. Windows 10 is up-to-date, Nvidia however already offers a newer version (431.60).

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USA Photos

These are some USA photos from our 2010 trip to California and Nevada. All photos were shot with the Nikon D700 and some assorted Nikon lenses. Hope you enjoy.

 

USA 2010

Nikon D850 – First Impressions

I recently purchased a Nikon D850 to replace my aging D700. I’ve been very happy with my D700 – see Nikon D700 Review (and D850 Preview). But the 12 megapixel D700 sensor showed its limits, for example when I wanted to crop a photo, or when I was looking for more detail in landscape photos.

In this post I like to share my first impressions of the Nikon D850. I must admit that I didn’t get much use of the D850, so my experience is still that of a newcomer to this camera model (but not to Nikon). The observations I share here are in no particular order of importance, just a list.

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Blacklisting Graphics Driver

Update September 14, 2021: This is a complete revamp, adding new, more robust methods and dropping outdated ones.

Update November 17, 2022: Kernel 6 seems to break the grub method.

Update March 23, 2024: The grub method described below works fine again for some time. I’m now on kernel 6.6.19.

When running a VM with GPU passthrough, that GPU should be bound to the VFIO driver. To make this happen, we need to prevent the regular graphics driver from binding to the passthrough GPU and instead bind the vfio-pci driver.

In the past we used to blacklist the graphics driver. This worked in most cases, but what if you need the graphics driver for another GPU, e.g. the host GPU?

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Tuning VM Disk Performance

Qemu/kvm provides you with a plethora of ways to configure your storage devices. Yet no other type of device shows such a variance in its performance, with disk I/O throughput anywhere from stellar to abysmal using the very same hardware.

In this post I like to show some configuration options that can help improve VM disk performance. For an in-depth presentation on the latest developments and features, with hands-on examples, see Storage Performance Tuning for FAST! Virtual Machines.

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Creating a Windows 10 Virtual Machine Using the Virtual Machine Manager (virt-manager)

March 29. 2020 edit: Recently I published a tutorial using Virtual Machine Manager. You can find it here: Creating a Windows 10 VM on the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X using Qemu 4.0 and VGA Passthrough.

Before you get your hopes high, this post is not (yet?) a tutorial on creating a Windows 10 virtual machine using the Virtual Machine Manager (virt-manager) GUI. It should have been, though. I spent the better part of a week trying to configure and install a Windows 10 VM that delivers the performance that I’m used to.

As it turns out, it was a failure. Don’t get me wrong, I did manage to configure and run Windows using virt-manager and virsh. I even installed it multiple times, changing the configuration to what I hoped would improve performance. But whatever I tried, I never got even near the speed and snappiness that I achieve by following my tutorial using a start script.

Many users – myself included – rather prefer the comfort of a graphical user interface with check boxes and pull-down menus to select the various options. I’ve listed some tutorials using the virt-manager at the end, for those who came to find a solution.

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New PC Build

Back in 2012 I built a PC around the Intel i7 3930K 6-core/12HT processor which I have been using ever since. While it’s still a strong PC, especially with the upgrades (GPU, SSD) I made, I’m starting to feel that editing photos isn’t as snappy as it used to be. I am also curious in how well the new generation of CPUs lend themselves to VGA passthrough. In short, I’m considering building a new PC.

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Linux Virtual Gaming Machine

You may wonder what’s wrong with this fellow (meaning me, the author). Has he completely lost his mind when he proposes a Linux virtual gaming machine? Before you discredit the idea, let me explain.

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Installing a Linux Mint 19 (Ubuntu 18.04) VM with VGA Passthrough

Introduction

Installing a Linux Mint 19 VM (or Ubuntu 18.04) with VGA passthrough is surprisingly straightforward. This tutorial follows the Running Windows 10 on Linux using KVM with VGA Passthrough almost step-by-step. I will therefore focus on what’s different from the above tutorial.

While booting the Linux Mint 19 life installation media (ISO) as a VM was easy, the installation of Linux Mint invariably ended with the following error:

The ‘grub-efi-amd64-signed’ package failed to install target/

The following tutorial will describe the steps to overcome this problem (bug?). Continue reading “Installing a Linux Mint 19 (Ubuntu 18.04) VM with VGA Passthrough”

Windows 10 Virtual Machine Benchmarks

Benchmarking Performance of a Virtual Machine

I have run  a number of benchmarks to document the performance of Windows 10 running as a virtual machine on Linux, in the hope other PC users will dive into the fascinating world of virtualization (VFIO).

Benchmarks are helpful in comparing one system with another, and one configuration with another. I use them to optimize my Windows 10 performance and to make sure that updates/upgrades haven’t produced unwanted side effects.

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