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Get Things Done Faster

If you long to install Ubuntu a little bit faster help it at hand thanks to some nifty open-source tech developed by Facebook.

Using Zstandard (zstd), a ‘lossless data compression algorithm’ developed by Facebook, Ubuntu developers have been able to speed up Ubuntu installs by 10%.

While Zstd is primarily designed for use in “real-time compression scenarios” it is able to unpack packages during an Ubuntu install faster than current compression tools Xz and Gzip do.

And based on their tests with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Zstd works without any significant increase in memory of CPU usage.

Quicker decompression of packages means quicker overall install time.

But how much faster?

In tests using Zstd on Ubuntu 18.04 at its highest decompression setting install speeds improved by 10%.

The “drawback” is increase in package size which inflated by 6% in tests with Zstd.

Large install sizes might be an issue where bandwidth is more precious than install time. Installing updates with zstd over a poor internet connection could, theoretically, end up being slower overall.

Even so it’s still early days. The Linux Kernel only gained support for zstd in version 4.14, where the tech is used as a compression method for btrfs and squashfs file systems.

Could be default in Ubuntu 18.10

A feature freeze exception is being made to (hopefully) include zstd compression in Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, with Ubuntu devs hoping to enable the feature by default in time for Ubuntu 18.10, due in October.

And while Canonical developers have added support for zstd compression to the dpkg and apt packaging tools used in Ubuntu, it’s not yet included.

Still, this is promising development for impatient install fans!