12 May, 2010

No Competition, and cheap build quality.

Windows XP SP3, 2.8 GHz Pentium 4 (Celeron), 512Mb memory, Google Chrome, Flash plugin. And Café World.

In short, a bit of a disaster. You'd think that Microsoft should have been able to walk away with this one laughing. However, it was not to be so. The weird bit is, Windows XP (SP3) has been quite good at other stuff on my computer. It's competently executed Second Life clients better than I was able to run them under Linux, and of course, it's usually been easier to play games under Windows, especially games written for Windows. This time, I tried out Café World on Facebook under Windows and under Linux, and I think you can guess the result. Linux won. Hands down. No competition. Not even close.

I watched the hard drive activity while the game was running under XP, and the hard drive was running pretty much flat out all the time, I'm assuming that the computer was running out of main memory, so it was going back to the hard drive to grab a bit more space to swap bits of itself out, then requiring that piece about five seconds later, so swapping it back in, etc etc etc. In short, I was the victim of a concept known as disk thrashing, when the computer simply hasn't got enough memory to keep up with everything it needs to do.

If you're asking what else I had running in the background, there was pretty much nothing aside from what would be running on a Windows XP Home computer with most of the services turned off. In short, there wasn't any other computing activity that would have impacted on Chrome, which was the only application running with an exposed window.

The astute among you would have noticed I didn't state what version of Linux, but for argument's sake, it's the latest Ubuntu. Of course it's got all of the fixes from the 2.2 series right up through the later series of 2.6.32 kernels. In comparison, Windows XP has had whatever fixes have been applied to the NT kernel throughout the years it's been around (since about 2000 or so). Is it fair to compare these two operating systems purely on the basis of one admittedly hard-on-the-system game executed through the web browser running the Flash plugin? Maybe, maybe not. However, the stats are there.

My wife has a very old machine (600 MHz Pentium 3, 384Mb memory, running Kubuntu) and put simply, her system lagged seriously when she tried Farmville. It lagged even worse when she tried Café World. So I tried out a wee experiment, because I can do this on a local network system, you see. I ssh'd from her machine to my machine running Ubuntu, and turned on X forwarding, and compressed the link too, just to smooth things out a bit. Then I started Google Chrome, and pointed it at Café World. Put simply, it still worked, although the connection was a little laggy as would be expected with an encrypted SSH link. Given I couldn't try the same thing from her Linux box to my Windows XP setup I didn't even bother trying that scenario, given the way the game had misbehaved under Windows.

Hardware failure

A good long time ago, I bought a set of headphones with a microphone. At the time, I loved the sound I got from these headphones—needless to say, I still love the sound, but some of the aspects of hardware build quality are starting to show their weaknesses. I've had to open up the volume control again for the third time, this time to replace a broken earth wire in the microphone lead. It used to be that if you had a microphone lead, you could almost run over it with a truck and the darn thing would still keep trucking. That's not been the case for a couple of decades. Cheaper prices have seen off the evil demon of quality. These days, if it breaks, you just go out and buy a new one, as it's typically cheap enough to buy. What a shame, except I can't even afford (usually) the cheap, poor quality leads, so I have to patch them up myself. Luckily I'm reasonably handy with a soldering iron, so I had that apart, and crossed my fingers as I tied down two connections again. It seems to work well now, but I don't know how long the fix will last. I hope it lasts longer than the previous fix.

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