It’s been a long time since I used XP at home, even though I use it or Vista at work almost every day. The X60s came with a legitimate installation of XP, but I wasn’t interested in it until a few days ago, when I wanted to investigate a couple of things.
The first was to take a look at the OpenDisc. I found my way to Linux via the Gimp and TheOpenCD, and was always a little sad when the latter project sputtered. Seeing the OpenDisc rise from the ashes was a good thing.
I can only say, if you absolutely must use Windows, demand the OpenDisc. I count myself as lucky in that I am under no obligation to use Windows (except at work, as I have mentioned), but if I were forced, I’d definitely make sure I had access to at least a few of the projects that are available from that collection.
And if you’re familiar with Linux it won’t be anything new. Blender, the Gimp, Inkscape, Battle for Wesnoth, Freeciv, Firefox, Pidgin, Thunderbird, VLC, GnuCash, OpenOffice.org, 7zip and as many more that you probably know or have seen, if you don’t already use them.
I’m guessing that all of those projects, and about a bajillion more, are downloadable for Windows platforms from their respective home pages, but getting them all in one large swoop is an issue of convenience. Yes, you could pick and choose, but by downloading the DVD image, you get everything you were after in the first place, plus a huge array of new things you might not have known about.
So going back to XP for part of a day gave me the chance to take a look at that disc, see what I had missed and take a look at a lot more.
The other thing that had been bugging me was graphics performance on some of the games I’m used to playing from the days of my Inspiron. That video card — a wise old 64Mb GeForce 440 Go — ran some stunning graphics at a staggering 1600×1200, whereas the Intel GMA 950 seems to have trouble sometimes at a measly 1024×768.
And the odd part of the experiment is that sometimes yes, and sometimes no, the 950 has a harder time in Linux than in Windows. Games I had no hope whatsoever of running in Linux — like Aquaria, from the Humble Indie Bundle — ran beautifully in XP.
At the same time, my long-time favorite Neverwinter Nights in Windows was a total drag compared to how smoothly and cleanly it behaves in Linux. Rotten frame rates and sluggish performance, even at the lowest detail settings, made me eager to see my favorite game disabused of Windows.
It seems strange to me, as someone who knows absolutely nothing about the mechanics of these games, to think that two different titles could perform so oppositely on two different platforms. Mostly I expected the contrary to be the case — that NWN would be lightning fast under Windows while Aquaria was impossible. But I must admit my surprise, and make my uneducated conclusion that the issue is with the software, and not the hardware.
Anyway, Arch Linux is back on that machine now, ironically in that same pseudo-Windows Classic look that I cobbled together a year ago. It was interesting to see how XP behaved on a machine that hasn’t run anything but Linux since I got it. But it reinforced my commitment to the Penguin: I am not missing much by sticking with free software.