The OpenDisc, and graphics puzzles

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,, 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.

4 thoughts on “The OpenDisc, and graphics puzzles

  1. Jeff Flowers

    I switch between Windows and Linux all the time, but when I am using Windows, I use the following:

    Exact Audio Copy

    Foobar2000 and Exact Audio Copy are no cost programs, while everything else is open source.

    (By the way, I am probably unusual in that I like both Windows and Linux. I don’t personally believe that you have to hate one to like the other.)

  2. Aberinkulas

    Those OS-for-Windows discs are nice, aren’t they? I started with Linux by stumbling on KDE while looking for a free and open source LAN game to play with my friends.

    Neverwinter Nights uses OpenGL extensively, and it’s a bit of an older version that Windows XP not not good at supporting. I have a nVidia Quadro in my campus-rented laptop I’m typing on now and the performance difference between OpenGL games in Windows versus Linux (in Vista as well) is so large that it’s almost laughable.

    For example, I play Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, a game that runs on both OS’ quite well. On Windows, I have to turn everything down to medium or low and run the game at a lower resolution to get a good framerate. In Linux (even bloated Ubuntu or Fedora) I can turn up almost every graphical option to high (barring a couple of really fancy ones) AND run the game at the highest resolution.

    Naturally, Neverwinter Nights runs well in both, but I can’t remember the last time I booted in to Windows anyway, so I guess that doesn’t matter much.

  3. James

    It’s a driver issue.

    Oddly, I’ve had the opposite experience with my Intel X3100 GMA. I find that 2D games run wonderfully on Linux, while 3D OpenGL at a fraction of the performance that it does in Windows. Of course, anything using Direct3D in Windows blows away OpenGL even more. It’s just a matter of priorities for the people writing the drivers.

    Then there’s stuff like how you can’t implement some types of texture compression used by some versions of OpenGL in open source drivers because the algorithms used to accomplish it are patented.

    1. James

      I am surprised that Neverwinter Nights runs so much better than Aquaria for you on your Intel card. Both use OpenGL, but 2D stuff is typically less resource intensive. Perhaps it’s just that the older game uses fewer fancy effects.


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