Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Linux Alpha VS Windows Beta

So, how does the shiny new Linux alpha client stack up to the established Windows one? Well, as you would expect there is a (not so long) list of bugs and issues, the big question is, what can you live with?

My system is an AMD 64 powered Shuttle box, 1 GB Ram and an Asus 6800 V9999 GT (128MB). Dual booting between Windows XP Pro (used exclusivly for games) and Gentoo AMD64. I run the Second Life 1600x1200 full screen on both.

No Audio


There is no sound, nothing, not a squeak. The Windows client on the other hand has lots of sound, there is music playing almost everywhere and lots of things in world have their own effects.

This isn't as much of as issue as you would think, from my own experiences and having spoken to a lot of residents in world it seems the general trend is to mute the sound and put some mp3s on anyway.

I have rebooted into Windows just for the sound as sometimes you will find yourself at an event or meeting where it is required.

Rendering


Even after you've manually set the texture memory in your settings.ini (SL Forum : Linux Client Tips) and applied the patch (SL Forum : Fix for Messed-up Appearance Problems), the in game textures are not downloaded and displayed as promptly as the Windows client.

It's like the world only rezzes to medium detail by default, you can encourage the client to display the high resolution textures by hovering the cursor over or right clicking on whatever you want to see.

This is possibly to blame on the hardware detection getting it wrong and the client is behaving accordingly. Second Life is unable to determine my CPU and thinks I have 1MB of ram, so if it does anything with this information you might expect it to go easy on the memory usage!

Genrally this is only an issue when shopping, you cannot just walk into a mall, make a brew, and find everything at full resolution when you get back. Right clicking on everything to get it to rez up soon becomes second nature.

On the Windows side this is much better but by no means perfect. It loads most things most of the time. You will still find yourself waving your cursor at things, usually the very things you're interested in looking at :)

Performance


As the Linux client isn't pulling in as much texture information as the Windows client by default, comparing performance is a little hit and miss.

Going to the same place in both clients, makeing sure everything is rezzed properly before making any judgements. The frame rate tends to peak at around the same in both clients and genrally performace is very similar, the Linux client feels considerably smoother.

When it comes to providing a consistant experience. the Linux client doesn't suffer from the same sudden split-second drops in frame rate as the Windows client and there seems to be a lot less lag (makes you wonder how much lag is really lag, and not just the Windows client). The Windows client did lockup, loose connection to servers and genrally misbehave. The Linux client is rock solid.

Bits and Pieces


There's whole host of other minor niggles that only effect specific functionallity. For example, copy and paste not working when editing scripts (etc) is a real pain, image upload is broken. So if you're doing any serious content creation or scripting, you might be aswell to use the Windows client.

The Bottom Line


I find myself using the Linux client 99% of the time. Partially because I'm a Linux nut and partially because I am hopelessly addicted to Second Life and would rather use what I find the better client. Dispite all its problems, I think that's the Linux one.

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