Introduction by Jarred

A few months back, I wrote an article looking at battery life on a couple of laptops using several different OSes. Windows XP, Vista, and 7 were the main focus, but I decided to test battery life on Linux running Ubuntu as well. Naturally, the Linux community wasn't happy to see their OS place last in the battery life results. One of the readers actually took the time to offer his help in getting a Linux OS configured "properly", and we started work.

Eventually, we abandoned the follow-up article as I had other pressing matters to get to and troubleshooting Linux from half a continent away is difficult (plus we started with the NV52, and ATI support under Linux is still lacking), but I offered Christopher the chance to write a couple pilot Linux articles for our site. He had shown a much better knowledge of Linux and I figured getting someone passionate about the OS was our best bet. (I'll let Christopher tell you what he does for his "real job" if he so desires.)

As a side note, with Anand's call for more writers, this sort of passion for any technology is what we like to see. Show us you know what you're talking about and you care about the technology, and there's a good chance we can use your skills.

With that out of the way, here's Christopher's first Linux article where he provides a concrete look at something few have ever attempted: Windows Gaming on Linux.


Over the past few years, there has been a common question on the Linux vs. Windows desktop front: does the Linux desktop have the ability to play various major release games, and if so what is the performance difference between the two? Linux is commonly overlooked as a viable gaming platform in most communities. Our intention today is to shed some light on what does and does not work inside Linux, as well as give solid performance data for those looking for another option in the gaming world. Each OS has areas where it shows superiority over the other, but for the sake of staying true to the purpose of this article we will only be focusing on the game performance/functionality differences.

Unfortunately there are very few game releases that support running inside Linux natively. To combat this issue there are a few Linux projects that will allow Linux users to run Windows applications - note that we did not say "emulate Windows". We have selected three Linux projects in order to complete our initial round of testing. Our open source project selection "Wine" is a free, easily downloadable project that is created to support both Windows games and applications. The second selection, "Cedega", is a closed source implementation of Wine focused on gaming. The final selection is Crossover Games which like Cedega is a closed source implementation of Wine allowing for enhanced usability and gameplay over Wine.

Some are probably asking at this point, what is Wine? The Wine project was started in 1993 to allow Windows applications to be run under Linux. Wine takes the Windows API (Application Programming Interface) and implements it in the Linux user space. Since Wine is running in user space and is not a part of the Linux Kernel, it relies on the wineserver daemon to provide your basic Windows kernel functionality as well as other various tasks of X integration.

As a quick recap, there are two basic goals we want to complete in this article. First we want to compare performance and functionality of games between Linux and Windows. Second, we will look at the performance and functionality differences of Wine/Cedega/Crossover Games.

Wine Projects: Which Vintage?
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  • Amiga500 - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Sorry, disagree very strongly.

    Recently shelled out for Win 7 professional... and rebuilt the machine. At the same time, installed ubuntu 9.10.

    Ubuntu 9.10 has a better interface, better desktop features, better desktop "fancy graphics" and better stability (2 crashes with 7 so far, albeit neither critical crashes).


    Ubunutu is a better operating system. No arguments on that.


    Of course the only problem is program compatibility. Is that linux's fault? With the constant changing of kernels... possibly.

    However, I hope 9.10 is getting so close to good enough, that after 10.04, there will be less need to upgrade the kernel so quick - resulting in greater incentive for 3rd party programmers to support the system.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    "Ubunutu is a better operating system. No arguments on that."

    No its not because what you describe are not the only factors that make or break an OS. An OS is only as good as the work and tasks you can get done with it - and that includes but is not limited to your mostly subjective claims of superiority in usability and stability. For others, its the other way around at the bottom line - for most others, that is.

    I regularly check out various linux distros and so far, even setting them up to do what I need to do (which is more than just browse the web and write emails) is more of a hassle than most people are willing to go through. So, in the end, its NOT the better operating system. At best, it may be the better technology under the hood...

    Reply
  • akse - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    I started working at my current job about a year ago, using Ubuntu 8.04 and now I'm running with 9.10. I've had average experience with Linux OSs before but now I started to use them daily.

    I always felt Linux was the OS for me and yes it really felt like that for long. But recently there have been some things that I have started to hate about it.

    Or probably it is just that Win7 and Vista have improved so much from XP times that I really love to use Windows now. So far everything is working so well on my home computer with new Win7 installed after using 2 years of Vista which also worked great.

    Of course there are many things at Linux OSs that you can't beat with Windows, but then again there are many things in Windows that doesn't work quite right in Linux or you have to make 30 mins of work to make them work, which is fine but sometimes frustrating.

    Anyways 9.10 Ubuntu interface kinda pleases me but they should try to figure something new for the Top and Bottom Panels, I like the new status area.

    My work laptop has Ati Graphics card in it which makes the Linux experience even worse :)

    Well about gaming: In home I have win7 and other computer next to it runs Ubuntu 9.10 (too). I have wine there which I use for 1 thing only. Whenever I get into playing Diablo 2 again I use it to have a second character online at the same time :) It works just fine, though I have to play it in windowed mode to work, which is the case in win7 and vista also.
    Reply
  • sammyF - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    I agree on the Flash support, linux definitely needs more Adobe-Love on this one :/ The rest of your post is pretty much humbug.

    Win7 is 30$ for students, maybe, but by far not everyone is a student. It's also the price over and over again if you own more than one computer. It would also be quite something if Office2007 was actually included in the price you're naming. The home and student version of Office2007 is listed as $79.99 (down from $149) at amazon.com (probably can get it a bit cheaper elsewhere, but you see the point)
    I will spare you the horror of finding free software that does all the stuff you can get for free through an easy to understand click&install interface in linux ... and I won't talk about grabbing the latest drivers for your hardware, compared to a very high chance that everything runs out of the box in linux.
    "The interface is cleaner and much more stable"? which one? Gnome?KDE?XFCE?AWESOME? some other one? Besides, most DE or WMs are easily customizable (without even touching the terminal)

    Okay ... and then "There is far FAR more compatibility" ... This Anandtech article should be proof enough that you got it backwards. let's see :

    Linux -> 100% compatible with linux software, partially compatible with windows software as old as win3.1 through one of the packages mentioned here.

    Windows7 -> 100% compatible with win7 software, probably vista soft too ... partially compatible with winXP software if you happen to have a version with the XP compatibility thing. 0% compatible with linux software.

    Winner through KO : Linux
    Reply
  • ManjyomeThunder - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Uhh, Linux doesn't have ANY support for Windows applications. Linux is the kernel. Now, if you want to say that using 3rd party applications on certain Linux distributions can provide some level of Windows API support, then you would be correct.

    In the same way that saying that Cygwin provides Windows users with a UNIX-like environment and an implementation of the POSIX API.

    Both have some support for the other's API and applications through third party applications, but they're both fundamentally different. However, Windows has a larger amount of applications, and thus one could say that it does have better "compatibility".
    Reply
  • sammyF - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    yeah, you're right, sorry. I got carried away I guess. Additionally, whether in windows or linux, there is always the possibility to run the other OS in a vbox.

    I'm just tired of reading "it has more/better compatibility" and similar ~sentences~, as they just don't make any logical sense : Compatibility with *what* or *whom*? And my foot is also longer.
    Reply
  • LuxZg - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    Out of all this reading, only thing I can say is - why bother at all? Either dual-boot Windows and your favorite Linux distro, or run one OS and keep other in VM (preferably Windows and Linux in VM because of 3D support in VMs).
    As for the pricing, author here recommends buying two products, plus a third one for a price of over 100$ - PER YEAR!. For 100$ you can get OEM licence of Win 7 Home Premium, giving you great compatibility through dual-booting, and you can use it till next OS gets here. That's minimum 3 years, meaning you've just saved yourself 200$. OK, you can use just Linux+Wine and go the completely free route - but is it really worth it? I mean let's face it. For casual gaming Linux is fine, and so is it's brethren OSX. But if you're avid gamer, you spend so much money on games and hardware (CPUs and graphic cards) that it's simply hard to give an excuse for NOT using Windows. Only negative is having to support two OS-es on every computer that you game on, but than again, if you have one computer it's not that much more work, and if you have many, than it's better to dedicate one for just gaming (just Windows) and be done with it.

    It's hard to convince anyone that Linux is good for gaming when all you get running without much trouble are games few years old... That's - casual gaming. Very casual :)

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • sprockkets - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    Both the opengl people and Microsoft tried to merge all the 3d api's together, but both failed to do anything about it. Both are to blame.

    You know that whole thing about Apple only allowing Cocoa on the iphone to develop with to protect the platform? Same with DirectX stuff.

    At least OSX has some commerical support going for it with Blizzard.
    Reply
  • medi01 - Thursday, December 31, 2009 - link

    Why would Microsoft cooperate to make Windows less attractive? PC games support is the only nearly exclusive "windows" feature.
    Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, December 31, 2009 - link

    The 3D API aren't to blame nobody designs games to run directly on DX or OGL, they write code and do graphics/content for a game engine and plenty run on both DX, OGL and variants of both of them two, on Windows, Xbox 360, Wii, PS3 and several engines also on OS X and Linux. You don't create game content for an specific OS.

    Running virtual Windows for 3D Windows apps is really the way to go anyhow, now days you can get a dedicated graphics card for accelerated graphics if your computer has Intel VT-d support anyhow. Sure you need a separate graphics card and a retail (or just as you do on your wincomputer pirated) copy of Windows. But it's doable. If you need Windows then run Windows. Or just have a separate gaming computer. (Which probably will be cheaper anyway.)
    Reply

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