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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  • JimmiG - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    True, the OS is only a small part of the computer. What matters is the applications you run on top of it. It's easier to find Windows versions of open source apps than it is to try to make closed source Windows apps work in Linux. I think the way to make more people switch to open source is not to force them to change OS and ditch a ton of applications they're familiar with - Instead, release more and better free, open source alternatives for Windows, until suddenly one day people realize that they are almost only using such apps. Then the switch to Linux will come naturally I think.

    I use my computer for browsing the web, typing documents, making music and playing games. Linux works fine for the first two but not at all for the latter two, and that's how it has been for the past 10 years. Getting the audio latency down under Linux requires a lot of tweaking, and then there are no DAWs that can match Cubase or Ableton live, not to mention you have to run plug-in instruments and effects using some Wine-like workaround.
    Reply
  • Penti - Saturday, January 02, 2010 - link

    Well the thing is, their aren't can't be any replacements for Windows. Both the movement and users need to understand that.

    Linux is only commercial/supported in the server and workstation space any way.

    There's no complete commercial video decoders for Linux for hardware accelerated decoding thats up to Windows or Mac standard or format support etc, DVD etc. Sure there's PowerDVD for Linux, Fluendos DVD-player etc but getting them to work in the latest distro wouldn't really be possible, neither can they be included in a free distro. There's no legal or decent video editing suit. There's as you said no commercial DAWs. Sure again there's commercial high-end video editing software that runs on RHEL and high-end workstations used for movies. But it's none existing in the consumer and prosumer space.

    The problem is there's no consumer linux, no computer supplier or OEM that supports it. There's linux in a lot of consumer things, Android, Maemo, most consumer routers and file servers, so the possibility is there. But only when theres support from the makers otherwise their will never be complete hardware support, even for the little OEM/model-specific buttons and so forth. It will lack working video decoders OOB (out of the box) and a lot of finish users expect and need OOB. It isn't enough that companies such as Intel supports F/OSS and Linux distros. So much are computer model specific and to iron out all of those things without support and testing wouldn't be possible. The maker must supply driver kits for the hardware and installation kits for the OS. If they do it work just fine, that's what they do in the workstation space.

    Alternatives aren't replacements. OS X users know that and so do any realistic Solaris or Linux user. That's why there's virtual machines and app streaming.

    Users shouldn't switch and replace. They should just use what they need. Linux might have a bigger role in the client space in the future. However there are limits in a patent riddled world. Particularly when it comes to multimedia. Getting that into the free world isn't possible, and bridging the cap between free and proprietary making it free of cost wouldn't really be practical for someone independent as it would cost millions to have it freely distributable. No company has any interest in paying for such a products/software any way. So homebrew solutions have to make do for now, which is a mayor drawback as it robs OOB experience and hinders companies from using it to make money and or build solutions on it for the users and to include it in free distros because of fear from the courts which can forbid distribution and issue billions in fines. It's not a matter to take easy. The server world looks differently that's why it works there. There isn't the same monopoly on technology there.

    It works on Maemo, WebOS, Android etc because they are none free commercial distros that includes commercial codecs that the device-makers pay for. Free consumer software isn't possible with just free code in an unfree world. Free of cost is only possible when someone pays for it to be so. Then not just for the development like say Mozilla but also pay for it to be legally distributable and that's a mayor issue or problem.
    Reply
  • haplo602 - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Nice article. And the comments are also as expected, nothing new to see there.

    Anyway I was expecting a failure report on the ATI side of things even before I opened the article. I was trying to get Eve Online running on an old x1650 card about a year ago and the major issue was the driver. Native linux games/opengl apps were perfect. I see nothing much changed there.

    The one advice you lack is this: If you want serious 3D under linux, forget about ATI. Whatever their progress through the last year in drivers and support, they still have major issues with Wine (partly because Nvidia is faster to implement new OpenGL features in their NV extensions, so Wine folks code for NV mostly. Also the ATI implementation does lack some).

    That out of the way, Linux is fine for one group of people (myself in the group): Home desktop with mostly internet browsing, a bit of video/music, light gaming mostly games from the bargain bin. Not the latest hardware. These folks are completely satisfied with Linux.

    (btw the above group is aprox. 80% of home users. AT is mostly read by geeks, so disregard most of the comments negative about Linux).

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

    Honestly, if the usability of linux towards normal people was so good many try to claim, there wouldn't be this discussion, this review and neither boasting talk of linux-liking folks. Simply because it wouldn't be needed.

    The louder something gets defended the higher is the liking it doesn't do what it is supposed to.
    Reply
  • haplo602 - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    you mean like all the folks here saying Windows is better ?

    /sarcasm
    Reply
  • Holly - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    both linux and windows... since there is nothing like universaly better system imo. Reply
  • jackylman - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    ATI has been putting a lot of development time/effort/money into their open-source stack. They've recently got OpenGL 2.0 working on RadeonHD cards. Now it's going to be a few months before OpenGL 2.x apps are running like they should (and unfortunately, even longer before this code finds its way into mainstream distros).

    Nevertheless, ATI/Intel/VMWare are rapidly bringing the open-source Linux graphics driver stack into something resembling modern usefulness. It would be nice if other companies (*cough nVidia, VIA) contributed to the Linux development effort.
    Reply
  • shangshang - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    and it barely is making Windows scare. I still remember all the linux fanboys declaring the death of Windows over a decade ago. Yet 2 decades later, Linux is still a joke on the commercial desktop platform.

    You'll still have your geeky college "elistist" boys with the snobbish mentality that if you don't know linux you suck. You'll still the academia world using linux (and Windows). But other than this, the desktop world is a Windows world. And most important of all, the BUSINESS PC world is still a Windows world. At least with Microsoft, you'll get support even if you have to pay for it. But with Linux, good luck. Try asking a question on a Linux forum, and you'll get an answer like "have you reat the 100 page cryptic manual before posting?"

    And now with Windows 7, I don't see why would any typical home user or coporate user using Linux.

    And spare with the the "free" softwares on Linux. OpenOffice is a joke compared to the Office 2007 with its integration.
    Reply
  • tomaccogoats - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Unix is much better in terms of shared computing. If working on a large project Unix OS's make it simpler to share files. Many corporations utilize Unix servers in their intranet for this reason. Reply
  • kmmatney - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Openoffice is not really an argument for Linux, since you can get it free on Windows as well. Reply

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