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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  • TheHolyLancer - Tuesday, January 05, 2010 - link

    look try this, install vm-ware tools in ubuntu and tell me how it feels vs installing it in windows xp/server 2003/7 under vmware workstation or esx/i

    or how about drivers that you download and is not in the repo? unlike windows where you can either point the stupid wiazrd to the folder and let it do its thing, or run the .exe, its just CLI all the way...

    sure, everyone blames .exe for troubles like viruses and what nots, but hey it is a surefire way for one to get something onto your computer, you may not know what it is, but with a simple double click and a few nexts, a driver, or a game, or a virus can be on your computer instantly (and for others to fix later...), and linux can't do that, maybe for security, but hell it's highly inconvenient to my mom when she can't double click through any issue.

    this may be a simpler gripe than say the hardware support issue, but it is a large issue for everyday users, or lazy in-the-know user like me, for one, I always keep a backup for my ubuntu VM that has everything configured, while not for winodws as a reinstall is just that much easy...
    Reply
  • phcoyote - Wednesday, March 17, 2010 - link

    I've installed numerous Desktop Linux systems for a variety of users. It's a side business. A good number of them are of the type that barely know how to right click.

    The interesting part is that almost all of them are actually finding it easier to install software in Ubuntu than on Windows. Some use Synaptic but many are actually using Add/Remove which is even easier.

    Click Applications - Add/Remove. Select a category. Put check mark beside desired app. Click Apply. Really, it doesn't get any easier than that.
    Reply
  • LuCiPh33R - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    The problem is that they don't ALL use it. Any CLI will never be acceptable to 90% of PC users. Reply
  • Veerappan - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    I agree that a CLI package manager is more than we should expect the average user to be able to handle... but I would recommend that you check out Ubuntu's Synaptic. It's a GUI package manager that is launched directly from the "System->Administration->Synaptic Package Manager" menu entry present on the default gnome install.

    Launch Synaptic, select what programs you want to install/remove (it has a handy field for search keyword entry), and then click the Apply button. Synaptic handles figuring out all of the dependencies for you, and a minute or two later, your new program is installed and ready to use (relevant menu entries are auto-created).

    Knock Linux for other reasons, sure, but Synaptic (admittedly only in Ubuntu right now) is pretty slick.
    Reply
  • ChristopherRice - Wednesday, December 30, 2009 - link

    Isn't synaptic functional in fedora as well? Reply
  • Jackattak - Tuesday, December 29, 2009 - link

    Precisely. sammyF, I know of what you speak, and you know darned well that isn't the case in every single scenario. Reply
  • ProDigit - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    I'm using Linux right now!
    I've been using it for quite a while now.
    The only reasons I use windows at times is because of it's ability to compress data on NTFS partitions (eg: on external HD's). Also for it's ability and range of games.

    A lot of games no longer work on the latest U/Ku/Xubuntu (v9.10 and up), something with the kernel.
    In Windows, there's some sort of compatibility. Linux changes every 3 months in kernel(or so), which is why so few companies tend to build something good (like a decent game) for Linux. Yes, there's DOOM and Quake, and you can emulate PS2 and DOSBOX, but that's nothing like running a modern game in it's own window (say Crysis, or Rally 2, or even simple games and creators like spore)!

    For applications, there are little applications I use in Windows only. Most of my tasks consist of viewing video files, and audio files, creating a document in open office (sometimes gives smaller font errors when using it on MS Office), transfer files, and be on the internet a bit.
    Those tasks I can do on Linux pretty fine.

    Like some user said,Windows is only there mainly for the games! If Linux has stable builds that will be supported for years instead of months, and graphic card manufacturers will recognize the need for those cards in a Linux environment, and more and more games will become available on Linux, I guess near to half the population will start using some form of Linux OS, because it is free, and hopefully will have a database of compatible games available too!
    Reply
  • jmurbank - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    The kernel has nothing to do what program works or what program does not work. The kernel controls hardware, so nVidia and ATI have to follow the versions and game developer companies does not need to unless they created special modules or drivers to increase performance of their game. The problem that companies have is there are several thousand Linux distributions to make sure the software works while Windows has only one. The problem with all these distributions is each one uses different library versions. Probably your problem is the libraries in your distribution or to be more precise is the glibc library is not using the required version. If your distribution has the required libraries, then it is not compiled with backwards support. In this case, complain to the maintainer to make sure they include the backwards compatibility for the library or just do it your self.

    The real problem for game developers trying to write games for Linux is there are no tools to aid designing in OpenGL. Also OpenAL, multi-platform audio, is controlled by Creative Labs and they have not pushed it to where DirectX is where today. SDL is a combination of OpenGL, OpenAL, and input device support for multi-platforms is limited because it does not have any network support.

    It is not just libraries and no OpenGL developer tools that causes problems. ATI is also causing problems with their poor software support since they started their company. Using ATI's proprietary drivers in Linux provides limited 3D commands. These limited commands makes using Cedega and other similar programs becomes unstable and unreliable. Do you think game developer companies like EPIC want to be stated to be providing favorites to only nVidia because nVidia is the only company to provide full support. If EPIC does publicized Unreal Tournament 3 for Linux and it only supports nVidia graphic cards and not ATI's, EPIC will have a big problem that will be more complicated than Verizon and AT&T.

    Another thing businesses are tightly wrapped around market share. If they see Linux that has the most share, they will develop programs for that OS instead of Windows. Since Windows has the most market share, they design for that OS. The market share is only the tip of the ice berg which means there are more issues in the waters that makes market share irrelevant, but companies do not want to buried their head in these issues because to them it will cost them money. Unfortunately, money controls everything.
    Reply
  • Penti - Thursday, December 31, 2009 - link

    Games are created for a game engine, it's their job (the game engine developers) to create tools for development and designing. There's no reason to do the bulk of development on Linux either. It's just the game engine that must support Linux, there's no reason to support every distro or glibc version, however distros should be better with backwards compatibility so you don't need to run an old distro or such. It's a problem and an old version of glibc should be able to be included just as you have old VS c++ runtime environments in Windows. However a game engine should be very portably either way. It should be code that can be easily recompiled for newer glibc/other libs. Not optimal maybe, but now we see backwards compatibility dropping and introductions of XP mode in W7, same can of course be done in linux distros to provide backwards compatibility. To integrate an old virtual distro into the new distro to run apps for the old distro. That as a feature in itself. Of course also Apple shows what can be done with GCC if they do it slightly different. But developers should expect to have to upgrade for/support the latest OS, service pack/upgrade any way no matter if it's Windows, OS X or Linux. A lot of Win apps are broken when service packs come out, new OS versions come out and so forth.

    Drivers are a big problem though. But it's overcomeable if they get ATI and nVidia on the boat. Maybe they should release their own distro for gaming just to show what can be done if collaboration is done properly... Finish is what most distros lack.
    Reply
  • darkstar56 - Monday, December 28, 2009 - link

    WOW usually does pretty well on linux. I know a few people that run it fine on it, they don't lag or have problems in raids.

    Though wow is usually stable on all platforms, except Mac OSX atm.
    Reply

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