Archive for December 14th, 2006

Accelerated X11

I decided to give another chance to accelerated X on my Linux laptop today, as XGL has failed in the past. Apparently, AIXGL with Beryl (latest svn) worked easily, without major problems (just a few Beryl keyboard shortcut bugs). However, it’s painfully slow. Yes, it is hardware accelerated alright, it’s just that desktop actions don’t feel as instant as Mac OS X’s do. For example, in the 1-2 seconds that a fancy trick takes place, 0.5 sec of that time is far from smooth. It feels clunky. I run Arch Linux on a 2.8 Ghz P4 laptop with an ATi Radeon 9000 Mobility 64 MB (r250, using OSS Xorg “radeon” driver), while QuartzExtreme-accelerated Mac OS X’s animated tricks run way smoother on this 867 Mhz G4 with a 32MB GeForce4MX. I am betting that XGL is equally slow as AIXGL is (ATi’s binary driver does not support my r250-based chipset). From what I have seen so far, it’s dissapointing and I suspect that the problem is the architecture of the whole thing rather than the Ati driver. I am going back to plain X11.

Update: Oh, I forgot to mention the memory usage! Without accelerated X, my optimized Arch Linux uses 95 MBs of RAM on Gnome 2.16.2. With AIXGL, the default memory usage is about 200 MBs. The X server alone says that it consumes 98 Mbs of RAM. That’s pretty hefty IMHO for what it gives back to the user and it means that desktop distros like ubuntu/suse/fedora that normally require more memory than lightweight distros like Arch or Slackware, they would need 512 MBs PCs as minimum if they go accelerated by default (currently they are in the 256 MB area). Sure, they would work with 360 MBs of RAM too, but no such PCs are sold. Users usually have 256 MB PCs or 512 MBs or 1 GB. What I am saying is that accelerated X will have a huge impact in the minimum requirements of a popular Linux distro, and I am not talking about getting a good graphics card.

Don’t mess with OSX underpants

When I first got my first OSX-capable PPC machine I tried every utility I could get my hands on in it. Soon enough I learned though that the OS between major versions is not as compatible as Windows has used me to, while sub-versions have their own share of incompatibilities that usually reveal themselves when you install OS-tinkering utilities. So for the last 3 years or so, I have a very strict number of third party applications that I allow them to run on my Powerbook. Anything that changes the OS’ default settings are out of the question.

Thing is though, I got a bit tired of having 3 different looks on my OSX applications and so I thought I try UNO, apparently the best utility that unifies the look of OSX. It came with the best references. It worked well, looked really good, but I think it was slowing down a bit the overall UI speed, so I thought I disable it.

Apparently, after you disable UNO, chances are some apps they just won’t load anymore. iTunes 7.x is one of these apps, complaing that there is not enough memory to load (over 430 MBs of free RAM were available on a cleanly boot OSX). After some googling I found that others had the exact same experience after disabling UNO. The only way to get iTunes back is to re-install the app. If the same problem happens with another OSX app that doesn’t come in .pkg format easily downloadable from Apple’s web site, you are out of luck, you will have to re-install the OS to get it back.

I got punished for not following my own thumb rule. It won’t happen again. Only use popular third party apps, but don’t mess with system utilities because Apple is always changing stuff in the innards of the OS that will (eventually) guarantee you trouble.

Great free song

My good friend Vince published on his blog a link to the We Are Scientists’s song “In action”. If you like alternative rock download it. It’s really well done, if not a bit short though.