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.

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Kitty wrote on December 15th, 2006 at 7:46 AM PST:

I own s pretty low-spec MacIntel Macbook (dual 1.6 CPU, 1 gb ram) and I use FC6 with AIGLX+Beryl on it.
I never experienced any lag, nor choppiness at all. So maybe it’s all in the gpu drivers: if I understand well the intel 945 integrated in the macbook though being far from as fast as nv/ati latest chipsets has very good open source drivers.
For the time being I can’t be bothered trying AIGLX+binary nvidia drivers on my desktop because I don’t have the time right now to spend a few days upgrading all my kernel modules, but the kororaa (sp?) XGL live cd did also work smoothly with nvidia proprietary drivers (and it’s a meagre 1.6 ghz athlon).
I tried all the common tricks: semi-transparent movie kept between two sides of the desktop cube, alt-tabbing 5 different open mediaplayer or seeing them in the expose ripoff etc. Very smooth and no discernible framerate hiccups.
On the other hand, I never tried with an Ati card and its open drivers.

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Eugenia wrote on December 15th, 2006 at 8:12 AM PST:

There is no choppiness when you are IN the actual action. But when you try to start an action, it doesn’t do it immediately, and when it starts to do it, there is some choppiness. But from the moment you get “in” the action (a few milliseconds later), it is ok. But that’s enough to give me the “clunky” feeling and make me wanna run away… Also, the whole desktop usage (normal operations, like clicking on windows to give them focus or open menus), are just not as instant as OSX or plain X is. It just doesn’t “fly”. I did not see any reduced performance for video playback or 2D gaming. It’s as fast as before. But the UI itself doesn’t feel smooth.

felipe wrote on December 15th, 2006 at 10:29 AM PST:

Have you tried Compiz yet? It’s far more mature and stable, and the default settings are very sane: animations don’t last forever, no silly magic lamps, overall good taste ;-)

I’d like to read your opinion on Compiz, compared to Beryl.

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Eugenia wrote on December 15th, 2006 at 10:35 AM PST:

Compiz is not that different than Beryl in its architecture, I do not expect a huge difference. The difference is possibly bigger between AIXGL and XGL instead of Beryl/Compiz. Also, my distro only provides packages for Beryl, so I prefer to not mess up my system with Compiz’s similar files/settings.

Luis wrote on December 15th, 2006 at 10:35 AM PST:

I have a 2.6 Ghz pentium 4 with an intel i845 graphic card with 64 MB shared memory (3 years ago it was the cheapest you could get), and AIGLX+beryl work very smoothly. I also don’t experience any higher memory usage for using AIGLX (usually I have DRI enabled without AIGLX, and DRI does increase in about 60 MB my RAM usage). So I think the problem is in the drivers too, not in AIGLX or XGL (both work smoothly here).

However, I find 3D desktop effects quite uncomfortable after 10 minutes using them, so I don’t think you’re missing much anyway.

Andrew wrote on December 16th, 2006 at 4:13 AM PST:

The opensource radeon drivers are garbage. My 6600GT can run Beryl smoother than my x800 w/ oss drivers.

Andrew wrote on December 16th, 2006 at 4:24 AM PST:

Can’t edit :P

Yes, I realize they are your only choice.

95mbs is fairly impressive, With nothing running except metacity and a crippled gnome-panel + insignificant background processes I cannot get my memory usage in Ubuntu any lower than 190. Not that it matters much when you have 1GB of RAM. (Though I’ve never seen memory usage go anywhere close to 512).

It is a pretty big jump considering what you’re used to but considering the requirements of the competition it’s something I view as acceptable. Of course, that is of little comfort to you ;)

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Eugenia wrote on December 16th, 2006 at 5:20 AM PST:

>95mbs is fairly impressive

On my old laptop, I was able to run at around 50 MBs of RAM with a full gnome.

In the current laptop, I run a few more services, but the killer is the fact that I have enabled DRI, so that’s why it’s a bit less than 100 MBs. I stay at Arch exactly because it boots and runs fast, with less memory than the big distros.

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Eugenia wrote on December 16th, 2006 at 7:32 AM PST:

JBQ just had a look at the problem too, and he said that there is a latency issue at startup. It takes them a while to get setup, but when it does it’s fast from that point on. So there are a few milliseconds in the beginning to get the “trick” setup and that’s what creates the clunkiness.

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