Sunday, 27 July 2008


I've updated the profile links to show several new services I've joined recently, including and Goodreads. For those of you unfamiliar with Goodreads, it's basically a social network that allows you to record what you're reading and post reviews of books you've read.
I myself have just finished Charles Stross's excellent new novel Saturn's Children and have posted a review there (although I can't find the cover for the UK version). I really love this book, and highly recommend it to anyone with a liking for SF of any kind. For more details, please see my review.
I'm now reading Stephen Baxter's Flood, about a future where sea levels begin to rise, and don't stop. Ever. Once I've finished it (which probably won't be long as I don't have Internet acces at my house in Norwich so I have little to do, and it's so far been a very enjoyable book), I'll do another review. In the meantime, why not check Goodreads out? It's a great service.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Help build dead simple tablet PC!

I have to say: I think this is a fantastic idea. A bare-bones tablet PC for surfing the net and possibly Skype as well. It definitely gets my vote!

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Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Could Linux be a better gaming OS than Windows?

Linux and Mac users alike will both know that Windows has by far the lion's share of the computer gaming market. Now, you could buy a console, but there are certain types of games (mainly RTS and things like that) which don't often seem to appear on consoles, and are limited to Windows, so by and large if you want to play these types of games you're limited to using Windows. So Windows is currently the only reasonable choice for if you want to play this type of game, as well as many others. A colleague of mine who is a hardcore PC gamer has also told me that FPS games are better suited to the PC.

However, I believe that from an architectural point of view, Windows is not the best platform for gaming. I know that many devoted PC gamers will spend a lot of time, money and effort building a PC designed to get the absolute best performance out of the components. To me, it then seems an incredible waste to then install Windows (especially Vista) on it. Even with several different versions available, it's not possible to optimise Vista to get the absolute best out of it.

Consider this: Sim City Societies requires 512MB RAM for XP, and 1GB for Vista! Processor-wise, it needs 1.7 GHZ for XP and 2.4GHz for Vista! That's a staggering difference, and can easily make the difference between someone being able to run a game on existing hardware, and needing something new.

The point is, Vista, even with several different versions, is essentially a one-size-fits-all operating system. It's not designed to get the best out of your hardware. A lot of components can't be removed (IE, Windows Media Player etc) and replaced with something lighter.

I therefore believe that if it were better supported with native games, Linux has the potential to be a far better operating system for gaming, especially for hardcore gamers. Here's my reasoning:
  1. Lighter footprint: Pretty much any Linux distro is lighter in terms of system resources than Windows XP or Vista. You'd very likely get better performance out of a fairly mainstream distro like Ubuntu or Fedora than even XP, let alone Vista. And there are plenty of distros a lot lighter than these.
  2. Customisability: Many Windows applications can't be removed, as stated above. Pretty much anything in Linux can be removed, so desktop-wise you could drop Gnome or KDE in favour of IceWM or Fluxbox, remove Compiz etc to get more performance out of it - after all, the desktop doesn't matter when you're playing Crysis. And that's just with mainstream distros as mentioned above - something like Arch Linux enables you to go a lot further.
  3. Freedom to compile system components yourself: If you take the time to compile applications specifically for your hardware, you can get a much faster system. I've never tried Gentoo, but I'm aware that it basically compiles every last component for you from scratch, letting you optimise it for every piece of hardware (for instance, you can choose to optimise the kernel for your processor, rather than using one compiled to work on any x86 or amd64 processor), and giving a truly staggering speed boost. Well, isn't that exactly what gamers want? And if they're willing to spend so much time and effort on building it, isn't it worthwhile to take a bit more time to compile everything in order to get the most out of it?
At present, I still think Linux lacks somewhat as a gaming platform, despite the presence of things like Wine, Cedega and Crossover. Many of these things involve some system overhead, making games slower than they would be running native games.

Of course, there's one massive barrier to the production of native Linux games: DirectX. This is a big barrier. What might happen to change that:
  1. OpenGL: OK, it doesn't provide as much functionality, but I've got to mention it.
  2. Developers abandoning DirectX: Might happen, but doubtful. Can't see any reason why this might happen.
  3. The creation of an open source implementation of DirectX: I believe Wine goes some way to doing this, but it's not exact. I'm thinking something that is to DirectX what Mono is to .NET.
  4. An alternative: Who knows?
I admit I don't know much about DirectX, so much of what I've just written is pure speculation. However, I remain convinced that, at least for hardcore PC gamers, Linux has the potential to be a better operating system than Windows if it were better supported.

What do you think? Am I right or wrong? Are you a PC gamer who'd love to be able to use Linux, or do you think it'd be awful for gaming, even if it was better supported?

Monday, 7 July 2008

Linux for housewives. XP for geeks.

The computer proletariat is rising up - and computing will never be the same. Tiny, sub-$500 “netbooks” like the Asus Eee are the hottest thing going in notebooks today. And some surprising things are happening. Like housewives on Linux.

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