User Interfaces as Slideshows
Posted: Wed, 12 July 2006 | permalink | No comments
Backstory: I recently found a new game. It's called Oolite, and is (probably unsurprisingly) a clone of that great old spacefaring game, Elite (for BBC Micro and C64, amongst others). This game (unlike the original!) uses OpenGL and hardware rendering, so it was a good motivation to get accelerated rendering going on my laptop (never bothered before; it's unlikely that DRI is going to make an Xterm run any faster, after all).
The problem with DRI under Ubuntu Breezy on my laptop is that it makes the machine unstable. Every couple of hours, my screen would freeze, and I'd get a lovely collection of randomly-coloured 80x25 text-mode characters on my screen, flashing madly at me. That's the signal for "game over", apparently, and I'd have to reboot. Incidentally, this used to happen, but very rarely, before I turned DRI on, so it's not really DRI-specific, but it went from occasional irritation to regular irritation.
So it was time to upgrade. "Dapper's Out", thought I. "May as well see what all of the fuss is about".
I think the phrase "oops" correctly describes the result.
For reasons which I have not fully determined yet, my system is now Dog Slow. (That's the technical term, anyway; I've got a few more colourful phrases for it that I'm using privately). What was, previously, a nice quick Xterm launch is now a slowly progressing set of concentric rectangles culminating in the eventual, lacklustre, appearance of a terminal window. Oolite, my new obsession, is like playing Quake3 (the last OpenGL game I really got into, many years ago) on a P-II 300 with no 3d graphics card -- here a frame, there a frame, oh, by the way, you died a couple of minutes ago. (And yes, before you ask, glxinfo says "direct rendering: Yes".)
This isn't an old machine -- it's a Thinkpad T43, with gobs of RAM and a 1.7GHz processor. It ran Breezy like a charm. Now, my machine looks like a powerpoint presentation. I've got to put something onto my wife's "new" (P-III 700) laptop -- lord only knows what it'll think of Dapper.
Other strangenesses I've noticed so far include:
- My password-entry box is the standard xscreensaver one, instead of the GNOME one I used to get. I liked that GNOME one -- the little man icon bore a certain resemblance to myself, I thought.
- Suspend-to-RAM is about half the speed it was. Now 8 seconds instead of 4 might not seem like much, but it certainly feels a lot longer sometimes.
- There's all these popups everywhere now -- "Your /home partition is 99% full" and such. I'd say it's like Windows, but it still doesn't suck anywhere near that hard.
- Even typing in a freaking Xterm on my local machine is slow -- I can easily outstrip the display when typing, something that usually only occurs when I'm trying to SSH to a machine two continents away. Sometimes, the lag gets so bad (or perhaps it's a separate-but-related issue) that I start losing keystrokes altogether -- not cool, man.
- The machine persistently has a load average of over 2, even though all I'm doing here is typing a blog entry. The only things I'm running here are two Xterms, and I've got a 2.1 load average. W. T. F?
Ultimately, I think that the cause of my problem may be closely related to that last point. I need to find out what's chewing my machine's CPU and kill it dead. Oh won't that be fun.
Well, enough moaning. Time to find the cause(s) of these problems and nail it/them to the floor.
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