[sf-lug] Rick's explanation of his internet setup.

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Mon Jan 2 23:05:21 PST 2006

Quoting Adrien Lamothe (alamozzz at yahoo.com):

> I've done some work for an internet cafe, helping to set up and
> configure game servers running Linux to host the game Half-Life. We've
> run SuSE, Slackware, Debian and Red Hat successfully on hardware that
> would probably qualify as "grossly out of balance." So far the servers
> have worked without a hitch.

(I note that you mean under WINE or WineX, etc.:  Half-Life is _not_ a
Linux application.  It's a DirectX Windows one.)  

When I said "grossly out of balance", I of course meant in the context
of more typical Linux usage (office-type apps, Web browsing, etc.).  A
typical 3D gamer box has, for _any usage but gaming_, an overpriced CPU
that goes almost unused, and an overpriced video card that goes almost
unused.  Running those more-typical applications in a native-Linux
environment heightens that effect, in that Linux itself tends to be much
less CPU-intensive than are Microsoft's Win32 OSes.

It should go without saying that, when you build a box for Windows 3D
gaming (whether on straight MS-Windows or in a Win32 emulation
environment), then a machine such as you describe would _not_ be
"grossly out of balance" -- because the highly atypical usage model
works best with exactly that sort of box.

However, if you handed me the price of one of those machines and told
me, "Rick, see if you can get better performance for native-Linux
general-variety desktop or server usage, using the same amount of
money", I'll guarantee I'd be able to _smoke_ your box -- in that
radically different usage scenario.

Why?  Because mine would have the money allocated differently among the
subassemblies, taking _a lot_ away from where it doesn't matter quite
that much (CPU, video) and sinking more into what relatively lags on the
gamer box (I/O).

> Well, I've probably been spoiled, because I've been using SuSE Linux,
> since version 5.1. I've installed SuSE on many systems, some of them
> purchased at thrift shops, others brand new that I've built for myself
> and others, and name-brand systems purchased at places like CompUSA.
> SuSE always worked, out of the box, without problem, on whatever
> hardware I installed it on. So, when I've gone to AnandTech and Toms
> Hardware for research, I've found their advice regarding hardware
> issues (stability, which components play nice with each other, etc.)
> useful, even from a Linux perspective.

I note that SUSE Linux usually includes quite a lot of proprietary,
binary-only hardware drivers -- more than do most distros.  Mind you,
that's fine:  It can be handy to have, as you found out.  However, the
point is that _needing_ them is undesirable, when you can avoid it.

A lot of people with such hardware (winmodems, most USB ADSL bridges,
certain exotic video chips, some SATA, some sound chips, some ethernet)
have found out the hard way that the proprietary drivers tend to become
unusable as the kernel's interfaces change, or when you try to migrate 
the hardware to a new box (ia32 to AMD64, say).  And others have found
themselves with mysterious kernel-level bugs and kernel panics:  When 
they try to report those to the Linux kernel mailing list, they're
surprised to see the bug report rejected because their kernel was
"tainted" by the proprietary driver.  (The kernel coders had to finally
put in code to detect proprietary drivers and automark any bug reports
as suspect, because they were being driven crazy by Nvidia users
reporting "kernel bugs" that originated in Nvidia drivers and couldn't
be fixed for lack of source code access.)

> I've recently evaluated several Debian-based distros, due to
> uncertainty about events at Novell/SuSE and problems experienced with
> SuSE 10.0. I've tried Kanotix 3-2005, Kubuntu 5.10, and Simply Mepis.
> So far, I've had problems with all three of those distros, from not
> installing to having the system lock-up. 

That might have been because, unlike SUSE 9.3, those Debian-based
distros don't have as huge a collection of proprietary hardware drivers.
Dunno:  It's speculation.  (Obviously, SUSE 10.0 has separate problems, 
for other reasons entirely.)

By "SUSE 9.3", I refer to the boxed-set edition that was (lawfully) 
available on a per-seat licensed basis from retail vendors, which has
much more proprietary code than the various redistributable editions --
for the simple reason that many of those proprietary codebases lack any
grant of a right of redistribution to the public.

More information about the sf-lug mailing list