YouTube – Xubuntu Compiz Fusion VERY OLD computer / Better than Vista

YouTube – Xubuntu Compiz Fusion VERY OLD computer / Better than Vista

I don’t usually post Youtube links, but this one actually has adults commenting 😛 Damn kids. Anyway, the topic I want to touch on is old computers. Not old like Atari, old like a Pentium-III 800mhz, which was released in 1999, almost nine years ago.

Nine years is a very long time for computers. Most of them don’t survive that long, thanks to Chinese manufacturing. Cheapness aside, most people replace them a lot sooner than 9 years. I must have gone through six or seven new rigs in that time, but admittedly I’m a freak, and I actually use these things for more than just word processing and email, so I defintely get my money’s worth.

Now back to the Youtube clip: I think it’s awesome that Compiz Fusion runs so smoothly on an older machine, thanks to great programmers making it happen with skillful coding. The problem is, I don’t really care beyond that. It’s kind of like the demo scene, great achievements, nice eye candy, but ultimately it’s just a demonstration of talent. I wouldn’t expect someone still using a P3-800 to care much about wobbly windows and spinning desktop cubes, because they’re clearly utilitarian (or cheap) and don’t need to burden their old workhorse with useless decoration.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we have 3ghz dual-core (and quad-core) machines. My video card has more ram than that P3 guy’s whole computer did. If someone were so bored, they could probably write a PC emulator that runs on the graphics card, screw the CPU :) Why is it then, that people commit such great effort and resources into supporting these old cancerous computers ? They work fine with their old software, how about focusing new developments toward recent gear, thus stimulating even more innovation and progress. We’ve got these screaming fast machines, but no one seems to have a clue how to make use of their power. Look at large-scale projects like Folding@Home, their multi-threaded app is still in beta… we’ve had multi-processor machines for over a decade, and every new system sold today has at least 2 cores if not 4, so what’s the hold-up ? There’s a long list of things that would actually benefit the masses today, and Compiz for ten year old machines isn’t on that list.

Don’t give me that speech about the poor people who can’t afford upgrades; the hardware is the cheap thing. The expensive part in any computer is the software, training, tech support, occasional repairs and upgrades. It’s kind of like a car… buy a new car, you don’t have to spend too much on it in the first years. Buy a used car, and you’ll burn a few thousand per year to keep it running, yet you still have an old beat up car. It costs as much (or more) to fix up a 1982 Ford Tempo than it does to maintain my 2001 piece of shit Focus. A computer costs less than a car, but follows the same model: most components have a limited lifetime, like fans, power supplies, hard drives, and if a PC is older than 3-4 years you might spend more to fix it than the system is worth. I sure as hell wouldn’t spend $40 to replace a power supply in a P3-800, unless I happened to have an old spare lying around. I wouldn’t even drive 10 minutes to pick a free one up. I’d sell the remaining parts for a song and build a new rig, or buy a very cheap used one.

I’m not saying people should throw out their old machines, but for the love of Bill, please stop producing software for them!

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7 Responses to “YouTube – Xubuntu Compiz Fusion VERY OLD computer / Better than Vista”

  1. GNUlancer says:

    >the hardware is the cheap thing. The expensive part in any computer
    >is the software, training, tech support, occasional repairs and

    Ahem, you know, there are other countries on the planet, not just US, UK and Australia :)
    Things are a bit reversed here.

  2. listener says:

    Hey Dude,

    Have you ever thought about that bulls*** you are writing?
    This stupid arms race which produces more trash than anything else is USELESS!!!

    I can surf the internet with my AMIGA 1200 and it has at least 6 MB Ram, i can also write letters, send emails,… is there a need for more computer power?

    If you want to play games buy a console it works with every game you get for it without troubles.

    You ask for the need of software on “older machines” and i say YESSSS.

    Just think about what GNUlancer said and look on this planet whats happen now.

  3. GNULancer says:

    I agree with listener, this is just a routine consumerist arms race which only aim is to make MOAR moneys. It doesn’t benefit anyone and is nothing to do with actual improvement.

    There’s an OS – Kolibri. It is written in x86 assembler and fits on a floppy.
    With GUI and many essential tools. (Screenshots:

    There are other similar efforts out there, just search Wikipedia.

    And no, these assembler OSes don’t look as fancy as Vista not because they’ll need much more resources then, but because enthusiasts who use/develop them don’t need this fanciness much or don’t have enough UI design skills. Otherwise, accurate Vista look (with effects) on 1-2 floppies is feasible.

  4. Billco says:

    Sure, Vista looks on 2 floppies is very feasible, it wouldn’t even need any fancy hardware acceleration beyond basic blits, flips and fills. That’s not the point though.

    The point is that these old machines, like listener’s Amiga, already have all they need to do get things done. They have a mature operating system, a rich software collection and years of documentation that all culminate into a stable and reliable platform.

    Ubuntu is the anti-thesis of that last sentence. It is new, flashy, experimental and in constant flux. Compiz Fusion barely worked until about a year ago, and it’s still very much a hack. I fail to see why any serious computer user, stuck with an older PC, would want to load this software. What is the benefit ? How does it help them get what they need done any faster, more efficiently and/or cheaply ? All those flashy effects come at a cost: support. The same as Windows Vista, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t work quite right under Compiz – part of it is Compiz’ fault for being rather kludgey at times, and part of it is the application’s fault for being inflexible, relying on assumptions that should never have been made like resolutions, font sizes and chrome metrics.

    These so-called desktop enhancements are toys, nothing more. Toys for people who like to play around with their computer. Perhaps more important to me is the fact that they’re not pushing any boundaries. Vista cloned Apple, and now Compiz cloned the other two, but there is hardly any innovation in either of these systems. I’m no Apple fanboy, but they did come out with a flashy accelerated GUI before everyone else, and have put forth many new usage concepts that have gone mainstream like the Dashboard and the extensive use of transparency to make the desktop feel more spacious and natural.

    I would love to see the efforts spent on Compiz and Aero Glass reinvested elsewhere on new, experimental concepts that just might redefine the entire computing experience. We use these machines in almost the exact same way we did 20 years ago. The internet has changed the world, but it hasn’t changed how we interface with the computer much at all. It’s time we broke a new barrier, to make the human-machine link more natural and efficient. Bouncy windows and spinning cubes may appeal to our inner magpie, but it doesn’t help us work faster or work less.

  5. GNULancer says:

    Yeah, I agree, interfeces are interfeces. 😀 IT is business these days and not science, sadly. Opensource/freesoftware stuff makes things a bit better by allowing one to just implement key ideas and don’t care about the rest, but OS fanboys are still raving and toting their beloved OSes with useless toys.. Lol, the problem here is that you can’t actually improve user’s experience without building new interface hardware. We’re physical beings, so we need something to push, rub or scratch to interface. Big companies don’t wanna invest money into cardinal research, cause that’s not necessary for money making. Well, for Apple it IS necessary in order to survive in the face of Microsoft monopoly. But that’s the only case I know of.

  6. umonkey says:

    Composition (which is the primary task of compiz) actually increases performance. It saves the window manager from many routine tasks, like redrawing parts of windows.

    Here’s an experiment: disable compiz, open a heavy loaded web page (with lots of elements) or a spreadsheet in OpenOffice, then grab another window and start moving it above the browser/OpenOffice. You’ll see how parts of the web page are erased and redrawn here and there.

    When the graphic card’s 3D functions are unavailable, that’s what a window manager does most of the time. This is true for Windows XP and older (not sure about Vista). That’s why what is eye candy for you, is a performance/usability boost for that guy with an older machine. That’s why I have compiz on my Asus EEE PC, with wobbly windows and other effects turned off.

  7. Big Aussie says:

    I can see where you are coming from Bill, but as many before me have already said – not all countries can afford new machines. Older, discarded PCs are donated, then usually power supplies are replaced, CPU fans are cleaned and Ubuntu with Compiz added to give the PC at least a further 3 -5 years more life.

    Vanuatu (middle of the South Pacific) locals are well paid if they receive US$10 per day. Internet access here costs US$200 per month: just for dial up. The joys of satellite communications and monopolies. The local people still want to see and use the internet like everyone else in the world. Older donated PCs running open source software removes one of the costs of connecting with the rest of the world.

    Feel free to arrange to have your old PCs (Dual-Core anything would be nice in the next 3 years) sent to one of the many 3rd world nations – – Mexico / Cuba are barely a stone throw away. I know they will thank you for it.