Elf Clan Social Network

We've published a couple of articles designed to help members pick their computer and graphics cards for use on Inworldz.  You can find the main of these articles here:

http://elfclan.ning.com/profiles/blogs/picking-a-computer-graphics-...

Over the months however, Inworldz has grown, development work has been done, it's improved.  We now have the Phlox scripting engine, better performance, faster performance. 

So recently I was surprised to discover that computers which I would never have used for VR before... now work just fine on Inworldz.  I made that discovery during the "Black Friday" sales this weekend, when I procured a new touch-screen 11" ultrabook (which I bought for extreme portability).  It weighs half the weight of a normal laptop computer, has Windows 8 and of course, touch-screen, which makes it very nice for portable work.  It's not a "killer" computer by any means; it has a basic Intel i3 processor (dual core) and (gasp) an Intel HD 3000 graphics system (that's right, not Nvidia, not ATI, Intel, the featherweight of graphics systems).

What I was surprised and pleased to find was that this little, low-power computer works just fine on Inworldz.  Of course it's not as spritely as my quad-core GeForce 450 screamer desktop... but it works just fine.  I'm able to walk around without significant lag, I can create and build just fine, textures rez fine.   In short, it caused me to totally change my thoughts about using Intel HD graphics processors on Inworldz.  Before we had to say "no no no no" but now... I am pleased to relate they work pretty well.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Bottom line it means that instead of buying a $700-$1000 laptop just so you can do VR... you can spend $300-$500 and have a totally suitable system.  Rather than needing Nvidia and ATI graphics systems you can get by fine with an Intel graphics system (to my knowledge, at least an HD3000 or above... but lower systems might work too; at this point I don't know). 

WHAT ABOUT THE PROCESSORS?

I'll have to allow Balpien, Zauber or one of the other core techs in our group fill you in here.  There are several new processors out, known as the "E-" line.  I'm not sure how they perform in comparison with the i3 or AMD standard processors.  At one time (mumblety mumble) years ago I knew every processor and what they accomplished.  At one time "2.4 ghz" on a processor actually meant something.  But the processor I'm using now is a 1.4 ghz i3... and while it's not near the speed of my 2.4ghz Intel Core 2 quad processor in my desktop, it does just fine for my ultra-portable touchscreen netbook.

So maybe someone can leave some comments and fill us in as to how the new E processors compare with say, Celerons, Semprons, Pentiums, Core 2 and i- processors. 

One thing I recommend:  put our past bias behind us, because I am astounded to learn that an Intel HD3000 graphics processor works fine with Inworldz. That brings available laptops and desktops into a whole new low-cost dimension.

BEWARE THE MEMORY USE

There are two kinds of graphics memory:   1)  Dedicated on-card  and 2) Shared.


There are also graphics cards that use both.  Be aware when purchasing your system of how much graphics memory is available... and what kind it is.   Here are some guidelines:

* It is good to have 4 gigs system RAM available.   If you get a 2 gig machine and your graphics card shares part of that RAM... you're not going to have much to use for Inworldz.

* Dedicated RAM is best in ideal situations, but avoid machines with less than 1 gig total graphics RAM (dedicated + shared).   Some machines only have 128 megs of dedicated RAM and can't share system memory; they will not have enough graphics memory to handle virtual reality.

* Shared RAM isn't as fast as dedicated RAM, but quite often such machines will allow you to share 1 gig or more of system RAM... giving you all the RAM you need for Inworldz.  The ideal is 1 gig of dedicated RAM, but we can settle for 1 gig or more of shared system RAM.   It will do the job.

The main point is that it's now possible to buy a relatively low-cost laptop or desktop computer, one using Intel graphics, and have a decent computer for Inworldz.  This is of course very good news for our members with limited budgets.  Be aware it's not going to guarantee performance a year down the road (the VR worlds are growing, becoming more complex and demanding more) but it works fine at this time.

--o--

 

Views: 780

Comment by Zauber Paracelsus on November 26, 2012 at 1:06pm

Gigahertz/Megahertz is just a measurement of how many cycles the CPU runs per second.  As CPU's get more advanced, they become better able to run more instructions per clock cycle.  A modern single-core processor with 1.0ghz is at going to be at least twice as powerful as a 1.0ghz single-core processor from 10 years ago.

Also, AFAIK dedicated RAM is something only used on add-on graphics cards (ATI or nVidia), integrated cards will always share system RAM.  The exception to this is hybrid graphics, where a powerful graphics card is used in tandem with weaker integrated graphics.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on November 26, 2012 at 1:15pm

Actually laptops can come with dedicated RAM as well.  For example, HP presents a laptop with an Nvidia graphics system, but only 128 meg of dedicated RAM for the graphics.

Comment by Zauber Paracelsus on November 26, 2012 at 1:25pm

I didn't say anything about laptops not having dedicated RAM.  Whether it uses dedicated or shared depends on the card.  With laptops, integrated and low-powered cards will almost always use shared memory, while high-power cards will almost always use dedicated.

On desktop, integrated cards will generally use shared memory, regardless of power, and add-on cards will always use dedicated memory.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on November 26, 2012 at 2:22pm

Ahhh I understand now.

I checked my laptop; although it only uses an Intel HD3000, it has 32mb dedicated memory and 1.6 gigs shared, on a 4gig RAM system. 

Comment by Nebby Newman on November 27, 2012 at 7:06pm

Very helpful!  I am also planning to purchase a Win 8 ultrabook with a touchscreen, and, yes, there is so much more to consider when deciding on which one would be best!  Thanks for the tips!

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on December 13, 2012 at 8:32pm

No, Google Chromebooks are basically dumb terminals designed to operate over the Internet using Google Cloud.  I don't know all the details, but I suspect you could look up Chromebook on the Net and read how they work.  They're not Windows, Mac or Linux compatible to my knowledge.

Right now because of the time of the year and the fact that the Windows 8 touchscreens are getting ready to hit the market, there are a lot of really, really good buys available in both desktops and laptops.  Since we know now that Intel HD 3000 and above graphics (at least 1 gig graphic RAM available) can work with Inworldz... this opens up a whole new area of low-cost computers in both desktops and laptops.   I've seen computers at Best Buy for under $400 that would work fine.  

If one is really short on cash, I would strongly suspect that a used laptop or desktop can be picked up really cheap (beware of shysters selling broken units).   They need to have a good Intel or AMD processor.  If one doesn't know how to pick out a good used computer, take along a tech friend to run all the tests.  I would guess a good used computer can be bought around $200 or so and work just fine.  Beware used laptops unless there is a really good reason the person is selling it (like they just bought a gamer computer and their perfectly-good laptop is now useless to them).

Stay totally away from Celeron and Sempron chips, as well as the new "A", "E" and "B" chips.   If they're not standard AMD or Intel processors running at a decent rate (as close to 2ghz or above as one can get)... forget 'em.  They don't have the power.

Bottom line... if ya don't know how to buy a used car, take along a mechanic friend.  If ya don't know how to buy a used computer... take along a friend who really knows his stuff (not just one who claims to).  ; )

Comment by Zauber Paracelsus on December 13, 2012 at 8:38pm

Actually, the chromebooks are running off of Google Chrome OS, which is a custom variant of Linux that Google created, along with a custom graphical shell that share's the Chrome browser's minimalist GUI philosophy.

Though, they are highly specialized systems and don't have the same capabilities you would get from other linux distributions.  Some of them run on ARM chips, which the IW Viewer can't run on at all currently (only 32bit or 64bit x86 chips).

Comment by eekee eebus on December 12, 2013 at 11:05am

Obsolescence is almost all in the mind, and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. I've been using the same computer since before mesh, before viewer 2, maybe even before windlight was out of testing although I don't exactly recall. The only part I've replaced is the graphics card, and I deliberately bought a cheap graphics card when I bult the computer so I wouldn't be spending so much at once.

 

Siwan, regarding keyboards, I haven't looked myself, but my friends say there are no laptops with real keyboards any more. There certainly aren't any new Lenovo Thinkpads any more, every one has a chicklet keyboard. What I do is run IW on my big computer, and then use it on an older laptop via remote desktop (VNC actually). This way has a couple of issues. Mouse grab is not passed through VNC, so mouselook is impractical and camming around is not so smooth. It's still possible to alt-click to pick a focus for the camera, and then, well, I've become an expert at using the keys to move the camera. :) I don't like building this way, but then I lay on my front to use my laptop; there's not much freedom to move my hands. I have also tried using a trackball with a USB extension lead, but with my giant laptop there was no good place to put the trackball. I have a Thinkpad R400, which I highly recommend to anyone who doesn't have to carry their laptop around. ;) It's very solid, very cheap now being second hand, and has a really excelent keyboard.

 

The other issue is more something you have to know when setting up. VNC is only really fast enough if the network hardware is good. WiFi is not good enough, and even when wired, most home routers don't pass data fast enough. What you need is a network switch. I bought mine quite cheap quite a few years ago now. It was £15 in... 2004 I think. It's a D-Link switch for gigabit ethernet, and is quite fast enough for VNC. My laptop is connected to it by a 5m ethernet cable; my big computer by another, and another cable runs from the switch to my router which is also the cable modem and WiFi access point. It all works as one network.

 

I also very much agree about white backgrounds being a problem. The best solution I have there is to use Linux with some Gtk+ application for email, since you can choose a dark skin for these. I used Claws-Mail for years. Right now I put up with the white of a web interface for email, but I don't email much anyway. Heh.. the text editor I use for all my notes about everything has a creamy background color much like the one on this website.

 

In any case, I leave my desktop screen at a fixed brightness and keep the lights up bright most of the time. The thinkpad's brightness is easier to vary than my posh screen, fn-home and fn-end adjust it and the home and end keys can be found in the dark. Even the eee was quite good this way.

 

Thinkpads also have the trackpoint which doesn't get knocked nearly so much as a trackpad, but the latest models are buttonless, which I can't imagine working well. My eeePC has a button for enabling and disabling the trackpad, but I didn't find it practical. The trackpad needs to be ready when I move my hand, requiring a button push first would have driven me insane. This is one area where Linux is not the best choice, I've never found it nearly as good at avoiding accidental clicks as my ancient iBook.

 

Wayfinder: Don't you still run XP on your desktop? I wonder how much of the improvement you're seeing in the tablet is due to Windows 8. There may have been much crud introduced but there will have been fixes also, especially in database code which I'm sure the viewer caching uses.

 

Finally and most uselessly, ;) Chromebooks run Chrome OS which is based on Linux. A proper Linux should run on them just fine. According to Lifehacker, installing Linux should only take a few minutes. That's not even the only way to do it, you can install a full Linux separately from ChromeOS, which would presumably leave more memory free for the viewer.

 

Some Chromebooks are ARM-based; for these you'd have to compile the viewer yourself, ;) but there are ifs and maybes about whether that would work. It doesn't matter, many Chromebooks are just PCs with a different OS. They may have a few parts Windows doesn't have drivers for, but overall it's hardly worth the investment to develop a system from the ground up, not for Google nor foranyone else. They're either going to use PC architecture or some other pre-made system. In either case, Linux is almost certain to be compatible.

Comment by eekee eebus on December 12, 2013 at 11:25am

Parting thought about email, Siwan: there are ways to override a website's stylesheets. Opera in particular makes this easy, just right-click, select site preferences, and one of the tabs has an entry for custom CSS. You need to know how to write CSS to use it, but you won't have to write a whole new stylesheed, just the bits you want to change.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on December 12, 2013 at 1:24pm

Cyall:  "Obsolescence is almost all in the mind, and don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise."

I so very much agree with that statement.  I think it was Balpien that once said, "If it still does what you want it to do, it's not obsolete." 

Like you Cyall, I am using a PC that is several years old.  The only thing I've ever upgraded was the graphics card (I've gone from an 8800 to 9800 to a 250 to a 450gs.  Quite a change).  Oh wait, I have gone from a 250 gig to a 2 terrabyte and now (since Black Friday, woohoo) a 250 gig SSD + 2 terrabyte. 

As you state, I'm still using Windows XP.  It works fine, especially since I installed the SSD (have discovered that an amazing amount of "lag" can be hard-drive oriented).  However to confirm what you said, I believe Windows 8, as much as I dislike it, runs Inworldz far better due to its lean and mean internal machine.  Vroom vroom.  The UI sucketh, but the guts are solid.

Most Chromebooks I've seen are unfortunately based on ARM, Sempron or Celeron chips, which are uber-slow.  They simply don't have the speed to run VR properly, even under Linux.  I'd really stay away from those.   However... some of the older laptops using Pentium or Core 1 chips (which if found can be purchased for a song) run VR just fine if they have a speedy internal graphics card.  In fact, some of the older Pentium chips run at 2.8ghz-- and they are blazingly fast. 

If one hates laptop chicklet keyboards there are alternatives:  use an external keyboard for home, disconnect it when traveling.  I also always prefer an external trackball on a laptop.   I really don't use a laptop all that much (although I do have a gamer-quality laptop)... simply because I don't travel.  But if I did I'd probably bring an external keyboard and trackball along with me. 

Trick is that keyboards always wear out first.  Always.  They're the first thing to go.  So on a laptop I got in the habit of using an external keyboard just to save wear and tear.   One still has moderate portability (better than carrying a separate huge CPU box, monitor and cables), with the convenience and comfort of a full size keyboard and trackball.  And it minimizes wear and tear on the laptop.

Add a 250 gig SSD to the laptop, the lifespan (aside from the battery) can be well over a decade.

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