Review and Comparison of Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Zorin Linux Part 2

First Impressions - Review and Comparison of Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Zorin Linux Part 2

by Larry Neal Gowdy -September 25, 2011 (updated October 6, 2013)



Screenshot of Zorin Linux CPU Usage

Screenshot of Zorin Linux CPU Usage with a 2.0ghz CPU

(The first article is available at First Impressions - Review and Comparison of Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Zorin Linux.)


Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing, I do not quickly give up on a project. It is not uncommon for me to spend years researching a topic, and the current project of Linux® is no different. As written in the previous article, Zorin® has several features that I like, and I will continue tinkering with Linux distributions with the hope of finding one that works well for my personal needs.

I use a Pentium® 4 computer with 1g RAM as a test machine. Since the computer is strictly a test computer that I refurbished with used and spare parts (most every component in the enclosure was defective when I received it), and not used for business nor for daily personal use, then there is no concern of an operating system going south. The hardware is not cutting edge, but still the hardware is modern enough that all desktop operating systems (except Windows® 7) should be able to run reasonably well.

I recently came across a used dual-core P4 3.0ghz CPU for about $15.00 including shipping. I figured that it was worth $15.00 if for no other reason than to have some of my questions answered about Linux. The CPU was money well spent.

As suspected, recent desktop Linux distributions may require a CPU of around 3.0ghz and at least 2g of RAM to run smoothly (similar hardware requirements as for Windows 7). Most computer enthusiasts may already have the latest CPUs, motherboards, and large quantities of RAM, but the average computer user has a CPU of around 2.0ghz or less, plus 500m to 1g RAM, and it is not reasonable to expect a person to invest $300.00-$400.00 into hardware upgrades just to tinker with Linux. For that kind of money a person could buy a new computer with Windows 7 preinstalled. Puppy continues to appear to be the best Linux choice for most computer setups; Puppy is lightweight enough that it can run as well or better on a 500mhz PC than what Zorin and most other distributions can run on a 2.0ghz PC.


THE TEST COMPUTER


P4 PC
Abit® V17 motherboard
Pentium® 4 3.0ghz dual-core CPU
1g RAM
GeForce® 6200 LE AGP graphics card with 256mb RAM
Hard drive for Linux: Western Digital® WD800JB-00FMA0 7200rpm 80g ext4
Hard drive for Windows 2000: Samsung® SV2044D/TGE 5400rpm 20g fat32
Samsung® 152n 15" LCD monitor at 1024x768


THE TESTS


Some of the current test results will not be directly comparable to previous results due to a change of monitors. Previous tests used a 15" CRT monitor at 1024x768 resolution, while the latest tests used a 15" 1024x768 LCD monitor. Nevertheless, while the differences of screen-write speeds will not be ideal, the more interesting results are found in CPU usage. As expected, Zorin works much better with the 3.0ghz CPU, and in fact Zorin now appears to be a reasonably useful operating system (if it did not crash so often).

The load times were not much affected by the change of CPUs, and so I chose to not list the results again.


SCREEN WRITING SPEED


https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/books-and-monographs/psychology-of-intelligence-analysis/PsychofIntelNew.pdf

Screen writing speed was measured with the use of the online psychofintelnew.pdf file with 214 pages. The recorded speeds are close approximates of averages and should not be considered as being exact. Screen writing speed is too easily influenced by all other activities on a computer, and so it is normal for speed to increase and decrease from one minute to the next.

I ran the PDF from top to bottom several times using the page-down key. The recorded results list the first, second, and third times required to scroll to the bottom of the file. The numbers in parenthesis are the latest times using the 3.0ghz CPU.

Zorin P4 IDE
FireFox 15, 25, 23 (7, 40, 28 at 70% CPU)
Opera 15, 25, 25 (15 after reboot) (7, 40, 28 at 70% CPU)
Chrome 13, 13, 13 (6 at 61%)

Windows 2000 P4 IDE
FireFox: 23, 23, 23 (25 at 100% CPU)
Opera: 45, 43, 42 (45 at 100% CPU)
Internet Explorer 6: 47, 47, 47 (42 at 100% CPU)

The FireFox® and Opera® PDF tests in Zorin showed an increase of speed, but the pages were still blank as in previous tests, and most of the pages now do not even display during scrolling. Basically, the vertical scroll bar moved down while there was little or no change of display. The Linux PDF reader may work OK if the user is reading one page at a time, but the ability to scroll through a PDF is difficult at best.

I was anxious to see how well Chrome® would read the PDF. Chrome did very well in previous tests, and I was expecting to see a sizable improvement. Unfortunately, Linux crashed badly and froze the screen and keyboard. After waiting a few minutes with the hope that the OS might resurrect itself, I finally had to turn off the computer with the power switch. I did see that the Linux auto-updater icon had appeared in the taskbar, and so I am guessing that the updater was the likely culprit. During the second attempt Chrome did considerably better than I expected, beating its previous time by roughly half. For online PDFs, Chrome is the absolute best browser.

In Windows 2000 each page of the PDF file was displayed, and while the total time to scroll from the top to the bottom was much slower for Windows 2000, the over all performance was still better than Zorin even though the CPU was pegged at 100%. If Chrome were compatible with Windows 2000 I would expect a 6-10 second screen write speed.

Nevertheless, it is the Google® Chrome browser that for me has tipped the scales in favor for Linux. FireFox and Chrome are so superior to Internet Explorer® 6 that it is now a much favored choice to upgrade to XP or Linux rather than keep Windows 2000. For me the item that dictates which operating system to use is the software that I want to use. If I can never use Expression® Web 4 on Windows 2000, and since there are several good modern programs available for Linux, then there is no compelling reason to stay with Windows 2000, not even on a test machine. If about all that I can use Windows 2000 for is music and surfing the Internet, then why not instead use Linux and Chrome? In recent days I had the opportunity to buy a good used Windows 2000 CD for about $15.00, but I decided to turn down the opportunity and to use Zorin instead. For me this is a landmark decision: one more version of Windows is tossed in the obsolete bin.

As a side note, the topic of open source browsers has caused me to wonder if Microsoft® will lose sales when more people switch to FireFox, Chrome, and Opera. With the new Internet Explorer 9 not being compatible with XP, the inability to retain brand loyalty is guaranteed: many individuals are choosing FireFox and Chrome rather than upgrading to Windows 7. It appears to me that my own personal experience - of deciding that Linux is now the better choice over Windows 2000 - well illustrates the reasoning that many of us will use to choose to drop Microsoft in favor of Linux. At present, if I did not like Expression Web 4 so much, and I did not have the need to see how web pages display in Windows, I would feel free to switch to Linux.


Test of Gutenberg Project book in HTML (http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/621/pg621.html)


Linux Zorin P4 IDE
FireFox: 14 seconds (9 at 43% CPU)
Opera: 14.5 seconds (6 at 49% CPU)
Chrome: 13 seconds (5.5 at 61%)

Windows 2000 P4 IDE
FireFox: 11-12 seconds (6 at 46% CPU)
Opera: 14 seconds (11 at 96% CPU)
IE 6: 25 seconds (20 at 100% CPU)

FireFox is superb for Windows 2000. Opera and Internet Explorer both started reading the page well, but quickly slowed while pushing the CPU to 100% usage. In Zorin the speeds increased as the CPU usage decreased, enabling all three browsers to have considerably better times. If Chrome were available for Windows 2000, I would expect a similar speed as what is found in Linux.

The results appear to suggest that Chrome is the speediest browser of all, while Opera may be second fastest in Linux and FireFox being second fastest in Windows. Internet Explorer 6 is so slow that it really does not compete at all with modern browsers. High CPU usage continues to be the symptom that dictates speed.

My wife recently switched from Internet Explorer 7 to FireFox 6, and she still comments on how well she likes the many good features in FireFox. Little by little many individuals are distancing themselves from Microsoft solely on the reasoning that some open source programs are simply of a higher usefulness than some Microsoft products.


CONCLUSIONS


The main problem that I previously had with Zorin was with the excessively high CPU usage. Sitting idle with no programs open, Zorin would typically use 10-40% or more CPU, and the ability to multitask was fairly much nonexistent due to Zorin quickly pegging 100% CPU usage with as little as three programs running. Now, however, with the faster CPU Zorin is able to idle at around 1.3%, which is only a little higher than Windows. Zorin can also now run the eleven test programs, play online radio music, and stay within 24-26%. Aggressively resizing menus under full load, Zorin's CPU usage hovered at around 76% which is a huge improvement over the previous 100%.

Nevertheless, while I was very pleased with the ability to multitask in Zorin, I was still not completely pleased with the over all speed and responsiveness of Zorin as compared to Windows 2000. With the right hardware Zorin can be a better choice than Windows 2000, mainly because Zorin has the ability to change themes and because Zorin can run programs like Chrome. Most important of all for my needs, the text display in modern Linux distributions is now better than the default display in Windows 2000. The latest Linux text display has improved tremendously, and at present I would rather view a Linux browser than a Windows 2000 browser. The Libre® Writer's quality of font display has also been greatly improved and is now competitive with the display of Microsoft Word® on XP and Windows 7. If Libre should someday create an HTML editor within Writer, one that has word wrap, spell check, tag coloring, and perhaps an HTML validation checker, then Linux will at that point become a much more desirable operating system to me, but only if desktop Linux distributions can become stable.

(Update September 25, 2011: After installing the GDI++ font enhancement in Windows 2000, the font display is now very similar to Linux. The font quality is still not so good, and nowhere near the quality of XP fonts, but it is an improvement. After enduring another several hours of frequent Linux crashes, I went back to using crash-free Windows 2000. The speed and stability of Windows 2000 is simply too good to give up for the Zorin theme. After having invested hundreds of hours on Linux distributions over the past few months, I think that I will no longer entertain the possibility of ever using Linux as my primary operating system, although I will surely continue enjoying tinkering with new releases. At present I am convinced that if I should ever want a new operating system for my own use, it will be XP or Windows 7.)

(Update October 06, 2013: For my own use I have chosen Windows 8 Pro for my three computers (I still have XP and other operating systems on three other computers that I use for testing purposes). I am extremely happy with Windows 8, and at present I cannot envision myself ever again considering a Linux distribution for my own personal use.)



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