Memory usage – Linux vs XP

I was having a convo with a friend the other day who was complaining that her laptop just didn’t have enough memory for her to do her job. When she let on that it has a gig of memory, I was floored, wondering what huge monstrous app she was running that was killing it.
“Outlook”, she said.
Now, realizing the platform was Windows XP, I started thinking about my own usage, and how to me this is an indicator, again, about why XP is a terrible system for general development, let alone enterprise-scale applications.
Apparently, 1 gig of memory is not enough to run Powerpoint, Outlook, and the Java application server she was developing on. I can’t fathom how people would consider this ‘okay’.
Sure, the argument is “Memory is cheap” – well, no, it really isn’t, particularly in laptops, when you’re actually running into HARD LIMITS on how much memory a machine can take.
The argument continues, as I see the industry phrasing it, “Well, that’s the price you pay for an enterprise-level application”. Again, a totally bogus answer.
Let me present, for comparison, my own development environment. Also a laptop, but running Linux. As my friend does, I use an integrated calendar / contact / mail client (Evolution). I have a full featured desktop (KDE), a fantastic and powerful webbrowser (Firefox), the ability to happily run Microsoft Office apps (Crossover Office), and a top of the line J2EE development environment and server (JBoss). At the moment, all but the Office adapter is running (because I already have my mail / calendar client running), and my memory footprint is:

top - 13:20:49 up 1 day,  1:18,  1 user,  load average: 0.68, 0.46, 0.44
Tasks: 112 total,   1 running, 111 sleeping,   0 stopped,   0 zombie
Cpu(s):  2.0% us,  1.0% sy,  0.0% ni, 96.3% id,  0.0% wa,  0.7% hi,  0.0% si
Mem:    775860k total,   745648k used,    30212k free,    32244k buffers
Swap:   748400k total,      728k used,   747672k free,   257152k cached

I’ve just barely touched my swapspace. This is on a 768meg IBM T40. And, in addition to those ‘basic productivity apps’, I’m also running: X-Chat IRC client, my Jabber client, streaming audio from Radio Paradise, oh, and have I mentioned an entire full screen instance of The Gimp, a Photoshop-like graphic editor?
I’ve seen Photoshop bring a high end Windows XP machine to it’s knees.
Did I mention every single application I’m running is free? Save for Crossover Office, which I don’t use at the moment, this is all free / opensource software. And even for Office documents, I generall use Open Office.
Once again, can someone tell me why Windows XP is better that Linux? Cuz I sure as hell don’t see it here.


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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7 thoughts on “Memory usage – Linux vs XP

  1. it’s apparently really easy to design apps that are total hogs – i imagine her java deleopment server is one of them.
    In my world, it’s goddamn notes. But even with notes i often have a bzillion apps open with no problem…

  2. Seriously. I run just fine with half that memory. Then again I’m not running a Java application server. Outlook generally takes up 40-60 megs for me. Of course if she’s using word as her editor that’s going to add to the memory load. Now considering you are using up 750megs yourself that doesn’t seem like a huge difference to me.

  3. OK, I happen right now to be running a dev environment, a mailer, an IRC client, another random net client, and Firefox. Leaving aside the fact that The GIMP is about five major versions behind Photoshop in functionality, I fired up the latest Photoshop and checked my memory usage.
    64 processes, 8% CPU, 506M physical memory, 69M physical memory available, 19M swap used (out of 512M available). On Windows.
    Photoshop is by far the largest memory user, at 54M. It’s an expensive program and deservedly so, the kind of program that one buys an extra 256M of memory in order to be able to run. The problem is that the folks who wrote Outlook and most other Microsoft office productivity programs feel that their program also deserves to be expensive and have memory bought for it, which they do not.

  4. Thanks for the Libretto, Dave! It runs my Emacs and eight or ten Perl jobs just great!

  5. An addendum – I thought about it a bit while driving, and I’m -also- running:

    Apache webserver
    MySQL database server
    Various Linux-y things that woudl bog down your normal Windows box, such as an ssh server.

    Folks can argue “Well, sure, those are running, but there’s a zillion other background tasks that Windows runs”. THis isn’t about the count of tasks or anything. This is about memory footprint. I’m still running far more useable, active, decent apps than any Windows platform uses, and I’m nowhere near hitting memory limits. The swap space I’m using is for apps that have basically been ‘checked out’ now (for instance, I’m not having folks ssh in right now, but the service is running), and since they’re not being asked to swap back in, they’re not affecting performance.

  6. Windows ssh servers also swap out just fine.
    Look, Windows NT, 2000, and XP pro are real operating systems. The problem, not just with memory footprint but also with viruses and so on, are the apps, especially Outlook Express but also regular Outlook and Internet Explorer. Bash on those all you want, but do your homework before you bash on the OS.

  7. There is no comparison between the two. XP is just plain worthless.
    On my Fedora server (1022 MHz) I have 1GB of RAM, non-ECC.
    I am running the following deamons:
    1. Apache (web)
    2. MySQL (database)
    3. Samba (file sharing)
    4. ftp server
    5. DNS server
    6. Print server
    7. Mail server including POP, IMAP and their secure versions
    On top of that, this machine is my workstation as well. X server is always on and various applications are started.
    Fedora has excellent memory management system. After 22 days of uptime since last kernel update, I am barely over 500MB in memory usage. Swap is sitting at 0!
    The biggest memory hog for me is DNS. Each DNS query that ANY of my clients on the internal network goes through this machine.
    If this was an XP box or even a 2000 Server, it would have crashed by now!

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