Linux or Windows

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I saw many videos promising 10%, 20%, 50% (blender) or even 100% performance improvement [www.youtube.com] when using linux in comparison with windows. So I decided to give it a try and tested, often just quickly, several distros - Rocky, Alma, Fedora, Ubuntu, POP on 7950x and RTX4090

Here is my experience but note that I am linux noob...

Most user friendly distros and best overall: 1. POP, 2. Ubuntu
Fastest distro Ubuntu 23.04
Best RPM distro Fedora 39

Here are the problems. GNOME - coming from windows I don't understand the concept of switching between apps where whole screen just changes with super button and I need to find the window I am looking for. Something you probably get used to over time or you use keyboard shortcuts.

Window scaling - you can set monitor scaling to 100% or 200%. 100 is tiny, 200 is huge on my monitor. You can enable fractional scaling but there are many downsides to that like more power consumption and significantly slower responsiveness [wiki.archlinux.org]. Some apps on linux feel pixelated while on Windows they are all crystal sharp.

Image preview. In Windows I use FastPictureViewer where I can scroll through dozens of 8k textures or 150MB HDRI images in a second. On linux the Gnome Viewer and other software I tried are just so slow. EXR is not supported by default.

Houdini performance. Out of everything I tried Windows 11 felt best. It just worked and felt really snappy. Windows was on par or comparable with all linux distros but often better, for instance rendering on Arnold on GPU. Linux sometimes lagged a little. Even placing nodes sometimes had a little lag. Automatic placing nodes with shift+enter sometimes worked on linux sometimes it didn't. Particle simulation was faster on Windows. Even if linux was 10-20% faster on linux which felt it is not, you easily lose that time just googling for answers, installing, writing commands into terminal which you don't understand and then fixing things that broke.

Apps. Linux has a promise of freedom and open source. There are RPM and there are DEB apps. VFX Platform [drive.google.com] strongly recommends to use RPM distros Alma and Rocky. But some apps (Plasticity.xyz and many others) will only work on deb distros. Even converting with Alien doesn't work. So you have to choose distro and give up some of the apps you were used to using. Moreover many apps won't work on linux at all like all Adobe apps, Cinema 4D. How is this freedom? On windows you can use any app you want including open source ones. I assume that quite a few people who use linux need dual boot into windows which again causes just additional problems with managing files, various software issues and decreased productivity.

What makes you use linux? Let me know, I am really trying hard to love the linux but so far I don't see many good reasons to switch.
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What makes you use linux? Let me know, I am really trying hard to love the linux but so far I don't see many good reasons to switch.

Don't switch - use both for where their 'strength' suits your needs.
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gunjack
What makes you use linux? Let me know, I am really trying hard to love the linux but so far I don't see many good reasons to switch.

Don't switch - use both for where their 'strength' suits your needs.

I get the sense that a large reason for linux usage is system administration, so in large studios the operating systems, libraries, software and permissions of individual workers can be managed in, maybe, a more programmatic and efficient manner. I am a one person operation but I just switched from windows to alma 9.2 and I think it's delightful, but it certainly does require you to rethink how you approach the idea of a "pc". I have a variety of reasons, but if you don't see the reason to switch, there is no reason to. Windows is a perfectly good solution.
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I run a few systems in my home lab were my main is a dual-boot with Pop!_OS and Windows 10. All I can say is: a Linux system is about setting up your ideal experience, and that doesn't come for free. You need to learn a lot of new stuff and possibly program or script your own solutions, if you are willing to do that, you can end up with an amazing computing experience. However, it doesn't come by default, whereas Windows is more of an out-of-the-box working environment, which seems to be what you are looking for, no fault in that.

I think the only thing Linux will give you by default is better resource management and headaches, the rest you need to work for it and I say this not exactly happy about it but that's just is what it is.

Regarding some of your points:

- Fractional scaling is something that I miss, but upping the font's size was enough for me for now.

- In Windows, you use a custom program to read your EXRs, why not do the same in Linux? I use Xnview, works great, there is also DJV, chaos player and mrviewer2 just to name a few.

- About Houdini, I can only speak about stability and between my colleagues I'm the only one not having any memory crashes, other type of crashes I have those like everyone else. Windows will always feel snappier but that doesn't mean better performance, if you compare a heavy sim, a heavy render, a heavy project 1 to 1 between systems my bet is Linux will Sim, Render and Load faster.

-"Linux has a promise of freedom and open source" the fact is: Linux is free and open source, if that doesn't translate into something good for me then that's too bad, not Linux's fault.

- Whatever the VFX platform says you need to remember that big studios usually have a team of people just to setup systems, and that's what those distros excel at, I would love to have a tech that sets up everything for me but too bad I don't have it, no problem at all using Ubuntu, Pop or any distro that's easy to setup but not recommended. Plasticity runs just fine in POP, along with Fusion and Resolve.

Answering your last question:
What makes you use Linux?

I really enjoy the customization, the lack of nonsensical letters for drives, faster load up times, having control over updates and not having an ad in the start menu, among many others.

Either way is not a Binary choice, customize your experience to tailor your needs.
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Usually Houdini is faster on Linux, especially renders, at least in my tests, also Linux is more secure, no viruses to speak of, I also like the way it handles updates, and you get a very nifty software manager that allows you to install tons of software from the same place, and the list goes on, on the minus side there are many pieces of software that don't work under Linux, like the Adobe suite, it all come down to preferences IMHO!
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It is not a religion if you know what I mean.

I taught Linux systems for 8 years. Linux systems are mostly used for servers and they can scale easily, and be highly customized.

Although the learning prerequisites has diminished thanks to such efforts using Linux will most likely require some technical interest.

If you use Linux as a workstation you are probably interested in using text commands when needed or have IT support for that.

Windows and Mac has its issues and so does Linux. They have different target groups.
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Here are the problems. GNOME - coming from windows I don't understand the concept of switching between apps where whole screen just changes with super button and I need to find the window I am looking for. Something you probably get used to over time or you use keyboard shortcuts.

That's the beauty of Linux, you don't have to use GNOME. I personally dont like it as well so I use XFCE.
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Desktop Environment
There are many desktop environments (DE) for GNU/Linux, so you're not limited to GNOME, which personally I avoid due to strange decisions that its developers have undertaken. I recommend XFCE, which I find the most reasonable of all DEs. You can also ditch desktop environment completely and just use one of the many extremely lightweight window managers, but these require some degree of manual configuration and existing GNU/Linux knowledge to tailor them to one's liking. But once they're set up, they shine.

Fractional Scaling
Fractional scaling is not a trivial feature [mail.gnome.org] to implement and therefore there still might be some problems with it. To get it working flawlessly is one of the priorities of the GNU/Linux community, so things can only get better in this department. And until they do, I suggest reading HiDPI section [wiki.archlinux.org] of the ArchWiki, which should help you to configure your desktop with HiDPI monitors in mind.

Image Viewers for 32-bit HDR Images
Image viewers like tevand HDRView, for instance, allow for rapid scrolling through sets of 32-bit floating point images. Of course images are preloaded into VRAM first, so a fast SSD and vast amount of VRAM is required. Otherwise, you risk slow disk read times or choking up memory of the graphics card.

24 GB of VRAM available in RTX 4090 which you own will allow you to store slightly above two dozens (29) of 8192x4096 floating point OpenEXR pictures directly in VRAM. Once VRAM fills up, the program will again need to pull the data from storage memory. I don't think it's different on Windows, so I understand that "dozens of 8k textures of 150 MB HDRI" was a hyperbole.

There are probably plenty of other fast image viewers with HDR and EXR support for GNU/Linux. Gnome Viewer you speak of is unsuitable for any production work. Treat it more like a basic image viewer for home use, but even for this purpose I find other programs much better (like fehto name one). However, neither Gnome Viewer nor fehsupport OpenEXR format at this point of time. Which reminds me to make appropriate feature requests.

OpenEXR
You're mentioning that OpenEXR is not available "by default". What "default"? Perhaps you mean the default state of the system right after installation? This depends on how you install the system and which part of the installation you consider to be that point. Personally, I treat manual installation of additional packages after the installer finishes its job to also be a part of the installation process. Anyway, the reason of absence of OpenEXR support in standard type of GNU/Linux installation is simple: very few people outside our niche have a need for this format.

On GNU/Linux OpenEXR is available through libopenexrpackage, at least on Debian. In other distributions the library might have the same or it may vary slightly. Usually, when you have at least one program supporting OpenEXR installed on your system using your distro's package manager, appropriate dependencies are pulled as well (in this case libopenexr). If there are no such programs, dependencies become redundant and will be scheduled for on-demand removal.

Programs installed from other sources than the main repository might come bundled with their own "local" OpenEXR library version, or will have this library listed as a requirement that needs to be satisfied manually by the user. The latter is usually the case when you need to compile software from source (in which case a dev version of the libopenexrpackage might be required). Some external programs may use proprietary OpenEXR libraries. Avoid them.

Performance
On performance. I have the opposite experience. Any machine I have installed GNU/Linux on got a significant perceivable overall boost in performance and resource allocation. There were even times when it felt like I had bought a brand-new computer. So you can imagine why I have never looked back on Windows. Computing power and I/O operations are always utilized for the task I want them to be utilized for. There is no "background noise" like you have on Windows, where your system is constantly doing something and you can't tell what it actually does. Here you always know what task your resources are used on at any given moment. I'd say, you can almost feel that they're not wasted on some bull crap.

In my experience, performance in Houdini is better than it was on Windows. I didn't do any benchmarks, but I could feel the difference. Everything is snappy, so no complaints. Occasionally there are some minor problems related to some aspects of Qt interface, but I think they will be resolved once Houdini moves to a newer Qt version.

But, you need to be aware of one thing. In case of GNU/Linux --- hardware matters. And what I mean by this is that you need to be very careful of what you buy. You need to make sure that components of your system are supported by the Linux kernel, or at least have proprietary firmware binary blobs available in your distribution's repositories. While Linux kernel supports most hardware out-of-the-box, you may occasionally stumble upon something that works only partially or doesn't work at all. This is especially the case with obscure products. If you consider your system sluggish, you may have a missing driver, or are you can be using a libre driver that wasn't fully reverse-engineered yet. Or your GNU/Linux installation is misconfigured in some way. You may want to verify all this. Check system logs for information about missing firmware or for any other errors and warnings.

Lastly, looking for answers is not a wasted time, because you always learn something in the process. Besides, on GNU/Linux you can solve problems relatively quickly by reading the logs and looking for an answer, while Windows gives very vague information on what the culprit of the issue may be. I always found Windows extremely user unfriendly in this regard.

Linux Console
Terminal, or Linux console to be precise, is one of the main reasons I switched to GNU/Linux. It's so overpowered that it literally turns the whole operating system into one giant IDE, which raises productivity of any task --- from simple home use, to programming, CGI and science. Windows can't compare to it by any stretch of imagination. And never will, even with WSL.

Distributions and Software Availability
Speaking from my own experience, it doesn't matter much what kind of distro you choose. The only thing that matters is if it comes with library versions matching requirements of the (ahem) proprietary software you wish to use, or if paid support addresses issues only on selected GNU/Linux distributions.

Regarding alien, so far it never failed me, but of course I always did the opposite conversions (rpmto deb), so I can't tell much about your particular case.

By the way, I think you're misunderstanding the word "freedom" used in the "free software" context. Freedom is about "user freedom", not freedom of choice (although in some way it's the result of having user freedom). Please read https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html [www.gnu.org] and watch at least several lectures by Richard M. Stallman to understand what "free software" actually stands for.

The example of Adobe or Maxon's Cinema 4D misses the point. It's not the free software community that is to blame for the lack of GNU/Linux versions of Adobe's and Maxon's proprietary programs, but those corporations themselves. Free software community can do nothing about it. If you wish Adobe software to be ported to GNU/Linux, you can join the discussion on their corporate community forum, but your voice is guaranteed to be ignored.

Fortunately Substance Painter and Designer still do have GNU/Linux versions and that's all I care for when it comes to their products. Their other software has either good to excellent replacements, which are free or proprietary programs, like GIMP/Krita, Inkscape, Darktable, Fusion, DaVinci Resolve, 3D Coat, etc. or can be run in Wine (like ZBrush).

Dual Booting
Regarding dual booting, I think it's counterproductive and relatively unsafe, but that's my own subjective opinion. There are probably as many people who are satisfied with their dual boot setup, as there are those cursing it after having their bootloader botched by a Windows update.

In dual boot setups data exchange can be solved by sharing a disk partition formatted to file system readable by both operating systems, though Windows support of different file systems is extremely narrow. I believe ext4is supported by WSL, so this could be the optimal choice because of its reliability and resistance to fragmentation.

I'm a person who believes that jumping into deep water brings more incentive to learn how to swim than gradually walking into the sea. Metaphorically speaking. We humans almost always choose the path of least resistance, so dual booting might be a temptation to default to Windows if even the slightest problem with GNU/Linux occurs. I think the best way of learning GNU/Linux is to run it for some time on a frequently used separate computer, like a home laptop. This gives plenty of time to familiarize oneself with operating system's intricacies, learn how to look for help, and how to solve common problems.

If you absolutely require some software that is available only for Windows, then running Windows in a Virtual Machine, like qemu, with a dedicated video card in passthrough mode might be more convenient and is definitely safer that using a dual boot configuration. The performance should be identical to running Windows outside the VM, although this setup is more costly, because it requires a second GPU.

Summa Summarum
What makes me use GNU/Linux? Before I made a switch, I've been testing GNU/Linux for about a year on a pair of laptops I used for home tasks and entertainment, but also to test out programs that I use in my work. The list below contains several of my observations which turned into main reasons for me to migrate to this operating system.
  • Richard Matthew Stallman.
  • Free (libre) operating system.
  • Huge software base, comprised predominantly of libre programs (or on some distributions, like Trisquel or Parabola, even exclusively).
  • No spyware, adware, advertisements, backdoors, or any other anti-features. And if they are spotted, they can be cut out from the source code either by you or the community.
  • Privacy friendly.
  • Not owned by corporations. They do fund kernel development to a large degree, but because of the GNU GPL 2.0 license that the kernel uses, it can be forked into a new project if things start to go in the wrong direction.
  • Much better resource allocation than Windows, which translates directly into better overall performance.
  • Software repositories maintained by trustworthy people.
  • Software installation done with package manager, instead of by downloading some random binaries from the Internet and wishing for the best.
  • Uninstalled software is truly uninstalled (ergo: there remains no residue in the form of files).
  • Plenty of small programs that "do one thing well" which can be piped together to do complex things.
  • Linux console.
  • Modularity, customizability.
  • If configured properly, stable and secure to the point of boredom.
  • Mostly POSIX-compliant.
  • Filesystem Hierarchy Standard and XDG Base Directory Specification which clearly define where each file should go. On Windows, it's a mess.
  • Configuration based on text files instead of on a central registry. So called "dotfiles" are great.
  • Supports a plethora of robust file systems.
  • Uses reliable open standards pretty much for everything.
  • Easy, robust and quick upgrade system.
  • Thanks to detailed logs it's very easy to solve problems when they occur.
  • Great documentation for pretty much every program, available through man-pages.
  • The whole operating system can be easily moved to another computer. Impossible on Windows.
  • Fantastic and knowledgeable community always open to questions and serving with good advice.

After spending a year with GNU/Linux on my laptops, I knew my way around enough to solve most problems that may occur. So I installed Debian on an external HDD plugged into my workstation, in order to see if there would be no problems with the hardware. After an uneventful month, during which I barely used Windows, I fully migrated and never looked back ever since. Now all my computers and computers of my closest family are running it.

So this was my rationale, plus advice on how to do the switch pretty much painlessly. Note that if you have never had any prior contact with GNU/Linux, the switch will not be an overnight process, so some time investment is required, It helps a lot if you have a friend who knows his way around this operating system.

Oh boy, that was a lot of text to type. Maybe you'll find it useful, maybe not, but there you go.
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Oh boy, that was a lot of text to type. Maybe you'll find it useful, maybe not, but there you go.

Thanks for taking the time. I'm still dual booting because I can't get Houdini to start on MX Linux (the newest Debian 12 version). Support told me to install the newest Nvidia drivers. My distro is still on the 525 driver, anything newer I have to install manually, which I'm not really excited about. Everything else I need is working flawless and I don't have too much time on my hand right now to tinker with my system...

So what are you looking in a Distro as a Houdini user? And if you're using Nvidia, which driver are you using?
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I like aptpackage manager, so my choice had to be a distribution from Debian family. I tried a couple of Debian based distributions, like Mint (LMDE) or Ubuntu, but because there was always something I didn't like, I ultimately decided to settle down with their mother --- Debian itself. Mostly because of DFSG [www.debian.org], point releases, the fact that it's purely community-driven, has a large software base and also a large user base (if you also count in its child distributions) so it's always easy to find help. Also, the fact that Debian's former project leader Bruce Perens worked for Pixar brings in some additional spice to the mix.

Usually I'm on Debian Testing, which has newer package versions than Stable, but recently I decided to stay with the latter for a bit. At this point the newest nvidia-driverversions for Debian are [tracker.debian.org]:
  • 525.125.06-1-deb12u1 for Stable (used by MX Linux),
  • 525.125.06-2 for Testing and Sid (a.k.a. Unstable),
  • 530.41.03-3 for Experimental.

Version 525.x is sufficient [www.sidefx.com] to run Houdini, so there might be a different culprit of your problem. Maybe try running Houdini from shell and see what it complains about.
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Maybe try running Houdini from shell and see what it complains about.

Thank you, that solved my problem It complained about not finding an OpenCL Platorm.

No OpenCL platform has the specified device type (HOUDINI_OCL_DEVICETYPE): GPU.
Falling back to built-in CPU OpenCL driver (see HOUDINI_USE_HFS_OCL)


With this message I found this thread [www.sidefx.com]

I just had to put HOUDINI_USE_HFS_OCL=0 in my houdini.env file
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Having used many different OS and Linux (professionally and privately) I’ll just give an advice that can keep you happier.

There is a system backup tool called Timeshift. It supports both graphical and text interface.

What it can do is automatically store your system setup incrementally. If you happen to mess up something by mistake and don’t have time to find or wait for an answer you can just go back to the latest working state.

As you get more experience withusing Linux you might more seldom need such a thing. However as an artist it can be frustrating if something just goes wrong because a small mistake. If nothing bad happens you still have an increased sense of security.

Also I think it should not backup user files, because that should be done separately. You want to be able to restore a system without touching user files.

Cheers!
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It looks more to me that problem you are running into is that you first need to use Linux and then do another review.
Linux is not Windows
I was hearing that a lot when I started my switch. Problem is that I only understood it no w once I learned some of Linux and how actually to use it
It is rather complex and someone gave huge wall of text that put everything rather well.
Shot version. I had my own fights when switching, you run into issue and start asking yourself why do I need all this suffering at all?
Well I can give some of my things that I found better on Linux now.
One of the big ones is control. My computers are mine, I can install what I want and can update or not when I wont and I'm not feeling like being a product and targeted with all sort of ad s when I use MY system. Can't even remember how many times I removed that sugar.... something that retarded game, or how many times I've run into rebooted system when I wanted ti to keep rendering. So you install windows and then you need 3rd party programs and settings to make it actually do what you need it to do at the first place? Talk about what OS is more complex
All in all ton of frustrations with Windows, performance is big one, I see twice as fast loading scenes in maya compared to windows for example and t matters,. Some projects also rendering with Redshift I see between 10% to even up to 100% speed difference, no kidding... It was no brainier really to get all my machines to Linux, using Nobara here btw. Still have an windows install on one machine for dual boot for some things that are lacking on Linux and that is one big con of Linux but still easily manageable.
At the end... Linux is not Windows, don;t expect to work same way and once you click with it it will make sense.
Sorrt of honestly like with Houdini. It is completely different way of working compared to other 3D apps, and make a bit of a strugle if you are switching from Maya or Max to Houdini.. but once you click.. it all feels so natural and better
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Interesting thread - I started using pop os a few years back and working houdini and nuke in pop os is fantastic - snappy / stable / amazing use of resources - no issues at all

Yes you need to learn some Linux tricks - but nothing compared to actually learning houdini


Pop os is super simple

And you can set up your own shell environments based on projects etc

Linux is awesome
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Thanks for all the replies! Those were very helpful. I actually switched to POP OS and I didn't need to boot to Windows for a few weeks now. Slightly more complicated setup but once it's done it's rock solid and definitely faster than Windows.

QIMGV is pretty nice tool for previewing textures since it preloads them into memory. I often need to look for roughness, bumps and HDR maps.

The only minor thing is that I wasn't able to solve how to generate thumbnails for .hdr image files in GNOME. This works out of the box in KDE but GNOME probably needs some additional library or tool to be installed.
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Linux Mint here, dead simple to use, and you can setup your interface pretty much the way you like, XnViewMP is a pretty decent image viewer, it has its own file manager that can generate thumbs of EXR and HDR files.

Attachments:
XnViewMP screengrab.jpg (94.9 KB)

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Sometimes Windows sim crashed with no reason, but Linux was very stable with same setting via Deadline(mixed OS environment). That was big deal for me to stay on Linux.
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