I'd heard of Linux before, and had even installed in on an old machine. But when I booted into it, I ended up with a command prompt that wouldn't take any of my old DOS commands. I gave up on it. Recently though, I'd heard some good things about Ubuntu and decided to try it out. Ultimately, I wondered if it would help with my fractal rendering by eliminating a lot of the bloat-ware in memory that is commonly called Windows. I have to say that I was a pretty shocked at the outcome.
I downloaded a free copy of the latest version of Ubuntu and burned it on a CD. When I booted to it, I was fairly surprised at how intuitive the graphic interface was. At that point, I decided it was worth installing it on my laptop in a dual-boot mode so that I could choose to boot into Windows or Ubuntu. After shrinking my primary partition and installing Ubuntu on the leftover space, I looked in the software repository and told it to install Wine (a program that allows you to run Windows applications), browsed to my Windows folder for Apophysis, and was pleasantly surprised again at the fact that it ran right away. The initial launch time was a tad bit longer, but it ran like a charm. The big test came when I loaded up a flame and told it to render. In native Windows Vista, the most memory I could squeeze out of my 1GB of RAM for a render was 490MB. Usually though, I have some other processes running and the figure is about 350MB. When I loaded the same flame up in Apophysis running on Ubuntu though, I had 765MB free...and that is with a chat application and Gmail alert program running in my system tray as well.
What this means is that when I render my fractals in a large resolution for sale on ShutterStock (submit.shutterstock.com/?ref=1…), I rarely have to resort to multiple strips. This saves a tremendous amount of time. I haven't actually run any speed tests, but I would not be surprised if the rendering time was faster as well.
Anyway, the bottom line is that if you have a couple gig of free hard drive space and only a gig (or less) of RAM, you should probably check out Ubuntu. It's free, and the hour or two that it takes you to set it up could very well be recouped by the time savings in your first renders. The whole process of downloading the Ubuntu CD, re-partitioning my hard drive, and installing Ubuntu and Wine only took about 45 minutes. The total cost, including time, was 45 minutes. Definitely fit my budget.
If anyone wants more detailed step-by-step instructions on what went into this, let me know.
PS. I just hit a milestone on ShutterStock (submit.shutterstock.com/?ref=1…). In my first 21 days, I've sold over 200 images and am guaranteed a first check of at least $75. I'm thrilled! If you haven't checked out ShutterStock (submit.shutterstock.com/?ref=1…), you should. It is free for artists/photographers to join, they'll take just about anything that is categorized properly and isn't noisy, and the earnings add up fairly quickly.