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Development mindset? Features VS Performance/Stability


martijnsx
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As a long time licensed Launchbox / Bigbox user i want to give you my thougths....

Maybe i am to critical but i think it is beneficial for developers and all users to have this discussion. 

I love Lauchbox / Bigbox however....    There are some serious performance and stability issues.

 

Last week i have been doing fresh installs on my 2 cabinets with a lot of problems. One was with a fresh windows 10 install and one was with a half year old windows 10 install. 

First the performance. It is really really bad right now (12.6). As mentioned in other posts sometimes the menu's react very slow. Seems the longer you run launchbox the worse it gets. As i read in another post there is a 12.7 beta that sort of improves the problem. The word "improve" in the post triggered my attention. Sometimes the menu hangs for 10 seconds. This is not an improvement but a bug. I have also seen for years now that graphics load very slow in big box when you enter a large system like mame. If you scroll to the letter S for example the wheel art loads very slow. Sometimes it takes a couple of seconds to load the wheel art and sometimes it takes 10 seconds or more. I have never seen this poor performance on other front ends. It is not that i have seen this once. Have seen it over the years on many installs. 

Second the stability. I have seen different stability issues over the years. Now with my 2 installs i encountered:

  • A couple of system freezes. On both cabinets.
  • I have also seen that when launchbox is downloading media and you close launchbox it should resume downloading after you restart it. Most of the times this works. Not always however.
  • I also notice that after importing games downloading media is a hit or miss now. 
  • Some other problems that i have forgotten :(

 

My PCs should be more enough to run a graphical front end:

CPU >> Benchmark score of around 5000 on passmark

GPU >> GTX 950

RAM >> 8 GB 

 

My thoughts. It feels to me like the development of Launchbox is heavily skewed towards developing extra features instead of focus on performance and stability. It feels like we are building the fifth roof on top of a house where the foundation is crackling. 

Maybe the developers can send out a poll to all users and check if more people experience this. They can ask where the focus should be on the coming year, on Features or Performance/Stability? 

I am not a coder but the performance of other front ends suggests that better performance should be possible. A raspberry pi can run a decent front end like ES.

Maybe the coding is done in a language/environment that asks for too many system resources? Maybe Launchbox itself is too complex? I do not know. 

Maybe it is a good time to make a fresh start? Maybe not. When you do I would choose the most efficient coding environment and i would start with basic features everyone needs. What is the most important? Add that and make the core stable with high performance. Evaluate what is not important and can be left away. I can think of a few important basic core things to focus on like:

  • Importing systems/rom sets 
  • Automatic downloading of media/videos
  • Settings up the emulators
  •  

Sorry again for the critical message...... I love LB/BB for the easy of use and active development. I hope we can add performance and stability in the near future!

 

 

 

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Regarding performance issues in big box, I think the biggest issue is around scaling all of the images that your theme loads.  For me, it’s night and day with images on an SSD and having images cached.  Couple questions for you regarding your experience in big box:

- what theme(s) are you using? 
- have you looked at the image cache options in big box?  
- what kind of disk drive do you have your launch box images on?


 

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Hi Fry,

Thank you for your reply.

I use the Unified Redux theme. I want to be as close to the hyperspin feel as possible. I loved hyperspin but the bugs, the complexity and the non existing development drove me away. 

I have not looked at the image cache options. What are the options? I assumed that Launchbox came with the best performance options enabeled with a new install.

I used to have all the media on an SSD but since they are 256GB SSDs and windows is also on the SDDs and the disk space on it became to small i had to put the media on a mechanical drive. I know, not the best option. Performance on the SSD was better but i remember that wheel art did not load instandly.

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8 minutes ago, martijnsx said:

I have not looked at the image cache options. What are the options? I assumed that Launchbox came with the best performance options enabeled with a new install.

 

In BigBox....>Options >Image Cache. If you run the image cache for all your images and let it finish generating the full cache this helps speed things up. It is not the end all to issues users may have, but it helps BB run smoother once the cache is built.

Our two devs do constantly develop for performance, in fact the latest beta has more improvements. LB/BB are WPF programs and therefore put a lot of data into memory, so the more RAM you have the better. 4GB is not recommended, so 8GB should be enough to run smoothly. With 8GB though I would say use less transition heavy themes. If you use the Default theme I would recommend reducing some of the theme transitions if you are having issues. These are located in the >Options >Transitions setting in BB.

You can read some information on performance from one of our devs here.

 

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inb4'd :)

Scaling 100s and 1000s of images from the original source image size to the size that they will display on the screen is a lot of processing for a computer.  To improve performance in BigBox, images are cached at the exact size that they will display in your theme. You can see the image cache in this folder:

..\LaunchBox\Images\Cache-BB

It takes a lot of processing to generate the image cache.  Once the image cache is generated, then images no longer need to be scaled and can be loaded much faster from the cache.  So if you start with a fresh install and no image cache then you will certainly feel it as you scroll through large libraries of games until the image cache is created for all of them.  Rather than manually scroll through every game to generate the cache, there are these options to ask BigBox to force populate them.  Depending on how big your library is, these can take more or less time.  Go click on each one of them and wait for them all to finish.  Once they are done, see if your performance improves

 

image.thumb.png.be82c16fe190620391b9361b1083629c.png

Edited by Fry
inb4'd :)
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Well, definitely some very good suggestion to do the image cache thing. I do not remember but is this instruction given during a fresh install of LB? Maybe i clicked it away and did not read it.... if not shown maybe a good instruction upon installing why you should do it and how will help a lot of users.

Will give it a try now! Thanx!!

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Image cache is on by default and because of your limited RAM amount your cache image size is already reduced some to compensate. That being said by default images aren't cached until they need to be (meaning the first time you need to see them). This DOES cause some delay in the first load because we load the image, then save a cached image (reduced sized image that is faster to read) and then load the image. You can skip the extra steps by Force populating your cache but this DOES take some time so you'd want to do it overnight.

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I have cached all images and i think it is actually the caching itself when you first go around all systems that is causing the very unresponsive experience.... This is somewhat counter intuitive since you expect a very fast and clean system after you install launchbox for the first time.

It gets a lot better when all images are cached. However, it still do not find it very snappy after all is cached. I took a better look on my system specs and the arcade cabinet on the second floor has only 4 GB of ram. So combined with a mechanical drive that may not be the best setup. I looked for additinonal RAM but since it is an old setup and the mainboard manual states it is almost a requirement to place identical RAM modules it becomes more expensive than i want to upgrade the RAM. 

Maybe a SSD 1TB for launchbox and the media is an option in the future when prices do drop a little.  

Thank you all for your help!

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