First of all, I'm no techie but I'm conversant with the basics. I'm new to this board as well as lots of other things cyber. New computer, new OS (jumped to Me from 3.1), and CFS2, my first sim in years - first ever for Windows. I've been browsing this board for a couple of days and have been most impressed by the enthusiasm and expertise I've seen even though there are occasional differences of opinion <cough>.
I'm running CFS2 at 1024x768x32 with pretty much everything except anti-aliasing turned up and it blows me away! I have no complaints about frame rate but I do experience the stutter that others have complained about. It isn't horrible, occuring mostly at the beginning of a flight and when approaching/shooting down the enemy the first time but it's an annoyance that I'd like to eliminate given what I've just spent on my first new computer in ages. And I haven't moved beyond flight lessons and quick combat so I don't know how bad the problem might be in more complex scenarios.
I've convinced myself that the stutter isn't related to sound probs; turning sound off doesn't change things that I can notice and I've tried most of the suggestions I've seen about changing sound settings. So, I think the sound card is doing its job. Also, increasing the scenery cache and turning the auto LOD off seem to have no effect.
The stutter does occur when the drive is chugging away. My machine falls in the category mentioned in the Microsoft statement someone posted on one of the boards about probs with a speedy processor and 'only' 128M; that CFS2 might think there's more RAM installed and try to access it. It would make sense that the program insists on accessing virtual memory on disk thinking it's hard RAM - instead of using the physical RAM most efficiently. And the result is the stuttering as the program coughs while slowing to access data that should be available directly from memory. This might also explain why things smooth out during a flight; frequently accessed data is moved into hard memory and only occasional new info results in stutter.
Curiously, I've run the system monitor and it almost ALWAYS shows less than 10MB of physical ram unused, even right after booting the system! When I'm running CFS2, unused physical RAM averages less than 2MB with dips to nearly 0 and occasional spikes as high as 30MB (the only time I've ever seen values that high) while the swapfile size stabilizes around 180MB. (When I'm doing undemanding stuff, the swapfile hovers around 90MB.) None of the posts I've seen so far mention seeing such values for unused physical memory. I've installed nothing that should hog RAM at startup and the computer runs just fine with the half dozen applications I've tried so far - even CFS2, beautiful and smooth (when it's not stuttering) with marvelous stereo sound.
Given what the MS note said and what I've read here, it seems likely that another 128MB of RAM would eliminate the prob but I went for the Rambus stuff so that ain't in the budget for the near future. So, if I'm right that the problem is related to virtual memory, I'd like some advice on how I might minimize the difficulty. With Windows 3.1, the logical solution was to establish a permanent swapfile, ensuring that it used contiguous sectors on a defragged disk. But I'm not at all clear how Me uses virtual memory. Some texts I've looked at suggest the OS really knows best and there's nothing to be gained by setting swapfile size manually. Plus there doesn't seem to be any setting to make the file permanent so it would appear that Me uses whatever sectors it finds convenient at any given point whether it's managing the swapfile or if the size has been fixed by the user. It's not obvious to me if there's a way to insure it's permanent and contiguous. When I run defrag, I see large blocks of sectors and several smaller blocks scattered around the disk marked 'not to be moved'. Lacking a more sophisticated disk inspection tool, I suspect that might be the current swapfile. I can't figure any scale on the defrag display so I suppose they could be unmoveable OS files but they look too big for that. I haven't tried a fixed swapfile size to see if it helps the stutter; when I set one up, Windows gave me a dire warning about possibly not being able to restart the system so I decided to bail out until I've got more info.
I'm enjoying CFS2 very much and have picked up lots of great tips from this board; I'm not going to obsess about the stutter but it would be great if someone could point me to a fix that doesn't involve more RAM.
New thought; is there any chance DirectX 8 would help? Maybe solve the 'addressing too much RAM' prob in the CFS2 code? I'm reluctant to upgrade without good reason since I'm just getting familiar with my new system and the MS site says you can't uninstall DirectX without redoing the whole shebang.
I've written enough; don't wanna wear out my welcome!
Dell Dimension XPS PIII 866 with 128MB RDRAM
40GB Ultra ATA Hard Drive (ATA-66)
NVidia GeForce2 GTS 64MB (Detonator3 installed)
Turtle Beach Santa Cruz Sound Card (drivers current)
Oh... and a Thrustmaster FCS! Was nice to see this classic listed in Windows Me setup. I plan to invest in a new stick, HOTAS, pedals, etc. after some more research.