Posted by: duskfire | August 30, 2014

Gaming on Linux 2014 – Part Two

I’ve been slacking off, sorry!

 

 

I figure I should put up a quick post to get back into the habit. I’ve been running Mint 17 (KDE edition) on my main laptop as soon as it was released. I haven’t had any serious issues so far. There’s occasional loss of my wireless connection, but that seems to be a kernel problem, and either jumping to the latest kernel or waiting a while and attempting to reconnect have solved the problem every time.

For some reason, the 13.1.2 version of Crossover Linux will not install due to unknown dependencies missing. It was fine on Mint 16. Thanks to PlayOnLinux, this hasn’t been a terrible problem, but I should get back to figuring out how to install it soon.

I used this article  to install the most recent version of PlayonLinux (4.2.4) from their PPA. The exact commands might not work if you’re reading this months after August 2014.

At the moment, I have the following games installed and running fine:

Diablo 2, Banished, Baldur’s Gate, Master of Orion 1 and 2, Torchlight, and Darklands.

I had a few other old games too, but uninstalled them because I wasn’t playing them very much. I can tell you that nearly every game from GOG.com has an install script in PlayOnLinux and they work fine. I also recently put Steam for Linux back on the laptop, to play Crusader Kings or Civilization V when I get around to re-installing them.

There are native games in the repositories that I either haven’t tried at all yet (e.g. 7 Kingdoms: Ancient Adversaries) or haven’t checked out in several years. I’ll have to create a schedule so I have a good list of games to blog about.

I also have been playing a lot of Nethack (pretty much just the Nethack4 variant), and some Angband and Sil (an Angband variant).

What all of this means is, that from a practical point of view, I can already play so many great games that I enjoy, that it really does not bother me that there are other newer games that don’t run well on Linux yet. Nobody has the time to play everything, after all.

Posted by: duskfire | June 2, 2014

Update on Linux Mint 17

I actually think I have overcome the issue that I was having with losing wifi connection!

Earlier I had considered installing an older kernel (the 3.11 series that is in LMDE seemed a good bet), but I ended up installing the latest one instead. My problems with losing wifi were with 3.13.0-24, and I found out in the Update Manager that 3.13.0-27 was available. I installed it, rebooted, and that was last night. Haven’t lost connection over a 6 hour period.

So last night I installed TERA Online (using Crossover Linux instead of PlayonLinux). I am going to try it on Crossover because it really lagged on PoL and I want to see if there is a difference. I also added PlayOnLinux and DBGL to the mix, since I can use Mint 17 once again. Also, looks like I could be writing a review for Mint 17 after all.

Of course, right now I only have about 350 GB available on each system. I only installed LMDE alongside Mint 17 in order to have a Mint that could stay connected. LMDE is a decent distro but I much prefer using the main edition.

One of the other things I was doing today was once again trying to decide what distributions I wanted to review. I’m slightly astonished to see that there a few that are available only in a 64-bit edition! Sabayon, for instance, as well as Chakra and KaOS, 2 pure KDE distros.

What I think I may do now is install one of them to replace LMDE so that I can review it. I already wrote down which partitions on my /dev/sda drive are dedicated to LMDE and its swap, so if I replace it I will know where to target on the drive.

Posted by: duskfire | June 1, 2014

A First Look at Pinguy Linux

While I was awaiting the final release of Linux Mint 17, I decided to start looking at several other distributions that I had not given much thought to before. The first one on my list was Pinguy Linux. Pinguy is based on Ubuntu, with a lot of customization. When I first installed Pinguy I was pretty impressed with what I saw. In fact, I was wondering whether it could possibly replace my beloved Linux Mint as my standard distribution. The short answer: not yet. Why not? Read on.

For some reason, the developers only term the LTS releases as Full, while ones released in between are called Beta (even when they are based upon a Ubuntu regular release). I used Pinguy 14.04 on my older Gateway M460 laptop that has 2 GB of RAM and an integrated video card.

Installation

Pinguy uses the Ubiquity installer from Ubuntu. Installation was quite easy, but I doubt you will need to check the box for 3rd party media, they get installed anyway much like Linux Mint. This is the most recent version of Ubiquity, including support for LVM and encryption should you desire. Your password does get a strength check, and you do not need to re-enter your wireless password when you first boot up.

Features

Pinguy Linux uses a customized GNOME 3 desktop with added Docky, the whisker menu up at the top left, and Conky ready to go. The applications you find in Docky are Firefox, Thunderbird, Xchat, Clementine (music player), VLC (media player), Synaptic package manager, a tweak tool, and the Terminal. Along the top left are the main menu and the currently open program. Over to the right you find GNOME Do, Variety (wallpaper manager), the software updater, the calendar/clock, wireless and volume settings, and finally the control to log out or shutdown the system. Moving the mouse along the left edge of the screen reveals several folders, as seen here:

Workspace 1_004

This is a very convenient way to get to the most used directories in your system, and it stays hidden when not needed. This seems to be a change from previous editions. Also, if you press the Windows/Tux key, the main GNOME grid of applications is accessible. Empathy, Shotwell, LibreOffice Writer, Gnome help, and Firefox are easily started with the left side dock.

Variety, a desktop background switcher, seems to be a very convenient method to really avoid boring wallpaper. It downloads a bunch every so often and changes them out every 10 minutes, or less frequently if you change a setting.

Conky is set up for you, and the control for it is found in the “Other” menu category.

However, much as I like many of the features that distinguish Pinguy from most other Ubuntu based distros, there are a few issues that I have, one being the dealbreaker. I don’t think that installing 15 extensions into Firefox is good at all. You can notice 4 of them right on the toolbar when Firefox opens.

Add-ons Manager - Mozilla Firefox

There’s also a number of minor but puzzling questions I have – why is Synaptic on the Dock rather than Ubuntu Software Center? Why isn’t the Software Center listed in one of the main categories? What’s UNetbootin doing there – sure it’s useful, but really, how often does someone create bootable disks? Why is there a distinction between “Other” and “Sundry” and couldn’t some of the latter go into “Acessories” ? Why are there 2 different Tweak tools?

Software

Most of the software installed is great for the typical user, even some less well known ones such as Calibre and Handbrake.

Here’s the menu list:

Accessories: Backups, Contacts, Files, Gedit, GNOME Do, Image Viewer, Shutter, Variety

Games: PlayOnLinux, Steam

Graphics: ebook viewer, image viewer, LO Draw, LRF viewer, Pinta, Rapid Photo Downloader, Shotwell, simple scan

Internet: Deluge, Dropbox, Empathy, Firefox, Remmina (remote desktop control), Skype, Steam, Teamviewer 9, Thunderbird, Xchat.

Office: Calibre, an ebook reader, Libre Office (full suite), wxBanker, Finance Manager

Other: Conky (controls), google2ubuntu, g2u manager, personal file sharing, Plex home theater, Plex manager

Science: LibreOffice Math

Sound/Video: Arista transcoder, Brasero, Clementine, DeVeDe, Filebot, gtkpod, Handbrake, Openshot, Spotify, Videos (a video player), and VLC

Sundry: dconf editor, icedtea controls, main menu

System settings: 20 different controls

The other thing which I wasn’t happy to see was the number of installed applications that don’t appear in any of the regular menu categories – if you don’t hit “all applications” or the GNOME grid, you might not realize just how many you have. Some examples are Onboard, Archive Manager, BleachBit, the calculator, Remastersys, and the Ubuntu Software Center, Also, some of the specialized programs have their own PPA added to the repositories – which some users might not appreciate, although it didn’t bother me as much as the numerous extensions in Firefox did.

Software_sources

Printer support seems excellent:

Workspace 1_006

The default movie player, Videos, detected and auto-ran my DVD of Robocop with no issues. I am glad that VLC is also included as an alternative.

Gaming

It is awesome that Pinguy comes with both Steam and PlayOnLinux ready to go right after installation. The lack of any other games, especially casual ones, is a little puzzling but not a dealbreaker. The music player Clementine comes pre-equipped with access to over 15 online music sources (as long as you have an account), such as Grooveshark, last.fm, Spotify, Jamendo, and Soundcloud.

Luckily this distro not only has the wealth of the Ubuntu repositories to draw on, it includes Playdeb as well, for extra gaming goodness.

Help and Support

Pinguy has a support forum where you can get questions answered. Also, the GNOME Help documentation is available from the menu.

Likes

- a very pretty and distinctive distribution. The wallpapers are unique and there’s even a utility (Variety) to help you manage them.

- Lots of useful programs installed for you out of the box

- my wireless printer was found and added easily

- the touchpad controls are simple and it is easy to turn off

Dislikes

- WAY too many extensions in Firefox

- I’m not totally comfortable with the number of PPAs added to repository sources by default

- quite a few programs that aren’t properly added into the appropriate menu categories

- wireless cut out a few times during a week of use (not sure if this is my laptop, but it’s never happened with any other distro)

Final Thoughts

At first, Pinguy looked like it might come close to replacing Linux Mint as my favorite Linux distribution. But after the initial pleasure of seeing how much stuff comes with it, I found a number of minor issues and one major problem. I could have overlooked 2 or 3 extensions installed in Firefox; at least one other distro does the same thing. But 15 is simply too much. They introduce too many 3rd party updates and possible bugs into the most-used application in the whole operating system.

The menu also seems incomplete – some entries ought to be in different sections, while several programs aren’t in the main menu at all.

Overall, I feel that this distribution, though very good, still needs some final polish.

Posted by: duskfire | May 31, 2014

Now using LMDE 201403

So this morning I downloaded the brand new Linux Mint 17 and eagerly installed it over the old Mint 16 KDE (after making backups of course). Unfortunately, it turns out that as I feared, Mint 17 has the same issue as Ubuntu and Kubuntu 14.04 do – my Realtek wireless card, an rtl8188ee, has an unreliable driver. After about 15 or 20 minutes of activity – or sometimes much less – the connection gets dropped and refuses to come back. I’ve tried a couple of suggestion from the forums, including using “sudo modprobe” with my card model, but to no avail. The kernel for Linux Mint 17 is 3.13.0-24-generic. I suppose one solution is to install an older kernel and always use it, but I haven’t decided if that’s what I’m going to do. I was hoping there would be some kind of firmware fix soon.

In the meantime, I have decided to dual-boot my computer. I shrank the partition and created a new 348 GB one, onto which I installed LMDE 201403.After installing LMDE, I had to return to Mint 17 and update the GRUB entries so it would “see” and list the Debian partition.  The kernel version for this is 3.11.2-amd64. I don’t have any problems staying connected to the internet on this version.

This edition of LMDE uses Cinnamon as the desktop, version 2.0 (the new version is 2.2). Firefox starts at version 27 but can be updated to the most current one. I installed Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup (version 13),  Code::Blocks (12.11),  and a few more casual games. I also grabbed DBGL to use DOSbox, and will compile Nethack4 to play. Haven’t decided whether to review LMDE just yet.

Posted by: duskfire | May 28, 2014

Plans for June

I am working on a review of the latest Pinguy OS, a Linux distro that I haven’t taken a look at before. Planning to put that post up on Sunday.  My main project for this coming weekend is to install Linux Mint 17 onto this main laptop – assuming that it gets released on schedule.  This is an HP Pavilion 17 from last year, with 700 GB hard disk, 8 GB of RAM, and an ATI Radeon 8650G graphics card. That’s not the very best, but certainly respectable, and it hasn’t had any problem playing the games I love.

I will make sure my bookmarks and important files are backed up this time, of course. I also need to have information on overcoming a potential wireless issue, just in case it crops up again – When I initially installed Ubuntu 14.04 on this machine, the wireless connection kept dropping after periods of 10 to 15 minutes of use. Then, when I tried Kubuntu, the same problem re-appeared. Now, I can’t be certain that it will show up after installing Linux Mint, but it is best to be prepared.

Linux Mint 17 is an LTS release, and they plan to support it for 5 years. This is great news – there are a few long-term projects that I’d like to work on, and keeping the same OS around for a long time is a necessity to get them done. One such project is a second attempt to learn Linux From Scratch. Awhile back, I had put up two posts about my work with LFS, but unfortunately abandoned the project way too early.

There’s also my plans to review and compare the current releases of FPS games for Linux, as well as other games native to Linux.

 

I have been using Oracle’s Virtualbox to get an idea of what various Linux distros look and feel like, in order to decide which ones I should install onto my older laptop for review. I was surprised to find that, at least for the 64-bit version of VB, PCLinuxOS and Slackel seem to boot up, but then fail to display. Could be a problem with VB and a pae setting, but I’ll have to do more research to be certain.

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