Posted by: duskfire | March 12, 2016

First-Person Shooters on Linux, Part 1

This is the first of three posts discussing the current state of first-person shooter games that run on Linux. I have found at least 12 games that are FPS-only (as opposed to a hybrid). Here is the list of the games I intend to look at during the series:

Assault Cube, Open Arena, Nexuiz Classic, Sauerbraten, Red Eclipse, Warsow, Tremulous, Alien Arena, Wolfenstein Enemy Territory, Xonotic, Smokin’ Guns, World of Padman, Urban Terror, and possibly True Combat: Elite.

Nearly all of these games let you choose between full screen or window mode, however they do capture your mouse during play.

In this first article, I will be looking at the games that can be found in the Debian, Ubuntu, or Linux Mint repositories – specifically, the games Assault Cube,  Open Arena, Nexuiz, Sauerbraten, and Red Eclipse.

Assault Cube

Website: http://assault.cubers.net/

Assault Cube is based on the original Cube engine, not the Cube2 one that a few others are using. It is a fairly small download compared to most other games, weighing in at under 60 MB. The environments and weapons you use are pretty realistic.  The most recent version is 1.2.02 (released in November of 2013) but the repositories are still using version 1.1. Single player mode provides 26 maps, but they are fairly small and feel claustrophobic to me. The graphics quality, window size, and many other settings can be adjusted. There are sound effects, but no music. In singleplayer mode you can choose from 2 to 32 “bots” to simulate a multiplayer game, and select how good they are, to adjust the difficulty.  You cannot play multiplayer using the old version, for that you will have to download and install the most recent version. Once you do, there are 12 game modes available to you. Many more maps can also be installed.

In addition to letting you download the most current version, the website also has a wiki, the community forums, and documentation. The wiki seems quite complete, and has German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and other translations available. The forums have recent activity.

Assault Cube is not available in the Fedora or RPMFusion  repositories, nor is it at the PlayDeb website.

Assault-cube

(More pictures can be found at the AC website)

Open Arena

Website:  http://www.openarena.ws/smfnews.php

OpenArena is basically a clone of Quake 3 and uses the ioquake3 fork of the “id tech 3” engine. It is open source and cross platform. There are a lot of different game types to choose from. The version in the repositories is 0.8.8-9, which looks to be the same as the one you can obtain at their website. This version was released in February of 2012, and the website mentions that a 3.0 version is currently being worked on with lots of improvements. No release date is listed, but definitely something to keep an eye on!

I really enjoy this particular  game. The maps are very large and expansive, and you have “tricks” like certain platforms that throw you into the air. The guns and overall appearance are more futuristic than realistic. Open Arena takes up about 450 MB on my hard drive.

Open Arena has an active community with forums, a wiki, and a game manual.

Open Arena can also be found in the Fedora repositories.

OpenArena1.png

Nexuiz

Website:  http://www.alientrap.org/games/nexuiz

The “Nexuiz” you find in the repositories is usually referred to as “Nexuiz Classic”, and is staying at version 2.5.2. What happened is that in 2010, one of the founders made a deal with a game company called Illfonic and they created a closed-source paid-for version of this game (released in 2012 for Xbox, PSN, and Steam). A lot of bad feelings resulted from this in the community. The game engine was changed for the commercial release, and the original game was forked into a new one called Xonotic, which I will discuss later. (It looks like the commercial version is no longer being developed and I don’t see it in the Steam store.) The singleplayer mode of Classic is more of a tutorial, with only 2 sections and a 3rd not released. The multiplayer mode offers a lot of servers, and there is music as well. The full game took up about 890 MB on my hard drive.

For me, the graphics and controls are quite good, but since Xonotic is a very active fork with a lot of support, I doubt I will be playing Nexuiz Classic much at all. The gameplay and mechanics also feel like Open Arena. If you had a lot of fun with it back in the days when it was truly one of the hottest FPS games on Linux, you might enjoy it more than I do.

Quitting the game is a bit hard to figure out in windowed mode because the Quit button at the bottom right (along with the Credits) does not reposition itself properly when you aren’t full-screen, making it hard to see.

I cannot find any official forums or wiki for Nexuiz Classic.

Nexuiz Classic can also be found in the Fedora repositories.

NexuizC.png

Sauerbraten

Website:  http://sauerbraten.org/

Sauerbraten is one of many games based on the Cube2 graphics engine. The latest version of the game (“Collect” edition) came out in January of 2013, and can be downloaded from the main website. The version in the Debian/Ubuntu repositories looks to be the same one.

There are 4 “campaigns” (i.e. single-player games), which seem fairly fun, although the usual “kill all enemies to open some new area” tends to be the rule. Backtracking is also something you’d need to get used to.

Sauerbraten has a FAQ page, a community forum, a wiki, and links to developer home pages, along with links to extra maps and a league homepage.

Sauerbraten can also be found in the Fedora repositories.

Sauerbraten-campaign.png

(single-player campaign, near the beginning)

Sauerbraten-multi.png

multi-player Sauerbraten

Red Eclipse

Website:  http://redeclipse.net/

Red Eclipse is the other game using the Cube2 graphics engine that is in the repositories. One of the main differences from Sauerbraten is that in Red Eclipse you have clips for the guns, and can reload.

Unfortunately, similar to Assault Cube, the version in the repositories is 1.4, which is old enough that you cannot play multi-player, only single player. The most recent edition is 1.5.3, “Aurora” and was released in July of 2015. It can be downloaded from the project’s website. After you have downloaded it, extract it, find the directory, and run “redeclipse.sh” either from command line or by double-clicking. Be patient, it takes several seconds to start up.

Red Eclipse not only lets you pick your avatar, you can customize it with a crown, top hat, horns, many many other vanity items, and you can color portions of it. The community forums appear to be quite active, and there is a wiki page, a FAQ page, a “how to install” page, and a guide (manual?).

Red Eclipse doesn’t appear in the Fedora or RPMFusion repositories.

redeclipse-multi.png

I spent an hour or two with each game, and the two I like the most out of these five are Red Eclipse and Open Arena. I will keep them on my hard drive for awhile. Next time I will be looking at 4 further games in this genre, Warsow, Xonotic, World of Padman, and Tremulous.

Posted by: duskfire | March 8, 2016

Review plans for lightweight distros

April is coming up soon. In the Linux community these days, the end of April in even-numbered years means that Ubuntu Linux will release what is called an “LTS” version of their operating system.  LTS stands for Long Term Support, and unlike the other twice-yearly Ubuntu releases, the latest edition of Ubuntu will be supported for five years, as opposed to nine months for the three editions that are released in between.

I have been looking at various 32-bit distributions of Linux to see how to fit reviews in over the coming months. There are several which are based upon the Ubuntu LTS with some changes. Therefore, I’ve decided to put off reviewing them until after they release a new edition. These include Bodhi Linux, elementary Linux, Linux Lite, Neptune, and possibly one or two others. I think it wouldn’t be fair to look at a release that will be obsolete in 3 or 4 months. I also want to review the new edition of Lubuntu or Xubuntu. I looked at Xubuntu 2 years ago, but have never tried Lubuntu.

This plan still leaves me with at least eight distributions that I can review between now and May. Possible candidates include antiX, SparkyLinux, ROSA, Parsix, Zorin, Makulu, Simplicity, and a few others.

I also will fill in additional posts by covering Linux games on my primary laptop. I intend to start off with a series that looks at the current state of native Linux FPS games. I last discussed them over five years ago, very briefly, and haven’t really looked at them since. I’m talking about games such as Open Arena, Sauerbraten, Red Eclipse, Warsow, Xonotic, and others. They are fast-moving shooters that are multiplayer action-fests.

Posted by: duskfire | March 6, 2016

Korora 23 Xfce review

I’m going to start off my 2016 review season by taking a look at the latest edition of Korora Linux, which became available on February 3, 2016. I am using an old Gateway M460 laptop for this review, with 2 GB of RAM and an Intel Mobile 915GM card. This is a review of the 32-bit edition of Korora 23 Xfce edition.

Korora is heavily based on Fedora Linux, but it adds in useful packages that Fedora is not allowed to ship. I haven’t done a review of Korora in over 2 years, since the Korora 19 edition. I chose the Xfce edition because of the age of my laptop and the limited amount of RAM it can use.

Installation

Korora uses the Anaconda installer, the same as Fedora. It works all right, but I still prefer a more linear way of installing the operating system. Installation went smoothly as usual. Korora expects you to pick a root password and then a user, who can be assigned Administrator powers. There’s a strength check on the passwords, which is always nice.

Features and Software

Korora displays 2 virtual desktops by default. The top bar has the main menu on left, then at the right are icons for displaying & controlling volume, network, battery, time, and username (logout/shutdown).

In the Xfce edition, there is a left hand vertical panel that slides out when you hover along it, with 10 icons at the start, to let you open various programs. You start with Firefox, Thunderbird, Pidgin, VLC, a terminal, the file manager, a search tool, Settings manager, the File manager, and the Trash directory.You can remove or add additional applications to this shortcut panel as you wish.

Korora uses icons from the Numix project by default. I haven’t seen them in other distros, but they are simple and attractive.

The indicator icons on the right side of the top menu bar are always white – which means that many themes will make them very hard to see until you hover over them.

desktop

Korora installs a pretty good selection of software – not everything, but plenty to get you started. They no longer install Adobe Flash by default, due to their concerns over continued security problems in Flash, but it’s available thanks to the RPMFusion repositories which are part of Korora’s list of software sources.

Here’s a list of the software you start out with:

Accessories – 14 apps, including a virtual keyboard, calculator, text editor (Mousepad), CD/DVD burner

Administration – 11, including SELinux (if you installed it), a firewall, printer setup, Samba, and package installer (Yum Extender DNF).

Documentation – about Xfce and apps, includes a link to their online help.

Graphics – 7 including GIMP,  Inkscape, LibreOffice Draw, the pdf viewer Evince, and Shotwell

internet – 6 including Transmission, Firefox, Thunderbird, Liferea, and Pidgin.

Multimedia – 11 including CD player Audacious, Audacity, VLC, Handbrake, and a CD/DVD burner

Office – 10 including 4 LibreOffice applications, Evince, and the Xfce Orage Calendar.

Settings – over 20 tools to help you customize and adjust the appearance of your desktop.

System – 13 including Thunar file manager, a live USB Creator, and a bulk file renaming tool.

For playing CDs, I liked using Audacious. It plays the CD easily, and the volume can be changed with the mouse wheel. I usually use VLC, but in Korora it doesn’t show the title and song names by default like Audacious does. I am not sure how to fix that.

Audacious.png

DVD playing – It seems to be fine using VLC. Here’s an early scene from the movie The Hunger Games Part 2, Catching Fire:

VLC-Catching_Fire

Firefox has the extensions Hello, Pocket, and uBlock installed by default. It also has a few bookmarks that are Fedora (carried over from using the Fedora installer) – it would be nice to have some direct links to Korora support and community.

There are no games installed initially. It would be nice if a couple of them could be included but it’s not a serious omission.

To add or remove, or just update software, Korora uses Fedora’s Yum Extender. It could use a quick tutorial and maybe a facelift. Having to mouse over small icons to see which one you wish to use is a minor annoyance. There’s no obvious way to see what kind of updates you are getting – bugfixes, software improvement, or security patches. This definitely isn’t Korora’s fault, but I hope that Fedora puts some major effort into making this tool more easy to use and somewhat less plain-looking.

The side panel you see below can be toggled on or off (to view groups of software).

YumExt.png

My HP Photosmart printer was detected automatically; adding it was an easy process with no need to search a list. That’s always a major plus in my review criteria.

Games

Since Korora adds the RPMFusion repositories to the ones already provided by Fedora, there’s a decent selection of good games available for you to waste time….err I mean enjoy playing.

PysolFC (a set of solitaire card games) didn’t want to run after I installed it, due to some bug. This is most likely from Fedora, but it means that the only way to have a casual solitaire game is to pull in some KDE libraries in order to play KPat (unless you are using the KDE edition of Korora). For some reason, the “aisleriot” solitaire game cannot be found at all, even from the RPMFusion list. Most other casual games are available, however.
Aisleriot is, in fact, available in the repositories if you search.

[Correction 3/7: The only reason I didn’t see “aisleriot” was that I had only looked in the Games and Entertainment Group. I mistakenly assumed that it was assigned appropriately. When I enabled all packages and searched for it, it showed up. Under the “updates” repo for some reason. So I  guess the lesson is, if you know the name of the package, search with “all packages” enabled, not just the Group you think it belongs to.]

Help and Support

Korora has a forum page, Engage, for people to ask questions and get help, and a Documentation page full of guides, one of which is a video showing how installation is done.

Likes

— Lots of software programs installed out of the box.

— Good default choices.

Dislikes

— Could use a bit more Korora branding, especially bookmarks.

Final Thoughts

I actually really like Korora Linux. I haven’t had any troubles with it, and it does a great job of adding extra value to Fedora. This is definitely one spinoff distribution that refutes the notion that we have too many choices. I will definitely consider reviewing the KDE desktop edition of 24 when that is released.

One word of caution: Unless you have experience using SELinux, do NOT select it during installation. I made that mistake and regretted it all week. SELinux is a powerful and complicated tool that will frustrate you to no end if you don’t know how to properly turn it off. For a home environment, I really don’t think you need to install it.
(I am no longer sure that the issue I was having is due to SELinux, so I removed this caution.)

UPDATE on 3/7:

In an effort to figure out the issue i was having with logging in, I installed Korora MATE edition. Things seem to work with it, and I actually did see the aisleriot card game in the repos. What I will do next is to re-install the Xfce edition and hopefully I will find out whether my laptop is cooperating this time. Korora is a very good edition and I want to make sure that any problems I mention are real issues, and not due to the old laptop.

Posted by: duskfire | February 28, 2016

Adjustments to my reviewing plans

I just discarded a draft of a review I started for Korora 23. NOT because I don’t want to review Korora Linux – it looks like a fine system – but because it was the KDE version…which on my very old laptop is not doing well (Plasma 5 is the issue, not Korora itself.).

I have reluctantly come to realize that the Gateway on which I have been doing reviews for some time…is no longer suitable to review GNOME or KDE based distributions. It has only 2 GB of RAM and is over 8 years old. It still runs fine, but honestly, no one with a laptop that old ought to be using KDE or GNOME as their day-to-day desktop environment.

In light of this, I am revising the list I made of Linux distributions that I was planning to review. At some point in the future I will partition my primary laptop and review some 64-bit distributions, with either KDE or GNOME as the desktop, but all future reviews on the Gateway (which have to be 32-bit editions anyway!) will be of Linux distributions that offer a lightweight option as the primary desktop, or one of the main choices to install. These would include Xfce, LXDE, OpenBox, Enlightenment, or MATE.

My immediate plan is to re-install Korora using the Xfce edition and do a review that hopefully will be ready by next week. Then I will schedule reviews of some more distributions; some may be well known and some will be relatively unknown. This is a good thing:) Everyone does reviews of the popular distros – Manjaro, Fedora, Ubuntu, Mint, Debian  – but what about Lubuntu, elementary, Salix, or ArchBang?

I hope to provide many useful reviews of lightweight distributions over the next year or so.

Posted by: duskfire | February 26, 2016

Security issues, Linux Mint, and switching distros

I recently switched back to using Linux Mint (17.3 KDE) after over a year using Windows 10. I am used to this particular Linux distribution and have strongly preferred it ever since I began using it back in 2008. I am not a power user, but also not a total newcomer to using Linux. I am 51 and have been using Linux for about 14 years now. Recent events involving Mint have prompted me to think about why I use it, about some of the criticism it has gotten, and whether or not it is time to move on to a different Linux distribution full-time at home.

Short answer: Not yet. But it’s something I will consider carefully for the future.

Last Saturday (2/20/16) the website at Linux Mint was hacked and the download page for the default installation ISO was redirected to point to a malicious specially crafted ISO that included a backdoor. This has been fixed (initially by taking down the page), but meanwhile it turned out that the forum’s database had also been stolen at some point in January and fairly substantial private information from users was obtained (and later apparently offered for sale.) My installation was on February 2nd, so I am fine (and I use KDE, which wasn’t even the edition the crackers had changed). The forum password (for me only) was just a long complex one that Mint had sent me as a reset from a year ago, which I never changed. So I got really lucky – I don’t have to change any other passwords because that one was unique to the Mint forums.

Since this attack, I have read quite a few opinions about Linux Mint. As is so often the case with popular things, there seems to be a lot of heat but not a whole lot of light on the question of “Is Linux Mint still a trustworthy distro?”

As I see it, there are three issues here, only two of which are related.

  1. Whether people ought to move away from LM because of the security breach/poor security practices
  2.  Whether people ought to move away from LM because the crew are few in number and have become overwhelmed.
  3.  Whether people ought to move away from LM because the distro devs make technical choices that are poor compared to other distros (outdated kernel, holding back crucial updates, etc)

Taking these one at a time… I think it is still too early to decide whether Linux Mint is no longer trustworthy. They have changed their forum db, they were open about the details of the breaches as soon as they happened, and it remains to be seen if the developers will get overwhelmed.

I also think people need to keep something in mind – breaches do happen. I do not want to minimize the impact at all, but this is hardly the first time a Linux distro has been directly attacked by crackers. Way back in 2003, Debian suffered a breach of their servers. In 2008 and again in 2011, Fedora also suffered some kind of breach. And as recently as 2013, less than 3 years ago, Ubuntu’s forums were hacked into and over 1.5 million user accounts and passwords were exposed. As far as I know, no one is currently saying they no longer use Ubuntu, or Fedora, because of past successful breaches. So I’m willing to give Linux Mint, Clem Lefebvre, and the other developers the benefit of the doubt when it comes to learning this lesson, strengthening their security, and keeping their site software patched properly.

During the last few days, I have also seen references to Linux Mint being a hobbyist distro and implying or stating that its popularity has grown way beyond the devs’ ability to keep it maintained adequately. In my view, when you look at the list at Distrowatch, the overwhelming majority of distros can be referred to as “hobbyist”, including several in the “top 20” of the page hit ranking list. Again, I think it is too early to be sure that the developers of Mint are overwhelmed. Most people who use Mint seem pretty happy, and personally I have not had any issues with it either. Mint has always focused on what is best for their users, and I admire that.

The last point, technical decisions made by the devs, does have some measure of validity. There are certain practices that Linux Mint does that a few people say are bad decisions from a technical point of view. Personally, I either am not bothered by them or have found workarounds past them. The benefits I get by using Linux Mint, together with its stability and lack of issues (for me, on my laptop), combine to make it feel that changing distros would be counter-productive at this time. However, some of the arguments – the ones that refrain from juvenile potshots at Mint – sound like valid concerns and I would be foolish to ignore them.

If I were to change, though, I’d do a fair amount of research. I would prefer to use a distribution that uses the KDE desktop, with a decent sized repository. The concerns over proper security and other issues would apply equally to any new choice. Fedora, Xubuntu, Mageia, or Debian would be among the handful at the top of any list of new day to day Linux distribution, but that would also be after checking to ensure that the KDE or Xfce desktop version was getting adequate attention from the official core community and not just an afterthought. I have tried several distributions who use GNOME 3 and it just is not suited for the way I tend to use my computer. The same goes for Unity – I know a lot of people like it, but I do not.

To summarize, the breach at Linux Mint has hopefully gotten the developers there to be even more security-minded than before. It has again shown the wisdom of not using the same password on multiple sites. And perhaps I am not the only person using Linux who would benefit from taking a more thorough look at exactly why I have chosen the particular flavor of Linux that I use every day. Switching to a new one is not something I’d advise doing lightly for anyone, if the one you use is serving you well.

I also promise that if I do switch away from Linux Mint, I’ll explain the factors that went into my decision and what I like about my new choice for a day to day distribution.

 

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