I have an on and off (mainly off) love affair with Linux. I’ve been using it on a sparse basis for years, whilst using the most recent version of Windows for my day-to-day stuff.
Now, some of you may or may not know, that in my day job I’m an IT Analyst/Engineer. I do a variety of tasks within this role:
- User support via phone/email-based service desk
- Training (I’m a qualified IT Tutor)
- Server Support
- Software deployment & maintenance
- Hardware deployment & maintenance/repair
- Windows OS mobile phone & Surface support
- And basically anything else that comes up…
So needless to say I’m a bit of a geek, both personally and professionally…
However Linux is something that has been a consistent pain to get working over the years. That said, it’s definitely a situation that has been improving, albeit slowly, over the years.
At least nowadays installing nvidia drivers in linux doesn’t involve having to dig into the guts of the OS and edit xorg.conf files and bollocks like that.
Linux Mint has been my distro of choice over the past couple of years, as it works better than most other distros I’ve used.
Mint in particular works pretty much out of the box. There is very little that needs to be done once it’s installed, other than run updates and make sure the programs you want are installed properly.
For those that don’t know, or are unfamiliar with Linux and how it works, there are many different “flavours” of Linux available.
Some, like Ubuntu and Mint are specifically targeted at Windows users who want something different, right through to the other end of the spectrum, where you have distros like Arch, which are highly technical and should only be used by seasoned Linux users & pros.
Mint is a “fork” of Ubuntu, or rather it uses Ubuntu “under the hood” while presenting a very different desktop experience to the user. A few years ago, Ubuntu’s makers decided to take the user interface in a direction similar to that taken by Microsoft with Windows 8.0 – a desktop seemingly designed for touch devices, even on a bog standard PC with a keyboard and mouse.
The creators of Mint decided that they liked the Ubuntu OS/Distro, but felt, like many others, that the direction Ubuntu were taking the desktop experience in was wrong, and decided to create a version, or a fork, of the Ubuntu OS with a more traditional, start menu/button like environment.
Rosy? Not quite…
However, there are still some egregious issues with Linux, and it’s still far too easy to completely break your entire PC and your ability to even boot it into either Linux or Windows, if like me you’ve decided to play it safe (hah!) and dual-boot.
For example, I tried to install a new desktop environment called Gnome into Mint, and even though I did everything perfectly fine, and did exactly what I was meant to, it somehow managed to break the entire machine so badly that it managed to lose the boot settings. This meant it couldn’t find the configuration file (a thing Linux uses called GRUB) it needed to boot up, and as a result I was left with a machine that wouldn’t load either Windows or Linux.
So after an hour or so trying to fix it by hand, manually typing commands into the only thing I was able to get, a command prompt named Grub Rescue, I decided to boot up a live copy of Mint via a USB stick and use the above named utility to repair the damage that had been wrought.
And lo, everything was fixed once more and off we went again, this time a bit more cautiously and staying well the fuck away from Gnome!
So once it was back up and running, it was time to set about customising and trying out some games…
So using a windows emulation program named Wine, I’ve managed to get the Battle.net client installed, and got WoW downloaded and installed too.
WoW’s performance is nowhere near as good as it is on Windows, obviously, but it’s good enough that if I’m in Linux I can log on and check my garrison missions, or maybe jump on the AH, pick up mail and so on.
It’s certainly not anywhere near good enough to raid or even do any sort of group content like 5 mans.
Perhaps it just needs a bit more tweaking done, we’ll see.
Steam on the other hand doesn’t seem too bad. I’ve something silly like 680 games in my Steam account, and just over 200 of those have native Linux binaries, and are directly usable in Linux without having to go through Wine.
This includes even modern games, like Pillars of Eternity, Divinity: Original Sin (Enhanced edition), and even the likes of X-Com 2!
Of course big strides have been made in this area in recent years, particularly by Valve, as they’ve created their own distro of Linux, named SteamOS. This stemmed from Gabe Newell’s dislike of where Microsoft were trying to take the PC desktop environment with Windows 8.
This all stemmed back to when rumours were still flying round about the intention of MS to lock the OS to only be able to install programs from the Windows store, and trying to lock the entire PC hardware to only be able to boot into Windows via TPM and Secure Boot.
Of course none of those things ever came to pass, but Valve have carried on developing SteamOS, building it into their branded PC hardware OEM lines, called Steam Machines, which are essentially linux powered PC based games machines for the living room.
I’ve yet to try installing any Steam games, as last night was all about battling with Battle.net via Wine (spoiler: it’s not a flawless experience!) and getting various other programs installed, like Chrome and Spotify.
Steam games will be tonight’s experiment, so I’ll make a post over the next few days letting you know how I got on with those, and how well they perform in comparison to Windows.
I’m hoping the native Linux games in Steam are a damn sight better performing than WoW is, given the lack of Wine emulation to suck performance out of it.
I’m glad though Steam & Valve are pushing to get more games compatible with Linux, as otherwise, this would be the sort of “quality” gaming experience you’d be subject to…