linux

Steam for Linux thoughts

I am a long-time Linux user and avid gamer who has always been excited about the prospect of gaming on Linux. I setup various games in wine, applied patched, maintained a game on WineHQ, tried out the Linux version of games like Unreal 2004 and humble indie bundle games, etc. When the first rumors about Valve possibly porting Steam to Linux started to spread a couple of years ago I couldn't wait. Fast forward and now Steam for Linux is a reality. Obviously, I have been playing with Steam on Linux and various games from my collection that are available for Linux. I noticed a couple of nice differences when gaming on Linux and figured it was worth writing up my overall thoughts.

Steam for Linux

No more repetitive installation

Unlike Windows where you are greeted with the installing DirectX dialog over and over Steam on Linux simply starts the game. It isn't that big of a deal for typical Linux applications since package managers remove the need for silly installation wizards, but it is one of the small things that just feels smoother.

Full-screen window focus

One of the more annoying aspects of using full-screen applications on Windows with multiple monitors is that although I can see the applications on the other screens while playing the game I am forced to completely minimize the game in order to use any other applications. Most of the time I usually have other persistent applications such as Skype open while playing games and it is somewhat annoying to switch back and forth. World of Warcraft seemed to get around this with a full-screen windowed mode that removed the window decoration and made it the size of the screen (thus looking the same as full-screen) without entering full-screen mode. This meant you could switch much more quickly and without loosing the game window. Being able to keep an eye on the game while doing something outside is handy and this is the norm in my experience with full-screen applications on Linux.

Valve listening to community

Valve created a GitHub repo for the purpose of tracking issues on with Steam on Linux and has done an excellent job reading through, managing, responding, and actually fixing the issues presented. Valve even worked on an agreeable license that allowed for distributions to package Steam. I filed a few issues myself and was impressed with the prompt responses from Valve employees and see things get fixed.

Drivers

A big pain point in the Linux world has been video drivers. When I originally started using Linux the proprietary drivers were pretty much the only way to go. During my initial days of Linux I used an Nvidia card and the proprietary drivers provided by Nvidia were not bad, but were definitely nothing like the Windows drivers. Various activities would result in unpleasant behavior and slowness. I later purchased an ATI card and with the open source drivers really coming into their own I started using them. Although the OSS drivers (both radeon [ati] and nouveau [nvidia]) worked great for 2D they had little to no support for 3D). I would argue that both the OSS drivers perform much better then their proprietary counterparts for general desktop use.

With the advent of Steam for Linux I figured it was worth trying out the latest ATI drivers with my Radeon HD 7970 and put them through their paces. I was quite hopefully with the posts from Valve stating they got better performance then Windows with the Nvidia drivers and seemed to be working to get the drivers improved. The latest driver release from ATI has a specific note about a fix for Big Picture mode in Steam.

[370839]: Resolves a sporadic Steam Big Picture mode crashing issue encountered with AMD Radeon™ HD 7000, 6000 Series

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the drivers worked quite well and a number of my prior complaints were no longer an issue. The drivers are still not perfect, but they perform quite well. WebGL demos run beautifully and the games I have tried from Steam work extremely well. I was even able to max the settings for Trine 2 for a beautiful result.

Closing thoughts

It will be interesting to see how Valve's move plays out for the future of the Linux desktop and gaming. I can only image what being able to profile things through the Linux kernel source will allow game developers in terms of tuned and determining issues. There will obviously be holdouts and what not, but without gaming holding people back from a purely superficial view Linux costs nothing and can browse the web just fine...what more do 99% of Windows users need? Of course who doesn't love wobbly Steam? I am definitely looking forward to see improved driver quality and with the continued rise of HTML5 there being less and less platform specific development.

For those interested I am running on openSUSE 12.2 (tumbleweed). For easy installation just visit software.opensuse.org and search for steam.

openSUSE 11.0 Released!

The latests and greatest version of openSUSE has been released. I have been waiting for SUSE 11.0 for some time and will be upgrading immediately. I have already backed up my system and have begun downloading the 64 bit DVD via torrent.

This release has been praised as the Mercedes-Benz of Linux. The release has lots of updated programs, new features, and performance upgrades.

A good article can be found at one of my favorite blogs.

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Kopete for Google Talk

Due to Google Talk's lack of support for Linux or Mac users are forced to use the gmail AJAX interface or the flash gadget. Personally I don't like having them open in my browser and neither of them have the capabilities of an application.

So I decided to see if it was possible to setup Kopete, a common Linux chat program, to work with Google Talk. As I found out it was very simple.

This article describes how to set it up.

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The K in KDE

This was an interesting tidbit that showed up in the hints on login to SUSE.

The K in KDE does not stand for anything. It is the character that comes before L in the Latin alphabet, which stands for Linux. It was chosen because KDE runs on many types of UNIX (and perfectly well on FreeBSD).

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SUSE Build Search

SUSE now offers a web search that allows you to find programs and their respective repositories. The one-click install will be implemented in SUSE 10.3, although there are ways to make it work in SUSE 10.2.

I use the search tool to find the repositories that I need for the specific programs I want. Once you find what you are looking for simple on the link in the upper right of each search result. This will take you to the address of that repository.

For example if you search for eclipse the link in the upper right is Java:addon/openSUSE_10.2. After you click the link it will take you to the following url: http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/Java:/addon/openSUSE_10.2/.

You can then use the url to add a source to YaST. For instruction please see Adding YaST Installation Sources.

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Internet Radio

I enjoy Internet radio through Amarok. Instead of picking songs off the web, cds, etc. a playlist will be sent to you and the music streamed to your computer.

To use Amarok to listen to Internet radio simply open Ameriok. Alt+F2 then type amarok. (or in the menus under Multimedia->Audio Player->Amarok or just Multimedia->Amarok) After Amarok loads select Playlists from the left tabs, then drop down Radio Streams.

You can add your own or look at the Cool-Streams that come with Amarok. Simply select one of the streams by double clicking it. The playlist will download and then you can choose one of the streams to listen to.

SUSE Installation Thoughts

Partitions

It is a good idea to partition your drive into a main partition for applications and system stuff, home driver, and swap partition. By doing this you will be able to re-install SUSE without touching your personal files.

A swap partition is used when your computer runs our of memory then it can use the hard driver space for extra memory. I usually do a gig swap partition.

Turn off ZMD

I have found that there is really no way to remove ZMD after installing SUSE. You can disable ZMD, but there isn't any real way to un-install it.

My recommendation is to never install it. When installing SUSE simple click the software link when that screen is available and set Enterprise Software Management (ZENworks Linux Management) to Taboo by right clicking and selecting Taboo.

If you have already installed SUSE and just want to disable it please try Improving Yast Software Management.

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Installing KDevelop

Recently I have begun work in C++ and decided I wanted the most up to date version of KDevelop. So I looked in YAST but it wasn't the newest. The easiest way to get and maintain up to date version is to add a source containing KDevelop to YAST.

Add the following source to YaST. If you are new to adding installation sources please refer to Adding YaST Installation Sources.

http://download.opensuse.org/repositories/KDE:/Backports/openSUSE_10.2/x86_64

Then goto Software Management and install KDevelope. YAST will then maintain your version by alerting you to updates and allowing you to install them with a single click.

A good tutorial I used is: http://www.cplusplus.com/doc/tutorial/

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