I have brought my old PC (Mittens) out of retirement, plonked Ubuntu 14.04 LTS on it and started to tinker with gaming on..well....ubuntu. im not going to say linux because i initally tried with openSuse 13.1 and it was unplayable. I dont know how it would have worked if i left the open source drivers in but with the catalyst linux drivers it was a disaster. Something as simple as portal was struggeling to hit double digits. I probably did something silly with the installation of the drivers but i have no idea what (got them from the openSuse build service).
So thats probably the first thing to note: if it doesnt work on one distro and you cant find out why...try another distro. Ubuntu is the go to distro for many game developers at the moment so that will probably mean less hassle if you go down that route.
Basically im just going to jot down notes n stuff on how its going.
Mittens has the following specs: Phenom 2 X4 955BE, 4GB of ram, radeon HD 5850, 10,000RPM 150GB HDD. Not a powerhouse by any stretch but it still has some gaming chops.
Its connected to my telly using a HDMI cable. The keyboard and mouse are a wireless logitech MK270 combo set.
Networking is covered by a wireless N external USB adapter.
OS: ubuntu 14.04 LTS (meaning it will get support for 5 years).
Installation. I should probably say that i have been installing linux distros for a long time so none of this was new to me. Canonical have done a great job of making the installation very easy though (in fairness this can also be said about most distros. openSuse 13.1 was also very straightforward). If you have an older PC that you dont really use and doesnt have any important information then installing Ubuntu is link installing an application on windows. Click next a few times, put in some details when prompted and leave it off to do its thing. An internet connection is recommended but i dont think its required.
One thing thats always hit an miss in the linux world though is whether stuff will work. My wireless keyboard and mouse wouldn't work with ubuntu 13.10 straight away (im sure tinkering would have gotten it to work...but i didnt have a wired keyboard and mouse to hand). Thankfully though everything worked just fine out the gate with 14.04. The Wireless keyboard and mouse worked automatically and once i entered my wireless key the networking was up and running. The only other thing i had to do was set the default audio device to HDMI audio and it was all good to go.
As with any fresh OS install i then got all the updates.
So i went to install steam through the software center in ubuntu and hit snag number 1. It found two packages for steam. One didnt work (i clicked on it and apparently it didnt exist). The second one seemed to be asking for payment (but it didnt have a price on it). So it was time to get the synaptic package manager. its not the most user friendly application (mainly becaue package names are not always logical. the package for catalyst is FGLRX becuase...er...legacy) but its tried and tested.
Installed that, searched for steam, installed that (and the dependencies which are automatically selected), ran it and steam itself was downloaded and installed. after that i just logged in and everything was up and running. I have 30 linux compatible games in my library....who knew?
Note: I have not installed the closed source drivers yet because i want to see how the open source ones fair on pretty old hardware. i will get around to it at some stage.
So first things first...i installed portal. It downloaded fine, launched fine and played fine up until level 5 where i ran into an odd issue. My keyboard stopped responding from time to time. The keys would do nothing for about 30 seconds then everything would work again. my mouse was fine at all times (they both connect to the same dongle) but keyboard not so much. I have since moved the dongle to a USB port on the front of the tower where it has a clear line of sight to the keyboard. maybe the TV (which was between the dongle and keyboard) was causing issues. It seems to have fixed it for now anyway so *touches wood*. Portal ran very well though at 1080P. i dont have an exact FPS but it was very responsive as you would expect since portal can run on a pocket calculator.i
Then i tried Seriosu sam 3 BFE and this has proven more problematic. The game runs. it just doesnt run very well. t struggles to to hit 20 FPS during the intro sequence. Dropping the setting and res doesnt seem to make much of a difference. Hardware wise mittens should be up for it but its a non runner at the moment. Its probably because i dont have the catalyst drivers installed though so when i do install them i will try the game again. hopefully that will improve things.
I bought X-com and battlerock theatre...and Civ V (goodbye life) using the linux steam client also and thats all working fine. so YAY...money going to linux development now \o/. X-com is downloading but battlerock theatre runs like a charm also using the OSS drivers.
A couple of other things to note:
1) If you dont have a floppy drive (and who does these days) then makey sure you let your BIOS know you dont have a floppy drive. When installing openSuse 13.1 the installtion stalled because it was looking for a floppy drive (i dont know if this effects ubuntu also).
2) make sure your HDD is connected to a lower SATA port number than your DVD drive on the motherboard (i.e. have the HDD connected to sata port 1 and the DVD drive connected to port 4 or something). i don't know if this is an issue accross the board but live discs refused to boot until i rewired the PC. Its the first time i have seen that issue in all my years of installing distros. odd.
So over the next few days im going to try more games and also try my 360 controller on it to see if it works. Last time i tried my 360 controller on linux (ubuntu 12.04 to be exact) it was not pleasent. it was detected fine but super tux and other games were unplayable as the controller was simply too sensitive (its amazing how sensitive the controllers are.....i saw all the output from it when i was reconfiguring it). there was also no easy way to change the deadzone and sensitivity settings. it required getting a different driver, editing a text file and constantly retesting. it eventually worked but not exactly noob friendly. so hopefully this has also improved.
Overall though not a bad first day. A couple of minor snags but nothing serious (the keyboard thing may not have been a linux issue even). 2/3 games working fine (and number 3 is becuase i dont have the catalyst drivers installed i reckon). installed, all set up and good to go. I haven't even used the command line once yet.