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The state of play on Ubuntu: A delayed day 3. Good news mostly.

I got distracted by a Wiiu :S. i said to myself "no more games until i play some more of my existing games"....then an opportunity to get a wiiu and 6 games for less than 400 quid came up.

Anywho back to gaming on ubuntu a bit more.

I installed the AMD drivers and that didnt fix the sound issue. However it did greatly improve the performance of serious sam. I still have to play with the settings a bit (i think i expected too much from my old 5850. A 1080P monster it is not) but serious sam 3 is now playable. I finshed the first level. Thats 3/4.

I fixed the sound issue also (thanks to t.j on the ubuntu forums). However this required changing a config file using a text editor. Boo :(. It was a problem with pulse audio. Changing the default.pa so that the text "tsched=0" is at the end of a udev module line (search for ubuntu sound scratch hdmi and you will see it) and restarting fixed the issue. Playing Xcom (which was badly effected by the sound issue) looks more promising now.

I also had to use the command line due to a bug in fglrx :(. The only way to launch the catalyst control center in admin mide is through the command line. Launching it through the GUI currently doesnt work. It used to work but now not so much.

So. Number of times i have had to edit a text file: 1

Number of times i had to use the command line: 2 (the second was to edit the text file...has to be done by launching the text editor as the super user. maybe there is a way to do that through the GUI but i didnt check).

Edit: and xcom looks like its fine. 4/4. yay \o/.

The state of play on Ubuntu: Day 2. The 360 controller, an issue solved and a new one appears.

Day 2:

A mixed day today. I will start with the bad stuff

The bad news

A new issue came up today where sound became distored while playing games. In portal and battlerock theatre it gets distored for around 10 seconds then returns to normal. In xcom its distorted all the time. its only with games though. system sounds are fine and things like flash videos (youtube and such like) are also fine.

Its probably time to bite the bullet and install the catalyst drivers. Seems to be a fairly common issue for this release of ubuntu though. If catalyst doesnt solve it then hopefully a patch or fix will appear soon. It was suggested that going back to an earlier linux kernel may solve the problem but im not going down that road. Thats just asking for trouble.

I mentioned in day 1 that getting the 360 controller set up was quite a task in ubuntu 12.04. The bad news is this is still half correct. Out of the box it still detects the 360 controller just fine but for super tux its just way too sensitive and the game is unplayable. There is still no tool to calibrate the controller out of the box and the one i tried didn't work. Im guessing psychonauts is also going to be as unplayable as it was last year until i put in the new driver.

Super tux also has a habit of resetting the scan setting on my TV (an odd issue). Before i start the game everything looks fine. When i start the game the scaling reverts to where it was out of the box so around 30 pixels are cut off from each edge. When i return to the desktop i have to go into my TVs menu to change the aspect ratio setting back. Im guesing its because the game is changing the screens resolution and whatever way its doing it is not making it happy. I will probably have to dig into a config file somewhere to see of setting it to 1080P will fix the problem.

The good news

The issue with the keyboard randomly losing its connection has been fixed. Moving the wireless dongle so that it has a clearer line of sight to the keyboard seems to have done the trick. I played an hour of portal and no issues with controls. So not an issue with ubuntu thankfully.

Some positive news on the controller front. Out of the box, no calibration or anything, both portal and battlerock theatre play very nicely with the 360 controller. The games must implement their own deadzones and such like. So is the issue in the bad news an issue with super tux or an issue with the driver?

I didnt play X-Com today (took an age to download and sound was messed up) but it did launch with no issues except for the sound. So hopefully thats a good sign.

Overall.

So im going to call it 2/4 games working for now (not counting Xcom because i didnt start an actual game yet). Hopefully itll be 4/4 tomorrow after catalyst is installed.

Number of times i have had to use the command line: 0.

I did use it for Htop of my own choosing...because HTOP is awesome (top is a command line equivelent of task manager).

The state of play on Ubuntu.

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.

Setup

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).

Day1

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.

And lo it became and it hailed as mittens.

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh.

Thats not the sound of me screaming....but a huge sigh of relief and of satisfaction. After a very troubled birth Mittens, my new PC, has kicked into life. Played Mass effect 2 for the first time today and it was good.

Funny story though...i find linux easier to use than windows at the mo. Ive been using linux exclusively for the last 6-7 months and getting used to the way windows does things was strange. I initally forgot to get anti virus software until the OS reminded me...woops :P.

Credit where credit is due though...7 looks to be a fine OS. Kudos MS.

PC the worst break possible.

Heh a blog. Didnt think i would be doing this. Still maybe itll be theraputic.

About 6 months ago my PC broke in the worst possible way. I would hit the power and just the fans would come on and the HDD light would remain on constantly. Sometimes the bios image would appear..sometimes it wouldnt.

So what could i derive from this? well it was a hardware fault...thats about it. Where was the fault? Well obhiously it wasnt the graphics card since an image was sometimes being put out to the screen. so it could be a damaged PSu, faulty ram, busted motherboard or fried CPU (note: i did unplug all unnecessary things like the HDD and disc drive..but to no avail).

So i decided instead of just replacing each component one at a time and possibly spend lots of money doing so..id just upgrade all those components to something better. All my new bits arrived and i installed them. Turned on the PC and....exactly the same problem. fans spin up, HDD light stays on and the PC doesnt POST.

Which left two possibilities.

1) It was a faulty GPU and it was just coughing up blood before kicking the bucket.

2) one or more of my new components arrived DOA.

ok there is a third

3) i messed up the installation...but i double checked everything so i dont think its that.

so i got a new GPU and its installed...so i just need to test it. But i wont be able to do it for a while. However i have a sinking feeling that it wont work and ill be back at square one simply because the second possibility is the reality.

so why am i blogging this? well

1) its hugely frustrating and its nice to vent a litte of it

2) it has no place on the forum :P

3) impart some words that are probably common sense:

if you have a break like this and dont have the resoureces to narrow down what exactly broke...take it to somone who does. even if its a retailer...just hand over some cash and ask them to find out whats busted. itll be faster and cheaper. a break like this is a guessing game at the end of the day.

theres also some wise words from PC format which i really should have followed. if something like this happens...replace the PSU. if that doesnt work..replace the GPU. if that also doesnt work then just get a new PC with no PSU or GPU, bung in your new PSu and GPU and call it a day. far far less hassle.

The birth of mittens (what i will call my next PC whenever i have a working one again) has been a lesson to say the least.