Tag Archives: Gaming

Why Ubuntu / Linux isn’t Really Ready for Consumers… Yet.

Update: Hey Reddit! This post has much nastier things to say about Ubuntu than the one below, so I think you’ll like it more. No, I’m not a Microsoft astroturfer. Wish I was though, I wouldn’t mind the money. Honestly, I want to like Ubuntu / Linux in general. This is why I tried Ubuntu again after it sucking the first time, and why I bought an Eee PC running a Xandros variant without even considering putting XP on it. But you guys don’t make it easy.

As anyone who follows my Twitter feed will know, I’ve recently been trying to install Ubuntu on my desktop.

On the whole it’s not that painful, the LiveCD lets you get a feel for the system, the installation is mostly painless even if you want to dual-boot etc, the interface is clean and easy to use, almost everything you’d ever want is already installed and almost anything else is available from the package manager. It’s great when it works. Really great.

The trouble is, often it doesn’t. For example the wireless card on this machine seems to have issues. Sometimes it won’t connect to a wireless network, sometimes it totally hangs the machine. The solution to this seems to be to dive in head-first into config files and the command-line, rip out the provided open source driver, and whack in a layer that will let me use a Windows driver.

My first attempt to do this just disabled wireless on the machine entirely, which wasn’t a forward step. I was honestly quite lucky to get it back to where I started from.

Software support can also sometimes be iffy. Stuff that should be simple like Adobe Air seemingly requires a trip through the terminal to convince to work. Another rather significant downside is that a lot of applications you’re used to using don’t have versions for Linux. You can use WINE to get Windows applications working, mostly, but it’s not an ideal state of affairs. And you can forget about playing games; support is even more dire than Mac gaming. That is unless you once again want to press WINE into service; frankly though it feels slightly iffy running Spotify, let alone TF2.

So my point here is three-fold:

  1. Hardware support is patchy.
  2. Proprietary software can be hard to get working / unavailable.
  3. If something goes wrong, it requires a lot of scary stuff (command-line, etc.) to fix.

See, I’m sure that if I had a working machine and a few months I’d start to learn the Linux-fu necessary to deal with this, but it’s just a pain if something as essential as Wi-Fi doesn’t just work, or if you can’t play your favourite games.

They’ve got a long way to go with hardware support, and it’s going to be an uphill battle every step of the way. There’s a lot of hardware manufacturers who aren’t going to provide Linux drivers, and there’s a dogmatic craziness in the Linux world that THOU SHALT NOT distribute non-free drivers with your distribution, which means that nobody just provides Windows drivers, or makes it easy to get Windows drivers. It’s totally daft, and it’s not helped by nutjobs like Richard Stallman. I guess you can put me into the camp who doesn’t like the GPL. Give me the BSD license any day.

The software difficulties are as equally hard to overcome; you’d have to deal with the horrible Balkanisation of the Linux distros for one thing so that people would have something simple to compile binaries against. Idealism isn’t going to get people to give away the source code to everything.

However, there’s certainly a market for Ubuntu / Linux systems where you can be sure of the hardware configuration and fix all the problems in advance. This means that something like eeebuntu works really rather well, and is supported rather better than Asus managed to support the Eee themselves. It’s a pleasure to use, and makes me see myself using my Eee a lot more in the future.

Similarly, if all the software you could ever want, literally, is encompassed by the repositories of your chosen distro, then it’s also a very comfortable experience where you can be reasonably sure that everything will just work, which is literally the ideal consumer experience.

So, if you lie within some narrow definition of “consumer” then Ubuntu is going to be perfect for you. If you lie just a little to the edges, it’s going to suck. There’s really no middle ground between “idealised consumer” and “pretty hardcore techie”. I guess that’s why they’re going to carry on working with it. If they can expand that consumer window, this could be heading somewhere.

The Last Month (in 30 Minutes)

Right, so I’ve not blogged for a while. The last post I’ve made was the 18th of December, which was the day before the end of term. So, what have I been doing since then? Oh, and I’m trying to do it in less than half an hour, because that’s how long I have until my washing needs drying.

The next day was spent mostly trying to hurry and get my computing project ready to hand in, which kinda necessitated missing a few lectures, but never mind. Then, once that was all done, the Physics crew met up in the common room to exchange Secret Santa gifts. I think we were all pleasantly surprised at the quality of the presents we’d got each other. Emily in particular was very happy with her present, which was a book about 101 things an old-fashioned housewife could do.

Went home, and the house did Secret Santa, which was also great fun, although exactly what some of those gifts were eludes me slightly.

Then we had a few drinks, people came over, had a few more drinks, then headed down to the Union for the Christmas ball. In hindsight, going to the Union might not have been the best plan, but heck, it wasn’t too bad. Bloody freezing walking back, though.

The next day I got the train back home – only £3.30, which completely didn’t suck.

Pretty much as soon as I got back, got a lift from Beccy’s dad to head down to Shell’s place in Bromsgrove, and we had drinks and takeaway with friends, and that was all pretty good.

Did the usual home-stuff after that, hanging around the house, sleeping, reading, playing games, visiting family, etc.

Met up with friends once more (although a slightly different set of friends) in a pub, and that was pretty great too.

Finished Mirror’s Edge in a single day, and played a lot of the drums in Rock Band. Watched the Dark Knight on Blu-Ray. It’s so high-def it’s almost painful to watch. Awesome.

Christmas rolled round, presents got opened. Didn’t get anything spectacular, but it was all nice and good. My Nan came over for Christmas dinner, and we played Trivial Pursuit as a family. I won, because I’m awesome.

Few days later, I rang in the New Year playing Rock Band with my Mom and sister. My mother is honestly terrible on the drums, even on easy mode. It was fun, anyway.

Then on the 2nd of January, I got on a train back to London. Got a £17.50 first-class ticket back, so there was coffee and sandwiches available for free, which was nice. Being asked if you want tea or coffee before you can even sit down is pretty nice indeed.

House was freezing, so I borrowed Matt’s heater, otherwise I would have frozen to death, and I bought my own from Argos ASAP.

Then in theory spent time revising for the Computational Physics test, in practice I spent rather too much time playing Fallout 3.

Anyways, the test did eventually roll round, with more and more people coming back into the house as it came closer to term-time. I was as prepared as I could have been, but I think I made some pretty silly mistakes in the exam. Never mind.

Then for the rest of this week have been general introductory lectures. Other people are stressing about philosophy and politics essays, or lab reports, etc. etc. but I’ve mostly just kinda been chilling, watching TV, playing Left 4 Dead.

That’s pretty much everything, more or less. I mean, there’s a lot omitted, but you don’t need to know every detail, you anonymous internet people. Heck, this is already probably too much!

Anyways, hopefully I should be able to keep to posting more regular-like in the future. I’ve recently finished reading Y: The Last Man, so I might write something about that, and I’m planning to have a crack at The Communist Manifesto in the near future.

Irrational Desire

So I really want an Asus Eee. It’s roughly £200, although one place I’ve seen is selling at £189, and it’s possibly the teeny-tinest machine I have ever seen!

It’s about the size of a hardback book when closed, and doesn’t have a CD drive or a hard disk, but does have onboard flash memory to save stuff on, and wi-fi for getting on the Interweb. It runs Linux, because Windows is too expensive, but I’m cool with that, especially because I’ve been wanting to get my hands dirty (as it were) with Linux for a while now.

So the only difficulty I can see is that spending £189 would leave me uncomfortably close to being utterly broke. Which isn’t good, for very obvious reasons. Like my powerful need to continue being able to eat, but even so… I wants one.

Do you have an nVidia graphics card?

If so, you can get Portal: First Slice, composing:

  • Portal: First Slice (being the first third of Portal, the Game of the Year)
  • Half-Life 2: Deathmatch (being a game where you can kill people with ballistic toilets)
  • Half-Life 2: Lost Coast (short tech demo fun)
  • Peggle Extreme (addictive promotional puzzle game)

Seeing as how this bundle is free, it’s well worth getting!

Head over to the Steam website to get it.

Whoops.

I haven’t posted anything in just forever. Really it’s just symptomatic of my complete failure to have any discipline in any whatsoever. I really had grand plans for this blog, like learning XHTML/CSS and making it pretty and the like – all of which have been utter failures.

So, I think I’ll try and write either every day or on a M/W/F schedule. See how it goes.

Anyways, in summary:

Buy the Orange Box, you fools! If you have a gaming bone in your body, or even if you don’t, go get it.

Quantum Mechanics is both hard and intellectually satisfying simultaneously.

God still doesn’t exist.

The TV spots for The Golden Compass make me angry: "Legend tells that the last Golden Compass – whoever can read it has the power to rule the universe… The quest for the compass begins". I’m… urgh. The book (which is actually called Northern Lights) is one of my absolute favourite books of all time, and it makes me angry to see it mutilated so. I hope that this trailer is only aimed at incredibly stupid obese Americans, able only deal with plots shallower than the pools of hideous drool collecting underneath their slack, lifeless mouths.

I want to see a documentary about Tony Blair on TV on Sunday, but I’m probably going to forget.

Going swimming by yourself is about 15 different kinds of dull.

I waste a frightening number of hours every single day.

I got the new Buffy Season 8 comic, it’s awesome, one of the best yet. I also picked up the "Tales of the Slayer" graphic novel, which is a collection of stories about slayers in the past, written by some of the people who wrote Buffy for TV. And it has more Fray, and Fray is just brilliant-fantastic.

I’m sure some other things’ll come to me later. There are so many things I want to tell people that I only think of while I’m by myself. It’s an annoying paradox is what it is.

Andy out.

The Orange Box

So my last couple of entries have more or less been about games. I would apologise for not writing about what’s happening in my life, but you probably don’t want to hear about the trivial minutiae anyways. Needless to say, the following entry will hold no value for you if you don’t play games.

So Halo 3 is already receding over the horizon – the Zero Punctuation review is up, and it’s spot-on accurate. The people throwing it perfect scores are indeed rather misguided.

This is a rather disturbing trend – two of the games which made my list of most anticipated games of the year were good, beautiful and well-crafted adventures, but lacking that crucial spark that sets the great apart from the merely good.

With any luck I can rely on Valve to buck this trend. As the tantalising countdown in Steam tells me, Episode Two and Portal will be released in about 7 and a half hours as I write this. By the time anyone actually reads it, it’ll probably be out. Their companion game, Team Fortress 2, is already out in beta and it’s The Shit.

It’s a finely-honed brilliant game, and on top of that it’s probably one of the best looking games of the year. It’s scary that the graphics shown in the “Meet the…” series of videos (which are very worth watching, incidentally) are actually representative of the in-game experience – the art style is simply breathtaking. It’s the perfect antidote to the “realism” dross that’s been infecting the genre for years. None of this annoying burst-fire-to-control-recoil nonsense, just the unashamed, glorious spin-up of the Heavy’s chaingun, his wondrous bullet-hose, the ever widening grin on his face as enemies are chewed up by the pain-stream. It’s good. Really good.

A reminder of why Valve is probably the best developer in the world – they understand a worrying wealth of things that most developers just don’t, like the importance of excellent writing and pacing, of using art to tell a story, or push an effect you’re going for. They excel in almost every area of game design, and they’ve got it down almost to a science rather than an art. You play something Valve’s done, and you know that almost every design decision they’ve taken is based on experimental evidence. It’s like that because they know that is the most fun.

Anyways, I’m kinda gutted that I have to be in lab tomorrow morning. I’m getting back here asap after lab finishes to play. The only question is which of the games to hit first, Portal or Episode Two.

PS. I’ve got a copy of each of HL2 and Ep1 to give away! So please ask if you want.

*PAIN*

Oh god, I just hooked up my 360 to Live again, and because I’d last played using my profile on my sister’s 360, I had to recover the profile. No problem.

Except there is one. It’s swallowed my entire gaming history since moving out here, which means my entire set of Halo 3 achievements. I’m glad I didn’t get any I really had to work for, but it probably means I’m going to have to play the entire fucking thing all over again!

AAAAAARGH!

Fuck it, I’m gonna play TF2.