GNU/Linux

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Thad
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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Fri Jun 21, 2019 10:29 am

The usual "use Ubuntu or Mint" advice for new Linux users has hit something of a speed bump, as Ubuntu 19.10 is dropping 32-bit support. (That's 32-bit Intel. I assume 32-bit ARM will still be supported, but that's not really relevant to where I'm going with this.)

The move makes sense -- 32-bit app support is completely unnecessary for most Ubuntu users at this point; it's an added expense with little return.

But it's going to be a problem for Linux gamers.

The most immediate but most easily fixable problem is, the Steam client for Linux is 32-bit. I'm not worried about that as much -- I think Valve can release a 64-bit version within the next 4 months.

But support for older, no-longer-supported 32-bit games is going to be a problem. I think Valve can help a lot with this, but support from Valve only goes so far; I expect a lot of older, no-longer supported games are just going to break on Ubuntu even if they still work on other distros. Plus, "let Valve fix it" is already the de facto answer to everything about gaming on Linux, and while I appreciate what Valve's done, I think relying so heavily on one company is problematic.

There are other projects, like WINE, that are looking at some real trouble here.

And this also affects Ubuntu-based distros like Mint.

So my advice to people starting with Linux now is "I don't know; we'll see how Ubuntu 19.10 goes."

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mharr
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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby mharr » Sat Jun 22, 2019 7:06 am

I don't have a clear idea of where the gaming space is in the transition to 64 bit, aren't a lot of those titles old enough that running them under DOSBox style emulation is viable?

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Sat Jun 22, 2019 11:25 am

It shouldn't be an issue with recent games (once Valve ports the Steam client to 64-bit); most games have been 64-bit for the past few years. But you don't have to go back too far to see 32-bit games.

DOSBox, as the name implies, only handles DOS games (which are 16-bit). Playing Windows games requires WINE, which isn't actually an emulator (Wine Is Not an Emulator), it's software that translates Windows API calls into Linux API calls. And in order to do that for 32-bit programs, it relies on the 32-bit libraries that Ubuntu has announced it won't be supporting anymore.

And then of course there are 32-bit native Linux games, which don't use emulation at all; they just need the 32-bit libraries. They may not be the most recent games, but there are some fairly recent ones, like Braid.

Canonical Developer Tries Running GOG Games On 64-Bit-Only Ubuntu 19.10 Setup

Alan Pope tested a few representative games of GOG today to see how they would work put with a 64-bit only Ubuntu 19.10. With three games they failed to install without Wine32 support, the GOG version of Braid meanwhile refused to launch after installation due to being 32-bit only, and two other games launched but with black window (this may be the result of using VirtualBox for testing).


So even if Valve comes up with a fix for this (which is entirely possible), people who bought 32-bit games from other stores are likely to have a problem.

If you're okay with a bunch of old-but-maybe-not-that-old games not working, then Ubuntu might still be a good choice. Of course, it's possible that there'll be a decent fix ready by October, or that Canonical will change its mind since this has made a lot of devs unhappy.

Alternately, there are other distros. Pop! OS is Ubuntu-based and, from what I've seen, pretty similar to mainline Ubuntu, and I heard they're planning on keeping the 32-bit libraries. It's possible that other Ubuntu-based distros (like Mint) might make a similar decision. There's always Ubuntu's parent, Debian, too; it's a little less user-friendly but it's reasonable to assume they won't be abandoning multiarch any time soon.

Again, it's too early to make a specific recommendation; it's more something to keep an eye on over the next few months.

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Mon Jun 24, 2019 9:39 pm

The Ubuntu/32-bit libraries story continues to change.

Valve announced it would end support for Ubuntu.

Canonical responded by saying they're not actually dropping 32-bit libraries, they're just not going to update them anymore, which is not really better. Now they're saying well, maybe they'll update some of them. Who knows what they'll say tomorrow.

A couple of things are going on here. One is that, while Ubuntu revolutionized desktop Linux 10-15 years ago, over the past couple of years it's shifted focus to business customers (servers and IoT devices). Red Hat went through a similar shift in priorities between the mid-'90s and the early aughts. It happens; there's no money in desktop Linux.

Canonical's also big on making decisions without talking to anybody -- its users, its community developers, third-party publishers, etc. This certainly appears to be one of those cases. There's been some backpedaling in PR, but whether there's going to be any backpedaling in actual policy remains to be seen. I think Canonical's seen that this is a bad call for the desktop Linux market, but it's also unclear how much of a priority the desktop market is for Canonical anymore.

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Brentai » Mon Jun 24, 2019 11:37 pm

Well, Valve is a business customer in this case. Possibly a fairly profitable one considering what Ubuntu actually sells and what Valve was trying to do with it (a money-flush corporation trying to backport thousands of third-party Windows applications onto your platform? Charge support by the minute.). It's also more than likely that that partnership had dried up a long time ago, but even then, Ubuntu's business interests aren't really served by really publicly crumpling up and binning years of a strategic partner's hard work.

But realistically, pretty much every enterprise is going to be running on some percentage of 32-bit libraries, desktop or not, and whether they should be or not. Valve's the only customer desktop users care about getting blown up, but I'm sure AT&T and Cisco have sent some pretty nasty letters already.
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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Sun Nov 10, 2019 12:19 am

I've realized that most of the framerate issues I've been having in games recently are down to the CPU frequency regulator; if I set it to performance, they go away.

I haven't circled back to Rise of the Tomb Raider yet to see if I can get rid of that 30fps workaround, but I'll get back to it one of these days.

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Sun Nov 24, 2019 9:55 pm

I've been thinking of getting a 2-in-1 for awhile -- if not necessarily to replace my laptop or my tablet, at least as something I can use when I travel so that I don't have to bring a laptop and a tablet.

I got to talking with Mazian back at Brontokon and he got me thinking a used Surface 3 might be the way to go. So I grabbed one cheap on eBay. I've spent the weekend futzing with it, trying out different distros and, as is often the case, the tl;dr is "Ubuntu. Just use Ubuntu." Ubuntu is default Linux. It's the one that works.

Other distros I tried:

Deepin: This may be the prettiest goddamn desktop I've ever seen. Touchscreen works. Onscreen keyboard works. Screen rotation works. Fractional scaling works, though its default zoom was pretty much perfect. The main problem is that it's poorly documented (at least, in English; it's from China, so maybe the Chinese docs are more thorough). I couldn't figure out how to make gestures work, and the installation isn't configurable; it just bundles a bunch of shit I don't want (WTF is WPS Office?). Default browser is Chrome (not Chromium, and, y'know, a nonfree default browser in a base Linux install feels wrong); I tried YouTube and it didn't work, the video played at double-speed even though it said it was at 1x, and there was no sound. Couldn't get disk encryption to work, either; the password prompt comes up but won't recognize input.

Fedora: Wifi works on the installer but not after the OS is installed. Pity, because I really liked the look of this one too.

KDE Neon: KDE is fast; it's a lot less resource-hungry than GNOME these days. Touchscreen and on-screen keyboard work out of the box. It's also got fractional scaling (GNOME doesn't). Its Wayland support is still poor; you don't want to use scaling with GTK apps under Wayland. Which is a problem, because its default browser is Firefox (even the flagship KDE distro doesn't use Konqueror or Falkon). No auto-rotate, and while you can manually rotate the screen, it doesn't work right with the touchscreen; the place you touch is not the place where the click registers.

Kubuntu: Everything that's wrong with KDE Neon except the touchscreen doesn't work at all out of the box.

Ubuntu: It Just Works...very slowly. I don't know if the bottleneck is the RAM, the processor, or the onboard graphics, but GNOME is not a good DE for this machine. It is vexing that this is the option that works best, because it doesn't work very well. But, y'know, it took about 20 years for desktop Linux to become a smooth experience, so it's not altogether surprising that tablet Linux is lagging.

(ETA: Specifically, Ubuntu LTS. Don't use 19.10.)

ALSO NOTE: Do not do any of the shit they tell you to do on /r/SurfaceLinux. All that information is out of date. You do not need to use a modified kernel. You do not need to disable suspend and use hibernate instead. Do not do any of those things on a Surface 3; they will fuck your shit up.

(I got mine without a pen; it's possible that the modifications to make the pen work better are still a good idea.)

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Fri Nov 29, 2019 3:21 pm

Never mind that part about Ubuntu 18.04 Just Working; I discovered some audio problems after that last post.

I decided, just for the hell of it, to try upgrading to 19.10 instead of doing a clean install. But then when I ran do-release-upgrade, for some reason it upgraded to 19.04, not 19.10. Not sure why, but it seems to have worked out pretty well for me, as 19.04 is working (so far).

That's not an ideal solution, since 19.04 is EOL come January. But hopefully I'll have time to find another solution before then. (Both 19.10 vanilla and the third-party kernels should see some updates by then; maybe that will fix the issues I had with them. If not, maybe try Fedora again; I found a guide for Fedora 31 on the Surface Go that might work on the Surface 3.)

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Fri Dec 06, 2019 3:09 pm

I've been playing with Linux on the Surface 3 for a couple of weeks now and ultimately I got what I wanted out of it: something that can sort of work as a laptop and a tablet so that I don't have to pack a laptop and a tablet when I travel. That was my main criterion in buying the thing, and it succeeds at that. Not bad for $100 on eBay.

But short of the "less shit to throw in a backpack when I'm traveling" use case, it's not a fit replacement for either. It runs a lot slower even than the Celeron in my laptop, and its touch controls, while good enough to get the job done (with a boatload of caveats which largely consist of "use GNOME software, not third-party programs"), sure ain't as polished as Android. To the point where I'm seriously considering swapping Ubuntu out for something based on Android or ChromiumOS and seeing if that works any better for me.

But there's one problem that's unfixable. Even assuming that, say, the next release of Ubuntu or KDE Neon or whatever comes out and fixes all the performance and interface issues, the thing's still heavier than my old Galaxy Tab S. It's just not as comfortable to hold in my hands for long periods of time.

I'm still glad I bought it, and mostly glad I've invested as much time in it as I have. It does its job, and does it adequately. And it at least indicates that maybe someday there'll be a 2-in-1 convertible that's performant, comfortable, and cheap enough to actually replace my tablet and laptop. And that GNU/Linux is slowly catching up to make that possible on the software end.

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Sat Jan 04, 2020 1:56 pm

Say Mazian, if you happen to be lurking and looking for a "what kind of mess has Thad gotten himself into that I've never seen in all my years of using Linux" story, here's how I spent the last 4 days.

Near as I can tell, a video locked up my system in the middle of an update. And while I take regular snapshots to ensure that I can recover from things like botched updates, the most recent snapshot I could get to work was from June.

I am back up and running now. Sort of. Grub got fucked up somewhere along the line, has not unfucked itself as yet, and at the moment if I want to boot I have to start from a memory stick and then type my boot path into a command prompt.

So I guess I can turn the "Number of catastrophic failures I've dealt with on Manjaro" counter over to "1".

So mharr, did you go through with switching to Linux? You probably won't have to deal with the kind of messes I do. I'm just spectacularly unlucky. "A video somehow crashed my system while updates were running and rendered my system unbootable, and also my 36 most recent system snapshots aren't working" unlucky.

My advice is still generally "start with Ubuntu or Mint." There was some flap a few months ago about Ubuntu discontinuing 32-bit packages, but that appears to have died down.

If you want a more detailed rundown of different options and what they all mean, I think I've got one mostly-written around here somewhere.

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Mazian » Mon Jan 20, 2020 10:39 pm

I got a Pinebook Pro. Think of it as a recent-model Raspberry Pi strapped into a laptop case. It only usefully runs Linux on its ARM processor and 4GB RAM. (Yeah, you can technically put ChromeOS or *BSD on it, but I said usefully.)

Hardware-wise, it is remarkably nice - this is a $200 machine, and is better built than some $800 Windows laptops I've used; metal case, good keyboard, good screen, good battery life, can be opened up with just a regular Phillips screwdriver. Its real competition at its hardware specs are Chromebooks, but even there it's a strong contender against the mid-range models up in the $400-500 range. Really impressive work.

Software-wise it still sucks. The default OS is a variant of the previous stable release of Debian (stretch), coming up on three years old, and you get system updates by pulling from someone's personal Github. Anything else you want to install involves jumping through a lot of hoops and then figuring out what's broken. The good news is that it's an interesting enough device that a number of people are working hard on it, and within a few months it ought to be supported out-of-the-box by the regular installer for one or more mainline distributions. As soon as you can drop a regular Ubuntu/Mint/Debian installer on a microSD card and go from there, it'll be a nice device for people that miss netbooks and aren't as goddamn nerdy as me or Thad.

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Tue Jan 21, 2020 12:32 am

Pine64 is doing some damned interesting stuff. I'm keeping a close eye on the PinePhone (which is now shipping, though it's still the early alpha devices) but from what I've read it looks like it probably won't work on Sprint. After that there's a PineTab coming.

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Thad
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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Tue Feb 04, 2020 1:14 am

I really like Manjaro as a distro but I'm about six seconds away from finding another one because my experiences asking for help have been absolutely fucking abysmal. It's ranged from people pimping their unsupported pet projects to bad advice for partition sizes to bad advice on how to set up regular snapshots to, most recently, scolding and mocking me for doing what that last guy suggested I do, all by people whose native language is clearly not English.

I chose Manjaro because it was supposed to be Arch without all the Arch bullshit. If I've got to deal with all the bullshit after all, I'm not entirely sure why I wouldn't just use Arch in the first fucking place. Christ knows whatever hours I saved by not doing the Arch install have gone down the sinkhole of trying to fix my Btrfs snapshot problem.

I'm also increasingly of the opinion that Btrfs is goddamn bullshit and if I want backups I should just buy an external hard drive and use...whatever the name of the backup program that comes with Mint is.

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Re: GNU/Linux

Postby Thad » Tue Jun 09, 2020 10:21 am

The Pinebook Pro is out, and Jim Salter at Ars has a review that's fascinating mostly as a peek behind the curtain at what can go wrong with a niche company working with foreign manufacturers, a language barrier, and travel restrictions. He got a laptop that shouldn't have shipped: screen burn-in, wifi disabled, and the touchpad not properly attached to the case.

What's fascinating, I think, is how positive the tone of the review remains despite these glaring issues, and I think it speaks a lot toward what Pine64 is, who its audience is, and what their expectations are. I remember an article about the PinePhone a few months back; somebody in the comments asked "Do they really expect this to compete with the iPhone?" I responded, "No, Pine64's competition isn't Apple, it's Raspberry Pi."

That changes the context fundamentally. The sort of manufacturer's defects and QC issues that would scarcely be imaginable from a major manufacturer are more of a "Well, that sucks, but I reached out to the company, they responded at length, and they're sending me a new one" scenario here. These are niche devices for tinkerers and enthusiasts and, per Pine64's response, they don't even turn a profit on this particular device; it's sold at cost.

Not for nothin', when I mentioned in the comments of a PinePhone article that I'd be interested in getting one of the phones, Pine64 rep Lukasz Erecinski reponded and advised me not to order the initial "Brave Heart" batch, which was basically a beta test and likely to have hardware issues. So people who order newly-released Pine64 hardware are well-advised of what they're ordering and what the risks are.

I'd still like to get a PinePhone to tinker with one of these days. But it's pretty much guaranteed it won't work with Sprint; I couldn't even get Sprint data to work on an Android phone without Google Services installed.

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