Linux is something that’s been gnawing at me for a long time now. I know so little about it, I barely manage to bumble things into working order on my servers. Using linux as a full-time desktop OS has always been a dream of mine, so I finally decided to make the dream reality last Friday. I gotta say it was a source of pride knowing that nearly everything I was using, I could take a look at the source if I really wanted to.
The first problem I ran into was my RAID. Apparently Kubuntu doesn’t play nicely with hardware RAIDs. So, I had to break it apart and reinstall Windows (Have to install Windows first so you don’t have mess around with GRUB afterwards).
The second problem I ran into was my GPU driver and my dual monitor setup. Initially I tried using the nvidia-glx-new package off apt-get, but that ended up breaking X completely. Then, I used a neat little program called envy (after installing a dozen or so dependencies for it, by hand) to install the drivers for me. That worked great! Definite thanks to the author of that one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my dual monitor set up how I wanted it. I was hoping for something similar to the way Windows does it, but neither of the options offered was suitable to me.
The next problem I ran into was my external hard drive. I was hoping to be able to just plug it in and be able to access it, but Kubuntu wouldn’t hear of it. It took me a long time to figure out how to get it mounted the way I needed it to be.
I tried using the native TeamSpeak client, but it wouldn’t let me speak or hear others. Apparently there’s a tutorial on how to make TeamSpeak use ALSA instead of OSS which might have fixed my problem, but it looked like it had been directly translated from another language (horrible grammar) and it would have taken a large chunk of time to figure out.
Having Firefox in Kubuntu was of course nice, it made things quite a bit easier on me. Unfortunately, I never did figure out how to get web divx movies to play. I hear it’s possible with a bit of work though.
I found that Linux, while people might tote it as extremely stable, was not very stable for me. It totally froze on me three time (Had to use REISUB to get out) and KDE froze countless times. This might be just because I was doing so much emulation crap though. Also Amarok would randomly crash and leave a repeating sound of what it was playing for the last second until I could kill it.
Now, to talk about some niceties. I used Beryl for a while. It’s very much like Windows Blinds. I found Beryl to be fun to play around with for about 2 hours, then it just became annoying. Beryl also broke what use I had of my dual display. Setup for me was a breeze, but for my friend who has an ATI card, it took the better part of the day.
I had a chance to test out the seamless windows virtualization over remote desktop. Very cool! It gave me jitters to have a start menu right there by the KDE kicker and popping up windows apps like they were native in linux. Two things you should remember using this though: Don’t use it for any type of graphical program or anything that uses sound. I tried playing a simple board game with it and it was too much for it. The graphics were horrible and it gave me a pop-up error for every sound it tried to play.
I also had the opportunity to try out World of Warcraft and Steam on both wine and cedega. Cedega couldn’t run Steam at all (crashed at login page), but wine handled it beautifully. I tried playing Geometry Wars on Steam via Wine, but unfortunately no enemies ever spawn in the game… thus unplayable. Wine did a terrific job with garrysmod (a HL2 mod). It was a little rough around the edges because I couldn’t enable AF or AA, but really entirely bearable. Two things to note about garrysmod is that it would crash if I went to a higher resolution than 1024×768 and even though it claimed to be dx9, I’m pretty sure it was dx8. World of Warcraft ran fine on both cedega and wine (didn’t care enough to benchmark) in both dx and opengl. The only issue with World of Warcraft that I could see was that I couldn’t enable AF and I couldn’t see my portrait.
As far as performance, I was very impressed. Kubuntu started up within seconds (had it set to profile) and I never noticed a slow down while running any applications, even wine/cedega. I changed swappiness to 10, but never really noticed a difference.
Overall, it’s the little things like not having my dual monitor, not being able to play divx web movies, and not having AF in games that made me reluctantly boot back to Windows. Hopefully in another year or so, I’ll be able to go back to linux and stay there!