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Dream a little dream… of Debian February 13, 2008

Posted by oktyabr in debian, games, graphics, hacking, hardware, linux, opinions, personal, realtime, screenshots, software.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Some of you might have noticed I haven’t posted much on the linux front (or any other for that matter!) for awhile… This post is likely to be the first of several in a related series and the first to explain why I haven’t posted and why I am again now!

To make a long story short I moved across the state, built a new computer and ended up using wireless as my only connection to the net for the very first time…

Wireless became the “gotcha” in my case and I spent DAYS buying various PCI wireless cards, taking them home, trying them out in my new box and then returning them when one after another didn’t work. I’ll save the details of my search for the perfect linux wireless card for a different post… Suffice to say that I finally did get one to work and have had lots of time to consider exactly what I want out of linux these days…

So I’ll go over a little check list of what I would like out of linux… No, let’s go one step further! What I would like out of linux to replace Windows ALTOGETHER, which I am still dual booting into for uhem, “game theory and interactive simulation” time (i.e. I play games but don’t tell anyone that!):

1) Realtime for audio work. Yup, still pretty important to me. I gave 64Studio a whirl, no support for SATA drives on the installer. I gave the rather nifty openSUSE based JackLab Audio Distribution a run for it’s money, no madwifi support and well, it just wasn’t the same. Next up was a pretty fun spin around the block with the latest Ubuntu Studio which granted, didn’t have the same “out of the box” wireless support as it’s more vanilla flavored *buntu brethren, was still pretty easy to get up and running and really had a lot of spiff and polish. I don’t really know if it’s inherently unstable or if I just have so much fun tweaking all the goodies in a recent *buntu but it just wasn’t stable.

2) Easy package management. Each to their own but I am now more fond of apt-get and family than ever before, especially after trying openSUSE derived JAD with yast2, metapackages and the like. It felt pretty sophisticated and seemed like it should be slathered in “awesome” and “cool” but in practice I found it lacking. Too many hoops to jump through to dig up a needed package from both command line and gui, since I use both on a whim! I even tried gentoo based Saybayon and I really, really wanted to like it! It’s shiny and damn fast and the stock ISO has everything but the kitchen sink on it. But, like most distros, it would need some serious tweaking to make it into a pro-audio system. I thought I’ve advanced in linux far enough that I should be able to handle a complex enviroment like gentoo, right? Uhmmm… I mean, especially messing around with realtime I’m likely to end up patching and compiling my own kernel from scratch and every one knows that to stay on the bleeding edge of linux audio software (Ardour2 as an example) you really need to compile it from source or svn or whatever, right? To be truthful I ran away (again) from gentoo with my tail between my legs like a whipped dog. It’s not that I can’t do the configuring or the compiling… In part I think it boils down to my own philosophy on linux… I like linux and I like learning and experimenting with linux but if I have to configure, compile and install everything from scratch to get it working the way I want it isn’t so much fun any more. I’m over 40 years old and I realize that I’m not going to live forever! Why spend more time than necessary installing software, unless it’s fun? The gentoo folks will tell you to “optimize the software for your system”… In the day and age where I can buy a dual core cpu setup with a mountain of ram for under US$500 I’m really not too worried about squeezing every free CPU cycle out of my hardware anymore. If my machine starts feeling too sluggish I’ll just build something faster! πŸ˜€ So what’s that leave? No insult intended to the RPM crowd but for me that means apt and friends!

3) Solid SATA and wireless support. So far the only distros I’ve found that can answer both of these “out of the box” is Ubuntu and a few of it’s derivatives. If I had to gamble on something else without ever trying it first I would say I wouldn’t be too surprised if Texstar and company don’t have some pretty neat tricks under the hood of the latest Mandriva based PCLinuxOS or maybe even my other linux love from the past, De-buntu based SimplyMepis. So why not just stick with “what works”? I’m not sure… I’ll come back to that one, promise.

4) nVidia support. I suppose I could add ATI (fglrx) to this one too although I’m pretty much a ‘vidia fan boy. The important thing is that 3D accelerated graphics and desktops are no longer just for gamers… it’s a valuable part of many operating systems and the entry level hardware is so inexpensive that there is really no good reason for not having a way to support it in a “modern” linux distribution. Besides, if I am going to loose windows for good I need to be able to get some game on too! Whether through wine or native, hardware acceleration is a MUST.

5) NTFS support. I suppose if I kept with my dream of loosing windows forever I wouldn’t need NTFS support any more. Oh well, for the time being it’s handy to store files on a separate partition (NTFS) where it can be accessed by both linux and windows, whether dual booting or running on separate machines over the network. While support is becoming more standard these days in a variety of distributions Ubuntu still gets the prize for “out of the box” implementation although I suspect it’s not too difficult to get up and running on some of the trickier ones as well.

6) Games, games and more games. I’m a “life long gamer”! It’s what got me interested in computers in the first place, over 25 years ago, and it’s probably the one thing, more than any other, that keeps me interested in them today. Specifically, for me, at least at the moment, are racing simulations like my beloved rFactor as an example. I’m not talking guiding a sprite around a screen crashing into stuff like the racing games of olde, I’m talking about car simulations based on hundreds of hours of work translating actual physics, recording the actual sounds, meticulously creating skins that match the real thing identically, guided around GPS accurate tracks through the use of hundreds of dollars worth of dedicated hardware including a full set of variable resistance pedals and a multiple motor force-feedback steering wheel! I love it, I spend way too many hours online doing it, and truth be told have built my last two computers with this sort of “game” specifically in mind. If linux is going to completely replace windows in my life it has to be able to play the games I want to play. Until then I dual boot into windows, these particular simulations the only real reason I even bother with MS products any more.

So there you have it, my outline of the ultimate linux distribution. Can it be done? How? For me I think I’m back to dreaming about debian as my winning lottery ticket. We’ll see!

I’ll expand on each one of those topics in their own posts at a later date. For the meantime take a look at the screenshot I started this post with… That is my current OS, a frankenstein’s monster that started out by getting around 64Studio’s lack of SATA drivers by first installing Debian Lenny and then adding the realtime kernel from 64Studio afterwards. Some how I ended up partially “upgrading” it to Debian Sid in the process of building the nVidia drivers as well as the necessary wireless goodies (yes, I cheated and had a long run of cat6 strung down my hallway for a couple of hours) but all I can tell you is that it works. The only thing in that screenshot that isn’t “for real” is the desktop icon to start rFactor. Oh yes, it’s intalled, via the latest wine, but it won’t start, instead choking up on license validation (I think). Something to work on anyway πŸ˜‰

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1. HtRNcR - February 13, 2008

Debian is the best man, so configurable, stable, and one of the best Os.
that is the reason i use debian on my pc with a second partition with win xp, for some programs was not compatible.

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