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Ubuntu is now my main OS
08 November 2017
Posted in Linux

I've been experimenting with Linux for about a year and a half by now, and on my main PC for close to 5 months by now. In those 5 months I've learned a lot about Ubuntu and Linux in general and am finally ready to say my Windows 7 Ultimate x64 install goodbye - well, sort off...

First things first though...

The reason to shift from Windows to Linux were numerous and I'll recap them quickly:
  - Windows 7 is on it's 'end of life' cycle
  - Windows 10 (I can upgrade) violates my privacy BIG TIME
  - Since owning my PS4 Pro I'm no longer gaming on my PC
  - SECURITY in general (virus protection and hacking are close to non-existant on Linux)
  - Coming from OS/2, I never really liked Windows in the first place

The main problem with switching to Linux was my programming efforts though. With the Unity3D engine already being in beta for about a year (and still is in beta BTW), I figured that hopping to Linux would be easy.
     How wrong I was! 
Yes, the switch itself was easy - just import the projects in the new (Linux) version of Unity3D and it works. It's all those 3rd party tools that I've been using for the last 4 years causing problems. A lot of them are available for Mac OSX (and not even all of them ), while only a handfull are available for Linux

For the tools that don't have a Linux port (yet) I tried WINE, but that was a big no-no because of the nature of most of these tools. Yes, most did run, but all with a big BUT. Almost all had problems with loading and saving the projects (most likely from the different Linux file systems), and a couple had odd quirks where graphics would not load correctly, while even one (the flowchart tool I use) ended up with totally different results.

So WINE was not an option, and I searched for alternatives and ended with virtual machines. There are half a dozen available for Linux and I tried two of them (VirtualBox by Oracle and VMware Player by VMware) to check for the differences, and they are HUGE.
  VirtualBox is completely free, and as usual, you get what you pay for meaning that it WILL run virtual machines, but the support for DX11 is just bad. The same thing goes with a lot of other hardware calls that are handled oddly. Big PLUS for VirtualBox is that it doesn't run so heavy on my machine compared to VMware Player.
  VMware Player is my main choice right now. Reason being the perfect integration of (virtual) hardware calls and handling - I was even able to install the Elgato HD Game Capture device with it (though streaming handling sucked for it). VMware Player also runs 95% of the applications flawlessly, and those that it doesn't run mostly use direct hardware calls. There are 2 problems though with VMware Player:
  - It runs extremely heavy on my machine, at times using 100% CPU power - even when only 1 core is assigned.
  - It's commercial software with a free license for non-commercial use (allowing 1 box) and purchase of a full license is 275

Sadly though, even with VMware Player there is still 1 tool that's not running under Linux/VM. And while it's not a tool I use a lot, I still have my Windows install (set to a minimum) on my system just in case I need it. I only hope that this last tool will be ported to Linux though...


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Linux - 1 week later
29 June 2017
Posted in Linux

I consider myself to be quite the computer veteran. Having started with PCs in 1989 (after 5 years of using home computers) and used a couple of different operating systems (started with DOS with later added QEMM/Desqview for 'multi-tasking' (or rather time-slicing on a 386DX machine), then OS/2 (versions 2.11, Warp 3 and Warp 4) to hop to Windows XP in 2002 and Windows 7 in 2007). But Linux is something completely different though. While the GUI is much like OS/2 and Windows had, the system that runs thingsin the background is completely different.

Like my programming activities where I learn the system begind the language, Iḿ taking a similar approach for Linux as well. And while it sounds like 'pun intended' with Linux being a system already, DOS, OS/2 and Windows all have in common that they more or less had the same 'grand mother', being DOS itself. It was not too hard to work on the command line of those opeating systems at all. From the earliest DOS version I used (which was 2.x iirc) up to the latest (version 6 of which I still have the 3.5"discs) as well as OS/2-DOS (which actually was caller that way) and the Windows DOS prompts, they all used the same commands, both native to the COMMAND.EXE (or CMD.EXE for Windows) as well as the external 'tools' that came with the DOS versions.
Linux is completely different. While the native commands are quite similar (dis, ls, rd and such), the administrative commands are totally different. The SUDO command allowing me to get into the administrative tools (which are equal to the external tools for DOS) are quite differently though. For that I'm reading some ebooks I've bought as well as using Google a lot to see how things work. Good thing though that there are also quite a lot of GUI tools (Synaptics being the most important one) to make things easier, but as said, I much rather learn how to use the system itself than let (3rd party) tools do things for me.

Then there's the thing about my programming tools. I wanted to be 'free' of Windows, and while knowing that not every tool I need is available for Linux (yet), I also didn't want to install WINE (Windows Is Not Emulated). Sadly though, that didn't seem to be an option for me. Certain Windows tools that I've been using while programming are too important not to use again, OR the data I've already created take too much time to convert them to a Linux equivalent (like my flowchard for the Modern System Reference Document - this image is already an old version). For these old tools, as well as some of my Steam applications that I'm missing I've decided to get WINE anyway...

Gaming under Linux is something important to mention as well. While I'm gaming more and more on my PS4 for the last haf year, there are still some games that I want to play. It's a good thing thatthose games are available for Linux and I have installed those. It's also fun to point out that a game like Borderlands 2 runs a lot smoother under Linux with all settings maxed out than it does under Windows
The only thing I need to figure out is how to get nVidia PhysiX to work under Linux. While not being overly important, I think it'll be one of those fun things to get to work. I've already seen that the nVidia drivers did install Vulkan (now figure out how to use it when programming ), but using both PhysX for my games (Borderlands 2 uses it) would be AWESOME. And for programming using them both at the same time would be great as well, though I think Vulkan might be stong enough already to ditch PhysX completely...

Last but not least, the Ubuntu community. I've subscribed to the /r/Ubuntu subreddit and I gotta say that the community is great. Asking questions doesn't result in downvotes and negative comments, it's quite the opposite (and something to get used to). When I ask a question, I get a lot of upvotes, even if people don't comment on it. And those people who comment come with real good answers. If you want to switch to Linux, I'd say get over there as well for some real good help and general information!


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Migrating to Linux
21 June 2017
Posted in Linux

With the HDD problems I've had last week, I finally managed to get Windows running again as it somewhat used to. Okay, I've lost some data -mainly gaming saves-, but nothing too important to mourn about. PC-gaming was already a non-issue for me since I got my PS4 Pro late January and the other data I lost are things I can download again. The most important data I already backed up last month or is stored on the development drive, which wasn't struck by the data loss at all...

As said, PC gaming becoming a non-issue for me kinda makes Windows more and more a non-issue for me. Sadly though, I still need to reply on Windows for only a couple of development tools which are not (yet) available for Linux. The two most important one is GeoVOX, which I use from time to time to create very nice terrains in Unity. Other tools like Grand Designer and Music Maker will be missed as well, but I'm not using those too much.
Then of course there's a search to replace other (smaller) tools, like WinAmp and find a good GUI shell for RAR compression (Linux has a text based version only).

But the most important thing that I was afraid of was the transision of my Thunderbird mailclient. For Windows I use MoxBackup to backup & restore my mail, and it's not available for Linux. Luckily though, I could just copy/paste the whole ./AppData/Roaming/Thunderbird/Profiles folder into my Ubuntu install. I also could have used Thunderbird --ProfileManager to point to that folder, but that'd mean I had to mount the Windows drive every time I boot Ubuntu (and I'm too lazy for that ). Not to mention, if I really want to use Linux, I'd better let go of Windows tools sooner than later...

Then my development progress using the Unity3D engine. Well, things couldn't be easier... Just copy/paste load the same project directory and go. I do get a warning that the version is a different one (Windows uses 5.6.0f3, while Linux uses 5.6.0xf3), but since it's practically the same version, its nothing to worry about.

It's only for my Unity development that I have to keep Windows installed on my PC. If I make a game some day (currently busy on the bare basics for one through multiple small~ish projects), I do need to make sure that it'll work under Windows as well. Other than that I will try to stick to Linux as much as possible. It's also worth to notice that I was already thinking to install Linux last month and had bought the full Linux book bundle from the Humble Bundle site. Now it's time to start reading them and learn while using Linux


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The importance of multiple HDDs, backups and a new beginning
17 June 2017
Posted in Linux

  /melodamatic on
I'm writing you from my ASUS EEE-netbook right now because my PC kinda got fucked up...
  /melodramatic off

Okay, seriously now... Yes, my PC got fucked up completely yesterday. but let me start at the beginning. I have 3 HDDs in my PC:
  1. Seagate Baracuda 250Gb (which is about 10 years old) for Windows boot
  2. Western Digital Caviar 1Tb (about 5 years old) for development
  3. Western Digital Caviar 2Tb (about 3 years old) for gaming
None of these drives have ever failed, but my Windows started to boot slower the last half year or so. So I decided to check the health of my HDDs, and that Seagate drive showed it had over 48K running hours (5 1/2 years ) and had an enormous amount of seek data errors (around 3 3/4 a second), while both WD drives had no seek data errors at all. This would imply that while the Seagate drive is still working without error, there's a chance that one day these errors might end up in mechanical errors, crashing the drive completely...

So I decided to remove the Seagate drive. For that I have an anormous amount of tools, but a PartedMagic build I have that includes CloneZilla was my software of choice. CloneZilla is a real powerful tool that allows you to copy disc to disc or partition to partition, including MBR restauration so that you'll be able to continue with your system where you left off.

I wish it all was that simple While I had used CloneZilla before to backup my Windows drive to prepare for Linux, this time things went from bad to worst.
I started by halving the gaming drive and move the partition to the end of the drive so that I had 1Tb free for the Windows partition that I'd clone and still had space to install Linux along side. While the repartitioning and cloning went well, the Windows partition ended up on the other half of the drive and it would not boot at all
I made a new try on the cloning and this time I said to also create a MBR (which I did not do in the previous step). This was something I better had not done! The cloning started as usual, but exited in an error after a few seconds - an error that was extremely cryptyc (what else do you expect from something running under Linux ). When I opened the file manager, the 2Tb drive has only 1 partition and it was EMPTY!

So yeah, I've lost my game drive, but that's not a real big deal. I haven't been gaming on my PC for the last half year or so thanks to the purchase of my PS4 Pro But there was some data on that drive (including the Linux ISOs that I need) that got lost and I need to redownload again.

With the gaming drive, the solution was to disc-clone the Windos drive onto the (now former) gaming drive and that went perfect. I added a new 1Tb partition for games at the end of it and I was good to go!
    WRONG!
While Windows booted normally, the explorer kept on crashing with every instruction I wanted to do with it. I was only able to open it and brose my files, but anything else just crashed big-time For this I could not find a real solution online (hell, I fucked up most likely), and decided to start in save mode to copy stuff I needed in preperation of a clean install, but even there the explorer kept on crashing. OH YES, I WAS MAD!

Back to the drawingboard and reconsider my options (again) and the only thing I could think off was once again start PartedMagic and backup all stuff I REALLY care about (my development drive which also holds the /My Documents and /My Music directories) and install my PC from scratch. But how?
Well, with Windows (still using 7 Ultimate BTW) becoming less and less a thing for me because I'm not gaming anymore on the PC, I figured that the 1Tb drive would be perfect for Windows and the 2Tb drive should be used for Linux. The only problem though with Linux is that some of my development tools are Windows-only. Okay, the developers of these tools are considering to make a Linux version, but that might take some time still (which is exactly why I'm still in need of Windows).

Bottom line, I'm more than glad that I have 3 HDDs in my PC and have quite some backups. This also has added some speed to my plans to switch from Windows to Linux as well. I've bought the Linux eBooks earlier this month from Humble Bundle and thought to learn the ropes slowly, but it looks like I now need to learn while working with it (and reading the eBooks).
The only sad thing though is that I most likely have lost most of my (new) Opera browser bookmarks. I have managed to back up the directory where the Opera settings reside, but when I switch to Linux, I might not be able to import those. Same might go for my eMail client. I'm using Thunderbird, and for Windows there's a real good back-up tool for it. But I'm not so certain if and how to import the backup into Thunderbird for Linux (if it even exists).


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Phenom II X4 955 and Linux performance
25 February 2016
Posted in Linux

That was a real quick delivery. The AMD Phenom II X4 955 CPU I bought 2nd hand two days ago came in this morning. And while this CPU is getting close to a decade old design, it's still a very good one IF taken care of. Just look at the Phenom II X6 1090T in my main PC, that thing is already 6 years old and still working perfeclty (and beating the newer ADM FX-6300 series as well ). Oddly enough, the X4 955 is listed as a 125W CPU on the AMD site, while listed as 95W in the MSI CPU support page of the motherboard I'm using But I guess if MSI tells me that the CPU should work fine, all will be okay

Then the performance of the CPU under Linux... Aside from still trying to learn the ropes of Linux and figure out how all works, a testrun with XCOM: Enemy Unknown went so-so.

 photo Screenshot from 2016-02-25 18.36.45_zpsatbuyshe.png

I know 'so-so' doesn't sound too well, but the problem was not related to the CPU but rather the GPU. Instead of the on-board GPU, I decided to buy a cheap-ass nVidia GT 240 (1Gb) card to have some better performance and be able to play some games. And while the GT 240 isn't a bad card, it's an old one to current standards, and with XCOM requiring something more powerfull (nVidia 600+ series minimum), on 720p and rather low settings the performance was pretty good. I did try to play the game on 1080p, but that was clearly a no-go with 15FPS max

And while at it, I also kept a close eye on the CPU and RAM usage, as well as temperature of the GPU. And honestly, I gotta say that I was somewhat impressed by how well it all ran. The CPU didn't go over 90% while playing XCOM, RAM used didn't exceed 3Gb and the GPU didn't get over 52C, making the test a success. The only thing I might do is add an extra 4Gb of RAM, because a 64-bit operating system running on the 4Gb RAM it has now is generally considered odd...

And while it's tempting to play games on the Linux machine, that's not the reason I have it. I have it for 2 purposes:
  1. As mentioned earlier I want to change from Windows 7 (Ultimate x62) to Linux in time. If possible later on this year, but there's no real hurry for the change. I still have to figure out how to move stuff like my mail and bookmarks (in 3 different browsers ) from Windows to Linux. I need to figure out how to get certain Windows-only programs to run under Linux (I know: Wine, but how to configure it to the max I mean). And more such things.
  2. I want a machine to test the games I'll be making. I also want a machine that I can use as (test)server for an online game I want to make, be it either MMO or co-op but at least with a dedicated database behind it.

I know, lots of thought on the use of that Linux machine, but for now it's just a 'learning experience' only. I don't care if I screw up the configuration and have to reinstall Linux again (already installed it twice now)...


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Linux getting one step closer
24 February 2016
Posted in Linux

The last couple of days I've been experimenting with Linux a bit more. Or rather, I've been trying to get the Unity3D engine to work under Linux. Like I've said earlier, the Unity3D editor is one of the main features that must be working under Linux before I seriously will consider to run it in dualboot with my current Windows 7 Ultimate x64 configuration...

First I tried to get Unity3D to work under Wine, but to no avail The current version of the engine (5.3.2f1) requires full (native?) Windows 7 (and up) support and is just not installing itself under Wine. This was quite a bummer, but there are more ways to get something working, for instance an older version of Unity. For that experiment I tried version 5.2.4f1 and that one did install under Wine. Sadly though, starting Unity resuled in an error and I could not get it to work with Wine.
But browsing the Unity3D forums I found a topic with a pretty neat instruction manual on how to get Unity to work with Wine through PlayOnLinux. It looked very promising and I followed it with version 5.2.4f1 and it did install (again). Sadly though, starting Unity crashed it again with (seemingly) the same error
Now I could install Unity 4.7, which I think will work under Wine, but all my projects are already running under 5.3.2f1 and the projects are not downward compatible. That, and the jump Unity made from versions 4 to 5 in graphical performance are two reasons not to go back to Unity 4...

Then I remembered that blog post Unity made about a native Linux client. But this build is an expirimental one, and a previous experimental build (Unity for 2D only) was reserved to (professional) license owners only. But I figured to give it a try anyway and to my big surprise I was able to install and run Unity for Linux! Sadly though, it's only version 5.1...
Browsing the Unity forums once more, I found the Linux experimental subforum where a topic was made that'll contain the latest builds of the Linux version, which is compatible with Windows/Mac 5.3.2f1. I downloaded that one and it workslike a charm!

The only problem though, is getting used to Linux. I've been searching for the pull-down menus like crazy, only to find out that they can be found at the top of the screen (where the system time resides and other system info) instead on top of the current window I also want to know more about the Linux operating system itself. Where Windows (and OS/2) were clearly derived from the DOS operating system and used a similar directory structure, Linux is completely different. And while I've been playing a bit with Linux a bit yesterday and have already learned a lot on what and where, it's so different from the DOS structure...
With that, I also want to know more on how Linux itself works. It's not like Windows where you simply install something, or where a file has a clear .EXE to indicate it's an executable. You need to add flags (I already know a bit abut that thanks to scripting PHP and a lot of internet experience) and a lot of commands are running from the command prompt (so tempting to say DOS promt ) with the sudo commands.

That's all on my alt/test PC, of which I upgraded the GPU yesterday fromthe on-board one to a nVidia GTS240 1Gb (still not much, but a lot better than the on-board one ). I have also already purchased a 2nd hand CPU (Phenom II X4 955) to replace the current one (Athlon X2 250 ). I might even add an extra 4Gb RAM later on to get to 8Gb, because 4Gb and a 64-bit operating system is not the best combination, even though Linux runs very fine on 4Gb.

I'm slowly getting into Linux, but still have a long way to go. I'm so happy that I have a 2nd PC to test it all on...


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Thinking about Linux
15 February 2016
Posted in Linux

Windows has never been my operating system of choice, and actually it still isn't...

Even before everyone started using Windows 3.1, I was using Deskview/QEMM instead for my timeslicing (we had no multi-tasking back then because PCs only had 1 CPU with 1 core). At the time people started using Windows 3.xx (I still don't see how that ever got so popular because it was just a shell over DOS), I started using IBM's OS/2, which I used for a decade. People around me started using Windows 95, 98, and the only way I got in contact with them was on my work. At home I was very content with my OS/2 system that ran far more stable AND faster.

But sadly, time goes by and hardware got better. During that time, IBM had lost the battle for the leading operating system by far already (in favor of Windows 95) and abandoned OS/2 all together, but I still managed to keep using OS/2. That was until I made a PC around 2002 and the hardware was so 'revolutionar' that OS/2 couldn't even install itself anymore  It was a good thing that at that time I was already experimenting with Windows 95 for half a year (in dual-boot), and my first PC running Windows as main OS was born

During that half year that I ran both OS/2 and Windows 95, I did a lot of performance test between the two. I made a couple of simple programs that only increased a counter by 1 for a minute and displayed the result afterward (both in DOS box and native compiled for OS/2 and Windows). In all cases OS/2 was by far superior (up to 150% faster in a DOS box ). I also had a couple of games for both OS/2 and Windows (SimCity 2000 and Galactic Civilization are 2 I still remember), and in all cases, the AI responded faster under OS/2 and the display performance was better under OS/2 as well...

From 2002 till now I've ran XP, Vista (which I had pre-installed on my first and only pre-build PC and downgraded immediately to XP ) and 7. And though XP and 7 are very stable, I never really was content with Windows as operating system. I kept looking around for alternatives, and frankly the only alternative is Linux (nope, I don't count Apple OSX as a viable alternative for PCs).

Only recently I tried Windows 10 on my ASUS EEE netbook and much like Windows 8(.1), I don't like it's look and feel a bit. It looks like Mikcey$oft has lost track of what a PC actually is and starts to mix it with tablets, consoles and phones (certainly Windows 10 does that). Fuck off guys! I have a PC and I want it treated like that, and not some sort of 'multiple-choice operating system' that has all of those platforms installed and thus takes yet more overhead to keep running! If I want to use a tablet I'll get one (I don't have one BTW), if I want a console I'll power up my PlayStation 3, and if I want a phone I'll use my Android phone!
Not to mention PRIVACY. I've turned off ALL tracking in Windows 10 and still it tells me that it will send BASIC INFORMATION to Mickey$oft (which according to their EULA they are allowed to publicly publich in they feel like it). I don't want that and I also want to know what Mickey$oft calls BASIC INFORMATION, but noooo.... Mickey$oft is not telling that and thus can send ANYTHING it wants to their servers aside from what I've turned off...

It's a good thing that about half a year ago I made a new PC for my parents in-law and they gave me their old one in return. I installed Linux (Ubuntu 14.04.2) on it to use it later on and learn to use Linux. And by learning Linux I mean more than click on the graphical UI (everyone can do that...). I want to leanr how to use it's command prompt, how it's file system and directory structure works, and such things. I JUST WANT TO MASTER LINUX! And an old PC like that is the perfect way to get started on it.
And while not in a hurry to master Linux, I do want to try to have enough knowledge of it so that I can use it in dual-boot on my main PC by the end of the year. By that time I also hope that Unity3D has finally made it's engine native for Linux. Though that's not a hard demand for me to switch to Linux (I heard Unity3D runs perfectly under WINE), having it native in Linux would make things very easy for me...


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