Nov 112021
 

If you follow a certain Linux on Youtube, you may well be aware of an incident where Linus was trying to install Steam on a newly installed copy of Pop_OS! and managed to produce a bit of a mess without a desktop environment. What happened?

I think that when he encountered a problem installing Steam with the gooey, he then obtained a command-line “recipe” for installing Steam – potentially for a different distribution (it certainly mentioned removing lots of “stuff” including gnome-desktop).

Is this a problem with Linus being a bit of an idiot or Linux being a bit broken? A bit of both perhaps.

Linus’ idiocy is perhaps an example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing – he mentioned being comfortable with using the command-line, but would admit that he doesn’t understand everything that goes on within it (to be fair, nobody understands everything even those who’ve been using the Linux command-line for over 20 years). And certainly when apt said “To install this package, I’m going to remove this long list of other packages”, the appropriately cautious should be saying “No” (and yes there is a prompt to allow you to do that).

The Linux command-line follows the principle that if the human wielding it wants to do something dumb, it may warn you but it will let you do whatever you want. That’s handy but scary and dangerous.

Now most users will likely veer away from the command-line – this is where Linus was a bit of an idiot – at least until they have a bit more experience. But perhaps those who make distributions should make the danger a bit more dangerous by adding a warning when opening the terminal (added to ~/.profile so we can remove an unnecessary warning) :-

WARNING !!!!

The command-line can be dangerous if you are not careful. Pasting in "recipes" found on the Internet for solutions to issues can result in serious damage to your Linux installation requiring re-installation.

In particular a recipe should be specific to your distribution and the version of the distribution you are running. 

When looking for solutions on the Internet, always bear in mind that there are idiots out there who will publish “solutions” that are anything but. As mentioned in my hypothetical warning, recipes are very often (especially when dealing with software installation) specific to a particular distribution and version – use it inappropriately and you may well run into serious trouble.

On the subject of gooeys, it would be handy to include a “Solutions” link when an error occurs in a software package manager that takes you to a web page specific to the package you are trying to install. Encounter trouble installing “Steam 6.23”? The solutions link might take you to a page saying “This package is out of date; please run Update”. This would allow links to be specific to the distribution and version in use – a lot more helpful than simply expecting the user to search the Internet for a solution.

King Alfred Looking Down At The Runners
Oct 302021
 

Steam under Linux (and probably other environments too but I’ve never run it elsewhere) has a nice feature to enlarge text on high dpi displays. Unfortunately when I enable it, the pop-up windows (such as the settings window) will scroll down the screen repeatedly disappearing from view.

Which is very inconvenient and makes it quite tricky to turn the feature back off again. Now this could be a problem with the Awesome window manager or with the settings that I use (although Steam seems to be the only application with this issue), but I’m not interested enough to try and fix the problem.

I just want to change the setting back to something that may be small and squashed but at least works.

  1. Find the ~/.steam/registry.vdf file.
  2. Edit with a text editor and search for “DPIScaling” :-
» grep DPIScaling registry.vdf 
					"DPIScaling"		"1"

And change the “1” to a “0”, and restart Steam.

About To Break
Jun 292019
 

(And apologies for the misspelling; that words is spelt “civilisation” around these parts)

So I’m a Linux user and whilst I don’t often play games, an occasional break spending time slaughtering pedestrians (in GTA V) or conquering the world (in ‘Civilization’) can be fun.

Except that I have not been able to play Civilization V since I bought it through Steam – usually instant crashes although sometimes it worked well enough for a few turns.

Today I sat down and tried out various suggestions on fixing it until I found one that worked for me :-

  1. Right-click the game name in Steam.
  2. Select “Properties”
  3. Select “Startup options”
  4. Specify one of the following :-
    1. (Failed for me) LD_PRELOAD=’./libcxxrt.so:/usr/$LIB/libstdc++.so.6′ %command%
    2. (Failed for me) LD_PRELOAD=/usr/lib32/libopenal.so.1 %command%
    3. taskset –cpu-list 0-3 %command%

As implied, the “taskset” startup option appears to have worked for me. According to the site I nicked it from, Civilization has trouble running on systems with more than 8 core threads.

Tower Stonework
Sep 102018
 

If you have not heard, Steam have added a compatibility layer to Steam which allows a limited number of Windows games to run. The “compatibility layer” is in fact a fork of WINE called Proton.

Peered at from 500 metres away, Proton allows Windows software to run (or not infrequently crash and burn) by translating the Win32 API into Linux APIs, and translating the variety of graphics APIs into Vulkan. That is a really difficult thing to do.

I have taken a very quick look at the new Steam client (and “Proton” is no longer part of a beta release of the Steam client – it’s in the standard client). It works perfectly adequately, although you will have variable experiences running Windows software.

For some reason this news has captured the imagination of a number of ‘tubers who are more gamers than Linux users, which has lead to some misunderstanding :-

  1. This is not Linux gaming; it is Windows gaming under Linux. If you have a bad experience with Steam under Linux, you are not experiencing a bad time with Linux gaming. Linux gaming involves native Linux software, and yes there is some out there.
  2. Problems with Steam could well be down to the Proton compatibility layer with unsupported API calls or buggy usage of the Win32 API which relies on Windows behaving in a certain way for undefined parameters.
  3. In addition problems with Steam could be due to the hardware you are running; take a game that works perfectly fine with an Nvidia card. It may behave problematically with an AMD card or even a different Nvidia card. Or the other way around.

The important thing to remember when looking at videos about Steam is that the person looking at Steam may not be the most experienced Linux user out there. That is not necessarily bad – the whole purpose of Steam is to be able to run games easily without a whole lot of Linux experience.

But they may not be understanding properly what is going on – for example the first thing I would do as a professional game-orientated ‘tuber would be to try out a selection of games with an nvidia card, and then repeat using an AMD card – just to see if things work better, worse, or at least differently.

And again, this is not about Linux gaming but about allowing easy access to old Windows titles that someone may have bought in the past. 

Pentland Hills
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