Monday, 18 June 2007

Don't buy 64 bit yet :)

Some time ago, I think it was just before Easter, my sound drivers spontaneously stopped working. "No problem!" thought I, "I'll just reinstall them!"

If that had worked, this would be a far less interesting blog post.

After digging through the disks that came with my pc, I found the driver disk, reinstalled the driver, and booted up media player. Still no sound drive. "Curious," thought I, "time for a different tack."

I've contemplated the move to Linux for quite a while, never really getting around to it because, well, WinXP did what I wanted it to do, so why bother learning a new OS?

Since this no longer held, time to apt-get my new OS (nB: process changed in this paragraph for DRAMA!)

So after some advice from a Linux-running friend, I scooted on over to the Kubuntu website and downloaded the live-cd/install disk iso. First stumbling block: I don't have a cd writing drive. I could've sworn I did, but never mind. Ship it to the network drive and get my housemate to burn it.

The actuall process of the install was nice and simple. Boot the computer from the cd, click 'install' on the desktop, follow the instructions (being careful not to nuke my windows partition from orbit when creating the new ones I'd need), a tada! Done!

Rebooting the machine got me to a nice splash sreen and a desktop on one of my monitors. Hmm. Next step: get the other monitor working. Download the nVidia proprietry drivers. Edit xorg.conf. Both monitors now working! (although I do have a region of desktop that my mouse can move into but I can't see as my monitors are different sizes)

Boot the console. sudo apt-get wine so that I can get my gaming fix. Copy WoW over onto my Linux partition so I can run it. wine ~/WoW/WoW.exe


Well, thats not strictly true. I actually got a bunch of error messages.

Now I have a 64 bit pc. I downloaded 64 bit Kubuntu. There are people advocating Linux as the OS for the 64 bit era. Seriously, its not going to happen yet. Wine froze up and died because it couldn't find the 32 bit libraries. Or something like that anyway. To be fair to Linux, I've had a fair share of stuff that didn't work under 64 bit XP, so probably just don't buy that 64 bit pc yet. Back to the drawing board and my windows partition.

My next download of Linux was 32 bit, installed perfectly, but couldn't see the internet. Kind of a bugger. The third install worked pretty well, except for the fact that I couldn't find any graphics drivers that worked.

Eventually I got my Linux-savvy friend to come and poke my Linux until it worked. It took a morning of poking through obscure functions and google searches for help, but eventually, everything worked.

Then I rebooted my computer and it stopped working.

Come on guys, you aren't going to sell Linux to the masses like this!

The story ends quite nicely though. It turns out that I need to reinstall my graphics driver every time I switch my computer on, due to a mismatch between kernel versions on my graphics driver. Once its on, it works perfectly, so now I'm just testing how much up-time I can get out of it. I now have a complete and working version of WoW running on Linux (although apparently the video options menu causes a crash, shows how much I use that menu). OK it took me until this weekend to get mods to save their information (turns out I need to run sudo wine ~/WoW/WoW.exe), but it all works. Except ventrilo. Anyway.

The moral of the story, if it can be called a moral, is kinda two-fold.

Firstly, at the people developing Linux: it all needs to be user-friendlier if its going to get widespread acceptance. The only way we got my pc working was through judicious editting of xorg.conf, and only then after quite a lot of trial and error. Once you know what to add, its easy (and I could do it again in about 5 minutes), but up until that point, less tech-savvy people aren't going to have a clue, and just give up. I did!

Secondly, at the people thinking of switching to Linux: do it, it's less painful than you think!


Dan Kegel said...

"I need to reinstall my graphics driver every time I switch my computer on, due to a mismatch between kernel versions on my graphics driver."

Holy crap! That's horrible!
Nobody should have to put up with that.
I doubt many Linux users do.

Changling bob said...

Its a total of 'sudo sh N' <hit tab>, hit enter a few times, done. Its something to do with the kernel module version the driver installer produced not being the same as the actual kernel version.

It takes about 3 minutes, and while I'm waiting I can switch to a different virtual desktop and boot up a console web browser, so its not too horrible.