Tuesday, 5 May 2015

GNU Territory! Part 3: Implementation

WOW! It has been a long time since my last post but I can report that I have successfully transitioned to Linux! I have been meaning to write this article for a while but school and life have gotten in the way. Switching to Linux has not been without its struggles. In summary, I have mixed feelings...


In December, I received an i5-2500K processor from my friend to replace my Athlon II X4 620. I began my build by backing up my data and transitioning to this hardware. Little did I know that my RAID scheme would not transition to the Intel platform well. Apparently, Intel's RAID controller does not support JBOD. My plan to JBOD several small disks together in BIOS then use mdadm to mirror this JBOD drive with another drive was simply not possible. As a result of this, my current RAID setup is very inefficient. Another issue plaguing this build is the fact that the onboard sound on this motherboard does not work (hardware issue, none with the kernel). That is fine as I just use my USB DAC but it would have been nice to have.

I installed Arch Linux right off the bat; it was not a terribly difficult process as I've had experience with setting up partitions and other things. Honestly, it was an interesting experience and I learned quite a bit! I installed Awesome as my Window Manager and began to try to use a tiling WM. I installed Steam to test my games. The first glaring issue I ran into was the fact that when using PulseAudio, Dota2 would lag and crash. By removing PulseAudio and only using ALSA I was able to solve this issue. I wrote scripts to place my USB DAC as the default device but could not figure out hot to "hot swap" this feature (as in, make it the default device even if it is unplugged and plugged back in). The second issue was that DotA and other apps like TeamSpeak would crash all the time (this later turned out to be a hardware issue). I tried switching out video drivers to end the crashes but this was to no avail. Arch Linux was fast and amazing but honestly after tinkering with the audio settings for many many hours and still not having it work as I wanted I realized this OS was not for me. I like tinkering but there is a limit; I can see where Arch gets its label as a "time sink OS".

In January, I switched from Arch to Xubuntu (queue babbys first linux jokes here). I found that this install was also plagued with the same crashes. I was beginning to get frustrated now. I thought that perhaps my motherboard was the problem; my BIOS was up to date so I could not find the problem. Then I found it. My old DDR3 RAM takes 1.65 volts and my motherboard was only supplying 1.5 volts. After a fresh reinstall (which is so much easier easy on Linux might I add) the system operated very stably for a while... Until recently.

The system has developed problems with randomly freezing and requiring a power cycle. I suspect this Asus P8Z77-V LX is somewhat less than reliable. I will likely use a mATX 1155 motherboard by Intel which my friend has offered up.


      • I haven't found a good, stable, non-linear video editor yet - kdenlive is okay but crashes far too often.
      • The Nvidia driver behaves strangely; sometimes it will just perform terribly until I reboot.
        • Screen tearing is quite awful on Linux, even with "fixes".
        • I am also just too scared to install the latest potentially unstable driver.
      • Haven't found too many emulators yet (The PSX [PCSX] emulator I tried takes A LOT of tinkering to get full screen and textures to work properly).
      • Netflix requires Chrome (annoying but at least it works).
      • Not as many games (this was expected but it still hurts).
      • Very little hand holding in terms of things being set up for you and ready to work.
        • Certain Java functions did not work in Firefox until I installed some additional packages. I was using Cisco WebEX and even after I installed the packages, it did not work entirely correctly.
      • Development environments for .NET (MonoDevel) were not easy to configure and I had to resort to using Visual Studio 2013 on my Windows partition.
      • Kind of annoying that every time I need to install something complex I think to myself, "Oh great, how much of my time is this going to eat up?"


      • Learning lots about Wine and other Linux tools.
      • Easy to diagnose my problems.
      • Amazingly fast boot up times.
        • Fast everything.
      •  Software and package management is a breeze; no need to visit a website every time I want a piece of software.
      • I am improving at CS:GO since it is one of the only "realistic" FPS's on Linux that I own.


      The next steps in this project are to move over to the "new", hopefully stable hardware and redo my RAID and backup procedures. While doing this I plan to switch distributions to something like Antergos and try another tiling WM. It's hard to believe I'm already 5 months into using Linux almost exclusively!


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