on Dec 30, 2012
The Linux-ing continues. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to continue much longer. At the very least, we’re going to have to go into some kind of dual-boot scenario. Aside from gaming, there are a few tools that I need and can’t get in Linux. For example…
Ventrilo has several problems under Wine. Its hotkey doesn’t work unless the window has the focus, which means if I’m trying to do anything else (surf the web, play a game, watch the Spoiler Warning stream) then I can’t talk without bringing Vent to the forefront. There are workarounds for this, but it’s not worth exploring them because the Vent audio output is completely borked. It’s compressed so bad that I can’t understand anything that anyone is saying. I can speak just fine, but I can’t hear properly. Also, various settings are getting lost from one session to the next, which means that I have to re-set the sound devices and audio levels each and every time I run the program. And it crashes.
Shamus, if you paid attention you would know that there’s Mangler, an open-source version of the client, made for Linux. It works great and you should use it!
Mangler is just flat-out broken. It locks up / goes unresponsive every fifteen minutes and must be killed and restarted. Again, this is pretty much useless if you’re trying to play a game. I’ve found several threads where people mention this problem. None of them ever got an answer. These threads date all the way back to 2009. I don’t think I’ll hold my breath for a fix, here.
This has been driving Josh crazy, since every time we get together we have to play five minutes of “Does this work? Can you hear me? Let me try Vent? Okay, are you hearing me in Vent? No? Let me go back to Mangler. Uh, nevermind. Mangler has crashed again.”
Pfft. The Vent protocol sucks anyway. You guys should just use Mumble.
We’ve talked about using Mumble for our voice communications in the past. But Josh is the audio and video editing guy, and multi-channel Vent recordings are part of his video-editing workflow. He can adjust our audio levels individually, and he can remove specific messages to clean up cross-talk. He already puts more time into Spoiler Warning than anyone else. It would be ridiculous for me to ask him (and the rest of the cast) to switch to Mumble because I switched to Linux. That’s not solving the problem, that’s just dumping the problem on someone else.
I’ve tried a few, and I haven’t really found anything that worked for me. Linux Mint comes with Banshee media player, and I can’t stand it. The interface is sprawling and cluttered, and the very small number of features that interest me are hidden deep. GNOME MPlayer has a bad habit of putting these huge gaps between items in the playlist, so I can only see a couple of items at a time. It also doesn’t respond to the built-in play / pause buttons on my keyboard.
I’ve been using the Movie Player*, which has decent playlist management and responds to the specialized play buttons, but when it changes tracks it makes my machine stutter for several seconds. I mention this because I’ve almost blundered over cliffs or into lava while playing Minecraft when one of these lurches hit.
* Really? “Movie Player”? That’s what we’re calling this application? This is the best we can do? Someone was smart enough to design an entire application but couldn’t come up with a name that didn’t sound like a tooltip for the play button? Requisite car analogy: Like a model of car named “The Automobile”.
So, I guess I’m looking for advice here. I like MP3 players which contain:
- Playlist management.
- Awareness of the extended keyboard keys for stopping and starting.
- As little else as possible.
Some media players aim pretty high with their feature lists. I don’t need recording or re-encoding. No “music management” system that obfuscates my filesystem behind labels, artists, music genres, or other things that I don’t care about. No album art. No real-time visualizer. No equalizer. No links to buy the album on iTunes or Amazon. No rating system, social networking, or heuristic music suggestions. No splash screen, no fancy animated icons in the system tray, no interface skins, no exotic non-rectangular windows. No synchronization with external MP3 players. Sure, the program can have this stuff, but at some point the sheer preponderance of features moves the application away from what I need.
So… simple, lightweight, playslists, and system-wide keyboard shortcuts. Any suggestions?
I use Fraps for taking screenshots. It’s awesome, but it’s Windows-only. It’s part of my workflow and there’s nothing on Linux that really compares with it.
Actually, glc seems to have sort of vanished. I haven’t found binaries anywhere and I’m NOT going to download the source and compile it myself, particularly when I don’t even know if it’s any good. The source isn’t even available through the Synaptic package manager, which means I’d end up downloading source from the web and performing make-file hoodoo on it to get it working. No. Freaking. Way.
How about Yukon?
Erm. Looks like the project is abandoned? Anyway, no binaries available and it’s not listed in the Software Manager.
How about RecordMyDesktop?
Gah. That one is a rant all by itself. Laying aside all the bugs / interface issues I encountered, that’s not really what I need. It only takes video of your desktop. It doesn’t do screenshots and I doubt it can handle games.
I don’t see why you need a screen capture program. Just use the built-in screenshot feature. Most games have that these days.
Yes, most. But not all, which is the crucial thing we need here. More importantly, the built-in screencap feature of most games is terrible. Where does it save on your computer? What key is it bound to? You’ll have to go hunt for it. What format? Some are BMP, some JPG, and some PNG. Some strip interface from the screenshot. Some resize the image. Almost all of them bring the game to a complete halt for a second or two while they save. Most can’t handle screenshots in non-gameplay parts of the game. (Like, during a cutscene. And often the screenshot key will just skip the whole scene. Whoops! Hope you have a recent save available!) You also can’t usually take screenshots while looking at menus, which is something you’re going to want to do.
No. If you’re writing about videogames, then you need Fraps. You have a single universal key to grab a screenshot for any game, at any moment, regardless of what else might be going on, and will then save to a single file format in the directory of your choosing, using a consistent naming system that keeps shots in chronological order, which doesn’t impact performance in the slightest.
We do not have a good alternative on Linux. Then again, we don’t need one as much, since we hardly have any…
Yeah, we knew this already. It’s actually a gradually improving situation. Still, I know I’ve got Far Cry 3, Sleeping Dogs, and Dishonored waiting for me once I have Windows installed again.
Now, I’ve been told (but have not confirmed for myself) that it’s actually much better to install Windows first, then Linux. This is because Linux is better at sharing a machine than Windows is. Again, I’m just going by hearsay. But what I’m probably going to do is nuke the entire boot drive, put on Windows 7, and then put a fresh install of Linux alongside it.
My current install of Linux has gotten a bit… cluttered. I’ve been installing things, trying them, and moving on. I’ve been treating the thing like a big sandbox. The menus are packed with stuff I don’t use, there’s a ton of stuff spewed in the Home directory that doesn’t make sense, a lot of stuff isn’t configured the way I want it, and so on. I’ve installed more stuff in the last two weeks of using Linux than I did in the last year of using Windows, just because I was trying to get a sense of what worked for me and what didn’t. I could clean it manually, but right now it’s trivial to install clean and start over.
It took me a little while to get familiar with how the filesystem is organized. Now that I know what I need and where I should put my stuff, I can do it again with less mess.
I don’t want to give up Linux. I’m really enjoying this. The machine boots faster, is more responsive, and more stable. The operating system doesn’t pester me with stupid popups and notifications, and the OS is really good about making the operation of your data directory as transparent as possible. (Compare to “C:\Documents and Settings”.) In Windows, the line is between the operating system and everything else, and the line gets kind of blurry once you consider the dreaded Windows registry. In Linux the line is between “software” and “data”, which is much more meaningful to the end user.
Still, no matter how much I’m enjoying Linux, this Vent thing is a real concern. Dual-boot is fine for when you want to jump from working to gaming. In fact, it might even be a boost for my productivity. (If I have to re-boot to play a game, I’m less likely to stop for one of those “fifteen minute” gaming sessions that takes two hours.) But I can’t very well re-boot every time I need to talk to my friends.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.