Hello Linux!

Like many others, I reacted with a bit of horror at Microsoft’s latest attempt to figure out what the fuck to do with half a planet’s worth of GPU compute capacity, Copilot Recall. Why, this just might make me mad enough to switch my desktop (which I really only use for gaming any more, since Windows 11 is such an abortion to use regularly for anything else) to Linux! For real this time, guys!

I seethed on it for a bit, but then I realized that in the process of testing the Skylake board that’s on my bench right now, I’d already installed Arch on it anyway. Let’s see just how bad it is. Sure, Linux nerds have been telling me that since Valve released the Steam Deck, it’s Better For Real This Time, but they’re Linux nerds, you know how they are.

Anyway, I installed Arch in the typical fashion, having only the tiniest spot of grief with Grub. Namely, in that I can’t seem to make it boot. I either get an “Operating System Not Found” error or I get an instant reboot. I ended up switching to the EFISTUB method, though Avi recommends biting the bullet and switching to systemd-boot, which I might do at some point.

So I’m on an SSD and it’s fairly quick, let’s install Wayland, Plasma, and all the good stuff I use on my laptop. It’s at this point, I spent almost an hour, most of it saying “fucking wayland”, wondering why I got nothing but a black screen when I started it. If I had read the instructions, I would know that the GT710 that came with the board is now unsupported by the nvidia driver. I literally just pulled it out, plugged the GTX 1050Ti that came out of Duncan’s machine some time ago, and I was up and running.

But what about gaming? So on Thursday I resized my Windows partition to claw back about 300GB, and repeated the process. This was sketchy and fraught with peril, because in order to do so I had to disable Secure Boot, which meant deleting the Secure Boot keys. I found a USB to back them up to, then blew away the PK key, and proceeded with the installation. It mostly worked first go, I was slightly held up by the fact I can’t install a fallback kernel/image, because the EFI partition Windows made was only 100MB, but otherwise it went pretty smoothly.

I restored Helldivers 2 from a backup, and it ran okay, but the mouse kept jumping out of the window and screwing up movement. Turns out there’s a solution for that, gamescope, which performs as advertised. Indeed, I was able to use that to throttle GTA5’s framerate as well, which fixed the stuttering on that game as well.

I haven’t actually done any multiplayer gaming on it yet, but it mostly seems like everything I want to do “just works”, I’m fairly well impressed. I had a bit of lag on Discord when typing, and someone on Reddit mentioned turning off acceleration and sure enough, that issue’s fixed.

There’s a pretty good chance I probably can’t indulge in the Game Pass subscription we have without resorting to a touch of light piracy, but realistically most of the games that are on there that I might want to play I can just throw on the Xbox One instead.

Anyway, satisfied it’s gonna do the job, Friday after work I decided to commit completely, and wiped my NVME drive completely. I built a 2GB EFI partition, 32GB of swap (not sure I need it, but better to growfs than shrinkfs, in my experience), and the rest is EXT4. Repeat the process, and everything’s hunky-dory. I did move my games to the 4GB spinner beforehand so I can just copy them back instead of downloading them at 40mbps, but that’s it.

Still to sort out:

  • SDDM is hideous, and doesn’t know that one of my monitors is rotated. I might just configure it to auto-login though.
  • I have not tested Steam Remote Play on the Steam Link. I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work with Wayland, but from what I can tell looking at the forum posts it’s just supposed to?
  • I haven’t tested using a controller, but from what I can tell it’s supposed to just work too.
  • I don’t have a way to run VMs yet. I’m not sure what to do about this, I may just run Incus, or since I only really run Linux I might be able to just use containers, or I may have to figure out KVM or something and do it properly.

Update: 2024-06-14: It’s been mostly plain sailing. I solved the “ugly SDDM” issue by simply enabling auto-login so I never see it. I still haven’t tested Remote Play, but I have used a controller… it basically “just worked” once I disabled the thing where it pretends to be a keyboard.

I did have further issues of really poor game performance for no good reason. I actually installed mangohud to track it, and despite it saying 130~140FPS, I was definitely getting somewhere around the 20~40 mark on GTA5 (which my PC should do far better than, and typically does). I messed around trying other versions of Proton, restarting, etc and in the end I accidentally figured out that if I just switch out of and then back into full-screen mode it goes away and the game runs smooth (with zero change in the reported FPS).

I also got Battle.net installed and played Diablo 4! That took a bit of doing, I originally tried installing it via Steam, but I was unhappy with how that worked, so I ended up reinstalling Battle.net in Lutris and then copied the game files across. Lutris would stall at the “creating WINE prefix” stage, but after reading through a GitHub issue the reason for that is rather silly: wine is not installed. I installed it and a few other packages it said were missing when I ran it from the command line, and it proceeded without a hitch.

Horsham, VIC, Australia fwaggle



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Horsham, VIC, Australia

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