I made the switch to Linux a week ago today, having finally had enough of the Microsoft eco-system and the direction they're heading. Since then I've installed Ubuntu 12.04, 12.10, 32-bit and 64-bit flavours (more on that later), Xubuntu, played about with a couple of Mint versions in VM's etc, and trialled a few different DE's.
I'm wondering if you kind souls wouldn't mind gently guiding this utter noob in the right direction for my requirements
Firstly, background: I've been a PC gamer since DOS days on an NEC Powermate 286 running at a staggering 10Mhz (12 even if I hit the turbo button!). I've dabbled with Linux in the past up the point where I've installed it and thought "Hmm... now what?"... And subsequently ended up formatting again. I didn't need a home server of any fashion, nor a media library. Oh how things have changed since then!
My system is self-built: Core i5 Wolfdale, Asus P67 Sabertooth, 8Gb ram, nVidia GTX 670, 1x 128Gb Crucial M4 SSD, 1x 1Tb Spinpoint F3, 1x 2Tb WD Cavier Green, hooked up to a Dell 23' and an LG 42' (passive 3d) TV.
So, yeah, gamer through and through....
I've looked through various forum threads both here and other sites, and articles on the web in general but none of them seem to really answer the questions "I" have succinctly, though I've learnt from each of them respectively. This is where I'm hoping you guru's might chime in
1: I know that Mint (minus one) is based on Ubuntu - May I ask what the Mint derivative offers that Cannonical doesn't? Is it more than just a pre-installed set of themes / applications / DE's and repositories? As in does Mint get patched differently, are configurations modified at all?
Example: Playing around with Wine 1.5.x on Ubuntu/Xubuntu 12.10 x64, there are issues with Gnome-Keyring's P11-Kit files missing from certain folders. Wine devs blame this on Ubuntu; Ubuntu forums have dozens of unanswered (at best) or borked-solution threads. Thus, does Mint do anything different to the primary 12.04/12.10 builds before they publish it?
2: Mint's repositories are different to Ubuntu's, but I believe I read that you can add theirs if you want to? Why the difference? What does a Mint repository offer that a Cannonical doesn't? Or vice versa? (Ignoring paid-for-software)
3: So far I've found my favourite DE's to be XFCE and Gnome3 (of all things. Please don't hate me!). But I can't get along with Unity. Xfce does a lot of things right, but still feels a tad twitchy here and there; ie: Window resizing requires expert precision. Jokes aside, I'm fairly couch-bound atm due to 2 slipped disks in my lower back, which means I have a mouse on a piece of cardboard on a pillow next to me and I'm mostly horizontal, which means it's not ergonomically ideal. But I like XFCE's speed and, more importantly, I like the fact I can switch off all screen compositing. I've never been a fan of animated window effects etc. If I want effects, I play games. If i want to use a system, I want it responsive. Thus, my current setup is Xubuntu with Gnome as an alternative session for those times when I want to relax, which is also proving far more accessible to use in my current condition. Plus I don't mind its looks, and it does fly, but it's taking some getting used to. Still, XFCE is a good fallback for getting the most FPS.
I've found however that sometimes installing additional DE's to existing builds have a tenancy to break things on others. I'm not going to bother listing all the quirks I've run into, suffice to say there have been a few, such as logins breaking, system crash reports (Xubuntu / Gnome3 pre-PPA update), XFCE themes fully breaking, that sort of thing. Split question:
3a: What would be the best distro for gaming on Mint? I'm assuming as a default it'd be XFCE or Mate? (and what version actually, 12.04 or 12.10?)
3b: Does Cinnamon come with a Gnome3 native session as an alternative. If so, does XFCE play nicely alongside, or would I be better off using something like Openbox as and when I need to? Or ignore Gnome3 completely and stick with Mint XFCE?
4: Might be an odd one, but is there anything "designed for Ubuntu" that doesn't work on Mint? I know that Steam for Linux has/had some quirks, which surprised me because, well, mint is based on, so what's the deal there?
5: Wildcard: Does Steam for Linux install on Mint Debian edition? Again I know that Ubuntu is based on but forked from Debian, and as such many but not all packages run. A quick google earlier threw up something about "missing epoch's". Which I'm guessing refers to dependencies available for Ubuntu forks as opposed to vast stretches of memory loss. I also ready on the Mint blog that Steam are looking to expand out to other distro's, but I'm wondering if that's going to have something of a lag-time; meaning Ubuntu first, everyone else months after.
If Steam / Wine etc all pretty much "do" work on Debian, and provided I can get my head around it, I'm wondering if Debian isn't a better option; really not sure what the pro's and con's are.
Would anyone be able to offer advice perhaps? Looking around on Ubuntu's own forums atm has a tendency to reveal that the majority of users reply with "I don't play games", or "I've installed Ubuntu and put <fairly new game> in the drive but it won't work, please help" followed by "but I don't drink".... ...... From the Mint blog alone Mint's community "seem" to have more active gamers amongst their ranks.
Please note my expectations are not that "all" games will work under linux. I know very well they don't. For that reason (and Silverlight) however I'm specifically keeping a Win8 install for those particularly troublesome ones primarily to discourage me from using Windows