Seeking flavour / distro advice specific to my needs

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Seeking flavour / distro advice specific to my needs

Postby Subv3rse » Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:30 pm

Hi all!

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 :)


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Re: Seeking flavour / distro advice specific to my needs

Postby DrHu » Sat Feb 09, 2013 3:52 pm

What Mint might offer that another Linux does not is a problematic question: it calls for opinion only, since every person's idea of what is or is not being included in a Linux distribution will be different

For a confirmed gamer, I don't expect Linux to be a good solution, since the newer commercial games available on Playstation Xbox or PCs' won't be available
--no use trying to shoehorn Linux to suit: instead use each system for its best function, for the windows OS that will be PC games (newest, most popular releases)

Remastersys and Mint's development package, don't remember the name would be all you need to customize a system for yourself (based on a parent or installed system: Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Arch etc)
--or us Linux from scratch or the on-line build your Linux system tools, Suse (opensuse) used to have that available..

Guides/directions can easily be found via some Internet research
--much information is available: everywhere

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Re: Seeking flavour / distro advice specific to my needs

Postby xenopeek » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:08 pm

1+2: Linux Mint uses the Ubuntu repositories, adds Medibuntu by default (unless you use the no-codecs or OEM version), adds its own repository (list of packages here:, and it comes preconfigured with GetDeb and PlayDeb which you can easily add from the Software Sources program with one click.

From the Linux Mint repository come Cinnamon, all the other programs that are developed by Linux Mint such as the Software Manager and Update Manager, and MATE. Well, those are the big three but it also has various other programs not included with the Ubuntu repositories, different versions from those available with the Ubuntu repositories if deemed needed for stability or usability, and various changes to default system configuration.

Linux Mint is fully compatible with Ubuntu so you can use other repositories, PPAs or packages meant for Ubuntu also on Linux Mint.

As to your example, I believe Linux Mint does not include a different version of Wine than Ubuntu does. Confirmed in below, Linux Mint 14 is using Wine version 1.4.1 from the Ubuntu 12.10 repository. If you are using Wine 1.5, you are using a version not supported by Ubuntu as you will have installed it from a third party repository (most likely the WineHQ PPA). So yes, using unsupported software can leave you with something that doesn't work.

Code: Select all

vincent@nadia ~ $ apt-cache policy wine
  Installed: (none)
  Candidate: 1.4.1-0ubuntu1
  Version table:
     1.4.1-0ubuntu1 0
        500 quantal/universe amd64 Packages

3.a: I don't think there are any major differences between the desktop environments and suitability for running games, especially not on your hardware. I'd imagine the newest version of an operating system will be what you want, to get the newest supported versions of the kernel, video drivers, programs and libraries. Generally improving performance is my experience.

Wine can only run 32-bits Windows software, and IIRC there have been some cases where those using 64-bit Linux have had to jump through some hoops to get something working. If you primarily want to play Windows games, you may perhaps have a better experience installing 32-bit Linux. (With Linux Mint 14, that can address up to 64 GiB RAM, though still limited to 4 GiB RAM per process.)

3.b: Cinnamon is diverging from Gnome Shell with each release, so there are some problems with running both. (See this topic for steps to get fully functioning Gnome Shell: viewtopic.php?f=208&t=117580.) I don't know about Cinnamon + Xfce, but haven't seen any similar problems on that.

4: I don't know of any quirks with Steam on Linux Mint, that weren't also present on Ubuntu. If you want to purchase and install the commercial software as offered in the Ubuntu Software Center, you will have to install that and tweak some files, to get that to work on Linux Mint. I don't know of any "designed for Ubuntu" conflicts.

5: There are a few posts about that; viewtopic.php?f=190&t=120007. I'd imagine that if Steam games are the most important to you above all other considerations, the Ubuntu based Linux Mint would be the best fit for you. LMDE can be a little bit faster, but I wouldn't recommend LMDE unless you are at least somewhat comfortable using Linux and the command line. Though with each release of LMDE the difference between it and the Main Edition is getting smaller. In the end it is a personal choice, you could install both and keep the one that works best for you. It may also depend on your hardware and the available drivers.

We have a new gaming section on the forums for those wanting to chat about games, or getting help with issues. So there is that :wink: There are other resources such as the Wine appdb and forums, which you would generally consult for your Wine related issues.

All that said, use whatever works best for you :wink: If you accept up front that a lot of games will not be available natively on Linux and that not all Windows games will play nice with Wine, then I think you are approaching this right. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of games that work with Wine--but not all, or some expansion, add-on, or tool you want to use with it may instead not work right with Wine. Have a look in the Wine appdb for your current favorite games, and see which of those have a platinum or gold rating.

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Re: Seeking flavour / distro advice specific to my needs

Postby Subv3rse » Sat Feb 09, 2013 5:58 pm

DrHu - No, I know it won't be "ideal", but there are headways into Linux what with Steam for Linux now in full beta, and quite a large push into the linux world of gaming. As said, I'll maintain a Windows install purely for those more problematic ones, but yes, I fully accept that most won't work.

As for building my own distro? Just a wee little bit out of my comfort zone at the moment. Might consider that in a few years :P (Half the problem with Linux is knowing "WHAT" I actually want, as there are generally multiple derivitives of everything. Going to take a while to get through them ;)

Xenopeek - Thank you for your incredibly in-depth and concise answers! That was exactly what I was looking for and, pretty much what I thought was the case, but sought confirmation on.

You're right also about Wine in that I'm using Wine's own PPA's, which, as you say, aren't supported. From what I've been able to gather it has to do with Ubuntu's full migration over to multi-arch, because certain legacy libs aren't required anymore they've simply removed them, whereas Wine tries to use them. There are some half-fixes here and there involving individual file gets, symlinks etc but there are still a number of outstanding issues. Wine say "complain to your distro", Ubuntu pretty much ignore it. But you're right, I already tested with the 32-bit version and those problems don't exist, however system performance overall feels more sluggish, so that's not really an option either. :/

Re-customisation I've played around with both Xubuntu and Mint XFCE, and there are things I like about both... and yes I know I can duplicate either in either, but I don't yet have the knowlege to do that. Mint XFCE has better pre-installed programs and menu structuring, but I can't stand the silver taskbar- hah. Stupid thing I know but it puts me off. Go figure. Other little oddities too like the pulse audio manager being different (Xubuntu's is actually very cool, and different to Ubuntu's. Couldn't tell you what it was though.)

As for medibuntu and the other repositories you mentioned; those I'd already added manually into XFCE anyway, so no biggy there, and in some ways I'm in an arguably better position of not having gotten used to the likes of Gnome2 etc that I don't miss it. If anything I'm finding the more alien it is from Windows, the easier it is to actually learn. It's almost the uncanny valley effect, where false-familiarity was tripping me up when I first started.

Anyway, thank you both for your replies, greatly appreciated!

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Re: Seeking flavour / distro advice specific to my needs

Postby Pierre » Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:01 am

as a newbie to all things linux,

- if possible - run two PCs - one for the 'nix O/S that you want to use, at this moment
- another to try out various O/Ss that catch your fancy
once you get to know / actually like - transfer that O/S over to your 1st PC - as a "main O/S".

also - if you are looking at wine & it's ability to directly run "some" windows based software,
then also look at it's commercial variant:-
Please edit your original post title to include [SOLVED] - when your problem is solved!
and DO LOOK at those Unanswered Topics - - you may be able to answer some!.

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