The Tribulations of a Linux Game Developer (Part 1)

My computer is a terrible system for game development system, and I am foolish for using it. Let me explain…

I installed Arch Linux on my laptop.  I did that because I wanted to be a bad-ass. I wanted 100% control over every software application, every device driver, every bit of firmware.. Basically, I wanted to learn a metric ton of information, partly for myself, and partly so I could teach it to other people.

Basically, I'm trying to be this guy

In other words, I’m trying to be this guy

So far, my mission has been largely successful. I’ve essentially hand-built my system. In the process, I’ve learned just how many tiny components power a computer system, and how many of those components simply work on Windows PCs/Macs, right out of the box. The number is shocking. For that matter, even certain other Linux distros–Ubuntu et. al.–“just work”.

But as I said, I wanted to be a badass, and Arch is a Linux distro for badasses (i.e., masochists).  With Arch, if you didn’t explicitly install a thing, then that thing is not on your computer. That includes components you needed, but weren’t aware you needed, because those components come installed on most computers by the time they reach your hands… To describe a few concrete examples of what I am talking about:

  • By default, Arch is just a command line; it does not come with a windowing/GUI component. I chose exactly which desktop environment/window manager to use (XFCE4), which involved manually tweaking some config files and/or adding plugins to get the taskbar to look right, and to include things you’d expect to see, such as a clock, calendar, battery monitor, volume control, etc.
  • I installed Microsoft fonts because the default fonts in Arch look like actual crap. I also fought with font rendering to get the equivalent of ClearType in Windows. Without font smoothing, my display looked jagged and uneven.
  • I auditioned one sound system, and then another sound system, before figuring out exactly how the crap to set up the sound system to play audio from 2 or more programs at the same time. That’s not even an inherently useful activity (why would I need to listen to an MP3 at the same time as I’m watching a YouTube video?), but it’s something that other computers I’ve used just simply do.
  • I wrangled wireless drivers and firmware. Anyone who has configured wifi on a Linux computer knows the struggle.. Seriously, read the wiki. I mean, don’t read it, but just look at it..
  • I discovered that the default mouse driver didn’t work with my laptop’s touchpad, but it did work with track pointer thing. It turned out that installing a different driver worked perfectly.

I hope you haven’t been slow-reading each one of those links. But if you have been, you’ll notice that every problem encountered in Arch has at least 2 possible solutions. All of the possible solutions might work, with varying levels of compatibility with the rest of the computer’s software/hardware. As the system administrator, I have had to research the solutions and figure out which one would work best for my computer. The Arch Linux community is large and immensely helpful, but it also values self-sufficiency.

Again, I have learned a lot. But damn, Linux is annoying.

Basically, this...

Basically, this…

You may have noticed that this post did not talk much about game development. That is why you should read part 2!


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