Saturday, December 26, 2009

HOWTO: Devil's Tuning Fork under Wine

I've been in a gaming mood of the late and I much prefer to be able to run my games under Linux as opposed to having to reboot into Windows. That being said a game I've really enjoyed playing is Devil's Tuning Fork. It is a very unique first person indie game in which your character "sees" with their ears. It is being developed by a team of students at DePaul University in Chicago and it is a free download from the game's homepage.

Getting DTF working under Wine is fairly easy. To do so do the following:
Now open your favorite terminal and navigate to the directory you saved the winetricks file to and run sh winetricks d3dx9 vcrun2008 xact dinput directplay at this point you will see lots of scrolling text as Wine Tricks works its magic, eventually it will prompt you to install VC2008 - install it.

You should be all set to play - just load up the game.exe using Wine (version 1.1.32) and the DTF should load right up for you. I hope you all enjoy this lovely title as much as I did.

~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, December 24, 2009

HOWTO: Setup Steam Version of Crysis on Ubuntu

In one of my previous posts I mentioned I had the game Crysis running successfully under Cedega with a few native dll over rides. Today I am going to detail the few hoops you will need to jump through if you wish to get Crysis running on Linux.

We are going to need a few things before we get started and I feel it is easiest to round up all the files before we get started. Go download the following files:
In addition to these three files before we start you are going to need Cedega and the latest Wine version installed as well as Steam installed under both Wine and Cedega.

First thing we want to do is get Crysis downloading under the Wine version of Steam (this is going to take awhile depending on your internet connection). While you are waiting for this to download take the two .dll files you downloaded and place them into ~/.cedega/Steam/c_drive/windows/system32 next load up Cedega and install the vcredist_x86.exe into your Steam folder.

Once Crysis is done downloading on Steam (running under Wine) go ahead and load the game through Steam. It will prompt you to install several things (DirectX, .NET, and Punkbuster) - install all of them. Once it is done with this Wine should even load Crysis to the main menu for you (however if you try to load a level of the game itself it will result in X crashing - give it a try if you do not believe me).

Next go ahead and close Steam and we are going to move all of the Crysis install files from your ~/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Steam/steamapps to your Cedega Steam install - ~/.cedega/Steam/c_drive/Program Files/Steam/steamapps Now we need to copy over the install of M$ .NET that was installed in Wine (~/.wine/drive_c/windows/Microsoft.NET) and place it into your Cedega Steam folder (~/.cedega/Steam/c_drive/windows)

Alrighty - we are all set to play now just load Steam through Cedega using the UT3 profile and launch Crysis. When you load Crysis for the first time under Cedega it will install the same things it did under Wine (DirectX, .NET, and Punkbuster) - however the .NET install will fail. Don't worry, this is expected (its why we copied over the .NET install from Wine) just click continue with installation and everything will run fine. After it finishes with this Crysis should load right up for you and you'll be ready to go!

Lastly - one trouble shooting note. On some systems having the in game Texture detail set above medium (so on High or Very High) causes it to fail to load. If this happens simply set it to medium or low and it should be good to go.

On my own system it runs at a playable frame rate (around 25 fps) under full screen 1024x768 resolution. Remember your own mileage may vary.

~Jeff Hoogland

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Windows 7 vs Ubuntu 9.10 - 3D Benchmarks

In the past I've done benchmarks regarding Wine software, today I am going to do something a bit different. Unigine is a cross-platform real-time 3D engine, I stumbled across awhile back on some message boards I am a part of. Since it runs natively cross-platform I have been curious to see exactly how drastic the performance difference of the engine is between the Windows and Linux platforms. Since I recently installed Windows 7 I decided to sit down and put the software through its paces.

The Tests: Unigine offers two free benchmarks - Tropics and Sanctuary. I ran both demos using OpenGL (because OpenGL runs on both platforms natively and DirectX does not).

The Hardware: While my hardware is not fastest in the world it is (as of posting this) relatively new and decently quick. Processor - Intel p9700 2.8ghz Dual Core, RAM - 4gigs of DDR3, Video Card: nVidia 260m with 1gig DDR3 dedicated memory (Running the latest stable nVidia driver on both Linux (190.42) and Windows (195.62)).

The Software: Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit, Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic) 64bit, & Unigine Benchmarks

The Results:
Tropics -
  • Windows
  • - 1680x1050: 30.5 fps
  • - 1024x768: 44.8 fps
  • - 640x480: 59.8 fps
  • Ubuntu
  • - 1680x1050: 14.9 fps
  • - 1024x768: 23.6 fps
  • - 640x480: 30.9 fps
Sanctuary -
  • Windows
  • - 1680x1050: 35.2 fps
  • - 1024x768: 61.9 fps
  • - 640x480: 99.9 fps
  • Ubuntu
  • - 1680x1050: 17.3 fps
  • - 1024x768: 27.9 fps
  • - 640x480: 48.9 fps
Wrapping Up: The numbers speak for themselves. In the realm of 3D graphics it is clear that Ubuntu still has a long way to go if it ever wants to meet (or possibly beat) the performance Windows has. In all of the above tests Ubuntu scored between 48% and 55% lower frame rate than the same benchmark on Windows.

~Jeff Hoogland
Please note while these benchmark scores presented are accurate to the best of my abilities, they only represent my personal hardware and software configurations. Your results on your own system(s) may vary (and if they do, please share them!).

Biting Into an Apple

I typically stick to the software end of technology, but every once in awhile I dig out my set of electronics tools and tear into a piece of hardware. A few months back a friend of mine had given me an old busted up Macbook in exchange for recovering her data off the hard drive. The data recovery went easy enough (once I realized I needed to read the drive as super user in order to see all its files under Linux) and I was shortly in possession of my first ever Apple product.

The laptop was in pretty bad shape when I received it. The half of the screen that did work had cracks across it, the battery had seen better days, and the case itself had been covered with more stickers than I had ever seen on one system. It was a slightly older model, an A1181 - one of the first Macs to use an Intel chip, but it would still fully usable if I could get it back into a functioning state. In the end it turned out to be fairly easy to track down all the parts I need for the thing, a few Google searches and 280$ later I had obtained a replacement screen, a new battery, doubled the RAM, and upgraded the old 60gb hard drive to a 500gb one. Not a bad price to have an extra computer around to use.

The true thing worth talking about regarding my restoration of the Macbook is the screen replacement. In order to install the new screen I had to disassemble the entire upper portion of the computer. After having to do so I would like to say this: Apple does think differently. The design is poorly done for little reason other than they could. Surrounding the screen alone there are at least four different size screws in various positions. They are all close enough in size they are almost indistinguishable from each other and while magnets to hold the screen shut are a great idea - try removing/replacing a screw right next to a magnet. So in addition to the tediousness you normally experience when working on smaller electronics you also have to take care to note the position of each and every screw you remove so you can be sure they all make it back into the proper spot. Just because I am a glutton for punishment (and curious by nature) I also opted to open up the rest of the computer while I was at it. All in all there are close to ten different screws of varying lengths and head sizes in the laptop (by comparison most other laptops typically get by with only three or four different ones).

Around two hours later I had finished my re-constructive surgery of the Macbook and it was ready to be used. My friend had misplaced her discs needed to reinstall OSX so I went ahead and booted Linux Mint on the system. Within half an hour I had the system fully up and functioning - all my replacement hardware was working like a dream. Once I figured out how to set the "Apple" key to be "right-click" I was good to go.

The final piece to my story is just another reminder of how stupidly expensive Apple products are. I already owned two laptops before the Macbook (a netbook and a 15.4" gaming laptop) - so I really did not need another computer sitting around the house. After a few days of usage I was sure all my replacement hardware was working as intended I promptly listed the Macbook on Craig's List and within a week I had someone trade me 600$ cash for the A1181 (its amazing what people will pay for hardware with a fruit on the side of it). All in all it ended up being a profitable investment and a learning experience all at the same time (I have since replaced screens in two other Macbooks to the tune of 50$ each).

All in all while Apple products are not bad hardware they are very over priced hardware. When it comes to physically taking them apart they are a huge pain to work with (different for the sake of being different and not for the sake of being useful is a poor idea Apple).

And lastly - to all the Apple fan boys out there remember your Mac is a Personal Computer.

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, December 18, 2009

Has Transgaming Abandoned Cedega

Pretty much anyone who has used Linux for at least a short while is aware of Wine technology and what it does. For many Linux users, largely Linux gamers, having properly working Wine technology is essential to their everyday computer user. The topic of commercial Wine software has been known to cause many heated discussions over the years on various Linux message boards. It appears at long last that perhaps this seemingly eternal argument may finally be coming to an end. Transgaming, the company behind Cedega, appears to be finally putting down its (some would say much controversial) Linux software.

While nothing official has been posted by the company itself, I feel it is pretty obvious Transgaming is letting Cedega die a slow death. November 13th 2009 marked the one year date since we last saw an update in Cedega's news page - The Den. While we did see a small update to the software in August - this did not add any new functionality to Cedega, it simply resolved an issue a World of Warcraft update had introduced. It is also heavily obvious that Transgaming does not check their user forums (or they really just don't care about what happens there if they do). There is now a two page thread on the boards of users simply asking for news on what is going on with the company/future of Cedega - we've gotten no official response.

The best conclusion I can come to is that Transgaming no longer sees any profit in Linux gaming and they are instead moving all of their focus to their Cider Mac software (which has has several updates over the last year - adding support for new games and such). I'd encourage anyone wanting to support Linux gaming to not to send Transgaming your hard earned money if this is how they are going to operate. I'd be willing to bet that they have not put out an official statement so they can try to bleed out every last cent out of their dieing product before they put the final nail in it's coffin (if ever). I understand if they need to let the project die - but at least tell as such, don't leave us guessing.

Anyone else have input in the situation? I'm letting my Cedega subscription lapse at the end of this month and will not be renewing unless they get their act together and start communicating with their customers.

Update: It appears Cedega might be hanging in there...

~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top Ten Things I Miss in Windows

There is an old saying that goes "you can't miss what you never had" meaning that for those who have never had something of these things they will have no idea what they are missing out on. Typically I use Ubuntu or some Linux flavor as my operating system for every day tasks, however as most techs know using Windows is unavoidable at times. (Whether it be because I am fixing someone else's machine, at work/school, or queuing up some Netflix watch instantly on my home system) That being said the following are the top ten features/programs I find myself grumbling about/missing the most when I am working on the Windows platform:

10.) Klipper/Copy & Paste Manager - I use this one alot when I am either coding or writing a research paper for school. More often than not I find I have copied something new only to discover I need to paste a link or block of code again from two copies back. Having a tray icon where I can recall the last ten copies or so is mighty useful.

9.) Desktop Notifications - This is something that was first largely introduced in Ubuntu 9.04 and something I quickly grew accustomed to having. Basically it is a small message (notification) the pops up in the upper right hand corner of your screen for a few moments when something happens in one of your programs (a torrent finishes, you get a new instant message, ect.) or you adjust the volume/brightness settings on your system.

8.) "Always on Top" Window Option - This is something I find useful when I am instant messaging while typing a paper, surfing the net, or watching a movie on my computer. Essentially what it does is make sure that the window you have this option toggled on is always at the top of your viewing regardless of what program you have selected/are working in. It is useful because it allows me to read instant messages with out having to click out of something else that I am working on.

7.) Multiple Work Spaces - When I get to really heavy multitasking on a system having multiple different desktops to assign applications to is a god send. It allows for better organization of the different things I am working on and keeps me moving at a faster pace.

6.) Scrolling in the Window/Application the Cursor is Over - This one again is mostly applicable when some heavy multitasking is going on (but hey - its almost 2010, who isn't always doing at least three things at once right?). Basically in Ubuntu/Gnome desktop when I use the scroll on my mouse (whether it is the multi-touch on my track pad or the scroll wheel on my USB mouse) it will scroll in what ever program/window my mouse is currently over instead of only scrolling in what ever application I have selected.

5.) Gnome-Do - Most anyone who uses the computer in their everyday work will tell you that less mouse clicks means faster speed and thus (typically) more productivity. Gnome-Do is a program that allows you to cut down on mouse clicks (so long as you know what program you are looking to load). The jist of what it does is this: you assign a series of hot keys to call up the search bar (personally I use control+alt+space) and then you start typing in the name of an application or folder you want to open and it will start searching for it - once the correct thing is displayed all you need to do is tap enter to load it up. The best part is that it remembers which programs you use most often. Meaning that most times you only need to type the first letter or two of a commonly used application for it to find the one you are looking for.

4.) Tabbed File/Folder Viewing - Internet Explorer finally got tabs! Why can't the default Window's explorer for viewing files/folders join it in the world of twenty-first century computing? Tabs are very useful and are a much cleaner option when sorting through files as opposed to having several windows open on your screen.

3.) Removable Media Should Not Have a Driver Letter - The system Windows uses for assigning letters to storage devices was clearly invented before flash drives existed and I feel it works very poorly for handling such devices. It is confusing to new computer users that their removable media appears as a different drive letter on most every machine (and even on the same machine sometimes if you have multiple drives attached). A better solution is something like Gnome/KDE/OSX do: have the drive appear as an icon on the desktop and have the name of drive displayed not the drive letter (its fine if the letter still exists - I under stand the media needs a mount point, just it adds confusion displaying this letter instead of the drive name)

2.) Hidden Files that are Easy/Make Sense - I love how Linux handles hidden files. You simply prefix your file name with a "." and the poof its gone unless you have your file browser set to view hidden folders. I think it is goofy to have it setup as a togglbe option within the file's settings. Beyond that Windows has "hidden" files and "hidden" files to further confuse things.

1.) System Updates that Install/Configure Once - I've done more than my fair share of Windows installs and the update process it goes through each time irks me beyond belief. The system downloads and "installs" the updates, then it needs to restart. Upon shutting down it "installs" the updates again and then proceeds to "configure" them. Then once it comes back online it "installs" and "configures" the updates one last time. Why? On Ubuntu the only update I need to restart for is a kernel update - even then most times I stick with my older kernel most times unless I have a specific reason for changing to the new one.

0.) Wobby Windows - This one doesn't effect productivity or use-ability like the other ten, but I must say after using mostly Ubuntu for the last year and a half not having the windows wobble when I drag them around the screen is a huge kill joy.

I'm aware that a few of my above mentioned things can be added to Windows through third party software- however like I said most times when I am using Windows it is at work, school, or for a few moments on a friends system. Meaning I'm not about to go installing extra things on them/changing configurations.

Anyone else have some other key things/features they miss when using the Windows platform when coming from else where?

~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, December 14, 2009

Why GNU/Linux is ready for the Average User

I spend a fair amount of time on and while poking around there this afternoon I came across this thread. It is no where near the first thread I've seen like it (and sadly I doubt it will be the last). To quickly sum up the thread the original poster is detailing why he believes Ubuntu is not ready for the "average user" because of a recent poor experience he had attempting to get Karmic (latest Ubuntu release) installed on a friend's laptop. Ubuntu's motto is "Linux for human-beings" - no where does this imply it is going to be bug free or that Joe Moron is going to be able to get it all setup just fine on their own. Personally I think it is foolish to think that you could ever create a operating system that the average user is going to be able to setup/maintain one hundred percent on their own. Its just not feasible to think as such.

I find it amusing that people like to jump on the Ubuntu bashing bandwagon just because an installation (or some piece of setup) goes astray. Ever tell the average user they need to reinstall Windows? Nine times out of ten they will look at you side ways (or if your a tech such as myself they will ask you to do it for them). Does this make Windows less popular or a "not ready" operating system just because you need a professional (or someone with at least some know-how) to get it all installed and running properly? No, it does not. Why should the standard be any different for GNU/Linux?

In short I'd like to say this: Linux is more than ready for the average user to be using, but just like any operating system it may be a bit much for the average user to get it setup and thats just fine if you ask me. To most people the computer is simply a means to an end, meaning so long as it turns on when they push the power button, lets them do what they need to do, and then get on with their day - most of them could care less if it is running Windows, Linux, OSX, Free BSD, or anything else for that matter. Personally I find Linux works best for my needs - if something else works for you, wonderus.

Just my feelings on the subject, if you have a different or similar idea to add feel free in the comments below.

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, December 11, 2009

Hands on with Windows 7 - An Ubuntu User's Perspective

Microsoft released Windows 7 out into the wild for all of the personal computing world to experience some two months ago and now it is nigh impossible to walk into a computer store (excluding the Apple store obviously) with out being bombarded by ads for it. (There are also the rather strange Windows 7 ads, such as the "Windows 7 Whopper" in Japan or the recently reviled Family Guy Windows 7 Ads that got axed before being released). At any rate there is no doubting that this latest addition to the Windows line is going to quickly become a major player in the tech field.
In fact it already makes up for some 20% of gamers that use the Steam platform as of November 2009

At any rate I try to make it a point to play with any bit of new technology I can get my hands on so I figured Windows 7 should be no exception to this rule. I previously only had Ubuntu 9.04 installed on my laptop and I'd been meaning to upgrade it to the latest version for some time now, so I took the opportunity to set up a dual boot with Windows 7 Ultimate while I was at it.

The first thing I'd like to say about installation is that Windows 7 lost one of the features I really liked about Vista - that is there was only one install DVD and what type of install you obtained (home, business, ultimate, ect.) was determined by the activation key you entered. With Windows 7 they are back to a separate disc for each version, its not a big thing really but I thought it was worth mentioning. The actual installation process looks and feels a lot like of the Vista installation process (except it now has Windows 7 branding of course). It also takes the same God-awful amount of time to fully expand/install all the files it needs to get running from the disc. Around forty minutes and three restarts later I had my Windows 7 install up and running.

The first thing that pleasantly surprised me was the fact that I had a working wireless card from the clean install with my Intel wifi card. I was quickly able to hop onto my wireless network and grab the couple of updates that have been released for 7 in the past couple of months. As anyone who has installed Windows before knows the next stop on my setup route was downloading drivers. I went and obtained the most important one first - my video drivers (which apparently are a 140meg download for Windows? Guess I've gotten spoiled with them only being 22megs on Ubuntu). At any rate a few clicks around on my laptop's manufacture's website, a couple of downloads, and then a restart later (phew!) my system was all ready to be used!

Well not really. I now finally had the operating system installed, still need to get it loaded up with applications for it to be truly useful to me. Twenty minutes or so and another restart (thats five now) later I had AVG, OOO, Chrome, and Steam (among other things) all set to go and I was ready to use my shiny new operating system.

The first thing I noticed once I got my graphics drivers all setup is that Windows 7 truly is shiny. The aero effects present give the operating system a good feel and they ran quite smoothly on my modern hardware (while they do not quite compare just yet to Compiz it is a step in the right direction, to the average user eye candy is always a winner). The main thing users will notice right away about Windows 7 is the new task bar. It really is a great improvement, the way it allows the "pinning" of commonly used applications is wonderus along with how it sorts applications with multiple windows that are loaded.

My applications all loaded up with out much issue (had some trouble with a few of my Steam games at first - but that is really more of a Valve issue than a Windows 7 one). I was now all setup to do my web surfing and gaming under Windows 7 :)

Final Thoughts/Ubuntu Comparisons:
The main draw back/time consumer in setting up Windows verses Ubuntu has not changed any with the release of Windows 7. Drivers are still a must for pretty much any hardware you want to use and to make the operating system useful in the slightlest you need to install additional applications. Resource consumption wise 7 is still a hog by comparison at any given point I seem to be using around 1.3gigs of RAM at the very least and the base install plus my applications (not counting games) took up just over eighteen gigs of space (where is Ubuntu with the same applications runs around two and a half gigs)

All in all while Windows 7 did not "simplify my PC" any - it is a decently solid operating system. Will I be using it as my primary operating system anytime soon? Probably not, but I do plan to keep an installation on my system so I can both stay familiar with the GUI and for the occasional game I want to play that I cannot get working under Wine technology.

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cricket Wireless - 3g Modem Review

The internet is something that has become throughly ingrained in many of our lives today. It is how we stay connected with those around us and it is an extremely useful way of obtaining information. Most people have laptops or smart phones which they use to stay connected to the world wide web. Our laptops need a connection of some sort to access the information superhighway and while public wireless hot-spots are becoming more and more common, more often than not it always seems when you really need to get online to check on that important piece of information there is no wireless connection around (or they are all encrypted and you don't have time to crack one of them open). The obvious answer to this problem? Obtain your own wireless internet that you can bring around with you to use where ever you need it. Thankfully we have just that available to us in the form of 3g (and 4g) modems. There are quite a few different companies today who offer such services (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, ect.).

Thus brings me to my topic at hand today: Cricket Wireless. Cricket is still a relatively new company (by comparison) to the other competitors out there today. It prides itself on being "truly unlimited" and "affordable" compared to the other companies that are out there. I've been using their 3g service for just over six months now and I must say I have been decently happy with it. I'd just like to take a moment to summarize some of the keys things I like to tell people when I describe the Cricket Wireless service I have:

It's cheap by comparison - my service runs me 40$ a month, most other companies are about double this amount.
Theres no contract - Unlike most companies Cricket does not make you sign a service contract. You can drop your plan at any time with out an extra charge (the fee to reinstate service is only 25$ so even if you want to drop service for a single month you still save money)
It gets decent speeds - I've had the modem download as fast as 200kb/s and on average I see speeds of around 65kb/s. For the average user out there this means it is more than capable of providing web-surfing, email, instant messaging, streaming music, low-res video, and playing most video games online.
The service is "unlimited" - They provide you with "unlimited" bandwidth. I use the "" because once your data transfer hits 5gigs for a month they extremely throttle your transfer rate for the remainder of the month (I've never personally hit this cap so I'm unsure as to what it drops down to).
They don't support Linux - Its not uncommon for a company to ignore Linux and Cricket is no exception to this. However with a little bit of know how you can easily get the device working on most any platform.

All in all I am extremely happy with my little Cricket Modem - it is the perfect companion for my Asus EEE PC. If you are looking for a cheap 3g connection they are definitely one worth looking into. Also worth noting is that I live right near Chicago (a major city) and as such I mostly use my device in/around that area so they have strong coverage there. You should be sure to check if the Cricket coverage map includes where you live/plan to use the device if you are thinking of picking one up.

Happy Surfing All,
~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, December 4, 2009

HOWTO: Install Multiple Wine Versions on One System

Wine Technology advances at a rapid rate, in the last month we have seen two updates to Wine (1.1.33 & 1.1.34). Many of us like to stay using the latest and greatest Wine software - with good reason each new version typically fixes issues and improves performance - however on occasion a new Wine release will suffer from some regressions that cause some applications to stop working properly. The solution to this? Quite simple: revert your Wine install back to the previous version so your application can still work properly for you.

This is fantastic if you are only using Wine to run a single program - however in the case you are running two or more programs under Wine it is not unheard of for each of the different programs you are running to perform better under different Wine versions (or with different patches). The solution to this issue is simple: install multiple versions of Wine on the same system and run each program with the version that it behaves best under.

Step 1 - Setup:
Download the source code tar.bz2 file for the additional Wine version you wish to install from Source Forge. Extract the contents of the tar.bz2 file to your preferred directory

Then we want to install all of the build dependencies we will need to compile Wine from source. On Ubuntu we can do this by running the following command in terminal sudo apt-get build-dep wine (You should check here for information on getting the Wine build dependencies on other distributions.)

Step 2 - Compiling Wine:
Open your favorite terminal and change directory to the location of your extracted Wine source. (If you wanted to apply a patch to your Wine source now is the time). Once you are ready we are going to configure and compile your Wine source. To do so we use the following command in terminal ./configure --prefix=/usr/local/bin/wine-someversion && make depend && make

At this point go make yourself a sandwich, watch some television, or better yet go read some other wonderful articles written by yours truly. (Seriously configuring & compiling Wine takes a fair bit of time depending on your hardware)

Step 3 - Installing Wine & Clean Up:
Alright, now that you have a full stomach we can install our newly compiled Wine code and setup the last few things we need. Install Wine with the following command sudo make install

Lastly we need to create our new wine, regedit, and winecfg commands. To create the wine-someversion command we use a symlink as such:

sudo ln -s /usr/local/bin/wine-someversion/bin/wine /usr/bin/wine-someversion
sudo ln -s /usr/local/bin/wine-someversion/bin/wine /usr/local/bin/wine-someversion/bin/wine-someversion

To setup up winecfg-someversion and regedit-someversion you have to do the following:
  1. Open your favorite text editor as super user (example: gksudo gedit)
  2. Enter the following as the only line: /usr/local/bin/wine-someversion/bin/winecfg
  3. Save the file to /usr/bin/winecfg-someversion
  4. Make the file executable with the following command: sudo chmod +x /usr/bin/winecfg-someversion
  5. Repeat the above four steps only replace winecfg with regedit

You can now use your different Wine install by running the Wine command with its following version number. In the attached image you can see I have my default Wine command (currently 1.1.33) and then I also have 1.1.32 installed which I access by running wine-1.1.32

You can install as many different Wine versions as you like in this manner. This way you can feel safe in installing a new Wine version and not have to worry about breaking support for your favorite Windows based application.

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, November 20, 2009

CXGames 8.1 (Zombie Mallard) Overview

Left 4 Dead 2 was one of the most anticipated games of 2009 (even with the boycott). Even before its full release (the demo opened to players a few weeks prior) the good people over at Codeweavers where hard at work making sure their CXGames software would be ready to allow Linux/Mac gamers everywhere to fully enjoy this latest edition to Valve's source games. Less than twenty four hours after L4D2 hit shelves (digital and otherwise) CXGames 8.1 (codename Zombie Mallard) was released.

This newest update to the CXGames line is really just a small update (as the version number increase of .1 implies) rather than a full upgrade. In fact depending on what games you play - you might not even notice a difference between this and the previous 8.0 release. From the official 8.1 change log:
  • Add support for Left 4 Dead 2
  • Fix a problem with directory permissions in World of Warcraft in Ubuntu 9.10
  • Fix a number of problems with Guild Wars
  • Fix a number of Mac audio issues which should fix Steam voice chat
  • A few minor adjustments for Snow Leopard
  • Fix a bug registering CrossOver under Snow Leopard
What makes this release so special then? I feel it important because it displays Codeweaver's dedication to their product. They are obviously aware of what their users want and what is going on in the gaming community at large. This CXGames update, I feel, shows how they plan to react to big releases in the future. I say this because the main reason for this CXGames update is to add support for L4D2 (in addition to the various other small bug fixes listed). This gives me great hope that they will be quick to the draw in their supporting of other soon to be release big name titles such as Starcraft II and Diablo III. As a side bar I feel it is also worth mentioning that performance under CXGames 8.1 is about the same as it was under 8.0 (And Left 4 Dead 2 benchmarks about the same as L4D)

All in all I am very pleased with this latest release of CXGames and for any Linux gamer who wants to quickly and easily rock out on L4D2 there is no doubt about it - "Zombie Mallard" is a must have (as L4D2 fails to run at all under Cedega). Hopefully I will catch some of my fellow Linux Gamers online putting bullets into the brains of the walking-dead some time soon :) Happy Fraging All!

~Jeff Hoogland

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wine, Cedega, and CXGames Benchmark Comparision

In one of my earlier postings I did a compare and contrast of the various different features Cedega and Codeweavers offer. Today I am going to try leave my opinions aside and stick strictly to the numbers. Source Engine games are some of the most popular played today so I feel it is only fitting I use them to test the Wine software we have today.

The Test: I will be running an FPS test under both the original source engine (Counter Strike: Source) and the latest version of the source engine (Left 4 Dead). For each test I used the same detail settings and tested each game at three different resolutions, using each Wine, CXGames, and Cedega.

The Hardware: While my hardware is not fastest in the world it is (as of posting this) relatively new and decently quick. Processor - Intel p9700 2.8ghz Dual Core, RAM - 4gigs of DDR3, Video Card: nVidia 260m with 1gig DDR3 dedicated memory.

The Software: Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty), 64bit. Running the nVidia 190.42 driver

The Wine Programs Used: The following test results where obtained using CXGames 8.0.0, Cedega 7.3.3, and a vanilla install of Wine 1.1.32 (all latest versions as of today).

The Results:
Counter Strike - Source
  • Resolution: 1680x1050
  • - Wine: 72.29 fps
  • - CXGames: 153.03 fps
  • - Cedega: 113.83 fps
  • Resolution: 1024x768
  • - Wine: 49.33 fps
  • - CXGames: 163.03 fps
  • - Cedega: 119.22 fps
  • Resolution: 640x480
  • - Wine: 63.23 fps
  • - CXGames: 179.94 fps
  • - Cedega: n/a
Left 4 Dead
  • Resolution: 1680x1050
  • - Wine: 12.41 fps
  • - CXGames: 25.46 fps
  • - Cedega: 31.69 fps
  • Resolution: 1024x768
  • - Wine: 25.37 fps
  • - CXGames: 20.25 fps
  • - Cedega: 68.34 fps
  • Resolution: 640x480
  • - Wine: 20.7 fps
  • - CXGames: 22.05 fps
  • - Cedega: 67.83 fps
Things Worth Noting: As you can see all three are able to perform the first test at a relatively decent FPS - however both Cedega and CXGames far out perform a vanilla Wine install. Also worth noting is the fact that Wine actually took a performance decrease when running at lower resolutions (I was very surprised by this, in fact I ran the test three times at each resolution just to confirm it was accurate). I'd like to point out as well that Cedega failed to load CSS for me in the 640x480 resolution - thus the n/a score.

Left 4 Dead is where we really see a difference between the different pieces of software. Both Wine and CXGames where unable to break the 30fps marker while Cedega was able to snag 31fps on my high resolution and over twice that frame rate on lower resolutions.

Wrapping Up: Please remember to take my above listed scores with a grain of salt - as your own mileage may very well vary depending on your particular configuration. Also remember the Wine install I used was a vanilla install. Meaning that odds are it could stand to be tweaked a bit to get a slightly better frame rate. Lastly remember when trying to get the most out of your Linux Gaming experience be sure to optimize where ever you can.

~Jeff Hoogland
Please note while these benchmark scores presented are accurate to the best of my abilities, they only represent my personal hardware and software configurations. Your results on your own system(s) may vary (and if they do, please share them!).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

HOWTO: Setup a Linux Storage Partition

Anyone who has use a computer for an extended length of time knows that reformatting now and again is inevitable. For a distro hopper such as myself reformats come much more frequently than they do for most others. At any given point it is not uncommon for me to have two or more Linux distros installed on each of my laptops at the same time. While I like testing new things I also enjoy my laptop being fully functional in the processes and for it to be so I need access to my files regardless of whether I am booted into the latest Ubuntu, Sabayon, Fedora, or what ever other new distro I might be trying that week. While it is possible to share a single home directory for these different distros it can get messy to say the least - different versions of different programs all trying to save settings to the same places (You can see where this can cause issue).

The solution I have come to for such a dilemma is partitioning off a section of my hard drive as a "storage" partition. Essentially this is a large section of the hard drive that is not set to a default mount point for any of the installed distros (on my system I have this partition set to the first part of my extended partition, so sda6, that is formatted as ext3). Once you have your distro installed you can setup your storage partition to be the default save location for many things with a few simple commands. The first thing we need to do is create a location to mount your storage partition to, I like to use the point /mnt/storage (but you can use what ever floats your boat) to create such a point run the following in your favorite terminal: sudo mkdir /mnt/storage Next we have to tell your distro what to put at that mount point - to do this we are going to add a line to our /etc/fstab to do so open the file as super user in your favorite text editor by running something like: sudo gedit /etc/fstab Once you have the file open we are going to add a new line that looks something like this: /dev/sda6 /mnt/storage defaults,exec ext3 0 0 Now assuming you used the first partition on your extended partition for your storage space and the mount point you created is located at /mnt/storage upon rebooting your system it will auto mount your partition for you. (If you need to use a different partition, mount point, or file system type scroll down to the second to last section to see the edits you need to make for the above listed fstab entry to work).

Now that we have your partition setup to mount properly lets configure it so it stores (or looks for) your data there! Things I like to keep on my data partition are my Documents, Pictures, Videos, Downloads, and large game installs (namely Steam). Take any folders you want to keep on the storage partition and cut and paste them there. The last step is to make these folders we have now moved to the storage partition point to their original location using a symbolic link or symlink for short. For example to link a your Documents folder from your storage partition back to your home folder run the following: ln -s /mnt/storage/Documents ~/Documents Lets take a look at this command for a moment ln is the link command and the -s argument tells it to make a symbolic link, then the next two arguments are the source of the actual folder and then the destination to place the link. The result of running the above command is the creation of a folder in your user's home directory called "Documents" that when clicked into shows the contents of the Documents folder on the storage partition. You should repeat the above listed symlinking command for each folder you want to keep on the storage partition.

If you used a different hard drive/mount point/file system than the ones I initially suggested, it is easy enough to change you fstab entry so it works for your particular configuration. The syntax for an fstab line is: [file system] [mount point] [type] [options] [dump] [pass] The important ones are the first three [file system] is the location on your hard drive of your storage partition, for example if it is the first primary partition it would be /dev/sda1. The second part [mount point] is where you want to mount your partition to, just replace this with what ever path you created. The last one we care about is [type] this is simply the file system type you have your partition formatted to (ext3, ext4, ect.). What the remaining three arguments do is a bit beyond the scope of this article take a look here for further reading on them.

Personally I find having a storage partition extremely useful in the case of both multiple distros installed and when reformatting (I do not like to reuse a home folder). All in all it cannot hurt to set one up so - give it a try and let me know what you think!

~Jeff Hoogland

Monday, November 9, 2009

(wx)Maxima - An Open Source CAS

The original use for computers when they where first created was to have them compute numbers. When they first came about computers where contained in large rooms and where only able to make the most basic of calculations, as time has progressed how ever our systems have steadily gotten smaller and more powerful. At this point in time there is very little (given enough time) our computers cannot calculate.

How exactly do we make our computers run such calculations? Our systems are useless without software to run on them - enter the world of CASes or Computer Algebra Systems. A CAS is a type of software that allows the computer to perform calculations such as algebra, calculus, generation of two and three dimensional graphs, as well as more simple computations such as basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Maxima is an open source, cross-platform, computer algebra system. On its own Maxima is simply a command line interface (CLI) that gives you access to a whole slew of different commands that allow you to perform just about every type of useful math function you can think of. From Maxima's homepage:
"[Maxima] is a system for the manipulation of symbolic and numerical expressions, including differentiation, integration, Taylor series, Laplace transforms, ordinary differential equations, systems of linear equations, polynomials, and sets, lists, vectors, matrices, and tensors."
From personal experience as a math student I can say that having a CAS at my disposal both in class and for take home work has been invaluable. Such software allows the user to better focus on the new lesson at hand rather than get caught up in sticky, time consuming applications from long past lessons such as algebra.

The syntax for Maxima commands is extremely easy to pick up, especially if you have any kind of programming experience (in fact for the most the the function syntax largely resembles the python scripting language). Maxima also does a great job of defining functions and variables, so if you have a certain complicated number or complex function you are going to be making multiple calls of you do not have to fully type it out more than once. One of my favorite features of Maxima is how it labels inputs (%i1) and outputs (%o1). For each additional input/output the number value is increased by one. By labeling them all as such it makes it very easy to recall a certain value you obtained earlier on, thusly reducing the amount of typing needed and greatly lowering the chance of human error (such as transposing or leaving out numbers/decimal places).

Now a CLI is fine and dandy if you are intimately familiar with the software, however for the beginning user this is not so useful. One solution to such an issue would be to dive in reading documentation detailing the different functions and their syntaxes, however this can be a cumbersome task and for the average user - especially if you just want to do a few calculations and get on with the rest of your work. A more viable solution is something along the lines of wxMaxima, an open source, cross-platform, GUI (graphic user interface) front end for Maxima.

wxMaxima does a good job of organizing the different functions Maxima provides into different categories such as: Equations, Algebra, Calculus, and Plots. Such organization allows for someone who has never used the software before to quickly find the function they are looking for and provides easy dialog boxes for entering the inputs the function requires to be used properly. wxMaxima also helps teach a user the CLI as they use the program, as each function is called it displays how the syntax should look when the command is run. The last feature I want to mention that wxMaxima provides is saving your work, if you have a set of functions you plan to use on a regular basis you can save the file to be reloaded at a later date. Also present is the option to export your work to either an HTML file or a LaTeX file if you wanted to send it to someone else to view.

All in all I think Maxima is a fantastic piece of software and it is easily on par with commercial CASes such as Maple. If you are a math or science student or someone who works with complex functions and numbers in the field Maxima is definitely worth taking the time to check out.

~Jeff Hoogland

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My Linux Gaming Experience

Arguably gaming is the one place in which Linux is sorely lacking. Very few titles release with a native installer for this platform and as such many say gaming is impossible on Linux. This is just not true. For a long time I was a "hardcore" gamer, spending easily over forty hours a week in front of my computer playing various online games. In the last couple years I have slowly moved into the "casual" gamer category. On average I spend between ten and twenty hours a week currently playing various PC games. As they are PC games very obviously I run them on my computer and my computer only contains an Ubuntu as an operating system - as such this also means all the games I play run on Ubuntu. Ubuntu is fully ready for desktop systems and for a casual (or in some cases even hardcore) gamer it is more than capable of running most of the important titles. The following are games I enjoy on a regular basis on Ubuntu (and how I run them):

Starcraft - Wine with Windows version set to 98
Warcraft III Frozen Throne - Wine with default settings
Diablo 2 - Wine with default settings
Counter Strike: Source - Wine with default settings. I set the game to run with dxlevel 81 to obtain a better FPS
Team Fortress 2 - Wine with default settings. I set the game to run with dxlevel 81 to obtain a better FPS
Left 4 Dead - Cedega using the Left 4 Dead profile.
Left 4 Dead 2 - CXGames with default settings
Borderlands - Cedega using the UT3 profile
Unreal Tournament 3 - Cedega using the UT3 profile
Killing Floor - Cedega using the UT3 profile
Unreal Tournament 2004 - Native Linux Installer
Savage 2 - Native Linux Installer
Morrowind - Wine with default settings
Oblivion - Wine with default settings
Crysis - Cedega using the UT3 profile and a few native dll over rides
Half-Life 2 - Wine with default settings
Pirates, Vikings, and Knights - Wine with default settings
Guild Wars - Wine with default settings
Day of Defeat: Source - Wine with default settings. I set the game to run with dxlevel 81 to obtain a better FPS
Dark Messiah Might & Magic - Wine with default settings.

As you can see its a fair size list of games. These are just the ones I play personally there are many more than run just fine under Linux. Check out the Wine Applications Database to see how well others fare with various applications.

~Jeff Hoogland

Riding the Google Wave

Google is pretty much a house hold name at this point in the 21st century. Starting with a search engine they have slowly been expanding themselves into almost every technological market you can think of. Email, blogs, web browsers, mobile phones, and of course web searches are all things Google has a foot in these days. Today I am going to take a moment to talk about one of Google's up coming projects: Google Wave.

Wave is Google's latest attempt to revolutionize the web. At a glance Wave looks very much like any of our common email clients. It allows you to organize contacts and messages (referred to from here on out as "waves") in one central place. The thing that makes Wave revolutionary in today's world full of different web applications is the way in which the waves function. A wave is essentially a real time thread that you can add and subtract information from at your leisure. You can have both public and private waves, share a message with just your friend(s) or the entire world.

Another feature that sets Wave apart from standard Email is the ability to "embed" different objects into a wave. What can be embedded in a wave? Just about everything you can think of, maps, pictures, videos, flash content, or documents just to name a few. Waves are also created dynamically in real time, ever wish you could get a message quicker? Why wait for the person on the other end to press send? With Wave as soon as someone adds you to a wave you can see in real time what they are typing, embedding, or adding to the wave. From this stems the most powerful use for Wave - the ability for multiple people to be editing a Wave at the same time. Creating a presentation with friends? You no longer have to wait for everyone to do their share and then send it to you so you can add your part. With wave you can all be working in a document at the same time and see who is adding what to the wave and when. Now with all of this collaborative editing occurring it is only a matter of time before someone removes or edits something you might have wanted to keep - don't worry your information isn't gone. Each wave contains a replay button that allows you to watch the time-line of a given wave, basically it lets you replay from start to finish what has been added and subtracted to a wave and in what order.

Still not impressed? Wave has one more trick up it's sleeve to impress you with - waves can be embedded into web pages. The truly phenomenal thing about this is if you post in say tens (or hundreds or even thousands) of different waves around the net all of these different waves will also be collected within your Google Wave inbox. This means in order to check on conversations you have going on all over the internet you can just check one place instead of jumping all over the web. As with private waves you can also embedded different files to your heart's content within wave on a webpage.

Last but not least I feel I should mention that Google Wave runs fully within your web browser. No extra application installation necessary. Wave is currently in an "alpha preview" state and I received my invitation to begin using it some weeks back now. It is a project worth keeping your eye on and once it comes into maturity I have no doubt it will become a major tool in the web-based world in which we live today.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jolicloud - Distro Review

With the recent popularity netbooks have experienced in the last two years we have seen a slew of Linux distros released gear specifically for these tiny screens. For the last couple of weeks I have had my Asus EEE PC booting an upcoming netbook orientated distro called Jolicloud. Jolicloud is built on top of Ubuntu Jaunty Netbook Remix, as such it is fully compatable will all Jaunty repositories as well as the (seemingly limitless) Ubuntu software. Jolicloud is being built as a "social networking" distro, currently it is in private alpha release how ever if you apply at their website they are decently quick about getting back to you with an invite key.

Jolicloud comes as a 650 meg download in the form of an iso file. Their website provides easy instructions for loading the iso file into a spare 1gig flash drive using their own program (essentially it is a simplified version of unetbootin). Installation goes smoothly, it has not been changed from the normal Ubuntu installer (other than rebranding) and as such I had a fully functional Jolicloud system in just under a half hour.

Jolicloud uses the same netbook interface as UNR with a few slight modifications. Firstly, anyone who is coming to Jolicloud from Ubuntu will notice a refreshing light blue theme has replaced the rather ugly orange and brown Ubuntu has sported for so long. The Ubuntu logo that you click to use get back to your home screen has been replaced with a blue house icon.

My Jolicloud:
The big thing that separates Jolicloud from standard UNR is "My Jolicloud". Your cloud is an application that wraps up several core functions of the operating system in one location. Each user of Jolicloud has their own login that allows them to access their "My Jolicloud". The current release of Jolicloud has three working sections in the Cloud - Dashboard, Application Directory, and Settings.

The Dashboard contains your system's update manager, other system notifications, and history of your system. The application directory is one large improvement Jolicloud presents over normal Ubuntu. The layout is a bit easier to manage and the "most popular" section allows you to quickly find applications you will most likely want to add to your system. Also present is a "recently added" tab so you can easily see if anything new has been added to the repositories lately. In addition to containing the vast amounts of Ubuntu software Jolicloud also adds a few other useful applications such as Google's Chrome Browser and Boxee Media Center. Your settings section allows you to manage the "social" part of your Jolicloud account. Similiar to twitter you can follow other Jolicloud users to see what they are doing on their tiny computers. You can also see what systems you have registered on Jolicloud and who the latest people to join Jolicloud are.

The default applications installed on Jolicloud are relatively standard to any Linux distro. Gedit, terminal, FireFox, ect. How ever lacking by default is office software, this is easily fixed by adding it via your Jolicloud. Installed by default also is a piece of software that allows you to automatically (or manually) control the speed your netbook's atom processor runs at (thus controlling power consumption).

Also present in your applications repositories are "Prism Web Applications". Essentially a prism web application is a stand alone application that allows you to load up a single popular webpage (Facebook, Pandora, GMail, ect). The advantage of viewing a page in this form is that it removes the URL address bar, search bar, and other buttons typically taking up space on your tiny netbook screen that you do not need most times. If you do how ever find yourself wanting to view a page that does not have a prism application the default version of FireFox contains many optimizations for the netbook screen. The loading bar at the bottom is similar to that of Chrome's, its only visible when something is actually loading. The file/edit/history buttons at the top have been neatly placed as a drop down arrow next to the search bar and the buttons have been slightly shrunk down.

Final Thoughts:
All in all Jolicloud is a very solid netbook distro. It has replaced Ubuntu Karmic as the default operating system on my Asus EEE PC. If you own a tiny computer it is definitely one worth checking out. Rock solid distro thus far and I feel the Joli team will only deliver more spectacular features before they come into a full 1.0 release.

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sager Notebook & - Review

So I have been using nothing but Ubuntu Linux as my home operating system for almost a year now and one thing that always kind of irked me was having unused Window's licenses laying around that I was not using. I mean what is the point in not using Windows if Microsoft is still making money off of the product I purchased? When I purchased my netbook was I able to get one of the EEE PCs that shipped with a copy of Xandros on it (I know, still not open source but at least its Linux & was easy enough to over write with Ubuntu. Plus I got it on the cheap.). Now only one of my two computers I owned had a Windows license that was not is use. A few months back I had started searching around for a laptop upgrade (anyone who has owned a laptop knows they date quickly), I was looking for something decently specific in my laptop purchase along the lines of the following specs:

  1. Size - 15.4 inch or smaller. I really dislike 17+ inch laptops, they are massive to lug around. When your laptop weighs over ten pounds it might as well be a desktop if you ask me.
  2. Resolution - The laptop I had been using contained a high resolution screen (1680x1050) and I had grown acustomed to viewing things at such a resolution, I did not want to revert back to a lower end one (1440x900)
  3. Graphics Card - I wanted something powerful in the system. The laptop I was upgrading from had an nVidia 9500M GS in it. I wanted something at least 50% faster than this card.
  4. Operating System - I did not want a Windows sticker stuck to the bottom of my shiney new laptop. I wanted something that either A.) Came with Linux pre-installed or B.) Came with a blank hard drive
Enter - recommend by a fellow user on the LinuxQuestions message boards - they make custom high-end gaming laptops. Their prices are comparable with other places I had found around the internet, how ever they had one advantage others did not - they where the only one I found find that would ship me a custom laptop with a blank hard drive. Surprise, surprise being able to get the product with out Windows packaged with it allow me to cut around 100$ off of the price tag. In addition to this I was able to customize, hard drive, RAM, processor, graphics card, screen resolution, and accessories all to the exact specifications I wanted. In the end the laptop I ended up order sang to the tune of around 1,600$ with the following specifications (If you want a good laugh compare these specs VS price to the Macbooks I listed here):
  • Processor: Intel p9700 - 2.8ghz Dual Core
  • RAM: 4gigs of DDR3
  • Hard Drive: 320gig, 7200RPM
  • Graphics Card: nVidia 260m, 1gig DDR3 dedicated
  • Size: 15.4 inches and weighing in at just shy of 7 pounds
  • Screen Resolution: 1680x1050
Good laptops at a fair price how ever is not the only good thing about - their customer service is fantastic, easily one of the best companies I have ever had dealings with. I ordered my custom laptop on a weekday morning, not even two hours later I received a phone call from a real person calling to confirm my order before the credit-card I had entered on the web-page was charged. The associate I spoke to on the phone was both knowledgeable and helpful, he ran down a quick list of the parts I had ordered to be sure I did not want to make any last adjustments. From that point on I was kept up to date on the status of my laptop via email and around twenty days later I had received my new gaming rig in the mail.

The laptop as a unit performs wonderfully! It easily takes everything I can throw at it and then some. The only two down sides to it are the short battery life (around an hour and forty-five mins) but then what full size laptop (with a good graphics card) lasts much longer than that anywho? I have a netbook if I want extended battery life. The second (and this is rather irksome) is the fact that it lacks a boot menu key. Meaning if I want to boot from external media (such as USB drives) I have to go change a BIOS setting so it's priority is above that of the internal disk. This really isn't a big deal and it doesn't affect performance at all but it is bothersome none the less.

All in all I had a fantastic experience and will be putting all my future laptop orders through them. (Although I don't plan on upgrading again for another couple years hehehe). I would recommend them to any looking for a good place to buy a powerful notebook from - Linux or Windows.

~Jeff Hoogland

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Moblin Linux - Distro Review

Moblin Linux is a distribution of Linux targeted at netbook devices that utilize the Intel Atom processor. It is backed by both the Intel cooperation and the Linux Foundation. It is currently in it's finally beta release for version 2.0 - as such I gave it a download to test drive on my Asus EEE 900A.

Downloading and installing Moblin is relatively easy. Like many other netbook targeted distributions it is distributed as a .img file which is intended to be written to a 1gig flash drive using image writer. Personally I like installing from flash drives - its how I install Linux on all my computers, it saves a CD. I had the installer crash on me the first time I tried to install, not a big deal rebooted and it installed fine the second time around. Moblin also takes the Ubuntu approach and makes the root password the same as the default user's password. I know some people dislike this but personally I think it is a good idea, it makes Linux less confusing for new users.

Also worth noting here for others like myself who hop distros often/multi-boot - the Moblin auto-grub creator is more than a little bit stupid. I currently have my netbook multi-booted with Karmic, Moblin, and Jolicloud and Moblin's grub setup failed to detect and auto add both of these other operating systems.

Using the System:
The first thing you will notice about Moblin is that it is fast. Like smoking fast. The time span from when I select Moblin from my grub menu to when I have fully loaded desktop is just under 8 seconds. The user interface is also equally quick. Using a unique setup called "zones" Moblin does a good job of dividing the different parts of your system up neatly using a top panel that comes and goes when you mouse over it. There is just enough eye candy to keep a user happy but at the same time it is not enough to bog down the system. Each "zone" is a dynamically created workspace that comes and goes as needed. When you load up an application you are offered a choice to load it into a current existing "zone" or create a new one. It is a nice way to organize many open windows on your small netbook-sized screen.

Unfortunately there are still a few things that I dislike/need addressing in Moblin. The first and foremost is the giant lack of software. One of the things I always loved about Linux when first coming from Windows is the seemingly endless repositories of software to pick through and install/remove at my leisure, this is not present in the slightest in Moblin. Along side this lack of software is the fact that Moblin does not come pre-installed with office software, meaning in order to type properly formatted papers you will need to use Google Docs or boot into a different operating system. Something else I found odd is that several very standard Linux commands where not present such as nano, fdisk, and shutdown.

The only issue I had with the "zones" is the lack of maximize/minimize buttons on open windows, meaning if a program opens and it is not full screen (which happens) you have to drag the corner to manually make it fill the whole screen. Customization is also not present in the slightest. Beyond changing the back ground you cannot change the layout of the "zones" at all. To be honest all of the defaults are laid out nicely, but for instance I never use the calender feature on my netbook nor do I keep media files on it - so it would be nice if I could remove/hide those "zones" instead of having dead buttons/space.

Then there is the most important part about using any netbook - the internet. The built in browser does a good job of rendering most pages and Moblin comes with flash pre-installed so you can be youtubing as soon as your install is finished. I had issues with a few pages loading in it but simply hitting the refresh button resolved the issue every time.

Final Thoughts:
One last hitch to mention before closing this one is that I did have X crash on me while using Moblin before running the initial system update after installation - so be sure to do this right away. Also Moblin does not support ext4, which is rather annoying because my Karmic partitions are both ext4.

All in all Moblin is a solid netbook distro. In fact if you are only using your netbook for internet (surfing the net, IM, ect) and media use (music and videos) I would recommend Moblin above all others due to both its fantastic UI and quick speeds. How ever the current lack of software, namely office software, makes the distribution almost useless for school use (which is what a large number of netbooks are used for). Personally I'm going to be keeping a Moblin partition on my EEE PC for occasions where I just need to get online and check my email quick or use instant messenger.

~Jeff Hoogland

Saturday, October 17, 2009

HOWTO: Cricket A600 Modem & Ubuntu

So the Cricket cooperation is too lazy to make their device function by default on Linux so the following is a method I came up with some months back for getting your Cricket A600 Modem working under Linux. There are two methods listed below, choose which ever suits your needs.

Easy Method for Installing (pre-compiled debs):

Attached are the debs and a to get this working do the following -

Step 1:
Download the .deb file for your selected architecture (32bit or 64bit) && install it

Step 2:
Download the, Now right click on the file and select "properties". Click over to the "permissions" tab, and check the box "allow executing file as a program". Now double click it and select "Run", enter your password. Wait a few moments and poof! Your 3g modem should now be appearing in your network manager.


You will need to run the every time you connect your modem.

Before this guide will work for you, you do need to load the device on a Windows/Mac system and install the software for the device and activate it. (I have a Windows VM for just such occasions, it worked fine)

Installing from Source:

Step 1:

Download the archive and extract the contents to your preferred directory.

Step 2:

Open up terminal and use cd to change into the directory of the extracted files.

32 bit Users - Install usb_modeswitch with the following command: sudo make install

64 bit Users - We need to recompile modeswitch to work on the 64bit platform. Run the following commands in terminal to do so run the following in order in terminal:
sudo apt-get install build-essential libusb-dev
rm usb_modeswitch
sudo make install

Step 3:

Plug in your Cricket A600 to an open USB port, wait a moment for it to be detected as a CD drive/the auto play menu to pop up. Now we just need to execute the, it is in the directory of files you extracted, by running the following: sudo ./ (Please note you need to first make this file executable by running chmod +x

After running the you need to wait about 12 seconds (while it works it's magic) and then poof! Your Cricket device should now appear in your network manager as a connection option.


You will need to sudo ./ each time you attach the device for it to work.

Before this guide will work for you, you do need to load the device on a Windows/Mac system and install the software for the device and activate it. (I have a Windows VM for just such occasions, it worked fine)

I played around with udev some trying to automate this process when you play the device in, but I could not get it to work properly, if someone smarter/experienced than myself would like to figure that out I'd be more than happy to add it to this guide.

Trouble Shooting -
If this guide does not work for you try first opening up the and increasing the sleep time from 10 seconds to 20 - some systems require a longer delay.

If anyone has any trouble or has any input let me know,
~Jeff Hoogland

Cedega vs Crossover Games - Hands on Review

Most people who use Linux for desktop use are well aware of the one of the largest issues facing the platform: Lack of commercial software. Now in most cases this is not an issue, no MS Office - use OpenOffice, no Internet Explorer - use FireFox. However one thing which there is currently no replacement for is gaming. Try as they might there are just not enough Open-Source game developers (or even closed-sourced ones) that bring the level of gaming quality, as of yet, to Linux that Windows enjoys.

Enter the world of Win-on-Lin. The Wine Project, was started in 1993 and has slowly come into maturity over the course of the last sixteen years. Wine is a compatibility layer, or more precisely a reimplementation of the Windows API, that allows Windows applications to run under Linux. While the Wine project does a wonderful job of what it is designed to do (run Windows applications on Linux) how ever it sorely lacks in the means of a GUI front end for easy configuration/calibration.

Which brings me to my topic at hand - Cedega & Codeweavers. What are Cedega and Codeweavers? They two (closed source) programs both based off of the Wine Project to create what it lacks - a user friendly interface. Designed to help you get your Windows games working with ease on Linux. They both have their ups and downs and today I am going to look at each program and see how they compare. I currently have both Cedega and Codeweavers licenses so all the information given is from first hand experience working with both products. I'm going to be judging based on following criteria:
  1. Functionality - How well do they do what they are suppose to do?
  2. GUI Front End - How do the front-ends between the two compare?
  3. Website - Being able to find information is everything, how do the websites compare?
  4. Customer Service/Support - If you are paying for a product you want to know you can get help with it if it doesn't work properly.
  5. Fees & Licensing - How much do they cost and what are you paying for?
Functionality -

Cedega does a fairly good job of helping the user get their programs up and running. Upon selecting install it auto-detects any disc drives on the system for known game discs it can install. If it does not find any (or finds the wrong one) it is easy enough to direct it to the proper file/disc via the GUI. One of the things I really like about Cedega is the large number of pre-defined profiles it contains for different game titles (and just because you game isn't listed doesn't mean it will not work). Basically what this means is when you install a game that has a profile it automatically uses what are known to be the "best Wine settings" to get the optimum performance out of your game.

While Cedega does a great job at actually running the important parts of your games it is obvious that certain aspects of some programs have been neglected, Steam for instance works fine for loading and playing games but the friends network does not work in the slightest and installing flash for it is difficult at best.

Also worth noting here is that while Cedega started off as a fork of the Wine project (version 4.0 and earlier of Cedega was known as WineX or Wine Extreme) initially, it is no longer associated with it. Because of this of this fact the Windows API behind Cedega is also now different from that which powers Wine and as such there are a few applications that will not function under Wine (or things powered by Wine) that perform with out a hick-up under Cedega.

All in all I'm giving Cedega a 9 out of 10 points for functionality - it is a good software.

Functionality 9/10 - Cedega Total 9/10

Upon opening the Codeweavers program installer you are presented with a small list of applications that it will auto install and configure for you. I say small list because by comparison to the amount of game profiles listed under Cedega it feels somewhat incomplete. How ever as with Cedega just because the game you want to run is not on the list does not mean that it will not work. Also like Cedega, Codeweavers will auto detect any disc drives you have when you go to install a piece of software, one thing I also really like is that when detecting disc drives it also detects mounted iso files you may want to install from.

While the given list of games that are pre-configured in Codeweavers is small compared to the games list present in Cedega, it is very obvious that most of the games on the list have been worked on extensively to get them working to a optimum level with a careful attention to detail. Using Steam as my example again upon installation Codeweavers downloads and configures flash, in addition to other things, to help it work almost as good as it does natively on Windows (the only issue currently with the Steam UI is a small scroll bar issue).

Codeweavers is based directly off the Wine project, as such if a program works poorly under Wine odds are it is going to work just as poorly under Codeweavers. As such this also means that any performance you see with an application under Codeweavers can be replicated under just a standard Wine install (how ever it may take you several hours to get everything just right).

I'm giving Codeweavers an 8 out of 10 on functionality. It is good software but it needs to expand its games list some.

Functionality 8/10 - Codeweavers Total 8/10

GUI Front End -
One of the most important things about both these pieces of software is their GUI. One of the wonderful things about Linux is how alot of things "just work" and having a front end to install Windows applications through is a nice addition to have.

The Cedega GUI does a nice job of giving you a centralized location to house all of your Games/Windows applications. (You can add launchers for your favorite native Linux apps/games to it as well) Also present in Cedega that Codeweavers does not have is a "diagnostic test". Basically it checks over your hardware and configuration for anything that may cause issues when running your games. In addition to being able to check your configuration the diagnostic tool also allows for an easy copy and paste of your system specifications which is useful if you are unsure of your setup (or too lazy to type it out) when trying to debug an issue.

Lacking in the Cedega GUI how ever are native menu entries. Applications installed under Cedega often times feel foreign as you have to open a separate program to launch them or create your own custom menu entry (and hunting down the correct icon for you game can be a headache). Also worth noting with netbooks becoming more and more popular is that the Cedega GUI is obviously designed for a resolution of at least 768 pixel height, parts of it get cut off on most netbook screens. The Cedega GUI as a whole is good but it could stand a few changes - 8 out of 10

GUI Front End 8/10 - Cedega Total 8.5/10

While Codeweavers does not give you a centralized location for all your install applications like Cedega does, however it is still well done. Codeweavers does a beautiful job of integrating with your local menus (Gnome, KDE, ect) when installing applications. In fact if Codeweavers would simply add the games you install to the games section of your menu instead of its own section I do not think most users would be able to tell the difference between a natively installed game and one installed via Codeweavers. Same as Cedega here 8 of 10, fully functional but could still be slightly better.

GUI Front End 8/10 - Codeweavers Total 8/10

Website -

Knowledge is power as they say, one of the most important things about any piece of software you may have is that you fully understand how to use it. Often times these days ones of the best resources for learning such information is an application's homepage.

Cedega's home page is relatively horrid to say the least. It does provide the basic information on the product and pricing but that is about it. Many parts of the website have been 100% non-functional for the last months I have had my subscription and it really takes from the product as a whole. Voting for which applications you wish to be supported is one key feature that is lacking for example. On top of this another "feature" of the page is that you cannot view certain data if you do not have a current subscription - meaning if you are someone looking into Cedega to see if it will run a certain game you will have to pony up the cash to give it a try. Also horrid is the Cedega rating system for applications which has three options: "Certified, Works, and Known not to Work". Certified means you are able to contact customer service in order to get help with said application should an issue arise and well the other two kind of explain them self. Also, and this is not Cedega's fault per-say but odds are is due to a small user base, but the information about many application in their listing is rather lacking by comparison to others.

Cedega's website needs some HUGE improvements, as of now it is functional. So I'll give it a 4 out of 10.

Website 4/10 - Cedega Total 6.7/10

Codeweaver's website is a refreshing change from that of Cedega. It is obviously that of a professional company, the layout is nice and everything is clearly labeled. Everything is accessible with or with out a user login. If you are a member they have a nice system for allowing you to "vote" for which applications you would like to see better support for (So they know what they should be spending time working on). The user forums are slightly non-standard but not necessarily in a bad way, they just take some getting used to. Also a feature worth noting is Codeweavers ticketing system, you can browse past support tickets that yourself or other people have posted for solutions to past issues.

I really do not have anything bad to say about the Codeweavers website, it is well done and fully functional - 10 out of 10

Website 10/10 - Codeweavers Total 8.5/10

Customer Service/Support -

So one of the most important things to know when you are buying something is that you are going to be able to get support for the product if it does not work as it is suppose to.

Cedega's customer support is decent. They give you a good response and help you solve any issues you may be having to a satisfactory amount. How ever also worth noting is that the only way to get customer support is via Email. And they only provide official support for their list of forty or so "certified" games and if you are running certain hardware configuration (they only support nVidia gfx cards and certain distros). And I feel I should also mention that their customer service is rather slow to return emails.

They also how ever have community powered message boards (which they link from their website) where there are a few very dedicated people who work hard to help people solve their problems, I found these boards to be a much faster response than the official email support.

Cedega customer support isn't bad per-say but it also is not anything exceptional - 7 out of 10

Customer Service/Support 7/10 - Cedega Total 7/10

Codeweaver's provides two different channels of customer support, one through their wonderful ticket/email system and on their official message boards. The response time for a ticket I have filed has never been less than a day, often times if I filed the ticket during normal business hours I would see a response within a few hours. Their forums also have a few helpful individuals as well as good number of staff that watch over and do their best to help out with any issues that may arise while using the software.

No customer support is perfect but Codeweaver's is darn good to say the least 9 out of 10

Customer Service/Support 9/10 - Codeweavers Total 8.75/10

Fees and Licensing -

I've spent time talking about the ups and downs of these two pieces of software now - how do you get it? And more importantly how much does it cost?

Cedega starts at 15$ for a three month subscription with varying prices if you buy for an extended length of time (45$ for a year for instance). Cedega is yours to install so long as you keep paying for it (after the subscription runs out you will no longer be able to download Cedega anymore - meaning if you format you are SOL). Also worth mentioning here is that the only "demo" Cedega provides is for a single game - Spore. And as I said above you cannot see the full games data base unless you also pay for it. So unless you know someone else with a subscription you may very well pay for it to try a game only to find out doesn't work well. Too be fair though it's only 15$ for the three months, not truly expensive. I personally do not care for how Cedega licensing works - 6 out of 10.

Fees and Licensing 6/10 - Cedega Total 6.8/10

Codeweaver's CXGames costs 40$ for the product and a year's worth of support and updates. After that it is 35$ for a following year of support/updates and even if you do not renew you still get to continue using the Codeweavers software you had paid for initially. Now 40$ is a fair bit of cash if you are unsure if something is going to work for you - however Codeweavers offers a 7 day demo of the full software so you can use it and see if it works for your needs. Also worth noting is that while Codeweavers is closed source software they are powered directly by the Wine project - and as such they give back to it (with code and money). I don't mind paying a reasonable cost for good software and the fact that they give some of it back to the Wine project also makes me feel good - 9/10

Fees and Licensing 9/10 - Codeweavers Total 8.8/10

Final Scores - Cedega 6.8 & Codeweavers 8.8

Follow Up -

Obviously no piece of software is perfect - these two included - and while Wine technology has come a long way in the last decade (or so) it still has a long way to go. As you can see from the numbers and the above information I prefer Codeweavers to Cedega, come the end of the year I do not think I will be renewing my Cedega license Which of the two is right for you is your choice, I just hope my little comparison here may have presented you with some information on each of them you had not known before.

Update -

For my thoughts on the recently released CXGames 9.0 check here.

~Jeff Hoogland