Basically, I am in search of a good, reliable distro that will work. Of course, every time I review a distro, the definition of “work” changes a bit. For instance, working within Google Docs is a must-have, as is finding my flash drives and other partitions. And at the moment, running Second Life is a major quest.
Second Life is a virtual reality program/game in which you interact with the environment and people using an avatar. It is fun and somewhat addictive, but it also exacts a heavy toll on system resources. Finding an OS that supports it reliably has been a challenge.
One thing that this hair pulling has resulted in, is me learning more about the command line interface. CLI is sacred ground unique to Linux. I know of no Windows users who currently profess the virtues of DOS although there are some geeks who will use the cli in Windows on a rare occasion. And I don’t know if such a thing even exists in the Mac world. But to die-hard Linux geeks, CLI remains the ultimate passport to Linux nirvana.
So I’ve worked through a portion of the tutorial at linuxcommand.org. While I do have an appreciation for the power of the command line and its elegance and power it does rely on memorizing exact syntax in order to be of greatest use. You can look and poke around with a few basic commands, and there are aspects of it that make it infinitely easier than the old DOS commands of 1989. Once I get comfortable with it, I might even use it to install packages more often, as it is pretty slick.
But my most fundamental question remains unanswered: how do I get that SL executible shell script to actually run? I can search it, list it, copy it, move it and do all sorts of nifty things. But somewhere the most fundamental of all commands seems to elude me. Where is RUN? Or EXECUTE? LAUNCH? How do you get a program to actually DO anything other than be redone, renamed, looked at and admired?
In Mandriva 2008, it did run almost without fail, although it did crash. A lot. I’m just now learning that this is a constant in SL. In Windows, it lags hopelessly much of the time. In Linux, it runs much faster if you can get it going at all.
When I updated to Mandriva 2010, it quit running and constantly opened the file in kwrite or another text program. Getting the SL viewer to run was impossible. I then began experimenting with some other distros and options. I liked Mandriva, and would stay with it if not for that one fatal flaw. I arrived at a few other possibilities:
1.) A 4 G flash of 0.7 ArtistX I had lying about. This is built off of Ubuntu 8.10 and holds most media programs in the Ubuntu repositories, and specializes in 2D and 3D graphics. It actually was the most seamless solution in that it most easily detects and connects to my wireless network. However, the sound is very flaky (will often cut out and stop) and it is slower. I would have installed this, except none of the Ubuntu distros to date detect the partitions on my Dell Vostro 1500. Ubuntu won on my wife’s computer, as it detected all of her partitions but it is a FAIL here for an install. The settings on the persistent USB do not persist, so I have to re-set each time. Painfull, but doable. I would stick with this if the sound stayed on and if it was a smidgin quicker. The sound it the biggest dealbreaker here.
2.) Puppy Linux 4.1.3 – gave it a shot but never did get it to run. If thArtistX had the persistence of Puppy and its speed, it would be a natural. I only mention it because I did try it. I didn’t think it would work, but definitely worth a shot.
3.) PCLinuxOS 2009.1 – I have rediscovered PCLOS and really like it. And I was able to successfully get Second Life to run…at least until I updated from the repositories. Then I was back in Kwrite land instead of Second Life. But the video was very shaky and erratic, while the sound and speed were superb until then. I had random visual distortions in the game, but easily this was the best solution of the lot, so far until it crapped out totally. The other thing was that it had a hard time getting up on my wireless network. I put my ndiswrapper .inf files on a flash to speed up the configuration process that gave me an idea…
4.) PCLinuxOS Live CD – Obviously, the update after the install spelled doom for my Second Life experience, so I decided to see if I could get it to run in Live CD. And in fact it did work very well, once I got on my wireless network. Again, I flashed the Linux version of the software to speed up configuration. I was able to play for several hours without a single crash or hang, even with conditions that would otherwise have been very laggy. But the next time I tried, it failed to grab my wireless network. It detected it, but getting on failed repeatedly. This would repeat on the installed and updated version in #3 above.
5.) Windows XP – I do have to mention it because it is always a fall back of choice. The program always executes, every time. And there are no wireless isues….ever. However, it is incredibly slow and laggy. I can not interact or talk to more than one person at a time and it still bogs down to a crawl. My experience with SL with Windows is not very positive at all. The Linux experience is much better if not for the flakiness of those other issues. And Windows will crash and hang…often.
Anyone else playing Second Life? Which Linux distro works best for you? I suspect Ubuntu might be a clear winner here, if it wasn’t for the issues I have with installation and sound. I can more easily compromise video quality than sound. Second Life as a deaf person is possible but not very much fun. And I have no idea why Ubuntu’s partition manager fails to detect my windows partition. Doing fsdisk or whatever the cli is renders up the correct partitions and I am even able to mount them all, but the installation partition manager still fails. I am ready for Ubuntu but it doesn’t seem ready for me!
Second Life isn’t THE deal maker or breaker in what I need from a distro, which is why running it from removable or temporary media is fine with me. But it is just one other program and experience that helps to differentiate the strengths and weaknesses of the different flavors of Linux. And even similar distros across different machines, renders differing experiences as illustrated between installing Ubuntu on my wife’s HP Pavilion and my Dell. We both have XP NTFS partitions, but hers was detected and mine wasn’t.
Right now, PCLinuxOS occupies the linux partitions and I love the simlicity and little features that make this a great distro. But if it fails to hang on to my home wireless connection between boots, it will get the boot. That IS a deal breaker for me on this laptop.