Adventures in Linux

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Adventures in Linux

Postby Dog Pants » March 25th, 2016, 8:53

Sprog has been pestering me a lot to play Minecraft lately, and getting fed up of only being able to use my computer when I'm not on it, so I decided to pull my finger out and rebuild my laptop for her.

It's a 10-year-old Dell XPS M1530, so was pretty decent in its day and should be more than capable of running Minecraft. Problem is I used it as an experiment in upgrading to Windows 10 back in Release Candidate. It didn't work very well, and MS backed out on offering license upgrades for pre-release versions, so that left the laptop needed a rebuild.

It came with Fista, as was standard ten years or so ago. The plan was to just re-image it from the build DVD, drop MC on a limited user account, and let her loose. If she breaks it I just re-image it again. Oh how naive that turned out to be. Over the course of three days I struggled with the wi-fi, the Java download page crashed IE, I installed Chrome and it wouldn't install Java, I installed Firefox and found that Fista wouldn't run anything I'd downloaded. I tried to update Fista to SP2, it got stuck installing SP1 over and over. So I sacked the stupid thing off and decided to give Linux a go.

I've considered doing this before. I've got a few VMs running on my desktop machine with Linux distros on them, but laptops aren't VMs and I was expecting big problems with the drivers (like I did with Win10). Turns out this time I was too cynical - a quick google brought up several records of people getting the exact model working with only minor problems. Gotta love Linux geeks.

I went for Ubuntu 14 because it's pretty common and well supported. A quick look at getting Minecraft working on Linux suggested Redhat would probably be okay too, but I know Ubuntu better. A little farting about getting the ISO downloaded and mounted on a USB stick, and we're away.

The install was surprisingly painless. Completely painless, in fact. Out of the box it connected to wireless, video worked fine, touchpad worked fine. I used the built-in software updater to switch to the latest confirmed video drivers, again with no trouble.

Getting Minecraft working was a little trickier, but not too difficult. There's a nice GUI software library, which I used to install a third-party Java analogue, but I got crashes when I tried to launch Minecraft.jar (which also needed a tickbox unticking so it would launch as an exe). An easy to find guide gave me a command line to download a version of Java-like configured to work with MC, and also drop the MC client into the game library of my machine, both of which worked great. In fact I had more trouble finding the terminal.

Next I installed Steam, just to see if I could. Valve have a nice Linux version which just downloads an installer and works as easily as any Windows install. A quick look at my favourites suggested that a little over half my games had Linux versions.

There are still a few little issues to iron out - the sound stopped working briefly, and any non-standard keys (Windows, volume) crash the OS, but Sprog is now sat happily playing Minecraft and telling me about every little thing she does.

TL:DR; Linux was easier to get working than Fista.
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