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Linux, the gamer platform

icon_512.jpgAnd no, I'm not kidding. Not even referring to the newest activities at Steam, Valve or EA.

Obviously there are many types of gamers. The one most frequently referenced as a "gamer" is the general "throw any number of ego shooters at me" type, who enjoys the same game principe over and over again with high-definition graphics and slight differences in possible interactions with the shooting parcours. Similar subtypes enjoy racing games instead or "epic roleplaying games" which have a slightly higher variety of game mechanics. All of these people share their love for very elaborate audio-visual presentation, mostly at the expense of real innovation.

Then there's the "casual gamer", whose rise is still under way with larger demographics being attracted to new gaming platforms like smartphones and pads. She/He likes very simple, addictive game mechanics that need near-to-zero introduction, therefor always being on the verge of banality.

Finally there is a third type, sometimes called the "indie gamer". What does he want? Simple: To be amazed! :-) Not (primarily) with graphics. But with innovation, with art, with massively good gameplay. Ideally a combination of all that.

Where does she/he find it? On (mostly) small games from small. independent software forges. On modern ports of those ancient 8-bit games from around the c64 era which refuse to die, because somehow they manage to transport loads more fun with their pixilated sprites than any "Call of Crysis" clone with a 3-years-value of vector graphics design and movie-esque soundtrack.

Now have a bet: Which type of gamer would dare to call Linux a real gaming platform?

Oh come on now, please have a guess! :-)

So what's "oneiric" anyway?

220px-salvador_dali_nywts.jpgI still don't really know, and as far as I read on the Inet I indeed share this fate with many native english speakers. Nevertheless I upgraded my home PC to Ubuntu 11.10, the "Oneric Ocelot", just some days ago and will collect my impressions here without further ado:

What I like:

  • Yes, the interface got snappier and faster on the whole. Not that I really regarded Natty as slow but the improvement is felt and appreciated.
  • Revamped system settings, now more integrated and "dumbed down" for good (in the most positive way I am able to say something like this). Many advanced settings missing of course (compiz!) but these still can be found on the dash
  • Installer. Helped to sanitize a shipwrecked Natty update on the PC of my daughter with its own "upgrade" option. It actually installs the system anew but tries to keep all the settings (at least this is what I assume it did). Also intelligent enough to directly install the usual proprietary enhancements (mp3 decoder and the like) and not to crash&burn when it cannot reinstall all the applications that were there on the previous install. Instead a nice and "speaking" error message comes up and the process is able to proceed. Thats the most MacOS-like user experience (again ,as positive as I...) I ever had with ubuntu. Overall a nice piece of work.

What I'm indifferent about (but shouldn't be):

  • Improved dash. Well, duh. Might be better than the Natty thing but the concept still does not really gripe. The "lenses" buttons on the bottom are very small and unimpressive so you're most likely to forget about lenses altogether. I appreciate the easier way to filter applications, but still think that it is a too long way to get there. I would really like to disable the display of  yet-to-install apps, so the installed ones get more display space directly. Why would I really want to install any application via the dash? I do not see any information about it here apart from the title and icon. Before I install it I want to be sure that it really qualifies for what I want to do, which I can't tell from here. Wouldn't a single small link "Install more x apps from the software center" make more sense here?
  • Tray area rearranged once again. Will this ever get to rest someday or will we continue to find yet another "definitely right way to do it" every six months? It not really got worse but many things are at a different place again. The "Me" menu, introduced with much noise a year ago, is gone. Some new menu entries actually may make sense (Updates, Connected Devices), some maybe don't (Online accounts? I added my google account there, but what does it actually do?) .Whatever: Please please please let there be a "right" version one day whose concept keeps being right across time apart from fine-tuning.
  • Revamped software center, may be a bit nicer than before but actually not really visually appealing for me, The new installation history actually would be of some value if it didn't operate on package level and I were able to undo installations from here.
  • LightDM login screen. It can be clearly seen that LightDM is a platform which can deliver a better/more modern login screen experience. However I don't really like it's current theme. I find the "carousel style" user name list to be simply ugly. Additionally it reacts to slow on user selection. User icons are gone here, but still configurable while nowhere seen. The background is boring, but you can change this using a niftly little tool introduced over there at OMG! Ubuntu. Positive: It boots faster.

What's simply annoying:

  • DVDStyler stopped working :( It still lets you arrange your DVD to create in every detail, then dies horribly upon ISO generation. Hope they fix this. According to me this is the only really straight-forward and self-explainatory DVD autoring tool around on Linux. [Update: Fixed since 27. Nov]
  • According to what people say they broke multi monitor support in Oneiric. This is why I refrain from updating my "workhorse" notebook to this release, as multi monitor support ist most important to me. So I will keep an eye on the corresponding bug reports before considering any further updates.

Well, all in all I can recommend Oneiric mainly because of the snappier UI, and only if DVDStyler and multi monitor support is of no importance for you. It may generally be a good advice to just wait some more weeks to let things improve. They say there will be a final Unity SRU release in the next days so things may get better after that.

I still consider Oneiric being a good inbetween step between Natty and the new LTS if they spend a large amount of the available time now by ironing out the small inconsistencies and missing links which still exist. As can be seen on my list I regard many of the "killer improvements" that Oneiric does feature to be of lesser importance and impact. I think the focus should get away from these (maybe except the dash) and instead be on those minor improvements that are needed for a more consistent Unity UI:

  • More customizing possibilities for the launcher, including its position (left/right) and its launcher items. Especially a way to add custom launchers to it. I personally would like folder-like launcher items where I could group apps that are there for some special purpose (Office tasks, Design, Sound Studio apps, freq. played games etc). 
    • Maybe even be able to disable the launcher completely, so people can continue to use their favorite dock replacement.
  • Better ways to navigate applications. The dash lens would be ok if it would have more space to display installed apps and would come up directly with the filters instead.
  • Make generic UI improvements like global menu and hidden scrollbars work better. Global menu still does not work for all main apps. Hidden scrollbars crash some apps (Eclipse) and generally seem to annoy many people (not me). You should be able to switch them off.

So that's Unity...

250px-ubuntu_11.04_beta_desktop.pngFinally we will be able to test ourselves in a reasonably stable version what's behind those new interface concepts that split the opinions the Ubuntu community all the way to the Natty release. While the press and (micro-)blogosphere tends to prefer Gnome 3 over Unity (which is quite ridiculous as there also was a plenty amount of Gnome 3 bashing before Unity came around) I myself am able to keep my good impression of it with the release. I think it is a good start for a really better default user experience.

Yet we should not judge Unity by its suitability for power users, as it is clearly not yet designed to be a full-fledged alternative for them. That's why my "workhorse" notebook still runs the classic Gnome interface. But the family home PC, a frequently used but not critically important machine,  is the perfect place to get used to Ubuntus new user interface.

(Wan't to know what Unity is all about? The people of dedicated news site OMG Ubuntu have created a sleek yet concise video introduction for it).

Fragmentation by Unity?

unity.pngI still think the early announcement was a actually good move. Mark Shuttleworth, almighty mastermind behind Ubuntu - the wildly popular Linux distro that claims to be "for human beings" (as if you wouldn't know) - stated that the GNOME Shell named "Unity", developed for the Ubuntu Netbook Edition, will also be the default desktop for regular Ubuntu on the next version, therefor deciding against the "real" GNOME shell that is to come with the next GNOME major version.

Much noise has been caused by this proclamation. As usual in the last time on Ubuntu topics the "sky falling" fraction is ... well, maybe the biggest, but most certainly the loudest. Somehow I think I want to drop my own note on this controversy.

My dad vs. Ubuntu - A lesson in end user experience

Z(Behold blogosphere, my first entry in english. Native speakers: Sorry for abusing your language)

My father is 71 and more the handcraft oriented guy. Nevertheless he started using computers about 10 years ago, at an age where many people already have successfully abandoned their ability to learn anything new. He - of course - started off with a windows computer that was mainly used as a tool for his home video editing hobby.

Over time the internet gained importance in his computer usage, just like for any of us, and about 2 years ago we talked about protecting our devices from the various threats that come from there. Asked about the best virus protection software the open source evangelist in me of course sniffed his chance and so I "dropped the bomb" that I don't use any as there rarely is any virus for my operating system. From there it was just a small step to a separate Ubuntu partition on his computer, that he would prefer for all things internet.

Ubuntu im (NetBook-)Mixer

Gespenstisch wenig los hier...da wollen wir doch mal frei von der Leber erzählen was sich sonst so alles - geringfügiges - getan hat.

In unseren Wänden ist der allgemeine IT-Trend in Form eines schicken Asus-NetBooks eingezogen, welches sich meine bessere Hälfte angeschafft hat. Mir fiel natürlich die Aufgabe der Anschaffungs-Beratung, sowie Administration und Betrieb des neuen Gerätes zu. Und wir wissen alle wie das endet, und welches Betriebssystem auf allen Rechnern unter meiner Fuchtel installiert wird die nicht bei Drei auf den Bäumen sind. Aber der Reihe nach...

Der Koala auf der Teststrecke

Über Ubuntu wollte ich also schreiben. Gut, fangen wir also mit meinen eigenen, jüngeren Erfahrungen beim Upgrade auf den Karmic Koala an, was klappt, was zusammenklappt (und wieder 1€ in die Kalauerkasse), und wo wir insgesamt sind.

Koala ante portas

Na dann weiss ich ja schon womit ich das Wochenende bestreiten kann :-)

(Nicht dass das Update so aufwendig wäre, aber ich habe inzwischen 5 Rechner mit Ubuntu bestückt)

(Ja, so viele Rechner habe ich im Betrieb. Verrückt, was? Werden aber nicht alle von mich persönlich benutzt.)

Der karmische Koala lockt mit UI-Verbesserungen, erneut beschleunigtem Boot, einer besseren Hardware-Unterstützung für Notebooks (dank auf-den-Mond-geschossenem HAL), stabiler Unterstützung des ext4-Dateisystems und diversem anderem Pipapo.

Schon lange warte ich auf einen Aufhänger um etwas mehr über mein Betriebssystem of Choice zu erzählen, insbesondere was meine Beweggründe bei der Auswahl waren und warum es nicht nur inzwischen bereit ist auf die nicht-technische Menschheit losgelassen zu werden (spätestens mit diesem Release) sondern wo es ganz konkrete "Sweet Spots" für die bisherige Windows-Clientel gibt. Na und da ziehe mir doch jemand 'nen Eukalyptus-Ast über den Schädel wenn das jetzt keiner ist (i.e. ein Aufhänger, ja meine Sätze sind zu lang).

So, jetzt ist es raus, und ihr habt mich beim Wort.

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Last comments

  • Oliver:
    Als Antwort auf "Anonym" vom 27. Dezember 2015 (..
  • anonym:
    Habbo als abzocke zu deklarieren finde ich schon..
  • anonym:
    Wenn du es dir leisten kannst und es dich glückl..
  • Jebote:
    ja sicher kommen alle auf diesen 5 jahre alten a..
  • Micha:
    @Ingo, na klar. Alles legitim und voll ok ;-) Mu..

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