The word on the street is that gaming on Linux doesn’t work as well as on Brand X. According to our everyday Super Geek, that seems to be just another Microsoft myth.
The Heart of Linux
“Hi, my name is Joan and I live in 104B. Are you the computer guy?”
I wasn’t ready to receive visitors or company. When I am within my home walls, I’m not the guy you see in public. Neither am I the guy you see at the speaker’s podium and I’m not the guy you run into at the local bodega. There are a number of things I have to do prior to being in a public place so I don’t scare the bejeesus out of the kids, so receiving unexpected company can be clumsy.
With nothing but my head peeking around the door, I signaled her to enter and I turned by back quickly as I went into the bedroom to make myself presentable to the general population. I came back out of the bedroom and placed the electronic voice simulator to my throat.
“Who told you I was a computer guy?”
She smiled widely as she answered. “Everyone at the complex clubhouse.”
I nodded knowingly as I ushered her into our home and guided her to the dining room table where I seated her and pulled out a chair for myself. She had brought an extremely nice Dell/Alienware gaming laptop and it was, or appeared to be, brand new. She opened the 17″ display machine up and she turned it so we could both watch it boot.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with it”. she complained. “It has 16 gigs of memory and a quad core processor. I wanted this one specifically but it’s so slooow”
She was complaining about her Dell 17.3″ Alienware 17 R3 Notebook. For those who haven’t seen this beast, it is gorgeous. It has every bit of the commanding presence that the original Alienware machines had.
I turned my synthvoice down so it didn’t rattle the windows.
“When you say it’s slow, how is it slow? Is it slow to load pages, is it slow while using software or is it jerky during game play?”
She turned the computer back to her focus and began typing. In a moment, she began serious interaction with the keyboard and when she finished, she turned it back so we could both see it.
“All of the above,” she answered. “My Dad spent a lot on this computer for my birthday and I didn’t have a lot of input.”
Indeed, Joan did not have many choices. Her dad went to Best Buy, and not knowing anything about computers, he just told the sales guy he wanted something his daughter could play games on. He pretty much let the sales rep tell him what to buy. Of course it was the top of the line Dell Alienware. It’s glossy and it glows orange. That probably sold her dad on the spot. The sales rep even told him that he would upgrade the laptop to Windows 10 at no charge. If he purchased the laptop, it would take an hour or so and he could come pick it up.
Her dad had it shipped right from Best Buy to Joan’s house, just a few doors down from me. Just my luck.
Joan’s biggest problem is primarily when trying to run Steam, which has been an on and off issue for almost a year. This is not an unknown problem on Windows 10, and the most frustrating part being that while the issue is well documented, there are about as many “fixes” as there are people complaining about it. Some report that a registry hack is needed, which was as far as Joan got in her research. That’s when she sought out the “Computer Guy”.
I asked what games she liked to play on Steam. I told her about Linux and explained that Steam has a large number of games that now run on Linux, in some cases with better performance than on Windows. She remarked out of the corner of her mouth, “Well that wouldn’t take much, now would it?”
(Apologies. I thought that was hilarious, coming from someone who isn’t affiliated or aligned with either
But she was hesitant because of what she had heard about Linux, that being the old party line that says Linux is too complex, doesn’t work well on the Internet and that there are no games that run on the operating system. Where has she heard these specific “facts?” From her ex-boyfriend, of course. The ex-boyfriend that worked for the Microsoft Store in San Antonio. Go figure.
Knowing she would be reluctant to allow a relative stranger to alter her machine, I went into my home office and brought out a Dell E6400 i7 quad with 8 GB RAM and a 120 GB SSD. Of course, ex-boyfriend told her that Steam did not run on Linux. I told her that was true…in 2013…but it was fine now, as I put the laptop on the desk and pulled up my Steam account. As I went through some game play, I told her that this laptop is 8 years old and that, under Linux, you don’t need the latest and greatest $2,000 laptop to play games on Steam.
That took a few moments to sink in. Apparently, the whole 8-year-old Dell versus a brand new Alienware thing wasn’t sitting well with her, but while that was finding a permanent place to live amid her synapses, I also explained the fundamental philosophical differences between Windows and Linux.
I left out the whole slathering-rabid-chomping-slashing at Microsoft bit. Fact is, I don’t do a lot of badmouthing Microsoft these days. The reasons are a few. First off, I have good friends working at Redmond and I do not wish Microsoft ill, specifically for that reason. Secondly, I’m getting to old to carry all of that pointless anger around. Since all of that rage is doing nothing but aging my spirit, I’ve laid off of most of that. Some of you younger bucks can take my load of hostility for a while.
But that doesn’t mean I will gloss over bad code or implementation…or bad practices. Microsoft has pushed and pushed the (almost) forced upgrade to Windows 10, and I wasn’t too happy about Best Buy finagling her poor old ignorant dad into opting for the Windows 10 upgrade. Like I did in 2007 and 2008, I might work up the energy to go see if I can get that same behavior repeated, since the Best Buy is just down the road in Round Rock. If I find any merit to it, I’ll report back to you next Tuesday.
I allowed Joan to take the Dell i7 home for a day or two in order for her to see if there were any differences in her experience. After the trial, she was equally excited and angry. Her $2K computer couldn’t run her games as well as my technosaur, which cost 10 percent of her machine’s price on Ebay. I did remind her that it was the operating system, not the machine itself, that was causing her grief.
After seeing how smoothly Steam ran on the Cinnamon Linux box, we sat together at my house the next day and put Linux Mint Cinnamon 17.3 LTS on her Dell, installed I might add, without hardly any drama over EUFI. Mint has that handled nicely. I explained to her that while Steam has almost 2,000 games running on Linux, some of the larger game houses haven’t boarded the Linux Steam ship. For her, that was fine. What she plays runs just fine on Linux…at least for now.
In all, it turned out fine. She’ll still need her Windows computer for when she goes back to school, or so she’s been told. That’ll be fine with her and that’s the way it should be. Each system is a tool and she can choose from each, depending on the task. It is nice though, to see Linux gaining ground on almost all fronts. Especially for Joan, who didn’t want to hurt her dad’s feelings by taking that beautiful laptop back to Best Buy.
Sometimes, people aren’t in the best of moods when they have to return merchandise.
Ken Starks is the founder of the Helios Project and Reglue, which for 20 years provided refurbished older computers running Linux to disadvantaged school kids, as well as providing digital help for senior citizens, in the Austin, Texas area. He was a columnist for FOSS Force from 2013-2016, and remains part of our family. Follow him on Twitter: @Reglue