Jason's Blog

A stochastic thought repository

Bastion on Linux

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I just finished playing through the main story line of Bastion. It was an amazing game, especially the music.

Getting the best performance out of it on my Arch Linux box was, however, a bit difficult, so with this short post I want to let others avoid a bit of frustration and enjoy the game to its fullest.

  • First, make absolutely sure you have compositing1 turned off. With it on, the video would stutter horribly (1 or less FPS) at some random point in the game. Switching to a different virtual desktop would temporarily fix the issue, but about 1/3 of the time this would crash the game.

    How do you know if you have compositing turned on? If your desktop uses any animation or transparency, odds are you do.

  • Ensure you have the latest stable drivers for your video card.

  • If the game crawls in scenes with rain or snow, turn it off in the game’s source files. On my machine, the game was installed to /opt/games/Bastion. From that directory, run the following search and replace command as root (or via sudo):

  sed -i 's/MaxFlyers=".*/MaxFlyers="0"/g' Content/Game/FlyerSettings.xml

If you haven’t had a chance to play this great game yet, give it a try.

Other (Linux specific) tweaks applicable for gaming:

  • Arch Wiki Gaming
  • Windows API implementation for Linux: Wine
  1. To turn this off, search on Google for “compositing” along with your Linux distribution and / or window manager. For me (Arch Linux, xmonad), I made sure that xcompmgr wasn’t called in my .xinitrc.

My Path to Arch Linux

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When I started using Linux 5 years ago, Ubuntu was a wonderful distribution for me. It was easy to set up, made access to drivers easy, and had a giant repository of software. Between Octave and the myriad of programming tools available, I was set for my engineering coarsework1. And for downtime, Wine let me satisfy my World of Warcraft addiction.

Over time, my computing aesthetic taste gradually trended minimalist. I realized while Ubuntu comes by default with a wealth of useful applications installed by default, I never used them. They cluttered my menus and disk drive. My next several Ubuntu installs used the text based alternate installer to build up only what I needed from a clean slate.

Simultaneously, I explored shell scripting, using conky to keep track of my system status, mutt to view my email in the terminal, and vim to edit my files. I realized that I felt more in control of my computing experience this way. I was hooked.

All this time I was using Gnome 2 as my desktop environment, but was intersting in trying alternatives. The Gnome Project’s introduction of version 3 of their desktop environment, and Ubuntu’s switch to Unity gave me the excuse I needed to do so, since I would be switching anyway.

And since I was looking for alternatives, why not try a different distribution too? Arch Linux seemed like a great alternative to someone with my tastes. The project aims to be simple, elegant, user-centric, open, and free (as in freedom). From the previous link, on simplicity:

Arch Linux defines simplicity as without unnecessary additions, modifications, or complications, and provides a lightweight UNIX-like base structure that allows an individual user to shape the system according to their own needs. In short: an elegant, minimalist approach.

Just what I was looking for! Moreover, they have excellent documentation through their wiki. I had never found a comparable source of knowledge for Ubuntu. I highly recommend looking through it and using it as a resource even if you don’t use Arch.

I’ve been using Arch for almost a year now. I have 3 machines running it:

  • My desktop, using xmonad as a window manager.
  • A Thinkpad laptop, using Gnome 3 so that my wife is able to find her way around as well. She doesn’t share my minimalist aesthetic.
  • I ended up renting a server on Linode that is using Arch. My home server is having some trouble, and I haven’t had the time to mess with it at a hardware level yet. I’ve been quite happy with them so far.

If you are like me, and enjoy both minimal aesthetic and the feeling of complete control over your machine, consider using Arch Linux.

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

  1. Indeed, looking for an alternative to buying or pirating Matlab was what lead me to try Linux in the first place. All I needed to know was that I could use Open Office to write documents and still find a way to play games.

Praying for Time to Enjoy the Journey

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Its been a while since I’ve made a post. I’ve had quite a bit on my plate.

My wife will soon be giving birth to twin girls. We’re excited, anxious, and I think ready for the suspense to end so we can finally meet them. I soon will have the joy and challenge of identifying with young girls (I have no sisters), and having tea parties, playing dress up, and enjoying a more pink and pastel color palate.

I’ve been working at Schweitzer Engineering Labs for the past several months, mostly doing firmware and RTL work on communications systems. It’s great to be finally applying the years of schooling that I’ve had to the real world, especially in an industry that is actually making the world a better place, rather than building the latest disposable income waster.

Progress on research and school continues, though very slowly. The masters student working with us previously has done an admirable job stepping in and taking over the lead role in developing the signal processing. And he’ll have much more to talk about for his thesis now too. As for classes, I took a single graduate math class this semester. I am happy to say that I am now capable of (correctly) proving various mathematical trivia. No, I’m not bitter about having to take this class.

My one regret with my new routine is that I have even less time to spend with family than I did before. Taking even one class requires me to spend another 3 or 4 hours a week in lecture, and spend another 3 or 4 hours doing homework or studying. Ideally, I have a few hours to continue working on research, say 6 on a week. Between just these, it’s like working full time 7 days a week. I haven’t been able to put in that amount of time (and fortunately, the math class didn’t have homework), but I’m worried about any more classes that I’ll need to take.

There are three classic options available for one’s time in school: studying, socializing, and sleeping. The presenter’s thesis was that you can only succeed in two of these three activities. I feel like I have a fourth area of work now on top of all that.

So I submit this plea that I retain the ability to work toward my life and career goals, while having time to enjoy the journey as well.

Taking the Scenic Route

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If there is one thing that I have learned in my short time on this earth, it is that unexpected things happen. You lay plans, only to see them torn to sunders by Murphy.

As I think of all the metaphors for the unexpected happening in life the most common I hear are “life detours”, and “life throwing you a curve ball”. Perhaps it’s my aversion to road construction and baseball, but these don’t seem like positive connotations. I can understand being upset that life doesn’t go exactly the way that you had planned it, so perhaps these are appropriate for a great number of circumstances. But sometimes, the unexpected isn’t so bad.

I propose a new euphemism: taking the scenic route through life: going an indirect route and having experiences you could otherwise have missed along the way.

With this in mind: I would like to announce that I am taking the scenic route toward finishing my PhD. And by this, I mean that I am blessed to experience the opportunity of being a father. Twice.

Near Christmas time, my wife and I are expecting twins. And because of this, I will be slowing down my progress toward my PhD, and taking a job at Schweitzer Engineering Labs. We couldn’t be happier.