Linux is not a "second string" operating system

Linux is not a "second string" operating system

Summary: While Linux might not enjoy a huge desktop market at present, there are some of you who think that's about to change. Especially the gamerz among you.


It all started with my post, "Is Windows 8 a catastrophe or a success?," when I commented on Gabe Newell's remarks about Windows 8 being a "catastrophe for everyone in the PC space." And, not to repeat myself here but, I've played a lot of video games over the years on consoles, at arcades, on PCs and online.  I've played DOS games, Windows games, MAME and proprietary system games of almost every kind--recreationally--never seriously. I don't consider myself a gamer by any stretch but I'm somewhat familiar with gaming systems and have owned one or two in my day. I'm not really addressing the gaming issue in this post or the Windows 8 catastrophe one. What I am doing is speaking to the choice of operating system (OS) for gaming and Linux should not be a second string OS to any of the ones currently available.

It's funny that Gabe (and crew) didn't put Linux first as a gaming OS before he decided that he doesn't like Windows 8. I'd like to know why Half Life and other Valve hits aren't available on Linux, if he's such a proponent of it. And, while he's at it, maybe he can tell us where the heck Half Life 3 is? I know some people who'd like to know.

In fact, GNU founder Richard Stallman says Valve's Steam move to Linux is "unethical." You have to love statements like that. They're as good as statements like, "Windows 8 is a catastrophe...". I'd say Gabe has met his match on this topic. It would be more fun to see them in a total smackdown forum on the issue. Sorry, I digress.

I don't know about the ethics of moving Steam to Linux but I do question the motive. For years, we Linux desktop users and fans have begged, yes begged, for high end games and real business applications. But, the begging fell on mostly deaf ears. At one time, I had an Elite Force (Star Trek Voyager) Linux host setup until a certain cable Internet company banned it <insert special frowny face here>.

It's a funny thing, though, if I may digress again for a moment, that other gamerz used to make fun of me for playing PC games. They considered my PC gaming to be lame gaming. I didn't care but it did make me wonder why my very expensive Alienware computer was, as they deemed it, a POS. I thought it was cool and it played the heck out of Delta Force, Delta Force 2, Delta Force Extreme, Duke Nuke'em (OK, don't judge me for that) and a gaggle of old MAME retro games from my mispent youth and thousands of my mispent quarters.

Now, apparently, PC gaming is cool. Who can keep up with what's cool anymore?

I had a friend who collected vintage game consoles--his favorites were from Japan. Not sure why I told you that--I guess I thought I'd throw it in for free. (Josh, if you're reading this, save me.)

Anyway, my point here is that Linux shouldn't be a gaming OS afterthought. If you're going to program game software, you should consider Linux as one of the Big Three OSs: Mac, Windows, Linux. But, that's my humble opinion on the matter. Linux isn't some second rate OS that can be tossed aside by software companies because it isn't "mainstream." Heck, a lot of gaming companies continued to make DOS games long after Windows was born. I played Space Quest and its many iterations for years--even on MAME and I loved it--8 bits and all. I still have a few buckazoids to prove my stripes with that game.

If a gaming company, like say--Valve, would program games for Linux--even exclusively, guess where gamerz would go? Linux. For gamerz, there are no limitations--no boundaries of reason. It's all about the game. No lag. No drag. We...OK, they (gamerz), want the game to play in real time without disruption from antivirus software, without interference from the OS (No matter how lame it is) and without excuses from the game developers.

To gaming companies, Valve included: If you build games for Linux, we'll buy them. Better yet, we'll host them for our gamer homies and we'll frag those self-spawning enemies and we'll swill Red Bull until we collapse into zombie killing comas.

But, don't ever, EVER, consider Linux as a second string OS for your games. Ever.

What do you think? If gaming companies build games for Linux, will you switch to Linux as your preferrred gaming platform? Talk back and let me know. Oh yeah, is it still uncool to play PC games or can I now unashamedly admit to gamerz that I play with a mouse and keyboard?


Topics: Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Windows


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Linux is the "1st string" operating system

    Kudos to Gabe for bring more games to the Linux platform.
    • I'll believe Gabe

      When I see it.
      • Well then -- look here...

        Valve says Left 4 Dead 2 runs faster on Linux

        even here
        'Shadowrun Online' MMO Confirmed for Linux

        What's been keeping games off of Linux has been market structure, not technical issues
  • Linux is not a "second string" operating system

    You are right, linux isn't second string or third string or even fourth string OS, it ranks much much lower on the list. All the other OS's are at least on the string but not linux they are in a hole.

    The community really doesn't want linux to be a gaming machine by its very nature. First linux doesn't support 3D graphics, it has very generic video drivers without hardware acceleration. The sound system sucks with its constant skipping and only playing one sound at a time. It has less than 1% market share and losing more so no incentive for developers to even bother with it. Imagine having to download and compile gigs of code just to run your Half Life applications. We are talking days here for that process then if there is a patch the process starts over again. You have to hope that you used the right flags during compiling otherwise 12 hours into it you see an error. You can't trust any type of MMORPG on linux since its insecure by design by leaving the telnet port open. I can see regular players readily tapping into your insecure linux box with no effort.

    There are so many reasons games are not available on linux and if they were it would be a very unpleasant gaming experience. 8-bit games are fun for some nostalgia but people don't play them all the time and that's exactly what you would get with games on a linux system.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Loverock (FUD) Davidson

      “I don't use it *sigh* I have to explain this again. Just because I may visit a website doesn't mean I'm using linux. I am not touching linux nor am I physically in its presence typing in some complicated commands in its terminal. I use the web browser which may communicate with a linux server but in no way shape or form am I using linux since I'm not in contact with it. Silly argument that gets shot down over and over again.” Loverock Davidson- 18 June, 2012

      • Thanks for being a fan!

        Your post is irrelevant to this topic but I still want to thank you for being a fan of mine. So much so that you keep track of my posts. This is just awesome. Be sure to tell your friends! :)
        Loverock Davidson-
        • First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure

          No supporting facts to your claims

          “First linux doesn't support 3D graphics” No supporting facts to your claim.
          “The sound system sucks with its constant skipping” No supporting facts to your claim.
          “it has very generic video drivers without hardware acceleration” No supporting facts to your claim.
          “Imagine having to download and compile gigs of code” No supporting facts to your claim.
          “telnet port open” No supporting facts to your claim.
          • LD's post

            I've now reread the parent post several times, and I have yet to see anything that the 'author' actually got correct. Posts like that make me suspicious; I don't think anyone can get things that completely wrong while knowing the actual terminology without something fishy going on. Given the decent wording of the sentences, a cognitive disorder looks unlikely, so my bet is that he's a paid shill to keep some of the old FUD alive.

            Sure, what he's saying might have had some truth 10-15 years ago, but those days are long gone. As someone that has set up Linux and Windows PC's in the past years, there is absolutely no question as to which one rules on easy installation and broad, solid hardware support, and it certainly isn't Windows. Even the old BS about wireless drivers has fallen so far by the wayside that it just makes Windows look worse and worse. I've plugged and played multiple cards in Slackware, Fedora, and Ubuntu, but Windows is where I cringe. The only times I've had problems with wireless drivers in recent years has been with Windows. In fact, wireless-driven BSOD's drove one friend to ask me to get that Windows 7 crap off her laptop, and she's been a happy Kubuntu user (with no crashes) ever since.

            As for games, I really, really like Diablo III, and I'm thankful that I don't have to run it under Windows. After trying it on similar hardware, it is faster and smoother. Give me reliability, anytime. Downloading gigs and compling? Please! Maybe it took 5 minutes to get one of the experts' patches, but that's only if I had to answer the phone.

            There is a very simple, clean answer to Valve opening the doors to Linux: money. As the guys behind the Humble Bundle have recently found and documented, Linux users spend more than those using Windows PC's or Macintoys. The Linux market is growing, even though it's still under 10% (that 1% assertion is a definite flag to suspect a paid shill... few people are that out of touch now, and they won't act like they believe it unless they're paid to.).

          • Yeah, right . . .

            @ mcinsand said,
            "Even the old BS about wireless drivers has fallen so far by the wayside that it just makes Windows look worse and worse."

            Baloney. Most non-technical users can't even get Ubuntu installed and networking without outside help. I've been supporting large installations of PC's and Macs professionally since 1984, and have played with various Linux distributions over the years. Unless you are using older desktop hardware, drivers are still very much a problem during installation--especially wireless drivers. I recently gave up trying to get the wireless to work on my Lenovo X120e laptop because I just didn't have the time to mess with it.
            I cannot stand the Metro interface on Windows 8, but I have installed Win8 for testing on two different modern laptops, and in both cases I had networking (including wireless), sound and video immediately on first boot. On one of the laptops, not a single driver needed to be added for anything to work. I have never had that experience with any version of linux unless the machine was an old desktop.
            That said, I have been thinking that Windows 8 release preview has such an awful UI that if Microsoft really releases it without the Start Menu it might create a window of opportunity for Linux if the installation could be made easy enough for non-technical users. Unless they put the Start Menu back, at least as an option, I think Windows 8 will be very unpopular.
            For Linux to take off, Adobe must cooperate. If Adobe released their software suites for Linux, I think many business users could make do with the open source office software that is already available.

            "Linux users spend more than those using Windows PC's or Macintoys."

            Yeah, right. The manufacturers and software companies are turning away all the money they could be making from all those free-spending Linux users. I don't think so.
            Nothing would make me happier than if Linux started taking serious market share away from Windows and Mac OS X. We really do need competition, because Win8 and Mtn Lion are both a step backward from Win7 and Snow Leopard. But unless Linux becomes more intuitive to install and use, it will never gain many top-tier commercial software developers.
          • Ok, Waitaminnit You Two

            re: " unless Linux becomes more intuitive to install and use, it will never gain many top-tier commercial software developers."
            I don't know about the developer side of things - that's not my experience. The first part of the quote is. I've not had one single issue of Ubuntu's LiveCD installing on my made-for-windows frankenbox I made, and also my ASUS G71GX. The only reason I still don't have Ubuntu on is, thanks to Apple - iOS software upates. I had to uninstall, reformat HDD and reinstall windows just to get iTunes which, was required back then to install iOS updates. I'm really no "tech" to speak of - I'm a computer end user since the '80's; When I installed Ubuntu, everything worked like it's supposed to. Drivers? No issues. Sound? No issues. Network? No issues. That's been my experience on two different systems built for two different MS OS's.
            re: "Nothing would make me happier than if Linux started taking serious market share away from Windows and Mac OS X."
            I so agree.
            re: "... Windows 8 Ugly UI..."
            You must've spent more time on the "now-called-Windows 8- UI-when-it-should-really-be-called Windows Phone 7 UI" part of the Production Preview... most of my time is spent in the part of this new OS that looks an awful lot like Windows 7 as, that's what programs I put on run in - even the new, still on trial Office 2K13 doesn't run in the "what used to be called ""metro"" side of the OS... but that's a separate post.
            By the way, I'm not much of a gamer either. But I've been known to dabble from time to time. My limited experience with gaming lately, has been freebies from the Windows 8 store and they've run like they're supposed to... look pretty neat... animations are smooth. But then again, that arena is, reportedly, the ASUS's forte.
            I have to say for the record, this 50+ old man had a helluvva time finding the bottom right corner to uncover the settings / "hey, there's the power button" (I had to read that elsewhere on ZDNet!) and I've not had any unsurmountable issues.. so far. I'm thankful for that. I don't mind the way the tile section looks. I just want it to work like it's supposed to. I've learned to get around my computer a different way to get real work done and the catch is, I've found there's really no more clicks on the mouse / keystrokes to use (or combination of both like I like to do) to do it the new way in Windows 8 with no Start Button and Windows 7 back to Windows '95 with Start Menu. (Does anybody remember the flack Microsoft got by introducing the Start Menu?) Once new users are thrown into the new OS, it doesn't take long to acclimatize to the new OS and get some work or, serious play, done.
            Crashin Chris
          • Recently?

            You stick in the CD or USB stick and reboot the computer.

            This is from over a year ago on your model of laptop:


            If that is difficult to install and configure I have no clue what could be done to make it easy enough for you to get it working.

            Maybe we could package the installer in an activex browser extension?
          • Linux install is superior

            >Baloney. Most non-technical users can't even get Ubuntu installed and
            >networking without outside help.

            The unmentioned part here is that most not-technical users can't get any OS installed without outside help. You're not going to seriously contend that the Windows 7 install DVD is easier to use than a Linux install DVD, are you? Win7 install DVD doesn't even support USB 3 drivers, which caused one reviewer quite a lot of trouble when trying to install an OS onto a nettop that was almost all USB 3 ports (not enough USB 2 ports for install media, keyboard and mouse together). OpenSUSE gives you a beautiful graphical interface complete with a HELP BUTTON and documentation (not so on Win7). OpenSUSE will detect other OSes and incorporate them into the boot menu; Windows STILL won't acknowledge other OSes exist and will have no regrets about destroying bootloaders of other OSes. OpenSUSE on the other hand will even shrink your Windows partition for you if it occupies the whole HD. OpenSUSE will show you a list of everything it's going to do and gives you the option to OK it or change anything before install begins. When I tried to install Win7 on a secondary drive, it kept refusing because there was "not enough space" even though the drive was empty. It turned out that because it wasn't the boot drive, Win7 decided it wanted to install a boot partition on the primary hard drive (which would have killed the boot loader on that drive) and didn't tell me it wanted to do this. It was fortunately failing because there were already the max number of primary partitions on that disk, otherwise I'd have been screwed. OpenSUSE lets me deselect any program it wants to install (as well as install hundreds of others from the install DVD). The last Windows installer that let you choose what you wanted to install was Windows 98SE. OpenSUSE gives you the option of downloading and installing updates BEFORE dropping you into the new desktop, thus giving you the safest and more reliable experience. Windows does not. Heck, if the kernel doesn't need updating, the OpenSUSE install DVD can go from boot to config to install to updates to hardware config to dropping you into the finished desktop all without ever rebooting! That's something Windows can't do either. The installer also lets you save all of the options you chose (including partitioning info if you wish) as a small file to a flash or other drive which you can then use to easily replicate your install on another machine. I believe Windows has a utility for this, but it's intended for enterprise and not as simple. In fact, OpenSUSE has another utility that reads all of that information from an existing machine and creates the install data so that you can replicate an existing installation! This makes it awesomely easy to create a virtual machine of an existing install, among other benefits. Sorry, but the OpenSUSE installer is the best/easiest/most powerful OS installer I've ever used (including other Linux installers), and my first installs were at a Summer job installing PC DOS on IBM PC XTs.

            > I've been supporting large installations of PC's and Macs professionally
            >since 1984, and have played with various Linux distributions over the years.

            The problem here is "over the years". Given the rapid release cycle of Windows (and Android and the involvement of major corporations) Linux has improved tremendously in a short period of time. When I first played with it in 1999 I found it basically unusable as a desktop even though I'd paid for a commercial Linux desktop. I was blown away when I gave it yet another try on my desktop just over two years ago. In fact, a year on, I was still "testing" it. :-) I finally deleted my old untouched Windows partition and made it official. I could sync music to MTP devices, something unthinkable a few years before. Last week I plugged in a PictBridge camera and everything "just worked" and I could transfer pictures from a digital camera. Modern Linux desktop is very user-friendly and very compatible with devices, unlike just a few years ago.

            >Unless you are using older desktop hardware, drivers are still very much a
            >problem during installation--especially wireless drivers.
            >I recently gave up trying to get the wireless to work on my Lenovo X120e
            >laptop because I just didn't have the time to mess with it.

            Linux folks announced not too long ago that open source drivers now exist for all major (and not so major) wireless chipset vendors. I've checked and am told Ubuntu 10.10 didn't detect that wireless chipset out of the box, but Linux Mint 11 didn't. Fedora also worked: "Fedora 16, both xfce4 and gnome-shell versions installed perfectly, wireless card and all. Sound worked, camera and bluetooth all worked from a straight (not even yum upgraded) install." Regarding Mint: "Everything works: camera, bluetooth, wireless, wired, speakers, audio playback, and x264 encoded .mkv files." When it's a new machine, it's best to use the latest Linux (and honestly, best to use something besides Ubuntu, but that's another story). So many "Linux" problems are really Ubuntu problems - but I said that's another story. :-)

            >I cannot stand the Metro interface on Windows 8, but I have installed Win8
            >for testing on two different modern laptops, and in both cases I had
            >networking (including wireless), sound and video immediately on first boot.

            Same principle as above: a more recent install disk (whether Windows or Linux) is more likely to contain the latest drivers. If it's a new chipset, it's impossible for an older install disk to have drivers for it.

            >On one of the laptops, not a single driver needed to be added for anything
            >to work. I have never had that experience with any version of linux unless
            >the machine was an old desktop.

            The converse is that new Windows OS upgrades often cause hardware to STOP working because the manufacturer has discontinued driver support and wants you to buy something newer. That almost never happens in Linux due to its open source nature. Recently an old acceleration method was going to be taken out of the video subsystem which would mean old Rage cards would stop working. One person went and changed the Rage code enough to give it minimal acceleration and now Rage cards will live on - even though some Rage cards are PCI based and 15-17 years old! Meanwhile when Win7 came out HP discontinued support for a large number of printers, some with manufacturing dates just 1.5 years old. All of these printers continued to be supported in Linux.
            When hardware is working in Linux, you can be pretty sure it will always continue to work (at least for 15-17 years). All this requires is a little bit of checking beforehand and possibly using the newest kernel or latest distro release. Meanwhile, there's no way to avoid beforehand discontinued hardware support in the Windows ecosystem (while still upgrading the OS). Personally, I'd much rather do a bit more homework with Linux and then be able to rest assured I'm never going to have to upgrade until I want to. I lost some hardware (and/or software) with every Windows upgrade. The funny thing is thanks to WINE I can run some of these lost software gems on Linux today but not on Windows. :-)

            >That said, I have been thinking that Windows 8 release preview has such an
            >awful UI that if Microsoft really releases it without the Start Menu it might
            >create a window of opportunity for Linux if the installation could be made
            >easy enough for non-technical users. Unless they put the Start Menu back,
            >at least as an option, I think Windows 8 will be very unpopular.

            I concur there, with the added obstacle of UEFI in new systems though. I would strongly urge you to give OpenSUSE a try though, at least in a VM. There are live CDs you can also install from but the DVD installer is more full-featured and allows for a custom install and more than 70% of OpenSUSE users install from the DVD. In fact, compare installs of OpenSUSE and Windows 7 back to back and then decide which has a better install experience.
          • By that logic photog7 . . .

            non-technical user is totally unable to do so much as install their favorite programs without turning to outside help(why it must be such a shocker to you that your users can even open a web browser without your help! /sarcasm). . .which anyone with half a brain can tell you is false. installing most Linux(as well as Windows and Mac OS for that matter) OSs are really that easy. Unless of course you were trying to install something like slackware, gentoo, Archlinux or their derivatives(which are admittedly a royal pain to setup as they have no real working liveCD GUI environments). for Ubuntu, Debian, fedora and most other commonly used distros it's a matter of popping in the CD and rebooting. then opening the installer on the desktop. then click next, choose your install option;click next, insert your desired username and password, next again, and it starts installing, then wait the 10-15 minutes for the install to finish, and finally reboot after it's done. pretty simple. the wireless card issue, is really not much of an issue anymore, though certain broadcom cards(I use ndiswrapper for it as it takes less time and works more often times then not) are still a mild pain, as you'll have to setup your wired connection first, so you can download the restricted driver. Pretty much everything else works on your first boot. The Intel video drivers suck on linux(they suck on windows as well, but not as badly) though as there really is no real 3d acceleration for intel cards; nVidia and ATI drivers are every bit as good as the windows versions though.
          • I think you might be wrong about Linux on the desktop growing.

            I really don't know many people that have converted over to Linux on the desktop in the past couple years.

            I do know a fair number of people that have migrated from PC's to smart phones and tablets for most of their computing needs.

            As a desktop workstation diverges from the Personal Computer (PC), with the smart phone being the PC of choice for more and more people. The workstation market will shrink, and that may well allow Linux to start growing, much as Linux eviscerated the UNIX market when that market started to shrink.

            I suspect that some of this can be seen with MS Works being slowly phased out as a comparison between MS Works and LibreOffice. LibreOffice is showing growth and MS Works is being phased out for MS Office starter edition.

            I strongly suspect that the workstation is going to revert to closer to what it was in the early 1990's, a tool for academics and professionals at work. Crafts and trades people will probably greatly reduce/eliminate their use of workstations as a mobile device that is always available is much more useful than a more efficient device in a much less useful form factor.

            Just one use case: A plumber that has a smart phone app that allows him/her to take photos documenting what was done before closing up the wall and attaching that to the work order, and emailing the invoice on the spot, is much more useful than taking pictures and uploading them to a workstation and then sending out the invoice and waiting an extra day to get paid.

            It will be interesting to see how Microsoft responds to the shrinking workstation market. I personally suspect that their plan is to jettison all the consumer product division products that run on a workstation and move all of that over to surface.

            (Hmm, this is a really long and rambling comment, but oh well.)
          • None of those statements are truth..thats why

            No 3D graphics, but I can play crysis!?
            The sound system sucks? Yet, I listen to HD sound while listening to music OR playing games..with no issues..?
            It has very generic drivers...yet 90% of nvidia code is also used on windows? and AMD/Intel's Open source drivers can handle gaming, even on wine..if you're not a noob?
            Compile code? Where? When? I've been running this system for a year, and I don't even know how to compile something!
            telnet port open: ?????????????????
            Matthew Markham
          • Loverock Davidson...

            is a professional troll that has been yanking the chains of Linux users for years. It's best to just ignore him.
          • did you notice anything Ricky ??

            you also provided NO supporting facts to support your claim.. LD is right, linux totally suck for gaming, general computing, video, audio, and performance, and especially CONSISTENCY .. linux does not do consistency well.. nor much else... as is reflected by it's amazing (read zero) popularity....
      • Please note

        Davidson is most probably some shill of zdnet's who's reason d'etre is to drum up page hits. Engaging with him is like talking to cheese and thinking it has interesting things to say and that you should start a conversation with it.
        • Yea, but keep flaming him

          The retarded piece of shit deserves it.
          • You're not helping

            In fact, posts like yours might convince the less than stellar intellects that he's not as bad as he is and that you are worse.