Wanna use a Mayflash DolphinBar with Dolphin on Linux? You’ll need this udev rule

This is what I needed, I put it in /etc/udev/rules.d/80-dolphinbar.rules:

SUBSYSTEM=="hidraw", ATTRS{idVendor}=="057e", ATTRS{idProduct}=="0306", MODE="0666"

I can’t remember where I found this, I’m pretty sure I didn’t figure this out for myself. If you need a DolphinBar, Aliexpress should have you covered. It could be that the vendor code differs for yours, so make sure to watch dmesg when you plug it in.

Yet another way to get a tear-free, stutter-free desktop with Plasma/KDE and Nvidia

So the proprietary Nvidia driver is a large, steaming, smelly pile of shit. At least that’s the impression you get when you read what developers say about it. There’s a bug here and a workaround there, and we haven’t even started talking about the messy situation that is EGLstreams yet. So why do people use Nvidia cards on Linux? Because so far, they give good bang for the buck, use relatively little energy for what they do and work with all commercial games. I’m pretty sure those are the reasons, anyway.

But Nvidia at least on Plasma/KDE has some serious problems with tearing and stutter — I have three Nvidia setups and they all are unsatisfying out of the box. If you use ForceCompositionPipeline like I recommended earlier, you will probably run into stutter issues. But I think I found the perfect setup now, stutter-free and tearing-free for desktop use as well as perfect for gaming.

There are two alternatives:

Method 1: Solve it by switching the GL yield mechanism to USLEEP

Add the following to ~/.config/plasma-workspace/env/kwin.sh:

#!/bin/sh
export __GL_YIELD="usleep"

Thank mahenou on Steam for suggesting I try this again. The first time I did, it was probably too late in the environment for Kwin to pick it up. It’s important that the var is set when Kwin initializes.

Method 2: Solve it by forcing triple buffering

Add the following to ~/.config/plasma-workspace/env/kwin.sh:

#!/bin/sh
export KWIN_TRIPLE_BUFFER=1 

And chmod +x the file. Then add the following to an Xorg config snippet, for example /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/20-nvidia.conf:

Section "Device"
        Identifier      "Videocard0"
        Driver          "nvidia"
        Option          "TripleBuffer" "true"
EndSection

Finally, enable compositing and vsync

Then make sure you have compositing enabled in System Settings -> Display and Monitor -> Compositor. If you are very doubtful, do a restart. After that you should have a perfect, tear-free and stutter-free desktop experience. I had to disable compositing manually with Alt-Shift-F12 before starting games with the triple buffering method. This was unnecessary with the __GL_YIELD method.

I can’t truthfully explain why this works, but I know it works around a bunch of bugs and unexpected default settings in the Nvidia driver. Also, Kwin is now able to compute the right timings and handle triple buffering instead of rendering half-finished frames like a fucking moron when it still believed Nvidia was doing triple buffering by default.

For me this has been wonderful. The desktop is smooth as if I were using a proper graphics card like an AMD RX 580 with Mesa. Games run exceedingly well, and there is no stutter or delay like with ForceCompositionPipeline. Not even in videos. It’s all just perfect.

This is a mix of hints received from several people on Reddit and Steam that I unfortunately forgot the names of, as well as info from the Arch Linux wiki. I’d like to thank all these people for their knowledge.

Starting a second year of game-buying abstinence

The last time I tried this went OK, but I think it didn’t really cure me yet. This is evidenced by my growing list of games on Steam, mostly coming from sales and bundles.

So for this second attempt at game-buying abstinence, I follow all the rules from my earlier attempt and add some additional restrictions:

  • No looking at bundles
  • No looking at sales

I found out that psychologically, what always gets me are very good deals (-75% or such). I might not actually play that game or anything from a bundle for several years  because my backlog is so long, but I always end up buying it anyway. That’s idiotic — if I waited two more years without buying any games, whatever is at -75% now will likely be even cheaper by the time I actually have time to play it. And my backlog should be shorter.

Of course it’s the crafty pricing psychologist that Valve hired in 2011 who is to blame for my failing. Not me! How could it be me?

Not even looking at any sales should help with this. As I found out last time, you can disable all sales notifications in Steam’s interface settings, and also skip directly to your library view instead of going to the store first. This helps more than you might think.

I’ll report in a year. Maybe I can make an improved list of suggestions.

Using Xbox 360-compatible controllers properly inside WINE

If you need to use WINE to play some Windows games, the lack of Xinput support might get on your nerves. WINE maps joystick devices to Dinput. That works for some older games, but buttons need to be mapped manually, and many newer games don’t detect the controllers at all because they expect Xinput.

I tried to get by this issue using x360ce, but this is a fickle beast already when run natively on Windows; even more so in WINE. What worked really well for me was dumbxinputemu. Sometimes dumb things are the best.

To use it, determine if you’re running a 64-bit or a 32-bit game, then copy at least the matching xinput1_3.dll from the latest release to the same directory as the game’s binaries. In the case of Steam, that’s probably somewhere inside Steam/steamapps/common. Then make sure your WINE is set to prefer the native version of the DLL via winecfg:

In the “New override for library” dropdown select “xinput1_3”, then “Edit…” that entry to set it to “native” only. If you have a very new game, you might need to do repeat all these steps for xinput9_1_0.dll. This worked surprisingly reliably for me, no more double-detection of joysticks, no more wrong labels for buttons inside games, no more fiddly x360ce that works sometimes but then mysteriously breaks. Everything behaves as it shoud. Thank you, kozec.

A game that needs a remake: inFamous 2

Oh, the PS3. A problematic console from the start, with its strange Cell processor and its status somewhere between home entertainment system and games console. I suspect it only succeeded because of Sony’s muscle at the time, having emerged from the last console wars as a winner.

Screenshot of inFamous 2 courtesy of Hooked Gamers

But this isn’t about the PS3, or only insofar as inFamous 2 is one of the titles that really, really taxes the system, and is a PS3 exclusive. Here’s inFamous 2 in a few paragraphs, maybe enough of them stick for you that you’ll give this game a chance:

The synopsis is this: You’re a freak who gets electricity-based superpowers, but now you can’t drive a car anymore and water kills you. Make sense so far? But you gotta save the world from the The Beast that approaches the Floridaesque or New Orleansy coastal city of New Marais.

Writing, characters, story

There is excellent writing (for an action game) with solid characterization and great voice work. The lead character, Cole, is interesting because the voice actor (Eric Ladin) does this gruff-sexy-action-hero type of gravely monotone, but he puts just the right amount of emotional nuance into it to make it interesting. The lines he gets are often surprisingly human. These people talk just like people! The game won’t bore you with ages of exposition, each dialog is just the minimal amount of information to move the story forward, delivered in short well-written bursts.

Graphics and sound

You’ll find breathtaking environments. Think Zelda: Breath of the Wild invented the scenic third-person game? Think again. inFamous 2 has beautiful vistas by the truckload. Particularly the skyboxes are astonishing — depending on the mood they want to create, they either look like something from a comic book or something from an apocalyptic classical painting.

This is one of the large non-boss enemies you’ll face

Lighting is carefully chosen in general, with the whole scene bathed in a bluish twilight here or a dark orange sunset glow there. The architecture also deserves to be mentioned. It’s as if the developers had worked with an architect and a city planner to lay out the areas. Wood shacks and half-collapsed brick houses in Flood Town, colonial redbrick and a huge cathedral in the main part of town, an industrial wasteland full of gas tanks, train tracks and repair warehouses in the, err, industrial part. It all looks believable and organic.

Textures deserve to be mentioned as well, as I haven’t seen many PS3 games with such varied and careful texture work. Bricks and rocks have a palpable rough feel to them, colors in the main part of town are chosen carefully to be muted so that the many neon signs and lights pop out. Scenes with water feel glistening and wet.

Gameplay

This sequel has much more accessible gameplay than inFamous 1. That alone sets it apart enough for me. You unlock superpowers at just the right rate, and you feel like a badass as you climb through the cityscape or grind on a powerline. There aren’t any of those annoying tutorial levels like in inFamous 1, so in case you’re worrying about that, worry not.

You’ll be facing hundreds of normal, smaller enemies that each use different tactics, and usually the AI is good enough to make things interesting. You rarely feel totally overpowered, so you can rarely just stop thinking. Sometimes the AI gets stuck in corners, especially if you are very far away, but that’s fine. Most of your powers don’t have enough range to hit then anyway, and when you move closer the AI wakes from its daze and joins the fight again.

The few battles with extremely large enemies are all the better for it. Usually you fight enemies roughly your size or twice that. But there are occasions where you need to take on much larger beasts. Those truly shine because they are the exception. You’ll remember these enemies and fights precisely because you didn’t get inundated with sixty bosses already.

The only major criticism I could lob at the game is the framerate. It’s uneven, staring at the sky might get you around 60 fps, but actually playing in the streets hovers around 25 to 30, and battles can go down to the low 20s. They did a fantastic job adapting the controls so that you can win the fights anyway, even when the framerate tanks. But it’s just not beautiful anymore in the age of rock-solid 60 fps like the Nintendo Switch delivers for many games. This game needs a remake. Anyone listening? Screw The Last of Us, inFamous 2 is a fantastic action romp and it needs to be 1080p60 for fuck’s sake.

Festival of Blood: Electric Vampires

If you haven’t had enough of inFamous 2, there is a standalone side-game in the form of inFamous: Festival of Blood that uses the same locations but that lets you be an electrified vampire during a Mardi Gras-ish festival, hunting Bloody Mary, a vampire that terrorizes town. Yes, the cocktail was named after her in this universe, not the other way round.

The writing is once again spot-on, especially Bloody Mary’s diary segments. They’re delivered in her lofty English sing-song and written in the style of Gothic horror novels, always with a fun twist at the end.

You can mingle with townsfolk, but some of them might be hidden vampires you need to stake

Technically the game isn’t different from inFamous 2, but the colors are all changed (much more red) and the atmosphere in the street is very different with hundreds of festivalgoers wearing neon glow-in-the-dark bracelets.

Gameplay is changed from the base inFamous 2 by the addition of vampire powers (vampire sense lets you see into people and whether they are hidden vampires, bat flight turns you into a flock of bat, biting people and sucking their blood refills your bat flight energy, etc.).

The only criticism here is that environments are reused quite often, with one section of catacombs underneath the cathedral serving as location for at least three quests. But this is forgivable.

Final thoughts

Oh, the PS3. It’s getting old now. This is an advantage for you, in case no remake is coming. If you don’t have a PS3, you can get one now for 50 bucks of whatever currency, and inFamous 2 in a digital sale often dips below 10 and includes Festival of Blood. Physical, you might be able to score a used copy for 5.

Also, if you have a beefy PC, keep an eye out for RPCS3. This PS3 emulator has been making great strides, and you can rip games yourself quite easily. It doesn’t really run the inFamous games yet, though. Maybe if RPCS3 becomes optimized enough, we won’t need a remake anymore. A very, very fast PC can potentially play this game at a solid 30 or 60 fps, as there is no frame limiter in the engine.

Here’s a full playthrough with major spoilers if you want to see what the game is like:

Rating: Electric Wizard/10.

Something for the weekend: Week 47, 2017

These are some longer things I’ve read this week. I don’t guarantee that they’re new, just that I found them interesting:

  1. Android at 10 part one, part two. As Android turns ten, Google is moving away from Linux and towards their own Fuchsia kernel. What might the next ten years of Android look like?
  2. Super Mario Odyssey review by Digitiser2000’s Mr Biffo. It sums up pretty much what I think about the new mechanics, and also calls out Mario for being a sexist pig. Don’t take this as virtue signaling, but yes, Nintendo might need to work on this when the only game starring Princess Peach is basically a pre-menstrual mood swing simulator with a far too easy  jump’n’run wrapped around it. You know, for girls! Girls can’t play video games! lololol!
  3. Google tracks and sells your location even if you’ve disabled location services. The surprise is probably that anyone’s surprised. Now that the company was caught red-handed doing this, will they promise to stop? I don’t think so, since Silicon Valley believes in “self-regulation” — thus no regulation at all. That we may have to thank Oracle for revealing this doesn’t make it any less bizarre.
  4. Microsoft appears to have lost the source code for parts of Office. And this is the same company that some governments trust with their sensitive data. Why doesn’t Microsoft publish all their software under a FOSS license? It’s like Linus Torvalds is rumored to have said, “Backups are for wimps. Real men upload their data to an FTP site and have everyone else mirror it.”
  5. Ideas were not enough. Not the reformation alone brought religious freedom to western societies, but the fact that enforcing religious unity was becoming too expensive and politically cumbersome for the rulers.
  6. Stress can be good for you, but most toxic stress has measurable detrimental effects on your brain. The article explores the damage stress causes down to the physical level and gives some hints for post-stress recovery. Daily walks and meditation are mentioned. I’ve had episodes of stress and trauma leading to generalized anxiety (as the article also mentions) and I can say that meditation definitely can’t hurt.

I’d be delighted if some of that tickled your curiosity.

Play The Saboteur instead of Wolfenstein II

If you enjoy Nazi-stomping you’ve probably heard of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. They did have a pretty funny marketing campaign, after all. Now according to the reviews I’ve seen so far, it’s a mixed bag. It’s the Doom engine meets the previous Wolfenstein’s setting. Something we’ve more or less seen before, just with better graphics. Not that terribly exciting on a conceptual level, is it?

This section of Paris will turn from black, white and red to color once you get rid of the Nazis

But there’s one game about taking out Nazis that is unique and was overlooked when it came out in 2009: The Saboteur. I’ll leave it to you to find in-depth reviews, but here are some of the things you can do:

Continue reading “Play The Saboteur instead of Wolfenstein II”

Outdoor Gaming Ep. 2

The sunlight was inviting, so I set out to gain a little altitude. Have a better view, better knowledge of where I am in this blasted valley and perhaps find out some details about the fish-frog people.

It did not take long for the first sign of their cult to appear beside the road. This time it was made out of iron and was much more intricately decorated than the wooden one I had last seen, so it was probably also more powerful:

Continue reading “Outdoor Gaming Ep. 2”

Outdoor Gaming Ep. 1

Gamers spend way too much time indoors. And why is that? Because our gaming systems have screens that can’t be viewed outside! Yes, sometimes you see a gamer hunched over their super-reflective mobile phone screen, squinting and trying to make out what the hell is going on, playing a game in the park. It might work if they’re sitting in the shade of a tree, but it’s a very bad gaming experience in broad sunlight.

There are (or were) a few systems that can be played just fine outdoors, though. That even prefer strong sunlight: the Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance all have transflective or reflective screens. So did the Neo Geo Pocket and Neo Geo Pocket Color. There was also the WonderSwan, but you can’t play any of those because Kelsey bought all of them. I’m ignoring the backlit Game Boy SP AGS-001 and Game Boy Micro for the purpose of this article, since what would be the point taking those into the sun?

Owning all those Game Boy iterations, I tried thinking of an excuse to avoid being outdoors and couldn’t, so I decided to work this the other way and actually go somewhere. Just take the first road I find and walk until I’m bored, but at least for an hour, then play some Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins.

Here’s the story, with pictures.

Continue reading “Outdoor Gaming Ep. 1”