Monday 6 August 2012

New Linux distribution aims to club most benefits of other distributions

There is a wide variety of distributions for Linux, with the differences mainly depending on the users' needs. This could cause indecisive developers and enthusiasts to have more than one distribution of Linux installed at any time. Now, there is a distribution of Linux in development that aims to have the best features of all the different popular distributions.

According to Bedrock, the new Linux distribution, “If one would like a rock-solid stable base (for example, from Debian or a RHEL clone) yet still have easy access to cutting-edge packages (from, say, Arch Linux), automate compiling packages with Gentoo's portage, and ensure that software aimed only for the ever popular Ubuntu will run smoothly - all at the same time, in the same distribution - Bedrock Linux will provide a means to achieve this.”

This would be good news, especially to developers who also like to game once in a while. Valve is working on a port of Steam for Linux, and on porting their popular digital distribution platform specifically to Ubuntu. Recently, Valve had announced success at porting their zombie based co-operative first person shooter - Left 4 Dead 2.

According to a post on the Valve’s Linux developer blog, Left 4 Dead 2 runs faster on Linux than on Windows, on a considerably high end computer. “We are using a 32-bit version of Linux temporarily and will run on 64-bit Linux later.” The blog post continues, “Running Left 4 Dead 2 on Windows 7 with Direct3D drivers, we get 270.6 FPS as a baseline. The data is generated from an internal test case.”

The blog reports that originally the initial port of Left 4 Dead 2 was only running at 6 FPS. They then had to optimize the code to work better with the Linux kernel, and with OpenGL, and also optimize the graphics driver. After these modifications, the blog reports that Left 4 Dead 2 is running at 303.4 FPS on their high end testing machine. The tests were done on a machine running on Intel Core i7 3930k with an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 GPU and 32GB of RAM. On the software side, they used Windows 7 Service Pack 1 64-bit and Ubuntu 12.04 32-bit.

The first post on the blog stated that Gabe Newell, head of Valve, had been interested in the possibility of moving Steam and the Source Engine to Linux. It adds, “At the time, the company was already using Linux by supporting Linux-based servers for Source-based games and also by maintaining several internal servers (running a 64-bit version of Ubuntu server) for various projects. In 2011, based on the success of those efforts and conversations in the hallway, we decided to take the next step and form a new team. At that time, the team only consisted of a few people whose main purpose was investigating the possibility of moving the Steam client and Left 4 Dead 2 over to Ubuntu.”

The reason Valve picked Ubuntu is that it wants to first work on a single distribution, as it reduces the variability of testing space and makes early iterations easier and faster. Another reason for picking Ubuntu is that it is one of the most popular distributions of Linux, and “has recognition with the general gaming and developer communities."

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