Prevent full-screen games from minimizing when switching workspaces

When I play games on my Ubuntu desktop, I like to switch workspaces a lot. For example, when waiting for respawn I will quickly switch to a second workspace to select a different music track, or to write a quick reply on IM. What I find very inconvenient is that a lot of games, by default, will minimize when I switch workspace. Because of that, it takes me more time to return to game – a workspace switch short-cut, and then alt+tab.

It turns out that this is SDL feature, so all games build with SDL will behave this way. However, there is an easy, little known way to disable it. Simply set the following enviromental variable

export SDL_VIDEO_MINIMIZE_ON_FOCUS_LOSS=0

before starting your game. Or, if you dislike this feature as much as I do, you may want to set that variable in your .profile file, or maybe even /etc/environment.

Enjoy flawless workspace switching when gaming!

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Multi-OS gaming w/o dual-booting: Excelent graphics performance in a VM with VGA passthrough

Note: This articles is a technology/technique outline, not a detailed guide and not a how-to. It explains what is VGA passthrough, why you might be interested in it, and where to start.

Even with the current abundance of Linux native games (both indies and AAAs), with WINE reliably running almost any not-so-new software, many gamers who use Linux on a daily basis tend to switch to Windows for playing games. Regardless of one’s attitude towards non-free software, it has to be admitted that if you wish to try out some of the newest titles, you have no other choice than running them on a Windows installation. This is why so many gamers dual-boot: having installed two operating systems on the same machine and using Windows for playing games and Linux for virtually anything else, they limit their usage of Microsoft’s OS for gaming only. This popular technique seems handy – you get the luxury of using a Linux, and the gaming performance of Windows.

But dual-booting is annoying because of the need of reboot to switch your context. Need to IM your friend while playing? Save your game, shut down Windows, reboot to Linux, launch IM, reboot to Windows, load your game. Switching takes a long time, is inconvenient, and therefore the player may feel discouraged to do so.

What if you could run both operating systems at once? That’s nothing new, run a virtual machine in your Linux, install Windows within it, and voilà! But a virtual machine is no good for gaming, the performance will be utter cr terrible. Playing chess might work, but any 3D graphics won’t do because of the lack of hardware acceleration. The VM emulates a simple graphics adapter to display it’s output in a window of the host OS.

And that is where VGA passthrough comes in, and solves this issue.

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e4rat – decreasing bootup time on HDD drives

This time I will describe how to set up e4rat in order to speed your Ubuntu’s boot time. Let’s begin with some motivation: my netbook used to boot-up in ~40 seconds. Using e4rat, it takes ~10-15 seconds. Impressive, isn’t it? Let’s see how does this trick work, and I’ll teach you how to enable it on your machine.

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There is something wrong with the new UDS system.

When I read the news about Canonical’s decision to change the way Ubuntu Developer Summit (original announcement here) I was totally astonished. I expected this change will cause a lot of buzz within the community, especially given the fact that all recent Canonical decisions are considered very controversial. This surprises me heavily, as I can spot a big number of problems that this decision may cause, as well as problems with the way this decision itself was handled. Jono Bacon’s article explaining the decision did not satisfy me either. It explains the general reasoning behind this idea, but it does not clarify everything.

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Dynamically changing Ubuntu Phone wallpaper for your desktop

We have all already seen it. The super-elegant Welcome Screen seen on all demonstrations of Ubuntu Phone OS is appreciated by many for it’s brilliant design and simplicity.

Because of that, some have tried to recreate it to use as a desktop wallpaper. Among several versions that are available, I liked Michał Prędotka’s version most. This version was modified to many different colors by Michael Hall – he has even created a video tutorial on how to make your own color scheme for this wallpaper.

I love the idea of different simple wallpapers that share the design, but vary in colors. But I’m lazy, and I don’t want to change my wallpaper everyday to enjoy another color scheme. Ideally the wallpaper would change automatically. But if the design is identical and only colors change, then it may be neat to change the colors smoothly.

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(these images are low-res, and are not meant to be downloaded)

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FitBit trophies as a milestone for Ubuntu Accomplishments

Accomps logoYou may have heard about FitBit badges support in Ubuntu Accomplishments system. Matt Fisher and Chris Wayne have written a new collection of accomplishments which pulls in your FitBit badges to other trophies. You can learn more about what awesome work they did by reading their articles [Matt] [Chris].

To those of you thinking “Hey, that app is Ubuntu accomplishments. How does FitBit relate to Ubuntu?”: that’s what a separate collection means. All trophies are grouped in sets – each set may relate to a different community, may be developed by completely different people – and such sets are called collections. You can think about them as of plugins or add-ons. Collections are installed separatelly, and are optional. That means that you are free to install FitBit accomplishments alongside Ubuntu trophies, and that you can also use just FitBit badges and remove default collections that award you for being active in Ubuntu community.

Now why do I consider FitBit trophies a milestone for the project?

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Ubuntu Acccomplishments on UDS

That was an interesting week! Lots of great discussions on Ubuntu Developer Summit, I’ve met many great people, brainstormed a lot, and learned a great deal of things. Obviously, I was most active in sessions concerning Ubuntu Accomplishments, and I would like to share what we’ve decided with those who did not participate.

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