I may not be smart, but I make up for it by being the biggest damn ham in the blogosphere.

Wolvix Games Edition 1.0.4 - a review

Date/Time Permalink: 03/17/06 02:27:44 am
Category: Reviews

It is for distros like Wolvix Games Edition that the phrase "mixed reviews" was created.
Do I hate it or love it? I love it because *I* got it going, and once I
did, I had a blast. I hate it because *you*, dear reader,
may never get it going at all. And that's a pity, because
I like to have a distro that I can recommend with confidence to my
Linux-newbie friends. A live CD should just be "drop it in and
go". With the right attention to detail, this distro could blow it's
main competitor (Linux Live Gaming Project) cleanly away. Mind you, I
don't care *who* "wins"! I just want something I can throw at the
nay-sayers who claim Linux will never be a good gaming platform. If I
throw Wolvix at them, it will just get thrown back with the jeer "Who
ever heard of running xorgconfig?"

Let's start at the beginning: Wolvix boots to a text prompt which *is*
clearly spelled out as to what the options are: You can run "xconf"
and hope for the best, or you can run "xorgconfig" again and again
until you turn blue trying to get it dialed in *just* *right*. When
you've typed the proper magic numbers into your xorg.conf file, you
can only then run "startx" and get into the Xfce4 desktop. On the
three machines I tried it on, it failed utterly on the first no matter
*what* I typed in (it's the newest mobo, and has a built-in VIA
technologies video card, and a clunky generic monitor which I am sure
was deliberately manufactured to break with anything but the vendor's
proprietary driver, so there you go.), it ran on the second *only*
after the xorgconfig voodoo (it helped that this box runs Slackware,
and Wolvix is Slackware based, so I had the installed xorg.conf for
reference. Also that Riva 128 video cards play nice anyway.) And only
on the third machine (oldest wonky motherboard and card set combined
with best and biggest monitor) did it detect *most* of the settings
with the "xconf" command alone.

OK, I know, I'm a Slackware zealot, and here's a distro that's based
on Slackware and requires lots of fiddling with a text prompt before
I'm rewarded with a desktop, just how a Slackware-masochist would love
it - what am I complaining about? Simply that a live CD should not
make you *do* this. Back five years ago, it would be expected that
tinkering with Linux would require hacker skills and intimate
knowledge of your hardware. But it's 2005 now, and we've seen Mepis,
Knoppix, Damn Small Linux, Puppy Linux, Linux Live Gaming CD,
Hikarunix, and MediainLinux (all of these live CDs that I've tried
personally), all of which came up to at least give me a desktop of
some description without any fuss at all on all three machines. When
so many others have done it right before you, it is no longer
excusable to do it wrong. Besides, my Slackware 10.1 got it all right
the first time, anyway; all I edited in xorg.conf was the line
"ZAxismapping" "4 5" to turn on the scrollwheel on my mouse and I was
home free! So, no, it's not as hard as Slackware - it's harder!

Another booby-trap which it took me several false starts to figure out
was that it will not cooperate *at* *all* running on the "guest"
login. No sound, and some of the games were actually crashing with a
segmentation fault - a discovery I made when I tried them from the
xterm so I could see what was wrong! When I tried running as root,
inexplicably, the problems mostly went away. So rule one if you try
Wolvix: run as root. And rule two: know your hardware like you've
never known it before, because xorgconfig is waiting to test you.

A third rule: I know we normally trust the Xfce4 system to be the
smartest desktop out there (not the prettiest or the fastest or even
the 1337est), but this time, you'd better check everything
yourself. Otherwise, you will find yourself perplexed looking at the
sparse listing of games in the menu as opposed to the robust listing
on the project's home page. Where did they all go? You'll have to fire
up Xfce4's appfinder (at the bottom of the accessories menu) to find
out. And run it as guest and then as root - *more* menu items show up
running as guest than show up as root!?!? WTF?

OK, now that the bulk of the problems are dealt with...wait, I thought
of some more: I'm forced to type this in ABIWORD! YUCKK-K-K! I have
office-cooties!! Because this distro is the first one I've ever seen
to deny me emacs *and* vi *and* beaver *and* even KWrite or Gedit!!! I
can see leaving out emacs - she's big, sweetheart as she is - but are
you telling me you didn't have space on the disk for vi?!?!? I think
that's it...hey, wait a minute, I also don't have mouse wheel here,
and my "ZAxismapping" incantation didn't work, here, even though I
copied it over from the Slackie partition!

Ok, I think that's all the gripes - wait, no...OK, that's all! Now
about the whole *point* of the distro, which is, ah, er, um...the
GAMES! Yes, the games are a trip to the moon on gossamer wings! They
damn well better be, after what I went through to run them, or this
review would be a total pan! But we've delivered so much of the bad
news that we've squeezed out the space to do the good news justice; so
we'll talk about the pot of gold I found at the end of this....uh,
rainbow tomorrow in part 2: "son of the review of Wolvix Gaming
. Because that's what I do when a distro is wonderful and
terrible - I just write two reviews!

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