Curtains for Windows?

No, I’ve not taken up drapery along with everything else, this is about computers again (woo, yay, etc.).

I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve been using Linux as my OS of choice lately, and it’s still the case. I’ve only booted my laptop into Windows 8 once in the last few months, and that was to try and get a SilverLight plugin working which didn’t seem to like the MonoLight interpretation in Mint. The only other thing I’m still hanging on to a windows install for is certain games, ones I’m not really ready to let go of.

However, that reason is getting less and less significant with each passing week, mainly down to the awesome work Valve are doing with Steam on Linux. It’s gone from having a few indie titles and Team Fortress 2, to having a much bigger, much better selection. The two main additions for me in the last couple of weeks have been Portal and Half-Life 2. Both are still marked as being in Beta, but both are very, very playable with only a few small glitches so far.

Portal, if you haven’t played it, is one you really ought to. The clever portal mechanic is fun to use through the puzzle section of the game, working your way through level and level of figuring out how to get to the exit, but it’s when you get to the last stage that it really takes off. I won’t give away too much about cake and what happens later in the game, but it’s still one of the most clever and well-made games I’ve played in the last ten years.

Half-Life 2 though, even now, years after it was released, is still amazing. The orginal Half-Life still holds a special place for me as the best single-player FPS ever, but there’s no denying HL2 is much more polished and more involved. The Linux implementation is just as I remember it, and the advantage of it being a few years old now means that it runs very happily on the Core i3 with Intel HD3000 graphics in my cheapo laptop. I’ve only come up against one bug so far (LDR map versions not present on some levels, starting at Black Mesa East), but it’s well-documented, there’s a fix available until Valve patch it, and let’s not forget it is still in Beta.

As it stands right now, the only game I’d have to load Windows for is Battlefield 3 (and soon 4). As someone who’s been playing games on a PC under Windows for the last eighteen years, that’s quite a statement to make. Hopefully it’s just a precursor for the future as more and more developers and publishers not necessarily spurn Windows, but at least include Linux as an option. The Steam Box will no doubt see Valve continue to throw more weight at it, and hopefully encourage others to do the same, and so far the alleged fragmentation of Linux as a platform and community really doesn’t seem to be causing too many problems.

Microsoft are apparently about to do a massive U-turn with the release of ‘Blue’ (or Windows 8.1 as it’s expected to be called) by putting in an option to boot to desktop, putting the Start button back, and hopefully adding the Aero-style window decorations too. That would certainly make the choice to ditch Windows altogether a harder one, because with 8 as it is now I’m really not too adverse to getting rid of it.

Consider this: this weekend I was playing HL2 in Linux (native) on my 42″ via HDMI, and haven’t had to install a single driver myself yet. To me this makes Linux (well, certainly Mint) the easiest PC setup for games I’ve ever had. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever find myself saying that.

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