Wherein I Move a Lot of Words Around

On Gaming Input Devices

Having the desire to upgrade my input devices at the home, I started looking around for a good keyboard and mouse combo. While the business-oriented lines were nice in their own ways, they lacked a certain flair and were woefully short of buttons and standard layouts. (What's with everyone screwing with the standard keyboard layout? Stop it. I like my buttons.)

As a result, I started to look at the gaming series of devices. I'm not sure how I wound up looking at them, honestly, but once I started to look at the options it was clear to me that all the attention on making input devices better at a hardware level was going into that market instead: the keyboards were mostly mechanical, the mice were high-DPI and loaded with buttons, and the quality was far and away higher — as were the prices, of course.

After some period of research I picked up the Corsair K70 keyboard and Corsair M65 mouse. Neither is too gratuitous with the lights off, and both are quite helpful if you setup the lights accordingly. By which I mean: think back to the 80s and keyboard overlays for Lotus. Like that, but with colors. So when switching to a game you can have the lights come up for the keys you normally use and then color-code them into groups (movement, actions, macros, etc.).

When using it for daily stuff in Windows, and some games, it proved quite the nice combo. The mouse has buttons to raise and lower the DPI and a quick-change button at the thumb for ultra-precise movement (think snipers in an FPS game or clicking on a link on an overly-designed web page where the fonts are 8pt ultra-lights — yes, I really used it for that once).

However, I quickly found the Corsairs had a very large weakness: they literally only worked in Windows. I don't mean the customization and macros, I mean the devices themselves did not show up as USB HID devices in Linux or the Mac. They failed to be a keyboard and mouse on every other computer I have. Normally, I would blame this on my KVM's USB emulation layer, but I connected them directly and nothing changed. That is, until I read the manual and discovered the K70 had a switch in the back to toggle "BIOS mode". Now it worked, but I lost some customization and the scroll lock flashed constantly to tell me I wasn't getting my 1ms response time anymore (no, can't turn that off — flashes forever).

To add to the fun, the keyboard has a forked cable. One USB plug is for power and one is for data. If you connect the data cable to a USB 3 port on the computer itself then it can get the power it needs and you don't need the other. If you use a KVM or USB 2 hub then you're using both.

Overall, the frustrations outweighed the utility and I returned them both. I did some more research and found that, of all companies, Logitech fully supported their gaming devices on both Mac and Windows and their devices started in USB HID mode and only gained the fancy features when the software was installed on the host machine.

Taking that into consideration I went ahead and picked up the G810 Orion Spectrum keyboard and the G502 Proteus Spectrum mouse.

To summarize the differences:

I'm especially happy that both keyboards had a dedicated button for turning the lights off when I just wanted a good mechanical keyboard and back on when I want to do something that it adds value to. That's a nice selling point for both, really.

At any rate, if you have a Mac, it appears only Logitech still cares about you. That's perfectly fine with me as they make some good stuff, overall.

A Nice Story about Steam on Linux

Once upon a time I had a Linux box acting as a home server. It was nice.

Then I wanted a home internet gateway/router and put it at the network edge. That, too was nice.

Then it was slow. Given where it was, that made everything slow. So, I rebuilt it as something bigger than it needed to be and put a SATA RAID in it, a dual Intel server NIC card, and installed Plex server on it. Then it was very nice.

Since it was serving AFP for my Macs, I chose XFS for the RAID filesystem. That, too was very nice.

Then I realized that when I was messing around with it and had to reboot it because of changes to the file or media server bits, the home internet was down. This made the lady unhappy, which made me unhappy. This was not nice.

So I took all the old parts out of the junk box and rebuilt the original machine and made it the internet gateway. That left the beefy machine doing media and files and general stuff I threw at it. For a long time, that was perfect.

Then one day I realized that the very nice CPU was idle more often than not, and that was a shame. So I got an Nvidia GTX 750 Ti card and a nice display and made a Linux desktop out of it. A Linux desktop with an 8TB internal RAID and an SSD boot drive. A machine more than powerful enough to play some games, really. To do so, however, would mean booting out of Linux and into Windows (generally) which I did not have a full copy of and generally did not want to. Which is when I remembered all my games are in Steam and Steam runs on Linux — and now I have a nice video card. This could be nice.

Could be. But there's always one thing, and this time was no exception.

I installed Steam from the website and after many progress bars I pulled down Portal 2 to test with (because it's nice). It wouldn't start. Says it couldn't find and other random Steam shared libraries that, confusingly, were exactly where it said it couldn't find them. I played with ldd and friends for a while and realized that Steam was simply insane because the World was in Order and Steam was confused.

So, I searched. Then I found. Staring at the screen, I sighed. Then I laughed. Then I made an annoyed grunt. doesn't exist on large non-ext4 file systems

XFS support: Source games need to use stat64/64-bit ints or be compiled for 64-bit.

Warning to XFS users on linux.

Steam games won't run from a separate hard disk. "I only have two XFS drives and this Ext4 SSD. The games work if I install them on the SSD."

Steam on Linux: Many games won't start? Read this!

It turns out that many games on Steam are still 32-bit games. I have a 64-bit CPU, OS, and — as luck would have it — a large enough filesystem that it's using 64 bits for inode values (file IDs). Well, that's generally not a problem when the disk is young and not full of files, but on a server RAID that's had quite the long-standing history mine has, those file IDs are out of the 32-bit range. When code that's using 32-bit inode values gets that large number it's not valid, so it can't open the file.

The solution was fairly simple. I went to Steam's preferences and created a library on the ext4-formatted SSD boot drive (it had plenty of space for my small games) and installed the games there.

They run like a charm now. It's nice.

Online Habitat

The Epic Effort to Bring a Groundbreaking Online RPG Back to Life:

Yet for all the precedents it set and its significance in gaming history, Habitat is largely unknown beyond hardcore fans. And among those who know about it, few have played it. Handy wanted to change that. “Videogame history is nothing if not preserved in a playable form,” he said. “Without being able to play a game, one cannot appreciate it fully. Imagine walking through an art gallery with the lights turned off.” Handy wanted to turn the lights on.