Linux Tales of Woe: Part 2

Due to the sheer enjoyment of writing about enabling support for old Broadcom cards back in the day, it's time to share another horror story- Another fiendish story of what caused me to leave Fedora Linux, never to return. For the Dante afficionados, let's enter the proverbial “9 Circles of Dependency Hell”.

But I Just Wanted to Play Quake 3!

Too bad, so sad. I had the official Return to Castle Wolfenstein CD and the .run file to install the data to my Linux system, and wasn't aware of what it's dependencies were. For those who are unaware, a dependency is a bit of software that is needed by your program to run. Oblivious to what was needed, I mounted the CD and ran the installer. Little did I know that I would be in for days of work. The game launched and I was enjoying the WW2 Prison-Breakout glory of Wolfenstein.

No Games For You

So Fedora uses a package manager to aid in installing updates to software. The hitch is that it used to (and may still) upgrade everything without ensuring the possibility of being able to revert back to the previous state. My game depended on old versions of software to work, unbeknownst to me at the time.

I had automated the installation of updates for once a week and forgot about it months prior. Little did I know that the following Sunday morning, I would not be able to launch Wolfenstein because it was missing critical libraries.

Enter Dependency Hell

After doing some research about the packages I needed to launch Wolfenstein, I wound up downloading the rpm files that were of the correct version since I had known about what dependency hell was previous to this fiasco. But would it strike me? No, I was a sysadmin– I knew my way out of this! Squeezing my stuffed Tux- I mean penguin- I proceeded to install the rpm files using the rpm -ivh command. Little did I expect what would happen next...

Even the rpm package installer removed the pre-existing binary that I updated! So now, I couldn't launch my File Manager, VLC, LibreOffice, or GIMP- apps that I used regularly began crashing.

I ran yum -y update to revert the downgraded software and then Wolfenstein wouldn't start again. This is why I can't have nice things...

Doing The Unspeakable

I wanted to play Wolfenstein bad at this point, and realized I hadn't tried compiling from source with the old version. This involves taking the source code, performing some voodoo magic on it, and producing a binary. Generally, this is not supported by package managers and as a result is often ignored. So I thus embarked on a saga of making my Core 2 Duo (at the time) CPU scream bloody murder.

Tell Me More About Compilation!!! Fine... It's not voodoo magic, GNU Make automates the execution of various compilers in a specific order. A compiler in a nutshell is just a program that translates source code into another language. In most cases it translates into machine language- producing binary programs. Compilation is CPU-intensive, and just great for warming a home in the winter.....

Highway to (s)Hell

So after taking inventory of the various versions of software I needed to compile, from libSDL to Xlib, I started downloading the specific versions of source code for each application I needed. 2-3 hours later, I had a folder full of source code. Since I wanted this project over with, I used a while loop in bash to automate the extraction of all the tarballs into their own separate folders.

“You Could Roast a Marshmallow on That Thing!!!”

I made the willful choice of compiling the software I needed from source, and was going to see my project to completion. I would proceed to enter the first folder, run ./configure to generate the Makefile custom tailored to my hardware, then run make, followed by make install. For each application, this took about 30-45 minutes given the speed of the CPU, and the majority of the time was spent waiting on the computer to finish it's prescribed suffering- I mean compiling.

By the time I was done compiling, it was Tuesday morning, and my laptop was so hot I had plugged in an external keyboard and mouse to use it, with the device propped up on 2 textbooks to retain airflow for cooling.

Wasted Time

By the time I was completed, I grabbed a bag of my favorite chips- Jalapeño Flavored- and launched Wolfenstein. To a nerd's delight it launched and I muttered “IT'S ALIIIIIIIIVE!!!” to myself. When I began playing the game, however, my excitement was rendered useless- the audio was stuttering and the video was horribly choppy. I didn't meet the RAM requirements and would have to wait for an upgrade... :(

The Upgrade

In just a couple days, the RAM arrived!, I tore open the packaging and quickly added the RAM to my laptop. The game finally worked, in all it's glory! I was running, shooting 'em up, and defeating Nazi officers in a valiant attempt to save the world. However, the power brick that charged my laptop wasn't powerful enough to charge the device with the added RAM, so I waited on a close friend to snag me a spare charger from his old job, as they were closing the office and liquidating old hardware (I would later receive my second laptop from this closure).

Multiplayer Not-So-Awesomeness

As it turned out, multiplayer on Return To Castle Wolfenstein was widely considered one of the best parts of the entire game. So naturally, I wanted to try it out. However every time I attempted to join a multiplayer server I would get errors about “PunkBuster not working”. On Linux at the time, there was a lack of documentation on how to resolve this issue. I tried modifying the PunkBuster configuration, to no avail. On top of this, I even reinstalled Wolfenstein. Still, I couldn't play multiplayer until a patch for the game was released. I missed out on the peak of the multiplayer action because of this.

Nowadays, the multiplayer servers are down and the game is widely considered a good old game- one of the best video games ever made. And I missed my shot at enjoying it while it was still fresh because Fedora just wouldn't play nice. As a result, I wound up leaving Fedora Linux, never to return. Back then I left for Ubuntu but would later migrate over to Arch Linux. Little did I know I would even leave that for Gentoo, Slackware, and BSD for security... Which would later become a passion of mine.

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