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Today, I have finally decided to switch gears. In terms of the work I am employed to do, I had a lot to consider. I will need to travel very far this year, for quite a few days at a time, and it is cumbersome to take my PC with. That doesn’t take into account the fact that it adds difficulty to take a PC, the power cables, screen and screen cables, keyboard, mouse, and more… You can understand that is tedious, it takes a lot of the space I would have available.

I figured that getting a laptop would work out for me, so I needed to work out where to go with this problem. Through people I know I organised a second-hand laptop that I could have and use. It will be awesome to have a laptop that can be used, whenever I feel like working I can definitely work when I have completely set it up.

The Initial OS

These are mentioned more below.

The laptop came with 32-bit Windows 7 on it, this is so you can tell for certain what I was expecting. Without looking at things yet, I began to think about the lightweight Linux distribution I would be using. Eventually, after looking in tons of places like The Register, I managed to decide on the lightweight distro to use. This stems from the fact that, on average, every laptop sits with around 1 or 2 Gb RAM.

What I settled for is Ubuntu Mate, it is “designed to run on almost any computer hardware.” At the time of writing this out, the system doesn’t have all the software I want yet, but the OS only uses ~259Mb RAM. When I use my preferred browser, Chrome, it shoots up to ~627Mb RAM use already. As you can understand, I have 2Gb RAM available, I want to OS, and browser, to use as little of that as possible.

I first installed Ubuntu Mate 18.04.1 LTS (Bionic) 32-bit on the laptop. This brought several tests for me, and obviously adjustments. I had seen within the Windows 7 previously installed on it that it was a 32-bit install. I didn’t assume it could have 64-bit, but I didn’t see that 32-bit was a slight problem.

Coming into the desktop for the first time, I spent quite a while rearranging certain things for myself. It feels very comfortable to be using the Linux environment again. It also helps that on the Windows 7 it had tons installed, such as for databases and development studios, it felt slightly delayed. I just want to take the RAM available into consideration.

It was initially using ~1 Gb of the 2 Gb RAM available under Windows (I believe, from databases). As I am sure you may obviously know, if you have ~1 Gb open in RAM it could potentially be slow at times, and opening large applications will have delays. Starting out on this version of Ubuntu, everything felt perfect.

Sure, we may not be developing things here yet, however, it already felt like it was working way better than the Windows 7 installed previously.

As you can understand, initially it was getting used to using Linux for myself again. I adjusted features, brought some programs I wanted, and tested out the hardware. As you can understand, Ubuntu recommends a minimum of 2Gb RAM for us. It was personally from me that I wanted to use Ubuntu, I would make the 2 Gb RAM available on the laptop work out. When I say “work out”, you should understand, I would use way less of it.

Ubuntu Mate happens to also recommend 2Gb RAM, but shouldn’t be an issue. People have reported that their Ubuntu default install uses an average of 1Gb of RAM. That would mean I have 1Gb of RAM available for whatever I am working with. However, you can take note that we aren’t actually covering 1 Gb of the RAM anymore.

As I mentioned earlier, Ubuntu Mate is using roughly 250 Mb of RAM on average initially, leaving 1.75 Gb available. I will have less trouble running development studios, SQL databases, and so on.

The first install is usually a test. Check the hardware, capabilities, and so on. The next step happens to be where a delay came in. Let’s get our environment running, install the apps we saw we would need. We can get some of them, just some I noticed don’t have 32-bit versions available anymore. I can’t get the development studio I prefer, I won’t be able to get certain game developement software working, quite a few more.

~/Desktop$ sudo lshw > tmp.txt

You can definitely understand that command shows the hardware capabilities, written to a temporary file I chose. We only needed to look at one section:

          description: CPU
          product: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU     P8600  @ 2.40GHz
          vendor: Intel Corp.
          physical id: 13
          bus info: cpu@0
          version: 6.7.6
          serial: 0001-0676-0000-0000-0000-0000
          slot: CPU
          size: 1706MHz
          capacity: 2401MHz
          width: 64 bits
          clock: 1066MHz

There are more things we need to consider, you most likely can understand exactly what comes out of this. Width: 64 bits. We shall now try out the 64-bit Ubuntu Mate. Since it should possible to use 64-bit here, we can hopefully use the tools and environment I was hoping to achieve.

Initialising 64-bit

I know that several people will find arguments for, or against, this. Since GGJ is coming this weekend, it would be awesome to have Unity installed. It is possible, just note that under Build it mentions Ubuntu 64-bit.

I did a fresh install of the OS, then found I have slight problems. Under 32-bit the WiFi was working perfectly, but I don’t have access immediately to connections with WiFi on the 64-bit for some reason. The steps to try and fix it are simple, first I update it and reboot. That is usually what can help (yeah, I connected it to the network via a LAN cable).

It turns out I giggled at it. After the restart, I still had the same issue, so I read around more and looked up whatever I could. “I just thought, why not use my keyboard’s button to turn WiFi on or off?” I figured I have tried quite a bit, let’s just do that. My WiFi now works perfectly. From when I installed it there was no WiFi connectivity until I used the keyboard combination for myself. Neat.

I swapped the default browser to my personal preference, Chrome. Then just adjusted settings as it was needed. Currently using ~366 Mb of RAM, this feels perfect having ~1.4 GB free memory on the system.

sudo apt-get install google-chrome-stable

As you can understand, I am addicted to Chrome. I remove all the other programs I don’t enjoy, which is extra simple.

sudo apt-get remove <what we want to remove>

Take note that now, as we don’t need to do much, so it kind of happens to be the end of this step. We have a minimal Linux installation, ready for us to use and upgrade. I just wanted to have a bit more for our system since we will need a bit more access. So despite the step ending, there is just a little I will add.

The list is simple so we can keep it short:

  • pinta: image editor
  • OBS studio: recording for the OS and more
  • Libre Office: you need office on your computer
  • VLC: video player
  • Kodi: also video helper
  • Firejail: security

As you can no doubt understand, we want the apps and systems that allow us to do pretty much all that we ever need.

The Development Environment

Ah, the main point today. As you will no doubt know, we need to have several pieces to guarantee we can develop on the laptop. This part of the setup happens to be very simple.

  • Git: repository helpers are always needed
  • Monodevelop: We need a development environment, it also allows C#
  • Unity 3D: a game development library, this is regularly used at GGJ
sudo apt install ubuntu-unity-desktop
  • MonoGame: the library we use for SokoBomber 2
  • SQL Server: developer edition

As you can see, we don’t need to do much besides installing the development library for ourselves. I figured we don’t need to completely share too much, only that we are getting somewhere with the usability for ourselves.

There is definitely more I need to do for this, as you can see in the features image I haven’t sorted MonoGame out for myself yet. You can obviously understand I will be sorting that out.