HDMI Output with Nvidia-XRun

Linux users with Nvidia Optimus (hybrid graphics) hardware currently face many challenges in order to optimally utilize their system. While there are many solutions that allow both integrated and discrete GPUs to be active, it is still not yet possible to utilize video outputs from both sources concurrently through a single display server session (X11 or Wayland). Although X.org 1.20 may allow this to be possible, until then there is only one other solution: separate session for each GPU. With a bit of work, it’s possible to use the Nvidia-XRun project to accomplish this.

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Nvidia-XRun: An Alternative to Bumblebee

Despite the many advances the GNU/Linux operating system has made over the past few years, there’s one area with which I have frequently struggled: hybrid Nvidia graphics. Being the owner of a laptop computer using Nvidia Optimus technology (i.e. having both an integrated Intel GPU and a discrete Nvidia GPU), I’ve spent more time then I’d like to admit getting the best performance possible out of both cards. Unlike on Windows, where Nvidia’s drivers and software make it easy to launch applications with either GPU, accomplishing the same isn’t quite as easy on Linux. Recently, I discovered a project that can accomplish this: Nvidia-XRun.

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Installing Debian/Ubuntu Packages on Arch Linux

Although Arch Linux has packages for most everything, there is the odd circumstance when one can’t simply install one from even the AUR. I recently stumbled upon an old .deb archive, meant to be installed on Debian, Ubuntu, or a derivative, amongst some of my files. It’s for a game acquired from Humble Bundle, which I’ve had for so long I can no longer seem to find the URL to take me to the download page. While the AUR has various packages designed to install such files, they work with ones formatted in .tar.gz. As luck would have it, I discovered a handy utility alternative which allowed me to install the archive I have.

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Installing RetroPie from Linux

Seeing as how difficult (and expensive) it is these days to get one’s hands on an NES Classic, an arguably better alternative is to turn a Raspberry Pi into an emulation box. The setup for this is surprisingly easy. Along with the Pi, a micro SD card (8GB as a recommended minimum), a micro USB power adapter (be sure to chose one with the correct voltage), a USB or Bluetooth controller, and a case are what’s needed. The setup also requires a keyboard, and the device needs to be connected to a display through an HDMI output. Audio can either be passed through the HDMI connection, or through the 3.5mm audio jack.

As a convenience, a Linux distribution called RetroPie is designed specifically with emulation in mind. Download it from the official website, and install it to the SD card with the following command:

dd if=/path/to/retropie.img of=/dev/sdX bs=1M conv=fsync

Be sure that the SD card is not mounted when executing the command.

After it is complete, connect all the peripherals to the Pi (SD card, USB devices, HDMI), then plug in the power adapter. The device should automatically boot up, and resize the partition to accommodate the available space. The controller will then be configured via user input. It is recommended at this point to perform updates to the device through the configuration menu. Once completed and rebooted, ROMs can be loaded onto the device following this guide. Files can be added automatically via a USB drive, through SFTP, or even a Samba share. If ever terminal access is required directly on the device, pressing F4 will pull it up.

Mixed Feelings About Wayland on Gnome

I’ve been a Gnome 3 user pretty much since I first started using Unity on Ubuntu (RIP Unity). When I started learning about Wayland, I got very excited (granted I’m a sucker for new shiny and performance optimized things). My main hesitation with using it, even to this date, is compatibility. Although Wayland is more-or-less intended as a replacement for X11, it’s an entirely new protocol, which requires a compatibility layer in order to use older applications (AKA most applications currently). This need for compatibility sadly means there are issues, such as with gaming. I’ve been bouncing between Gnome under X.org and Wayland for a few months now, and as much as I’d like to be using it full-time, there are a few things preventing me from doing so.

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Protect Linux Configurations Using Source Control

Recently, while performing some system updates, I mistakenly overwrote one of the system’s configuration files found in /etc. As I had not done any backups in some time (my own negligence), I wound up locking myself out of my system upon the next reboot. After using a live USB to restore the file from an older version, which I had to dig up, it was made evident I needed a better solution to prevent this from occurring. Enter etckeeper: a tool to keep track of all the changes made to configuration files.

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Why I Use Pacaur Instead of Yaourt

One of the biggest advantages to using Arch Linux is having access to the Arch User Repositories (AUR). This allows packages which are not included in the official repositories to be provided all in one place. I much prefer this to (for example) Ubuntu PPAs which require a user include a separate PPA for every package they wish to install, and these may change with package updates. The reason such repositories exist in the first place is to allow a cohesive way for users to install packages through their system’s package manager more easily, instead of simply building and installing directly from source. Continue reading