Linux for gaming? You’ve got to be joking, right?

The conversation usually goes something like this:

“Ok, you’re right Linux is better than Windows. A lot better. I understand all your reasons – better stability, security, no problems with viruses and adware, better programs, but……..”


“Um……I play games. So, I need a Windows PC to play them? I mean, Linux hasn’t got any games at all, right?”


Maybe half-wrong, then, If you want to play the latest off-the-shelf game, then you’re probably going to be out of luck, though companies like TransGaming make it “unlikely” rather than “impossible” – your mileage may way.

What you do get with Linux though is a world-class system for playing classic games; it’s a paradise where literally any game from a few years back can be played, and enjoyed. This is the heady world of emulation where your Linux computer can pretend to be a Gameboy Advance, a Playstation, a SNES or even a complete upright arcade console, all for your pleasure and entertainment.

Count up all the games released for those systems, and many more, and you’ll soon see that the number of games Linux plays runs in to the tens, if not hundreds of thousands; everything from the original Space Invaders to Resident Evil and beyond.

That’s a lot of gaming pleasure from a little fluffy penguin.

Here’s a whistle-stop tour of the best emulators around (ie, the ones I use), and a few pointers where to find those all important roms. Of course, you’re only supposed to use the roms if you’ve got the original cartridge, but you knew that already, didn’t you?


Ah, those Japanese with their bright colours, squashed sprites and dodgy translations. Like a bad wine, the games have improved with age and those hits from last century now have a charm and fiendish addiction that passed me by first time around. ZSNES is far and away the best SNES emulator around, and I found ines (downloadable from Zophar) to handle every NES game I threw at it. If you love mario then the NES is the place to be, and a lot of Gameboy games first saw light on this system. For SNES and NES roms, Freeroms has a good selection including the classic version of Cannon Fodder and the awesomely good RPG Chrono Trigger. That game alone is worth the installation of zsnes.


DOS?! Yes, DOS. There’s a lot of great DOS games out there, and thankfully most of them have found their way from the back of cupboards onto Abandonia, the home of DOS abandonware games everywhere. DOSemu is very effective at running these classics, so if you fancy the Zaonce-Isinore run in Elite or a session tearing your hair out in Betrayal at Krondor, then this is the place to go. Most impressively, Abandonia tries to put up a “new” game every single day, so there’s always something new to provide eye candy and sweaty palms. Ooh err!

C-64 and Spectrum

There’s something bizarrely therapeutic about running a Commodore 64 in a window alongside a Speccy in the other, these mortal enemies tamed at last. I do sometimes try to hit the Specrum window with the C-64 one though, just so it know’s who’s boss. You know how it is. VICE is the C-64 emu par excellence. It’s fast, clean and takes pretty much no memory at all. If you want, it’ll even make you wait twenty minutes for the game to start, just like the good old days. Ah, the memories.

Spectemu is the Spectrum emulator, and like VICE, it’s small and perfectly formed (unlike the Spectrum itself. Ha!). It runs Sabre Wulf just fine too, which is pretty much the only Speccy game you’ll ever need. Not that I’m biased or anything.

For roms, is the place to be. If anyone has a similar source of Spectrum roms, I’d like to know it.


Want a console in your living room? Then get MAME, the Multi-Arcade Machine Emulator. It’ll do everything from a Vectrex to that Street Fighter console you leaned on and tried to look cool as a kid. The best place to get started with MAME is over at MAMEWorld, which also wins an award for being the most disorganised, chaotic site ever! That aside, Google is a great source for roms. No surprises there, then.

Gameboy and Gameboy Advance

These make for perfect games to fire up and leave running in the background, just going back for one more try at the final level in Advance Wars II while waiting for a recompile to finish. Visualboy Advance is the emulator to use as it’s graphics and sound handling is great. It’ll also freeze the action when you shift to another window, which is just perfect. It’s also a great way to play Sims 2 :)

Romwize, there’s only one place to be, and that’s GBA Rom News. If it’s not there, it doesn’t exist. Simple as that.


So far, we’ve looked at emulators that make games look and act just like their console or 8-bit originals. Here we end with one which makes then run better. ePSXe is an amazing engine which emulates the PSX. If your computer has a decent 3D graphics card (mine’s NVidia) and follow these instructions, the games look and play better than they do on the PSX itself. That’s nothing to be sniffed at.

When it comes to ROMS however, you’re on your own. So long as there’s edonkey and Pirate Bay though, I’m sure you’ll find some. The good news is that ePSXe will play original games if they’re dropped in your CD caddy too, so that little pile of games gathering dust on the bookcase can get a new, fresher, lease of life.

Of course, all of these systems can also be emulated under Windows too, but then you’re just providing one more excuse to stick with that sub-par poor quality Operating System, and that’ll never do.

Now get out there and game!

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class=”local” href=””>2006-06-10 1542 Photography Linux

Reasons to Love Linux # 5,744

DigiKam‘s Aspect Ratio crop:

This lets you crop and compose an image using recognised techniques that work (Rule of Thirds, Golden Mean, etc) at the same time. Simply brilliant!

Comments on 2006-06-10 1542 Photography Linux

hope you had a great day.

go to my blog and read about emailing me, and then do it and ask me whatever. It can be anything.

reaper 2006-06-10 17:06 UTC

Wonder what this box here is…….

GreyWulf 2006-06-13 15:52 UTC

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2006-06-06 1724 Fun Linux

Holy Crap

(Click for bigger pic)

The shot above is Soul Blade for the PSX, running on my little 1.2Ghz desktop PC under Linux, thanks to ePSXe and this guide how to optimise it. One set of NVidia drivers later, and I’m running native PSX games that are faster, smoother and even more drop-dead gorgeous than they are on the console itself.


Between VisualboyAdvance and ePSXe, I’m in gamer heaven right now. Forget consoles when you can flick between the games, coding and the web without leaving your seat.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to play Diablo.

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2006-06-05 1020 Linux Writing

Linux for Writers

Ask any writer about the frustrating experiences they’ve had, and close to the top of the list (after rejection letters) will be their computer. There’s something deeply distressing about seeing all your hard work go down the drain after a marathon typing session. Usually it’s after going for five hours without a save and you’ve written the best piece of work in your life.

Yes, we’ve all been there, I know. That’s the point when the temptation to take hold of the little evil box and throw it out of the highest window takes over, when white knuckles are clasped around the screen. I’ve even seen teethmarks on keyboards. It’s not pretty.

There is a solution so this malaise however, and it’s one that brings a lot of other great writing tools within reach too.

I’m talking about switching your Operating System and moving over to Linux. While it won’t stop those annoying middle-of-the-night power cuts, it will dramatically improve the stability of the computer itself. If power is an issue use a laptop or buy a UPS. Otherwise a change to Linux will kiss your lost work woes goodbye.

The most important requirement for a writer is a stable computer system. Linux gives you that, and much more. There’s no Microsoft Word, which means no Word Viruses and corrupt .doc or .dat files. It also means you can’t spend an hour playing with fonts and layout while pretending to write. I find Word more of an inhibitor to writing than anything. Maybe that’s just me. If you feel more comfortable when surrounded by tempting icons, fonts and widgets then Open Office is an excellent free alternative.

I suggest using a pure text editor though. Spend some time learning vim or emacs and the investment will be paid back in spades. Both of these editors make editing a breeze. The latest version of vim even puts squiggly red lines under spelling errors, if that’s your bag. Other than that, you’ve got an empty screen where your work is all important rather than it be sidelined and pushed down the page by a plethora of toolbars. Both of these editors make moving, marking and jumping between paragraphs a doddle. It’s possible to mark certain points in your work so it’s easy to flick between sections. The editors are controlled by the keyboard rather than the mouse, so less time is spent switching from one tool to the other; that’s one less reason o lose your focus while writing.

Writing in plain text rather than trusting some proprietary file format is essential. This means your all important words can be read anywhere, anyhow, without needed some filter or third party application that’s pretty much guaranteed to mangle your precious layout. Use a simple markup such as txt2tags and you can use the same text file to produce HTML, PDF, print-ready Postscript and a host of all other formats as and when needed. Try doing that with a Word document and be confident of the output!

For any long project, I recommend using CVS to store your work. This is a Version Control system that’s usually used for programming projects though there’s no reason why it cannot be applied to writing too. Every change to the files is logged so it’s possible to revert back steps and tag any chapters for release. This makes it easy to review and revert back a whole days’ work if you’re not happy with the output, or to hold back a chapter or two that don’t quite fit into the flow of the story. It also means that you’re never working on the original, but a copy, so if something bad does happen you’ve not lost the whole thing. If the CVS server is accessible to the outside world you can also give your proofreaders access so they can review your work as it’s ongoing. This can boost your productivity and motivation no end!

One area where some writers struggle is with character names. I use a small program called rig, the Random Identity Generator. type ‘rig’ at the command line and it spits out a random name and accurate US address and phone number. Re-run it until a name pops out that suits my need, and in it goes. That’s how most of the modern-day character names for The Grey Scribe and Tales from the Twisted Underground came about.

Add in Linux’s excellent multi-tasking and great networking and internet capabilities and you’ve got a powerhouse for writers and authors anywhere. Why not give it a try and banish those lost work
frustrations for good?

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2006-06-03 1949 Linux Fun

Spiderman struts his stuff

Aw c’mon. Linux + Visualboy Advance = utterly, completely greatest gaming platform, ever.

There’s no funner way to play one of the Final Fantasy series, Ultimate Spiderman (above), X-Men or any one of literally thousands of games. A quick flick to a different desktop window, the action freezes and we’re surfing, checking email and coding. The emulator takes up minimal memory, so it’s great just to leave running and hop into and pick up play when you feel like socking a few more bad guys.


Comments on 2006-06-03 1949 Linux Fun

That kinda looks like the spiderman game for the genesis.

reaper 2006-06-03 21:54 UTC

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2006-06-01 2209 Linux

Die, evil files. And you, and you, and you………..

We’ve spent the day hitting the delete key a lot. Christa has finally raised her hand and said ‘Hallelujiah’ to the Lord, asking repentence and begged that her sins be cleansed.

In other words, she’s getting rid of Windows XP and moving over to the promised land of all-Linux computing. Aaaaaaaaaaaaamen, another sinner is saved, praise the lor’, etc.

Like any other religious conversion, it’s a painful process. It’s involved lots of moving files around, deleting stuff, CD burning and making tough decisions about what to keep and what to throw away. I’m pretty sure that just like the Christian who keeps porn DVDs under his bed, she’ll still use XP for some things, mainly involving 3d rendering and the like. Until I’ve worked out how to get Poser 6 and Vue d’Esprit working anyways. Instead of going the usual dual-boot route I’m going to set up vmware so she can boot “into” XP while Linux is happily chugging along as well. Clever, eh?

By the end of tomorrow she should have a laptop that’s 3-5 times faster, more stable, have more room on the hard disk and have lots of fun new programs to play with. Without paying a thing, all legally, and without a single hardware upgrade.

Linux. Damn good. Why not give it a try sometime?

Comments on 2006-06-01 2209 Linux

But how does it work? I’ve been trying out Linux and can’t even get how to install stuff. In principle I’d like to change over but I think in theory I just am not technical enough.

Claire Fun 2006-06-02 07:15 UTC

No problem, Claire. Tell me what distribution (version) of Linux it is, and what you’ve been trying to install, and I’ll try to help.

Usually, only the admin user (‘root’) can install software, and there’ll be something lurkling in the menus called a package manager. That’s a bit like Windows’ Add/Remove Software app in the Control Panel, but a lot more powerful. From there you can download programs and install them directly off the net. That’s the best place to start.

GreyWulf 2006-06-02 08:41 UTC

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2006-05-26 2112 Linux Photography

One less reason to use Windows: Picasa for Linux

Picasa for Linux

Google have released Picasa for Linux. It’s tagged as pre-Beta, but from a company that’s had gmail as Beta for 3 thousand years, that means nothing.

I’ve tried at, and it works well, finding all my pics quickly and all of the edit featurs are in place. Personally, I prefer digiKam, but it’s great to see them making it available. Google Linux will happen, and it will be big.

Meantime, if you’re a photo-loving Picasa fan, there’s now one less reason to use a certain lame-ass excuse for a crippleware OS. Oh, did I say that?

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2006-05-20 1217 Linux

autofill version 0.3 released

I’ve done a little updating to autofill. This is a small perl script which makes autofilling an iPod a cinch under Linux. Download it here and rename it to autofill.

It now just adds music by default rather than wiping the iPod first. Use

 autofill -w

to wipe the iPod clean first, then fill it with random tracks. The default behaviour makes it easier to add the stuff you do want first (podcasts, music, audiobooks, whatever) then fill up the space with random tracks. The -w option is good if you want a clean slate.

There’s also no need to put the size of your iPod in the script now – it’s calculated automatically, so it’s now good for “big” iPods as well as the Shuffle.

You need GNUPod installed, but everything else should be provided by a standard perl installation.

Remember to change your usual mount point and music source directory in the script – these can be overridden from the command line too if you want to pull music from a different directory of have your ipod mounted someplace else, like so:

 autofill -m /mnt/shuffle -s /Music/albums


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2006-05-18 1254 Linux

Autofill the iPod Shuffle from the Linux command line

I love my iP
od Shuffle. I also love Linux. As I’m on a quest to being 100% Windows free, that means finding ways to get all the stuff that talks to the computer, to talk to it under Linux. Thankfully it’s not a difficult goal to reach, and it usually means that everything ends up being simpler and more efficient in the long run.

Getting an ipod to talk to Linux is easy, thanks to gnupod. That’s a set of perl scripts which lets you add and delete things on your ipod as well as keeping your all important iTunes DB up to date. There are great GUI-based solutions too, including GTKPod and even the mighty Amarok (more about which in another blogpost later). I’m a command-line guy at heart though, so gnupod suits me fine.

Unfortunately, gnupod isn’t perfect. While it does what it does well, it’s far from being the most user friendly set of scripts out there. The command line parameters are pretty arcane and it doesn’t handle the Shuffle’s all-important Auto-Fill magic.

It’s easy enough to fix that with a few wrapper scripts though. After much trawling around the net I found this page which contained all of the meat I needed. I’ve re-written it from being a mixture to bash and perl into an all-perl solution. First, install gnupod then download my autofill script here.

Make it executable (chmod +x autofill). Change the variables at the top of the script – $mount, $source and $size – to reflect your system. $mount point is wherever your Shuffle is mounted when it’s plugged in. $source is the directory containing all of your mp3s. The script will search down through the folders underneath this one.

When it’s run, autofill will wipe your Shuffle clean, then fill it randomly with tunes from your source directory. Later, I plan to update the script to provide the option whether to wipe the Shuffle, or to append to what’s already there. For now though, it’ll do. Not bad for 1.1k :)

In previous blogposts I’ve looked at whether it’s possible to use the iPod without iTunes and the answer back then was a resounding YES. Now I’m one step further – I can use the iPod without iTunes, or Windows! Perfection.

Comments on 2006-05-18 1254 Linux

I wish I could get linux, but lets just say the people who own this are big fans of BG………

reaper 2006-05-18 17:59 UTC

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2006-05-18 0826 Linux

“Not genuine”

I suspect a lot of people will be waking up today to find that their computer is running fake software. The latest Windows Update is Microsoft’s biggest push to date to encourage or force people to give cash to the (obviously) cash-starved company. I reckon a shedload of people will be mighty annoyed as they ARE using “genuine” software, but it hasn’t detected it as such. Or they believed that it was, having been told that by the company that sold them the computer in the first place. Red faces all round.

Either way, there’s only one way to know with 100% certainty that your computer is running non-pirated or incorrectly installed software. One way to guarantee that your own data isn’t going to be wiped clean overnight after a Windows Update discovers you’re not “genuine” and Microsoft tightens the screws just a little tighter.

Install Linux.

Go on. Go to and they’ll even ship you an installation CD for free. They’ll throw in a Live CD too, so you can try Linux out without installing a thing. Heck, they’ll send you 10 or 50, so you can pass it on to your friends, all for free, and for real. Now, that’s a Genuine Advantage.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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