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After three months of Ubuntu and incessant tinkering with wine to get my beloved games to work, I’ve started looking for options. It’s not so much wine itself that’s the problem, as the fact that I’m wholly incapable of leaving well enough alone. If my fps in WoW isn’t exactly how I like it, I need to tinker, and in my noobishness my tinkering will most of the time lead to a few days of total laptop breakdown and constant reinstalling of graphics drivers – or some such – before I’m back to where I started. Which is fine, I usually learn heaps, but I dunno if I’m really getting anywhere. It’s frustrating.

My latest obsession is The Sims 3. I played the other two Sims when I still suffered windows to exist on my laptop, and it’s a good game. Sort of pointless, yes, and my obsession with the games usually end after a few days (occasionally weeks depending on what challenge I set myself) when I realize that even though killing people in creative ways is heaps of fun, in the end playing a game that emulates real life as opposed to playing real life isn’t all that satisfying.

Despite this, I have decided that I want to try The Sims 3. The graphics look sweet and I’m very curious about their new fake-personality-system. It looks intriguing. In addition, I’m sure they must have added some more ways to kill off the sims. Sadly, after three days of completely blowing off much needed exam-studying (such is the life of the easily obsessed), I’ve given up on wine and realized that there is no way I’m going to get The Sims 3 to work with my Ubuntu-wine combo – for now. Eventually I’m sure someone will find an efficient way around it, I know some people can already get it to work fairly well on linux with wine, but for now it’s looking hopeless.

If I were a sensible person I’d now give up on playing a game I know I’m gonna be sick of in a week, or alternatively wait until exams are over on Wednesday and take the boyfriend up on his offer to let me play Sims 3 on his *shutters* vista laptop. But since said Vista laptop played a large part in bringing me to tears while trying to install the damn game in Ubuntu, I’m having a hard time accepting this rather shitty middle road. And of course the really important issue here isn’t that I get to play Sims 3, but rather that I get Sims 3 to work on my damn laptop. I’ll probably happily remove it afterwards, I just need to get it to work. I shall not let the idiot game producers’ refusal to let us play the best games natively on linux stand in my way! Power to the open software users! And such. Mostly though, I’m just being stubborn.

So, options. I checked out Cedega, and though I’ve been sceptical of it for many reasons (1. They charge. Grrr.  2. Wine’s worked pretty well for WoW so far.  3. They claim to give back to the Wine project, but we all know thats bullshit.), I’ve decided to give it a go. It really isn’t expensive and I’m selfish enough that I’ll say good luck to Wine and go with the program that actually lets me do what I want. And Sims 3 supposedly works with Cedega. So that’s sorted then.

Of course, I can’t leave it at that. It’s too simple. I also started looking around to see if any distro is better than the others for gamers. Ubuntu 9.04 is mostly fabulous, and as a first time user of linux, it’s been great to me (at least once I ditched 8.10 and went straight for the beta). But what with the whole “can’t leave well enough alone”-thing, I feel like doing some distro hopping now that I’m confident enough on linux that I know I’m not gonna break everything. Or if I do, I can probably fix it. Or if I can’t, someone else can fix it.  So although the “distro for gamers”-search has been pretty inconclusive, I did make me take a second look at Mint.

I doubt Mint is actually gonna be better for playing games on, but I can hope. It’s got several bright spots, though. First, they come with loads of codecs and proprietary good stuff bundled that in Ubuntu needs to be installed, which in theory is not a problem but in practice tends to end up being annoying at best. I’m not too concerned with the whole proprietary issue (especially since I legally own both Vista and XP, I figure I’m gonna use their stuff for all it’s worth and screw the bastards. They tricked me into Vista anyway, and should really be paying me for the trauma they caused). I can’t really tell how much I need the various codecs and such that come with Mint, I honestly can’t claim that there’s a codecs-hole in my life at the moment. But what the hell. Anything that spares me potential work is good in my book, especially since I tend to create so much of it for myself anyway.
Second, Mint has a pretty design. I love Ubuntu, but come on… It’s not exactly pretty. Despite compiz and the fancy desktop cube and everything, Ubuntu is very short on the basic eye candy. I’m easy like that. I like my eye candy.

So of course, I tried the live cd. Long live live cds. And I’ve gotta say, I’m disappointed. Sure it all looks very nice, but they’ve forgotten something very important. Usability.
Basically, I get a sense that they’ve copied Vista when it comes to menu layouts, and I’m sure they’ve done a lot of that to make it an easy first linux distro to try, and like I said, it does look shiney. But it doesn’t work, for much the same reasons Vista doesn’t work and in fact makes me cry every time I have to use it. I realize a lot of people love the Mint menu over the standard Gnome menu, but I’ve got some very good reasons for stating that the usability is worse. It’s all about how long it takes you to find stuff.
When you first think about it, I’m sure sticking everything in one menu seems like a good way to help people find what they need. Wrong. What this does if, you have five times as meny icons to search from to find the one you need. Yes, you’ll get used to it. Yes, after using Mint for a few hours or days, I’m gonna know where the icon I wanna click is located. But that’s not what it’s about. If I wanted to spend time learning how to use an OS, I would have stuck with Vista. I’m sure another year would have taught me find all the stuff I ever needed easily. But a good design doesn’t rely on you learning where stuff is. It’s intuitive, and this really is alpha and omega.

Mint main menu

Mint main menu

I’m an impatient person. If it takes me two seconds longer to search for a function, I get frustrated. Because I know it can be done better. If I use Mint, I have a huge window with lots of icons that I need. If I use the standard Gnome desktop, things are more logically divided. Applications, places, system. Doesn’t take a lot of thinking to figure out in which one the function I want is. Submenus, easily identified and located. Yes, it’s 3 clicks extra to get from A to B, but you won’t be doing any learning or memorizing or searching with your eyes to find it. It’s just there. It may seem like a simple and tiny thing to be annoyed by, but I can assure you, the ammount of money large companies like Google, Apple or Microsoft (although the latter clearly misplaced the report when they made Vista) spend on research to find out stuff like where our eyes go first when we reach a new website or try a new piece of software, the places we look and the visual clues we search for, how long this takes us and how long it takes before we give up and look for something else (in my case about <0.5 second…), you’d be amazed.

All this because you can’t underestimate how important it is for new software to be intuitive as opposed to memorized.

So…. that’s a rather large rant on a detail I fully realize I can simply remove and replace with the standard gnome menu. Yeah I know. But the few minutes I spent with Mint made me so frustrated to find myself back in Vista’s silly setup made by competent people who just forgot such an important thing, that I needed to unload.

It might still be Mint for me, but I was hoping for a truly no-configuring-needed distro where my ability to make things complicated for myself would be squashed at the get go. I guess there’s no hope of that.

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