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Razer Linux Distro

Discussion in 'The Linux Corner' started by Hactar88, Apr 6, 2017.

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  1. Why on earth does the average user NEED systemd?

    I just installed Arch-OpenRC, it can be made simpler with a little effort, it's a non-issue. However tweaking the drivers for the specific hardware, is an issue. Few things annoy people more than user interface hardware and software that does not work flawlessly, specially at this price bracket. That would mean a lot of irate phone calls if it didn't work flawlessly.

    I don't see Razer getting around a small dedicated staff of one(1). Particularly for customizing the widgets/drivers for the keyboard/mouse (colors, response and macros), display(sleep/hibernate, etc), finger print reader, and cool stuff like the top emblem lights.

    However, that small staff can, as Mr.ShoNuff said, probably handle the tweaking of an Arch install for Razer. Because these tweaks only have to work on Razer hardware, the kernel would be compiled specifically for the Razer, with the only drivers being loaded being for the Razer hardware. That would make it a lean O/S, even for linux.

    As Ikcl and Mr.ShoNuff indicated, Razer would not be taking on a distribution, just tweaking the installs for the specific Razer hardware, that being all of three (3) models: Stealth, Blade and Pro.
    Hactar88 likes this.
  2. Mr.ShoNuff

    Mr.ShoNuff New Member

    I said it suits their needs... not that the they actually NEED systemd. Personally I prefer init; but most of the distros have moved on to systemd --> not saying we have to follow suit either... just saying. I guess the thing to think about is how much of a difference in time it will make to maintain one over the other and whether security is really enough of a concern or can that be mitigated where this is a non-issue.

    If init is chosen, so be it, I am for it. If it is the overwhelming choice than we need to immediately focus efforts on some good udev development. I am not sure if anyone has ever used Dynebolic linux distro but those responsible for it do an exceptional job with udev (best I have seen)... you plug things in.... doesn't matter what the device is... it finds it and sets it up without missing a beat (well the things I have tried have worked... haven't tried every single thing), though it has been a while since I last tried it but would still recommend research and mimicking what they have done to apply to an Arch build if my experience with that platform is still applicable. Plug and play has to be fluid! Udev setting has be a crucial focus! Making this easy has to be first.... if a cli is required to install anything then we have lost the fight.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2017
  3. The time issue seems to be unchallenged here. A responsive distribution maintainer like Arch is a hands-down winner. Further, if Razer does select Arch as their default distribution, that being the one where Razer sets up the configuration scripts for Razer hardware, then there will likely be good will on both sides and a synergy that results.

    Security and systemd are mutually exclusive. Where linux was intended to have one module do one thing well and configuration and log files be text, systemd is a monolithic program that does more things with every update. Further, it keeps binary config files and logs, great places to stash encryption passwords with any kind of stenography for later retrieval. Basically leaving the combination to a vault taped to the outside of the vault door.

    Lastly, think about the market. Razer is high end. People expect a lot for the amount of money they pay, reliability being first and foremost.

    Systemd has made the linux root process do more than it was intended. Prior to systemd, short of a hardware failure, there was no need to reboot a linux system if a program failed. The root process didn't really do much and could not be compromised. The memory from an errant or killed process was reclaimed and if needed or desired, relaunched. That means you could leave linux running indefinitely for hosting games, etc. and still use it for other things simultaneously, without fear of interruption because of a need to reboot.

    Linux users are discovering that systemd has degraded the reliability of linux to that of windows, where the entire system has to be rebooted if a program fails.

    The top two non-systemd distributions to select from are Arch-OpenRC or Manjaro-OpenRC. Razer could to adopt one (is that better Ickl?) and configure it for the three(3) platforms. And if they share common hardware, then it is less configuration work.

    But the most important thing is to get the drivers for the Razer hardware (on Razer systems only if need be) working for all linux distributions. Then you pick up the rest of the linux market.
  4. There's some software in place, it just didn't take off. It remains to be seen if Valve is waiting for Vulkan to get critical mass before making a new effort, or if they just gave up. Hard to say with Valve.
  5. Mr.ShoNuff

    Mr.ShoNuff New Member

    Time is an issue. You are suggesting going back to archaic configuration files... which means time troubleshooting! Systemd solved the majority of issues surrounding time needed to individually inspect and manipulate configuration files and has made life better for maintainers --> which is why all the distros have moved to Systemd. To take a step back may not alienate hardcore linux user (like yourself and I) from using an init based distro... but you risk losing potential adopters of a linux Razer product because you've complicated matters.

    This is a non issue. Programs and processes can be killed and restarted without reboot. I have never had issues where I needed to restart unless I manually compiled and installed a new kernel. I had to ask some other Red Hat/Centos server maintainers to see whether they could validate what you are saying but found none who had the issue you've painted... and these guys maintain some high level equipment.

    This is a good debate... if there are more people on your side for init then maybe I am wrong. I'll wait to see whether others chime in on this one but I think if we went your route we are going to create more issues than necessary.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
  6. Further to the unfolding debate between alphacrash and Mr.ShoNuff... I'd like to add a highly non-technical perspective:

    I have a degree in computer science (many years back) and worked in the IT industry for a number of years. I can even enjoy getting into the details of customizing my machine on that rare rainy afternoon.

    But for the most part I simply want to use my machine as a tool with which to accomplish all the other cool stuff I do - research and writing, running my alchemical superfood and tonic herb company, making music, the occasional game.

    For me a computer is like a toaster. I am most interested in eating toast. I want to walk into the room, make toast, eat and then chill in the garden with my lady. I don't care too much how a toaster works, I just want it to work, perfectly. And I want it to not distract me from eating toast!

    Apple is aware of this particular point of view, and the demographic that espouses it, and this why they have been so successful as a company. There is a lot to be said about how they are badly losing their way in the post-Jobs era. And there is a lot to be said for Linux as a shining example of free software philosophy - a concept I resonate deeply with.

    And which is why I have decided to abandon the Mac ecosystem after being there for fifteen years. So I am going to embrace Linux instead. And Razer makes the coolest hardware I've ever seen (though quality control complaints seem common - I hope Razer addresses this?). So that's where I want to go: Razer plus Linux.

    About eight or nine years ago, I decided to convert the computers in my office (all Macs) to run Ubuntu. It worked to a point, but I was distracted by the tending of the machines and trying to get them to run smoothly, so I eventually went back to using OSX. I don't want to repeat that.

    In summary what I personally want is to be able to buy a Razer Blade Pro pre-loaded with Linux —whether it's their own distro or one they've chosen to support— and get straight to work. I'd like to set it up so that it updates itself with critical updates, and I'd like my machine (the hardware and the software of it) to just run smoothly and perfectly and not disturb me.

    I'd like it to be "transparent" in the same way a pencil is. You pick it up, you write, and the pencil is forgotten. If it keeps breaking and you have to keep sharpening it then it disturbs your writing. And your creativity. And likewise crappy hardware would disturb your immersive gaming experience.

    Having the freedom to tinker in the OS is awesome and liberating and wonderful. But being required to do so is a monumental pain in the ass. And many people feel this way.

    And this is why I made the OP. I think Razer has the opportunity right now, to catapult itself into the stratosphere as a company, if they will do it what it takes to provide the "toaster" experience. There are literally millions of Apple users going WTF?? and looking for a new home.

    And I believe Razer could be it.

    I thought a custom Razer Linux distro built on CentOS, Elementary or whatever would have been the way to go, but some intelligent comments above suggest otherwise. Maybe a Razer distro is still the way. I don't know, and don't really care too much, as long as I can have a "just works perfectly all the time" experience.

    And it appears to me that a custom Razer Linux distro would do that. Or otherwise some other popular species of Linux pre-installed, all the optimum drivers in place, configured, working. Perfectly. First time. Always.

    So @Min-Liang Tan how about it? Do you want to give Tim Cook a bloody nose? There is a beautiful window right now and I, and millions of "dying to leave Apple for someone sexier", hope you do!

    To the undying marriage of awesome hardware and epic software!!!
    kodenkm and Mr.ShoNuff like this.
  7. Mr.ShoNuff

    Mr.ShoNuff New Member

    You basically summed up my approach... it needs to just work (perfectly with virtually zero gotchas or hiccups)... not be cumbersome to the everyday average user! Now all we need are some developer laptops... github accounts and schedule some skype time. Let's get this project going!
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
    Hactar88 likes this.
  8. No experience with it, but Void Linux uses runit by default. It looks slightly less intuitive than systemd init configuration, but not archaic.
  9. Mr.ShoNuff

    Mr.ShoNuff New Member

    Systemd is the standard... there's no getting around it. When systemd first appeard I was against it too... humans tend to avoid and fight back against change (even when that change is the clear better option). You know what's funny, there was some pushback against pulseaudio when it appeared and likely there are still some lingering people still advocating that people that should only rely on vanilla alsa--> while the rest of us enjoy pulseaudio's benefits.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2017
  10. Windows is the standard for gaming. Apple is the standard for higher end laptops. Standards come with downsides which provide niches.

    All my videos play ever so slightly too fast thanks to pulseaudio, imperceptible but annoying in some use cases. It's better than Alsa but there seems to be some fundamental screw up in its design (google shows this issue being around for ages). I wish someone major would deviate from the standard and provide a well maintained alternative.

    The problem with systemd is that it's creating massive amounts of duplication of functionality, increasing the attack surface of Linux. Also it's created by people without a shred of humility, which is bad because at most there are a handful of programmers in the world who don't need it. Everyone else inserts bugs at only a slightly lesser rate than the LOC's they write.

    Of course Linux is already incredibly insecure on a three letter agency level any way (decades on, still waiting for an alternative to X and it's complete lack of process isolation). Systemd increases it's insecurity at levels below that though.

    I make do with X/pulseaudio/systemd, I'd like better alternatives.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
    Hactar88 likes this.
  11. Mr.ShoNuff

    Mr.ShoNuff New Member

    I'll respond to this with a link: https://nvd.nist.gov/vuln/detail/CVE-2016-10156 Hopefully we can move past discussing systemd???

    ...and the pulseaudio issue might be something not configured correctly... I would clear your configs and start fresh
    Hactar88 likes this.
  12. This is an indication of the present Apple users who are ready to come over to a Razer + Linux combination that works seamlessly: https://mjtsai.com/blog/2016/10/27/new-macbook-pros-and-the-state-of-the-mac/ (no-one's going back to Windows).

    Razer's hardware design aesthetics and commitment to the highest spec machines is reminiscent of what made Apple great as a working platform in years gone by. If we can now create a Linux experience that allows for a similarly smooth and efficient workflow in a way that OSX does, then we have the next ideal platform IMHO.

    I'd be interested to hear people's ideas about about what it would take to get Linux to a comparable level of optimum workflow usability. And which distro most directly provides that...
    kumarin likes this.

  13. Not limiting sales per se, but limiting the scope of support. A single distro should
    enable Razer Devs and Contributors focus their efforts and make the drivers and software
    work seamlessly.

    That is why it makes more sense to have a single distro. Drivers for other distros
    could work but may not fully supported by Razer Devs and Contributors, I'm sure patches
    for Razer Drivers and Software (if open-sourced) will eventually pop up, if a user with
    a specific distro is dying to make the drivers work with their distro.

    I do think Linux is cool because of functionality in terms of cost, perfromance and
    customizations i can do with it. Cool should automatically be implied. Naming/Branding
    after Razer is because the focus of the distro is a Razer Product+Drivers+Software.
    Just like a typical Linux Distro, it is not marketed but is only used by people that
    has a use for it.

    This will be a marketing point Razer can do to attract users to use a Linux distro. And
    I quote you said:

    Trying to brand a linux O/S distro is basically starting a losing marketing battle and
    increasing costs for it. The money is better spent on drivers for the hardware.

    I agree, efforts should be focused on developing and improving drivers+software.

    I think this point should be: "Option for an Additional Drive" and I agree with the thoughts you mentioned.
    However, a linux user should be able to figure out how to work around this issue and again, development
    of the distro should be given more effort than marketing a feature that "might" be useful for some. Laptops
    will not replace desktops.

    kumarin and Hactar88 like this.
  14. lkcl_

    lkcl_ New Member

    i've explained a couple of times why that is an extremely bad idea, for a company that has no understanding of OSes because it is a hardware company. it's also independently illustrated clearly in one of the other responses by one of the other people on this thread, who has had experience in dealing with the aftermath of crap packaging that wasn't properly maintained (and it *will* end up not being properly maintained)

    you have to bear in mind that microsoft forces companies like this to buy hard drives with OSes pre-installed. microsoft spends *vast* sums of money to ensure that that OS comes pre-installed. doing anything different from that requires that the hardware company spend its *OWN* money. system76 specifically decided to base its entire marketing strategy on preinstalled GNU/Linux OSes, thus recouping that investiment of effort.

    razer is not anywhere remotely near converting over its entire userbase over to GNU/Linux distros: it's a gaming hardware company, pure and simple.

    so their most sensible option is to contract someone who knows what the hell they're doing to create them a "golden image" that's slapped onto the SSDs at factory build time. no PPAs, no "special packages". just configurations of EXISTING PACKAGES that have been set up - once and only once - then put onto the internet for end-users to take responsibility for if they mess up and require a reinstall.

    the less they do the better, in other words. not even calling it "an officially supported OS".
  15. Razer is a hardware company and of course one or majority of their hardware division has understanding
    how an operating system works, they write their drivers for their hardware you know?

    The key to making a Razer distro successful is if it were an open source project, as this will be maintained
    by the community that owns razer products running on *nix sytems.

    Razer asked its community about supporting Linux, there might not be gamers who are willing to move to
    Linux but there's a good number of "gamer-developer" who aren't willing to switch to windows as their
    primary operating system, myself as an example; I really want to get one of the Blades, but if drivers
    for linux aren't available, I don't really need an expensive machine with an operating system I dislike,
    I'll just game with my desktop and work on my macbookpro.

    Hactar88 and kumarin like this.
  16. Mr.ShoNuff

    Mr.ShoNuff New Member

    Totally agree with all you said... but, if they are going to sell laptops with a brand of linux installed and sold by the company... that's basically owning the cow. It has to be supported by somebody... however, that somebody should not be Ubuntu... just a bad idea.

    Drivers aren't a significant issue for linux (and likely not an issue for Razer).. it's not 10 years ago where it was a legitimate concern. I think most people would switch to linux if they had the same experience they get from windows and mac.... but too many people in our community want a an experience that suits there idea of a hardcore linux user... not what the average Joe wants --> to be able to use things without thinking.

    Gamers would definitely switch to linux... but there are too many games that would be left out from their catalog of choices because developers don't really develop for linux. That has been changing though... and as the Vulkan API is implemented in future games, I truly think the you will see a transition of people deciding to come over --> so, Razer is definitely thinking towards the future! But until that time, when Vulkan is in full swing... (my estimation: should be within 12 months because so many developers seem to be jumping aboard) Until this is widespread, if you read earlier, I recommended gpu-pass-through... which would eliminate the need to dual boot but all games (every pc game available)would be able to be played with no real cost to performance.
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
    kumarin and Hactar88 like this.
  17. There are currently two versions of Linux which can provide something close to this, on two sets of hardware. ChromeOS and Android, on official Chromebooks and Android devices created with a Google license.

    Google is the shining example of how to create a user friendly Linux, the fact that they are a browser centric advertising agency causes them to make some unfortunate design decisions ... but still, the shining example.

    If you want completely unconstrained hardware and it's assumed users will often have low level third party software installed you either end up with the Herculean task Microsoft faces and frequently fails at. Or you end up with the sloppy development model of "normal" Linux distros with lacklustre QA and no real attempt to make the system completely user friendly, because in the end it's wasted effort ... it will only ever be useful for users who don't mind the CLI tinkering when something breaks every so often.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
    Hactar88 likes this.
  18. Mr.ShoNuff

    Mr.ShoNuff New Member

    I think Hectar88 hit the nail on the head with his explanation of the regular users thoughts regarding an OS.... and while I agree with your assessment on the functionality of ChromeOS, and what you say about sloppy development in linux (which I think you are primarily talking about the desktop environments).... I would like to add that most linux users are only that --> users of an OS where they lack the skill or desire do anything outside of the the desktop environment/gui and... which is fine because when using a modern OS the greater majority of normal people just want the thing to work without the extra work. *most long time linux uers have never even compiled a kernel themselves so.....

    This whole discussion has been to work off of an already established distro, setup a Razer repository to provide Razer specific updates( kernel, drivers, etc.) where things work flawlessly because it is tailored to a specific product. This can be done, with no headache and no reliance upon the consumer/end user having to touch a cli. Things break in linux most of the time because the OS releases and application updates have to be a one size fits all type situation for a plethora of different manufactureres and hardware types. What many of us in this thrad is describing as a solution is one distro configured specifically to one product that has the same hardware all other users of that product model have... and before a Razer repository provides an update... Razer tasts that update on their own in-house product line (the same hardware users have purchased)... this is what hte pros do at the corporate/enterprise level. So the breaking you mentioned earlier does not really apply to this situation (sure they may be some things that may occur) but it won't be anything that occurs in the baseline configuration that would happen unexxpectedly.

    BTW, if you want to run the ChromeOS desktop in linux it can be done (which might be a good idea)... however, I would rely upon Arch (or Debian) as the underlying distribution.
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
    kumarin and Hactar88 like this.
  19. Another interesting article for Razer to look at http://www.pcworld.com/article/3144...pro-17-and-make-your-laptops-great-again.html which indicates how much traction this dialog already has.

    I think Apple has become too arrogant to bow to this idea which is why the Razer Blade Pro can easily become the de facto Designer / Developer / Creative Professional machine for all the people who would otherwise have wanted to use a 17" Macbook Pro.

    This, paired with a perfectly working distro (taking into account the comments of pinkysbrain and Mr.ShoNuff immediately above) will allow Razer to become a major market leader even outside of the gaming community.
  20. It's not so much ChromeOS ... it's the package deal of ChromeOS and their use of limited licensed hardware configurations. Each version of the hardware gets a name (I have a Lulu for instance). This allows proper QA and remote maintenance.

    I actually don't think Razer is the best company to do this though, it should be Valve which turns Linux not only into a gaming OS but also more general purpose. Given the fact they are now selling applications on Steam they should expand the scope of SteamOS in my opinion.

    As I said earlier in the thread, Chromebooks are also by far the most open modern laptops. Which is relevant to some Linux users. If Razer doesn't at least copy their use of coreboot/seabios they aren't even trying. Would require some custom development to make it work reliably with Windows 10, but licensing some closed source bios isn't free either ... throw the coreboot/seabios devs some cash.
    Hactar88 likes this.
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