The Linux Experiment: One Month Later

It has been roughly a month since I switched from using Windows 10 as my main operating system to Linux. The reasons for that have all been detailed in The Switching Windows to Linux Experiment blog post. Now I will share a few of the experiences I have made during the first month (it’s been that long already) and what I think about how well it is going.

Let me address the elefant in the room first, the distribution. I think that is likely the first question you, the reader, would ask. The short answer is Pop!_OS by System76.

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Comparing Java Optional vs C++ STL optional

Optionals in Java have been around for some time now, basically since the release of version 8. My other language of choice, C++, has received this feature in version C++17. Since I am currently in the process of writing some C++ code, I was curious how they were implemented there. Optionals are trying to solve a problem that is likely to plague any language. What shall a method or function return if there is no value? Or shall it not return anything but instead start crying like a petulant child and throw an exception?

As an introduction, let me dive a little bit into why we need optionals (or do we?) and compare two different implementations of this concept, one being java.util.Optional and the other C++ std::optional. I chose to compare these two language for several reasons:

  1. I work with Java in my day job, so I have a good idea of how it works there.
  2. As mentioned, C++ is one of the languages I know quite well too.
  3. The main reason: both optional implementations are add-on classes rather than language features. More on that later.
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Debian Testing “Bullseye”: The Repository Does Not Have a Release File

After installing Debian Testing "Bullseye" mid March 2020 I got an error trying to run apt update.

E: The repository 'http://security.debian.org./debian-security 
bullseye/updates Release' does not have a Release file.

Unfortunately, the Debian maintainers managed to let a bug creep into the /etc/apt/sources.list. It’s called "Testing" for a reason, I guess.

The offending lines are this.

deb http://security.debian.org/debian-security/ bullseye/updates main
deb-src http://security.debian.org/debian-security/ bullseye/updates main

Note "bullseye/updates", which is where the error is. Change those two lines to look like this.

deb http://security.debian.org/debian-security/ bullseye-security main
deb-src http://security.debian.org/debian-security/ bullseye-security main

After that, the update will work. I have noticed that in a later version of the installer this bug has been fixed.

Debian Testing “Bullseye”: NVIDIA Driver Install

Debian’s documentation on installing the proprietary NVIDIA driver does not (yet) cover the "Bullseye" release because, as of the time of writing, it is still in testing. However, the documentation for Debian 10 "Buster" can still be used.

The main difference is that there is no "backports" for "Bullseye" – although I have found the folders on repo mirrors. At least to me they seemed to be there. Anyway.

What you have to do is to add "contrib" and "non-free" to your main mirror definition, not to backports. You don’t need to add a repo for backports because you’ll only get an error.

(Unfortunately, I haven’t made a note of the error message)

This is what you have to do:

  • Open /etc/apt/sources.list as sudo/root.

  • Add "contrib" and "non-free" to the end of the main repo so it looks like this.

    deb http://deb.debian.org/debian bullseye main contrib non-free

(The observant among you might have noticed that the feature image is from a Pop!OS installation, not Debian. I’ve since changed the distribution.)

The Switching Windows to Linux Experiment

(Beware of the many text)

For the longest time I have been a Windows user. My first computer came with Windows 98 SE (ignoring the Amiga before it) and I’ve used Windows as the main operating system for almost all that time since then. There was a brief excursion into the Apple world for about a year or two, but apart from that: Microsoft’s creation. It’s not that I have not tried using Linux, it’s just that for many years my needs could not be easily satisfied by a Linux based operating system. For one, I have always enjoyed PC gaming and I still do. I’ve tried going with a console, but that was one of the worst decisions I had made in 2019. There also was a long period where I had used my computer as a TV, a time where Youtube and all the other streaming services hadn’t existed. And although I had managed to get the TV tuners to somehow work, it was not comparable to the experience on Windows. For my use case, over all those years, Microsoft’s OS simply was the Vulkan choice. But now in 2020, this isn’t the case anymore. Things have changed, including the maturity of Linux as well as my own needs and my views. Therefore, it’s about time that I revisit this topic.

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Benchmark RX 570 vs. RX 5700 XT vs. GTX 1660 Super, Ryzen 2600 OC, 3600MHz RAM

At the end of last year, I was researching GPUs like a madman, trying to find the best option for price and performance and maybe also have some headroom for a future CPU upgrade. My starting point was a Ryzen 5 2600, 16 GB of 3000 MHz CL15 RAM and an AMD RX 570 with 8 GB of VRAM. A very good performance per buck machine in the summer of 2019 for 1080p gaming. It was purpose-built to be cheap with an upgrade path in the near future. However, my inner hardware enthusiast didn’t want to be content. It also didn’t help that the two games I was playing at that time performed rather poorly (which was the games fault, but you take every excuse you can get to buy new stuff).

Putting that aside, I have data of three graphics cards to compare, tested in four games at three different in-game settings – plus a custom one for two games that I used for playing. In addition to that, I have a bit of CPU overclocking as a result of troubleshooting and a RAM upgrade from a 3000 MHz CL15 kit to a 3600 MHz CL17 kit – which is running at 3400 MHz. More wasn’t possible with this motherboard and CPU. This post isn’t about the CPU overclocking though. I did that to see if the 5700 XT was limited by the R5 2600 and would perform better with a faster CPU. Well no surprise there, but as it turned out, the numbers I found were not caused by the CPU. More on that later.

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Far Cry 5 Coop Review

The Far Cry series has been going on for several years now without changing too much of the core game mechanics since the first Far Cry I have played – which was Far Cry 3. What’s new in FC5 is a coop mode that lets you play the main campaign with a buddy. Far Cry 3 had some form of coop as well, but it worked differently by presenting a story unrelated to the game’s single player campaign. I’m not sure how version 4 handled multiplayer, but to my knowledge Far Cry 5 is the first Far Cry to support coop gameplay. It has a few quirks though, which unfortunately still doesn’t make it a 100% coop enabled game. We nevertheless decided to give it a spin and here are my thoughts about the game, its story and gameplay and how the coop experience was.

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Spring @ConfigurationProperty a Bean or not?

Semi-recently (“semi” because procrastination kept me from writing, so it’s more like two months ago, but blog posts have to start with “recently” when you try to explain yourself why you are writing what you are writing – but I’m getting sidetracked here, so let’s move on) I was wondering whether Java classes annotated with Spring’s @ConfigurationProperty should be declared as a bean, e.g. with @Component. I didn’t find a definitive answer, but I found three ways on how to do it – typical Spring, I guess.

Here’s a quick setup:

My configuration class.

package com.thecodeslinger.configpropsdemo;

import lombok.Data;
import org.springframework.boot.context.properties.ConfigurationProperties; 

@Data 
@ConfigurationProperties(prefix = "demo")
public class Configuration {

    private String elegy;
}

My main application:

package com.thecodeslinger.configpropsdemo;

import org.springframework.beans.factory.annotation.Autowired;
import org.springframework.boot.SpringApplication;
import org.springframework.boot.autoconfigure.SpringBootApplication;

import javax.annotation.PostConstruct;

@SpringBootApplication
public class ConfigPropsDemoApplication {

   @Autowired
   private Configuration configuration;

   @PostConstruct
   public void postConstruct() {
      System.out.println(configuration.getElegy());
   }

   public static void main(String[] args) {
      SpringApplication.run(ConfigPropsDemoApplication.class, args);
   }
}

And finally, my properties file:

demo.elegy=R.I.P. Kobe

It’s not an elegant setup, but that’s not the point. It does the job for now.

If you run the application in this state, Spring will greet you with an error message.

APPLICATION FAILED TO START

Description:
Field configuration in com.thecodeslinger.configpropsdemo.ConfigPropsDemoApplication required a bean of type 'com.thecodeslinger.configpropsdemo.Configuration' that could not be found.
The injection point has the following annotations:
- @org.springframework.beans.factory.annotation.Autowired(required=true)
Action:
Consider defining a bean of type 'com.thecodeslinger.configpropsdemo.Configuration' in your configuration.

It obviously cannot find the configuration bean.

Option #1: Slap @Component to it.

package com.thecodeslinger.configpropsdemo;

import lombok.Data;
import org.springframework.boot.context.properties.ConfigurationProperties;
import org.springframework.stereotype.Component;

@Data
@Component
@ConfigurationProperties(prefix = "demo")
public class Configuration {

    private String elegy;
}

Option #2: Use the @EnableConfigurationProperties annotation.

import org.springframework.boot.context.properties.EnableConfigurationProperties;

@SpringBootApplication
@EnableConfigurationProperties(Configuration.class)
public class ConfigPropsDemoApplication {

Option #3: Use @ConfigurationPropertiesScan to explicitly name the packages to scan for.

import org.springframework.boot.context.properties.ConfigurationPropertiesScan;

@SpringBootApplication
@ConfigurationPropertiesScan({"com.thecodeslinger.configpropsdemo"})
public class ConfigPropsDemoApplication {

All three options achieve what you’re aiming for, a running application.

:: Spring Boot :: (v2.2.4.RELEASE)
2020-02-03 19:57:43.562 INFO 4612 --- [ main] c.t.c.ConfigPropsDemoApplication : Starting ConfigPropsDemoApplication on DESKTOP-C0O3OKC with PID 4612 (D:\OneDrive\Code\Java\config-props-demo\target\classes started by lober in D:\OneDrive\Code\Java\config-props-demo)
2020-02-03 19:57:43.562 INFO 4612 --- [ main] c.t.c.ConfigPropsDemoApplication : No active profile set, falling back to default profiles: default
R.I.P. Kobe
2020-02-03 19:57:43.921 INFO 4612 --- [ main] c.t.c.ConfigPropsDemoApplication : Started ConfigPropsDemoApplication in 0.573 seconds (JVM running for 1.083)

So, is there any benefit of one over the other? The Spring documentation has the following to say:

Sometimes, classes annotated with @ConfigurationProperties might not be suitable for scanning, for example, if you’re developing your own auto-configuration or you want to enable them conditionally. In these cases, specify the list of types to process using the @EnableConfigurationProperties annotation. This can be done on any @Configuration class, as shown in the following example:

I’m not using a @Configuration class in my example, but if you were, you could leverage that to load your configuration classes based on @Profile annotations. Although @Component works too, it’s not mentioned in that part of the Spring documentation (“Type-safe Configuration Properties”).

For myself, I might go with @EnableConfigurationProperties and if it makes sense, even have dedicated @Configuration classes linked to @Profile. For little samples like this one it’s obviously overkill. In a remotely useful application, the additional overhead may be worth it for structural and documentational reasons.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands – Coop Review

It was a dark night. Rain was pouring relentlessly from the heavens as a helicopter made its way across the border to Bolivia, going unnoticed against the black clouds. Any of the chopper’s noises were suppressed by the droning rain and constant thunder in the sky. Its destination was a remote location, a secret safe house where an equally secret meeting will be held. The helicopter’s passengers were a group of well-trained covert operatives and their handler. These were the kind of people you only call upon in dire need, when circumstances don’t allow anything other than an elite group of soldiers that can get any job done regardless of difficulty or danger. And all that without ever being noticed. They are effectively ghosts and haunt whomever they have been unleashed on. This time around their target is El Sueño, the biggest and most ruthless drug lord in Bolivia.

And this is where you as the player come in. The story is nothing particularly spectacular, but it provides a good enough canvas for an entertaining open world action game that justifies why you do what you do. I’ve played this game all the way to end in coop mode and this my review of the roughly 75 hours it took.

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AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT Stuttering at 1080p

Quick note before I go into any details: I did not find a solution for this problem, unfortunately. I’ll be explaining what happened and show frame time graphs as proof.

So, with that out of the way, let’s get into it. I’m certainly not the only one with this issue. If you employ the search engine of your liking you will find many threads covering that topic (like here and here and here and here and so on). Some managed to get it working, some did not. I’m obviously in the latter category.

What happens? From what I found in my research it seems like the RX 5700 XT GPU aggressively tries to save energy if it is not fully utilized. If you run MSI’s Afterburner or any other monitoring software, then you’ll see the GPU load and frequency being all over the place. In general, this is a good thing – if it does not affect perceived performance. And this is where it fell apart for me.

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Wolfenstein: Youngblood – Coop Review

Wolfenstein Youngblood follows in the same footsteps as its three predecessors that sucessfully revived the series in 2009. Having liked Wolfenstein, The New Order and The New Colossus I thought that sharing that kind of game with a friend in Coop would be even better. This is the first installement in this series that allows you to do that and I’m a big fan of Coop gameplay. And by Coop I mean playing the regular campaign with a fellow gamer, not some unrelated multiplayer map or basic PvP action. I want to experience the story with somebody, have a ton of fun and discuss the game while playing it.

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Ryzen Master not Resetting to “Auto” Control Mode

Recently I set out to figure out how much clock speed I can squeeze out of my Zen+ based Ryzen 5 2600. To make life easier I figured I use Ryzen Master so I can change the settings while I’m in Windows so I don’t have to reboot every time I increase the clock speed. This has worked nicely until the point where I figured the viable maximum was. The next step was to dial those numbers "into hardware", meaning setting the options in the BIOS so that Ryzen Master is not required any more. And this is where my issues started to appear.

The Error

First, here’s a screenshot of the message Ryzen Master was giving me. After that I’ll explain what had happened.

In order to set the CPU multiplier you have to change from automatic to manual mode in Ryzen Master. I wanted to reset all options to their defaults after setting the overclock in the BIOS, but I always kept getting the message that Ryzen Master wants to restart Windows because the setting was changed to "Manual" – which it wasn’t, but more on that later. So I did as it asked multiple times with the same outcome every time. Effectively, I was doing a boot loop manually.

So, how did I get there?

The Journey

In brief:

  • Find a stable overclock in Windows using Ryzen Master.
  • Reboot to BIOS and set the overclock closer to the hardware.
  • Reboot to Windows and reset everything in Ryzen Master.
  • Manual "Boot Loop" a few times.
  • Notice CPU always at 4GHz, no more Cool’n’Quiet operation mode.
  • Undo overclock in BIOS.
  • Still see overclock in Windows.
  • Uninstalling Ryzen Master.
  • Still see overclock in Windows.
  • Ryzen Master still not resetting.
  • Manual "Boot Loop" a few more times.
  • Getting pissed and searching the Internet – apparantly I was not alone.
  • More reboots and tests with BIOS settings.

The Fix

It was the frickin’ BIOS! Ryzen Master was not to blame.

I have an ASRock B450 Gaming mITX mainboard with the latest non-Matisse (Ryzen 3000) BIOS. It is not recommended to upgrade unless a Ryzen 3000 is installed. There’s a weird bug in the BIOS that still applies the overclock even if the setting is set to "Auto by AMD CBS" (or something like that). There were two things that helped:

  1. Load BIOS defaults.
  2. Enable manual control and set the correct CPU base frequency at 3400MHz.

When applying the overclock with 4000MHz it effectly ran at 4GHz every time, even in idle. When setting 3400MHz it properly clocked down and also boosted as a R5 2600 should. The same setting only with a different clock value produced a different behavior. And unless the BIOS defaults are loaded the "Auto" mode doesn’t do what you expect – if you’ve set an overclock previously.

Curiously enough, booting Fedora Linux from an USB stick did properly scale the CPU frequency based on the load, even with the overclock applied. Apparently only Windows or AMD’s drivers didn’t manage to do that. Booting a Linux helped me to rule out Ryzen Master as the root of the always applied overclock although the BIOS setting was set to the default Auto mode.

The takeaways:

  • Don’t overclock on this mainboard.
    • The OC options for the CPU are laughable at best. No way to set the multiplier per core.
  • Next time buy a higher-end mainboard for overclocking (ITX is expensive though…).

Kotlin Object Expression – What more can object do?

In a previous post I explained what Kotlin Object Declarations are. This time around it’s about the declaration’s sibling, the Object Expression.

An object is not just a glorified static replacement or a singleton. object can be used where Java usually utilizes anonymous inner classes. Let’s look at a more realistic scenario: a JButton and an ActionListener or a MouseListener.

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Kotlin Object Declarations – The fake-static

Instead of implementing my own backup application as I had planned a long time ago, I’m wandering off (re)learning Kotlin after a long absence from that language. In my defense though, I’m doing it in the context of the backup app which will not be Java as originally intended (or maybe later for comparison, who knows, I obviously can’t be trusted with my plans). Putting that aside, the most confusing concept of Kotlin for a Java developer is the object. What is that thing doing that a class can’t do and how do we declare static fields and methods? I know it’s nothing new, but that part seems to have changed a bit since I used Kotlin about two (?) years ago. So, for me this is a refresh of old information and also something new and by writing about it I will engrave it in my brain once and for all. And your confusion will hopefully turn into some productive… fusion… of some sort… or so.

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Red Dead Redemption 2

I’ve been a gamer for a very long time – it’s easily been twenty years or more (yes, I’m old). But, in the past year or so, my excitement has been waning. I have mentioned in another blog post that I was planning to replace my big tower PC with a notebook for (mobile) coding and writing – which I have done – and, in the short- to mid-term, get a gaming console to replace the video gaming part of the PC with something more casual and affordable. This day has finally come and the first game I have played has been Red Dead Redemption 2. Now, this game was many firsts for me:

  • First non-digital game since Steam has launched. I bought it in a retail store on a BluRay disc.
  • First full-price video game at 60€. Before that, I have always been shopping for special offers and discounts.
  • First console game.

I think Red Dead Redemption is something very special and I will try to explain why I think that is. One thing is for sure and that is the fact that it has rekindled the fire within me to play a video game on-end without pause. Unlike the other game reviews/experience reports I have written so far, this one is a bit different. I started writing when I was about 40% through the game and added to it at different stages of progress. In short: it’s like a diary.

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