Tag Archives: ubuntu

First Impression: GameR-Mate Stik (Hardware) ~ Take Your Ubuntu Everywhere.

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Official website

Today I want to talk about something that has been in the works for quite a while. Last year, the folks over at BlackRangerSoftware sent me an mail promoting their newest product called the GameR-Mate Stik v1.0.0. I was going to write an article about it back then, but the devs created an updated version right after I sent them my feedback. On top of that, the COVID-19 outbreak and shipping something from the USA to Europe delayed this article until now. Now, with that said, I think it’s high time to talk about this product. Know that the developer asked for my 100% honest opinion and that’s what you are going to read in this article. Now, let’s take a look at the first physical product I’m going to review on my blog. Feel free to leave a comment with your opinions on the product and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.

What is GameR-Mate?

So, image this. An USB stick that you can plug into any computer that can run USB3.0 sticks and with that, you can play your games without affecting the computer itself. That’s GameR-Mate. The technical term for it is a Live-USB.

The latest version I received is running a modified version of Ubuntu 16.08. Now, what is Ubuntu? Let me tell you. So, to be able to run your computer, you need an operating system. An operating system is a sort of “translator”. It translates instructions from software to actual machine code. For example, when you make a new folder, the operating system gets that information from Windows or OSX and tells the hard drive: “Hey, make me a new folder on that location”. An operating system is much more than that, but for keeping this article simple, let’s not dive too much deeper into the inner working of computers.  

Now, the two biggest operating systems on the market are: Windows from Microsoft and OSX from Apple. Of course, you have Android from Google and iOS from Apple for smartphones. Let’s not forget ChromeOS for Chromebooks. And there is a special one as well. It’s called Linux.

Linux comes in a ton of flavors called “Distro’s”. Most of these distro’s are free to use and give you even more control of your computer than Windows and OSX. In the tech community, there are a lot of people who prefer using Linux to Windows or OSX. They enjoy the greater privacy control, ability to control every little thing about the system or just don’t want to pay for an operating system. There are many more reasons why people choose for Linux.

The userbase for Linux is rather small. According to NetMarketShare.com, the most used operating systems on the market are Windows (88,14%), Mac OSX (9,38%) and then Linux with (1,89%). Now, that’s mostly in the desktop and laptop space. Now, something quite “funny” happens when we look at the server side of things. Just take a look at datanyze.com with the comparisons between the usage of Windows Server and Ubuntu… Now, this is only just one website, but let me tell you from personal experience as an IT staff guy in a big school here in Belgium, we server techies prefer Linux distro’s for our servers in most cases over Windows server because it gives us more control over the system and is generally more lightweight so it uses less resources.

So, why am I putting so much effort into explaining Linux for this article? Especially in the section where I should be explaining what GameR-Mate actually is? Well, because Linux gives you the freedom to create very specific products without a lot of modifications. Just take a look at this list and you might be surprised on how much things run on Linux.

GameR-Mate is a special USB stick. So, you can boot to it and play your games and take it with you. The biggest limitation is that you need a “host” computer to be able to run it. So, if you don’t have a computer, you won’t be able to access your games. But that’s a limitation of each USB stick is it not?

What’s included?

Now, you can buy a GameR-Mate USB-stick right from Gamer-Mate.net. At the time of writing, the stick costs 70$ (discounted to 50$) which is give or take, 65 euro (45€ if it’s discounted). In order for you to be able to run your games, you need to have a computer that supports at least USB3.0. I have tested mine on older devices that don’t have an USB3.0 port and let me tell you, it wasn’t a fun time.

But, how do you know if your computer has USB3.0 ports? Well, in most cases these USB ports are blue. You can also double check that via the instructions in this article. So, after you placed your order, you get your GameR-Mate stick.

My stick arrived in a protective envelope that had the stick in a plastic bag stapled to a quick start guide. This quick start guide helps you to boot your computer to an USB stick instead of the actual operating system of your computer. Besides that, you get an user guide with explanation and some great information to get started using the stick. You also get a thank you letter from the CEO for buying the product. And finally you get a welcome letter as well.

I did get something additional, but that’s because I got a beta version of the product so I get some forms to fill in to give feedback on the product to create a better product. Personally, I think that they should include this with every purchase, even when the beta phase is over, you never know when it can come in handy.

The USB stick itself is made out of metal and plastic. It feels quite sturdy but you can remove the metal a bit too easily from the housing. Also, if you ever created USB sticks with your own print on them, you will recognize them right away. Maybe it’s a thing here in Belgium, but I got the same design of USB from various other places at events. I have the same model in yellow, green, blue and red. But, that’s nitpicking.

Something I missed with the USB-stick is a better way to store it. Now, I added an additional metal ring so I can attach it to a lanyard. I find that a bit more secure since during the research and testing I was doing for this article, my cat Troy knocked the USB stick underneath my desk while he was sleeping on my desk. Thanks to the lanyard, I was able to get it back from underneath my desk more easily. Now, adding a lanyard to the shipment might be too big of a cost, but adding a small metal ring to add it to your own lanyard would be lovely.

The experience

Depending on the hardware you run the stick on, the better performance you are going to get. Keep in mind that you need at least a port that can run USB3 sticks. In order to test this stick out, I tested this stick on my main machine. My main computer is running an i7-4820K, 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 666MHz and an MSI GTX 1050Ti. My motherboard is an ASROCK X79 Extreme 6. While this isn’t the strongest of systems out there, my computer is strong enough to run all the games I want to play at 30-60FPS at medium to high settings.

When you boot the stick, you can select various different modes. From what I can understand is that you can choose between loading it from the USB or load the system into RAM. There is also a recovery mode included. I had to use that once since an update failed to install and that corrupted my whole OS.

In the user guide, you get the advice to make frequent backups. If I had made a backup, I would have saved my first testing version from death. But yeah, I’m to blame since I thought I would be able to fix it since I used Linux various times during my studies and at work. But when you can even boot the OS, let alone go in recovery mode… Well, then you are quite screwed.

In a future article, I’ll take a look at the games that are included in this package. The list of pre-installed software is quite expansive. You can find the list at BlackRangerSoftware’s blog. Important footnote with this list, since this list is created during the development of the stick, it might be that some games aren’t included on the stick and/or on the list. But, I’m quite certain that the amount of games won’t change. Games that I could recommend are:

0AD, which is an open source RTS game like Age Of Empires

Alex 4, a lovely retro platformer in the style of an old Gameboy game.

B.A.L.L.Z, a platformer game where you are a ball and you need to use the bounce mechanics to your advantage.

Frogatto, this adventure platformer reminds me a lot of games like Shantae.

Sadly enough, there are some repeats. A lot of repeats actually. There are various Tetris-style, Pac-Man-style, Breakout-style… games. This gave me mixed feelings. At once hand, I love the choice I’m getting between all these various games. But at the other hand, I got the feeling that all of those games were just added to have a higher number of games to try and sell more sticks.

Is this GameR-Mate fun to use? If I have to answer that question, I’m going to have to add a disclaimer. There is going to be a learning curve if you have never worked with Linux. If you are used to Windows 10, there are a lot of things you will miss that you took for granted on your Windows machine. For example: seeing the password you are typing in, loading animations while settings are changing, double clicking a window to make it full screen, a place where all settings are combined into one place, a notification center…. It’s just not there in the Linux distro on the USB-stick. Now, do keep in mind that this can be updated and added in a future version of the stick.

But, you still have to learn a completely new operating system. While Linux has a lot of tutorials, due to the huge amount of different distro’s and differences between them, it can be quite overwhelming. So, give yourself some time and keep in mind that the system might work quite different compared to your Windows machine. Now, I do think that Apple users will have a better time adjusting to Linux since in a way, the user interface of Apple systems and Linux systems have various things in common. (Sidenote: while they have things in common, Apple OSX isn’t Linux and Linux isn’t OSX. But the flow in the OS can be similar.)

When you give this USB stick a chance, I think it might have the same effect on you then it has on me. I love to play around with unique ways to play games. I don’t mind honestly if the game is a retro or a current game. As long as I’m having fun while playing my games, it’s all that matters to me. So, I personally recommend this stick to people who love playing a ton of different games and/or people who travel a lot and aren’t able to take their main gaming rig with them. I think that the asking price is well worth it for the amount of value you are getting. Plus, you can always install more games from the various store fronts.

With that, I think I’m going to wrap up this first article on the GameR-Mate Stik. I want to thank BlackRangerSoftware for being so patient with me and also for giving me the opportunity to test out this product. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article and I wish you a great rest of your day and take care!

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Tutorial: Install games on your Ubuntu Server 14.04 using VirtualBox

ss (2015-01-28 at 04.30.24)I only got two lessons of Linux in class and I got kind of hooked. I wanted to do more with Linux. And because I’m a gamer, I decided to try and install games on Linux. After some trying out and fiddling around I was finally successful in installing a few games on my Ubuntu 14.04 server. So, in this tutorial I’ll also teach you guys how to install the Guest Additions. I installed it to, but I don’t know 100% if it’s actually needed. Anyways, enough stalling, let’s start. 

Needed stuffs

  • A working VirtualBox installation. If you don’t have that yet, get it here.
  • A working Ubuntu 14.04 or later server. If you don’t have that yet, get it here.
  • The GuestAdditions ISO. If you don’t have it, you can download it for version 4.3.20 here.
  • Your Ubuntu install should be able to connect with the internet. I use NAT in the settings and it works. Also your Ubuntu VM needs a cd-rom drive. If you don’t have it yet, the error that pops up then explains it quite clearly how to add one.

How to do this?

Part 1: Guest Additions

Step 1: Update apt-get

After you log in into your Ubuntu server, type in the command:

sudo apt-get update

Then give in your sudo password and wait a while until you can give in commands again. This updates the apt-get program in Linux. This program is used to install, update and get software from the internet. I might be wrong, but that’s what I used it for.

Step 2: Install 2 pieces of software to get Guest Additions running.

After you updated apt-get, let’s use it to now have install two pieces of software that you need in order to run guest additions.

sudo apt-get install dkms

sudo apt-get install build-essential

Together they take around 50-60 MB if I remember correctly. You will have to allow both installations by simply hitting the “y” key. This installation takes a minute or five.

A good suggestion is that after the two installs, you reboot your virtual machine. You can do this in two ways. You could either shutdown the VM and restart it by using:

sudo shutdown -h now

Or just let the VM do the job for you by:

sudo reboot

I didn’t need to enter my password, most likely since it still remembers it from the install of the programs.

Step 3: The CD.

After you downloaded the Guest Additions ISO file (I linked it more above in this post), you go to your VM and under the “Devices” tab, you pick “CD/DVD” and click “Choose a virtual CD/DVD file”. (note: I don’t know if it’s going to say that. My installation is in Dutch, so if it’s not 100% that, but something similar, forgive me.)

Then locate where you downloaded the Guest Additions ISO and click it so you can insert it in your Ubuntu. If there is an error message that VM doesn’t have a CD-ROM drive, read it and fix it. Be careful, in order to change those things you will need to shutdown the VM, otherwise the changes won’t be saved.

If there is any other error, try to allow it. Since I inserted the CD before I installed the two programs in step 2, I was a bit too quick, I got an error. I don’t remember what it said but I accepted it and I got it still working.

I know that the bottom says: “Install Guest Additions”. But when I used that, my installation wouldn’t find the CD after I mounted it. (I’ll explain that in the next step.) So yeah, that’s why I do it this way.

Step 4: Mount the disc.

ss (2015-01-28 at 04.55.22)After you got the disc in, you should go to your root and then to the media folder. I don’t go it the quickest way, but it’s the way I know it works. To experienced users, feel free to leave me a comment how to do it more efficiently.

You can see how I got there in the screenshot here. Ignore the first command to change my directory, I typed it wrong.

Confirm that there is a directory named cdrom. When you don’t have that directory there, make it. With mkdir cdrom of course. If you are having trouble, this tutorial is a great way to help you out.

Then you mount the ISO file you added in the previous step. This you can do by entering this command:

sudo mount /dev/cdrom /media/cdrom

When it’s successful, you should get the message: “mount block device /dev/sr0 is write-protected, read only.”

Step 5: Install the Guest Additions.

Now, get yourself into the directory /media/cdrom. When you list (using the ls command) the file there, it will list various files that start with VB. A few other files too. Those are all in the ISO you just mounted.

Now in order to install the guest additions, you simply do this command:

sudo ./VBLinuxAdditions.run

And you hit enter. Then it installs. For me, it took 2 minutes. The final line will most likely say that it couldn’t find X.org and such. Just ignore that. Since it’s the part of the guest additions when you would have used a GUI interface. Since we are using a command line interface, it isn’t working of course.

Part 2: Installing games

When you are going to install games, you will need to search online for them. While I have no clue (yet) how to install games you downloaded from an external website, I found out that many websites gave a command how to install it.

When you installed a game, you can run it by simply entering the name. You can also see a list of your installed games when you enter the command:

cd usr/games/

ls

The directories with a yellow color behind it, are executable games. Just enter the name in order to run. When you want to uninstall a game, you remove the directory as a superuser. If an experienced user facepalms, feel free to leave a comment how to do it better.

Update 29/01: I found out how to uninstall games. It’s with this command:

sudo apt-get remove <gamename>

Then your game will be removed.

I also found out that when you list, not every executable game is highlighted in yellow. So, that trick doesn’t work.

Anyways, that concludes my tutorial, thanks for reading and if you have issues, feel free to leave a comment. Even while I don’t know a lot about Linux server yet, I’ll do my best in order to help you out. It will be a nice learning experience for me. In any case, enjoy!

A few examples of games