Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Team Fortress 2 is coming to Linux \0/

It all over the web, Team Fortress 2 will be available on Linux through Steam as reported here and here.

I'm a FPS kinda-guy having played Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory and Return to Castle Wolfenstein (retail and demo). When Enemy Territory Fortress (remake of the Quake 3 Fortress) came out circa 2004 I fragged a bit on it.

Fast forward 8 years when a buddy got me into TF2. But TF2 was (is) a Windows game and I run Linux so ended up having to setup a Windows 8 Preview virtual machine on Xen using VGA passthrough just to play it...

It came with a cost though... all my plans with Xen running tons of domU aimed at global domination have come to a stop: I'm addicted to TF2 and spend most of my limited free time on it :P

Thursday, October 4, 2012


After being able to do Intel HD 4000 VGA passthrough I decided I wanted to try PCI passthrough of a dedicated graphics card. My idea was to buy a AMD HD 7850  but I ended up buying a second hand AMD HD 5450 passively cooled for 15€ just be sure that PCI passthrough of secondary GPU works before making a much bigger purchase such as the HD 7850.

Well it worked.

Passing the AMD HD 5450 to a Windows 8 domU was a bit trickier than passing the primary Intel VGA but still achievable though I found the driver installation awkward.

Some notes:
  • The integrated Intel i7-3770 HD 4000 GPU needed to be set as the Primary Display Adapter in the BIOS thus the AMD HD 5450 was setup as the Secondary Display Adapter.
  • Wheezy domU with stock Linux kernel and Xen 4.1.3 were used alongside the xm toolstack.
  • The domU was installed over VNC.
  • The HDMI audio function of the graphics card also needs to be passed.
  • Installing AMD Catalyst froze the VM and required a reboot of the dom0 to restart the Windows 8 domU properly. I worked around this by installing only the drivers with Catalyst Control Center.
  • Windows 8 assigned drivers to the AMD HD 5450 that were faster in Windows Performance Score, Counter Strike Source Video Stress and Unigine than AMD 12.8 drivers (!)
  • AMD HD 5450 performance is crappy compared to Intel HD 4000 however it's more than fine for Windows 8 non-gaming tasks.
  • AMD HD 5450 Team Fortress 2 gameplay was crappy with ~30 FPS.
  • I wasn't able to successfully passthrough my 2nd Intel NIC as the VM refused to start and spat out errors.
  • I'm too hooked on FT2 having scored 50h since early September which is totally sucked my free time...
Next steps? Well...
  • 2 concurrent Windows 8 domUs one running the integrated HD 4000 and the other the AMD HD 5450.
  • Clean up the benchmarks I've run on bare metal, HD 4000 and AMD HD 5450 domU.
  • Clean up my notes and publish as HowTo on
  • Setup Linux domUs with VGA passthrough.
Overall I'm pleased to being able to passthrough AMD's cards but the little sucker is too slow :(