Return to Level1Techs.com

New Linux user seeks distro with as much hardware control options as possible

I know that there are older posts probably very much like this one, but I have read enough to know that Linux distributions change over time, so I feel this is valid to ask.

I’m using a 2nd gen Ryzen platform (X470, 2700X), with an AMD RX580. The MB in particular is an Asrock Taichi. From time to time I do minor work with video files, mostly remuxing, but mostly using this machine for browsing the internet and playing media of all types, codecs…

I’m new to Linux and don’t know enough about graphic control of hardware within Linux (using the GUI with some dialog box for the hardware), or if there’s much variation between distros. I know a little about the command line, as I worked with UNIX almost 30 years ago.

I installed Mint, the latest version (downloaded and installed Oct 1) and had problems finding graphical hardware control for almost anything other than settings for the monitor, and within the volume control a way to select between either the audio built into the GPU for HDMI out, or the onboard audio for the MB. I think I saw something else for the mouse, but that’s a minor point for my concerns. Considering audio can be in multiple formats, and the outputs can be speakers plugged into the back of the MB, jacks on the front of the PC case, or the HDMI out for speakers in the monitor, and can be stereo or a myriad of channel configs, is there any software drivers that let you see the details of what’s happening with sound?

On the same line, if there are Linux drivers for the MB on the site for the MB, would those be the same drivers that are added into the distros, since Ubuntu and Mint have the AMD drivers added in with the install? Or do any of the hardware vendors have drivers that add more functionality into graphical controls?

I have the same line of questions for the GPU, and in this case the RX580, for which I did see that there are Linux drivers for Ubuntu on AMD’s site.

If there are good links for reading details about controlling audio and video hardware in Linux, they would be greatly appreciated.

The last line of questions is about distributions and the connection between them. For instance I read that Ubuntu is based on Debian, and Mint is based on Ubuntu. So, if I see drivers for Deb or Ubuntu, would those also be compatible with Mint, or is this something that’s hit and miss?

So here was my first experience, with Mint as my first Distro. The install went great. Very easy to figure out. I tested video, and with the media player that I assumed is a typical player that comes with the distro, the video started, but errored out within about 5 seconds. I didn’t install any extra codecs, but would the player even have started showing anything if it didn’t have proper codecs? I then played it with VLC, and I got sound to the front jack, but I don’t know how to ensure that all the sound from what was a 5.1 audio track was indeed being muxed into the 2 channels for the headphones, I think it was.

I also had tearing which irritates me like CRAZY considering the hardware is plenty powerful to play 1080p video with DTS audio. I looked on-line and saw info about creating a control file, and adding text to it, which I haven’t tested yet, but considering I have the other questions about graphic control of hardware, I was hoping to get that info first and to see if there is a best main version of Linux, so I guess one that’s more at the root of that line, or a derivative that’s is directly off of that main line, and not a derivative of a derivative of a derivative, that gives the most hardware control.

If there isn’t much in the way of graphical control of hardware, is there many setting that can be made in text control files, and is there a good place to read about this?

I also need to be able to mount mechanical NTFS drives since these need to go back and forth between Windows and Linux. This means I need to be able to mount and unmount on the fly. I’m assuming there isn’t much difference between the distros for this.

Thanks for any help, and if you can answer any part of this, feel free to. I know there are a few questions here. Or, if you can write an essay on the topic, feel free to do that too. I have the patience to read long answers, just as I do for typing out questions :slight_smile:

1 Like

as far as GUI applications for hardware control, there’s not much there. the vast majority of low-level hardware control can only be done on the command line.
as far as sound control software, the GUI program “pavucontrol” sounds like it’s exactly what you need.

on most distros, using any sort of driver from the manufacturers website is a bad idea. for motherboards specifically, almost every driver should be built into the mainline kernel.

with AMD graphic cards, it’s recommended to avoid the proprietary driver all together if possible and instead to use the AMDGPU driver.

most of the time packages are very distro specific and a Ubuntu .deb is unlikely to work correctly on Debian. to avoid having to worry about this, stick to packages in the repositories for the distro you choose.

pavucontrol allows you to see and control activity on each audio channel.

if you have tearing, just force vsync to be on constantly. the task enabling vsync varies wildly between desktop environments and distros. you may need to Google this for your specific setup.

if you want to control your hardware, you gotta get very specific. you need to know what it is exactly you want to change, then make a thread asking how.

most distros dont include NTFS support out of the box, but it usually is in the default repositories. on Debian, the package is called “ntfs-3g”. be warned that windows 10 likes to do weird things to NTFS partitions that can prevent Linux from mounting it correctly. if this happens, make a thread about the specific error you encounter.

1 Like

You might write some scripts and leave them as icons, like a destop entry <a file with a script on it, basically>

For hardware compatibility I’d suggest manjaro with the DE of your choice, but find ways to take snapshots of the system (I’m not sure about the best option, but you could dive into that, I used Timeshift but never got to restore the system, cause it didn’t crash)

About NTFS compatibility I’m not entirely sure to be honest… but there must be something. Wait for the other experts to come, but don’t be afraid of them, they don’t bite (too hard)

1 Like

Unless you are willing to get down and dirty with Gentoo or Arch, and I would never recommend either of those for a new user. Choice of Distro is important. Mint is a fine distro but it has limitations. It’s more about stability and ease of use then tweak-ability.

Right now the best fit for what you want in my opinion would be either Pop!_OS or Manjaro.

Pop!_OS is a special version of Ubuntu made by System 76 the PC sellers. It’s their default OS made to programmers and creators. So it has the massive Debian package and the support that Ubuntu gets.

Then there is Manjaro. Based on Arch close to the cutting edge without the blood loss. Easy to install and maintain. If you need to go deeper as it’s based on Arch there is the Arch Wiki, the single most complete source of how to get stuff done on Linux that there is.

I have run Pop!_OS and Manjaro in resent months. First Pop! but my personal dislike of Gnome shell pushed me towards Manjaro.

I didn’t see any tearing on either Pop! or Manjaro and my system is similar to yours. As for NTFS it’s been a while since I have had to consider the file system but the last time I checked any of the Ubuntu flavors just reads NTFS as if it’s native. Assuming the computer knows that the drive is connected through a dock or some other form of removable storage device it will know how to handle mounting and mounting the drive while the PC is running.

2 Likes

You shouldnt have to worry too much about hardware setup with your current hardware.

Linux is not Windows, there are only rarc cases where you have to manually install drivers, everything should be built into the OS and not require driver discs etc, this goes for your motherboard as well as your AMD GPU.

This wouldnt be specific to the audio driver used but would be part of ALSA, the backend which Linux uses for sound. There are different programs that should give you some information, look into things like PulseAudio Manager.

It is also important to know that audio on Linux is not monolithic, there are multiple audio subsystems that can be used, but most often you will be using PulseAudio by default.

This should be fine as long as the drive doesn’t contain the Windows hibernation file, otherwise it will only let you mount it Read-Only.

Distros are a bit of a trap that new users fall into, the differences between them tend to be much exaggerated. The differences you are actually seeing tends to be between whatever desktop environment each distro uses, and many distros will let you pick. If you’re really interested in choosing a distribution, take a look at this thread: So you're looking for a Linux Distro?

Most of the smaller issues youre having, like GUI control and screen tearing will exist everywhere but can be solved agnostic of what distro you are running. Search for threads here on any problems you have ( screen tearing is a common issue that many have had to solve ) or make a more directed #helpdesk thread once you’ve picked an OS.

2 Likes

Let me start with… Welcome to linux. I’m glad you’re here.


Now I want to get something out of the way first and foremost. Linux is not Windows. I know what you’re thinking… “thanks for stating the obvious”. I want you to think more about this though. Linux can do some Windows-like things, but it will never be Windows. You can customize the everloving shit out of it, and it still won’t be Windows.

If you try to do things that make linux into Windows, its just going to serve to make your experience worse because you will have the expectation that you can do Windows things on Linux. This is setting you up for failure because Linux has only recently gotten moderately tolerable at doing Windows things.


On to your questions.

I’m not sure what you’re referring to here but maybe pulse-effects is what you’re looking for? Its a full DSP setup for linux audio. Maybe you’re looking for jack?

Drivers for hardware is typically built into the kernel unless its proprietary software.

Not very often. Usually theres a third party open source utility to do what you want. If you can be specific in what software you’re looking for we can probably help.

This is one of those cases where linux is not windows… In this particular case, you should have driver support already in kernel.

Distros are really just collections of software.

To quote a meme:

So the real difference between each distro is the version of the linux kernel its using and the software it comes with. In reality distros dont matter that much and you can install the software from one to another with varying degrees of difficulty. We can still call it ‘Linux’ but you should understand the distinction.

The .deb extension is a debian package. Anything that uses dpkg can use it. All of the distros you mentioned have dpkg so a deb should work the same on all of them.

So theres a lot at play here and each issue really needs to be tackled on its own one at a time. I would say you should make another thread for helpdesk and list your individual issues so we can tackle them one at a time.

This can be a real problem depending on if windows is set up to do fast-boot and if you completely shut it down before booting into linux. I would recommend a separate drive formatted in exfat instead.

2 Likes

i have almost the same setup as you have

Asrock Failaity k4 X470
2700x
RX80(passthrough)
RTX2080

I have tried and tested tons of different distro’s on this system. About 90% of them work straight away, the ones that don’t are due to not having drivers that support the RTX2080 buts that’s fine, just install them from the command line and reboot then everything works.

Hope you find the distro that suits you, Enjoy and welcome

1 Like

sounds to me like running Ubuntu Studio would be your easiest route. If you want to get down and dirty then manjaro or arch would come next in my list

1 Like

I’ll be mounting through either eSATA or SATA cabling that’s been run outside of the case. I can’t use a rack like you would for an external drive enclosure because I don’t have the space. I’ve done a little bit of reading so I’ll see how that goes.

There are multiple machines, so Linux is on one, in this case Mint, and Win7 on another machine. I will also have another with Win10, which currently has Win8.1. The one with Win7 will become a Linux machine once I have enough experience working with Linux and have figured out what Distro works well for me along with the tools I need. I have 2 sets of pretty much identical hardware for those computers so once I have one figured out, the other is too.

So, I don’t have to dual boot anything, and the drives that move between machines are never permanently mounted in any machine.

Yes I have read that using exFAT may be a better way to go, but then I have to deal with reformatting a few drives and would first want to see if I can make NTFS work in Linux, which I’ve also done some reading on. I figure I can experiment a bit with Linux without having to worry about crashing a system and it being a pain to recreate it the way I want it, since it won’t be customized until I have everything I need figured out.

I think I wanted to get the big picture out there, but yes as I was typing out this book I was thinking the same thing :slight_smile:

Part of throwing all this together was about distros. This is something you also helped to answer for me with another one of your comments.

You can and it does but theres some gotchas sometimes.

Yes in watching some videos I got that same message. Thanks! So what is the best way to search for third party utilities? Is there a single site that lists utilities that exist? Multiple sites? Do the websites for the Distros tend to list third party software? I realize that if I get stuck with something I can always come back to ask, and from what you said the helpdesk would be the best place? My first choice is always to do a little research, sometimes ask for some guidance (like the book I posted here to get some input), then tinker around.

Instead of quoting you on another reply to a snippet I wrote, is there a good place to read about settings that can be made within a driver control file? For instance I was watching a video and reading on how to fix tearing for AMD lines of GPUs, and they mentioned editing a particular file. They showed certain entries to make. In this case I’m talking specifically about the driver “amdgpu” that comes with the Mint and Ubuntu distros, but if you go to AMD’s site, their driver has the same name for those distros for the GPU I have, an RX 580.

just google your use case tbh.

not really but something new to the linux scene is flathub.org. if its not in your distros repos then you can probably get it there too.

theres also snapcraft.io but these dont necessarily pertain to what you’re asking about specifically.

no but you can use the software center to search through whats available for your distro of choice.

We do have a small linux problem thread where you could go to ask simpler questions. otherwise helpdesk is great.

typically you dont edit driver configs.

this is a big problem with linux desktops, and has more to do with desktop environment settings. we can get into this later though.

you shouldnt need the driver from AMDs site. they are built into the linux kernel.

Thanks for this reminder. It’s something that I understand, and I know when it comes to building too much into a GUI or kernel, it adds complexity and more chance for failure, and in cases slows things down. I basically listed out about all the concerns I have with the switch to Linux. I may run into something later, but for the most part I’m pretty much good to go once I get through this initial phase and with experience will be comfortable operating within the confines of the OS/software that exists.

The first computer I worked with was designed in the 60s, and have 64K of memory spread out over 4 cabinet drawers. It was magnetic memory. VERY TINY donuts with wires running through them. A 16K drawer cost about $3000 to swap out. There was no such thing as an OS for computers like that, and loading a program was a matter of pressing a few buttons and switches, manually setting values into one or two registers, making sure the load was good, then starting it, following written instructions for that particular program. To have enough power, these computers were connected to each other with large cabling for parallel transfers. For our system 3 were tied together to be able to run the problem. Programs and data were stored on magnetic tape.

1 Like

I actually have the same motherboard and CPU as you. I’ve found that Arch Linux has the largest wiki and package repo ecosystem out of everything. Pretty much if you can do it on Linux, there’s an Arch Wiki article for it. I had a tearing issue as well and I resolved it by turning off compositing in xfce. Also, AMD GPU drivers are built in to the kernel nowadays, so you probably won’t fair well getting downloading externally. Here are some links you may find helpful towards your goals:

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/PulseAudio

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/AMDGPU

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Ryzen

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Professional_audio

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Lm_sensors

https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/zenpower-dkms-git/

While Arch may not be the easiest to install (it’s not hard if you follow a guide like the youtube link I provided), I find that is the easiest to pretty much do anything else you would want to do on Linux given its unmatched wiki, wonderful community, and repository of packages.

1 Like

Thanks for all the links! I’ll think what I’ll do is take the info I have and give Mint a try, not bothering much to customize but simply to run software that I need while also evaluating the multimedia experience, since that’s important to me, and if I get everything working fine I’ll run that for a while on the one machine, but on my next I think I’ll go with Arch. They both have the same MB/CPU/Mem config and the main difference being the brand of the RX580, which to the driver should be zero difference. Or, I may be putting a 1070 into that second one. I’ll be doing my next machine next month so that will give me some time working with Linux to get more comfortable.

That would give me a little understanding of two different distros and I could then get into customizing and see which I end up liking the best. I need the ease of working with a GUI for media files, along with a good experience in general working with files and navigating a system, so an excellent file manager and an excellent search tool. As long as there’s good documentation for hardware configuration, that becomes less important being either command line driven or GUI.

Once both computers are doing what they’re supposed to, then I can take a deeper dive into Linux in general, and I could use one of those two machines or one of the older ones I’m retiring.

Just a little food for thought.

@dlb123 you should for sure listen to @Adubs and @SesameStreetThug . Also welcome to Free Software yay! fireworks… celebration… glad youve decided… Onto other things! For a distribution recommendation I am going to keep it short sweet and simple.

If you really want to hop onto a quality distro thats a bit more advanced a little less friendly but the software and coding taste behind it is gorgeous… Fedora and CentOS are your game.

If your particularly freetarded I would recommend Debian. Its a great distribution with amongst the widest hardware support of any distribution despite being dated. A lot of freenuts will tell you that stable software is a joke or that you need to be on the latest kernel. You dont. Choose a distribution and stop worrying about it!


Personal Exp:

As for me I am an engineer I work with so many pieces of hardware both personal and professional. My distribution of choice is Fedora. My desktop of choice is MATE

  • Its bleeding edge (I like new support more than older hw support)
  • One of the best communities out there I have ever been around
  • The spins are very good quality and keep to the packaging standards
  • Security first mindset is employed everywhere including packaging.
  • RPM software and RHEL quality stuff. Easy to port software over.
  • Stupidly large hardware support
  • Emphasis on Free and Open Source Software.
  • Obviously most importantly it gets out of my way and lets me work

If debian is more your taste.
I made a post on it

If your still looking. One of our wonderful aboosers @sgtawesomesauce (admin) made a great post too that takes a quantization approach

If you want to TLDR yourself (its a great resource)

2 Likes

Why havent I made a fedora post. Im a freetard :roll_eyes: