Hands-On With Drauger OS

There’s something that caught my eye with Drauger OS as I was browsing my Reddit feed one day. It was an article from It’s FOSS, describing what the OS is all about.

Going to the distro’s site, the About page explains:

Drauger OS is a Linux desktop gaming operating system. It aims to provide a platform for gamers to use where they can get great performance without sacrificing their security. Furthermore, it aims to make it easy for anyone to game, whether they use a keyboard and mouse, or some sort of controller.

After asking Thomas Castleman — the lead developer behind Drauger OS — for more information on how the balance between performance and security is achieved, he told me:

We have a policy: don’t sacrifice performance for security, or vice versa. Whenever we write code we follow this methodology. We try to balance our code to be equally secure and fast for the parts of the OS we don’t write in-house. So, for instance, Mesa, Vulkan, the kernel, etc, we try to provide the most up-to-date versions possible. This is because more recent versions should be more secure due to newer security patches, but also faster due to performance improvements.

Using Ubuntu as the backbone, Drauger OS has been in development for about two years and is essentially a distribution designed with gamers in mind, giving gamers what they need to start gaming out of the box whilst providing little to nothing else in terms of pre-installed software. In order to shave off some hardware usage, it ships with XFCE as the desktop environment; some panels have been moved around to give the user a GNOME-like experience, and as of right now this is the only edition that Drauger OS comes with.

Per my chat with Thomas on his Discord channel, the name was inspired by one of the enemies encountered in Skyrim — Wikipedia terms it as “an undead creature in Norse mythology.” Funnily enough, the spelling of “Drauger” is unintentional, but he doesn’t plan on spelling it back to “Draugr” as it would require too much work within the codebase.

After having tinkered around with Salient OS for a while, I decided to dual-boot with Drauger OS and give it a whirl.

Couple of things I’d like to make clear before I go ahead with the review. First, I’m reviewing a beta release: 7.5.1 Beta 2, which came out last weekend. Bugs are plentiful. Second, even though I volunteered to be one of the contributors to Drauger OS — by means of my testing and bug reporting, as well as writing a few occasional posts for the site — this review will remain unbiased. I will still jot down both its good points and bad.

Live System & Installation

One thing that I found particularly noteworthy, is that, like a lot of the tools built into Drauger OS, the system installer is coded from scratch in Python. Source code to the apps Thomas has made for Drauger OS can be found on Github, and, oddly enough, source code to the OS itself is available as a compressed archive on the website.

When the OS is flashed, upon starting up the installation media, the live environment has to be used before installing. This is what the desktop will look like:

Although, sometimes you may get one of XFCE’s default wallpapers:

There’s three panels: one across the top for system icons and the like; a side bar for commonly used applications such as Steam, Lutris, Gamehub, and the Ubuntu Snap Store; and one on the bottom that switches between workspaces. The latter two panels are semi-transparent when the mouse cursor isn’t hovered over them.

Two windows will pop-up shortly after startup: a welcome window and a prompt to install Steam. The Welcome screen will allow the user to browse the Drauger OS website with the default installed web browser: Firefox. Users can also install NVIDIA drivers, view the README file, assign keyboard shortcuts, among other choices. There’s also a tutorial that I found pretty neat — it gives the user an introduction to how the desktop works.

The other pop-up window will prompt you to start/update Steam. This is pretty useless right now, as clicking “Start Steam” doesn’t do anything, whether in the live or installed environment.

Drauger OS comes with a handful of custom wallpapers:

As well as a few pictures taken from NASA and Salient OS:

Installation of the OS can be accomplished via the installer icon on the desktop. Enter the default root password of “toor” to proceed.

Now, go ahead and read the message you’ll get on the first screen:

Like it says, this custom installer is quite buggy, and can potentially mess up your system if you don’t follow the instructions carefully.

You’ll have a few options in regards to your keyboard layout, language, whether you want to install Restricted Extras such as the proprietary NVIDIA drivers, partitioning setup, and setting the user’s login credentials. Steps can be done in any order, but they all have to be completed before installation will continue.

Most of these options are pretty straightforward to set up, albeit manual partitioning. Hopefully you’ll have some experience with GParted, as you’ll have to use that to set up your partitions. If you’re looking to install Drauger OS yourself, I wrote an installation guide on the Drauger OS Wiki.

After setting up your partitions with GParted, you’ll have to enter the partition names in the appropriate fields with the installer:

The Corsair keyboard I’m using is not listed under “Model”, but I found it worked just fine by selecting “Do not configure keyboard; keep kernel keymap”.

Automatic partitioning gets rid of a lot of headache, but even though there’s an option to have a separate home partition, enabling this doesn’t do anything post-installation: you’ll only have root and a boot partition if you’re using a UEFI system. I have let Thomas know about this issue, and he’s investigating it as I’m writing this review.

Here’s another tidbit: do not install the Restricted Extras if you’re looking to use the NVIDIA drivers. I took the liberty of installing this on actual hardware, and my resolution was limited to 640×480 afterwards. Something’s wrong with installing the NVIDIA driver on this OS, and, considering this is garnered towards gamers, this is a huge caveat.

Edit: after letting Thomas know of the issue, he supposedly made a hotfix, but I’m still having trouble installing the NVIDIA drivers, due to some DKMS issue. I think for the time being the source for restricted extras should be disabled, until the cat gets put back in the bag.

When all is said and done, you’ll get a chance to review your changes before you proceed with installation:

One thing I am impressed with, is how fast this installer is. It shouldn’t take any longer than five minutes, assuming you’re using a SSD or NVME drive. Thomas has plans to add an information screen on what exactly is being installed soon.

Once installation is complete, you’ll have the option of sending an installation report. You can choose what you want to include in the report, including your CPU, GPU, RAM, and disk setup, as well as a custom message. You can also read tips for why each part should be included.

If you click “Abort” while previewing the report, you might not be able to send the report afterwards, as the window gets jumbled up and you won’t find the “Send Report” button.

Previewing the report

As helpful as sending a report to Thomas would be, after having installed this OS several times, both on a virtual machine and in a real environment, Thomas never got any of my reports. So I think there’s something wrong with the way the reports are sent.

Finally, before restarting the machine, users can select a few advanced options: delete the installation, add a PPA, or open a terminal as root. Clicking “Exit” will simply close the window and you’ll need to restart manually.

General Experience

Drauger OS comes with a bleeding-edge kernel (5.7-rc7 at the time of writing this) and Mesa drivers. The kernel has been modified with the following parameters:

  • low-latency is enabled during compilation
  • the scheduling frequency has been changed from 250 Hz to 1,000 Hz.
  • data-center specific features are disabled
  • the IO scheduler has been changed over to the BFQ scheduler — the same that the Liquorix kernel uses

Other changes to the kernel can be seen in:

/boot/config-<kernel version>

I pasted my configuration file on Pastebin if you’re interested in seeing the other changes made.

Supposedly, the kernel changes means:

  • increased frame rates for games
  • more stabilized performance
  • reduced screen tearing or artifacts
  • smaller kernel size

When I asked Thomas if he could back up his claim, he said:

Mostly it’s in my own experience. In my testing I find games either care very little (which is to be expected on higher-end hardware) or are more stable for the most part (on lower end hardware). I don’t have any empirical evidence but I would be happy to do the research. Or, if a user chooses to switch to a different kernel I will still support their installation, just not kernel specific issues.

One thing that I’m fond of is the red and dark gray color scheme throughout the desktop. I think it very much suits the colors a gamer would want. The fact that the desktop uses the popular Papirus icon set gives it a more “crisp” look.

I mentioned earlier that Drauger OS ships with XFCE. I found the icons on the top panel are a little too large for my liking, so I modified my desktop to look like this:

Some other panel profiles can be selected as well, such as the one Drauger OS used prior to 7.5.1, and one that looks similar to Deepin 20:

7.4.1 Panel Profile
Deepin 20 Panel Profile

After installing and running htop, the system hovers around 500-600 MB of RAM usage on startup:

As Drauger OS is not aimed for office or productivity use, it’s a bit of a minimalist distro garnered towards gamers that comes with the following packages out of the box:

  • PlayOnLinux
  • Lutris
  • Gamehub
  • Steam
  • Bleachbit
  • Flameshot
  • Firefox
  • Timeshift
  • Audacious
  • WINE/DXVK

The reason why PlayOnLinux is included, since Lutris is already there, is because:

Some people may not want to use Lutris. And, if you happen to find a game you want to play that Lutris doesn’t have (however unlikely that may be), you might have an easier time getting it going with PlayOnLinux than Lutris in that instance. Otherwise, it’s just redundancy. We had an issue with Lutris not wanting to load recently. With PlayOnLinux there you’re not screwed out of being able to play the games you want.

In addition to the above, Drauger OS comes with its own set of tools. For instance, it has its own desktop service for managing files and folders on the desktop; the ability to install snaps, flatpaks, apps from Github, and apt applications with mrai; a custom installer for installing .deb files; the ability to log into Steam Big Picture mode from the login screen; and an on-screen keyboard for use with gamepads. Though I haven’t tried all of these, I can already tell you that logging in to Steam BPM from the login screen doesn’t work — although, that will be a cool thing once it does.

Drauger OS’s desktop file manager
The Drauger Installer, an alternative to Gdebi

Installing additional software is just like in Ubuntu: download apps from the Snap store, or install applications with apt in the terminal. I haven’t had any hiccups here; Spotify installed and worked just fine, as did LibreOffice, Thunderbird, and Discord.

While the bleeding-edge Mesa drivers are a big win for Intel/AMD users, NVIDIA users are going to have a hard time here. I ran into issues installing the proprietary drivers. As such, I’m stuck using the Nouveau drivers for now. I can’t perform any benchmark comparisons with other distributions for the time being, nor can I leave much comment for how well games run, due to how much the Nouveau drivers suck.

Is It Worth Your Time?

Frankly, not right now. I’ve had several frustrating issues with the installer, issues with partitioning, and a huge turn down is the fact NVIDIA users can’t really game with this distribution. That being said, Drauger OS is currently a beta, so I expected these hiccups. I do like the color scheming, I do like how it’s using a stable distribution as the backbone, and I have faith that the gaming experience will improve over time. Several of these problems I have let Thomas aware of, and he’s probably working on them as I write this.

In summary, the good:

  • Great color scheming and icon set
  • Bleeding-edge kernel and Mesa driver stack
  • XFCE to stave off hardware resources
  • Barebones in terms of software, meaning a smaller ISO image and less packages to remove in the event we don’t want them
  • Uses the stability of Ubuntu as its base
  • Tutorial for users who may not be familiar with XFCE or even Linux in general
  • Speedy installation

The not-so-good:

  • Can’t currently install NVIDIA drivers: a huge downfall for gamers
  • Several issues and complications with installing the OS, depending on partitioning setup or whether using a BIOS or UEFI system, and sending the installation report
  • Some users may not be content with the way XFCE is laid out here, or they may not want to use XFCE at all
  • Black screen when logging into Steam Big Picture mode from the login screen
  • Pop-ups on startup may be a nuisance to some, though they can be disabled
  • Sometimes the wallpaper will use something from XFCE’s default library of wallpapers
  • Starting Steam from the “Start Steam” window is useless

For now as I will continue to use Salient OS as my gaming distribution of choice; I’m still using it since the time I reviewed it and have had only a few hitches. According to the press material packet, Drauger OS gets a new beta every two months. After the third beta, it becomes a stable release. I will have another look at Drauger OS once it hits stable four months from now. In the meantime, I will continue to test the OS in a virtual environment — or on the actual machine I’m using if I don’t replace it with another distro — and let the developer know of any issues I come across. Shoutout to Thomas for answering all my questions.

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