Updated: April 8, 2022
Welcome. This article is part of my ongoing series on moving away from Windows as my primary operating system. Several months ago, I've come to the conclusion that the days of the sane, classic desktop computing in Windows are numbered, and I must migrate away ere it's too late. Now, there's no panic. The real problems will most likely start around the EOL of Windows 10, which means 2025 at the earliest. Till then, I promised to do a long series of Windows-to-Linux migration guides around this topic, and create a functional, productive alternative setup for myself, with Linux and the Plasma desktop as my choice.
So far, I've told you about my generic plan for this adventure. There are some good news already. A fair deal of my favorite software is already cross-platform and/or native to Linux. Other stuff works through WINE. The whole thing will, predictably, boil down to office and games. Now, I want to show you how you can use Kerkythea, a photorealistic, 3D rendering program, in Linux. Follow me.
As always, whenever I bring this topic up, I get tons of emails from Linux veterans berating me for trying to replicate the Windows experience in Linux. Instead, I should use native software, they say. But my answer to these comments is as follows: my software usage is needs-driven. I have a need, I look for the best tool to satisfy that need.
And so, here's why Kerkythea is awesome:
- It is a very simple tool to install and maintain. Everything goes into a single folder - Kerkythea Rendering System. This includes materials, presets, globals, etc. In a way, Kerkythea is portable. The installation does create a folder under ProgramData, but it doesn't server any purpose.
- You can copy & paste the folder between systems and fully preserve your workspace, including all of your materials.
- The interface has a solid view option, not just wireframe.
- Adding lights is easy (you can use current camera POV as the insertion point).
- The program is fast and robust.
- It integrates well with SketchUp (SU2KT plugin).
- It is free.
Furthermore, so far, in my hunt for possible future replacements, I've not found anything that offers the same ROI. I did try various alternatives, but none are as good as Kerkythea, including native programs. For instance, Blender is great, but it is an extremely complicated tool with a devilishly steep learning curve.
I also tried a bunch of other tools, both in Windows and Linux, and various problems kept cropping up. There might not be any integration with SketchUp, or the integration is clunky. Or maybe the materials import is weird. Or the actual render quality is bad. Or the programs don't work quite as well as they should.
Another consideration is cost. More and more programs are abandoning free tools, or severely limiting them, and going down the pay-for-use route, following a prohibitively expensive annual subscription model. This is something I don't like.
In fact, the free/annual thing is very similar to what happened to SketchUp. The last free offline edition is SketchUp Make 2017, which, after a hiatus of five long years, I managed to get running in Linux through WINE successfully once again. Great success.
Since, if you want to use the free edition of SketchUp, there's only a cloud-based, in-browser tool, with a limited set of features. Or you can pay for an annual license for the Pro version. Now, there's also a perpetual license, but it's not easily discoverable, and it costs roughly three years worth of subscription. In other words, if you intend to keep using the program for more than three years, the perpetual license starts to make solid financial sense. This highlights the "modern" world of subscriptions and service models, and what they entail.
This is why I'm quite opposed to subscriptions for products in general. Services, I understand. Someone gives you access to an actual service (like say cloud storage), that does entail ongoing costs and whatnot. But why would a software product, which you download and use offline, ever have an expiration date? It's entirely up to you to use something, even if it gets no further updates and support. To this end, I latch dearly onto old offline installers of software products, and I keep on using them, because I'm not caught in the forever-pay loop.
SketchUp is just one small example - and the situation there isn't that bad, actually. You still do get a Pro version, and you can get a perpetual license. It's only a question of money. But in the rendering space, things are worse. A decade ago, the palette was wider, bigger and far, far less expensive. Today, it's a bit meh.
All right, onward, let's set Kerkythea up!
The first step is to have WINE installed on your system. I am going to use the exact same method outlined in the SketchUp Make 2017 tutorial. I have the WINE repositories added, and I installed the 6.X branch on my system (at the time of writing).
There are two ways you can go about this:
- If you have a Windows installation, just copy it over. The ENTIRE Kerkythea Rendering System.
- If you don't, run the installer. More on both options in a second.
Let's say Kerkythea sits under D:\Kerkythea Rendering System. Grab this entire folder. Copy it to your Linux system. I won't go into details how you do this, because there are infinite options. Next, copy it over to the following path (assuming you use Linux defaults):
cp -r "Kerkythea Rendering system "/home/$USER/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/"
Change the $USER variable to whatever your username is. At this point, you can simply run Kerkythea from the command line with:
wine "path to Kerkythea exetuable"
This will be (for the 64-bit version of the program):
wine "/home/$USER/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/Kerkythea Rendering System/Kerkythea-x64.exe"
Now, what we need to do is create a system menu entry for the program, because we did not install it per se. This will make it easier for you to search for the program and launch it, like you would with any other installed piece of software.
In the Plasma desktop environment, this is what I did:
- Right-click on the system menu icon.
- Edit Applications.
- Create a New Item (you can put it under an existing Category, or a new Submenu).
- Provide the name, the description, the icon, and the command path (as above).
- Save and enjoy.
If you want to install Kerkythea, then you need to do the following:
wine "path to Kerkythea installer"
Follow the instructions. I installed Kerkythea Echo Boost (corresponds to program version 2.52), released around 2012 or so. Unsurprisingly, this edition dates back to the heyday of the classic desktop, Windows 7 was king, the mobile fever hasn't drowned everything, and software products were just that. Indeed, the best classic programs all hail to this period more or less.
Once Kerkythea is installed, you will have the menu integration, and you can use it like any other program.
However, you won't have any materials and globals from your existing installations. To work around that, you can go back to the copy trick we did earlier. Simply copy any asset from the Kerkythea Rendering System into the .wine path.
Existing models (xml and kzx files)
If you have existing models (scenes) rendered in Windows, and you want to open them in Kerkythea now running in WINE in Linux, you may encounter problems. Specifically, you may see a message telling you that certain material bitmaps cannot be found:
The error stems from the fact that on one particular Windows system, where I rendered this particular scene, Kerkythea resides under E:\Programs\Kerkythea Rendering System. This path does not exist on the Linux machine, hence the error.
First, you may say: ah, but WINE uses only one drive (C:, listed as drive_c). You can manually create a drive_e directory, and any set of folders inside this path, but this will still not help, because Kerkythea will not correctly interpret the paths. You will need to edit the xml or kzx files (these are zipped xmls).
To fix any "broken" scene:
- If it's a kzx file, unzip it (use the Linux file manager functionality).
- Open the corresponding xml file inside a text editor.
- Look for any string that reads the path of the missing materials, e.g.: E:\Programs\Kerkythea ...
- Replace this to match the path on your Linux system.
And now, your scenes will load correctly with all the materials.
It does, and it works beautifully. Fast, uses all of the system cores, everything. Lovely jubbly. Superb.
One down, twenty something to go. So far, we've covered two 3D art programs, and we're 2/2 good. I am quite happy with the results. It's an auspicious start to my multi-year endeavor, and it gives me motivation to continue and persist. I think, in the end, I will be able to complete this migration with not too much pain.
But then, let us stay sober. We've only just begun. Soon, I'll cover yet another program and yet another configuration. It might be a WINE example, it might a native setup, we shall see. For the time being, if you are also pondering the wonders of Linux, for whatever reason, hopefully my articles will provide you with some good pointers on where and how to get started. Anyway, that's Kerkythea for you. Take care and see you soon. Oh, if you're wondering about that lovely steam locomotive model, I made it just a couple of weeks ago, and a 3D gallery is coming your way soon.