Thursday, October 14, 2010

Building a Ubuntu HTPC - Day Two

Greetings to the blogging world!

I'm on "Day Two" of my DVR setup (even though a few days have passed since Day One...sue me).

I'm happy to report that progress is proceeding steadily....if not entirely as smoothly as day one. Here's a recap of what's been going on so far:

The good:

* Did I mention just how fast this thing can boot? I go from a cold start to a usable desktop in under 20 seconds! The Ubuntu load screen only flashes for less then a second, then bang, it's there.

* Skype is working well. I can make and receive calls and am getting good reception for audio calls. However, the Skype I installed from the Ubuntu repositories wasn't working, but rather was hanging every time I tried to sign in. Rather, I download and installed the .deb file form Skype itself (they state it's for 8.10+) and that one is working much better.

The bad:

* Despite my sound initially working when I first tried it, I have run into a few minor issues. Namely, I can't get the back audio jack and the headphone jack to work as I'm used too. Initially, plugging in the head phones would mute the rear speakers, but not give me any sound through the headphones. The volume was also quite low. I installed the "Alsa backport" which helped with the volume issues, though the audio still mutes whenever I plug in the headphones. It seems I can only have both jacks working at the same time, or both muted. Here are a few links I've been following on this issue.
** (headphone port doesn't mute audio)
* My web cam isn't quite working the way I want. I can an image using Cheese, but it's very dark and looks grainy. I also can't get an image through with Skype.
* TV-out was not working initially. First, I couldn't get the TV to show up at all in nvidia-settings, though I later did by plugging it into my AV adapter, rather then my DVD recorder. Still, I was getting no video on the screen. Eventually I was able to get an image on the screen by turning on the output with nvidia settings, having an Xorg.conf file, then adding the following two lines to the Screen section:

Option "TVOutFormat" "SVIDEO"
Option "TVStandard" "NTSC-M"

Since the video card also seems to be capable of of Component output via a 7-pin to S-video adapter, my hypothesis is that it was trying to use a component signal by default. Some links I used to help me resolve this are:

* There is still an additional problem with the video out, I get two wavy "bands" moving slowly up the screen. I think this may be a problem with refresh rate, but I don't seem to be able to change the refresh rate beyond 59.94 Hz (e.g. using regular 60 Hz), even from Xorg.conf. It's highly noticeable on still images, though less so on video, so that's good. It doesn't seem to be being caused the by the cable or TV since I can use the same with my W7 laptop with no lines. I'll continue to investigate.

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