HDTV DIY calibration

There are lots of resources out there for calibrating your HDTV. Unfortunately, most of them aren't free. They want you to buy some software, a DVD, etc. I went looking for just calibration images - large ones - to sit and calibrate my HDTV with. Now...my set doesn't have that many options to adjust - but nvidia-settings does! (Or your equivalent video driver software) Anyway - if you're looking for some great images to do your own tuning with - head to this AVS forums post. Here's just a small sample:

Forced Enjoyment

This isn't the first time I've tried Ubuntu (or Linux for that matter). Several times in the past few years (since 2002 actually), I'd get the "Linux Bug" and repartition my hard drive to be able to try out some new distro. This would normally come about after I'd read some positive review of said distro (or from a friend). What have I tried in the past? I started out on Mandrake (now Mandriva), moved to SUSE 8 & 9, then MEPIS (great distro btw), and now Ubuntu. At each step, the experience has gotten better - but I'd always switch back to using Windows full time for some reason or another. This typically took about 2-3 days. Sometimes only hours.

Why only hours? HP Laserjet 1020. I bought this excellent printer a while back and absolutely love it. No more expensive ink every 2 months for me! One problem though...this printer has some odd quirks under Linux. Last I looked, the best support for it had gotten was having the ability to print up to 20 pages - then you'd have to power cycle the printer. So this PC has been only Linux for over a week now...why? I don't print from it.

With Windows XP still on my main PC, I've been free to continue my fun Linux project without interruption. The more I use it - the more I discover that it has every bit of functionality my Windows box has (except printing of course) and then some. Some favorite applications I've discovered:
  • Amarok - best media player I've used in years. I've been using Winamp since the 1.x days...and still do (5.x) on my Windows machine. I'd tried iTunes but didn't like it. Amarok is fantastic and truly deserves a Windows port.
  • kTorrent - BitTorrent Client. On Windows I've stuck with Azureus. It's stable, has lots of features, etc. I tried it under Ubuntu and had lots of little issues...overdownloading, NAT/DHT connection problems (not fixed by port forwarding, etc.), and even the occasional lock-up. I researched a while and lots of people say to run uTorrent under wine. No thanks. kTorrent apparently is much like uTorrent anyway. It's completely stable, no NAT problems (or DHT). Even integrates well into GNome (despite it's KDE roots).
  • GKrellM - System Monitor. Nice small out of the way utility that'll let you know CPU/memory/ethernet details.
  • MPlayer - Media Player that will play ANYTHING. For all your avi/h264 needs.
These are pretty standard apps for Linux users, it seems. They've got equally viable ports or competitors on the Windows front - but I'm just happy they exist for Linux and have fairly decent GUI design (excellent in some cases). GUI design has always been lacking on Linux, in my opinion (specifically programs that you want to use on a typical desktop that have no GUI frontend). I'm really enjoying my current setup and don't have ANY plans to change back to Windows on this media center Linux box.

Weird GNome issue gone

Happy to report that using the non-beta drivers (8776) stopped that odd issue from happening again. Hope those beta drivers get that issue fixed. Suppose I'll look for a place to report the bug. :)

Also - if you're using an HDTV with a PC...you'll soon find out that everything looks washed out. You can fix some of that using the nvidia-settings tool. To access it, run this in the terminal:

sudo nvidia-settings

You'll soon find out that your great settings aren't being applied when you log out and back in (or reboot, etc.). You'll need to load this utility's settings when ubuntu starts. To do so, add this line to the System->Preferences->Sessions->Startup Programs area:

nvidia-settings --load-config-only

That should do it! Soure: Ubuntuforums

Ubuntu + HDTV + Nvidia Beta driver =

Odd GNome issue.

I've been busy reinstalling Ubuntu Linux today. Everything was working dandy except for the fact that I had partitioned my / too small and my xfs partition WAY too small. Some may say that I could have enlarged these - oh well.

My first round of reinstallation used the Nvidia beta drivers & Beryl. I had 2 system freezes while updating packages and decided that Beryl just wasn't going to cut it for me. I'm sure it will improve in the future...so I'll install it in the future. I quickly disabled Beryl and was back to using Metacity with the Nvidia beta drivers. I moved the PC back to my HDTV (as the Ubuntu Live CD uses a refresh rate too high for my HDTV to install) and changed the resolution to match the widescreen goodness. Everything looked great so I shut it down and did some non-nerdy things for a while. Upon coming back and booting up the box, I was greeted with some odd issues in GNome. Specifically - the little red shut down button in the top right had moved several inches to the left. The trash can did the same thing. Odd! I couldn't find any help on the Internet for this issue...and no configuration menu. That's one thing that GNome really needs - more configuration options for panel stuff.

Back to the office with the PC. I figured this had something to do with the leftover of Beryl. I reinstalled everything...and moved back into the living room. Same results. Yuck!

Back to the office again and here I sit. It's updating right now, then I'll proceed to change the kernel and install the non-beta Nvidia driver. Seeing as how this is what I did when the partitions were too small and this little quirk NEVER happened...

I found a great thread about changing your kernel in Ubuntu. It's not compiling your own or anything - but it's what I needed: Ubuntuforums . One odd thing I noticed is that your new kernels are signified in GRUB as being generic. I suppose I was expecting something about K7-SMP. It is in fact using that kernel though. Definitely shows 2 cores when monitoring the system.

UPDATE: According to page 25 of that thread, Ubuntu 6.10 has made several kernel options obsolete...so don't even bother following the guide if you're on 6.10. Just check your kernel with [ uname -a ] in the terminal to see that you're already running a 686-smp kernel.

I'll update here in a while on the strange HDTV/beta-Nvidia/Gnome issue. It's truly annoying and I hope it doesn't decide to continue happening.

The little Linux Box that could

I decided that in order to tinker without disrupting the smooth operation of my workhorse PC, I ought to just build a testing box. In the event that I can actually tinker enough to stop wanting to tinker (like that's going to happen), I also wanted the PC to serve a dual role as an eventual Media Center PC (Windows or otherwise). So I laid out some requirements:
  • Multiple Core - I've read that the latest versions of software that play High-Def video (DVD & Blu-Ray) recommend having dual core. No reason to skimp on this as many inexpensive CPUs have this now
  • Onboard DVI - While I may eventually get a better video card for this system, having the ability to otuput to my HDTV using a DVI->HDMI converter will come in really handy.
  • Small Case - I've owned plenty of too-huge computers. This should be able to blend into my entertainment setup
  • Maximum Linux compatibility - If I'm going to be running Linux and don't want headaches...Linux needs to be able to recognize my hardware pretty much out of the box. Not that I can't install drivers/whatnot - but the most promising thing when putting together a machine and installing the OS is actually seeing that none of your hardware is DOA.
With these goals, I set out to find the parts I wanted. I've had mostly good experiences at Newegg, and chose to use them again. After several hours of comparison shopping and checking the Internet for Linux compatibility - I came up with this setup:
  • Case: Apevia X-QPack link
  • Motherboard: ASUS M2NBP-VM CSM link
  • Processor: AMD Athlon X2 3800 (Socket AM2) link
  • Ram: Kingston DDR2 533 1GB link
  • Hard Drive: WD 320GB SATA link
  • DVD Burner: LG 18X link
At the time I purchased the parts - the Intel Core 2 Duos were definitely outperforming their AMD counterparts. However, the Athlon X2 3800 was cheaper than any Core 2 Duo. I've also had good experiences with Nvidia chipsets & Linux - so what the hey. I got the ASUS motherboard primarily because of my excellent experience with prior ASUS mobos. It's also nice that it has onboard DVI.

Everything arrived quickly and nothing was DOA. I did experience some minor sound issues with different Linux distros and Windows - but not enough to call the motherboard defective or anything. Probably more of a driver issue. If you are using this motherboard under windows - I would suggest uninstalling the Nvidia firewall which is installed when you use the unified driver on the ASUS CD. Find another firewall... Never really liked the Nvidia one.

I'll detail my Linux installation fun (fun is also code for excrutiating frustration in some cases) in a future article. Thanks for the read!

Decided it was time to start a blog

I've been experimenting with Linux more often lately and have found several blogs out there to be very helpful. I've stumbled upon some pretty good information and hope to post it here when I stumble upon it from time to time.

Initially I considered paying for hosting on my own blog - just to learn the ins and outs of Wordpress or CMS Made Simple. But the truth of the matter is - I'm more interested in tinkering with the technology than coming up with sample content. As such, I set out to build a small Linux server/media center to do my tinkering on. I'll post it's specs in the next post.

If you're reading this - you either came to my blog really quickly or you've dug through the archives. Welcome to my blog!