Friday, September 29, 2006

Ubuntu On A New Laptop

So I recently splurged and bought a laptop. My last laptop died years ago, and I never replaced it due to a crappy and unsure economy.

I only had a few criteria - I wanted a graphics card that supported XGL, and I wanted lots of hard drive space. Additionally, I wanted an easy and painless return if there were issues, so I checked out Costco due to their stellar return policy.

I picked up an HP dv8000 at Costco that has 200gig of HD space and an NVidia card that supports XGL. I set out almost immediately to try out Ubuntu since I've been hearing so many good things about it. I've used Linux on and off for years, I use FreeBSD for my email client and things I consider critical.

Anyway, so Ubuntu lets you shrink existing partitions, so I selected the second drive and shrunk it just in case HP had put something there that wasn't obvious - it shows up as empty in XP. I installed Ubuntu, and after an initial false start in which I had the size of Linux partition vs. Windows backwards, things went pretty smoothly.

I was able to install dvd::rip easily (not so easy in some cases, easy on Ubuntu). XGL installation was soooo easy, it was ridiculous. If you haven't seen the XGL demos, I highly suggest checking them out. Sure it's mostly eye candy, but it's damn cool eye candy.

Of course, there are always a few nits:

1. Sound card driver for this doesn't seem to allow me to turn up volume nearly as loud as on XP. Gotta see if there's a fix for that.
2. Spontaneous reboots - this I'm definitely going to see if I can't find why. It always happens while running dvd::rip, many hours in. So either dvd::rip sets it off (during transcode) or a screensaver kicks in during that time that blows it up. I've tried running Prime95, but it doesn't freeze up. Current workaround: I switched to acidrip - the default settings for acidrip vs. dvd::rip result in a MUCH faster rip and encoding.
3. Screensaver - not sure why Ubuntu/Gnome has this different setup (and lack of config) than regular old xscreensaver, but I've found a few howto's on how to put xscreensaver back in, but the lock screen is nearly as slick from what I've read.

Next up, I'm gonna see about getting a Common Lisp on here (I've been going through some tutorials from a book that's online). Also, I'm going to try out installation of Eclipse and/or NetBeans and see how that goes.

I haven't exercised all the hardware to be sure it all works (DVD burner and bluetooth for example, although I don't envision needing bluetooth) but everything but the sound card volume has been fine so far under Ubuntu.

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if hours of DVD ripping made the CPU overheat, thereby causing the machine to reboot...
Agreed. That's why I switched to acidrip. I did find some complaints from folks saying that Ubuntu's (ACPI?) code wasn't up to snuff on some laptops, and doesn't step down the voltage as things heat up, although my case doesn't seem to be the same as theirs. They seem to crash almost immediately when just playing video, etc.

Still struggling with acidrip, however, and getting audio to sync properly - in mplayer (in Xine, it syncs better, but I get stupid green bar across the top). Found a recommendation that lavc audio encoding does better job with sync, but I get a complaint that mp3 is not supported...have to figure out if I have to recompile with all options turned on somewhere, since mp3 encoding is not license free damn it.

Also tried PCM and that seems to be synced better, but requires more thing Linux seems to be missing is a single, comprehensive source for DVD ripping/transcoding and playing in a reliable way.

And while wondering about the 'net trying to find this, I found not a few references (again?!!) that the mplayer crew is sorta sensitive to criticisms/problems. I understand that when people are trying to do something difficult and people are piling on with unhelpful comments can be annoying, but they seem to often reject people with real problems...
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