Category Archives: Multimedia

NVIDIA partially opening up their GPU specification

X.Org_Logo.svgYesterday NVIDIA announced that they are supporting Nouveau development by providing documentation on certain aspects of their GPUs. This is good for the Open Source community – but their competitors still provide much more.

If you look on Linux on the desktop the out-of-the-box graphics experience is still grubby and highly depends on the hardware. Most Intel cards are very well supported right out of the box, the default drivers are the best. But AMD and NVIDIA both do have proprietary drivers which are much better than the open source ones. AMD though improved the situation years ago by releasing many technical specs to the public and thus many developers had a chance to improve the drivers. NVIDIA however in the end did nothing to improve the situation on the open source side. In the meantime the pretty well working driver Nouveau came up, but they didn’t even support the development there.

Until yesterday: NVIDIA’s Andy Ritger offered to help the development by actively monitoring the Nouveau discussion lists, by providing an e-mail address to ask questions about the GPUs and, which is most important, by

releasing public documentation on certain aspects of our GPUs, with the intent to address areas that impact the out-of-the-box usability of NVIDIA GPUs with Nouveau. We intend to provide more documentation over time, and guidance in additional areas as we are able.

That is good news! Finally the developers of the open source driver have at least some support from the company they help anyway. As a result the out-of-the-box experience of NVIDIA backed machines might improve over time. But for modest 3D graphics performance they would have to release more technical details, probably on level with what AMD released.

In any way, NVIDIA’s commitment is a good step in the right direction. But there are still huge problems and dark spots in the Linux graphics world: the OpenGL support is outdated, and hybrid graphics support is far, far away from working seamlessly on Linux.

But there is also hope for rapid improvement on the situation due to suddenly many more users: with the new Steam Box building on top of Linux, Linux gaming might get quite some momentum – and thus much better drivers.

[Howto] Installing Owncloud News, a self hosted RSS reader

two_glossy_cloudsOwncloud News, a RSS news reader for the self hosting cloud service Owncloud, is available in an Alpha version. That comes right at the time Google Reader is bound to see its end soon.

I must admit that I do not understand why Google decided to shut down the Google Reader service. Social media with their unstructured news areas are nice, but no match to a well structured news feed full of read and unread news. But, there are replacements, and one pretty wise choice would be to not depend on yet another web service, but to host it yourself.

In comes Owncloud: it can already host your addresses, calendars, files and musik and can be integrated with your desktop as well. Now a RSS reader app, Owncloud News was released as an Alpha version, and indeed already looks promising:

Owncloud-Reader-General

The installation is pretty smooth as well. The requirements are a running Owncloud 5 version, so 4.5 won’t do it. The installation itself basically consists of two steps: installing and activating the so called App Framework, which is supposed to be the foundation for other Owncloud apps in the future, and afterwards installing the news app itself:

# cd /var/www
# git clone https://github.com/owncloud/appframework.git
Cloning into 'appframework'...
[...]
# git clone https://github.com/owncloud/news.git
Cloning into 'news'...
[...]

I choose /var/www here because it is recommended in the manual and because there the appropriate user has the necessary access rights. But it could be any dir, since you only link the plugins anyway:

# ln -s /var/www/appframework /var/www/owncloud/apps
# ln -s /var/www/news /var/www/owncloud/apps

Speaking about rights, make sure the web server can write cache files:

# sudo chown -R www-data:www-data /var/www/news/cache

Afterwards, login to your owncloud, and active the plugins: first the framework, followed by the actual application. Add feeds, play around, as you will see it works pretty nice.

What is still missing right now is an Android news reader which could sync with the server. When that is available as well, Owncloud News might become *the* Google Reader descendant.

Last call for ….

I haven’t posted anything in a while on this blog, and now I made the decision that this will not change: it is unlikely that this blog will be updated anytime soon. The reason is actually twofold:

Job
I’m working full time as an Open Source/Linux consultant these days – and after work I do not really have the time nor the energy to invest even more time into Open Source (besides the Fedora packaging).
Company’s Blog
I was successful in convincing enough people in our company to start a blog – and I blog there since then, so when I get home I usually already have blogged about whatever comes to my mind.

That means effectively that you will not receive any more new posts here. It hurts my heart and kills kittens, but you can remove the blogfeed. @planets where I might still be listed at: please remove this blog feed as well.

However, if you *do* want to keep up with my thoughts: credativ’s company blog is working quite nice these days. Btw., in case you don’t know, credativ is an Open Source/Linux company and the one behind the Open Source Support Center (OSSC) and the Open Source Support Card (yeah, “catchy” names, I know). They are focussed on Open Source support (Linux-Support, PostgreSQL-Support, etc.) and have offices in DE, UK, US, etc. So the general topics are pretty close to this blog. If you look close you will recognize my style: short italic introduction, eye catcher on the upper right side, special headline markings for Howtos and Short Tips, and so on. Also, the categories are quite the same, and it is actually available in German and English. Also, I am not the only person writing there – one very active PostgreSQL developer keeps blogging there, if I want it or not. ;-)

However – it is a company blog, so you will (!) find information regarding the company itself, or newest marketing things. You are warned!

So this is it: the last post. Thanks everyone for wonderful years full of blogging, discussions, news, Howtos and good tips. So long, and thanks for the fish! :-)

Moving on: 64bit Linux, PulseAudio, Fedora 10 and so on

Tux
With the release of Fedora 10 I took the opportunity to finally switch over to 64bit Linux – including the proprietary stuff like Flash, Skype, and so on. Also, Fedora 10 itself had several rather pleasing surprises for me.

I already used Fedora 10 since it’s Beta release. However, recently I decided to re-install it, this time in 64bit, and check how that would go. Also, since I had some rather strange problems and performance issues I wondered if a re-install would fix them.

64bit in General

Switching from 32bit to 64bit on an operating system is a huge and complicated task involving effectively all larger applications. This can e a real pain – unless you have an operating system where all software usually supports 64bit anyway. This is the case with most open source operating systems and therefore also with Linux. So grabbing the 64bit image and installing it was just like grabbing the 32bit image. In case of Fedora the download link offered by default was 32bit, but 64bit was just a click away. I wonder when that will change.

There are numerous advantages and disadvantages regarding 32bit and 64bit, for a first introduction start with the Wikipedia article.

Flash

The problems regarding 64bit arise when you deal with non-Open Source software: this might only be provided as 32bit. In case it depends on any other library, the system must provide these libraries in 32bit and 64bit. While on RPM systems this is not a problem at all, this can be rather problematic when browser plugins are 32bit only, because then the browser needs to be 32bit only as well, the same is true then for all other plugins, and so on. There are wrappers to deal with that, but these are sub-optimal.

Luckily, Adobe has now released a 64bit Alpha version of their Flash player. While it is still missing several features and is not even provided as a rpm or deb file, in my first tests it worked without problems. As a side note, the 64bit versions for Windows and Mac OS are still not out there – Linux is a clear technology and development pusher here!

For the sake of completion (and since someone would point it out in a comment anyway), there are also free (as in FLOSS) alternatives to the Flash player – which are available in 64bit for quite some time now, of course.

Skype

Another issue is Skype – this is not provided as a 64bit version at all (bug report). For Ubuntu users there is at least a 32bit version modified for easy installation on 64bit systems. Btw., hardly anyone seems to know that, even the German Ubuntu wiki doesn’t mention that at all.

Anyway, that doesn’t help the Fedora community anyway – but since Fedora runs on RPM installing all the compatibility libraries is just a question of hard disk space:

yum --nogpgcheck localinstall skype*rpm
yum install alsa-plugins-pulseaudio-1.0.18-1.rc3.fc10.i386

That’s it. In my tests Skpe indeed worked, even a video test image was shown although I haven’t actually made a real video call. Also, I had problems with the microphone, but that might be due to problems with PulseAudio. I appreciate any tips on that issue.

PulseAudio

Well, PulseAudio is a difficult thing. It has a rather strong community and people are making sure it comes up everywhere and works everywhere like it should. However, while I read all the rather long papers and documents why I should need PA, nothing of these papers really stuck, and I always wonder why it is really needed – apart from the more esoteric reasons that Alsa is not suitable for the future. Besides, I do wonder if the Alsa guys would say the same.
Additionally, in my first tests PA worked just fine – under Gnome, but not in KDE. So my first step after installing Fedora since my first contact with PA was always to remove PA.

But I always tend to give things another try, and this time I didn’t remove it. And indeed, almost everything works, and I haven’t even met a delay yet. It all just works, even on KDE with its Phonon!

So it looks like PA finally fits in well. Now what I only need some ideas what to do with it :D Seriously, what I would appreciate to see is a simple one sheet drawing with all the usual suspects of the Linux audio blob (from Phonon over xine down to Alsa) to see where PA fits in and what it does there.

KDE, Nvidia and performance

Fedora 10 now includes KDE 4.1.3 (included in the updates), and together with RPM Fusion Nvidia drivers are just a

yum install kmod-nvidia

away. While I had trouble with this way with the beta version, and general serious performance problems with the drivers installed manually, it turned out that with Fedora 10 final everything works like a charm – fast and snappy!

I am slightly surprised and wonder what was wrong with my Fedora 10 Beta setup. But on the other hand, my work machine is running Kubuntu 8.10 and there the performance is similar fast. So to me it looks like the days of slow KDE 4.x on Nvidia hardware are finally over, given that the drivers are the newest stable ones and KDE is of version 4.1.3.

Fedora’s encryption

This time I decided to not go with a full hard disk encryption, but rather with a home disk encryption. And while I still dislike Fedora’s disk druid for not letting me chose the disk setup in detail I appreciate that clicking a checkbox was all I had to do to activate the home partition encryption. It is even nicely integrated with the boot process.

Overall impression

The overall impression of Fedora 10 is very good. Most bugs I encountered running the Beta version are fixed – except for a strange coding problem, but I will survive that one.

Also, my first move into the lands of 64bit are also far less complicated than expected. Your mileage may vary, depending on the used proprietary software, but then again kvm might be a solution to work around that problem.

RPM Fusion enters testing state

fedora-logo-bubble
RPM Fusion, a merge of several former Fedora 3rd party repositories providing licence/patent problematic packages, has entered the public testing state. Fedora Rawhide users can now start using it, and the brave among the Fedora 9 and Fedora 8 users can also help testing.

RPM Fusion was announced more than a year ago and is the attempt to merge several of the many existing 3rd party repositories for Fedora (Dribble, Freshrpms,. livna). The idea of the common repository is to enhance the compatibility as well as avoid duplication – in the former time many packages were provided by more than one repository. The aim of the new RPM Fusion is however just the same as it was for the original repos: provide high quality packages of software which cannot be part of Fedora due to licence/patent problems.

There was a lot of development going on in the background, but RPM Fusion wasn’t ready for Fedora 9 unfortunately – there was just too much to do: importing the packages, sorting out incompatibilities, creating a common build- and mirror-system, etc. Now most of the work is done and the new repository is ready for testing – more details can be found in Thorsten Leemhuis’ blog post. There you will also find ready-to-install repository packages.

With the new repository the situation for users regarding mixed repositories and the possible incompatibilities will hopefully improve a lot. Also, new users don’t have to make a choice between the repositories. And last but not least, with a common and clear infrastructure RPM Fusion will hopefully attract more users to submit their packages to the project so that RPM Fusion grows even more.