Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hardy Heron woes... ATI revisited

One of the first things I did was get rid of the open source driver. As much as I'd like to use it, it just doesn't work well with my video card. I've got an ATI Radeon Xpress 200M card in my laptop. I tried to use the proprietary driver provided by Ubuntu, but I had a little trouble with that. For some reason, the restricted driver manager disappeared after the upgrade. I'm running KDE, so I switched over to a Gnome session and found the app there. I copied the command line for it so I can run it from KDE:

gksu -D /usr/share/applications/jockey-gtk.desktop /usr/bin/jockey-gtk

I enabled both the ATI driver and the Broadcom driver for my wireless card here.

I thought this might fix my problems with getting DVDs to play, but no such luck. Still too choppy to be viewable. Thinking that since the upgrade had removed several other things, I thought perhaps the codecs installed by Automatix might have been removed. I found out that Automatix is now obsolete, and all that is necessary is to run

sudo apt-get install kubuntu-restricted-extras

So, of course, I blindly did that, and inadvertently installed the OpenJava JDK. Oh, well, one more Java version can't hurt, I guess...!

The codecs were installed, but still no joy on the DVD playing, so I installed the video driver directly from ATI. This is pretty easy to do. First I uninstalled the restricted driver from Ubuntu by running the restricted driver manager again and unchecking the ATI box. I downloaded the driver from ATI here:

To install this driver, it is just a matter of running the downloaded file and following the instructions. The installer has a simple GUI, just click "install" then "automatic", wait a bit, and it's done. Restarting the computer seems to be necessary rather than just restarting X. This is the procedure I usually follow after doing an Ubuntu upgrade, so I've done a few extra steps in the past, like installing the kernel headers and running aticonfig so I already have usable configuration files for this driver.

Still no luck on getting DVDs to play though. I started fiddling with the settings in xine itself. xine seems to be the underlying player for just about all the other players, so I worked with it directly. The xine faq has some instructions on how to improve performance, and recommends running xine-check, which supposedly comes with xine. I don't have it, and it doesn't seem to be available through synaptic. So I skipped that step and played with some of the other settings. Surprisingly, at least to me, turning off double buffering helped. I got the best boost by running

sudo nice --20 xine

This worked for about the first 10 minutes of a movie, then something kicked in (some cron process, most likely, it happened right at midnight) and the movie got choppy, both in video and sound. Looks like I have more work to do on this.

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