Sunday, March 1, 2009

nvidia + flash + streaming video + old hardware = success!

I've got an older computer in my basement. I've been copying my CD's to it, and have it connected to my stereo. The computer itself is an IBM desktop model, it has a Pentium III and 512 MB RAM. In its day, it was a great computer. It still is decent for what it does, which is play CD's and run an awesome screensaver of Packer pictures on a pretty large TV.

For the past few days, I've been trying to get it to play streaming video from I've got an nvidia 6200 GT video card in this box. It has S-video out, which I've got connected to an older Hitachi 60" projection TV. The picture on the TV is decent, not as nice as the 42" LCD we have upstairs, but nice enough. The computer is running Ubuntu Hardy Heron, the latest with all the updates. The streaming internet video sucked. It was too choppy to watch.

I did some research, and tried a number of performance enhancements, but none of them really made much of a difference. S-video is not digital, and Flash in general sucks, so it didn't really surprise me that things weren't working that well. However, Hulu videos look good on my laptop, which has an ATI card. So I figured to persevere, I probably had a configuration issue, and was successful in the end.

The key turned out to be to install Envy. I'd installed the latest nvidia proprietary drivers from synaptic, but no joy there (yes, I tried the free driver first, it didn't work so well). I found a forum post somewhere that suggested Envy to install the proprietary drivers. So I uninstalled the proprietary driver that I had, installed Envy, and used it to load the latest from nvidia directly. It turns out that Envy loaded a newer driver than I had before, and the video is good enough. It could be better, but it is not so choppy as to be unwatchable.