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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Since my DVD player died, I'm thinking I might build a HTPC since I almost have enough parts to respawn a new system. I have an old micro-atx motherboard w/PCI express x16 slot, AMD 3700 processor with giant heatsink, and 2 gigs of ram. I just need a video card, and a PSU. The machine will sit under my TV and play DVD and maybe blu-ray rips from across the network. In the future I will get a TV card and make it a DVR.


The PSU needs to be small-form-factor and extremely quiet, and the videocard doesn't have to be gameable, but I would like it to be able to handle hi-def rips and maybe dual monitors. Passive cooling would be a big plus. Last I was in the computer loop, NVIDIA was still the way to go for Linux; is that still true? Any suggestions? There's just so many brands out there I'm not sure if I should just buy the cheapest dual-output videocard from Newegg or what. You can get some with VGA and DVI for like $30.


Last, and possibly most important, what distro/software should I use? I'm an Ubuntu man usually but I have had nothing but problems with sound ever since like, the pre-hardy days. I'm not sure what to blame but a lot of it seems to be Pulseaudio. I don't want to deal with getting sound working, I just want it to work, and linux sound is a complete mystery to me. Since I have so much trouble with Ubuntu's sound, should I try another distro?
 

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IMHO, the biggest improvement with Karmic has been the improved sound functionality. For me, sound configuration has been much easier than in either of the last two Ubuntu iterations. No idea how it compares to other distros though, but Ubuntu has made improvements to their sound systems.
 

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NVIDIA is still the way to go because of VDPAU support: you can use pretty much any 8xxx, 9xxx, or 2xx card and get smooth video playback, even with BluRay. The PSU will depend on the video card requirements, so select a video card first, then go from there. The VGA card will depend on the +12V rail's total amps, so pay close attention to that.


I agree with Jsquid that Ubuntu's audio system has improved; however, I still hate Pulseaudio with a passion. You should kill it and kill it fast. There are threads here and elsewhere that describe how to do that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Cool. I'm thinking I'll get this 8400 passive card because it's NVIDIA, passive, and has TV and digital outs:


http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814162026


I have this PSU in my main system and I know that it's quiet and reliable, so if it has enough power I'll just buy another one:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16817151089


I guess what I need to do is install Ubuntu all fresh, and then follow one of the Pulse-removal tutorials right from the get-go. I have had the worst trouble chasing around N different GUI volume panels and I would really prefer if I could just go back to the days where the only thing was alsamixer, and that was it. Now it seems like whatever sound-management tool you are using there is some other hidden one somewhere that is overriding it or some hidden process like flash that is stealing the sound stream or something. I just need to be sure that when I write a script to fetch video files and play them with mplayer, than the sound is going to work or else my wife will not approve of the HTPC purchase. I'm willing to try other distros if necessary.


EDIT: Is TV-out important nowadays? MY current TV has DVI port, so it works with computers fine, but if I buy a LCD hdtv in the future, are they all going to be HDCP only and not work with a simple DVI port from a computer? In that case, I should get TV-out so I can at least hook up component cables. But cards with TV-out cost substantially more.
 

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I forgot to mention that if you plan to watch any Flash content (Hulu, etc.) then you'll need something pretty strong since it uses OpenGL. I'd say at least a 9500GT.


That's a good question about the newer TV's. I don't think that HDCP prevents you from connecting non-HDCP devices, so HDMI should work fine. You'll want to do some research on how well it works in linux and with which video cards before you invest in one, though. Some of them simply don't work, and others have overscan issues that are difficult to correct.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
That's annoying about the Flash content. I wouldn't have thought any 2d content would require a strong video card. Maybe I pulled the trigger too soon. I bought this this morning:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16814121360


At $19 with free shipping, it's not too much of an "investment" if it turns out not to work. And if it doesn't, I can probably use it on another system. I have had some annoying issues with overscan in the past on ATI graphics.


I noticed that the Hauppage PVR-150 cards I used in college are no longer available. What is the modern equivalent for recording analog cable?
 

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The "investment" I was speaking about earlier was the TV.


Your 8400GS should handle VDPAU video well, but don't expect it to handle Flash video. I have a 9300GS, and it plays Flash, but I get tearing even with 480P content (Hulu). We're all hoping that Adobe will bring hardware acceleration to Linux. They've been beta-testing it in Windows for a couple of months now. If/when they do, that 8400GS should be just fine.


I have analog cable, as well, but I don't know which is the best card to use in Linux. I'm using a HVR-1800 that my Granddad gave me before he passed away, but the analog part isn't supported in Linux. Analog is a dying beast, though. I'd go with a HD-PVR or a R5000HD -- the latter being considerably more difficult to set up. Maybe there's someone else here running analog cable that can suggest a capture card for you.
 

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I understand that Xubuntu does not include the dreaded Pulseaudio. Perhaps you could check that out if you want to stay with Ubuntu.


BTW, I have an 8200 and it handles Flash just fine... which is to say that I still get tearing on live action video from Hulu (it's otherwise watchable), but it plays back South Park just fine. I defy you to find anyone using Flash under Linux who doesn't experience video tearing. Flash under Linux just kind of sucks no matter what hardware you're using, and the situation is unlikely to improve.


Otherwise, you're pretty well set. The 8400GS series supports feature set B of VDPAU, which means full acceleration for Blu-Ray, ATSC and DVD playback (really, all MPEG-2, H.264 and WMV9/VC-1 video streams).


For a Hauppauge tuner card, the HVR-2250 is the top of the line -- dual tuners hooked into one coax connection, so there's no need for splitting the signal before running it to the card. Not sure if that's in your budget or not, but you can check out their website to see what they offer.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by indubitable /forum/post/18275414


BTW, I have an 8200 and it handles Flash just fine... which is to say that I still get tearing on live action video from Hulu (it's otherwise watchable), but it plays back South Park just fine. I defy you to find anyone using Flash under Linux who doesn't experience video tearing. Flash under Linux just kind of sucks no matter what hardware you're using, and the situation is unlikely to improve.

Which is exactly what I have been saying, it doesn't matter which Nvidia card you have you will always get tearing in fast movement scenes in HD Flash video in Linux. It's a Nvidia Flash issue not a performance issue.


Mythmaster, it can't be a openGL performance issue, otherwise how do you explain that I get no tearing at all on a Intel 945GC?
 

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Thanks, indubitable, and you may be right, tux. If Flash video still tears with my GTX 260 when I get it plugged in, then I'll concede that it is a Nvidia driver issue. I get tearing in both Linux and Windows with my 9300GS, so you can understand why I've blamed OpenGL support since Flash currently uses OpenGL, and the OpenGL speed is crap on the 9300GS. If the OpenGL speed is crap on the Intel chip that you're using but you still don't get any tearing, then we're looking at a driver issue here.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by mythmaster /forum/post/18276501


I get tearing in both Linux and Windows with my 9300GS, so you can understand why I've blamed OpenGL support

I read somewhere (I think it was an interview with a Nvidia coder on phoronix) that the Nvidia drivers are 90% the exact same code on every platform (Linux, Windows), what changes is only the platform specifc 'glue' code.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by indubitable /forum/post/18275414


For a Hauppauge tuner card, the HVR-2250 is the top of the line -- dual tuners hooked into one coax connection, so there's no need for splitting the signal before running it to the card. Not sure if that's in your budget or not, but you can check out their website to see what they offer.

Whoops, I just re-read your post and picked up the part about analog cable. Like mythmaster's card, the Linux driver for the HVR-2250 does not support analog cable. Sorry about that.
 

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Just to offer an alternate suggestion: I hated pulseaudio when I first switched over to Karmic (from Debian). However, over time I've learned what the cryptic controls in the voice control window are and I'm actually not that anti-Pulse any more. In fact, being able to redirect outputs and to see where all inputs and outputs are going is pretty nice.


What I found was really lacking with PulseAudio was documentation. A readable document which describes the architecture in plain English and one which describes how to control audio with Pulse would have greatly reduced resistance to it.


May I suggest that for your new box, you first try to use it with Pulse and if it's still a problem, then rip it out?
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·

Quote:
However, over time I've learned what the cryptic controls in the voice control window are and I'm actually not that anti-Pulse any more.

Where do you get this voice control window? On gnome? On KDE? On Fluxbox? And what is the command-line way to do the same thing?


I hate anything that has to be controlled through an obscure gui menu. I liked back in the day when I could just add blocks to my .asoundrc and then it would either work or not work and NOTHING WOULD CHANGE EVER.
 

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Oops - I should have said "sound control" not "voice control"! The GNOME applet is called pavucontrol - you probably also want "paman" and "padevchooser".


I'm not a fan of the GUI interfaces either, but after struggling with ALSA's options and getting SPDIF to work, I've settled for what is now intuitive to me



With pavucontrol running, if you invoke an application which uses sound, you should see it show up in the gui. You should also see all your inputs and outputs - some are hardware and some "virtual" streams. Using the GUI you can direct PulseAudio to send output to (or accept input from) whichever device/stream you want. For example, at night I redirect audio output to an a2dp bluetooth headset.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Well, I got a PSU, and I got an 8400gs silent video card, so now all I have to do is install ubuntu to a flash drive. I think I will try the normal Ubuntu 9.10 and if it gives me a lot of trouble, I'll try installing Xubuntu instead. I have had so much trouble with linux sound I can say that linux sound just does not work for me. My main desktop has not had sound since I upgraded from 9.04. I have done every Ubuntu sound diagnostic thing imaginable and nothing changes. Applications act like they are playing sound and yet nothing comes out. I've begun to think that it's my actual sound hardware that is broken, like a broken solder trace or something. Hopefully this new system will have working sound. My laptop running 9.10 has working sound afterall.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daravon /forum/post/18444631


Well, I got a PSU, and I got an 8400gs silent video card, so now all I have to do is install ubuntu to a flash drive. I think I will try the normal Ubuntu 9.10 and if it gives me a lot of trouble, I'll try installing Xubuntu instead. I have had so much trouble with linux sound I can say that linux sound just does not work for me.

Try Mandriva 2010.0 (see the sticky thread in this forum about it), it seems to be the distro release with the least sound issues currently, they really have sorted most sound issues in this release, it's the first distro release where I didn't have to uninstall Pulseaudio to get sound working.
 

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For analog cable recording, you want either a used PVR-150 (ebay, craigslist), or PVR-500, which is two PVR-150's on one card-

http://www.overstock.com/Electronics...4/product.html


For lowest cost, just use a WinTV card-
http://www.overstock.com/Electronics...2/product.html


The stock WinTV cards don't have hardware MPEG2 encoders, but with any CPU of the last 5 years (or more), software encoding on analog cable shouldn't be a CPU burden, especially with any dual core.


Yes, I use analog cable to record ~80+ cable stations on MythTV- I won't pay for encrypted content (digital cable, satellite).


Analog cable remains the "FOSS" of broadcast TV- you are able to use it any way you want, split the signal umpteen times in your home to umpteen devices (SDTV's, HDTV's, DVR's, VCR's, tuner cards, DVD recorders, etc), with no encryption, CableCard, set top boxes, or any other DRM crap to deal with.


My analog cable carries the local OTA HD stations unencrypted/unscrambled, of course, and the unscrambled analog cable signal is very clean, more than "good enough", far better than the compression artifact laden SD digital cable/sat, and even prefereable to over-compressed, bitrate starved HD from cable/sat in many cases.


For the unencrypted OTA HDTV channels, I recommend the Hauppauge 1250 or 2250, or the HD Homerun.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·

Quote:
I'm an Ubuntu man usually but I have had nothing but problems with sound ever since like, the pre-hardy days. I'm not sure what to blame but a lot of it seems to be Pulseaudio. I don't want to deal with getting sound working, I just want it to work, and linux sound is a complete mystery to me. Since I have so much trouble with Ubuntu's sound, should I try another distro?--me

Ok. You can read my other thread here , where I installed a server install of Ubuntu and couldn't get sound working. I thought it was the server install. So I scrounged a real hard drive and installed a full karmic install.


MY SOUND DOESN'T WORK.


I'm trying not to get frustrated, but it pretends that it is working. Really it does. But nothing comes out. I'm so fed up with this. I ran through the entire Ubuntu sound troubleshooting doc this morning, and it still doesn't work. It acts like it's working, but it's not. I triple checked my sound hardware by plugging my mp3 player in instead of the computer, and it plays fine from the mp3 jack, just not my computer's jack. And the thing is, my other computer, with a different motherboard, acts exactly like this a lot of the time, although the sound has randomly worked before on that system. But most of the time, volumes are all up, applications all act like they are playing, and nothing.


Seriously, I have been using linux for like 2 years; I remember sound working....even with this hardware! What happened? Did linux just become unsuitable for playing audio sometime around early 2009? Can one not play sound on linux? I literally don't know what to do next! Except chuck the whole system in the trash. The whole point was to have it play video. I'm not even sure how many more hours I'm willing to spend going through online sound troubleshooting guides just to have it still not work.


Code:
Code:
[email protected]:~/Videos$ aplay -l
**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: IXP [ATI IXP], device 0: ATI IXP AC97 [ATI IXP AC97]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: IXP [ATI IXP], device 1: ATI IXP IEC958 [ATI IXP IEC958 (AC97)]
  Subdevices: 1/1
  Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
[email protected]:~/Videos$
c
Code:
Code:
[email protected]:~/Videos$ grep 'audio' /etc/group
audio:x:29:pulse,chaz
[email protected]:~/Videos$
 
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