Custom Paint Job

Here’s the result of my custom paint job on my Acer Aspire One.  Thanks to Tommy @ http://www.losthoughts.com/ for the stencil.

aspire_paintjob

I took the whole laptop to pieces and removed the lid from the screen so I was just left with the plastic.  Then I sanded it back to bare plastic with wet&dry then smoothed it off with finer grades of wet&dry.  Then when it was smooth I washed off all the plastic dust and let it dry before applying 3 coats of primer and about 4 coats of white paint, then one coat of black and about 4 coats of lacquer on top.  It took an entire weekend.  I also painted the bezel around the screen inside white.

Aspire Revo as a MythTV frontend

It’s brilliant!

If you’re reading this then I will assume you already know about MythTV and you’ve searched Google to find out if the Aspire Revo box will make a decent MythTV frontend. In short, yes – it works fantastically well.

I bought the 8GB SSD Linux version from Play for about 150 quid (get a Play credit card and you can knock off about another 15 quid in vouchers and get 9 months interest free credit, for what it’s worth), and I also bought 2 x 2GB SODIMM.

The first thing I did was take the lid off to have a look inside.  This wasn’t as easy as I thought.  There’s one little screw under a sticker that says something about a warranty and then you just have to prise the lid off. It’s pretty stiff, to the extent that I was convinced there was another screw somewhere, but it comes off in the end.   I removed the WiFi card since I won’t use it and it might reduce the heat/power.   The RAM swap presented no surprises, but the appearance of a 160GB HDD did.

I had sort of decided that the SSD was the better option for me for two reasons; less heat and less noise. But, seeing as I’ve been gifted 160GB of disk space and under use the HDD makes no noise, I’m very happy!

I decided on XUbuntu over the normal version partly because of the reduced overheads and software bloat, I really don’t need Open Office and The Gimp installed on this box and I can’t be bothered with manually selecting packages at install, so I downloaded the XUbuntu ISO and stuck it on a USB pen drive with Unetbootin.  I had a few problems booting from the pen drive, it kept complaining that the initrd was corrupt, so in the end I had to use the alternative version and run through the install on the command line.   I blew away all the partitions on the disk, I won’t need any of the Acer software – there’s nothing much of use on there anyway.

Once XUbuntu was installed I downloaded and compiled the latest NVIDIA drivers:

http://www.nvidia.com/object/linux_display_ia32_185.18.14.html

(this is the latest version at I write this, check if there is a newer one)

and then I downloaded the SVN version of Myth and enabled VDPAU. If you’re looking for help setting up Myth and VDPAU check the MythTV wiki, there’s more information there than I can recreate here. Read the “Installing SVN on Breezy” document to give you a hand getting all the bits and bobs installed to allow you to compile Myth. Note: some libraries have changed name, e.g. liblame is now libmp3lame.

Then it’s a case of enabling VDPAU at compile time using the configure script and then creating a playback profile to use VDPAU from within the frontend.

My old frontend had a dual core 2GHz processor in and would sit at about 80 to 90 percent usage on both cores while watching 1080p video and sucked somewhere in the region of 80 to 100 watts. The Revo’s Atom processor sits at about 10% usage (obviously the graphics card is doing the work) and sucks less than 20watts, while also being nearly silent.

Sound was a bit of a faff – the Revo has an HDMI connector with the audio path built in. To hear anything I needed to enable and unmute the IEC958 (spdif) channel and then tell Myth to use ALSA:hdmi for audio.   Ubuntu detected the sound card perfectly well, so trust me when I say you do not need to download a later version of ALSA, you just need to get the settings right.   You might also need to tell your telly to pick up digital audio, not analogue.   I haven’t got system sounds going down the HDMI just yet , but I don’t think this will be a problem.

Summary then; very very good choice for a small, quiet and cheap frontend that can also double as an Internet browser.

I think I might buy another one.

DVB-T reception on the cheap

In an effort to reduce noise and electricity consumption in my living room I’m removing the current MythTV frontend and replacing it with an Aspire Revo.

The box under the telly at the moment is a dual-core Pentium 4 somethingorother running at about 2Gz in a nice looking “media” case.   It’s great and everything, and it decodes HD perfectly well but it has fans on the processor, fans on the video card and fans in the PSU which all add up to a noisy box.

So it’s going to get re-purposed as a general computer and the Revo will go in it’s place.   Actually it will get bolted on to the back of the telly to keep it out of the reach of children who like to press buttons.  I’ll report back on the building of a frontend on a Revo once I wrestle the package from the hands of the worlds most apathetic delivery company “Home Delivery Network”.  (I think they use the word “delivery” quite incorrectly)

Anyway, as part of this upgrade I need to add a DVB-T tuner to the Revo but with no PCI slots the only option is to use a USB tuner.   My father-in-law put me on to Kenable who have a lot of bits and bobs at good prices, specifically the PEAK DVB-T USB tuner for 15quid:

USB Peak DIGITAL DVB-T Freeview TV Card XP MCE Vista Dongle
http://www.kenable.co.uk/product_info.php/cPath/171/products_id/1435

I wasn’t able to find much about about it before I bought it, but I thought I’d take a punt and get one anyway and worry about getting it working under Linux later.

It arrived the other day and I popped the lid off to find an AF9015 demodulator and a QT1010 tuner inside.   I checked on the Linux TV wiki and things looked pretty good on the whole.  When I plugged it in to an Ubuntu 9.04 box nothing happened which was a shame but a bit more digging made me think that I should download the latest Linux TV drivers and have another go.

I followed the instructions from here:

http://www.linuxtv.org/wiki/index.php/How_to_Obtain,_Build_and_Install_V4L-DVB_Device_Drivers

and downloaded, compiled and installed the new drivers.  You’ll also need some different firmware to that which is supplied with Ubuntu, download 4.95.0 from here:

http://www.otit.fi/~crope/v4l-dvb/af9015/af9015_firmware_cutter/firmware_files/4.95.0/

and place the .fw file in /lib/firmware (not as most people say /lib/firmware/<kernel version>).  You’ll need to overwrite the other version, or rename it or whatever.

Reboot and you’re golden. The stick is detected and the firmware loads and I have been watching live TV on my Aspire One netbook courtesy of Mplayer.

You probably need to bear in mind that if you apply any future kernel/driver updates from Ubuntu then your drivers might get over written.  There’s a change that the new version of the Ubuntu drivers will include the required AF9015 driver, but it might not.  Also, you probably don’t need to compile all the drivers, just the ones for the AF9015 and QT1010 modules.  I’ll look in to this, and if you promise to be good I’ll provide a nice little package with everything in.

 

UPDATE:  So here we are two and a bit years later.  I’ve just found this same tuner in the bottom of a box and plugged it in to my 11.04 Ubuntu machine.  When I plugged it in Ubuntu automatically suggested I download the firmware.  Awesome.  It now “just works”.  Well pleased.

Acer Aspire One & Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04

I’m really happy with my new Aspire One.  I was a bit late coming to the whole netbook party.    In the last few months I’ve been looking at the various options and the Aspire One was still the best deal in my opinion.

I’ve upgraded the RAM by adding another 1GB (you can’t add any more than this, it doesn’t pass POST if you do) and given it a custom paint job (pictures coming soon).

While I was playing around with various OS options I was caught by a bug which corrupts the SD card (left hand side) if you’ve opted to put /home on there and suspended.   See this page for more info:

https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/pm-utils/+bug/342096

The fix is to recompile the kernel and change a few options from the Ubuntu defaults.  While I was waiting for the source to download I had a quick poke around on Google and found that Robert had already built a custom kernel for the Aspire complete with all the Aspire One specific changes needed to make the WiFi LEDs work, and fan control and what have you.   I posted a comment on Robert’s site asking if he had also included the fix from the Ubuntu bug as detailed above, he hadn’t but about 30 mins later a new release was ready to roll.   It fixes the corrupt SD problem and saved me a lot of menuconfig work.  Thanks Robert!

You can get more details from here:

http://blog3.robertalks.com/index.php/2009/06/17/revision-3-for-kernel-2630-final-released/

Film & Spotify

So, me & Stu are making a film. It’s going to be along the same sort of lines as http://www.bbsdocumentary.com/ The plan at the moment is to document how we came to be interested in all things Internet and computers in general, and then move on to document our momentous trip to http://www.har2009.nl

I’ve been using Spotify to research the sound track and it’s brilliant, shame there’s no Linux version but you can get it to run under Wine if you really want to. My advice is enjoy Spotify now, because as they get more and more popular their hosting costs are going to shoot up, requiring more money, requiring more advertising and/or the server speed will decrease. Enjoy it while it lasts folks.