Nifty tidbits and random thoughts on technology and anything else that catches my fancy
Tag Archives: XBMC
I finally got my nettop – AMD E-350 based barebones system. Installed 4G of RAM and the plan was to set it up with XBMCBuntu or XBMC-XvBA. Instead of installing the XBMC-XvBA version directly, I figured that I could start with XBMCBuntu, see how it does and then if necessary move to the XvBA enabled builds.
I don’t have a hard drive for the nettop – the plan was to have the system run off a 8Gig pen drive.
Basic Installation – XBMCBuntu
What you need
- The nettop with RAM installed.
- 2 USB pendrives – One for installation (2GB) and another which is going to act as your HDD (8G)
- Download UNetBootin for windows and the XBMCBuntu iso image
- Create a Live USB using UNetBootin: Once you have UNetBootin installed, stick in a flash drive in the usb, start UNetBootin and selec the XBMCBuntu iso image as the source distribution iso and the flash drive as the destination.
- Boot the nettop using the USB drive: You might have to play around with boot devices and priorities in the BIOS settings to get it to boot from the USB drive. To keep things simple, stick the pendrive into one of the USB2 ports (avoid the USB3)
- ON the UNetBootin boot menu, you can just try out XBMCBuntu live image. I did so and things seemed to work well enough for me to do the full install to another USB drive plugged into the system. Note that if you’re not able to find the target drive, then just reboot with both the USB drives plugged in – sometimes, newly inserted devices aren’t detected.
- Install, go through the menus and wait for it to complete.
- As you go through the menus, keep in mind to choose a custom partitioning scheme. In my case, I had 4G of RAM and there’s no sense in having a swap drive on the pen drive. If you plan on having hibernation support, then use a 2G swap partition (50% of RAM) – else you can skip the swap altogether.
- Once done, pull out the installation pen drive and reboot. You should be able to reboot off the USB pendrive that you installed into. The installation pendrive is pretty much done – you won’t need it any longer.
At this point, I had XBMCBuntu up and running however, there were a few problems:
- On idle, CPU utilization was very high (~ 60 – 70%) and the unit was running hot.
- Display resolution proved troublesome – my LCD’s native resolution is 1366×768 but that wasn’t available over HDMI.
- I was able to get 1360×768 on DVI/D-Sub – but that meant using a separate cable for audio out.
Of these, the high CPU utilization was the biggest worry – so there’s a few steps available to try
- Within XBMC – set sync to display refresh – always.
- Turn off RSS feeds
<advancedsettings> <useddsfanart>true</useddsfanart> <cputempcommand>cputemp</cputempcommand> <samba> <clienttimeout>30</clienttimeout> </samba> <network> <disableipv6>true</disableipv6> </network> <loglevel hide="false">1</loglevel> <gui> <algorithmdirtyregions>1</algorithmdirtyregions> <visualizedirtyregions>false</visualizedirtyregions> <nofliptimeout>0</nofliptimeout> </gui> <measurerefreshrate>true</measurerefreshrate> <videoextensions> <add>.dat|.DAT</add> </videoextensions> <tvshowmatching append="yes"> <!-- matches title 01/04 episode title and similar.--> <regexp>[s]?([0-9]+)[/._ ][e]?([0-9]+)</regexp> </tvshowmatching> <gputempcommand>/usr/bin/aticonfig --od-gettemperature | grep Temperature | cut -f 2 -d "-" | cut -f 1 -d "." | sed -e "s, ,," | sed 's/$/ C/'</gputempcommand> </advancedsettings>
Did those and while they dropped the CPU utilization to about 25% which was quite good. However, during videos, the CPU was still high – and that’s because even though XBMCBuntu official uses hardware acceleration through VAAPI, it still is spotty.
I went over to the XBMC-XvBA installation thread and followed the directions in the first post to add the XBMC-XvBA ppas. The download took some time and XvBA build got installed. Started XBMC and things were much, much better.
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:wsnipex/xbmc-xvba sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install xbmc xbmc-bin
There are other tweaks that are listed on the XBMC-XvBA installation thread which I also went ahead and applied.
Optimizing Linux for a flash/pen drive installation
Installing on a pen drive /usb flash drive has its pain points. My boot time was around painfully slow (~3.5 minutes). Opening Chromium took forever and even page loads were slow (it would be stuck with the status bar on ‘checking cache’…). Also, the incessant writing to disk is probably killing off my pen drive much much faster. I ended up doing the following:
- Use the
nodiratimeflags for the USB drive
# /etc/fstab UUID=39f52ccf-363b-4b6e-abdd-927809618d83 / ext4 noatime,nodiratime,errors=remount-ro 0 1
- Use tmpfs – In memory, reduces writes to disk and is faster. With 4G of RAM, this is a no-brainer.
# /etc/fstab tmpfs /tmp tmpfs defaults,noatime,nodiratime,mode=1777 0 0
- Browsers – use profile-sync-daemon for Ubuntu from Arch Linux – will automatically move your browser profile directory from your home folder to /tmpfs
.xbmcto NAS/External drive along with your media. Makes a lot more sense to keep your .xbmc folder with your media on a external hdd.
- Change to
# Assuming sda is your USB drive sudo echo noop > /sys/block/sda/queue/scheduler
- Change system swappiness. We don’t want the OS to use swap drive at all.
# /etc/sysctl.conf vm.swappiness=1
Getting suspend/hibernate to work
I had greatest trouble here – but was able to get
pm-utils working eventually.
pm-utils is a framework of shell scripts around suspend/hibernation/wakeup that provides hooks to execute scripts before standby/hibernation and when the computer resumes from sleep/shutdown.
First test if basic suspend/hibernate works
# check suspend methods supported cat /sys/power/state # S3 sudo sh -c "echo mem > /sys/power/state"
If your system goes into standby, then things are good. But its just a good start. In my case, system would go into standby only the first time after boot. After that, it would go into standby but then resume immediately. Its been asked enough times on Google and I’ve probably tried all the fixes. The first one is to update a kernel param
# /etc/default/grub GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT="quiet splash acpi_enforce_resources=lax"
After that, make sure to run
In my case, the magic incantation above failed (your mileage might vary). Nothing bad happened so I kept it on. Anyway, so I rebooted, then suspended and resumed the first time (which works) and took a dump of
dmesg > dmesg.1.log. After that again tried to suspend and when it came back immediately, I could get a dmesg output and scan the entries after the first run. Turned out that the log had entries related to xhci_hcd – so decided to unload it first and then try to suspend:
sudo modprobe -r xhci_hcd sudo sh -c "echo mem > /sys/power/state"
After this, the system was able to standby each and every time. Now it was time to get pm-utils working. Out of the box, pm-utils came with a config that had a bunch of things that I didn’t understand (and I doubt they applied to this machine). If standby was working directly, then it should have worked through pm-utils. However, it needed some amount of pushing around before that comes around to a functional state.
pm-utils to play nice
So now that I had confirmed suspend working, it was time to see why
pm-utils was being so bad. First off, time to clean up the default configuration. So copied
/etc/pm/config.d/config and then start editing it
SLEEP_MODULE="kernel" # These variables will be handled specially when we load files in # /etc/pm/config.d. # Multiple declarations of these environment variables will result in # their contents being concatenated instead of being overwritten. # If you need to unload any modules to suspend/resume, add them here. SUSPEND_MODULES="xhci_hcd" # If you want to keep hooks from running, add their names here. HOOK_BLACKLIST="99_fglrx 99lirc-resume novatel_3g_suspend"
Waking up with the keyboard
if you’d like wake up with a usb device (usb keybd), then you need to find out the usb port where your device is connected. The easiest way might be to check dmesg output which would usually print this out. In my case, my wireless keyboard/trackball are connected on USB3
echo USB3 > /sys/proc/acpi echo enabled > /sys/proc/devices/usb3/power/wakeup
After that, the HTPC could be woken up with a keypress. Now I haven’t been able to find a way to do the same thing with only the keyboard (so that the system doesn’t wake up anytime anyone picks up the keyboard – so for now, have turned this off). The above change won’t persist over a reboot – so to make it persistent, put the two lines above to
/etc/rc.local before the
fglrx annoyances (ATI binary driver)
Not much point of a HTPC if the video isn’t top quality. And there are a lot of variables involved there – your computer hardware, software, drivers, type of connection (HDMI/DVI) and the telly itself. Also, video driver support on Linux for ATI leaves quite a bit to be desired. One of the reasons of going with XBMCBuntu was knowing that there’ll be large community support available on ubuntuforums.
Right off the bat, things started at the mildly irritating level. Catalyst control center in root mode won’t start even though there’s a big fat menu item there. Quick google and it says that the easiest way out is to use
gksu amdcccle in the run dialog (ALT-F2).
Full HD resolution
My telly (Panasonic 32″) came with a native resolution of 1360×768 – was pleasantly surprised when I found that with a HDMI connection it would let me go up to 1920×1080. Interestingly, even the telly on screen menu reports full HD resolution – so I’m not really sure if they did put a full HD panel and report it as 720p normally. In any case, I’m not complaining and Full HD videos do look better
So where does all this get us
After all this, it makes a sea change in the overall experience:
- XBMC idles at 15 – 20% cpu utilization. During video playback, stil stays at a comfy 40% – 50% while playing 720p/1080p videos
- Browsers (Chrome and FF) open near instantly; browsing experience is better than my desktop and page loads, tab switches etc feel much nimbler than on my desktop (AMD 6 core, 12G monster running Win 7×64)
- Total cost – USD 180
More to come
- Hibernation support
- Scheduled wake up from shutdown/hibernate/suspend state
So this is a continuation to my last post on my effort to upgrade the media center at home. While I wait for hardware to come, I’ve been reading up through forums and blogs online and am finding it real hard to get some good advice. So, thought it might help to list down concisely the situation as it stands currently, in the hope that it will server other folks who’re trying to find similar answers.
So what’s the fuss all about?
Getting XBMC on Linux with AMD fusion APUs to work nicely and render hardware accelerated video. Also, while we’re at it, also do it by booting off a pendrive (ie hdd less system)
To get hardware accelerated video on ATI/AMD hardware on Linux, currently, there are two choices
- XvBA – this is AMD’s graphic APIs (similar to VDPAU on nVidia). Not very well supported.
- VAAPI – this is intels APIs. XBMC Eden is said to work well with VAAPI.
- Open source Linux drivers for ATI chips lag behind the closed source ATI proprietary drivers. For HD video, you’re pretty much limited to using ATI’s proprietary drivers. So, let’s emphasize – from now on, driver means ATI Catalyst for Linux
OpenElec is covered in the earlier post – but essentially you have a Fusion optimized micro builds that can run off an SD card/flash drive. From a video perspective, this should be identical to XBMCBuntu. The upside is that everything is pre-configured while the downside is that it’s pretty limited.
Also covered in my previous post – lightweight Ubuntu based distro/LiveCD. XBMC Eden implements VAAPI and Catalyst Fusion APUs drivers can be used asa backend with these and provide hardware accelerated video. There are some cases where this bridging doesn’t/may not work well. On the other hand, since this is the officially supported method, its going to be around and improved upon, and likely to have more info available in public domain etc.
XBMC-XvBA PVR builds
So this is an unofficial build by the community. THe promise is that instead of going the VAAPI route, this has direct support for XvBA api so, offes better performance. The forum thread tracking this is available here. While the build is supposed to be quite usable, from the thread activity, it seems its also heavily under development.The goal is to merge this back to the mainline once it stabilizes.
I plan to go the path of least resistance – OpenElec, then XBMC-XvBA and finally settle on XBMCBuntu – but things might change once I actually get down to it.
Time for the big fat disclaimer – Nothing in this post is guaranteed to be correct. this is my read of stuff on the net and it could be wrong. You’re welcome to correct it in the comments and I’d be more than happy to fix the post.
I have a small form factor (SFF) machine on the way to take up duties as a media center machine. After waiting for long, finally pulled the trigger on a Foxconn Barebones Book sized system and 4G of RAM. I haven’t ordered a hard drive – the plan is to run XBMC completely off a USB drive. As it is, media is on a 1TB external disk and the cost of 2.5″ laptop HDDs has gone through the roof.
In terms of software, I’ve got to figure out which XBMC to use – the contenders are to either install XBMCBuntu or go with one of the specialized builds from OpenElec. I’m still new to both – so will need to do some reading up before I decide.
OpenElec has small footprint (100MB), customized builds for different chipsets. Its meant to be run from a flash drive – so it has a few optimizations to make sure that it doesn’t clobber your flash drive. Also, the stable version of OpenElec based on XBMC 10.0 “Dharma” has native AMD Fusion chipset support. Its also designed to be self updating and from reading the manuals, boots right into XBMC and OpenElec settings are all accessed via a XBMC extension so you never have to drop down to the linux machine underneath it.
At this point, looks like OpenELec is really limiting. I would really love to run a browser, use the machine for torrenting etc – and somehow using the XBMC interface for all those doesn’t sound too good.
Also, XBMC Eden is supposed to support AMD Fusion natively and OpenElec hasn’t been updated yet for Eden (there are nightly builds available though that are based on Eden).
XBMCBuntu is XBMC’s official liveCD – you can use the live CD to install to another USB drive media and provided the system can boot from USB, you’re off to the races.
The thing here is that it isnt specific to a ‘flash’ drive – so there’s a small tradeoff in terms of the flash drive life. XBMCBuntu is based on Lubuntu 11.10.
Migrating the database
I also have to figure out how to migrate my XBMC database of movie information from Windows XP to the Linux setup – not sure if its even possible – but its something that’s definitely worth a shot. In any case, if it doesnt work, then will just let XBMC rebuild its database overnight.
The hardware’s supposed to come in april 2nd week – can’t wait for it
So I upgraded the good ole’ media center machine at home to XBMC 11.0 Beta
. XBMC has been one of those software finds that has been just marvellous – to the point where I can’t imagine the telly at home without XBMC. I’ve pretty much stopped watching regular tv/cable and almost exclusively on XBMC.
Also, its been a great way to keep the aging laptop (circa 2006 – core2Duo 1.6 Ghz, 2 Gb RAM and a piddling ATI Radeon X1600) in active duty.
Here’s a hat-tip to all the XBMC guys and gals. And if you’re not running a media center at home, you should give it a spin – XBMC makes your idiot box smart!