Well, after messing around with the media box, my solution is to just run a bunch of programs manually and setup the desktop to be 3 large icons, namely Browse Media, Play DVD and Play Music. Browse Media just uses nautilus starting from the Media directory, Play DVD is just the command for running DVD fullscreen via vlc and Play Music toggles the display of Amarok. Downloads are done using azureus or firefox and I can use the box remotely via vnc using x11vnc to share the existing display.
Most interesting though has been the video setup.
When I started configuring the system, I went for Mythbuntu gutsy – I hated it. I later switched to openSUSE 10.3 and being a previous user of SuSE (9.2 was the last time I used it properly on my desktop) I was quite impressed. Once I was happy with the installed software, I assumed that using the fglrx ATI drivers would yield better performance than the default setup (i.e. VESA). I was right – kinda.
The problem lies in that I’m running fairlymodern, integrated chipset hardware since the core of my media PC is a ASUS P2-M2A-VM, a nice little box that looks really good next to my TV.
SaX2 detected my monitor (a Hanspree 32” TV JT01) perfectly and I got the fglrx driver working easy enough. Turns out though that while the performance was better, I was plagued with issues:
- screen artifacts
- corrupt mouse pointers
- random X crashes
- incredibly poor openGL performance (not that I plan on using 3D, but it would have been nice to have been able to for acceleration purposes)
- any video larger than around 640×480 suffered tearing and had a a really noticeable split from corner to corner when there was a lot of motion
Basically, it was shit. I tried messing around with the Vsync to avoid tearing, no avail with the diagonal line of discontent though. Nothing I did – including running the Xserver at 640×480 (UGLY!) – helped.
In the end I thought, hmm, lets try the latest RadeonHD driver, the nice open source one, the one that says it has no acceleration of any kind, no Xvideo support, no anything that I would expect would be recommended for flawless video playback. Well, running it now, I can watch videos at fullscreen at 1366×768 without any artifacting, tearing or crazy diagonal lines of the apocalypse. Hurray for open source! Even ATI’s own engineers can’t make a driver that can out perform, on their own hardware no less, a driver that purports to have no acceleration features. Pretty poor. What exactly did ATI do, make their driver have a deceleration ‘feature’?
Well, the good news is that the new RadeonHD drivers should be getting better and better all the time. AMD are being cool and releasing specs to the driver developers for their newer cards (so my integrated RS690 should hopefully be included in that list) and with the open source model behind the development, things should pick up pretty quickly (hell, anything is quick compared to the glacial pace ATI release their so called ‘drivers’ at). Time and again I’m reminded how open source is so awesome.