painless

That’s what Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope‘s install is like: painless.

And I tried to make it as hard as possible by installing the 64bit version on my HTPC. Even so (I’ll say it again) it was utterly painless.

As an introduction, my HTPC is a pretty average 64bit AMD machine, with an NVidia Geforce 8600 GT graphics card built into a SilverStone LC-16 case. The SilverStone case comes with an IMON VFD/knob remote control combo. Plugged into the machine via a DVI-to-HDMI converter is a Sharp Aquaos 32-inch LCD monitor.

If you have any experience with setting up a machine like this, you will already have recognised the problems I face:

  • The Sharp runs at some non-intuitive modeline, especially at high (1080p) resolution
  • The default NVidia driver used with Ubuntu is the pretty useless “nv” driver

All of the above means that I cannot simply download and burn the iso, boot it up and click on the cute install icon to get it going. First of all I need to lug over a spare monitor, so that I can do the above and actually see what I’m doing. Then I need to install the binary blob NVidia driver and reconfigure X. This simple excercise has taken up whole weekends in the past.

This time, however, things went very smooth, and the machine is up and running after only 2 hours (most of the time spent downloading and upgrading). After installing Ubuntu from the LiveCD, I rebooted it (still with the extra monitor attached), and logged on. Got the newest driver directly from NVidia’s site. Popped into a virtual terminal, killed GDM, and ran the driver installer. Rebooted the machine and detached the extra monitor, and viola! X came up in full resolution. Did I mention that Jaunty also starts up quick?

Then I copied my old X conf to the new install (this has the specific modeline in it, with which I get rid of some of the nasty overscan of the default modeline at 1080p), and restarted X. Perfect…

To get the IMON VFD running all I needed was LCDproc. Procmeter3 works flawlessly with it.

The IMON Pad remote control thing is still an issue in Ubuntu (meaning that it does not work out of the box like a lot of people want): the default Pad driver makes the directional pad act like a mouse cursor, so the IR codes that get sent to applications are pretty much worse than useless. To get coherent keypress-like IR codes, the “pad2keys” patch has to be compiled into LIRC. Luckily, Ubuntu already has the patch, but the user must activate it.

To do this,

  • add the line “options lirc_imon display_type=1” to a conf file in /etc/modprobe.d.
  • stop lirc: /etc/init.d/lirc stop
  • remove and reload the lirc module: modprobe -r lirc-knob; modprobe lirc-knob
  • restart lirc: /etc/init.d/lirc restart

Of course, only if you want to refrain from rebooting the machine, but as I mentioned Jaunty boots quick, so why not? :)

peace out

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