Friday, May 1, 2009

how to improve graphics on a t60p running Jaunty (xorg 1.6 + radeaon)

Brian commented a few times on my last Jaunty post with some helpful advice. ATIRadeon Wiki posts the driver options for your xorg.conf file. Xorg 1.5 and up can run without the xorg.conf file by automatically guessing drivers and monitors, but it doesn't selected the tuned options all the time.

After my upgrade headaches I cleared the xorg file and started fresh, but I didn't think to add in the device options. I followed the wiki and performance is better, but not stellar. Compiz is still slow and multiple windows running transparency will bring the system to its knees. But its not all bad news. Fluxbox is finally acting the way it used to (desktop switches are quick, windows move without lag)

I still need to try out the radeon HD driver to see if that adds anything. For now I'll happily use fluxbox with Brian's tweaks and be content with it getting the job done.

PS: Brian, I wanted to visit your blog but your profile is blocked. Thanks again for the help

Thursday, April 30, 2009

how to change ktimetracker systray icon

My recent switch from gnome to fluxbox has been a happy improvement save one small detail. I had really gotten used to using the gnome-panel applets but I didn't want to muddy up fluxbox with the gnome-panel (even though you can run it as a subset). Long story short I found there was no good way to run gnome-panel applets without running gnome-panel and I started to look for new applications to fill the void.

Enter ktimetracker. ktimetracker is a handy kde application that can be run standalone. It offers a simple way to create tasks and track time against them. As an added bonus, the system tray icon for ktimetracker animates a clock moving when ktimetracker is tracking time against a task. The only downside is that the icon was small and it was hard to tell when it was animated and when it was stopped.

I found the icons used in the system tray as a bunch of xpms (active-icon-*.xpm) in /usr/share/kde4/apps/ktimetracker/pics . I figured if I changed the icons and restarted ktimetracker I'd be able to see the new system tray icon, but I was only partially right.

I replaced the icons and the system tray didn't change until I had rebooted the system a few time. I still have no idea why it switched (or why it didn't switch immediately) but at least I know where I can go to customize it.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

why you should avoid putting Ubuntu Jaunty on a t60p

I excitedly installed the newest version of Ubuntu on my t60p and found out the following unfortunate facts.

1) The t60p (and many other tSeries laptops) have the Mobility FireGL V5250 video card
2) Catalyst (ATI driver) delayed the delivery of the 9.3 driver to cram as much function into it as they could. The reason they did this was because 9.3 was the final driver to support the Mobility FireGL V5250 video card along with a plethora of other cards. (Full list of unsupported cards here)
3) Ubuntu Jaunty makes use of xorg-xserver 1.6 which only supports the 9.4+ version of the Catalyst ATI driver

All this ends up meaning that the warning Jaunty throws when you try to update with an Mobility FireGL V5250 video card means a lot more than there will be degraded graphics after the update. The only driver that will work with xorg-xserver 1.6 is the Radeon opensource driver for ATI cards.

I'm a big fan of opensource, but the Radeon driver are just not ready for primetime. There is no 2d acceleration which means all the compositing and pretty graphics are gone. Since switching to Jaunty and the Radeon drivers I've noticed a serious drop in performance doing standard things like moving windows and switching desktops.

On the upside: moving away from the Catalyst drivers (fglrx) re-enabled suspend / resume on my laptop. I've also started using fluxbox again (

The only noticeable update from Ibex to Jaunty has been the network manager and the new libnotify. The NetworkManager does a pretty good job of making sure I'm connected anyway it can connect me. The new libnotify insert message snippets into the pidgin and xchat notifications I get (which is nice).

If you are happy with Ibex, stay with Ibex until the radeon driver improves or someone backports support for the Catalyst 9.3 fglrx driver into xorg-xserver 1.6.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

how to stretch standard definition broadcasts on a charter digital tuner

I recently bought a nice HD tv that was without a QAM tuner. QAM tuners are what allow you to watch the free HD channels while your TV is connect to cable. You can learn more about QAM at wikipedia.

I got a digital tuner box (also known as a set top box) from charter so I could get access to the HD channels. The box worked like a charm but it displayed all standard definition programming as a 16:9 feed with black bars on the side. My TV couldn't zoom or stretch the signal since it was already in 16:9.

There were no options on the remote or in the charter menu that would set the display size. After some poking I found the User Guide for DCH6200 which is the set top box I had.

All the output options for the box are hidden in a secret menu you access by shutting off the box and hitting the menu button in rapid succession. Once the hidden menu is up you can select 480p to send standard definition as a 480p signal that the TV can stretch or display however you'd like.

Its a shame that the menu is hidden and charter didn't send the user manual with the box, but it works pretty well now that I know what I'm doing.