XBMC, the solution for a media center

October 5, 2008

XBMC

Last week Murillo told me about the XBMC project and since my media center was lacking of a good software to browse my collection I decided to install it. My set up is composed by a Mac Mini running Mac OS X. Front Row is terrible, it does not support a lot of formats and some media codecs are very slow.

My first impression on XBMC was very good. The interface is totally eye-candy with support for skins and other customizations. The support for file formats and codecs are so extensive that if I had to describe it here I would spend a lot of time ;). But, for my purpose it only have to play mkv (matroska) in 720p smoothly, which it did flawless.

Also, the support for plugins and scripts enables the XBMC to play YouTube videos, download lyrics and subtitles, and much more. And the best thing is that the plugins are written in python!

Of course the XMBC has some issues since it is on a beta version. I witnessed some freezes on playback and on some scripts. Also, the navigation using mouse is not fully operational (at least on the skins available). Some subtitles don’t work very well and are not displayed.

Check out the project at http://xbmc.org/ .


Intrepid ships hardware-blower driver

September 23, 2008

In the Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Alpha, the kernel used is the 2.6.27 which contains a very dangerous version of the e1000e driver. This specific version of the driver maps the firmware of the hardware on memory and gives write access to it, so a misbehaved kernel (which is common in a development branch) can overwrite the firmware.

The attempts to recover the firmware using the Intel’s tools just make the things worse and brick the entire network card (the card is not recognized as PCI device anymore).

In other words, the driver allows a sequence of events to destroy the network card, which in many cases is onboard or at a laptop (there is already some occurrences of this fact).

You can track the bug on LaunchPad.


Impressions on Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Alpha 6

September 22, 2008

First of all, I know it is an Alpha version, however it is the last alpha version and today just happened the Beta Freeze. So, I decided to try the new Ubuntu on my Lenovo’s Thinkpad T61 (all chipsets are Intel). My impressions were very good at a first glance, however after installing I needed to remove a lot of Gnome’s configuration files.

What surprised me:

  • Network Manager 0.7 is becoming a very powerful tool, now supporting also GSM and ADSL.
  • Network interfaces can be activated at boot time (configurable also via Network Manager).
  • Flash Plugin upgraded to 10, solving the annoying issues of overlapping over menus and other page items.
  • New Kernel 2.6.27 with new drivers (Now my wifi light is on)
  • The Pidgin was upgraded to 2.5.1
  • The volume control is now integrated with Pulse Audio.

What disappointed me:

  • The Network Manager does not recognise my mobile phone over Bluetooth or USB
  • My Flash Blocker plugin is not working anymore (tryied to reinstall everything)
  • The Kernel still in development, so the suspend does not work
  • My Ricoh Card Reader still does not support Memory Stick due the lack of a kernel driver
  • The is some graphical bugs related to X and my Intel video.

In conclusion, the Ubuntu 8.10 will be very promising. There is a lot of bugs to be fixed until it reaches beta. Until then, I will be filling bugs and tracking then very closely on Launchpad.