Thursday, August 20, 2009

Smooth Flash Playback By Hacking Firefox

Everyone knows that Flash playback is the Achilles heel of Linux. It's hard to make the switch when web apps and videos do not work like they do in Windows or OSX. Coupled with the mangled Intel video driver, Flash on the Mini 9 has sucked. This hack will help improve Flash playback in Firefox.

One of Firefox's features is to keep a snapshot of all open tabs in case your browsing gets interrupted and needs to restored. By default, Firefox refreshes this snapshot every 10 seconds. This over-caching can causes errors in Flash and unnecessarily takes up processor cycles.

What this hack does is reduce the interval in Firefox's open tab caching. Instead of 10 seconds, we are going to have Firefox take it's snapshot every 100 seconds.

To access Firefox's Configuration File
Type about:config into the URL address bar
Screenshot-about:config - Mozilla Firefox
The red lines highlight the url box.
The blue lines highlight the filter box.
The filter box allows you to search your about:config file and is where you type the blue text commands.

Go to the text box for the Filter and type in: browser.sessionstore.interval
Double click the line, to change the integer value.
- 10,000 is the default value (every 10 seconds)
- change the integer value to 100,000 (every 100 sconds)

For other Firefox hacks, take a look at our "Customizing Firefox for Netbooks" article.

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Game on Linux - GridWars 2

Grid Wars 2 is a clone of the popular Xbox 360 game, Geometry Wars. It's an awesome game that plays extremely well on the Mini 9.

Installation requires a bit or work, but once you get everything going it's a lot of fun.

Step 1: Install The GridWars 2 .deb
Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron(i386)
Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid Ibex(i386)
Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope(i386)
Source and builds for other architecture

Step 2: Edit the GridWars 2 Config.txt File
- When you try to launch the game you get this error
- The games default resolution is set too high and causes the game to crash.
- In a terminal type:
gedit ~/.gridwars/Config.txt
- Search the text for these values:
[Playfield Width]
[Playfield Height]
[Screen Width]
[Screen Height]
- Edit the height and width so they fit the Mini's screen
[Playfield Width]
[Playfield Height]
[Screen Width]
[Screen Height]
The game works best with a Dual Analog controller, but you can still have fun playing with a trackpad or mouse.

Step 3: Setup an XBOX 360 Controller to work in GridWars 2
- Check to see if your Xbox 360 controller is recognized
In a terminal type:
This will list all the devices connected via USB
- You should see something like this in the output: BUS 00X Device 00X ID xxxx:xxxx Microsoft Corp. Xbox360 Controller (the x will be different number for different people, but obviously you need to see the Microsoft part)
- Link /dev/input/js0 to /dev/js0 so the pad will work properly.
In a terminal type:
sudo ln -s /dev/input/js0 /dev/js0

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ubuntu Netbook Remix's New User Interface

Ubuntu Netbook Remix's user interface is receiving a redesign for Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala.

- The original interface (Click image for a larger view)

- The redesigned Ubuntu Netbook Remix (Click image for a larger view)

I don't hide my love for Ubuntu Netbook Remix, but I'm well aware that the interface wasn't exactly perfect at first. It was clunky and misused screen space, two shortcomings that have thankfully been addressed in the redesign. The right side of the the launcher was removed and integrated into the left panel, and the color scheme was cleaned up, albeit with a slightly darker tone. As it stands, the new interface is sleek, sexy and feels more responsive.

- UNR now lists the folder shortcuts and drives in the left panel. (Click image for a larger view)

- Each icon now has an "Add to Favorites" menu button. You no longer have to drag and drop it into the "Go Home" applet to create a shortcut. The integration of the Ubuntu notification system is also a nice touch. (Click image for a larger view)

- The preferences and administration tabs were merged into the System category. This seems like a minor tweak but allows users to find everything they need to configure or edit their system in one tab.

- The launcher was changed. It no longer animates and has a sleek look that fits in with the tone of the redesign. It's faster and less distracting, a definite plus in my book. (Click image for a larger view)

I've already written about the exciting improvements in-store for Ubuntu 9.10, and Ubuntu Netbook Remix's redesign is making the wait unbearable.

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chromium Head Now Gone

Chromium is the open source project behind the Google Chrome web browser. While still in development, it is shaping up to be a feature rich browser. Like all software, Chromium's development has been marked with bugs and regressions. [chromium-bug] 18385 has to be the oddest software bug I've seen, the close button (X) has been replaced with a small head.

- Supposedly, this was done as a passive-aggressive motivation to get someone to create the Linux close/min/max/restore buttons. While others are calling it a feature.

The good news is that in the newest Linux Chromium build (22605), the passive-aggressive feature has been fixed. The X has returned and Linux users finally have proper close/min/max/restore buttons. I personally think the head should be stay and be used as the incognito mode icon.


As a side note, [chromium-bug] 18385 has one of the funniest reports I've come across.
What steps will reproduce the problem?
Look at what the X button is supposed to be

What is the expected result?
an X button

What happens instead?
Some guys head
If you'd like to try Chromium use this install guide.
Use This guide to enable flash.

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hack The Ubuntu Netbook Remix UI

With a little bit of work you can really change the look and feel of Ubuntu Netbook Remix's user interface.
- This only took me 2 minutes. It removes almost all of UNR's user interface and lets me show off my desktop wallpaper.

- The default Ubuntu Remix User Interface

The Netbook Remix user interface files are stored in:


To edit the files
In a terminal type:
sudo nautilus
- then navigate to /usr/share/netbook-launcher

The files are saved as Scalable Vector Graphics. To edit them, I recommend Inkscape, a free and open source vector graphics editor. It is a powerful graphic editing tool that is fully compliant with the XML, SVG, and CSS standards.

To install Inkscape
In a terminal type:
sudo apt-get install inkscape

After editing the files, Log Out and back in for the changes to take effect.

My Inkscape skills are sub-par at best. My hack just erased the background. I would really like to see what the community comes up with. Feel free to take a screenshot (FN+Prnt Scrn) of your custom UNR interface and link to them in the comments. If you want, I can host your pictures and files and share them with everyone. Email me at redDEADresolve [at] gmail and I will put them in the article.

Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Intel Video Performance in 9.10 Alpha 3

I don't know whether to categorize this article as good news or bad news

Phoronix is a Linux technology website focusing on product reviews, distribution screenshots, interviews, and news. It is one of my favorite Linux sites and the best site for info on Linux graphic drivers. Friday Phoronix published an article detailing Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Alpha 3's Intel video driver's performance on the Dell Mini 9's, it wasn't completely positive:
"We also wanted to deliver new OpenGL results from Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3 using an Intel 945 IGP found in the Dell Mini 9, but that was to no avail. The Intel graphics performance was bad in Ubuntu 9.04, but at least World of Padman, OpenArena, Tremulous, and Urban Terror were able to run successfully. With Ubuntu 9.10 Alpha 3 on the Dell Mini 9 and with each of these games being run through the Phoronix Test Suite, the system would lock-up at various points. None of the tests had finished successfully even when trying to run them multiple times"
Good thing misery loves company, because they said the same thing about the performance of Intel G43 chip in their test machine:
"This same problem had then occurred with the Intel G43 too. Mesa 7.5 has regressed badly in this area, but hopefully hitting in time for Ubuntu 9.10 will be Mesa 7.6 or at least more updates and patches to Mesa 7.5.x."
I agree Mesa 7.5 has brought some serious regressions. Even the Mesa developers recommend waiting for the Mesa 's 7.5.1 bug-fix release. There is some good news that at the end of the Phoronix article that should bring hope to Mini 9 users:
"While it cannot be told via benchmarks, Ubuntu 9.10 is running better with Intel graphics using UXA and is certainly more stable, artifact-free, and causing less problems. As Canonical's Bryce Harrington recently shared, the bug count for the Intel driver within Launchpad has dropped quite a bit. Hopefully though these Intel 2D/3D performance problems will be fixed within the next three months for Ubuntu 9.10."
I have personally found that Karmic's Intel video and flash playback performance is much smoother than 9.04. I am running Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Alpha 3 on both my Dell Mini 9 and my media box with an Intel X4500HD integrated chip and loving UXA's performance and stability for the first time since Ubuntu 8.04.

With Mesa 's 7.5.1 bug-fix or 7.6 release around the corner, there still is time for Ubuntu's developers to get Intel video driver working properly. I'd like to know how anyone else is finding UXA and Intel performance on 9.10 Alpha 3.


Have a question or problem that this article doesn't cover?
Ask our Ubuntu Mini 9 Google Group for help.