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[LINUX] HOW-TO achieve XBMC nirvana with an Acer Aspire Revo 1600 and Ubuntu
#1
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After spending approximately 3 weeks of my life scouring the forums for information to solve various hiccups I ran into with my XBMC Ubuntu install, I thought I'd put together a post for others to hopefully save time in the future.

The guide will link to other posts that helped me in several spots. My goal is not to rewrite the other guides (nor could I if I wanted to), but instead to try and consolidate the information required for a successful, judder free, and utterly wonderful 1080p playback experience on the very affordable Acer Revo 1600 nettop.

More than anything, I'll highlight the huge gotchas that cost me tons of troubleshooting time after following the other guides that are already out there.

Without further ado... here it is.

System Info:
Acer Aspire Revo 1600 (stock, i.e. only the standard 1GB RAM)
Linux Ubuntu Jaunty Jackelope 9.04
XBMC 9.11 Stable
Audio Out: HDMI
Display: Denon 3808 receiver (HDMI video passthrough) to Epson 1080UB projector (1080p capable)
NVidia Driver: 185.18.14
Note: I wouldn't recommend trying to go beyond the 185 driver versions as they all break HDMI audio (apparently a fix is in the works, but for now, they don't work).

Note that other posters (below) have had luck with the later versions of 190 and 195 NVIDIA drivers. I only tried several early 190 versions that broke HDMI every time. I haven't tried the newer ones myself, but it sounds like it is a lot easier to get correctly mapped multi-channel audio using those new versions. As with all things, YMMV. Pick the parts of this guide that work for you.


Audio modes possible: Dolby TrueHD, Dolby (SD) 5.1 surround, DTS (core), 6 or 8 channel LPCM (i.e. up to 7.1)

Video supported: Buttery smooth 1080p, even on very high bitrate material like the infamous "killa sample" movie that is commonly used here as a test.

OS Choice: I chose to start with a full Ubuntu install as opposed to minimal (basically out of laziness) because I already had a 9.04 CD and didn't need to download it again. Also, I was familiar with the Gnome desktop (and not much else) in Linux and decided I'd prefer that to XBMC Live.

Link to Torrent for Image created Using these instructions (thanks Thermite). You can access a wonderfully-detailed set of instructions here, from Shamo42. Another similar guide was written by DecK (Here are the screenshots for DecK's instructions).

Remember that this requires you to boot using the Ubuntu 9.04 Live CD before applying the image. (the version is important! i.e. Don't use a 9.10 Live CD). Secondly, the username for the image is xbmc, and the password is xbmc! Finally, if you are installing straight over Windows, you will have to repair Grub after the image is applied to your Acer. (the image will be applied fine, but you will get a boot error after restarting because you need to tell Grub (the boot loader) on which partition to find your new Ubuntu install) Those instructions are here.




Pitfall 1: How to install a new OS from a thumb drive
For the OS install, since the Acer does not have an optical drive, I recommend a program called unetbootin to "burn" the Ubuntu image to a USB drive and allow for the Ubuntu install from USB.

Once you have that the OS up and running, you can follow any one of the great guides out there for installing XBMC install on Linux. Google is your friend. Check any one of them out. This part should be -relatively- easy. Smile Just remember that most of the guides you find are for XBMC-Live so you have to take slightly different steps to do the install in Ubuntu, but it should be fairly obvious where different steps are required.

Pitfall 2: Increase iGPU frame buffer in Revo BIOS
If you are working with the standard 1GB of RAM in the Revo, you need to change the BIOS setting for iGPU to 256GB (from 128). Follow the link in the guide above to do so.

Pitfall 3: Problems relating to accessing content on a Windows network share

First, I recommend you ensure that the user profile you are using to connect to your Windows server is an administrator on the Windows machine. Second, be sure that the profile uses a password for login. While Windows will try to tell you that it will allow unauthenticated logins, it ultimately creates all kinds of problems down the road and it's easier to assign your primary account a password, or create a second user with a password for the sole purposes of remote logins. (i.e. on mine since I didn't care to password protect the account I regularly use, I created a new admin called "remote" and gave it an easy to remember password)

Second, on mounting the remote shares, I'd never done this before, so I first had to figure out how to edit fstab, solve problems with the Revo hanging on shutdown, problems with my network shares suddenly dropping offline (all kinds of annoying problems!)

First, here is a good how-to guide on setting up the shares in the first place.

Make sure you follow the steps under the heading "System Hangs on Shutdown" Otherwise the Revo will hang for a couple of minutes every time you reboot.

Pitfall 4: Problems relating to accessing content on a Windows 7 file server

This one drove me nuts! Windows 7 requires changes to the registry to keep the computer with the content on it from dropping the network shares. If you are having this problem, you must set the lanmanserver/parameters/size key to 3 (for a fileserver). Check the link for details, but don't skip this step or you will eventually have annoying dropouts of your entire media library.

Pitfall 5: Audio / video sync issues with MKV files
Another one that cost me days... Note that in the 9.11 Camelot release, there is a bug that causes MKV DVD rips to lose A/V sync. Fixing this is beyond the scope of this guide, but just rest assured that there is a problem within XBMC and it not you! You can either download an SVN release that includes the fix or you can wait for the next release of XBMC.

Pitfall 6: Remote control install
Again, there are several good guides for this. This one explains how it works fairly well. Second, this is a great guide if you have a Harmony remote. This thread is also very good.

Pitfall 7: Multi-channel audio
Follow this guide. It works flawlessly with the Revo. Remember, this only works consistently with the 185.xx versions of the Nvidia drivers. Take your time following this guide and follow the steps very carefully. It does work just as written but it is fairly easy to make a mistake given the complexity of it.

Pitfall 8: Video judder!
Oh the agony! I've read so many posts about this problem. The Revo is running along at low CPU and then randomly the video jerks for a few seconds before returning to normal. The logs show nothing. Frustration sets in and you start to convince yourself that the Revo is too modest a hardware platform to playback HD correctly, you consider upgrading the RAM, you consider chucking it out the window, etc. Big Grin Well, take heart, I assure you that it is fully capable.

This one was by far the hardest one to solve and everyone's situation is slightly different. Here are the changes that helped me:

This concludes the first post. The solutions that helped me with video judder will be added in the second post.
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#2
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Video Judder (continued from first post)
  1. Start by using this guide. The first one is definitely more straight-forward, so USE IT FIRST. If you have problems after trying everything in that thread, this guide was also helpful. If you use the second link, ensure that you follow the step involving this code:
    Code:
    X -verbose 6 > ~/xlog.txt 2>&1
    There is other advice suggesting you use the gtf command to generate the modelines required for your xorg.conf file as opposed to the code above. What I found is that the gtf results were not the same as the result from the verbose command, and they did not work as well. YMMV, but that was my experience.


  2. Refresh rate for 24Hz modes. The results of the verbose command above for me returned supported refresh rate ranges that indicated my projector and receiver did not support 24Hz when I know for a fact they do. I had to manually adjust the range in my xorg.conf to make it appear that 24hz was supported. Be careful on this step as it is possible to damage your display if you do this wrong. I can only say it worked for me.


  3. The xorg.conf file - a file full of pitfalls! (note that you should not copy this exactly, but I will call out the commands below that were most critical in getting my setup working smoothly. Anything in blue is likely going to be unique to your display and you should change using the data output from the verbose logging command used above.

    In the section below, any line beginning with '#' is a comment added for explanation. I also added comments in brackets []. Anything inside [] MUST be removed in your file for it to work correctly. Finally, note that this is only the monitor section through the end of the file. There are obviously other non-display related sections of xorg.conf that I've left out of this to save space.

    Also, here is a link to the reference on all of the xorg.conf options and what they do. If you are making changes to the xorg.conf file, it is worth reading this just to understand what you are changing and the effect it should have. One final suggestion on this file. If you find yourself following all of these recommendations and still having problems, make changes to the options one at a time and determine whether they make any difference to your problem. Changing multiple things at a time makes it impossible to tell what is helping and what might be making the problem worse.

    Code:
    Section "Monitor"
        Identifier     "Monitor0"
    [color=blue]    VendorName     "DON"
        ModelName      "DON DENON-AVAMP"
        HorizSync       15.0 - 92.0
        VertRefresh     24.0 - 85.0 [line above manually changed to support 24hz refresh rates][/color]
        
        Option         "DPMS" "FALSE" [turns off power saving features]

        Option         "ExactModeTimingsDVI" "TRUE" [see note below]
        Option         "UseEDIDFreqs" "FALSE"  [see note below]
    # The two items above were required in my setup, [b]but don't enable them
    # unless you have problems getting XBMC
    # to select the right refresh rate.[/b]

    [color=blue]Modeline "[email protected]" 74.16 1920 2558 2602 2750 1080 1084 1089 1125 +hsync +vsync
    Modeline "[email protected]" 148.50 1920 2008 2052 2200 1080 1084 1089 1125 +hsync +vsync
    Modeline "[email protected]" 74.18 1920 2008 2052 2200 1080 1084 1094 1124 +hsync +vsync Interlace[/color]

    EndSection

    Section "Device"
        Identifier     "Device0"
        Driver         "nvidia"
        VendorName     "NVIDIA Corporation"
        BoardName      "ION"
    #   Option         "NoFlip" "True"
    # NoFlip is another option you can try as a last resort to eliminate
    # judder, but it is known to cause significant tearing.  I tried using this,
    # but ultimately disabled it because it caused so much tearing

    EndSection

    Section "Screen"
        Identifier     "Screen0"
        Device         "Device0"
        Monitor        "Monitor0"
        DefaultDepth    24
        Option         "NoLogo" "True"
        Option         "TwinView" "0"
        Option         "DynamicTwinView" "false" [required in my setup]
        Option         "FlatPanelProperties" "Scaling = Native" [required in my setup]
        Option         "ModeValidation" "NoEdidModes" [required in my setup]
    [b]# This is another one you should not enable by default
    # unless you have problems getting the right refresh rate in XBMC.
    [/b]

        Option         "TripleBuffer" "false"
    #[b][MADE A HUGE DIFFERENCE in eliminating judder.
    #Don't forget to try this one if you have problems!][/b]

        SubSection     "Display"
            Depth       24

    [color=blue]    Modes "[email protected]" "[email protected]" "[email protected]"
        #Modes above must match the names you create for your modes in the 'monitor' section[/color]
        
        EndSubSection
    EndSection

    Section "Extensions"
        Option         "Composite" "Disable" [recommended to reduce tearing]
    EndSection

    Section "Monitor"
            Identifier      "Configured Monitor"
    EndSection

    Section "Screen"
            Identifier      "Default Screen"
            Monitor         "Configured Monitor"
            Device          "Configured Video Device"
    EndSection

    Update: Items 4 & 5 immediately below were added on 02-03-2010.


  4. DTS-MA HD audio tracks - If you rip your BluRays and keep the DTS-MA track, I've found that XBMC often hiccups on extracting the core audio from the DTS-MA track, and it creates ugly jerks in the video. The solution here is simple. When you rip your BluRays, down-convert the audio to DTS core and don't rely on XBMC to extract the core for you while playing. Ideally I would have liked to have kept the DTS-HD stream untouched, but given this observation, it's not worth it. You could also keep a duplicate copy of the DTS-HD audio in the file for future-proofing, just make sure that the DTS standard track is the one selected by default in XBMC.

  5. Incorrect deinterlacing - This affected only a couple of my rips. The primary example is Rush - Snakes & Arrows on BluRay. This was shot in 1080i as opposed to 1080p like every other BluRay I have. XBMC for whatever reason does not correctly identify the stream as interlaced and you have to manually open up the video menu while playing and choose "interlace" as opposed to the default option there. This has affected 1-2 other rips (Harvard Beats Yale BluRay), but not many fall into this category.

  6. Continued video judder even after fiddling with xorg.conf to the nth degree and following the advice above, if you installed on top of Ubuntu like I did, then you likely still have this problem. The last piece of the solution for me was adding the xbmc-standalone package from the repository. (sudo apt-get install xbmc-standalone) There is also some information in this thread about how to log into the XBMC session once it is installed if you don't figure it out immediately.

    For me, the combination of the xorg.conf file above and moving to xbmc-standalone finally solved 99% of judder/jerky video issues. Also double-check that you are not playing the DTS-MA tracks (#4 under judder above) if you aren't getting smooth video. Once you get it playing smoothly, it is a beautiful thing. Hopefully these two tips work for you as well.

  7. XBMC video-related settings: There is some personal preference here, but this is how I have my settings currently:
    • Vertical Blank Sync - let driver choose
    • Adjust refresh rate to match video - On
    • Sync playback to display - On
    • A/V Sync method - Drop/dupe audio
    • Deinterlace settings - Auto (note #5 above under judder, sometimes this has to be forced)


Pitfall 9: XBMC Navigation Sounds
This is a relatively easy one to solve, just don't forget to do this. Follow the first step in the link provided.

Pitfall 10: Media files with uncommon sample rates
If you use a program like Ember Media Manager to download movie trailers from YouTube, you will find that you have a lot of .flv files with strange sample rates (22 khz, etc). The result is that the audio will not play in XBMC and the video will appear to play more quickly than it should. I googled like crazy in an attempt to fix this problem and ultimately gave up. A much less time consuming solution is to drop those files into Handbrake and just convert them over to an MP4 with a standard sample rate. The flv files are typically <10MB, so the conversion takes only a minute or less per file. (much less time than I spent trying to solve the inability of Linux/XBMC to play the files correctly) This really is not a major issue, but since it frustrated me to no end, it's worth mentioning here to save someone else the frustration in the future.

Those are definitely the top 10 most frustrating issues I can recall from my XBMC setup on the Revo. With any luck, these posts will save someone else from at least a couple of them. If not, it's still been therapeutic to write all this out and realize all I've been through with the Revo 1600. Cool

Enjoy the Revo, hopefully this helps!
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#3
Thanks very much for the detailed, and newbie-friendly steps.
I'm using a revo 1600 and haven't been happy with playback so far. I'll be giving this a shot tonight Smile
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#4
In addition to pitfall 8, some judder can be attributed to Ubuntu aggressively down-clocking the processor.
Pitfall 10: Enable resampling in advancedsettings.xml?
WYSIWYG
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#5
TREX6662k5 Wrote:In addition to pitfall 8, some judder can be attributed to Ubuntu aggressively down-clocking the processor.
Pitfall 10: Enable resampling in advancedsettings.xml?

Thanks for the added tips. I'll definitely check both out when I have some time to play with the Revo again. (for now I've just been happily enjoying the smooth playback, though I still get ~1-2 drops every hour, so maybe this is another piece to the puzzle, though I have to say that at this point it's almost not noticeable)

For #8, is there a way to fix this or are you just stuck with it if you choose to use Ubuntu?
------------------------------------------
Dharma Quick Setup Guide:
XBMC tips on the TechNazgul Blog
------------------------------------------
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#6
http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=49795

First post is useful. May want to check if your processor is frequency scaling by:

cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor
Reply maybe one of these: powersave conservative ondemand
If so, CPU is frequency scaling.

It depends if the Revo's CPU supports speed stepping. I can't remember if it does.
WYSIWYG
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#7
TREX6662k5 Wrote:http://forum.xbmc.org/showthread.php?tid=49795

First post is useful. May want to check if your processor is frequency scaling by:

cat /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/scaling_governor
Reply maybe one of these: powersave conservative ondemand
If so, CPU is frequency scaling.

It depends if the Revo's CPU supports speed stepping. I can't remember if it does.

I followed up on this today and there isn't such a directory in the Revo, it gets to:

/sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0 and then there is no cpufreq directory.


so it looks like it must not be supported (good). Smile
------------------------------------------
Dharma Quick Setup Guide:
XBMC tips on the TechNazgul Blog
------------------------------------------
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#8
Not sure what you mean by the latest nvidia drivers breaking audio, I'm running the 195 branch from PPA and audio is fine, also for the 22khz sampling problem, Im sure the fix was to specify "plughw:hdmi" or something similar as custom audio pass through and device in the settings?
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#9
Xeijin Wrote:Not sure what you mean by the latest nvidia drivers breaking audio, I'm running the 195 branch from PPA and audio is fine, also for the 22khz sampling problem, Im sure the fix was to specify "plughw:hdmi" or something similar as custom audio pass through and device in the settings?

For me, fix was to just use plughw:0,3.

Not sure how different xbmc-live is compared to xbmc on top of full blown ubuntu ... but plughw:0,3 was the only thing I needed to follow in the massive 'how to get multichannel audio' thread to get mine working on AR1600 + xbmc-live + 190 series drivers.
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#10
headcase Wrote:For me, fix was to just use plughw:0,3.

Not sure how different xbmc-live is compared to xbmc on top of full blown ubuntu ... but plughw:0,3 was the only thing I needed to follow in the massive 'how to get multichannel audio' thread to get mine working on AR1600 + xbmc-live + 190 series drivers.

"The latest" probably should be changed. There were a lot of driver revisions between 185 and now that didn't work at all with multichannel HDMI audio.

On the plughw:0,3, when I did that with the 185 drivers, it caused me to no longer be able to play PCM or TrueHD, though it did work with the strangely sampled flv's from YouTube.

At some point I might upgrade to 195, but since things are working for me as is, I don't think there is a lot of other reason to upgrade.

Thanks to both of you guys for posting your experience with the newer drivers for others to review.
------------------------------------------
Dharma Quick Setup Guide:
XBMC tips on the TechNazgul Blog
------------------------------------------
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#11
headcase Wrote:For me, fix was to just use plughw:0,3.

Not sure how different xbmc-live is compared to xbmc on top of full blown ubuntu ... but plughw:0,3 was the only thing I needed to follow in the massive 'how to get multichannel audio' thread to get mine working on AR1600 + xbmc-live + 190 series drivers.

Original post updated to reflect your experience as well.
------------------------------------------
Dharma Quick Setup Guide:
XBMC tips on the TechNazgul Blog
------------------------------------------
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#12
Hey all, I've got a fresh 9.04 Ubuntu w/ 9.11 XBMC up and running w/ALSA an no pulse. It works BEAUTIFULLY and I wanted to thank EVERYONE in this thread for making it go smoothly.

I also backed it up with partimage and gzip resulting in a 1.22 gb file (trying 7zip with mx=9 as we speak).

I'd like to put it out there as a torrent so anyone who wants can just rock and roll without having to worry about it.

Is there any good way to do so with out taking it in the ass on bandwidth charges?

Thanks again for all the hard work and tips!
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#13
thermite451 Wrote:Hey all, I've got a fresh 9.04 Ubuntu w/ 9.11 XBMC up and running w/ALSA an no pulse. It works BEAUTIFULLY and I wanted to thank EVERYONE in this thread for making it go smoothly.

I also backed it up with partimage and gzip resulting in a 1.22 gb file (trying 7zip with mx=9 as we speak).

I'd like to put it out there as a torrent so anyone who wants can just rock and roll without having to worry about it.

Is there any good way to do so with out taking it in the ass on bandwidth charges?

Thanks again for all the hard work and tips!


Which version of the Nvidia drivers did you use?

Also, for the upload, try parking it on something like Megaupload or Rapidshare. Both limit the amount that can be downloaded per day, but if you've got it down to ~1GB, that'd be 20 downloads / day on Megaupload.

I'm sure others have different suggestions (hopefully better ones), but you can start with something like that.

Thanks for offering to post. I'm sure it'll save others lots of time in the future.
------------------------------------------
Dharma Quick Setup Guide:
XBMC tips on the TechNazgul Blog
------------------------------------------
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#14
I used the 185.18.14 drivers.

I'll see about uploading it from the office tomorrow (might as well use the fios)

Couldn't get it under 1.22gb, but that's still not bad
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#15
Agreed on doing it from the office... as far as those two services go, I just realized that at a gig, it's probably too big for Megaupload, so my advice there probably isn't very helpful. Let us know if you find something else. If you don't find a better option to putting it up as a torrent, I'll download it as well and keep it up and seeding for a while to see if anyone is interested.
------------------------------------------
Dharma Quick Setup Guide:
XBMC tips on the TechNazgul Blog
------------------------------------------
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[LINUX] HOW-TO achieve XBMC nirvana with an Acer Aspire Revo 1600 and Ubuntu00
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