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Intel Skylake with an Asus Z170-AR and Ubuntu Linux 14.04
Posted on 10-26-2015 23:14:48 UTC | Updated on 10-26-2015 23:30:20 UTC
Section: /hardware/motherboard/ | Permanent Link

I bought a Asus Z170-AR (the -A is almost identical except for DVI and VGA port). This motherboard (mobo) runs the latest Intel Skylake processors and has some of the newest chipsets on board. This means that you will likely need one of the newest Linux kernels out there to support these chipsets. But, if your running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and want to run the latest hardware your going to have a problem.

Be advised this was an mobo/ram/proc upgrade and the OS was an original 14.04 install. 14.04.2 and newer point releases will ship with a much later and up to date kernel according to Canonical.

Older kernels and newer hardware

Very new hardware usually needs the latest drivers to work correctly. The closer you are to having the latest Linux kernel the better your chance is that your newer hardware will work. The newer the kernel the newer the driver. This is something that does not work well with Linux distributions that have long term releases in which the major kernel version does not get updated frequently. This is not to say you can go get more up to date kernel modules and build them but, when talking about built in support usually the kernels only get security updates and other fixes. Usually there are no features or support added. This does not bode well for using Ubuntu LTS releases on new hardware.

Ubuntu LTS

Ubuntu made LTS releases so people could stay on them for up to 5 years and not worry about upgrading every 6 months or not getting updates anymore. It is fantastic idea. The only problem is if you stay on an LTS release your were always stuck with the kernel that the release came with. Not any more.

Enter the LTS Enablement Stack

Canonical (the makers of Ubuntu) decided that they wanted LTS releases to be able to be used on newer hardware. They wanted everyone who wanted the stability of an LTS release to be able to use a newer Linux kernel. This would enable to people to buy newer hardware and have better support for said hardware.

To make this a reality Canonical decided to make the LTS Enablement Stack.This set of packages are much more updated Linux kernel and X support for existing LTS releases.

Asus z170 mobo and chipsets

As stated I upgraded a machine to an Asus Z170-AR motherboard with Ubuntu 14.04 already installed. Everything worked well except for the network adapter and the on board audio. These are some pretty important things so I just had to get them working. The following is what I did to do to get them working in Ubuntu 14.04.

Fixing the Ethernet adapter

With the stock 14.04 kernel (3.13.x) the Intel i219-V chip on the motherboard does not work. It also does not work with kernel version 3.15.x either. I had to go all the way to the latest 3.19.x kernel version to get the e1000e driver working with this adapter. To do this I installed the LTS enablement stack for 14.04. Follow that link and run the apt-get line. After reboot your ethernet adapter should be working.

Fixing the audio

Getting the Realtek ALC892 chip on the motherboard working was much harder than just updating the kernel. The 3.19.x kernel did not have a working sound kernel module for this chip. I could see the chip listed using lspci so I knew it was being seen by the kernel.

# sudo lspci -vv

00:1f.3 Audio device: Intel Corporation Device a170 (rev 31)
        Subsystem: ASUSTeK Computer Inc. Device 8698
        Control: I/O- Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr-
        Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- D
...
        Kernel driver in use: snd_hda_intel

It even said there was a kernel driver being used for it. Which was a good sign, but still there was no sound. Alsa did not show any cards listed either. If you run aplay and your audio chip is recognized by the kernel it will show up in Alsa.

# aplay -l

Not until I grepped the dmesg did I find out why the kernel module was loaded but it was still not working. I saw the following in dmesg output greping for the PCI address listed in the lspci output.

# dmesg | grep '00:1f.3'

[   10.538405] snd_hda_intel 0000:00:1f.3: failed to add i915_bpo component
master (-19)

Now I have something to look for to see if anyone else was seeing the same error. Google turned up this post from someone with the exact same problem. Answer was to update to a very cutting edge Alsa kernel module. So I followed the instructions here to update 14.04's Alsa sound system with the latest kernel module. Be sure to choose the correct kernel module .deb package for your kernel on the "ALSA daily build snapshots" page. If your using 14.04.x choose "oem-audio-hda-daily-lts-vivid-dkms - ... ubuntu14.04.1" After installing the .deb package and rebooting, "aplay-l" saw the audio chip. Hooray!

Last thing to do to get the audio fully working is to choose the correct output in your desktops sound system. I use the XFCE desktop so what I had to do was Start "Pulse Audio Volume Control" then go to the "Configuration" tab and turn "HDA Nvidia" -> Off for my Nvida video card. Then in "Built in Audio" I had to select "Digital Stereo IEC958 Output" for my output. There are lots of outputs. My suggestion is to play an audio file on repeat, then go through each audio output to find the one that works.

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Netflix streaming playback speed and hidden menus
Posted on 05-16-2015 19:41:47 UTC | Updated on 05-17-2015 17:35:20 UTC
Section: /software/chrome/ | Permanent Link

Netflix and playback speed

I have always been interested in Netflix streaming, but I could not get over not being able to adjust the playback speed. That and the movie selection stinks (out of 159 titles in my queue only 40 are available to be streamed). I still tried streaming for 30 days and really liked some of the original content Netflix had. During that time I did not find any native way to adjust the playback speed in their html5 player. This really stinks as I am used to watching video with Vlc, YouTube, and MythTV all of which allow for playback speed adjustment up to 2x. It is hard to watch anything at lower speeds anymore. After a bit more searching I finally found a way to change the playback speed in Netflix streaming video.

Chrome extension Video Speed Controller

After much searching I found an Google Chrome extension called Video Speed Controller, which allows for the speedup of html5 video streams in the browser. Netflix has an html5 player so this works with Netflix streams. Hooray!! The speedup stream does not have any buffering issues and I've watched many things on with 2x playback without issue. Unfortunately you can't use this anywhere other than the browser. Come on Netflix please add playback speed adjust to all of your players on all platforms!!!

Performance at higher speeds

Beware that when speeding up video you will need to make sure your video card can handle the higher frame rates. When I stream a video file from local storage with a local program like Vlc at 2x, it is very smooth, without much jitter or video tearing. When streaming content from Netflix or YouTube or other sites using this browser plugin you are using the browser as the video player, and it might not be as clean of an experience. You might notice some more jitter in the video and some frame tearing on fast moving scenes. This usually happens if your hardware can't keep up rendering the video or if hardware acceleration is not enabled.

Chrome hardware acceleration

My testing for this is being done on Linux with Google Chrome using the accelerated Nvidia Drivers with a GeForce GT 520 a video card from 2011. What I had to do to get rid of the jitter and tearing is turn hardware acceleration on in Chrome. Google seems to be very careful about whether or not they turn on hardware acceleration. They usually don't turn it on unless they know for sure it will work. Mine was not turned on even though I had a video card that supported acceleration and the correct drivers. Chromes detection of this might not be the best or Google did not think the drivers for this were stable enough. What is great is you can turn this on anyways and it works great.

Turn on hardware acceleration in Chrome

To see if your hardware acceleration is already turned on or not type "chrome://gpu" in your Chrome URL bar. If it's turned off you will likely see lots of red text indicating so. Look for "Video decode" and see if it says "Disabled". If so you will need to turn it on. If it says "Hardware accelerated" then your good and can skip the rest of this paragraph. To turn on the hardware acceleration in the Chrome URL bar type "chrome://flags". The first setting says "Override software rendering list". Click the "Enable" to turn on the override. Then restart Chrome. Go back to "chrome://gpu" and see if it says "Video decode: Hardware accelerated". If so go try to watch a movie again or a YouTube video and it should be much smoother and likely have less tearing. If you don't have less tearing, go into your video driver config and make sure you have Sync to VBlank enabled. Mine is in my Nvidia X server settings manager then under "OpenGL settings"-> Performance. Check the box "Sync to VBlank".

Other neat Netflix streaming things

Netflix provides some hidden menus for stats and changing bit rates of your streams. Here are some different ones to try.I tried these using Chrome on Linux. They all worked for me.

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Disabling GNU Screen lock screen
Posted on 03-28-2015 20:05:10 UTC | Updated on 04-01-2015 23:30:01 UTC
Section: /software/screen/ | Permanent Link

Lock screen

For the impatient or TLDR ... Put: export LOCKPRG='/bin/true' in your .bashrc. Kill all screen sessions and start a new one. Ctrl-a x should now do nothing. Also, a nice fellow named Brian suggested I just unbind the x key. I thought it was a good idea. Just put "bind ^x" and "bind x" in your .screenrc. Lot's of different ways to do the same thing. Re-binding is the better way though.

I have been using GNU Screen for a while now. I usually create multiple new windows (Ctrl-a c) every day. Then I flip back and forth between the multiple screens (Ctrl-a n) or just toggle between the last 2 windows used (Ctrl-a a). Sometimes my finger slips and I hit Ctrl-a x which provides you with a password prompt. This is GNU Screen's lockscreen function.

Normal and not so normal

Normally you just enter your user password and the screen will unlock. Screen is using /local/bin/lck or /usr/bin/lock by default. This is all fine and dandy if you have a user account password to enter. If you have servers that only use SSH keys and don't use passwords you will have no valid password to enter. In other words you are stuck at this lock screen. One way around it is to login to the same machine and re-attach to the same screen session (normally "screen -r" if you have only 1 session open). Then kill the session with the lock screen. This is annoying to have to do.

Disabling lock screen

I wanted to be able to just disable the lockscreen setting and be done with this. Looking at the man page it shows there is no option to turn this off. So you have to go around it in a way. The way I found to do this on machines without user passwords is to disable the terminal lock program by setting the environment variable LOCKPRG to "/bin/true". For BASH put export LOCKPRG='/bin/true' in your .bashrc. Kill all screen sessions and start a new one. Ctrl-a x should now do nothing.

Warning about disabling LOCKPRG

For security sake be careful about disabling your LOCKPRG. /bin/true disables all terminal screen locking, so if you use some program that uses whatever is in the LOCKPRG variable it essentially disables it.

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