Wednesday, April 4, 2007

PS3: Which Bluetooth Headset? (it does make a difference!)

Before I start the post I should point out that neither one of the headsets I mention are endorsed to work with the PS3, so in theory you're taking a risk if you're buying one for that purpose. E.g. Even if they work at the outset, Sony may release an update that prevents the headset from working with the PS3 in the future. I'd also like to say that both headsets worked well (at least they did for me) for their advertised use, i.e. as a hands free solution for a mobile phone.

I recently bought a Motorola H670 both as a headset for my mobile phone and for my PS3. The H670 worked fine with my phone, it didn't work so well with my PS3. I swapped the headset for a Plantronics 320. The Plantronics has worked well with both my phone and the PS3.

It seems the problem with the H670 may be linked to Firmware update 1.6. See the links at the end of the post for references.

H670 Output Problems (i.e. when you want to hear other people)
In short, when other people were talking (either in game or using PS3's voice chat functionality) I could only hear static through the headset. I eventually configured the Voice Chat program to output sound to my main speakers, rather than to my headset, at which point I could hear the person at the other end very well. i.e. The problem was between my PS3 and the headset rather than the other party's PS3 and mine.

H670 Input Problems (i.e. When you speak and want others to hear)
Every time I said something the person on the other end complained that I sounded like a Robot and asked me to speak more slowly. I originally guessed it was a bandwidth issue, who knows perhaps it was, but ultimately switching to the Plantronics 320 solved it.

Possible causes?
I notice that the 670 supports BT 2.0 specification, whereas the 320 supports BT 1.2. Could that have been the problem? For the time being I haven't got a clue. It is a little puzzling that Sony hasn’t brought out an official headset to date. One concern might be that Sony has a part to play in the problem I've described. If so I wonder whether any "Fix" they release in the future might ultimately "break" compatibility with headsets that currently work well.

If you have any ideas feel free to post your comments.

The [PS3] Bluetooth Headset Guide - Useful guide includes stats on headsets that successfully paired with the PS3. Doesn't go into details on other types of problems.

Firmware 1.6 Problems - Various people discussing headset performance before and after Update 1.6 was released.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Installing VLC (or Mplayer or Xine) on a PS3 running Yellowdog Linux using YUMEX

After a little work I've managed to get VLC working. Ultimately the install was easy but I have to admit I started off taking the wrong road. The key was having YUM set up correctly and activating the right REPOS...

UPDATE: I tried installing MPlayer and Xine using yumex and both installed and ran without incident. This really underlines the point made above, that getting yum configured properly is the key to getting the most out of your linux installation.

Some assumptions:
1. You're running Yellowdog 5.0 Linux on the PS3 (Firstly, it's not tough to install, secondly, if you're running Yellowdog 6.0 or higher please take a look at Roberto's comment below)
2. You selected the full install option (can't remember if you get a choice with the PS3)
3. You have an internet connection (PS3's built in WiFi wasn't working last time I checked but a wired Ethernet connection seems to work fine)
4. You're running Yellowdog under GNOME (before you enter your username and password to login, click on "Session" and Select GNOME)
5. You have a copy of the Yellowdog DVD inserted in the PS3's drive (or a copy of the RPMs on connected storage)
6. You're logged in as root (This isn't necessary if you know what you're doing but if you don't then that's the way I would go.)

1. What does YUM do?
I've talked about YUM in a previous post. However, I didn't provide too many details, something I aim to rectify now.

For those of you familiar with Microsoft's Windows Update Tool, YUM should be fairly easy grasp at the conceptual level. The key difference is that YUM lets you choose where you look for updates, whereas with the Microsoft Tool you don't have to worry about this step.

Another notable difference is that on a Windows System you can get by comfortably without running the Windows Update Tool (not recommended), on a Linux System life without YUM is very painful; there are a lot of tools and applications available for free download to linux systems, YUM makes it easy to get your hands on this software. Without YUM, or some other alternative, getting this software can be a time consuming and frustrating experience.

2. How do I configure YUM?
Firstly, if you've installed Yellowdog on the PS3, YUM has already been installed for you. You can test this by opening up a Terminal (Menu: Applications->Accessories -->Terminal) and typing yum:

Depending on your past experience this can look a little scary. The good news is that you wont be spending that much time using the Text Based Version of YUM. More on this later.

Pointing to the right updates:
I've already mentioned that a key activity is to point yum to the right updates. Unfortunately I'm not a Linux expert so I can only show you which update libraries I've configured and how I've configured them.

UPDATE: Apr 11, 2008
It's been a while since I published this and it appears that Yellowdog has updated to v6.0. "Roberto" has left an important comment (April 11th, 2008) that illustrates how to go about making the necessary changes.  Thanks Roberto!

Pointing to the right updates involves changing some files and creating some files. The first file you have to change is called yum.conf. You can find this file by navigating to your Computer in GNOME's explorer (Menu: Places->Computer) and double clicking on the etc Folder.

Scroll to the bottom of this folder and you should see a file called yum.conf. Right click on this file and Open With->Text Editor. Make sure the contents look like this:



# PUT YOUR REPOS HERE OR IN separate files named file.repo
# in /etc/yum.repos.d

Next scroll up above the yum.conf file in the etc folder and open the folder called yum.repos.d. You'll should find 3 files in this folder:
a. yellowdog-base.repo
b. yellowdog-updates.repo
c. yellowdog-extras.repo

The contents of these 3 files should be modified as follows:
a. yellowdog-base.repo:
name=Yellow Dog Linux 5.0 Base

b. yellowdog-updates.repo
name=Yellow Dog Linux 5.0 Updates

c. yellowdog-extras.repo
name=Yellow Dog Linux 5.0 Extras

In addition to these 3 files we'll be adding 3 more. The following files should be created (right click on an empty spot in the folder and select Create Document->Empty File)
a. ydl-extras.repo
name=YDL Extras


b. Fedora-Extras.repo
name=Fedora Extras

c. livna.repo
[livna-stable] Fedora Compatible Packages (stable)

d. freshrpms.repo

That's all there is to it. yum should now be configured and you're ready to download your first update.

3. Installing YUMEX
As I mentioned earlier you don't have to run YUM in Terminal. There is a Graphical User Interface (GUI) available for the YUM tool and you can use YUM to download and install this tool.

UPDATE: Jan 30 2007
Thanks to some comments below I discovered that FreshRPMS doesn't provide yumex and running yum search yumex, without making some modifications to your yum configuration, will fail. In order to get around this do the following:

a. Modify Fedora-Extras.repo as follows:
name=Fedora Extras

Now running yum search yumex should work. Follow the section below on installing yumex (yum install yumex) and when you're done revert the Fedora-Extras.repo:
name=Fedora Extras

Note: The fedora-extras repo contains more than 6000 packages, keeping it enabled all the time will slow down your "yuming" experience!

Open Terminal and type yum search yumex If all went well you should see something like this:
# yum search yumex
Loading "installonlyn" plugin
Searching Packages:
Setting up repositories
base [1/4]
base 100% ========================= 1.1 kB 00:00
updates [2/4]
updates 100% ========================= 951 B 00:00
freshrpms [3/4]
freshrpms 100% ========================= 951 B 00:00
extras [4/4]
extras 100% ========================= 951 B 00:00
Reading repository metadata in from local files
primary.xml.gz 100% ========================= 759 kB 00:05
base : ################################################## 2208/2208
Added 2208 new packages, deleted 9 old in 25.77 seconds

yumex.noarch 1.0.3-3.0.fc5 installed
Matched from:

Assuming you successfully found yumex (It should be found by the FreshRPMS.repo you created earlier) go ahead and install it by typing in Terminal: yum install yumex

Once the package is installed type: yumex in Terminal and wait for YUMEX to open.

4. Installing VLC with YUMEX

Understanding Dependencies:
When you try to install software with YUM, it will often check to see if the software you wish to install requires other software to be preinstalled. This is known as "dependency checking". If YUM finds that there are dependencies it will try to locate them and automatically download them to your PC, if it can't find the dependencies the installation fails (and, if you're using yumex, you'll see a lot of red text on the screen)

Enabling REPOS:
If yumex is not open, then type yumex in a Terminal window (or Menu: Applications->System Tools->Yum Extender)
Once yumex opens you're ready to enable / disable repos. To work with REPOS click on the REPOS icon. You'll see new view containing a list of your REPOS. Check REPOS you want to enable and uncheck those you want to disable.

VLC's required REPOS:
The VLC installer is available through FreshRPMS, however, on my system, VLC had approximately 18 dependencies. Dependencies, in this context, refers to software that must be installed prior to installing the software you're actually trying to install. In VLC's case these dependencies found through the Fedora-Extras REPO and not the FreshRPMS repo. Therefore make sure that both Fedora-Extras and FreshRPMS are selected and press the Refresh Button.

UPDATE: If you have problems with SDL_Image/libSDL
SDL 1.2 is actually available on the Yellowdog DVD. I know this because that's how I installed it. Once SDL is installed you shouldn't have any problems installing SDL_Image. If you configured YUM to include the YDL-EXTRAS (that's the Yellowdog DVD Repo you created earlier) you should be able to find SDL by searching for it in YUMEX. I'm guessing that if you ensure that the YDL-EXTRAS repo is checked along with Fedora-Extras and FreshRPMS, prior to installing VLC you may not have any problems at all.

Installing VLC:
This next part is simple. All you have to do is:
i. click on the Install Icon
ii. type vlc in the search bar and press the search button
iii. select VideoLAN Client 0.8.5 (i.e. the non development version)
iv. press the add to queue button
v. Click on the Queue ICON
vi. Press Process Queue and hit OK a few times.

Once YUMEX tells you the package has been installed successfully you should find a VideoLAN Client shortcut under your Video and Media menu option (Menu: Applications->Video and Media->VideoLAN Client) I've tested this client using local and streamed Xvid and DivX files and it works reasonably well.

What about VLC 0.8.6+?
I tried very hard to get this to install prior to installing 0.8.5 using yumex. I had partial success, however, VLC refused to detect my FFMPEG installation without which DIVX and Xvid movies will not play. Both of these movie types worked fine on my 0.8.5 installation.

Monday, January 8, 2007

The PS3, Yellowdog and Video File Sharing

Here are some quick observations on trying to play Video files on Yellowdog (Note: I'm a Linux newbie and I've since installed Fedora 6.0 on my PS3 so I've lost a lot of the detail on what I actually did with Yellowdog. I'm probably going to reinstall Yellowdog this weekend so look out for updates)

The importance of YUM
I thought I'd start off by briefly mentioning that unlike a Microsoft OS, where you typically download and run a piece of software, on a Linux OS you may be required to download the "Source Code" for the software, build it on your particular flavour of Linux and then run it (assuming you can actually find out where it got installed ...) Bear in mind that you you may also need other software installed on your Linux OS before you can successfully build the software you actually want. Sometimes this can be as significant as needing an engine in your car before you can actually drive it anywhere. Fortunately, there is yet more software available for Linux OS's that help you download and manage these updates. YUM is an example of such software.

YUM comes pre-installed with Yellowdog, however, you'll have to modify the YUM.conf file to actually get YUM to work and this is not exactly straightforward for the uninitiated!

Yellowdog's Video Playing Software:
The Video player that comes installed with Yellowdog (I forget what it's called now) doesn't come pre-installed with DivX or Xvid codecs and I didn't make much progress in trying to build/install them.

Installing other Video Playing Software
I found that trying to install other, popular, Movie players like Zine (or is it Xine) or MPlayer a little challenging on Yellowdog. Firstly, I couldn't find any native binaries for these products so I had to download source and build it. I did manage to build and run the command line version of MPlayer, unfortunately the Graphical Interface for MPlayer wouldn't build on Yellowdog. I didn't get anywhere with Zine.

Playing local and remote movie files
In short SAMBA worked very well so I was able to detect and access a Windows XP share from my PS3 with no problems. Unfortunately, trying to get the default video playing software to actually play video files stored on my PC didn't work and I'm not sure why. Downloading the remote file onto the PS3 and playing it in MPlayer went fairly well at first. Unfortunately, when I tried resizing the video window, vertical Green lines started appearing on top of the video image.

Wrap Up
As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I'm really just starting out with Linux and I imagine using the PS3 as the host system doesn't make things easier. Future posts should have a little more detail than this one, but if there's anything specific you want to know, leave a comment and I'll see what I can do.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Overclocking a PCI-E nVidia card on Vista

Warning: Overclocking any hardware is risky and can ultimately damage the hardware. It is seriously lame to blame the author if you decided to overclock and something goes wrong!! So please don't be lame!)

The Goal: Increase Vista Base score from 2.6 to 3.0.
This weekend I managed to increase my PC's Vista Base Score from 2.6 to 3.0. Here's my system spec:
AMD Athlon Dual-Core X2 4600+
nVidia PCI-E 7300 LE

Finding out your Base Score:
You can view your system's base score by going to the Performance Information and Tools Panel (Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> Performance Information and Tools). It seems that the intent behind this panel is provide your Hardware with an unambiguous "score" that will allow you to know whether a given piece of software is likely to run optimally on your PC.

Interpretting your Base Score:
Based on the reading I did, I understood that currently Microsoft have definitions for scores between 1 and 5 and Windows Vista will run acceptably, with all of its features activated, on systems with a base score of 3.0. I have a fairly good PC however, the base score is not an average; your base score is determined by your lowest scoring hardware. In my case this was my graphics card. I wasn't sure whether Vista was designed to automatically switch off certain features depending on this base score and therefore I wanted to increase it to 3.0. This meant I was going to have to overclock my Graphics Card.

Necessary Tooling and the "you're not an Admin problem":
I've done a little overclocking in the past using RivaTuner or nVidia's Control Panel. However, I quickly found that these tools did not seem to work as expected in Windows Vista. In my case I got an error every time I tried to start RivaTuner (something to do with a missing driver or insufficient privileges .. I disregarded the latter because my user belongs to the Admin Group)and the nVidia Control Panel did not contain any Overclocking options (Control Panel -> System and Maintenance -> NVIDIA Control Panel).

At some point I came across a tool called nTune by nVidia. This tool is supposed to be Vista compatible and apparently makes overclocking controls available. Once installed, I started the nVidia Control Panel again and immediately got errors. In short this Control Panel was telling me I didn't have Admin rights. Ultimately the panel opened but there were no Overclocking Tools to be found.

By now I was getting the distinct impression that Vista thought I wasn't an Administrator even though I belong to the Administrator Group ...

Getting permission to Overclock
To save time I decided to see if I could get Vista to relax about the whole Administrator business ... at least temporarily. A better solution would be to figure out how to get Vista to understand I'm an Administrator or run the Control Panel as an Administrator (Something you can do with executables via something.exe->Right Click -> Run as administrator)
UPDATE Jan 12 2007:
Turns out all I had to do was right click on the nTune Performance ICON and select "Run as Administrator" and the Panel appears with various overclocking and stability monitoring options.

I ultimately found what I was looking for under "User Account Control" (Control Panel -> Security Center -> Other Security Settings -> User Account Control) In short, I found that if I switched User Account Control I was able to access to run the nVidia Control Panel without any errors and ultimately access the Overclocking controls for my Graphics Card.

I made some adjustments to my GPU settings via the nVidia Control Panel and re-ran the base score assessment tool. My score went up from a 2.6 to a 3.0. I switched User Account Control back on and re-ran the test, I still scored 3.0.

Hope this helps anyone who's trying to do the same thing. I didn't check to see if RivaTuner worked with User Account Control siwtched on and I haven't looked into solving the Admin problem; it seems like something Vista has been designed to do so there should be something in the help section on this.

Additional Info / Useful Links: