Christmas ending

January 4, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Hardware, Linux 

So, christmas and new years holidays is coming to an end. A long and arduous autumn/winter at work has ended, and an equally joyful christmas holiday is ending. This has been the year of working for my part, and the experience has been incredible. In all honesty, I’ve never had the opportunity to work in such a stimulating environment as I have the last few months, and I’m very happy for it.

Me and the girlfriend had the bad habit of buying an Xbox 360 for ourselfs this christmas, which made us realize we have a really small tv, so within 5 days we bought a new one. Then, we realized how bad speakers we have, so we winded up buying a set of bose speakers and new spdif cables within 2-3 days as well. This in turn, and the fact that I finally had some spare time, lead to me spending a lot of time finally getting the HTPC configured and working.

The entire HTPC is worth mentioning since I’ve put it together from parts, and installed/configured everything on my own. My opinion is that mythtv and ubuntu (mythbuntu) has come a long way as a platform for end users, but they still have a long way to go I’m afraid. My biggest annoyance is still the same it was 12 years ago unfortunately, and I think it’s to some extent become even worse over time. Graphics and Sound drivers…

I personally have fairly new nvidia card which I want 3d graphics on, and all the hardware accelerations etc, in other words I’m stuck with the nvidia drivers. You would think it would be easy with the proprietary hardware drivers stuff in Ubuntu, but it’s not. It’s actually worse than some years ago when I last handled these setups, then all you had to do was compile and install drivers in the correct kernel modules directory. Now you have to fight with umpteenth other installers which crashes and overwrites eachothers and so forth, and then when you do an update, all of a sudden you overwrite your working drivers with nonworking versions and you’re stuck trying to figure out just what happened. Also, the choice of good graphics cards has become smaller imho. If you want something powerful, you’re stuck with nvidia or ati. Both drivers are completely horrible to get working. I’m hoping the rumours I’ve heard lately will turn true here, and we’ll finally see better support for open source software from both companies, at least if they could make a single decent installer for the proprietary drivers in the common Linux distributions.

And my final gripe, which isn’t so large as the other ones, the sound drivers. Sound was absolutely horrible back in the days with OSS, whatever soundcard I tried to install, I winded up with either having to run the trial OSS drivers, or choosing between no sound and buying the OSS drivers. This has become much better happily. It’s still not working flawlessly as I just found out (SPDIF took a few hours to get working, and I still haven’t gotten 5.1 output to work correctly over SPDIF).

These are critical areas of an OS (you expect sound and graphics to “work out of the box” these days, not having to screw around with settings/drivers/installers as soon as you deviate by a single micron from the specifications.

On top of this, I had some more serious issues with my iMON PAD remote, once again after reinstalling the system. That I can live with, but it’s a serious annoyance. For some reason, the configurations shipped with mythbuntu had a bunch of codes that where off by a few numbers every here and there, and then there was a lot of buttons not connected between lirc to mplayer and mythtv.

Apart from this, I’m very happy with the setup by now. The basic functionality is there, but it’s made for tweaking and having fun, so there’s still a lot of things I’m interested in doing on it :-).

By now, I’m mainly waiting for work to start again, I feel rested, I’ve gotten to fiddle with some hardware and software, and I got new energy for the new year. I just need to try and get working on my webpage and stuff like that a little bit more so I can finally finish it. Like all IT projects, it’s running very late ;-).

Linux iMON pad remote controller with lirc

September 11, 2008 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Hardware, Linux 

In short, the SoundGraph iMON PAD that came with my SilverStone LC20 doesn’t work very well with the default ubuntu 8.04 installation. I’ve previously discussed how to get the VFD running, and am now turning my attention to the remote control and how to get it decently working in mythtv with lirc.

Let’s start by looking at the following image:
In short, red files are “main steps” which the “packets” flow from the remote control, and finally reaching lircd where they are converted from a binary stream into something intelligeble (with the help of the lircrc file, which specifies names for the different hex codes).

blue boxes are configuration files, green boxes are “users” of lircrc — ie, they will connect to lircd and receive all the updates from lircd as needed. Finally, magenta boxes are different things needed to build to get stuff running.

Everything will work out of the (ubuntu 8.04) box more or less, except for the big blobby nice mousepad on the remote control. That one is a mouse — sort of — and doesn’t work at all for me, your mileage may vary however (ie, it didn’t work for me, it might change fast)

Install Xorg, mythtv, mplayer, linux-kernel sources (needed later) and lirc via apt-get or your prefered frontend. Configure the packages, start xorg and make mythtvfrontend start from the .xinitrc if you so wish, and then start via the startx script, or rather make it start up as you feel most comfortable with. I’m an old fart and I like my startx.

Once all this is set up, all things should work, except the remote control, as already said. Most buttons will work, but not the big blobby knob (a.k.a. mousepad).

Well, it’s time to hack the horrible hack I guess. Download lirc-0.8.3 from Also, download the pad2keys patch from

1. Unpack the lirc package.
2. Patch the lirc package with the pad2keys patch (it will most likely fail with some chunks, just look at the patch, and add the code manually, are you a hacker or not?!).
3. Configure and make the lirc package. Don’t install it.
4. run uname -r, note your kernel version (2.6.24-19-server for example).
5. run “locate lirc_imon.ko” (have you updated your locate database? man updatedb, hint hint). If there are more than one in the list showing up, find the one in /lib/modules//blah blah.
6. Copy lirc-0.8.3/drivers/lirc_imon/lirc_imon.ko to the file you found in step 5, and replace the old one.
7. Either reboot, or if you know how to rmmod lirc_imon.ko and modprobe the new one. This might fail if you followed my previous post on islcd=0 etc, if you did, remove that line again.

Don’t forget to edit your lircd.conf with the new IR codes from the webpage. Set PAD key’s to good values, such as this:

Up 0x690281B7
Right 0x688A81B7
Down 0x688291B7
Left 0x6A8281B7

Finally add them to your lircrc in a good way, such as this:

prog = mythtv
button = Up
config = Up
delay = 2
repeat = 1

prog = mythtv
button = Down
config = Down
delay = 2
repeat = 1

prog = mythtv
button = Left
config = Left
delay = 2
repeat = 1

prog = mythtv
button = Right
config = Right
delay = 2
repeat = 1

So, you’re now a hacker of immense proportions. Celebrate with some mead and grow a beard like the rest of the hackers ;-).

Ubuntu 8.04 lirc_imon VFD’s

September 10, 2008 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Hardware, Linux, Ubuntu 

I got a silverstone LC20 chassi with a built in iMON vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) and IR remote control. I recently upgraded to Ubuntu 8.04 from 7.10 — yes I know, I am a bit late, but generally you don’t have to deal with kinks like this one when that happens.

Ubuntu 7.10 -> 8.04 changed the behaviour of the lirc_imon module pretty little, yet radically. The old default was to treat all iMON driven screens as VFD’s, but it now defaults to treat all iMON modules as LCD modules instead.

This results in tons of errors being pumped out (10’s-100’s per second), like this one:

Sep 9 21:35:00 fs1 kernel: [ 71.481262] /var/lib/dkms/lirc/0.8.3~pre1/build/drivers/lirc_imon/lirc_imon.c: lcd_write: invalid payload size: 32 (expecting 8)

Also, the VFD will not work. To make a long story short, to fix it, you need to tell the kernel module that the VFD is in fact a VFD and not a LCD, by giving the kernel module the option islcd=0. For example, in /etc/modprobe.d/options:

options lirc_imon islcd=0

I hope this helps anyone out there. I will soon try to have something together on getting the iMON PAD working properly. The basics was simple to get working, but the “mousepad” has been a general pain to get up and running properly.