New PC + Ubuntu

I’ll jot these down as helpful notes for others.  I’ve just bought a new Mesh PC, it includes an nForce 610i chipset (with video and audio) and a separate GeForce 8500 GT graphics card.

Ubuntu Hardy installed without hitch, it found my nVidia and suggested the restricted driver, it was happy with the SATA 500Gb hd and ‘just worked’.  Installation took 30 minutes and was a breeze.  Prior to this I configured the partitions manually (in the Ubuntu installer) to keep my Windows XP partition for dual-booting (a bootloader is added automatically to let you boot into XP on startup).

Sound was a bit more tricky (isn’t it always?) – it turns out that the on-board card was doing just fine, the problem was that it has a choice of 2, 4 or 6 channel sound which are controlled by drivers.  This is fine if you have the Windows driver, for Ubuntu it looks like config-file hackery. I was plugging in speakers for 6 channels rather than just 2.

Under System->Preferences->Sound if I chose ALSA (rather than ‘autodetect’) then everything worked with 2 channels, I had to configure mplayer and VLC to see ALSA.

To avoid the config hell I put my old SoundBlaster Audigy into the machine.  This was detected under ‘Sound’ as ‘p16v’, but wouldn’t act as the default device.  It turns out that now the machine sees two ALSA devices and uses the nVidia one as default.

Installing asoundconf-gtk solved this (I chose the SoundBlaster to be the default) and it wrote .asoundconf and .asoundconf.asoundrc to my home directory. asoundconf-gtk appears in System->Preferences->Default Sound Card.

Now VLC and mplayer (also Flash in Firefox) all play sound just fine.

I also made a point of upgrading my nVidia drivers using EnvyNG to the latest (173.14.05).  With the default Ubuntu nVidia driver I had some tearing on full-screen (1680×1050) movies, with the new EnvyNG driver I get a clear, great picture.

Once again I have a snappy, stable Ubuntu box and I can mostly ignore Windows. Yay!

Oddly I didn’t have to refer to my old notes to get ALSA with the SoundBlaster working on this new PC – the External channel was enabled by default (it wasn’t on my last PC).

Addition – I noticed that in Firefox 3 my backspace key doesn’t take me back a page.  Thankfully this fix (backspace key for ubuntu firefox) solves the problem in just a few seconds.