Friday, September 21, 2007

Pulse Audio, mplayer and gnome-mplayer Moved To Beta Group

After doing some R&D on a laptop, I got pulse audio working as desired and sent it to HP. Their engineer built from source and compiled it for their thin clients and returned it to us a working build. This build has been moved out to about 20 people and up to this point the only sound they have gotten is standard GNOME login and logout clips.

After testing a few ideas, I have settled on using the mplayer engine, and the gnome-mplayer UI for our deployment. Many of the players have the controls running in a UI separate from the display canvas, which is just not deployable for 'regular users'. Users lose windows in their stack, and often don't know how to find them again. gnome-mplayer is wrapped around the display canvas. It's got only the most basic of controls and should be an excellent fit.

In the beginning of testing, I was concerned that remote display and Compiz would make playback too slow for deployment. However, it turns out that the business use content (quicktime, windows media, real) works just fine. Below I am attaching two shots. The second is the IronMan quicktime (way cool btw!)



27 comments:

Marco Craveiro said...

hello dave,

did you consider using totem and gstreamer with the new codecs (i.e. the ones you need to buy off of fluendo)?

Dave Richards said...

I haven't tried totem in a while. I know the last time that I tried, it was not easy to compile on some of our servers.

Sometimes when I pick things, it's because it's stable and meets our needs. Unfortunately I can't always test all of the competing projects. This combination is working well for our needs at this time.

When time allows, I'll do some tinkering again and check out Totem.

Joe Cipolla said...

Cool stuff Dave. I am a Largo resident and glad to see the city is doing it right with Linux. Keep at it!

Anonymous said...

Dave, how well do you think a Zonbu computer (zonbu.com) would work in your LTSP environment? 512 MB RAM and 4GB flash, plus MPEG2 accel. What applications do you store on the 2GB of flash on the HP's, and how do you run those apps when in an LTSP setup? I wonder how well the Zonbu plays with Compiz Fusion. I want to order one to try it out but everything I do is either LTSP (k12ltsp actually) or a rdesktop session booted via PXE and set up in lts.conf.

Alan W. Irwin said...

Dave, could you give a quick summary of the reasons for your HP 5725 thin-client decision? I am currently researching 3D-capable thin clients, and I was wondering if there are any gigabit-capable ones out there which have the "natural" combination of AMD geode cpu + embedded ATI video. Such a combination would give an enormous networking advantage over the 100Mbit networking available with the 5725 and save the substantial initial cost, power cost, and heat concerns of the PCI slot + ATI video card.

Alan W. Irwin said...

Sorry, I miswrote. Change above from

"natural" combination of AMD geode cpu + embedded ATI video

==>

"natural" combination of AMD geode cpu + _integrated_ ATI video

Dave Richards said...

Regarding the Zonbu: I've never used one, but my guess is that Compiz would not run. I don't see a digital port on the back. Seems like it's probably just a 2D capable chipset, but I could be wrong. All we have on our thin clients is X, and the ATI driver. It simply boots and presents a XDMCP chooser.

alan:
We bought the HPs for the following reason:
1) Price
2) Ability to add PCI card
3) Works with ATI/Nvidia cards
4) Lots of ports and USB ports
5) No moving parts
6) Very stable

I have not seen gigabit in any thin clients to date. If that was more important that a video card, in theory you could put your own network card into the PCI slot. Gigabit would help the 3D for sure, but we are getting good FPS even at 100Mb. I have not see any thin clients with 3D video chipsets. I think it's still a new concept to them, and just now starting to work well enough for it to be considered for future models. Ours are working great.

Anonymous said...

I applaud your efforts, in this uncharted 3D thin client territory.

In regards to "All we have on our thin clients is X, and the ATI driver" : Why the upgraded 2GB of Flash on the t5725's?

Dave Richards said...

If memory serves the upgrade from 1GB to 2GB flash devices was around 25 dollars. Being 10 year devices, it's impossible to project what will be needed in 10 years. We also considered the fact that HP at some point will not develop upgrades for these devices and we possibly will have to build our own. The small amount of money seemed to offer us a huge amount of possibilities down the road.

Alan W. Irwin said...

Thanks, Dave, for your reply. That is good news that 100Mbits is adequate for your 3D needs and I now realize that you made an excellent choice of video card (the last ATI r200-based card fully supported by X.org).

Since my post I have continued investigating and have not yet found an AMD geode + integrated ATI video combination. However, I have found one low-power/fanless Intel possibility that has 600MHz fanless celeron cpu, up to 1GB ram, gigabit networking, and integrated Intel video (852GM/extreme graphics). See this link for the EES-5718.

I have had excellent experience with Intel integrated graphics before for low-end 3D games (tuxracer, foobillard), and I assume Intel integrated graphics are also perfectly fine for desktop 3D effects. The gigabit networking might be a big 3D plus over the 5725 100Mbit networking for my particular needs. (I am in a home office situation with only one client and one server so my planned gigabit LAN would consist of a simple crossover cable. For the Largo situation with a much larger ratio of clients to servers there probably are other networking bottlenecks that would reduce the effectiveness of an upgrade of client networking from 100Mbit to gigabit.)

Dave, I would appreciate any further comments you might have about the EES-5718 including whether you think the 600MHz celeron is going to be a 3D bottleneck.

Anonymous said...

"...HP at some point will not develop upgrades for these devices and we possibly will have to build our own."

I was under the assumption you were booting via PXE, in typical LTSP fashion. But instead, it boots from the CompactFlash Debian distro HP made for you (with ATI driver), then runs gdm and asks which server you want to connect to? Am I close?

Alan W. Irwin said...

anonymous said "I was under the assumption [...]Am I close?"

I am interested in Dave's reply to this question as well, but I think he will say "yes".

I assume booting from local CF disk must be faster then using NFS to boot from server disk. That advantage might well outweigh the disadvantages which are increased cost per client (CF disks cost roughly $30/gigabyte); clients slightly more attractive to thieves (since with a large CF disk the clients are pretty nice stand-alone platforms); and having to individually update the client software (essentially kernel + X) for each client rather than updating one copy of the client software stored in a central location on the server.

Dave Richards said...

Right now we are booting off the flash devices. The old thin clients had spoiled the users in boot time, NCDWare including Xserver was only 2MB and took around 10 seconds to boot. The HPs come with a license with software to push updates over the network....however we haven't been impressed with that technology. It requires a much longer boot time at startup while it checks for updates. We also are concerned about user technique. People will think something is wrong with the client and disrupt the download if it doesn't immediately boot. Update of the build via USB takes about 2 minutes. I'll publish a blog after our first update with the method we ended up using. I have the new OS release with sound that will probably go out in November.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I'm about to buy some T5725's and was wondering how to get the latest Debian build from HP that you guys use? We have one existing T5720 that I think I'll try it on too.

Dave Richards said...

HP has merged in Pulse and ATI into their main build. I'll poke them again about releasing it on their site. Everyone is going to get those features on all HP thin clients going into the future.

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