Apr 19 2009

Skype on Eee PC Ubuntu Netbook Remix

Donnie had asked on my previous post if I had a chance to test Skype. I just tested, and everything works very well. I didn't experience any of the choppiness that he experienced. I know that there have been several bug fixes for both PulseAudio and Alsa recently to address issues with the Intel Audio chips. For reference, my installed versions are alsa 1.0.18.dfsg-1ubuntu8 and pulseaudio 0.9.14-0ubuntu20.

I did have to make a special entry in ~/.asoundrc for my stereo headset to output to both speakers. Skype provides 8-bit unsigned mono output audio, so it needs converted to stereo if you want sound in both headphone speakers. I copied these settings from http://help.ubuntu.com here. I didn't create the launcher script they mention. Just add the following to your ~/.asoundrc and choose "skype" as your Sound In, Sound Out and Ringer device in Options->Sound Devices.

Code:

pcm.skype {
   type asym
   playback.pcm "skypeout"
   capture.pcm "skypein"
}
 
pcm.skypein {
   # Convert from 8-bit unsigned mono (default format set by aoss when
   # /dev/dsp is opened) to 16-bit signed stereo (expected by dsnoop)
   #
   # We can't just use a "plug" plugin because although the open will
   # succeed, the buffer sizes will be wrong and we'll hear no sound at
   # all.
   type route
   slave {
      pcm "skypedsnoop"
      format S16_LE
   }
   ttable {
      0 {0 0.5}
      1 {0 0.5}
   }
}
 
pcm.skypeout {
   # Just pass this on to the system dmix
   type plug
   slave {
      pcm "dmix"
   }
}
 
pcm.skypedsnoop {
   type dsnoop
   ipc_key 1133
   slave {
      # "Magic" buffer values to get skype audio to work
      # If these are not set, opening /dev/dsp succeeds but no sound
      # will be heard. According to the alsa developers this is due
      # to skype abusing the OSS API.
      pcm "hw:0,0"
      period_size 256
      periods 16
      buffer_size 16384
   }
   bindings {
      0 0
   }
}
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Apr 18 2009

Eee PC Ubuntu Netbook Remix

In researching potential inexpensive laptop solutions for use in education, I decided that the Eee PC would be a great product for this use. I was especially excited that there were Linux offerings. For myself and potential students, this means no Windows Tax, since I would install Linux anyway.

I never tried the Asus version of Linux, instead, I opted to install the Ubuntu Netbook Remix. I may have tried the Asus version, but was immediately confronted with a EULA, so decided that a format was in order.

I've only been using this system for a few days. I have to say I am very impressed. The keyboard is small, but no so small that I can't type relative fast on. I've only installed a few things outside of the defaults that are installed by default with the remix.

I think this system could easily be used by any student in education. With a built-in webcam and mic, just add a headset and you've got a perfect device for online classes. I'll be using it with next week's Mozilla Open Education Course class. Very exciting times. I think once these units hit the $150-$200 range, they will be even more realistic for a student laptop.

What I'll personally be using this for? Well, the list is pretty long already.

  • I listened to Pandora via pianobar several hours this week at work.
  • I read a few chapters of an E-book with FBReader. Since this is such a small device, it actually feels like a book. I will certainly be reading more E-books now.
  • I used OpenOffice writer to convert an E-book to a different format. I'll be using OpenOffice continually for many projects.
  • I watched a couple cartoons with my daughter. One using Firefox with a flash movie player. The second was an avi file from Totem. The display is a little larger than her small DVD player, so with a headphone splitter, it was a familiar and comfortable experience.
  • I browsed around Twitter a little with TweetDeck.
  • I posted this.

Not only is this a super usable little computer. It will be a welcome option for students at all levels of education.

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