Sunday, June 15, 2014

Netflix & Amazon Prime Video in Ubuntu 14.04

Pipelight uses a patched version of WINE to install the Microsoft Silverlight plugin used by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Pipelight automatically installs, configures and updates all the necessary components and dependencies for video playback. Once installed Silverlight will behave just like any other normal browser plugin. In order to watch Netflix and and Amazon Prime Video after installing Pipelight, you will need to set Firefox to spoof a compatible User-Agent String. Once configured playback works seamlessly.

Add the Pipelight's Ubuntu Personal Package Archives (PPA)
sudo apt-add-repository ppa:pipelight/stable
Update your system
sudo apt-get update
Install Pipelight and the necessary dependencies
sudo apt-get install --install-recommends pipelight-multi
Update the Pipelight plugin
sudo pipelight-plugin --update
Enable Pipelight for every user on your system
sudo pipelight-plugin --enable silverlight
Install the Firefox add-on UAControl. There are other add-ons that work but UAControl  works automatically. If you can not get UAControl working for you, you can try another method.

To access UAcontrols preferences either navigate to Tools>Add-ons or use the key combination Cltrl+Shift+A

Click Add Site and enter the website you want to send a specific user-agent string
And use one of the following user-agent strings:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:15.0) Gecko/20120427 Firefox/15.0a
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; rv:22.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/22.0
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; rv:23.0) Gecko/20131011 Firefox/23.0

On my Dell XPS 13 the first string works for playback, on my desktop the second string works. Don't be discouraged. Try each string after restarting your browser until you find one that works.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Installing Ubuntu/Xubuntu 14.04 on the Dell XPS model 9333

Installing Ubuntu 14.04 on my Dell XPS 13 model 9333 requires a little more work than anticipated. This guide will show you how to get the touchpad working correctly and fix headphone jack audio bug.  This guide works for Ubuntu and any of it's derivatives using 14.04 as its code base.

I use Xubuntu on my XPS 13. I love Ubuntu, but Xubuntu offers me more control and a workspace that matches my workflow. No matter what edition of Ubuntu you decide to use, Trusty Tahr works really well on the Dell XPS 13.

Terminal commands are highlighted in blue. Ubuntu users need to use gedit instead of mousepad in their terminal commands.

Update your system
sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get update

Reboot if necessary
sudo reboot

The updated Synaptic drivers for the XP3 13 touchpad are currently in Test Kernels. Canonical is doing their best to try and backport this functionality into 14.04 LTS so that users can take advantage of native i2c touchpad support. Until then you can download a test kernel or enable the testing repository. I downloaded acelan's testing kernel. Make sure you download all 4 debs. Install and reboot.

There is constant white noise that can be heard when headphones are plugged in, it makes using the audio jack impossible. There is also a poping noise heard when plugging in headphones. The fix involves creating a script and disabling the power saving mode of the audio card.The good news is this bug has been fixed in 3.16 kernels.

It is easier to run the commands as root, open a root terminal:
sudo su
Setup an init script to load the headphone fix at boot:
mkdir -p /etc/init.d/
wget -q -O /etc/init.d/xps
chmod +x /etc/init.d/xps
update-rc.d xps defaults

Create the audio fix script:
mkdir -p /usr/local/bin
wget -O /usr/local/bin/
chmod 744 /usr/local/bin/

Disable the power saving mode"
mkdir -p /etc/pm/config.d
echo INTEL_AUDIO_POWERSAVE=false > /etc/pm/config.d/snd_hda_intel

Apply the changes without needing a reboot:
echo 0 > /sys/module/snd_hda_intel/parameters/power_save

exit root permissions:

For Xubuntu users:

You'll notice that there is significant screen tearing when watching videos in Xubuntu. Xfce's default window manager xfwm4 does not have sync to VBlank support. Compton supports VBlank and I written a guide for setting it up properly for the Dell XPS 13.

Before you install and configure Compton you need to turn off xfwm4 compositor. Under Settings>Window Manager Tweaks>Compositor

 Install and configure Compton:
sudo apt-get install compton
wget  -O ~/.config/compton.conf

Then set Compton to run at startup. Under Settings>Session and Startup>Application Autostart. Click the Add button:

Name: Compton
Description: lightweight standalone compositor
Command: compton -b

Enable the Intel driver TearFree option:
sudo mkdir -p /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/
sudo wget -q -O /etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-intel.conf

sudo reboot

Check to see it was enabled
cat /var/log/Xorg.0.log | grep Tear

There are a couple options for configuring multitouch gestures in Ubuntu 14.04. I'm trying to get Touchegg working. Until then I'm using a simple bash script to tweak my synclient settings.

To setup the script:
mkdir ~/.scripts
touch ~/.scripts/
chmod 744 ~/.scripts/
mousepad  ~/.scripts/

These settings change the tapping behavior, you can place whatever tweaks you want inside of it. Having the script wait 10 second or so provides enough time for the system to load, you can remove it but I prefer a bit of a buffer.
    sleep 10s &&
    synclient TapButton1=1;
    synclient TapButton2=2;
    synclient TapButton3=3

Feel free to leave comments and suggestions in the comments.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Improving the Comfort of the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Ear Pads

My Audio-Technica ATH-M50 are now my main headphones on my desktop. They are great set of headphones and real price performance winners. Shortly after buying them I stopped listening to them. I usually wear on-ear headphones when out and about. My JVC HA-S500-B don't bother me after hours of use. The ATH-M50 pads clipped the outside edges of my ears and the foam filter rubbed up against the middle of my ear. I couldn't stand wearing them for over 30-45 minutes. My ear would get hot and raw.

Because how uncomfortable they were my ATH-M50s rotted in a case for the last year until I bought a Schiit Stack. I tried them on a whim and realized I really dig their sound.  I hopped online and started looking for a fix.

* Note my ATH-M50s have am aftermarket removable cable mod

The first thing I decided to do was extend the depth of the ear pads using cotton. By placing a 1cm thick layer of stretched cotton balls under the pads I fixed a majority of the pain I experienced. The stock ATH-M50 pads are just too shallow for a guy with large ears. The more I used them, the more I fell in love with them. For about $1.50 in cotton balls I was able to use my ATH-M50s for extended periods of time.

Cotton modded (left) pad vs stock pad (right), notice the change in depth

Making the stock pads thicker and moving the driver off your ear greatly improves the comfort of the ATH-M50s. I recommend this mod to every owner. It's 100% reversible and cheap. You will be amazed at how much better your ears feel during extended listening sessions. I didn't notice a change in the sound signature either. Try it out and let me know what you think.

I decided to take the next step and look into replacement pads. There is a huge thread on about replacing the ATH-M50s pads.  I read all 26 pages of the thread and many of the linked articles. There was no clear winner on which pads were the best. I ended up going with the Shure HPAEC840 Replacement Ear Cushions For SRH840 Headphones. They are larger and deeper than the ATH-M50s ear pads.

Shure 840 pad (left) vs stock pad (right), notice the difference in depth and overall size. Much bigger than the stock ATH-M50 pad.

The Shure pads fit a tad loose on the ATH-M50s, slightly more than the stock pads but not enough to fall off or freely rotate when using them. You can sew them to make them slightly smaller. I'm debating if I want to break out the thread.

The thread is full of people discussing about how the sound signature of the ATH-M50s change with new pads. I haven't noticed a change in sound but I have noticed a huge change in comfort. The Shure pads are plush and soft. I can wear the cans for hours on end and not feel any discomfort. Well worth the investment of time and money.

Shure 850 pads on the ATH-M50s

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Install Microsoft Office In Linux

PlayOnLinux is a graphical front-end for the Wine software compatibility layer which aims to simplify the installation of Windows-based applications and games on Linux. It uses an online database of scripts to apply to different applications that need special configuration.

There are many different ways to install Microsoft Office and other Windows programs in Linux but I enjoy the easy and simplicity of PlayONLinux.

To intall PlayOnLinux
sudo apt-get install playonlinux

The first time you run PlayOnLinux you'll be greeted with a wizard. Make sure you have an internet connection and hit next.

PlayOnLinux will update itself

Navigate to Install>Office>Microsoft Office 2010

A reminder will pop up, leave the default location and do not tick the checkbox 'Run the program' if asked. Click OK.

The Microsoft Office 2010 installation will begin

You can install office from a DVD or .exe file

Once you select your install media, PlayOnLinux will download and install the necessary software

And prepare Microsoft Office for installation on Linux

Enter your Product Key

 Accept the Terms and Conditions

 Click install now, to begin the process

Allow PlayOnLinux install Microsoft Office

Installation Complete

Now Microsoft Office is installed and configured

Setting Up Dropbox in Xubuntu

Dropbox does not officially support Xubuntu's file manager Thunar. Crunchbang maintains a Thunar Dropbox package that restores alot of the official plugin features. With it you'll get options to browse the file on the Dropbox website, get shareable link and view previous revisions. Terminal commands are highlighted in blue.

If you don't already have an account, please use my referral link. We both get extra space.

Download and install the 64 bit client
cd ~ && wget -O - "" | tar xzf - 

Download the 64 bit plugin

Install the plugin
sudo dpkg -i thunar-dropbox-plugin_0.2.0-1_amd64.deb

Start Dropbox

Sources 1 2