Older blog entries for hulten (starting at number 2)

9 Nov 2009 (updated 9 Nov 2009 at 20:23 UTC) »

A month ago I started a PhD at the KNMI (Dutch wheather and climate institute). Before this I worked as an workstation administrator at the KNMI. Now I am a user.

During my time as an administrator I wrote a few articles for the IT department. These were about the introduction of more free software, open hardware, the configuration management tool Puppet and a bit about the new GNU/Linux distribution. This entry is an update to the practical status of a few of these subjects.

At least the users of my department, Mondial Climate, are proponents of the introduction of free software. It seemed that my paper about free software was received well at a meeting between end users and administrators. Probably it will take a while before we can say goodbye to all proprietary software, but I believe that we will be making progress in the near future.

The open hardware issue is likely to be rediscussed as soon as new hardware is needed. At this moment the IT department has enough new workstations, unfortunately all equipped with Nvidia cards.

The introduction of the new GNU/Linux distribution goes slowly. I for one am already running the new distribution, with much more free, as well as up-to-date, software than any other user at the KNMI.

20 Aug 2009 (updated 12 Dec 2014 at 15:01 UTC) »
The government and Free Software

I work at the Dutch Meteorological Institute (KNMI), a government institute. The Dutch government several times said that they wished to use more Open Source Software and Open Standards, but forces seem to exist which prevents the actual embracement of this. I was asked to write a plan concerning our troubles with the Linux-driver for the Nvidia cards that are part of the workstations of the KNMI.

Obviously, the problem is the use and acceptance of non-free software (and hardware). However, users want 3D acceleration (Google Earth, Nexuiz, visualisation of models). Is ATI a viable alternative? They went open spec. No, the free (as in speech) drivers are not completed yet.

The obvious alternative is the onboard Intel GMA X3000 and higher series. Even with the newest GMA X4500 series the performance is not nearly as good as of recent Nvidia and Ati cards. However, I am sure that it is more than enough for most users. I will convince them that it is better to buy Intel GMA's, so that we can use Free Software!

update: Sadly, I was not able to convince them. This is partly related with agreements between KNMI and vendors, and the GNU/Linux administrators at the institute do not have much influence on that. Now, five years later, I left KNMI for a new job in France, and KNMI administrators are still having the same problems...

28 Jul 2009 (updated 28 Jul 2009 at 20:29 UTC) »
Play a movie on TV through an Nvidia card

Even in these days of RandR and the modular Xorg, some people still have trouble playing a video through their computer on their television. Specifically the proprietary Nvidia cards cause problems. There are even users who think that using proprietary drivers for their Nvidia cards is the only way to use TV-out. That is not true and I for one even find it less troubling when you use the nv driver, which is free software.

While running Xorg with the nv display driver, I installed the little utility nvtv (slightly patched). Put nvtvd in your default runlevel. I wrote the following shell script, called mplayot for playing a movie on my television:

echo mplayer-on-tv v0.3.7
# Pause your music
mpc pause
nvtv -r 800,600 -s Large -t -C CONVERT --set \\
    TVPositionX:-3,0 || echo Problem with nvtv!
if ! [ `ps -C xscreensaver | wc -l` = 1 ]; then
        killall xscreensaver
# Put xorg blanking of display to two hours
xset s 7200
mplayer -fs -osdlevel 1 -vo xv -spuaa 4 \\
    -screenw 800  -screenh 600 -ao alsa "$@" &&\
# Put it back to 10 minutes
xset s 600
# This fixes some display problems
xrandr -s 640x512
xrandr -s 1280x1024
if [ $XSCRSAV = "YES" ]; then
        xscreensaver &

This just works.

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