Category Archives: Hardware

XBMC and Boxee with HDMI Audio

On my Asus M3A78-EM running Ubuntu 9.04 I use  XBMC and Boxee for media playback. I recently had the need to output audio over s/pdif optical and via HDMI due to the fact that I have a HDMI switch to send the output to two separate LCDs.  I also have a MSI N9400GT-MD512H GeForce 9400 GT installed in this box to perform VDPAU video hardware acceleration.  As you may or may not know this GeForce card requires a 2 pin s/pdif cable to be run from the motherboard to video card.  In order for HDMI audio to function you must go into your bios and set the `SPDIF OUT mode` setting to ‘SPDIF Output’.  One the system is back online, be sure to disable Pulse Audio as it does not play well with Boxee and XBMC. Next you need to have the latest ALSA v1.0.22 installed, a nice upgrade script for Ubuntu can be found here . To check what version you have installed check the following file:

htpc@Electric:/media/sda3$ cat /proc/asound/version
Advanced Linux Sound Architecture Driver Version
Compiled on Feb 21 2010 for kernel 2.6.28-18-generic (SMP).

Ok, once you have the latest version installed you need to configure your /etc/asound.conf  file as follows:

pcm.!default {
type plug
slave {
pcm “spdif”
rate 48000

EDIT 2/22/2010:  I found that under the latest Boxee Beta I could not get sound to function at all!  On a hunch I deleted the asound.conf file above and everything including navigational sounds worked like a charm . XBMC also function perfectly, so I really question the need for the global asound.conf file above.

You may also want to check in your home folder to be sure that you don’t have any custom asound configuration files, you really should remove these as to not cause any confusion.

Go ahead and do a reboot if you have not done so. Once the system is back up you should run alsamixer and turn all your volume levels up, pay special attention to the SPDIF levels  be sure they are unmuted. An unmuted channel will have a ‘OO’ and a muted channel will have a ‘MM’.  Once you have your levels set run ‘sudo alsactl store 0’ to save your settings.  Lastly, in Boxee and XBMC set your audio settings as follows:

Audio output———————————-Digital
-Dolby Digital (AC3) Capable receiver—-off
-DTS Capable Receiver———————–off
Audio ouput device————————–default
Passthrough output device——————iec958
Downmix multichannel audio to stereo—on

These are the setting I have to use for everything to work with an older Sony XBR1 I have, the TV does not seem to be able to support Dolby Digital or any special formats.  Good Luck.

New 320GB HDD shows 137GB in the bios!

I recently purchased a Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 – ST3320620A 320GB HDD to backup my systems. I decided to make my life easy and pop it into a external USB/Firewire case. All went well except that I could only format the drive to 137GB. After reading many posts online about this problem I decided to hook the drive up to the onboard HDD controller on my Asus A8N-SLI.  Even the system BIOS displayed 137GB! Many reports on the Internet say the cause of this is due to old firmware or hardware, in my case this was just not true. I tried about six other HDD controllers without luck. Finally I decided to try some software tools just to see if the drive was in fact 320GB in sieze. In my searches I found a killer tool named Victoria (sorry it's in Russian only). It turns out that some how my HPA (Host-Protected Area) accessible size of the disk got altered. Using this application you can set the HPA accessible size of the disk back to the maximum or to factory defaults. Upon a reboot I was back in business, the BIOS now saw the drive as having 320GB!

If your Russian is not up to speed, check out MHDD it boasts the same functionality as Victoria but it's web page is in English.