Tags: hardware

Got tearing with proprietary NVIDIA? Try this. [↗]

If you’re using a reasonably modern NVIDIA graphics card on your Linux box with the proprietary driver, there’s a fair chance you may encounter that nasty thing called ‘screen tearing’. There is a little setting worth trying in NVIDIA’s blob driver called ‘ForceCompositionPipeline’ that can severely reduce tearing to a minimum, perhaps even completely. Here’s how to do it.

I recently installed a new NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 in my desktop. The card is awesome, but it’s not supported by the open source Nouveau drivers under Linux (Ubuntu 16.04), so I had to install NVIDIA’s propriety drivers. This was not a problem and it only took a few minutes before I had the card up and running, however, it wasn’t long before I discovered that it was exhibiting some video tearing issues. Grrr!

I’ve experienced video tearing under Linux before and it’s always been a pain in the arse to get sorted. So, I was pretty happy when I found something that actually worked, first time. The gist of the fix involves adding this line to the “Screen” section of your Xorg configuration file:

Option  "metamodes" "nvidia-auto-select +0+0 { ForceCompositionPipeline = On }"

Once I’d added the above line and rebooted, the screen tearing was completely gone. Nifty!

Review of My Software and Hardware Choices

Prompted by Chris Coyier’s post, Review of My New Computer Equipment, I thought I’d post a review of my current software and hardware choices. So, six months ago, I wrote:

On reflection, I’ve replaced all but one of the OS X specific applications, and the change was painless. As with the previous post, and if I remember, I’ll take another look at this list in another 6 months. I’m wondering if I’ll still be using desktop Linux? I’m thinking that I probably will.

I thought wrong, well sort of. I’m actually using macOS, Linux and Windows. Yup, I’ve ditched the silly idea that I need to run the same OS on every system and I now use whatever I fancy, or, I choose the best tool for a given job.

My workstation consists of 3 systems and they’re all sharing the same keyboard and mouse via Synergy. Throughout the day, I switch seamlessly between macOS, Ubuntu and Windows 10, across a total of 5 monitors. It’s fucking glorious.

I run macOS on my 2013 MacBook Pro, Ubuntu on a Dell desktop and Windows 10 on my X220 ThinkPad. The machines all vary in age, but they’re all fitted with solid state drives and their performance is more than adequate.

When I’m at home, I also have the same 3 operating systems available. My hackintosh desktop runs Windows 10 (mostly for Steam). I run macOS on my MacBook and both Ubuntu and Windows 10 on my X220 ThinkPad.

It’s quite liberating when you realise that you don’t have to belong to a particular OS camp. Computers and operating systems are just tools and whilst it’s normal to have a favourite or preferred tool, it’s not good to exclude everything else in favour of using it, especially if there’s a better tool for the job.

On reflection, I’m really pleased that I decided to breakout of my comfort zone and I’m really enjoying my current setup. My choice of software and hardware is like a melting pot of the best tools available and it enables me to get stuff done. It also provides for a varied experience and prevents me from getting too bored with one system.

If you’ve found yourself in the position of using just one operating system, whether that’s Windows, macOS, Linux, or some other exotic OS, I’d wholly recommend mixing it up and taking full advantage of what’s out there. OS variety is the spice of life.

[RESOLVED]: Macbook 2016 HDMI output flickering

The other day, I updated macOS on my MacBook to 10.12.2 in the hope that it would fix this issue. And, the update does appear to have fixed the issue, although I’ve only done limited testing.

The strange thing is, I couldn’t see any reference to it in Apple’s 10.12.2 release notes. I’m thinking that the fix is either experimental, unconfirmed, or the by-product of another fix. Either way, I’m just happy that this issue is resolved and I can now happily dock my MacBook, without having to turn it off and on again.

Dave Builds a PC [↗]

I hate myself for this comparison, but here goes. Computer manufacturers (like Apple and Dell) are like front-end development frameworks; smart defaults that serve the majority of people. That’s just fine. But as a technolgist and a software developer, I want something custom tailored to my specific needs. This balances my aethetics, my technolust, and my budget without paying a “tax” to companies to do that for me. The modular nature of the computer means I can piecemeal upgrade the components as necessary. I’m not beholden to an entire new product cycle.

Seems like a fair analogy to me. Also, Dave’s post reminded me of when I put together my Hackintosh machine. I had a few minor issues slotting everything together, but the feeling of accomplishment when the machine first boots is properly worth it.

P.S. I keep referring to my desktop as my Hackintosh machine, but I actually removed macOS from it a couple of months ago. I should probably post an update.

Internet of Stranger Things [↗]

Seb Lee-Delisle lights up our 2016 advent series with an illuminating guide to making your own Stranger Things style fairy lights to pick up messages from the upside-down (also known as the Internet).

Very cool.

Macbook 2016 HDMI output flickering

Tonight, I connected my MacBook to an external monitor via a new HooToo USB 3.1 Type-C Hub. This was the first time I’ve attempted to connect an external display to my MacBook and I’d very much like to be able to say that it just worked, but it really didn’t. As soon as I connected it to the monitor, the display started flickering, sliding in-and-out, and occasionally blanking-out completely.

For a few minutes, I wondered whether I had a flaky hub or HDMI cable, but after some googling I discovered that my MacBook was experiencing a known issue. Bummer.

Anyhow, after reading through a bunch of forum posts, I discovered that the fix is to turn the MacBook off and on again, I shit you not.

I’m frustrated and slightly annoyed with this experience. The MacBook was not a cheap device and I really didn’t expect it to exhibit a shoddy technical issue like this. I guess I’ll just have to wait patiently with anticipation in the hope that Apple can fix this via a software update.

New MacBook

Yesterday, after many months of umming and ahhing, I finally purchased a replacement for my ageing ThinkPad X220. I opted for a MacBook, the 1.2 GHz dual-core Intel Core m5 model.

First impressions, I love it. It’s silent and super-lightweight, the display is amazing and the keyboard is surprisingly nice to type on.

My only concern, before I made the purchase, was that it might be somewhat underpowered, but I needn’t have worried; so far, it has handled everything I’ve thrown at it, including a couple of Linux virtual machines, which it runs just fine.

It’s still early days, but I’m thinking my new MacBook will definitely become my new go-to machine, replacing my beloved X220.

Red Alert – Work in progress [↗]

My love of Star Trek is well known and so when I got the chance to play around with Pimoroni’s new Mote lights, well there was only one thing to do. Simulate alert statuses!

My friend @biglesp is always making cool things. I love his latest project and I’m tempted to have a go at it myself, it looks like a lot of fun.

Hands-on with the Linux-ready Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition [↗]

The new Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition is a good looking and well-built machine. It doesn’t come with Windows installed (if that’s important to you), and it runs Ubuntu and Fedora virtually perfectly. It’s a great machine for developers and system administrators.

I’ve been looking at the XPS 13 as a replacement for my ageing ThinkPad X220. I managed to get my hands on an XPS 13 (for a few minutes) a week ago and it looked like a really nice machine — the screen was very impressive. My only concern with regards to purchasing one of these would be the build quality, I’ve been using ThinkPad devices for a number of years and they have always been rock solid. Whereas, my only experience of Dell machines has been at work, and I’ve not been overly impressed with them. That said, I guess the XPS 13 is a premium model, so I’d expect it to be higher quality than the Vostro models.

Hmm, decisions decisions.

Meet The World’s First Ubuntu Tablet (That Is Also a Desktop PC) [↗]

Canonical has officially unveiled the world’s FIRST Ubuntu tablet, the Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition.

Made by Spanish OEM Bq, the 10-inch tablet runs the same core Ubuntu operating system as the Ubuntu Phone but the user experience dynamically adapts based on input and screen size.

This looks super-interesting and I’m really tempted to try and get one. That said, my tablet use is limited and I already have an iPad Air 2, which is a fantastic device. If I did get one, it would purely be to satisfy my curiosity towards the operating system, which is probably not a good enough reason to justify the purchase.

Regardless of my own fanboy curiosity, it’ll be interesting to see how well it’s received by others. By all accounts, tablet sales declined last year, so it’s a tough market to enter. And, with the added friction of not being an iOS or Android device, it will struggle. With that in mind, maybe I should get one, it might be worth some money one day, to a collector of rare tech oddities.

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