Friday, March 19, 2010

FIX for the ATI/Kubuntu bug for Window resizing

So for a long time now, since I have had this machine, I have had an annoying bug. It really is only an annoyance but one I am glad I have finally gotten rid of!

The problem? If you have Kubuntu window compositing turned on and you have an ATI graphics card, resizing a window lags by a few seconds. In effect it means that you drag a window border to resize it, and while your mouse cursor moves to the new destination it takes a few seconds for the window to actually move to the new resized location. This also affected maximising a window from the task bar and even getting the Kmenu to display.

The cause? After a bit of reading, it seems to have something to do with a "fix" added to the Xorg server (one of the components of Kubuntu that handles creating the GUI display) to prevent "garbage" graphical anomalies that displayed for certain Intel graphics cards. The side-effect was that unfortunately, ATI's driver support being what it is (read abysmal), this fix caused resize effects to become incredibly laggy.

The solution? Well, if only there was some way to remove that fix from the Xorg server so that it doesn't affect ATI users (we don't need it after all)? The good news is that you can and it really is not that difficult. We need to replace the existing Xorg server packages with one that does not have this fix in it. Thankfully there is a handy repository that contains just that replacement. Below are the steps to replace the Xorg server with the "unfixed" version that should totally remove the resize issue:

1. Use Alt + F2 to open the run dialog, and type in konsole.
2. Press enter to open the Konsole terminal application.
3. To add the new location for these replacement Xorg files we need to paste the following into the terminal:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:launchpad-weyland/xserver-nobackfill

4. Once it completes type in:

sudo aptitude update

5. This will reload all the available packages you can install by adding those packages from the new repository we added above. Now type in:

sudo aptitude upgrade

6. You should now get a list of upgrades that will be installed, amongst them being x-server upgrades. Enter Y to prompt asking if you are sure and the downloads will begin.

7. Once things are download and installed, close the Konsole and then logout (you don't need to shutdown but you can if you really want). Once back on the login screen press Alt+E, which forces the Xorg server to restart.

8. Log back in and enjoy the compositing effects as they were meant to be enjoyed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Movies do well while music suffers - How to prevent piracy

Last year (2009) saw the movie industry breaking records at the box office left, right and center. From the smash-hit Avatar really making a big splash, to record-number turn outs at the cinemas making the movie industry a bucket load of cash. And yet movie piracy is still on the increase.

2009 also saw sales on the traditional music CD dropping and profits dipping for record labels. While artists revenue has increased some have commented that this is simply because artists have been working harder with schedules more stuffed with live performances than ever before.

So why is it that the movie industry is still making huge profits, even though both entertainment industries are suffering from piracy? To me, I see this as a perfect example of the value proposition that each industry's products represent to the average Joe.

When you pirate an album what do you lose out on compared to buying the original CD? Well, you lose the cover art but you can download that online too. The lyrics potentially but again, easily downloaded. Ummmmm.... You do however, depending on the record label, GAIN from piracy because you no longer need to deal with potentially draconian DRM measures that make your life difficult.

Lets look at the movie industry. What do you lose when pirating a movie as opposed to going to the cinema? Well, in short ... you don't get to go to the cinema! Sure, you can download the movie, then gather your friends at your place to watch it together. But you don't get to "go out" to the cinema! You don't get to share the mob excitement of watching this new movie. Shuffling into your seat in this vast space with other like-minded people. Have your eyes bedazzled by the enormous big screen in front of you and even experience 3D. Have a top of the range surround sound system that would cause the police to come knocking at your door due to noise complaints if you tried that volume at home. In essence, the experience of going to the movies is something substantial and meaningful to miss by just pirating to watch at home. Sure, its a LOT cheaper to just copy that movie over peer-to-peer networks than for each person to have to pay for a seat, but we pay it anyway because the experience is just not possible to duplicate. And besides, the guys who will download and not go the movies probably cannot afford the ticket prices. However, they get to watch it anyway, spread the word on awesome they thought it was, and potentially push more people to go to the cinema.

A pirated MP3 on my MP3 player sounds just the same as the original CD. So why should I shell out a lot of money for something I can essentially get for free. There is some good news, however, on the music front. A new technology called MusicDNA has been touted as the new replacement for MP3 and aims to add more to the experience of a genuinely purchased music file from valid commercial sources by embedding new content into a music file as well as meta-information that can get updated over time. This would be the right thinking amongst the record labels.

The only irreplaceable aspect of the music industry right now for customers is the live performance. You cannot download the excitement and feeling of connection with your favorite band or singer a live performance gives you by downloading it. This, in my opinion, is why artists are making more from live performances. And as I said before, people are attributing this to the fact that artists are now working harder doing more live performances. Well, of course, the only way to fulfill demand for more live shows (apart from doubling the sizes of concert venues) is to have more shows. If you have a lot more people wanting to go to the live show, you're going to schedule more of them. Totally logical. And why are there suddenly more people wanting to go to live shows? Perhaps because piracy of music has meant artists are actually getting more exposure than before because their music is being so widely distributed. An audience is being generated where previously there was no traction due to the relatively high cost of buying genuine media.

The movie industry is still breaking box office records because the cinema-going experience cannot be replicated (at least not all that easily) by piracy, whereas the music industry is essentially stuck offering the exact same thing people can get for nothing. MusicDNA is a good idea that has some merit in trying to do what the movie industry has done; create an experience people are willing to pay for that can't be replaced that easily. In addition, the music industry needs to re-invent itself around the live performance which is the closest corollary to "going to the movies" they have, as this is what people are willing to pay for.