March 12, 2009

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MKV's & Ubuntu: Redux

For all (5) of our regular blog followers, you already know that I’ve installed Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Alpha on to my Eee PC 1000. It is running a Low-Power Intel Atom (LPIA) processor at 1.6Ghz. It is not exactly a fast little devil, but it does a decent job for most things you’d want to do on a netbook. One of the things I do, is watch videos on it and one of the perennial problems with doing so under Linux has been poor MKV (H.264) support. In fact I wrote about this a year ago.

On the Eee PC non-MKV videos generally work well. Occasionally, they’ll have render troubles (due to lack of processing power), but for the most part, they work fine. What surprised me though was the fact that many MKV videos I’ve downloaded have also worked well, or at least much better than I recall. When I found that some MKV files didn’t have any trouble at all playing, frankly I was shocked. I wasn’t sure if it was something in 9.04 or what was going on, so I had a co-worker test on his 8.10 box and they also played well. Now I’ve found some videos, generally the ones that look like they are higher quality (therefor require more CPU time for de/compression) and have high-motion action scenes, that don’t fare so well. Even with that being the case, turning off SpeedStep (so the Eee PC is stuck at 1.6Ghz) seems to remove a lot of the issues. On one of these “problem” videos for me, I had the co-worker test and he reported that everything went smoothly. He said that if he didn’t know about Linux’s sordid history with MKV’s, this video would give him no reason to believe otherwise.

Info on machines after the break…

My previous post was in March of 2008, which means I was most likely using 7.10. It is possible the MKV issue or base line decoding algorithm was “improved” in 8.04 or 8.10 and has been tweaked in the last year.

== My Machine ==

ASUS Eee PC 1000

1.6 Ghz LPIA


Integrated Intel GMA 950

Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Alpha (for i386)

VLC Video Player

== Co-Workers Machine ==

Dell D620

2.4Ghz Core 2 Duo


Integrated NVIDIA Quadro NVS 110M

Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid

Totem Video Player (VLC Tested with same results as Totem)