Changing the User Password without Permissions

You can just download

It reportedly works for Windows, Linux and OS X.

Using SMPlayer with hardware video acceleration such as VAAPI - Fixing various crashes etc. with VAAPI

If you've also tried to use VAAPI with SMplayer, you may also have experienced the crash every single time you try to watch anything. These things might also apply to VDPAU and xvmc.

Here's the solution
1. Disable screenshots:
General -> General -> Enable Screenshots [ ] (uncheck)

2. Set to single thread decoding:
Performance -> Performance -> Threads ... [1]

3. Disable subtitles and postprocessing.

Here's what doesn't help:
Upgrading to the current version 0.6.8.

If you want to know how to get VAAPI working SMPlayer in the first place: Select
General -> Video -> Output Driver -> Custom -> "vaapi,xv," and
Advanced -> Options for Mplayer -> Options -> "-va vaapi".

Let me know if it worked for you. Someone should probably inform the author of smplayer and/or mplayer. Excellent programs!

Over 9 Hours of Video on Battery with the MSI Wind U110

After I've managed to set up the video acceleration, it was time to test if it's really as power efficient as claimed. I just tried that with some SD and HD video. HD video wouldn't play properly of course, so it's silly to compare battery times.

But with SD video and vaapi, I managed to get down to 6.1 watts (9.1 hours). Without vaapi it was around 6.3-6.5 watts (8.5 hours).

I used a few tricks to achieve this:
  1. disabled wifi and bluetooth.
  2. lowered the display brightness to minum (still good though). This has to be done before boot in 2.6.31.
  3. moved the system to an SDHC card. While the power in standby is the same (5.7 watts both with only SDHC or only hard disk), the active power is much lower with the SDHC (only +0.5-2 watts instead of 3-5 watts).
  4. used by powersave script to optimize the kernel settings for low power mode:
echo cpu
echo 1 | tee /sys/devices/system/cpu/sched_smt_power_savings
echo 1 | tee /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu*/cpufreq/ondemand/ignore_nice_load
echo 95 | tee /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu*/cpufreq/ondemand/up_threshold
echo 50 | tee /sys/devices/system/cpu/cpu0/cpufreq/ondemand/powersave_bias

echo usb
echo 2 | tee /sys/module/usbcore/parameters/autosuspend
echo auto | tee /sys/bus/usb/devices/*/power/level

echo misc
echo 1500 | tee /proc/sys/vm/dirty_writeback_centisecs
echo 0 | tee /sys/block/sdb/queue/rotational
# broken echo 10 | tee /sys/module/snd_hda_intel/parameters/power_save
# not better echo 1 | tee /sys/module/psb/parameters/disable_vsync

killall -q hald-addon-storage knotify4 NetworkManager
hciconfig hci0 down

Ubuntu One Privacy in the EU

I was just about to look into using Ubuntu One. But I chose not to, because I would have had to install tons of Gnome dependencies and use the Gnome client. It's not integrated to KDE yet. Then I read about their privacy policy, because recently we see a lot of bad privacy policies I would say. And I'm not too happy about what I read.

"Canonical may disclose any or all personal data and contents you have sent, posted or published if required to comply with applicable law or the order or requirement of a court, administrative agency or other governmental body." (

So if the local village chief somewhere in East Timor wants ("requires") to see your private documents, he is welcome to. Or do we use eiusdem generis rule? Well, I would still say any administrative agency is not very narrow. I think we can at the very least expect not only secret services or police, but any part of the US federal and local government to have access to any of your saved data at any time they require it and without any court orders. The link also lists as administrative agencies: the labor relations board or the Farm Credit Administration, the Maritime Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Immigration and Naturalization Service or FCC and IRS. So quite a lot of people with potential access to all of your private information.

We don’t share your personal information with anyone except to provide you with services, comply with the law, or protect our rights. (

Canonical's rights could be a lot of things I think. Maybe it could include the right to get payed by you? If you didn't pay in time, it looks to me that by the contract terms they might share your personal information with "anyone" to protect their right to be payed.

The quotes are from the UK version of Ubuntu One, but probably apply similar everywhere. I think they actually really tried to make it privacy friendly. But at the same time, they really wanted to make sure they couldn't possible get in trouble through protecting your privacy.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer - this is not legal advise. This is just a discussion view and a try to inform the general public about something that may or may not be interpreted by professionals as here stated. You are invited to share your views in the comments.

How to Boot Floppy Disks with Grub e.g. to upgrade your BIOS

If you have a modern notebook, it's likely you don't have a floppy drive. But still, many companies offer either floppy images or windows tools to upgrade your BIOS. Both not really great for Linux users. Of course, you can use the tools of OpenBIOS, but that can be pretty difficult. Here's how you can boot any floppy directly in memory via grub:

1. You need to get memdisk. It's included in the syslinux package.

2. You copy memdisk to your boot folder:
e.g. cp /usr/lib/syslinux/memdisk /boot/memdisk

3. You uncompress (if it's zipped) and copy your floppy image to the boot folder, e.g. to /boot/floppy.ima.

4. You create the grub entry, use your normal values for root and the path:
title Floppy Image
root (hd0,0)
kernel /boot/memdisk
initrd /boot/floppy.ima
5. Reboot, select it. It should boot normally, only without the annoying floppy drive noise. Done!

How to set up X and VAAPI Accelerated HD Video on the MSI Wind U110 (GMA500 - Poulsbo) and Ubuntu Karmic 9.10

The following guide is now slightly outdated as Ubuntu 10.04 is out and new drivers are necessary, also some of the repositories I originally used have disappeared. If you use Ubuntu 10.04, try following my much easier directions here instead. (The largest detriment to the Ubuntu 9.10 driver is a complete lack of suspend to ram for me. I will leave my guide for 9.10 online as reference, though. It seems to have been the first good description and I'm happy about the major online media coverage. :)

I've finally managed to get it running. Here is what I did. First you need to get Ubuntu 9.10 running with poulsbo. The first steps 1.-4. describe how to set up the driver for X. The second part (5.-10.) describes how to set up VAAPI and mplayer to get video acceleration. (There is already an early stage GMA500 driver for Ubuntu 10.04.)

The image shows the phoronix test suite benchmarking when I play Grey.ts in a loop (-loop 0) with mplayer and vaapi but without sound (-nosound) on my netbook. During the entire time, the CPU frequency is also downscaled to 800 Mhz. Compare to phoronix vdpau benchmark on a core 2 duo system (which obviously shows even less cpu usage, because the CPU is much more powerful) or the Atom and Nvidia ION benchmark on Phoronix.
CPU usage when playing a 10 minute fireworks recording in 1080p @ 50 fps without sound and then two FullHD movie trailers. The CPU is clocked at 800Mhz the entire time. The spike is caused by a bug in my test sequence: I didn't start a new mplayer process for new files but passed them all at once on the command line.

I can watch FullHD (1080p @ 50 fps + AC3) videos with about 30% or less CPU utilization (Atom@800 Mhz) on my netbook now. Looks really nice, too. Some videos produce artefacts, especially self-recorded AVCHD m2ts files. If you use the right demuxer, AVCHD videos play fine, but deinterlacing does not work. Sometimes the video seems not to run very smooth, etc. It's not perfect yet, don't expect too much! But most videos work perfectly, no matter what resolution.

The only real problem is with suspend to ram. You can't use suspend to ram or VAAPI at the same time: If you used VAAPI and try to suspend, the system doesn't suspend and/or crashes. If you suspend, then use VAAPI or even xv I think, the system crashes really hard. So suspend doesn't really work as expected yet. I think the sound also doesn't work properly after suspend. Suspend works fine for me even after resume if I do a double console switch (Ctrl-Alt-F1 wait until you see the console, then Ctrl-Alt-F7).

Here's what you need to do
1. Basically you add the GMA500 Repositories for Ubuntu 9.10 (karmic) and 10.04 (Lucid) to /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mobile.list. (If the entry below doesn't work, check this page.)
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gma500/ppa && sudo apt-get update

2. Then you install the poulsbo-driver-3d including the firmware and everything.

2.a. Check if you can load the psb module: sudo modprobe psb. If you see this in dmesg instead of a switch to the correct resolution,
"kernel BUG: unable to handle kernel NULL pointer dereference at (null)" (2.6.31)
you need a manual hack to get the driver working, as I just reported.

3. Once that's done, for a more stable and speedy operation, you need to add an /etc/X11/xorg.conf:

Section "Device"
Identifier "GMA500"
Option "AccelMethod" "EXA"
# someone suggested UXA? but that's for the i965 drivers
Option "DRI" "on"
Option "MigrationHeuristic" "greedy"
Option "IgnoreACPI" "yes"
Driver "psb"

Section "DRI"
Mode 0666

4. Reboot and make sure that it works! If X doesn't work properly yet, VAAPI won't, either. After a short black screen, you should be greeted in the correct resolution. Full screen xv video should already work fine. Suspend to RAM also worked perfectly at this point for me.

If  the system goes to DPMS standby and from there switches to other modes (DPMS suspend, etc.), then my screen actually turns on again (showing all black with backlight active). So make sure you chose only one setting for DPMS. A constantly running screen is not good at all.

VAAPI Video Acceleration setup
Now comes the part where we install the hardware decoding acceleration. If you just want X you can stop now. ;) This is written for Ubuntu 9.10 with old repositories, so 5+6 might not be necessary anymore or work for Ubuntu 10.04!

5. Install the Libva library from This replaces your current libva1 with a newer version.  also works for me. Don't forget to install the -dev version ( as well if you want to compile mplayer later.

6. Create a link of your video driver to the vaapi driver directory:
sudo ln -s /usr/X11R6/lib/modules/dri/ /usr/lib/va/drivers/

A. Precompiled setup. (You can alternatively skip to part B: compiling the source code setup)

7. Download and unpack the precompiled mplayer:

8. Install a normal mplayer and libmad with apt-get.
sudo apt-get install mplayer libmad0

9. Unpack mplayer and create necessary links to the libraries it expects.
"ldd mplayer" tells you what library (names) mplayer expects.
Just to go /usr/lib and create links to them:
ln -s
This should work as long as your libraries are newer than the expected ones. It may actually work out of the box in Ubuntu Jaunty.

10. Start mplayer from the package you downloaded:
e.g. ~/mplayer-vaapi-20090914.i686/mplayer -fs -vo vaapi -va vaapi HDtest.avi

B. Compiling the Source Code

I've also manged to get the source code to work. This is less bothersome, because you need not link the libaries. Hence less man hours, but more disk space and computer hours for compiling. Didn't take as long as I feared, though. And it's using a slightly newer version of mplayer-vaapi, which includes some rudimentary OSD in vaapi mode now.

7. Install the build environment:

sudo apt-get build-dep mplayer
sudo apt-get install libdrm-dev
maybe: sudo apt-get -f install

8. Download the source at Unpack it and execute the

9. Check if it works, e.g.
mplayer -fs -vo vaapi -va vaapi ~/HDtest.avi

sudo make install.

X. Done! Enjoy e.g. a nice HD trailer for a start! Post your results! I can recommend using it in smplayer for more comfort(e.g. automatically continue where you left of last). If it crashed, check out by blog entry about smplayer crashing in vaapi mode.

Update: It turns out deinterlacing not working is not due to VAAPI, but a limit in the psb driver. It works with the current iegd driver and other drivers from AMD and NVIDIA (press the D putton in mplayer I think). If I could just get one of those iegd drivers... Thanks Gwenole from for answering my email and of course for writing the mplayer-vaapi patches in the first place! He seems to be the absolute VAAPI expert.

Also some experiments show that I can attach an external screen and watch videos with VAAPI on it. That means I should be able to actually use the netbook for decoding HD video and displaying it on an external screen. (But it does not work for me with except in mirror or single display mode.) Only thing missing now is a digital display port to connect a FullHD display... ;)

You might also be interested in Surround Sound and Battery Life
And I did get a USB surround sound card working wonderfully now. Also here's some advice I wrote on decreasing your power consumption.

X Video finally works - Poulsbo and Linux on the MSI Wind U110 - Fix for BUG: kernel NULL pointer dereference at 00000000

If you tried to get poulsbo to run on your system and you get a message like this, you should try the fix posted below.

"kernel BUG: unable to handle kernel NULL pointer dereference at 00000000" (2.6.28)
"kernel BUG: unable to handle kernel NULL pointer dereference at (null)" (2.6.31)

Thanks to a post on Ubuntu's bugzilla, the poulsbo video module now finally works on my MSI Wind U110 (full review & installation guide). Download the psb-kernel-source module You only have to comment out the two lines in intel_lvds.c starting with

if (edid)

/* if (edid)
drm_add_edid_modes(output, edid); */

Then reconfigure the package and it should be recompiled. The next time you start it, it should work instead of creating kernel BUG

Xvideo actually works better than in Directx video in Windows XP, where I often see blocky video scaling. The CPU usage is not too high, either. Currently it's only working under Ubuntu 9.04 for me. Though I had managed to compile the module with kernel 2.6.30 before, I don't remember how I did that... And I haven't gotten actual video acceleration to work yet.

Of course I'll keep you updated and I'll post a little howto once it's all working. But feel free to ask, anyway. And thanks so much to the person from the Ubuntu bugzilla who helped me to finally get it all working!!!

Update2: Keep checking the page. I will post a link to an archive with a script that will manage the compilation in Ubuntu 9.10. If someone could help me figure out how to, I'd love to create, upload and post a .deb for dkms so it all works automatically... Or ultimately, we could modify the driver to check for the MSI's signature and then skip the edid check.

I've created a package for Karmic that you can use to manually install the driver with the fix already applied: Extract it and execute the script, then reboot and try to modprobe psb. Let me know when the 10 downloads run out and it it works for you.

Update3: Here is a step by step howto. It explains setting up X and then VAAPI (hardware video decoding) in Kubuntu 9.10.

My script for making the psb module out of the package:

KERNEL=/lib/modules/`uname -r`/
make KERNELRELEASE="$(uname -r)" LINUXDIR="/lib/modules/$(uname -r)/build" DRM_MODULES=psb || exit 1;
sudo cp drm.ko $KERNEL/kernel/drivers/gpu/drm/drm.ko
sudo mkdir -p $KERNEL/updates/dkms
sudo cp psb.ko $KERNEL/updates/dkms/psb.ko
ls -l $KERNEL/kernel/drivers/gpu/drm/drm.ko $KERNEL/updates/dkms/psb.ko
sudo depmod -a