OK, so I've been using my Gigabyte BRIX ultra compact personal computer for a while as a media server, and have encountered problems. I waited writing this blog until I found solutions. Here we go...
When watching hi-def videos running from an MP4 or FLV file, tearing occurs in high-speed scenes. It looks like a shallow diagonal line separating two frames. While not devastating (like some of the other problem I encountered), it irritates. After some research, I found...
The problem is due to Intel not having optimized CPU drivers for Linux. Recall that Intel's recent lines of CPUs include GPUs for displaying graphics on your screen, playing back movies, and so on. While some people report limited success in tweeking advanced parameters in VLC (video playback software), this does not solve the problem when accessing movies through YouTube or a Web browser.
One solution is to switch to Windows, which has CPU drivers optimized for movie playback -- naturally. But it costs money buying a full Windows license. Well, I do have a spare license, but I don't want to infect this new computer with Windows 8.
After much reading through support forums, several people reported that Fedora Linux eliminates video tearing. I confirmed this fact by downloading Fedora and running it as a LiveDVD on the Gigabyte computer.
Now I have to decide if I want to install Fedora. I downloaded three different versions before I found one that worked for me:
- The Mate version didn't seem to have any system for easily installing software, such as, say, VLC.
- The Gnome version thought my monitor was only 7" small, and so supersized everything, making some GUI elements inaccessible.
- The KDE version had a system for installing new software, understood the correct size of my monitor, but nevertheless made it difficult to install VLC.
Solution: So, yah, install Fedora if you want to watch movies using a Linux system without tearing. I am spoiled by the consumer-friendliness of Mint Linux, but for the sake of smooth video playback, I may have to install Fedora KDE 20 (http://spins.fedoraproject.org/kde/).
Recall that when I first hooked up the Gigabyte BRIX computer to my Sony receiver with an HDMI cable, there was no sound. My workaround was to plug a 3.5mm cable from the BRIX's audio-out to the Sony's Portable Media input port.
But I wanted to know why sound would not travel through the HDMI cable. After some research, it turns out that I needed to tell Linux to send the sound through HDMI, instead of the audio port.
Solution: Go into the audio control software, which might be called Pidgin or KDE Mixer. There will be an option to select where the sound should go out -- audio port or HDMI.
The first time I connected the BRIX to my entertainment system, the video worked just fine (except for the tearing and no sound).
The second time, however, no video. The Sony receiver and Optima projector could not find the signal. Researching the problem, some people recommended turning on devices in different order. For instance, first the receiver, then the computer.
Then I found another solution: I changed the resolution of the BRIX down to 1280x720, which matched the resolution of the projector. Now it works reliably.
Solutions: Ensure the BRIX resolution matches that of the projector or tv; turn on the BRIX after turning on the receiver (or tv).
It turns out the BRIX does have a fan, but it is so quiet it is nearly impossible to hear, and runs only when the CPU is working hard.