Aug 18, 2009

Tutorial: Zotac ION N330 + Boxee/XBMC + VDPAU + 1080P w/sound over HDMI

*Update 12/01/09 - Instructions For BOXEE ONLY. Please refer to this post for XBMC.*

This post will get you video and audio over HDMI including audio passthrough for Dolby Digital or DTS. Feel free to skip down to the good stuff ; ).

The Zotac N330 is a dual core Atom CPU with an Nvidia ION GPU inside a tiny 7.5"x7.5" form factor. What's really amazing though is that when these two little chips are put together they are capable of playing 1080P HD content without even breaking a sweat. Through VDPAU for Linux, or Direct X 10 for Windows, content traditionally sent to the CPU is now sent to the ION to decode. This means for users like us, this opens the door to media, games, and powerful computing in a small, well priced, and low power consuming computer. Emphasis on powerful and well priced.

I ordered my board on Amazon w/free shipping for $190 including a 19V power supply--I assumed it would be a 12V power supply. After completing the installation, when playing 720P movies, my CPU usage was less than 6% per core! From what I've read, 1080P does NOT utilize the CPU core all that much either.

FYI: For those worried about getting an older board: the older revision of this board had a USB suspend problem, but now all the boards being sold have been fixed with an added jumper.

Here are my system specs:
Zotac N330
4GB OCZ Rally2 USB stick w/Ubuntu 8.10 Intrepid installed
Boxee w/latest build

These instructions are interchangeable with XBMC. Boxee is built on XBMC, so some of the references will look similar.

This will get you the latest NVIDIA graphics drivers:

Add these repositories to your sources:

deb intrepid main
deb-src intrepid main

Open up a terminal:
sudo apt-key adv --recv-keys --keyserver 71609D4D2F1518FA9C5DC0FB1DABDBB4CEC06767
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-headers-generic nvidia-glx-185
sudo reboot

Upon Rebooting go into the BIOS.
(the following instruction is from my memory, so if you dont' find it there, it's somewhere in your BIOS) In your BIOS, go to Southbridge configuration and change the video RAM from 256MB to 512MB. Inside the Southbridge config, change Audio codec to Internal only.

Go into boxee, Settings, Video:
Turn on accelerate videos when posssible to enable VDPAU.
Exit boxee.

This will get you sound over HDMI:
(not sure about coax or optical)

Boot into Ubuntu, and open up a terminal and type:
sudo gedit ~/.asoundrc

Paste the following into that file:
pcm.dmixer {
type dmix
ipc_key 1024
ipc_key_add_uid false
ipc_perm 0660
slave {
pcm "hw:0,3"
rate 48000
channels 2
period_time 0
period_size 1024
buffer_time 0
buffer_size 4096
pcm.!default {
type plug
slave.pcm "dmixer"

Open up another terminal (this will enable Youtube, and XBMC system sounds):
Type in: alsamixer
Make sure that IEC958 is unmuted by pressing the letter "m" without quotes.
If it it muted, then it will look like this - Item: IEC958 [off]
Once you unmute it, then it will look like this - Item: IEC958

Save. Close it. Reboot.

Inside Boxee:
Go to Settings, System, Audio and change the following:

Instead of:
sound: ie958
passthrough: ie958

Change to (type default to where ie958 is):
sound: default
passthrough: default

Now you will have HD video and sound in Ubuntu to Boxee from your HD videos all the way to youtube, hulu, or whatever you want to play. Now go have fun!