more notes on ubuntu 18.04.1 and the samsung r580

VLC Media Player v3.0.2 playing back Blu-Ray Man of Steel

One of the capabilities of Ubuntu 13.10 and 14.04 I enjoyed was the ability to play both DVD and Blu-Ray Discs. The R580 came with a Blu-Ray capable player built-in, and both Windows Vista and Windows 7 could play DVD and Blu-Ray on that hardware. Back when I installed Ubuntu for the first time I found Ubuntu capable of doing that as well. After installing VLC on Ubuntu 13.10 along with its various support libraries, I was able to play DVD and Blu-Ray pre-recorded commercial films, such as the 2009 reboot of Star Trek. That interest in playing back DVD and Blu-Ray on Ubuntu tapered off after about a year, and after 2014 I stuck to software development and Raspberry Pi support on the notebook.

When I updated Ubuntu to 18.04 I revisited DVD and Blu_Ray playback, just to test it and see how, or even if, it still worked. Turns out that playback is a bit complicated. DVD playback is still solid for anything I can mount in the R580’s Blu-Ray disc player. The complication is with Blu-Ray. I got lucky with my choice of Blu-Ray discs I played back in 2013. For just about anything released in 2013 or earlier, I had no problem on Ubuntu 18.04, same as with 13.10. But I’ve discovered that some of my recent 2018 Blu-Ray purchases either won’t play on 18.04 because of an issue with the AACS decode key or even worse, they just won’t play at all in the drive. The discs that won’t read at all are those latest 2018 release discs I’ve tested.

I won’t loose any sleep over what will and won’t play. That’s not what this notebook was ever about. It’s about creating, not consuming. As long as it’s a powerful tool in the creative process, then I’m more than happy with it. Playback of locked content in DVD and Blu-Ray discs is a minor distraction that’s not important. Having an open creative platform, that’s what’s important, and this platform is all of that.

updating the samsung r580 to ubuntu 18.04.1

I’ve been running Ubuntu on this Samsung R580 since late 2013. It was originally sold with Windows Vista in 2010, later updated to Windows 7. The Windows 7 upgrade eventually corrupted itself due to a virus it picked up while my oldest daughter was using it. I bought her a new computer, and was intending to wipe the drive and donate it to Goodwill when on a whim I installed Ubuntu 13.10. From that point forward I had a useful computer that I continued to take care off, updating the hard drive to a 1GB spinning drive and eventually to a 1GB SSD.

Over the years I kept updating the installation, sometimes sticking with the LTS releases, sometimes moving to the in-between releases to get some more advance feature. But when I updated to 16.04 LTS I felt I’d pushed the OS on the hardware as far as I dared. Everything was working, and I didn’t want to push my luck. But today, for whatever reason, I went on ahead and update the 16.04 LTS release to 18.04.1.

After several hours of just “looking around”, I have to say my fears were ungrounded. If anything, moving to 18.04 was the best decision in a long line of good decisions. For one thing, the performance on this platform is astoundingly faster than 16.04. That’s particularly true of the GUI. Everything pops up on the screen almost immediately. Further, the screen looks a lot sharper and the colors are much better than 16.04. Installing 18.04 has literally made the eight-year-old R580 a better running machine.

And I must admit that the UI is the best it’s been since, what, the Ubuntu 7 series. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually like the Gnome desktop again. There are changes from Unity, but nothing drastic, and certainly nothing I can’t quickly get used to.

So far I’ve updated a number of my external tools and languages (Java 10, Visual Studio Code, Go) as well as luxuriating as it were in fairly recent released of Python (2.7.15 rc1, 3.6.5) and gcc (7.3.0).

So, so far, it’s all running marvelously. All the ancient hardware on this notebook is still working just fine, especially the display and WiFi. Performance is quite snappy all around, especially for a machine that still has just 4GB of main memory (and won’t get any more unless somebody is willing to just give it to me). I once wrote that I thought Ubuntu 14 (the first major update to the R580 after 13.10 was installed) was “the best Linux release ever.” It’s still early days (hey, early hours) but I just might anoint Ubuntu 18 the new best Linux release evah.

Update 1

I had to close the R580’s lid and go off and do something else. When I came back and opened the lid, I was able to wake up the R580 and everything was as it should be on the desktop. Not bad at all. I’ve never gotten Linux sleep mode to work well for me at all, and because it Just Works on my Macbook Pro, I’m in the habit of just closing the lid when I walk away. That’s been bad in the past on the R580 with older versions of Ubuntu, so I just got in the habit of shutting down. With the SSD, shutdown and startup are very fast, but I would prefer a decent working sleep mode. Ubuntu just keeps getting better and better, at least as far as the R580 is concerned. Thank you Ubuntu developers.