Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Run New Steam UI Beta in WINE

If you've opted-in for Steam's Beta user interface in Linux via WINE, you've probably noticed some serious issues, such as the main window not drawing properly on your desktop. Luckily, this is actually really easy to fix. All you have to do is go into your WINE configuration and change the Windows version from the default Windows XP to Windows Vista (or Windows 7, either one works):
Restart Steam and it will notify you that it needs to install a Steam component that requires administrator privileges. Click 'ok,' wait a few minutes, then start Steam again. Everything should begin rendering just dandy:
Everything I tried in the Library and Friends sections seems to work, including downloading and installing games, launching games, chatting with friends, etc. Unfortunately, the store, news and community features still don't show up properly :(

Also, in-game chat using the overlay appears broken in that the game hangs when you try to switch and you can't see what you're typing if you try to chat. However, alt+tab still works, so that's something.

As an added bonus, the 'minimize to system tray' feature works swimmingly:

Original post (for posterity):
I just opted-in for Steam's beta version of their fancy new user interface, which includes a number of improvements such as a greater focus on social interaction and switching from the Internet Explorer rendering engine to a WebKit-based renderer. I had assumed that this would grease the gears a bit on using the UI in Linux via WINE, but it has unfortunately done the opposite.

Now, if you try to launch the updated UI, the Desktop Switcher down in the bottom-right corner of the screen shows a big window with a Steam logo on it, but the window isn't drawn on the desktop as far as I can see.

This post is primarily a placeholder for anything I might find/come up with to correct the problem. So far, I haven't tried disabling compositing or anything like that, so that's next on the list. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any clues to what's going on.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Quick batch tool for comparing encoding quality

I was pleased to come across a really handy Linux-native tool for analyzing video quality in a number of clips quickly and efficiently. It is known as 'qpsnr' and it was written by a nice fellow named Emanuel Orlani who posted it at the HandBrake forums.

The program is designed to take a reference file (presumably your original video source) and then compare it to any number of derivatives (e.g., a series of reencoded clips that were produced using different settings) to produce objective quality comparisons, outputted in either peak signal-to-noise ratio (PSNR) or structural similarity (SSIM).

This tool is perfect for individuals who like to tinker with encoder settings to find exactly what works for them. Now, instead of hunting through activity logs searching for quality measures, you can batch-encode a series of clips with your settings, then run them all through qpsnr and see what effect each setting had on quality.

It is only available as a source download at the moment, but the author suggested deb binaries will be posted after more testing is done. If not, I'll package some up in my PPA repository.

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