Multimedia Support in the Linux Kernel

Significant Non-Kernel Factors

When considering your hardware, you should exercise wisdom. Bigger and faster are the watchwords for a powerful multimedia system, but some caveats remain. Video is an especially tricky factor. If, like myself, you need to use nVidia's closed source drivers, you must resign yourself to the possibility of inexplicable problems when running a real-time kernel. Because of its closed source nature, you can't know how the video driver interacts with the kernel at levels that affect latency and real-time response. To nVidia's credit, they do try to keep up with Linux kernel development, but the real-time patches are not official patches, and until nVidia opens their source code, kernel developers are unable to help users who experience performance problems on real-time and low-latency systems.

Also, you should keep your X windowing system current. X works closely with the kernel video drivers, so to ensure maximum performance, make sure that X is up to date.

Outro

This topic goes much deeper than I've been able to discuss here, but the web is rich in relevant resources. For example, you should have no trouble finding out more about kernel configuration [6], low latency [7], and real-time optimizations [8], and I hope that some of you will take the next steps toward compiling your own kernel. Rolling your own is a time-honored Linux tradition, and you don't need an engineering degree to do it. Just be sure to keep your old kernel around for booting into in case things go wrong, breathe slowly and deeply, be patient and brave, ask questions, and, above all, have fun.

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