Saturday, 19 September 2015

Using Mint Linux as a Blender Cycles render slave

Just a quick post to save someone some faffing about.

I needed to coopt another computer into my render farm and had to use linux as it was made out of spare parts and had no OS. I'm not very Au fait with Linux.

I used Mint Linux 17.2 which installed very quickly and easily.

The thing that took me a few tries was getting the right driver for the graphics card: GTX560ti. Unless you use the right one there will be no CUDA option in the system preferences panel. This is where I wasted a lot of time.

It doesn't help that the version of Blender in the repository is so old: 2.69 (why do they do that - why not update it?). I believe I correct in saying that pre 2.70 Blender did not have built in CUDA support and after 2.70 it did. So for early versions you needed the CUDA toolkit now you don't. I downloaded 2.75a from and extracted it into its own folder in my Home directory. I then started 'Driver Manager' by typing it in the search box in the start menu. I tried all the drivers:

the only graphics driver that worked - gave me the CUDA option in Blender - was version 3.04 (without updates - though I didn't try with updates and don't know what the 'updates' means.)

Next I wanted to install TightVNC to control it remotely like I do with my windows boxes. But VNC would not work with the OPENGL used in the blender interface and it started a separate session - So I ended up using Vino which comes with it preinstalled. . There is some info about using DCONF editor to set it up here.

The last problem was using the box without a monitor. Easy on windows - nearly impossible on linux. There seemed to be a number of tutorials for VNC systems but none for Vino. Also I tried info from one site which said you can fool linux by putting a 75 ohm resister between one of the colour channels and ground. DO NOT DO IT!! - the red channel on one of the outputs on the graphics card now does not work.. not sure why. I am keeping it with a monitor attached.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Windows 10 - can I make it a bit like XP?

Everytime Microsoft releases a new operating system version my heart sinks: will it muck up my way of working? will my software work? will I have to throw away all my peripherals? Will I have to learn new ways of doing things or find work rounds for no particular good reason?

And so as Windows 10 arrives I am thinking - how late to do I leave it to upgrade so they can iron out all the bugs and remove the stupid 'features' and do I have to upgrade anyway, what will happen if I don't.

So I decided to upgrade one of my render machines to check it out. The box has no mouse or keyboard or monitor and I control it remotely over VNC.

I followed the instructions here:

Virtually all of the upgrade process and questions happen after all the relevant software has been downloaded and before the computer reboots. The computer said it wanted to restart, I said yes and I went down the pub. When I came back new windows 10 was finishing preparing and everything was still visible through VNC. Sat in the pub I was really worried I would have to drag a monitor etc out and save the computer from an installation hell but it was not the case.TightVNC is working fine as the new Windows 10 starts without me doing anything.. which is marvelous!

The only thing I did need to do was sort out the graphics driver for the Nvidia GT560ti. Blender reported there was no 3D graphics card installed. I ran the Nvidia Experience, it downloaded a new Windows 10 driver and everything was fine. I guess this is how they have sorted out the Nvidia driver update conflict that happened to a lot of people on release date.

Using Windows 10.
I used the new Start Menu for about 3 minutes before installing Classic Shell. The new start menu is geared towards what Microsoft wants you to use so best get rid of it. The Classic shell menu looks a bit ugly and it was then that I realised that WIndows 10 has lost a lot of the nice refinements like Aero that made earlier versions look sexy. Playing with settings and themes improved things a bit.

You can remove the Search bar from the task bar by right clicking and selecting Search/Hidden.

You can install the Quick Launch Bar :D the same way as with Windows 8.

Settings is a similar mess as was with Windows 8 and to be honest I am not sure how you get to a lot of the old Control Panel panes like Device Manager without Classic Shell. There is access to the 'new settings' via the Notification bubble.

All in all its OK but the GUI does look a bit like a slimmed down version of Linux in terms of polish.

I shall not upgrade my other computers until I need to but at least I know I can make it a bit like XP :)