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November 20, 2014

Getting smooth/watchable flash/netflix video on old PC with pre-sse2 CPU (Radeon HD 4670 Ice Q AGP)


I have an old tower with roughly these specs:

AMD Barton 3200+ 2.4 ghz CPU
2 GB ddr ram
Ice Q Radeon HD 4670 AGP 1GB gpu
ASUS A7N8X-E Deluxe mobo

let me know if any more information is necessary.

I used to play flash videos on this computer without issue back when I had windows xp and radeon 9800se and radeon 9600xt both have less than 256mb of video memory. The tower also ran TES IV: Oblivion without much issue.

When I first installed Ubuntu on the tower a couple years ago, I couldn't get flash to work at all. I discovered that this had to do with flash only using the CPU (from what I understand flash no longer makes use of a dedicated gpu to render graphics, I have a strong feeling that this is closely related to my problem/solution) and that my CPU did not have sse2 capabilities.

Along came pipelight which allowed me to use the windows version of flash piped through wine. Flash was working great for a while. Then I upgraded or reinstalled a few months later and I noticed that flash was actually unreasonably choppy. I'm not sure if this is related to the switch to HTML5 or not.

I should mention that VLC can play HD videos without issue. For example, I can run a 1080p and 720p video at the same time in their own instance of vlc with a 23" monitor and 42" tv plugged in without any kind of latency or choppiness. If I change to two 1080p videos I start to get mild video choppiness at high intensity rendering scenes. Obviously the tower is capable of rendering the video, but I feel very strongly like the issue is that flash/netflix is trying to render everything with my cpu and no gpu.

Netflix works with pipelight, but plays as choppy as flash on youtube or other sites. I have tried all the suggestions in the FAQ for fixing choppy video in netflix. Netflix appears to be choppy for the same reason flash is, and not for any of the common reasons people are experiencing.

I have tried Xubuntu and a couple of other lightweight distros to see if I could get smooth flash/netflix video but I have not had any luck yet. I am open to suggestions. Does anyone have an idea of how I can get flash/netflix video playing well on this tower? I'd like to run Ubuntu or similar (with different DE) but am ultimately open to any distro to get this working.

Thanks for reading. Please let me know any more information I can provide to help find a solution.

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