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New hardware growing pains

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I thought I'd share some trials and tribulations I've been having getting some new hardware to run AROS native. Now, I'm normally the one glibly saying you should try different possibilities when you find AROS will not work on your machine - well, I think for that I've just been hit with a good dose of karma...

I'm trying to make a new machine as our house controller. I've mentioned before that we have an A1200 motherboard running our central heating system, but it's harddrive has started throwing up errors recently and besides, I've been thinking for a while of replacing it with an AROS box which will also serve as a video/music player and server. So, I decided to get a new machine for this. I wanted a fanless device (it's going to be in the living room, so needs to be quiet), small form factor (it's going to be installed in the casing of an old hi-fi, most of which is dead aside from the amp) and as well supported as possible.

I settled on a Gigabyte board - N3050N-D2P. The audio codec listed is given as supported on the hardware lists for another Gigabyte board, as is the ethernet. There are also three slots (PCIe 1 & 4 and PCI) as backup and it was pretty cheap (£29 with cpu fitted but no memory). The only worry was the USB3 ports, but as the specs also list USB2 the thought was just to run with those.

Box arived, and then the issues began. Not only were USB3 ports dead, but because the only controller was xHCI so were the USB2. Even worse, the onboard SATA is not supported - the drive boots the kernel but as soon as the native drivers kick in up pops the 'insatall bootable media' screen, with no amount of playing with GRUB options helping. Playing with the very limited bios options did not help either. However, I did have an old PCI to 2xIDE card lying around which did let me boot (slowly...) from a PATA hard drive - that's how I knew USB was dead.

So, back to online ordering. I bought a PCI USB2 card (NEC chipset) and PCIe 2xSATA and 1xPATA card from Amazon. On installing the SATA card and powering up, the machine couldn't see the attached drive at all. So I tried to boot off a DVD connected to the USB2 - and it worked! Not only that, once booted the connected SATA drive was working too. So, I think I'll have to make up a USB stick to boot off with just the media files on the SATA.

The other issue is that the USB2 seems to 'loose' the keyboard during the boot. I'll have to see it this is an issue with this particular keyboard, but one work-around I've found is to connect the boot DVD and the keyboard via a powered hub.

After his pain, it was at least good to see that the ethernet worked with the 8169 driver and the board was putting out a nice high-resolution (VESA) display via HDMI to our HDTV. The onboard audio is not currently recognised, but its vendor and device ids are not in the HDaudio list so it may work if these are added. If not, I have a PCIe audio card which I've tried in this machine and know works.

I had hoped to use one of the slots to add an nVidea card for native graphics, but if I do need to use a slot for the audio card then there are none left. There are some PCIe 1 port multipliers on Amazon that I could try, but that's more cost (and power consumption), making what was supposed to be a cheap system rather expensive.*

Anyway, I'll post up more progress as is happens.

Cheers,
Nigel.

*By rather expensive I mean above £100; the owners of AmigaOne x1000 machines may have a different point of view...

P.S. The USB and SATA/PATA cards were CSL - 4+1 Port (5 Port) USB 2.0 PCI Controller/interface card and CSL - PCI Express eSATA + SATAII + PATA (IDE) interface card.

Edit: Nope, no HDaudio - despite claiming to be a supported codec. Good job I had a CMI8738 card to hand. It also looks like anything except a hub connected to the USB is not initialised properly after AROS takes over from bios.

Posted on: 5/20 6:37

Edited by ntromans on 2017/5/20 9:28:31
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Re: New hardware growing pains

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You have not been so lucky with your hardware, but you have the pci slot you could put a sb 128 or live and the nvidia card in the pci-e slot

hi

Posted on: 5/20 9:50
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Re: New hardware growing pains

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Quote:

sabbate wrote:
You have not been so lucky with your hardware, but you have the pci slot you could put a sb 128 or live and the nvidia card in the pci-e slot

hi


Unfortunately not - PCI now has the uSB2 card in it, the PCIe 1 the audio card and the PCIe 4 the SATA card. So no slots left

Cheers,
Nigel.

Posted on: 5/20 16:28
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Re: New hardware growing pains

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You did not pay that card so much, maybe you should take another or a cheap but compatible computer I can recommend this.

http://www.ebay.it/itm/COMPUTER-Usato ... 0236b8:g:hO8AAOSwFe5X0FpN

hi

Posted on: 5/20 20:52
_________________
Aros AbiV0 Intel Xeon 3 Ghz 32bit, 1 Gb Ram, 220 Hd, Nvidia Geforce fx 5200

http://www.planet-eu.it/aros
https://soundcloud.com/sabbate
Surprise
https://tinyurl.com/yban4lh9

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Re: New hardware growing pains

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Quote:

sabbate wrote:
You did not pay that card so much, maybe you should take another or a cheap but compatible computer I can recommend this.

http://www.ebay.it/itm/COMPUTER-Usato ... 0236b8:g:hO8AAOSwFe5X0FpN

hi


Thanks for the link, but I had very specific requirements for this build - small(ish) form factor, low power and fanless. Well, the latter one is still true but adding all the extra cards is making the whole thing much more chunky and building up the power requirements. Next experiment is to see if I could run the drives just through USB which would free up a slot. It all depends if the transfer rate for video files is quick enough.

Cheers,
Nigel.


Posted on: 5/21 6:41
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Re: New hardware growing pains

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ok man, hi

Posted on: 5/21 7:28
_________________
Aros AbiV0 Intel Xeon 3 Ghz 32bit, 1 Gb Ram, 220 Hd, Nvidia Geforce fx 5200

http://www.planet-eu.it/aros
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Surprise
https://tinyurl.com/yban4lh9

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Re: New hardware growing pains

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A bit more experimentation. I tired the gForce 8400 from my desktop machine in the new motherboard and found it actually didn't make much difference to video playback, and whilst it would be nice to be able to change resolutions for custom screens, one thing I did notice is how hot the thing gets in use. It's clearly drawing far too much power for what's supposed to be a low power device (after all, it's going to be on 24/7 as the house controller), so it's definitely going to be using onboard VESA graphics.

This does mean I'll need to find a compromise between a nice high resolution for Wanderer versus a low enough resolution for smooth video playback. Whilst Wanderer does look sharp at 1900x1080 resolution on a 32" screen, mplayer is struggling to scale up DVD playback to that resolution. One thing I have found is that a bit more speed can be squeezed out of mplayer by running output on its own screen and starting it from the command line explicitly setting the resolution. If you just have the full-screen option the output says it's doing pre-scaling to match the video aspect ration, whereas by setting the resolution this isn't done which seems to give a slightly smoother playback.

The next test is to see just how low a power supply I can get away with. I'd like to use a pico-psu as these are completly silent and low power. I have one I used for my (now defunct) homebrew tablet which is 90 W - that might be a bit low but if it does work it would at least be recycling some old kit.

Cheers,
Nigel.

P.S. for anyone thinking of getting the SATA & IDE pci-e card mentioned above, you need to remove the ahci.device from the grub modules to get stable behaviour with SATA drives.

Posted on: 5/23 15:05
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Re: New hardware growing pains

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Just a thought: can your TV do the scaling for you?

Posted on: 5/23 15:12
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Re: New hardware growing pains

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Quote:

ncafferkey wrote:
Just a thought: can your TV do the scaling for you?


The scaling works just fine - you can put in a pal resolution signal and it will happily scale it up to 1080 resolution, but as the machine will be running VESA that would mean having all screens at 800x600 resolution, which would feel rather cramped if we wish to use if for say some whole-family web browsing. So it is a case of finding a sweet spot between a reasonable resolution for this and a low enough one for smooth playback. I suppose it doesn't help that it's CPU is just 1.6 GHz (another compromise for a fanless, low power board).

Cheers,
Nigel.

Posted on: 5/24 9:47
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Re: New hardware growing pains

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Ithink I have a solution to the playback problem - re-encode the videos, including pre-scaling them up to the higher resolution, using mencoder. I tried this at 'high quality' (according to the mencoder docs on the web) at 1280 x 1024 and had quite decent results, although I was still getting the occasional frame drop, so a little more experimentation is needed. I also need to connect the machine back up to the TV (it's current hooked up to a monitor) to see if it will put out VESA at 1280x 720 resolution (720p); this would cut the vertical resolution of the videos by around 300 pixels and so speed up playback again.

Hopefully this will also result in a significant reduction in file size too. I was thinking of getting a 1Tb drive to hold the videos, but if they can be squished down a bit then a smaller drive could be used, which might make the use of a SATA solid state drive affordable.

Cheers,
Nigel.

Posted on: 5/29 2:39
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