Linaro Connect: interesting hardware

Before going for Linaro Connect I had a plan to look at all those 96boards devices and write some complains/opinions about them. But it would be like shooting fish in a barrel so I decided against. But there were some interesting pieces of hardware there.

One of them was Macchiatobin board from SolidRun. I think that this is same as their Armada 8040 community board but after design changes. Standard Mini-ITX format, quad core Cortex-A72 cpu (with upto 2GHz clock), one normal DIMM slot (max 16GB, ships with 4GB), three Serial-ATA ports, PCI-Express x4 slot, one USB 3.0 port, microSD slot.

UPDATE: SolidRun confirmed – this is final design of their Armada 8040 community board.

Photo (done by Riku Voipio) shows which goodies are available:

Network interfaces from top to bottom are (if I remember correctly):

  • 10GbE (SFP + RJ-45)
  • 10GbE (SFP + RJ-45)
  • 2.5GbE (SFP)
  • 1GbE (RJ-45)

When it comes to software I was told that board is SBSA compliant so any normal distribution should work. Kernel, bootloaders (U-Boot and UEFI) are mainlined.

Price? 350USD. Looks like nice candidate for AArch64 development platform or NAS.

Other device was Gumstix Nodana 96BCE board which is 96boards complaint carrierboard for Intel Joule modules.

On top it looks like typical 96boards device (except USB C port):

But once reversed Intel Joule module is visible:

This is first non-ARM based 96boards device. Maybe even one of most compliant ones. At least from software perspective because when it comes to hardware then module makes it a bit too thick to fit in 96boards CE specification limits.

Note that 96boards Consumer Electronics specification does not require using ARM or AArch64 cpu.

Scythe Mugen 2 and socket 1155 mainboard

When I moved my home machine to i7-2600K I realized out that Scythe Mugen 2 cpu cooler which I was using lacks elements to mount it on socket 1555 motherboard.

I looked at shops and found out that I need SCCSMG2-1156 (Scythe Mugen 2 mounting kit for Socket 1156/1155) as I have quite old version of cooler (then there was Rev. B released with support for all socket types). But then problem started — no one in Poland had them…

So I contacted Scythe directly and later after spending 10€ I got mounting kit delivered at Xmas Eve. Took me some days to find time to mount it.

First attempt ended with lot of curses, angry email to Scythe and stock cooler mounted again.

But I decided to not give up. Did some extra research and found this YouTube video where I saw that I mounted bolt screws wrong…

So I did another try. This time it fitted perfectly and I can enjoy silence.

Next step: replace new case fans with more quiet ones.

I feel the power of i7

Lot of time passed since last time I upgraded my home computer. Yesterday I moved from P35 based mainboard and Core2Quad cpu to P67 and i7-2600K processor. And 16GB of memory.

Main reason for change was memory. Building packages on SSD is nice and fast but I hate how system slows down when 3-4GB of data needs to be removed from drive. With 8GB of memory it was hard to fit pbuilder’s instance and all running applications. And P35 based mainboards do not support more than 8GB ;( Why I did not buy P45 based mainboard… They supported 4x4GB setup…

So I checked what is on a market. Then I waited months for AMD to release Bulldozer processors. Finally they did just to show that it was waste of time.

Current PC market sucks. Shops do not know what they sell, you need to go to vendors websites for every information. Intel Sandy Bridge platform has very limited amount of PCI Express lines which means that you can not have more than one x16 slot. But shops look at board and write “two/three/../seven x16 PCIe slots” — never mind that it is one of:

  • x16 + x8
  • x16 + x4
  • x16 + x8 + x4
  • x16 + x4 + x4

And in most configurations x16 degrades to x8 when second slot in use as you need PCI Express switch like NVidia NF200 to “provide” more lanes to get two x16 slots.

And fun goes even more when you look at those ‘three x16 slots’ mobos:

The PCIEX4 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX1_1 and PCIEX1_2 slots. When the PCIEX1_1 slot or the PCIEX1_2 slot is populated with an expansion card, the PCIEX4 slot will operate at up to x1 mode.

I remember board where using such x4 slot killed Serial ATA controller…

So, after long reading of all those specifications, reviews, I selected Gigabyte P67X-UD3-B3 mainboard. P67 chipset is not newest one but I do not plan to use on board graphics. I have x16 + x8 PCI Express slots (working as x8+x8 when both in use), USB 3.0 ports, firewire (which I never used), 8 Serial ATA ports (4x 6Gbps and 4x 3Gbps ones) and possibility to have 32GB of DDR3 RAM (but this has to wait for cheap 8GB sticks).

I did one speed test today: tmpfs based build of my cross toolchain packages for Ubuntu. Took one hour for armel and armhf ones. Very nice 🙂

ATI onboard strikes back

As we plan to move from Poznań to Szczecin this week we are spending at Ania’s parents house.

To have better work equipment then my Dell D400 laptop I grabbed some unused components from home to build computer. The list was not so long:

  • 120GB ATA hard disk (it was system one some time ago)
  • DFI RS482 mainboard with 2.1GB ram and Athlon64 X2 cpu (my previous desktop)
  • cpu cooler
  • keyboard
  • PS/2 mouse (which I used before buying wireless one)
  • power supply
  • USB->Serial adapter and some other USB gadgets
  • some cables
  • headphones

The only thing which was needed to make it computer was case. And this shown that Szczecin lacks good computer shops — I had to visit 4 of them just to buy decent case as most of time they only had cheap ones.

Anyway I am using this machine for few days now (connected to old 17″ CRT which I used in 2006) with on-board ATI graphics card. It has many names… “RS485, ATI Radeon x1250 Chipset” etc… And this is crap never mind which drivers are used ;(

First I started with “xf86-video-ati” one. Version shipped in Debian ‘sid’ (6.8.0) is very old and reports that I have the same monitor connected to VGA and DVI outputs. Result is not funny. Driver from “experimental” is much better. But 1024×768@85Hz resolution which is default is not so nice — 1280×1024@85Hz is much better but needs to be set by XRandR call or tweaking of X11 config file.

So I tried to use official ATI driver: “fglrx”. As usual it required patching to build with last release kernel (2.6.25) but patches are already in Debian so it took less time then my last fight with NVidia driver. Effect is also strange — this time monitor started in 2048×1536@60Hz which is just insane on 17″ CRT. After switching with XRandR to sane 1280×1024@85Hz it is much more usable.

Good side is that I do not need to use this machine too often so it will stay like it is for some time. When we move it will be one of my build machines.

And if I ever will have to use it I will put NVidia card into this — they at least works perfect in X11.

CPU cooler upgrade

As you probably noticed I upgraded CPU in my desktop machine. But cpu cooler was same as before — stock Athlon64 BOX one which was included with previous A64 3200+ processor.

Akasa AK-876 CPU Cooler

During idle cpu was running on 1GHz speed (thanks to cpufreq governor “ondemand”) and had 37-39°C temperature. Under load (such as OE/Poky builds) it was up to 65°C and after some time overheating check switched frequency to 1GHz…

Now with Akasa AK-876 heatsink this machine has 30-32°C when idle and 46-50°C under load. And fan speed is much lower — keeps under 2000 RPM under load (previous one goes up to 4000 RPM) so machine is usable without listening music.

There was some problems with fitting such big heatsink into case but it sits properly in place and air flow is in proper way — from CPU fan -> CPU heatsink -> case fan -> out. It also shows that my next machine will get new case — Codegen 9002 which I use now starts to be too small to keep all drives, fans and cables in good order.

CPU upgrade

I usually did big computer upgrades (AMD Duron with SDRAM -> AMD Athlon with DDR, then to AMD Athlon64 with DDR) but this time it was only CPU. From Athlon64 3200+ (2GHz) I switched to Athlon64 X2 4200+ (2.2GHz). Operation was quite simple — take one CPU, insert another but old one glued to radiator so I had to use some force 🙁

Then first boot and question… will BIOS recognize new CPU or not. It properly displayed information and then Linux started — just to show me 1 CPU. Quick installation of already prepared SMP kernel and /proc/cpuinfo had more informations.

Machine is quite loud when operating on full speed but most of time CPUFreq is able to lower frequency (1.0/1.8/2.0/2.2GHz steps are available) so it is noiseless. It is nice to see how CPU usage is split into two cores — now I do not have to wait when two builds are progressing and I want to run some applications.

Now doing builds will be more comfortable 🙂

One gigabyte of memory is not enough?

Today I started to work at home. Here I use amd64 system powered by Athlon64 3200+ (2GHz) with 1 GB of RAM (64M used by onboard graphics). But it looks like it is not enough to have working system and build in background:

11:11 hrw@home:~$ free
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:        962312     949312      13000          0      57664    295256
-/+ buffers/cache:     645772     316540
Swap:       987988       5724     982264

After getting first payment I will upgrade this machine to atleast 2GB of memory…

Sound is working on DFI RS482

Nearly week ago decided to stop fighting with getting sound working on my new DFI RS482 mainboard and reported bug in Linux bugtracker. After few days and few patches from Dan Carpenter I have sound working. No more atiixp: codec read timeout messages, just working music.

If someone has this problem then here is solution (until it will get resolved finally in mainline):

  1. unpack kernel sources
  2. fetch this patch
  3. build kernel and modules
  4. modprobe snd-atiixp ac97_codec=0
  5. run audio player

Now it is time to wait until this will go into mainline.

Goodbye x86

In last Friday I made architecture change — sold AthlonXP 2200+ which I used during last 3 years and bought Athlon64 3200+ with DFI RS482 Infinity mainboard. This is 3rd such change for me. First it was from 6502 (Atari 65XE) to m68k (Amiga), then to x86.

Most of time which I spent with computer during weekend was fighting with machine. I made backup of my previous Debian installation and decided to install Debian ‘sid’ from scratch — of course for AMD64. Then I spend few hours to get fglrx driver working (will write more about it later). Now two problems left to resolve:

  • get sound working (I have atiixp: codec read timeout messages which are known bug related to ACPI probably)
  • get KDE working properly (Control Center list only one module but I have all of them installed)

But even with those problems I’m satisfied. Machine is fast (can be overclocked by ~25% if needed), I have faster gfx card then before (had Matrox G400 and Nvidia GeForce 4 MX440).

And now I have OE build running — building my own umbaumba distro for spitz.

Machine power

During my work on OpenEmbedded project I have access to misc computers used for builds. Mostly they are AMD64 or Intel Pentium D ones running in 32 mode.

One day I got access to build machine inside of company intranet. To get to it I have to login on ‘router’ one which only work is serving few pages and giving access to intranet ones. And man.. its also speed daemon…

Sometimes I feel that my home machine is from other era..