new mini-itx

I spent part of the weekend setting up my new Mini-ITX and getting Gentoo on there. After so much time, I’d forgotten what a tedious task it is to setup a binary distro — there are so many small things to remember (like device nodes). Things are going well though, and everything so far is working without a hitch, except for some minor snags with X (Intel 945GC).

I ran into some problems because I originally used a stable tree with some really old drivers. DRI wouldn’t work at all, and it hated pretty much every resolution I threw at it. I just barely finished upgrading everything X-related to ~amd64 and so far it’s much smoother.

I’m working now on getting XvMC setup. It’s not a bare necessity, and it’s more of an attempt to see if I can get it done more than anything. I think I had it setup on my old VIA C7 with Unichrome before, but ended up ditching it because I couldn’t use any video filters. The same thing will probably happen here.

Technically, it’s working right now, but I’m not sure if everything is running correctly. The CPU will jump to ~30% on playback with MPlayer for an MPEG2 video, which is way too high. If it really is offloading the processing, it should be much closer to 3%. I’m not sure if MPlayer even supports it correctly, as the last time I tried it, nvidia was the only one it supported. I’m having some trouble finding some information about it, but I’ll keep plugging away.

One thing I did stumble on is that there is a bug in the mplayer ebuild (28058) where it is doing something wrong when building against libXvMC. The ebuild doesn’t work, but just unpacking the same tarball and configuring it with no arguments worked fine. I haven’t had time yet to investigate why, but I’m glad I found that. XvMC has always been one of those dark horses that I’m never sure what the status is. The whole thing could use some more documentation.

Anyway, aside from that minor issue, the only other problem I’ve run into is that the kernel doesn’t have a CPU frequency driver for my processor (Intel Atom 330). Everything else works great. The sound seems fine, though I haven’t really had a chance to test its quality yet. I’m still setting everything up, so it’s all hooked up to my desktop components still. I plugged it into my HDTV briefly just to verify that I could indeed get a fullframe X session, and that was about it.

I did have a nice surprise which was quite a bonus. I was doing some research on the CPU to see what it could do, and it turns out that it is 64-bit, not 32-bit as I originally assumed. I’d never even imagined that there were any 64-bit Mini-ITX boards out there, so it came as quite a shock to me. I had to rebuild the entire OS, but I didn’t mind. I actually let the Mini do most of the work, since it can handle the load by itself quite well. I still can’t get over the fact that this thing is fanless.

So, I’m almost there. Development has gone incredibly fast, especially compared to my last one. Getting a bigger hard drive made a nice difference, since I don’t have to worry about space anymore. I think it’s already up to 400 megs. I just need to finish getting some configuration stuff done, and then it should be ready to roll and then I can do some quality tests to see how nice the picture and audio really are. It’s a great little board, well worth the wait and and awesome deal considering the price. I can’t wait to put it into production. :)

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7 Comments

Filed under Gentoo, Hardware

7 responses to “new mini-itx

  1. We’re working on getting newer X stable. Just got ~5 blocker bugs left.

  2. You never knew there were 64-bit mITX boards out there? They’ve been around for awhile, ever since the socket 754 AMD64 days. Yeah, [i]that[/i] far back. There’s a fair amount of boards for AMD socket AM2 and Intel Core2Duo. You need to go read up, man. :D

  3. szczerb

    Actually there far better mini-itx bords on the market. Here is one example http://my.ocworkbench.com/bbs/showthread.php?t=78034
    The 780G chipset take several times less power then the chipset on your board and can handle HD with the slowest sempron on the market (1.6GHz). This board has 128MB of dedicated memory for the graphics so it should be a bit faster then most 780G boards. Plus it has 4 Sata ports, 8 channel audio, dvi, hdmi, spdif and a 1Gbps ethernet controller (although just one) and can handle all AM2+ CPUs up to 65W (I think there are some phenoms with this TDP).

  4. Steve

    Ah, I think it would probably explain things if my #1 priority was the the motherboard is fanless, so I didn’t even *look* at all the other ones. Now that I think about it, that’s about the dumbest thing I could have said — surely there must be 64-bit ones out there. I fail. :)

  5. chithanh

    Almost all AM2 mini-ITX motherboards are fanless and a Sempron can be passively cooled with eg. a Thermaltake SonicTower, as long as the system itself is properly ventilated. And it even the slowest Sempron+690G will run circles around Atom+945GC.

  6. Hi Steve – your new mini itx sounds pretty great. Just out of curiousity, what case (if any) have you decided to use with it?

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