Here I will write, what I need to be sure that I can find again, and far more which I probarbly don't need to find again :)

Monday, September 24, 2007

VIA Epia EX1000 an installation adventure

For some time, I was playing with the idea of building a noiseless computer, even though I spent a lot of money on silencing my ~6 year old P4, it never become as silent as i hoped.

Ofcourse I think that being power effecint is excelent so discovering the VIA-epia ex1000, and reading their adds promising that I would both safe the planet, get super effecint computing and doing this fanless, I decided to buy one.

It is important to note that I do, and did not, plan for using this computer for playing games. Mostly I will do write some code, browse the net and sometimes watch a movie and all the time listen to music. This means that the computer doesn't need 8processors, 6GB of rams and ~1TB harddrive ;)-

Here is the wonderfull machine right after unpacking it.

It is clear from the photo that it is actually a very small computer (mini-itx form factor)

The key specs are:
  • VIA C7 1GHz processor
  • S3-unichrome pro II IGP graphics card
  • Fanless
  • 17.5 x 17.5 cm footprint
After about 1-hour, I had taken a cd-rom drive from my old computer, a sata-harddrive whit a unused partition and welded a switch for that easy on/off function a computer really needs :).

Sabayon: nogo
My initial try was sabayon which as expected didn't work, sabayon is targeted high-end computers, so I would have been surprised if it worked... to be fair, the sabayon live-cd did a fall-back to a text installer, so I would still be able to do an installation, but sabayon without the graphics is... just wrong :)

Ubuntu + official VIA drivers
Ubuntu on the other hand booted just fine, installing everything goes whitout any problems, and network is working without any problems. The graphics card and sound is a totaly different story, I haven't really worked on trying to get the sound to work yet, but managed after a few days to get the officiel VIA drivers to work, I have never seen so horrible installation instructions... opengl acceleration is with the offcial drivers working fine. but playing movies with mplayer and totem works rather badly, the cpu-usage was arround 60-70% for fullscreen lowres video, and it is supposed to be hardware accelerated according to via's website.

While searching I found the openchrome drivers, so I decided that I would like to try the perfomance of these, since the openchrome drivers are distributed as source, I installed gentoo, then I am sure that the source I have avaliable is the source used to compile the running system.

Gentoo + openchrome drivers
So I installed gentoo, having some problems getting the drivers to work, ( network also works out off the box ). After a day or two + some help from the openchrome user-list, I finaly get X accelerated, that is, there is 2D acceleration, no 3D, and playing video is still as cpu intensive as finding the complete chess game tree...

I still never got sound to work in linux (yet), bt at this point in time, I decided that I really wanted too how the machine really performs, whit fully functionell drivers etc.

Windows XP
sob, I decided to install XP

Installation goes without any problems, out of the box, network works (y), no surprise, I insert the VIA-driver cd, and installs everything.

The EX1000 now features sound, 2D and 3D graphics accelerationd and working composite tv-out for my pal-tv , the s-video out produces black and white pictures, no mater what I select of color type.

Everything seems fine, until I loads a video from you-tube, the machine play's the video at an amazing 3-4fps in fullscreen (1280x1024) and a little faster at (1024x768) still far from usable.

Sample game perfomance - system meltdown.
To do a quick test of 3D, I installed Dungeon Siege II, which I was able to play without problems with my ti-42000. Not so smooth on this machine, with some good will, it could be considered playable, but for some reason the machine crashed from the transiotion from level one to level two, reseting the machine resulted in black screen! All semed very bad, I did shutdown the machine and went to bed, next day the machine wouldn't boot, complaining some file was corrupt, ofcourse, I don't know if this is a faulty disk, or a hot motherboard which issues crazy commands to the disk... I can only speculate, reinstall, and retry. which will be done.

For now, the machine have overall disappointed me. Thats why I was pleasently surprised by the clear sound comming from the sound card, VIA DO call it HD audio, and altough I don't give much for these kinde of noncense buzz words (I believe in signal to noise ratio ;) ) , I have never heard so noiseless sound from a computer before, This makes me considerable more happy.

Video playback
With the drivers installed and everything, I suspected that the machine would be able to play any kind of movie, playing DVD's is no problem, everything goes smoothly, the processor is working at arround 60-70%. Since the machine has hdtv output (it says so in the bios), I decided that I would try to download some hdtv sample movies, her the perfomance is.... strange I think the correct word is, it seems like everything is playing ok, at least it can play a wmv-720p sample movie, almost whitout problems, and ofcourse there is more delay with a wmv-1080p movie. The strange thin is, that the sound and image is not syncronized... This might be a driver problem...

I have build a machine, which was supposed to replace my old machine, but to be honest, I am very dissapointed, the machine is simply to slow. Perhaps I was to naive, to think that a 1GHz ulv machine could satisfy my desires. I am currently considering wheter I will use this machine instead of my VHS and dvd, const are mostly slow bootup time, pros are sofa surfing :)

1 comment:

Christian said...

So what are the odds that two guys with the name Christain would be trying to make ubuntu work on via motherboards? I've got an M1000 that I was planning on putting in my car. I never got the power supply working right. So into a box it went. Now I might have some free time so out the box it comes.