Party like it’s 1999

I followed the official HOW-TO on installing from a USB stick. I have a local mirror of the Ubuntu repositories so wanted to use them as a source for downloading the packages, not the archives out there on the ‘net. It also meant I didn’t have to download and copy an ISO on to the USB stick. The first thing I had to do was add main/debian-installer restricted/debian-installer to my mirror, as these little repositories hold the code needed by the installer. Once I did that I was able to work through the installer as normal, manually specifying my mirror at the appropriate point. The “Ubuntu Desktop” meta-package failed to install due to dependency problem, but the Xubuntu Desktop package installed OK. The installer detected the existing (original) installation on the first hard disk partition and added it to the GRUB list.

Happily the new installation booted without needing to add the “acpi=off” argument to the kernel. I did notice some errors related to the PnP BIOS but the system still booted. However, I suffered from the same bug as Alan with the video driver. I discovered that switching to the console (Ctrl+Alt+F1) and back to X (Alt+F7) cleared the display. What I got then was the upper left 640×480 pixels of an 800×600 display. But I could log in and start applications etc. It’s an interesting and disappointing regression though. I have thus far failed to get anything more out of the display than that. Removing xorg.conf and allowing the GUI configuration tool to start was probably a good idea, except that the font on the tool was too small to read. By miles and miles. The icons and other furniture were normally sized though. In order to get round that I removed xorg.conf again and rebooted without the VGA cable attached. This caused the failsafe X configuration tool (xfailsafedialog) to run with readable text. Win. Eventually after several attempts I got a reasonable XFCE desktop running, however I totally failed to get X running in widescreen with the geode driver.

In fact, for ages I failed to get it to produce anything more than 800×600 on my LCD TV, despite numerous attempts to configure X to do more. Along the way I discovered that the tiny fonts issue is X using a high DPI setting for fonts by default. By opening Applications->Settings->Settings Manager->User Interface, selecting 75dpi and restarting X I got nicely legible text, even at the default 9pt font used by XFCE. Eventually, through a combination of copying xorg.conf from my MythTV box, using the X configuration tool and blind luck, I found a setup which produced 1024×768. Then 1280×1024. No widescreen resolutions though, I guess the chip or driver just doesn’t support that yet. There was a weird bug at the higher resolutions though that the mouse wouldn’t click on the “Applications” menu properly. It worked fine controlled remotely using x11vnc though.

Generally I’m finding this unit quite quirky. It doesn’t power off properly when shut down, and hangs on a reboot. It has occasionally done the “white screen with no POST” thing I talked about in my first report on this box. It’s doesn’t seem reliable enough that I’d want to use it in on a remote site or install it in an inaccessible place (without full remote control over the power and a remote console connection, anyway. 🙂 ) That’s a great shame as its ideally specified to be an appliance.

Be Sociable, Share!
    Pin It

    One Response to Party like it’s 1999

    1. Boczkowski says:

      Hmm, quite disappointing to read all this.
      I’ve been bouncing around with glee at the prospect of getting a ‘netbox’ styled device like this since I first was made aware of its existence.

      All I do is email, surf a few forums and write on my PC. No heavy duty anything. Play the odd CD, youtube vid and maybe watch or listen to something via the BBC iPlayer now and then. I backup all my writing thru Google Docs and use a combo of notepad and their word processor online.

      I’m still put off though by failure like those you’ve been having which is a shame as it seemed ideal. I already have three flaky computers all running various windoze and various flaky live cd’s (Antix and xubuntu being favourites because they see my printer)

      Looks like I’ll be keeping my eighty quid pocketside unless anyone can convince me otherwise?


    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This blog is kept spam free by WP-SpamFree.