eBox 3350MX Compact PC Teardown & Review

Based on DMP's Vortex processor / SoC this board is a full computer capable of running a standard Windows and Linux installation on the backpack of your robot.
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BIOS Update for eBox 3350 (version A61)

Post by PedroR » Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:22 pm

Post by PedroR
Wed Jul 13, 2011 1:22 pm

Hi all

A BIOS update is available for the eBox 3350 (version A61).

For details (download and installation) please see here http://robosavvy.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=31735

The new A61 version fixes a couple of issues.
One of them relates to the Power button: after installing the BIOS update, the eBox will turn off when you press and hold the power button for a few seconds.
(before the update to version A61 we had to manually unplug the power to power it off).

Regards
Pedro
Hi all

A BIOS update is available for the eBox 3350 (version A61).

For details (download and installation) please see here http://robosavvy.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=31735

The new A61 version fixes a couple of issues.
One of them relates to the Power button: after installing the BIOS update, the eBox will turn off when you press and hold the power button for a few seconds.
(before the update to version A61 we had to manually unplug the power to power it off).

Regards
Pedro
Last edited by PedroR on Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:40 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Post by dan77g » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:46 pm

Post by dan77g
Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:46 pm

Just thought I'd weigh in, say hi and thanks for the help provided so far on this thread.

I have Lubuntu 10.04 (32bit) running nicely on my new eBox 3350, with kernel and VGA updated as previously outlined.

Running a 8GB Class 10 SDHC card from Kingston.

Couple of minor notes: udev seems to change the interface from eth0 to eth1 (seen in "dmesg" output), so after updating the kernel I needed to get on the network manually via a "sudo dhclient3 eth1".

Also: after manually putting the RDC VGA driver in the xorg drivers directory, stopping gdm/lxdm, and doing "X -configure", I imagine you'll have to manually move the xorg.conf.new to /etc/X11/xorg.conf for it to work on restart of gdm/lxdm.

Now to test the actual performance of the box ....
Just thought I'd weigh in, say hi and thanks for the help provided so far on this thread.

I have Lubuntu 10.04 (32bit) running nicely on my new eBox 3350, with kernel and VGA updated as previously outlined.

Running a 8GB Class 10 SDHC card from Kingston.

Couple of minor notes: udev seems to change the interface from eth0 to eth1 (seen in "dmesg" output), so after updating the kernel I needed to get on the network manually via a "sudo dhclient3 eth1".

Also: after manually putting the RDC VGA driver in the xorg drivers directory, stopping gdm/lxdm, and doing "X -configure", I imagine you'll have to manually move the xorg.conf.new to /etc/X11/xorg.conf for it to work on restart of gdm/lxdm.

Now to test the actual performance of the box ....
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Post by PedroR » Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:29 pm

Post by PedroR
Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:29 pm

Hi

Thank you dan77 for your input. We haven't gotten as far as installing the VGA drivers (we're still OK with the default ones).

- Do you notice a significant difference in graphics performance using the new X VGA drivers?

- With regards to eth0 and eth1, we haven't experienced that issue though but thanks for the heads up. I'm sure it will be very useful for those who run into the issue.

Regards
Pedro
Hi

Thank you dan77 for your input. We haven't gotten as far as installing the VGA drivers (we're still OK with the default ones).

- Do you notice a significant difference in graphics performance using the new X VGA drivers?

- With regards to eth0 and eth1, we haven't experienced that issue though but thanks for the heads up. I'm sure it will be very useful for those who run into the issue.

Regards
Pedro
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Post by dan77g » Fri Jul 15, 2011 5:57 pm

Post by dan77g
Fri Jul 15, 2011 5:57 pm

Actually in the brief testing I did with each driver, I didn't notice a significant difference at all.

A quick look at the Xorg logs revealed that they're both VESA-based, so I would expect them to be very similar in performance!

They both seemed totally adequate for the purpose - which is more than required for me as I'll only be using the graphics during prototyping anyway! (Running a localized web service)
Actually in the brief testing I did with each driver, I didn't notice a significant difference at all.

A quick look at the Xorg logs revealed that they're both VESA-based, so I would expect them to be very similar in performance!

They both seemed totally adequate for the purpose - which is more than required for me as I'll only be using the graphics during prototyping anyway! (Running a localized web service)
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Post by ozfiddler » Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:39 am

Post by ozfiddler
Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:39 am

Hi Pedro - just received my Ebox 3350 thanks. Unfortunately I have already hit a snag - I can't get it to boot off my external CD-ROM.

I did what you suggest:

"We connected all USB peripherals (CD Rom, Keyboard and mouse) and turned it on.

After turning on:
- entered Setup
- chose "Load Failsafe Defaults" (just to ensure everything was going to work smoothly)
- set the CD ROM as the first boot device."

In my case it just cycled through the initial starting screen and I wasn't able to enter setup at all until I had unplugged the CD-ROM. Then when I entered setup there were only two options for boot device sequence - one was disabled and the other said "HDD:PM-SDC RDC SD-IDE HOST CO".

How do I set CD ROM as the first boot device? Am I missing something basic??
Hi Pedro - just received my Ebox 3350 thanks. Unfortunately I have already hit a snag - I can't get it to boot off my external CD-ROM.

I did what you suggest:

"We connected all USB peripherals (CD Rom, Keyboard and mouse) and turned it on.

After turning on:
- entered Setup
- chose "Load Failsafe Defaults" (just to ensure everything was going to work smoothly)
- set the CD ROM as the first boot device."

In my case it just cycled through the initial starting screen and I wasn't able to enter setup at all until I had unplugged the CD-ROM. Then when I entered setup there were only two options for boot device sequence - one was disabled and the other said "HDD:PM-SDC RDC SD-IDE HOST CO".

How do I set CD ROM as the first boot device? Am I missing something basic??
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Post by PedroR » Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:39 pm

Post by PedroR
Mon Aug 29, 2011 4:39 pm

Hi Ozzfidler

To be able to set the CDRom as the first boot device, you need to boot the machine with the CDRo already connected via USB.
Otherwise if the CDRom is not connected it won't show up in the list of available boot devices.

With regards to the "PM-SDC RDC SD-IDE HOST CO" this is the default HDD (ir the SD card).

If you're experiencing symptomps where you are unable to boot with all necessary devices connected, please check the following:

- BIOS Version: in a previous post on this thread I have explained how to install the latest version we got.

- Make sure you have enough Amps in your power adapter. The eBox needs a maximum of 2Amps at 5V: 0.5Amps are needed for self power and the remaining 1.5Amps may be required by the USB peripherals (0.5amps for each USB port).

Some USB devices draw more current than others and it may be the case where your power adapter may not be supplying enough current to power everything propperly thus causing the power to cycle.

- Finally, I would recommend that you test using a different USB CDRom drive.
You can also try using (or not using) a USB Hub.

Personally I am inclined towards some incompatibility with your particular CDRom drive (or a combination of insufficient Power Issues when the CD Rom drive is connected).

Please try the above and let us know the results.

Regards
Pedro.
Hi Ozzfidler

To be able to set the CDRom as the first boot device, you need to boot the machine with the CDRo already connected via USB.
Otherwise if the CDRom is not connected it won't show up in the list of available boot devices.

With regards to the "PM-SDC RDC SD-IDE HOST CO" this is the default HDD (ir the SD card).

If you're experiencing symptomps where you are unable to boot with all necessary devices connected, please check the following:

- BIOS Version: in a previous post on this thread I have explained how to install the latest version we got.

- Make sure you have enough Amps in your power adapter. The eBox needs a maximum of 2Amps at 5V: 0.5Amps are needed for self power and the remaining 1.5Amps may be required by the USB peripherals (0.5amps for each USB port).

Some USB devices draw more current than others and it may be the case where your power adapter may not be supplying enough current to power everything propperly thus causing the power to cycle.

- Finally, I would recommend that you test using a different USB CDRom drive.
You can also try using (or not using) a USB Hub.

Personally I am inclined towards some incompatibility with your particular CDRom drive (or a combination of insufficient Power Issues when the CD Rom drive is connected).

Please try the above and let us know the results.

Regards
Pedro.
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Post by ozfiddler » Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:44 am

Post by ozfiddler
Tue Aug 30, 2011 12:44 am

Thanks Pedro,

I checked and both power adapters I have available (MP3 player and Navman) are only 1A so that is probably the problem. But I also did suspect the external CD-ROM. It's a Samsung and it came with one of those double USB plugs - but even with both plugged in and no other peripherals it still wouldn't work.

I'll try a better power source and may also have to get a different CD-ROM. Anyway, I'll report back.

By the way, it really is a very impressively made little unit. It has a good solid, hefty feel to it.

Cheers,

Alan
Thanks Pedro,

I checked and both power adapters I have available (MP3 player and Navman) are only 1A so that is probably the problem. But I also did suspect the external CD-ROM. It's a Samsung and it came with one of those double USB plugs - but even with both plugged in and no other peripherals it still wouldn't work.

I'll try a better power source and may also have to get a different CD-ROM. Anyway, I'll report back.

By the way, it really is a very impressively made little unit. It has a good solid, hefty feel to it.

Cheers,

Alan
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Post by PedroR » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:45 pm

Post by PedroR
Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:45 pm

Hi Alan

What we've seen is that most USB adpaters around are only 1 Amp. You can still get the 3350 working but you need to use 1 of the two approaches bellow:

1) Use a USB Hub that has its own power supply.
This way the Hub will theoretically draw current to the slave devices from the wall socket and not from the USB connection to the 3350MX.

2) In your case, and from your description (2 USB plugs on the CDRom), it looks like you're using a Portable CDRom drive (powered via USB) which means power is drawn from the host (the 3350 MX).

If you power adapter is only 1Amp (and not the full 2A required to power all devices), the CDRom is likely exhausting all the current and creating this apparent continuous reboot.
Another possible alternative would be to use a USB CDRom drive that has it's own power supply (from a wall socket).

As a final note, we're also very impressed with this little device. It feels very solid and it has a very clever design. We also the performance - when using a good quality, fast SD card - is also at a good level; we know it's not an i7 but it works well for Internet browsing, emailing, and even running some OpenCV :)

We'll look forward to hear about your progress.

Regards
Pedro.
Hi Alan

What we've seen is that most USB adpaters around are only 1 Amp. You can still get the 3350 working but you need to use 1 of the two approaches bellow:

1) Use a USB Hub that has its own power supply.
This way the Hub will theoretically draw current to the slave devices from the wall socket and not from the USB connection to the 3350MX.

2) In your case, and from your description (2 USB plugs on the CDRom), it looks like you're using a Portable CDRom drive (powered via USB) which means power is drawn from the host (the 3350 MX).

If you power adapter is only 1Amp (and not the full 2A required to power all devices), the CDRom is likely exhausting all the current and creating this apparent continuous reboot.
Another possible alternative would be to use a USB CDRom drive that has it's own power supply (from a wall socket).

As a final note, we're also very impressed with this little device. It feels very solid and it has a very clever design. We also the performance - when using a good quality, fast SD card - is also at a good level; we know it's not an i7 but it works well for Internet browsing, emailing, and even running some OpenCV :)

We'll look forward to hear about your progress.

Regards
Pedro.
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The Impact of MicroSD cards on the Performance of the 3350MX

Post by PedroR » Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:01 pm

Post by PedroR
Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:01 pm

Hi all

The Roboard division of DMP (a sister division of eBox) has posted a very pertinent article explaining how the quality and speed on microSD cards impacts performance of DMP platforms (ie Roboard, eBox, etc).

The article is here http://robosavvy.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=32083

Here is a transcript of part of the article:
1. Use class 6 or 10 MicroSD cards rather than class 2 cards.

2. Select MicroSD from trustworthy vendors; for example, we have tested many MicroSD from various vendors, and found that even class 4 MicroSD from SanDisk is faster than some class 10 MicroSD from unfamiliar vendors.

3. Use a disk benchmark software (on your PC or on RoBoard) to check the real speed of your MicroSD; for example, FDBench may be a candidate: http://www.hdbench.net/ja/fdbench/index.html

4. In RoBoard BIOS "Advanced->IDE Configuration" menu, select "OnBoard IDE Operate Mode -> Native Mode" and "ATA(PI) 80Pin Cable Detection -> Device". (Note: the two settings are just fine tuning and may has no obvious effect.)


I sincerely recommend that you read the full post if you'd like to get the best performance out of your eBox.

In particular point 2 is one of the most important ones. I would also like to add that you should always use Full Size SD cards on the eBox 3350 and NOT MicroSD cards with adapters as these tend to fail randomly.

We can tell, from our personal experience, that changing SD cards (to ones that follow the advices above) dramatically improved the performance of the 3350MX we have at our lab.

Regards
Pedro.
Hi all

The Roboard division of DMP (a sister division of eBox) has posted a very pertinent article explaining how the quality and speed on microSD cards impacts performance of DMP platforms (ie Roboard, eBox, etc).

The article is here http://robosavvy.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=32083

Here is a transcript of part of the article:
1. Use class 6 or 10 MicroSD cards rather than class 2 cards.

2. Select MicroSD from trustworthy vendors; for example, we have tested many MicroSD from various vendors, and found that even class 4 MicroSD from SanDisk is faster than some class 10 MicroSD from unfamiliar vendors.

3. Use a disk benchmark software (on your PC or on RoBoard) to check the real speed of your MicroSD; for example, FDBench may be a candidate: http://www.hdbench.net/ja/fdbench/index.html

4. In RoBoard BIOS "Advanced->IDE Configuration" menu, select "OnBoard IDE Operate Mode -> Native Mode" and "ATA(PI) 80Pin Cable Detection -> Device". (Note: the two settings are just fine tuning and may has no obvious effect.)


I sincerely recommend that you read the full post if you'd like to get the best performance out of your eBox.

In particular point 2 is one of the most important ones. I would also like to add that you should always use Full Size SD cards on the eBox 3350 and NOT MicroSD cards with adapters as these tend to fail randomly.

We can tell, from our personal experience, that changing SD cards (to ones that follow the advices above) dramatically improved the performance of the 3350MX we have at our lab.

Regards
Pedro.
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Post by ozfiddler » Mon Sep 05, 2011 12:29 pm

Post by ozfiddler
Mon Sep 05, 2011 12:29 pm

Well I have got myself a different CD-ROM and this one works OK - it has a separate power cable to USB that can be attached to a PC while the primary usb goes to the 3350. So the good news is that it now works with a power adapter pumping out only 1 amp.

Have spent half a day playing around and not getting very far with loading an OS. I had ubuntu working at one stage briefly but when I tried to load the kernel to give me ethernet it crashed and then it was corrupted and wouldn't reboot. It seems to be a long, slow, trial-and-error process - reminds me (rather painfully) of fumbling around in DOS and Windows 3.1 where everything was a bit of a lottery.

Have given up for now and will try again sometime if I can find the time and the patience.
Well I have got myself a different CD-ROM and this one works OK - it has a separate power cable to USB that can be attached to a PC while the primary usb goes to the 3350. So the good news is that it now works with a power adapter pumping out only 1 amp.

Have spent half a day playing around and not getting very far with loading an OS. I had ubuntu working at one stage briefly but when I tried to load the kernel to give me ethernet it crashed and then it was corrupted and wouldn't reboot. It seems to be a long, slow, trial-and-error process - reminds me (rather painfully) of fumbling around in DOS and Windows 3.1 where everything was a bit of a lottery.

Have given up for now and will try again sometime if I can find the time and the patience.
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Post by gordonjcp » Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:37 pm

Post by gordonjcp
Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:37 pm

I had problems when I installed the kernel that *supposedly* is for Debian and Ubuntu. Note that due to differences in packaging it's unlikely that it would work with both Debian *and* Ubuntu.

As far as I can see, without access to the NDA'd datasheet there's no way to run an OS in a useful manner on the ebox 3350. The kernel package that the manufacturer provides is broken, and no distro supports it "out of the box".

I don't think it's entirely fair to say that it runs Linux in the description. I bought one because it was described as running Linux, but it doesn't run it in any useful sense of the term.
I had problems when I installed the kernel that *supposedly* is for Debian and Ubuntu. Note that due to differences in packaging it's unlikely that it would work with both Debian *and* Ubuntu.

As far as I can see, without access to the NDA'd datasheet there's no way to run an OS in a useful manner on the ebox 3350. The kernel package that the manufacturer provides is broken, and no distro supports it "out of the box".

I don't think it's entirely fair to say that it runs Linux in the description. I bought one because it was described as running Linux, but it doesn't run it in any useful sense of the term.
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Post by PedroR » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:10 pm

Post by PedroR
Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:10 pm

Hi gordonjcp

Could you please provide details about the errors that you've encountered?

Also, could you please let us know which kernel version did you try and where you've obtained it?

If read back on this thread you can see we're recommending 2.6.34.10 which we've tested and works on Ubuntu (which is Linux). Details can be found here http://robosavvy.com/forum/viewtopic.ph ... rt=0#31636

Simply insinuating it doesn't run Linux won't help solving your problem or help anyone.

We take the products in our catalog very seriously and test them beforehand.
I can assure you that if you follow our explanations with regards to installing Ubuntu (Linux) it works.

Therefore, if you're seeking technical support please email support@robosavvy.com.

Furthermore:
1) The Kernel headers and source is available for people who need to re-compile the kernel.
Again you just need to contact our support for more information (or read

2) Information about the processor architecture is also available and can obtained both online and from us as well.

It is always very disappointing when we encounter this kind of situations where the customer chooses to speak badly about the product instead of seeking information and technical support to get the product to do what is needed for his project.

Therefore, as mentioned, we have installed and run Linux on this machine (with Full ethernet, Sound, VGA, etc.) so if you need technical support you are welcome to contact our support department through support@robosavvy.com or +44 (0) 207 193 4351

Regards
Pedro.
Hi gordonjcp

Could you please provide details about the errors that you've encountered?

Also, could you please let us know which kernel version did you try and where you've obtained it?

If read back on this thread you can see we're recommending 2.6.34.10 which we've tested and works on Ubuntu (which is Linux). Details can be found here http://robosavvy.com/forum/viewtopic.ph ... rt=0#31636

Simply insinuating it doesn't run Linux won't help solving your problem or help anyone.

We take the products in our catalog very seriously and test them beforehand.
I can assure you that if you follow our explanations with regards to installing Ubuntu (Linux) it works.

Therefore, if you're seeking technical support please email support@robosavvy.com.

Furthermore:
1) The Kernel headers and source is available for people who need to re-compile the kernel.
Again you just need to contact our support for more information (or read

2) Information about the processor architecture is also available and can obtained both online and from us as well.

It is always very disappointing when we encounter this kind of situations where the customer chooses to speak badly about the product instead of seeking information and technical support to get the product to do what is needed for his project.

Therefore, as mentioned, we have installed and run Linux on this machine (with Full ethernet, Sound, VGA, etc.) so if you need technical support you are welcome to contact our support department through support@robosavvy.com or +44 (0) 207 193 4351

Regards
Pedro.
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Post by gordonjcp » Mon Sep 05, 2011 6:56 pm

Post by gordonjcp
Mon Sep 05, 2011 6:56 pm

Okay, the first error is on installing the package:
Hmm. There is a symbolic link /lib/modultes/2.6.34.10-vortex86-sg/build
However, I cannot read it: No such file or directory
Therefore, I am deleting /lib/modules/2.6.34.10-vortex86-sg/build

Hmm. The package shipped with a symbolic link /lib/modules/2.6.34.10-vortex86-sg/source
However, I cannot read the tarket: No such file or directory
Therefore, I am deleting /lib/modules/2.6.34-10-vortex86-sg/source

So this indicates that the kernel package hasn't been created correctly (at least for Ubuntu) which doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.

The instructions for updating the initramfs are wrong, but with a little bit of thought it becomes clear that you need:
update-initramfs -k 2.6.34.10-vortex86-sg -c
This works fine so far
update-grub seems to be okay too
reboot and...
"mount: mounting none on /dev failed: no such device"
a bit of fscking
a textmode Ubuntu splash, and then a desktop. Great.
Let's do an update, so:
aptitude update goes okay
aptitude dist-upgrade - Boooooooooooom.
Poor old apt, hopelessly confused by the dodgy Debian kernel package.
during the kernel update, a few pages of:
/proc/devices: No entry for device-mapper found
Furthermore, at this point aptitude refuses to install anything, returning a variety of errors ranging from "Unexpected operator" to demands to deinstall the 2.6.34 kernel package.

I appreciate that it's more down to the manufacturer, but since they will not release any programming information for the SoC used in the 3350MX it's hard to see how to support it. It would be nice to be able to use the devices on the chip properly, rather than relying on a badly-packaged and rather generic kernel.
Okay, the first error is on installing the package:
Hmm. There is a symbolic link /lib/modultes/2.6.34.10-vortex86-sg/build
However, I cannot read it: No such file or directory
Therefore, I am deleting /lib/modules/2.6.34.10-vortex86-sg/build

Hmm. The package shipped with a symbolic link /lib/modules/2.6.34.10-vortex86-sg/source
However, I cannot read the tarket: No such file or directory
Therefore, I am deleting /lib/modules/2.6.34-10-vortex86-sg/source

So this indicates that the kernel package hasn't been created correctly (at least for Ubuntu) which doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.

The instructions for updating the initramfs are wrong, but with a little bit of thought it becomes clear that you need:
update-initramfs -k 2.6.34.10-vortex86-sg -c
This works fine so far
update-grub seems to be okay too
reboot and...
"mount: mounting none on /dev failed: no such device"
a bit of fscking
a textmode Ubuntu splash, and then a desktop. Great.
Let's do an update, so:
aptitude update goes okay
aptitude dist-upgrade - Boooooooooooom.
Poor old apt, hopelessly confused by the dodgy Debian kernel package.
during the kernel update, a few pages of:
/proc/devices: No entry for device-mapper found
Furthermore, at this point aptitude refuses to install anything, returning a variety of errors ranging from "Unexpected operator" to demands to deinstall the 2.6.34 kernel package.

I appreciate that it's more down to the manufacturer, but since they will not release any programming information for the SoC used in the 3350MX it's hard to see how to support it. It would be nice to be able to use the devices on the chip properly, rather than relying on a badly-packaged and rather generic kernel.
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Post by ozfiddler » Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:45 am

Post by ozfiddler
Thu Sep 08, 2011 3:45 am

OK... I've got XP working on the eBox using the method outlined in the sticky at the top of this section. In fact I'm posting this from the eBox. No sound yet though - not sure why that didn't work. The device manager is telling me it's good so will need to look into that. I did the setting adjustments suggested earlier and it definitely improves performance.

Unfortunately my preliminary trial in using it to stream programs from the ABC site suggests it might not be feasible. That was actually my main reason to get the Ebox - to use as a TV server for online programs.

Anyway, will keep playing with it. I'd be very intertested to hear of any more possible tweaks to improve performance. But at least I'm online!! Hooray!!!

Cheers,

Alan
OK... I've got XP working on the eBox using the method outlined in the sticky at the top of this section. In fact I'm posting this from the eBox. No sound yet though - not sure why that didn't work. The device manager is telling me it's good so will need to look into that. I did the setting adjustments suggested earlier and it definitely improves performance.

Unfortunately my preliminary trial in using it to stream programs from the ABC site suggests it might not be feasible. That was actually my main reason to get the Ebox - to use as a TV server for online programs.

Anyway, will keep playing with it. I'd be very intertested to hear of any more possible tweaks to improve performance. But at least I'm online!! Hooray!!!

Cheers,

Alan
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Post by gordonjcp » Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:20 am

Post by gordonjcp
Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:20 am

I haven't tried XP yet, but one of my plans for the ebox was to have either dual-boot or a second SD card with XP so that I can install radio programming software on it - the lack of moving parts makes it ideal for mounting in my work van where vibration would take its toll on laptop drives.

Regarding Linux, I'm looking into a ports-based distro called Crux which can probably be built for i586. We're going to need something to replace Ubuntu 10.04 when it's EOL. I tried building Arch for i586 but it got stuck building the prerequisites for gcc - maybe compiling on the ebox isn't such a great idea, so I don't know if it's worth trying without gcc and family.
I haven't tried XP yet, but one of my plans for the ebox was to have either dual-boot or a second SD card with XP so that I can install radio programming software on it - the lack of moving parts makes it ideal for mounting in my work van where vibration would take its toll on laptop drives.

Regarding Linux, I'm looking into a ports-based distro called Crux which can probably be built for i586. We're going to need something to replace Ubuntu 10.04 when it's EOL. I tried building Arch for i586 but it got stuck building the prerequisites for gcc - maybe compiling on the ebox isn't such a great idea, so I don't know if it's worth trying without gcc and family.
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