Linux on the VIA EPIA ME6000 LVDS Mini-ITX
I wanted a very quiet (or perhaps even silent) machine, and after some research bought the VIA EPIA ME6000 Mini-ITX. It was priced a nice € 115 (VAT included), so that was not a big investment.
The EPIA ME6000 is a fan-less motherboard, the 600 MHz CPU is soldered directly to the board (no ZIF-socket) and measures a nifty 17x17cm. That is small! I plan to replace my shell server with a box containing this board in order get a more quieter surrounding.
Here is some info copied right from the proc-directory
processor : 0 vendor_id : CentaurHauls cpu family : 6 model : 7 model name : VIA Samuel 2 stepping : 3 cpu MHz : 599.905 cache size : 64 KB fdiv_bug : no hlt_bug : no f00f_bug : no coma_bug : no fpu : yes fpu_exception : yes cpuid level : 1 wp : yes flags : fpu de tsc msr cx8 mtrr pge mmx 3dnow bogomips : 1196.03
Powering up for the first time
I put a 512Mb PC2100 DIMM in the board (Kingston KVR266X64C2/512). hooked up an old harddisk and an CD-ROM player on the IDE-connector, a monitor on the VGA outlet and plugged a keyboard in the thing. I had also bought a small and quiet "ITX"-powersupply to power the board.
To start the thing, I wired two thin wires (see picture below) on the motherboard power-switch pins and when they contacted each other the thing started booting.
Unfortunately, my small monochrome 600x480 monitor wasn't able to cope with the high resolution picture the EM6000 provided. so I had to look for another monitor, capable of higher resolutions and/or higher frequencies. Fortunately, on the attic there was an old 14 inch monitor with a nice goldfish-bubbletank shaped round front surface.
Pressing the DEL-key for what seemed a long time gave me a BIOS-configuration menu. It seems this machine is capable to boot from amongst others: USB-drive, USB-CD-ROM, USB-Zip. Enough stuff to play with :-)
Detailed view on the first class home brew power switch
Installing Slackware on the EPIA ME6000
Next, I flipped a Slackware 10.1 CD in the CD-ROM-player and booted the thing. The hardware was nicely recognized and installation went as any other i386 installation. Dull.
After the reboot the network was up and running and for fun I plugged an USB-mouse in the thing and typed "startx". A few seconds later I was looking at a familiar fvwm-screen. No need to do any X configuration. Cool.
Next I plugged in a USB memory-stick. No need to do any modprobing here, I only had to do a
mount -t vfat /dev/sda1 /mnt/hd
and I could read from and write to the stick. Thanks, Pat.
It is getting boring: after scp-ing a mp3 file and starting up mpg321 it turned out that the audio also worked right out of the box. So the main parts of the hardware where up and running without any human intervention, the hardware-recognition in the installation scripts had done their job very well. After only 20 minutes of toying we got:
- Linux running
- Network running
- USB controller running
- USB mouse running
- X running
- Sound running
- No noise from vents (only a hardly audible ventilator inside the powersupply
Who said Linux is difficult?
Installing Slackware on the EPIA ME6000
After some playing around (mounting a USB-stick, playing sound etc.) I got the following output from lsmod:
Module Size Used by Not tainted usb-storage 62336 0 snd-pcm-oss 36704 0 (unused) snd-mixer-oss 12152 1 [snd-pcm-oss] keybdev 1892 0 (unused) mousedev 4020 1 hid 20804 0 (unused) usbmouse 1880 0 (unused) input 3200 0 [keybdev mousedev hid usbmouse] ohci1394 23888 0 (unused) ieee1394 41636 0 [ohci1394] uhci 24284 0 (unused) ehci-hcd 17516 0 (unused) usbcore 58860 1 [usb-storage hid usbmouse uhci ehci-hcd] snd-via82xx 12928 2 gameport 1420 0 [snd-via82xx] snd-ac97-codec 52472 0 [snd-via82xx] snd-pcm 54504 1 [snd-pcm-oss snd-via82xx snd-ac97-codec] snd-timer 13412 0 [snd-pcm] snd-mpu401-uart 3200 0 [snd-via82xx] snd-rawmidi 12320 0 [snd-mpu401-uart] snd-seq-device 3812 0 [snd-rawmidi] snd 31268 0 [snd-pcm-oss snd-mixer-oss snd-via82xx snd-ac9-codec snd-pcm snd-timer snd-mpu401-uart snd-rawmidi snd-seq-device] snd-page-alloc 4712 0 [snd-mixer-oss snd-via82xx snd-pcm snd-timer sd-rawmidi snd-seq-device snd] soundcore 3396 4 [snd] via-rhine 12368 1 mii 2272 0 [via-rhine] crc32 2880 0 [via-rhine] ide-scsi 9392 0 agpgart 45092 0 (unused)
To get this Epia completely silent, I build a small Linux-system on an USB stick. The Epia is now diskless, boots from USB and runs XVesa, ratpoison, rxvt and firefox (and the usual stuff like sshd, ssh and busybox). Completed with a fanless powersupply (adapter-type) my workstation is now 100% silent.
First, the board is faster than I had expected from a machine that could run without a fan on the processor. With the 1196 bogomips it is faster then my AMD450 box (898 bogomips) and my imac G3 (797 bogomips), and playing around with it, confirms that.
Installing Slackware required no special tinkering, everything works right out of the box (well, I haven't tried the TV-out, and I haven't tried playing a DVD with it, so let us say the most important stuff). With the 512 Mb DIMM Mozilla works fast enough for me (I use elinks most of the time, anyway).
This machine is capable enough to be my main workstation.
This is also because the type of thing I am doing with my
workstation. If you are looking for a machine for some heavy
video-editing, than you could probably better go for something
With xine I played a mpeg2-file, I previously recorded with dunerec. This didn't work out well, xine complains the system is to slow. It is not fine to look at, much to many framedrops. Top showed a very heavy loaded CPU, so if playing mpegs is what you want, this isn't the right motherboard for you.
I have worked several months now with the diskless
USB-pen system (XVesa, ratpoison, rxvt, ssh and firefox)
and very seldom I require more computing power.
My use of the system is most of the time working on
other systems (including my shell server) through ssh.
For things like webbrowsing, email, USE-net reading
and rssfeed-reading I prefer textmode applications,
occasionally I use firefox.
I power up my heavier workstation only a few times per month.
Uses of the VIA EPIA ME6000 LVDS Mini-ITX
Above you can read that the VIA EPIA is a good basis for my daily workstation. See also my diskless workstation page. However, because it is small, silent and requires not much power, there are a zillion of things you can use the Epia board for:
- Music station:
Connect the Epia to an amplifier and stream mp3- —or even better—, ogg-files to it
- In car computer
Put a LCD-panel to it and start using it in your car
Use it to control the blinds or other controllable equipment that will make your life easier
The EPIA can be used to control your robot
The Epia (next to a CD player, for size)