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Getting It Up and Running with Linux
I ordered the case, m/b and processor for only $150, and planned to use
a Seagate hard drive with fluid bearing motor (the quietest 7200 rpm drive
I know of- 2.0 bels idle acoustics). Completing the package were a generic
cdrw and floppy, along with 256MB of Crucial PC133 memory.
Assembling the components was made easier because the AOpen case had the
rotatable and removeable drive frame. And I took the Seagate drive from my AMD
box and put it in the new case, so I would be able to start with a running
linux system after using a boot floppy to....well...boot everything.
The VIA C3 866mhz processor comes with heatsink and fan. Since it should run
ok without the fan, I removed it and just dropped the C3 into the 370 socket
and snapped on the heat sink clip and that was it.
The Shuttle MV/25 comes with standard length floppy and ide cables, but if
you have some shorter length cables, use them to save some space in this
small enclosure. All the parts hooked up without a hitch.
From left: half-height NIC, R-angle PCI riser with TV card, CPU heat sink, pink Enermax fan in PSU
This case doesn't come with a PC speaker, so you won't be hearing annoying
beeping sounds, which I think is perfectly appropriate for a quiet PC.
Well now comes the moment of truth, a slight trepidation as I plug in
the monitor and make the final connections just before the first press of
the on button...will the BIOS recognize everthing and post, will the
boot disk allow me to start linux, will the VIA C3 overheat without a cpu
fan and just as importantly, will it run 'quieter-than-a-whisper'?
The BIOS on this board is by Award, the same BIOS thats on the Abit-KT7 m/b
but without the overclocking options (the Shuttle manual has a very good
section devoted to using the BIOS to setup hardware related functions in your
The first check in the BIOS is the PC Health Status for the CPU temperatures.
Its only 25C as I begin to check the BIOS settings. After idling a while the
tempurature rises only a bit. So it looks ok to boot.
The Seagate hard drive swapped from my running linux box has 5 different
linux distros on it and uses Grub for the boot loader. After booting with
the floppy to bring up the Grub boot menu, I make the adjustments for the
swapped hard drive and boot to the built-from-source and optimized
for i686 distro named Gentoo linux.
No luck. It just hangs. Well lets try again with the Slackware partition.
OK it boots this time. Now let me try Debian. That boots also.
Well after some time I realize that Debian and Slackware are built for
i386. And the VIA C3 processor won't boot a complete linux distro
compiled from source with i686 optimizations. But I really want to use the
new Gentoo linux.
Well Gentoo also has an iso built with i586 optimizations. I get that and
put it on the hard drive and soon its up and running the optimized for i586
Gentoo linux. It feels comfortable, but how high are the CPU temps
I download the latest lm_sensors, which is used to monitor cpu temperatures. After a quick #make, install and probe, you only need to #modprobe the i2c-isa and via686a modules and run #sensors to check the temps and voltages. No problem. The cpu hovers around 35C. The cpu core is set at an ultra low 1.35 volts. I am really happy with the quietness of Seagate's fluid bearing hard drive and this m/b supports Ultra DMA-100 mode 5, for fast hard drive performance that enhances system responsiveness. Linux uses the hdparm utility to set DMA mode on and test the drive. Running #hdparm -d 1 -t /dev/hda gives: Timing buffered disk reads: 64 MB in 2.44 seconds = 26.23 MB/sec
Not bad performance at all, and since there are IDE1 and IDE2 connectors I plan on using the floppy drive slot for a second hard drive. In case you need to revert to a floppy its really easy to swap out with this case. As far as I know AOpen is the only mini case with the rotatable and removeable drive frame. Now its time to check the on-board sound and lan. Again just run #modprobe VIA82cxxx_audio for the sound and pop in a cd to listen. The lan driver- 8139too I have compiled into the kernel so the eth0 interface is recognized at boot and the net connection is made by the distro. I run #rdate to the nearest time server to check that the net connection is good and set the time. Now if you connect with a modem you will have to buy an amr modem card which will run about $10-20 extra. Luckily I have a cable connection.
How about stressing this cpu with a kernel compile? Well the VIA 866mhz takes
about 8 minutes to compile the 2.4.17 kernel. Thats about 5 minutes longer
than a AMD T-bird 1.2ghz using a similar config file. But this isn't built for
speed, its built to be 'quieter-than-a-whisper'. Fortunately the compile
time temperatures stay around 40C, so a CPU fan wont be needed.
Now its time for_my_stress test...configuring X for the built-in graphics.
I run #xf86config knowing that it needs support for the Trident
Cyberblade (generic). In the XFree86-4.2 cardbase its listed as card #501.
Another tip for your XF86Config is to Load "extmod", else you lose the X
display when you switch to console. A few more choices and I am ready to
run #startx ...using the new XF86Config file. Success! The Sawfish window
manager starts up with a very sharp-looking 1024x768 display.
Well the noise coming from the single fan in the cpu is certainly quieter
than my other PC's, but it can be quieter.So I pop open the case and remove
the power supply. The original p/s fan comes out and in goes a new 80mm manually
adjustable (1000-3000rpm) fan. Its a tight fit because the original fan is 20mm
thick and the new one is 25mm. This is an Enermax fan and it is used in the
latest Enermax power supplies to adjust the fan speed. Everything is put back
together (did I mention how easy it is with the removeable drive frame) with
the fan set to the lowest rpm.
Now its back up running and ....let me tell you folks...this puppy is quiet.
It definitely meets the less than 20dBA noise level.
With a single fan running at 1000 rpm there is now a blissfull quietness.
It puts me at complete ease while working at the computer. I relax and
savor the sound of silence between the clicks of the keyboard.
There is a neat monitor for linux apps which sits in the corner of your
screen called gkrellm. So with the Gentoo linux distro you run this single
command: #emerge gkrellm ...to download the source, compile and install it.
Then configure the sensors settings and voila! The cpu temps and voltages
from lm_sensors are displayed on the desktop in the gkrellm monitor panel,
along with practically any other monitor readings you want,including the
So Does this Processor Do the Job on the Desktop?
Right now, the desktop has 4 workspaces open:
opera web browser in space1, sylpheed mail/news reader in space2,
xchat-irc in space3 and various stuff in space4, along with 10 open xterms,
the gkrellm monitor and a file manager. And top shows the cpu at 90%
After setting up printing with CUPS and the latest gimp-print-drivers, my
Epson inkjet is ready to print. In this environment the VIA C3 is the equal
of the newest Celeron.
Games and video intensive apps may suffer because of the integrated graphics
but at about $400 for the guaranteed 'quieter-than-a-whisper' mini PC
I am very happy with the results. Peace at last.
As for upgradeability, VIA has announced in the second quarter of 2002 C3
frequencies will increase up to 1.2GHz. Also, a C3 processor with a 1.2GHz
frequency will be released, but it will be based on a new core with a second
level cache increased to 256KB and will be made with 0.13-micron technology.
A number of other improvements will be made to increase its performance.
At the same time, the new processors will stay compatible with Socket 370
(FC-PGA2). I am anxious to see the thermal specs on this new C3.
After using this PC for a few weeks, I decided to install a Pinnacle full-
size TV tuner/fm stereo card. So I found a PCI risercard with right-angle adaptor
that allows the full height card to fit into the low profile slot, by positioning
the card parallel to the mother board. After drilling a few holes in the back
panel for the TV/fm cable jacks, I was perfectly content to use this mini PC
as my full time desktop computer.
A side view shows pink Enermax fan in PSU more clearly.
As the parts list shows this is a pretty affordable PC that runs linux on
the desktop. The slim-line case can sit under your monitor to save space and
because its "quieter-than-a-whisper" you wont even notice its there.
Its not for the hardcore gamers, but for anyone looking for a little peace and
quiet at their desktop this is one cool performer.
- $55 Shuttle MV/25 mother board
- $53 VIA C3 866mhz processor
- $44 AOpen H340D slim-line case
- $86 Crucial P133 256MB SDRAM
- $77 Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB
- $66 CDRW
- $ 9 Floppy drive
- $ 8 Enermax adj-speed fan
- $398 Total*
VIA Apollo Chipset:VIA
VIA C3-Ezra-T Processor:VIA C3
Review of VIA C3 cpu:C3 review
Review of SV24-PC:SV24
The Silent PC:noise
ATX form factors:ATX spec
Celeron Thermal Management:: see google cache page for this title
*For easy shopping I bought all the parts from newegg.com except for the
AOpen case which I got from myaopen.com
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