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VIA Eden

2003-01-27 23:01:03+00 by Dan Lyke 12 comments

Charlene has been complaining that her Windows ME[Wiki] box is crashing and doing weird things. Meanwhile, at work I got this 533 MHz VIA Eden based machine in from iDot that I'd mentioned earlier. Now that I've been playing with te VIA Eden[Wiki] box I'm torn between setting her up with a tried-and-true full-sized Celeron machine, and one of these booting off of CompactFlash into a network mounted drive. What would I get for my $250? Total silence. We could unplug the fans from the case and have a machine that merely sips power running full-out.

There are performance issues, the instruction set is optimized differently than Intel and AMD, and since I've never run a machine off NFS mounted drives I'm a little reluctant to propose that as a solution to stability, but this thing is sweeeeeet and has invoked some of the strongest techno-lust I've had in a while. With a small screen (either VGA, S-Video or NTSC inputs) or Hitachi HD44780 LCD hooked up off the parallel port and remote control in the serial port this'd make a kick-ass Ogg Vorbis or MP3 player, and spending a little money on software (nobody's unlocked the hardware DVD decoder with free software yet, so they tend to skip frames a bit) probably a cool customizeable DVD player too.

Or just get a 15" LCD display and one of these on your desk and easily out-compensate the executive team.

[ related topics: Free Software Dan's Life Work, productivity and environment Cool Technology Embedded Devices - Via Eden ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2003-01-27 23:12:17+00 by: dws

What OS are you running on your Via box? I'm thinking of an iDot Via box for a home file server (one that sits *quietly* in the corner), and have been googling for info on people's experiences running Linux on them. There are many reports of network/sound/video issues, including problems with NFS (from freebsd). RH8 is the preferred linux distro, though it isn't clear whether you have to build it with proprietary drivers to get the best effect out of the board.

Thera are discussions on the tech support board (http://viaarena.com/) about DVD performance.

#Comment made: 2003-01-27 23:37:49+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've only had the thing out of the box a few hours, and am not yet building the kernels I want to use on the thing, I happened to have a drive lying around from my old laptop, so I'm trying to get a recompile of kernel version 2.4.9 up to the point where I can ftp the latest sources, but I should really just wait 'til I've got the appropriate adapters so I can be writing to this from my laptop development environment.

What I've read about is mostly network issues, ones that seem to be being actively addressed in the latest kernels. But I'm also pretty happy to be compiling things that don't work from the latest sources, in fact I'm not going to use any distro at all, just compile everything from scratch, for my first application of this thing.

I'll keep posting updates. I think I might just buy one of these for personal use and if it happens to work out then I'll make it Charlene's machine, but if not I'll have, say, one hell of a controller for the model railroad.

#Comment made: 2003-01-27 23:56:35+00 by: Dan Lyke

Just to clarify a bit: What problems do you know of? The ones I've seen are:

#Comment made: 2003-01-28 00:45:12+00 by: dws

That covers it. Some problem reports suggest that some NIC problems are due to marginal power, though the iDot boxes supply plenty. Since I'm replacing a fileserver (samba/CVS/Apache) that runs headless, I didn't pay much attention to audio/video problems, other than to note that there's a problem switching back into X once you've switched to a text console.

Did you go for a raw board, or the Cube or Falcon? I'm leaning toward the Cube, and am wondering how quiet it really is. Pics on the iDot site show a fan in the back of the case, in addition to the one in the power supply.

#Comment made: 2003-01-28 01:07:40+00 by: Dan Lyke

I got the Eden 533 in the ITX-PV case. Two fans on the back left of the case, blowing in where the PCI riser and the 3.5" drive bay are, but it seems from all the documentation that if you don't put anything else in the case you can just unplug 'em; the motherboard and the DC 60W power supply don't need a fan.

(That configuration comes with a brick on a cord power supply which gives 12v into the case power supply. And, for those searchers who find this later, the IDE connectors are full-sized.)

It's been so long since I've switched to a text console that I'm not too bothered by that. Heresy, I know, but generally if I have to switch to a text console I'll be killing the X server soon anyway.

And really most of the video complaints I'm seeing are about DVD playing. As a word processing/applications and basic web surfing box I don't think that's a problem.

#Comment made: 2003-01-28 01:39:42+00 by: dws

Nice. I hadn't noticed that case. I need a CDRW though, and the extra cost of a slim one offsets savings on the case. I'll probably go for an iCube. We can compare notes later.

#Comment made: 2003-01-28 02:39:21+00 by: meuon

And Im in the bathroom at my place using a Zaurus... It plays MP3s and browses just fine.

#Comment made: 2003-01-28 02:57:24+00 by: Larry Burton [edit history]

Have you heard of any problems running Win2K on one of these puppies? I'm thinking with an LCD touchscreen and an appropriate Hoffman enclosure one of these things would make a sweet HMI.

#Comment made: 2003-01-28 09:34:39+00 by: pharm

There's a faster version of the Via Eden motherboards with DDR that has the memory bandwidth to pay DVDs without too much trouble, together with faster / better video hardware in general.

The problem with the earlier Eden boards is that Video memory is shared with system memory, so the video acceleration hardware has to fight for memory bandwith with screen refresh and mpeg decoding. It doesn't always manage it.

Everything I've read suggests that DVD decoding wasn't too hot with these boards under windows either, and there were a lot of complainst about the TVout quality.

But they make great firewall boxes -- got one running at work doing exactly that. Note that XV support *is* available for these boards. Don't know about the newer ones though -- they have different video hardware.

#Comment made: 2003-01-29 01:01:52+00 by: ebradway

Hey Dan - how much does this thing weigh? It's perfect for an application I have but I need to keep the PC under about 3 lbs. (no monitor, keyboard, etc).

#Comment made: 2003-01-29 07:50:00+00 by: dws

http://linitx.org/forum/ is a forum for Linux folks who're mucking about with mini-itx boards.

#Comment made: 2003-01-29 16:39:13+00 by: Dan Lyke

Eric, the case adds a bit of weight, but if you could come up with a regulated 5v and 12v supply (or just pull the power supply board out of the case) the heaviest thing on there has got to be the CPU heat sink.