Debian Lenny and Squeeze on Aleutia E2

28/06/2009

Aleutia E2 front view

Aleutia E2 front view

The E2 came with Ubuntu 8.10 installed, and I opted for the 80Gb mechanical hard drive option (so I can’t claim that it is totally silent, but you have to concentrate and listen from about six inches to hear the drive spinning), so I shrunk the Ubuntu partion to 10GB. I made a new 10Gb partition for ‘guest’ linuxes, kept the existing 2.5 Gb swap, and the rest I formatted to VFAT 32 so I can share data between two Linux operating systems without permissions issues or without overlapping configuration files.

The partitioning was done by booting from a USB drive into SliTaz Standard and using the partitioner. I ended up using gparted from within Ubuntu to format the spare space on the drive to VFAT 32 as SliTaz standard would not create VFAT formats for some reason, the option was grayed out.

The Debian live CD would not boot from a USB stick (created using unetbootin), so I booted from an old Iomega USB CD drive (recognised instantly and easily set as a boot device in the E2 Bios). Once booted, I got ‘signal over range’ errors when the X server started. I suspected this may have to do with my no name 17 inch LCD panel not revealing its pixel size properly, which is why the Ubuntu Jaunty install is stuck at 600 by 800. Proceeded to install a minimal CLI Debian from the netinstall ISO booted from the external CD drive.

Once booted into the CLI, I added the x server and a window manager (dwm initially but also fluxbox later), and then added an xorg.conf file that would force the use of the VESA driver, and set an appropriate screen size. The xorg.conf file for Debian Lenny for use with the E2 chipset is shown ‘below the fold’ in this article.

After some googling I found an xorg.conf file that would work with the Openchrome mode (see ‘below the fold’ for that version of xorg.conf), however, OpenOffice began to loose menu text and produce poor screen refreshes with parts of the screen missing, so I used the VESA mode.

Decided to do a distribution upgrade to Debian Squeeze, and a new version of the Openchrome driver. This solved the issues with full openchrome mode, and, again, the xorg.conf file I use is reproduced at the end of this post.

I added SLIM for graphical log in and created a .xinitrc file to handle the two window managers (dwm and fluxbox). SLIM mentions a lot of other window managers by default. When you log in, pressing F1 gives you a choice of dwm or fluxbox with fluxbox as default.

#
# ~/.xinitrc
#
# Executed by startx (run your window manager from here)
#

erresources=$HOME/.Xresources
usermodmap=$HOME/.Xmodmap
sysresources=/etc/X11/xinit/.Xresources
sysmodmap=/etc/X11/xinit/.Xmodmap

case "$1" in
fluxbox) exec startfluxbox ;;
dwm) exec $HOME/bin/dwm_run ;;
esac

How to upgrade from Lenny to Squeeze

Start a terminal and SU so the terminal is issuing commands as root, then

nano /etc/apt/sources.list

and change all the mentions of lenny to squeeze and save (ctrl-o) and exit nano (ctrl-x). Then update the package lists so they reflect the squeeze repositories, and then install the new version of aptitude and finally issue the full upgrade command.

sudo aptitude update
sudo aptitude install apt dpkg aptitude
sudo aptitude full-upgrade

On my minimal system that involved downloading and configuring 340Mb of packages, so coffee time. The only attention needed was when the system asked about cron about 10 minutes in. I just accepted the default. The only casualty was keyboard recognition, it defaulted to the US layout. I specified the appropriate lines in the xorg.conf file to set it back to UK (see Squeeze xorg.conf below)

Lenny force VESA xorg.conf

From Ubuntu 8.10 and Debian Lenny, the xorg.conf file is usually empty for most ‘mainstream’ systems, and the graphics hardware, display device, mouse, keyboard &c are autodetected live using the ‘jockey’ hardware monitoring system. You can over ride these by adding an xorg.conf file that forces certain options. I’ve had to make such files for Ubuntu 9.04, Debian Lenny and Debian Squeeze to get video working properly on the Aleutia E2. Below is the xorg.conf file that forces use of the VESA compatibility mode, used with Debian Lenny.

# xorg.conf (X.Org X Window System server configuration file)
#
# This file was generated by dexconf, the Debian X Configuration tool, using
# values from the debconf database.
#
# Edit this file with caution, and see the xorg.conf manual page.
# (Type "man xorg.conf" at the shell prompt.)
#
# This file is automatically updated on xserver-xorg package upgrades *only*
# if it has not been modified since the last upgrade of the xserver-xorg
# package.
#
# If you have edited this file but would like it to be automatically updated
# again, run the following command:
# sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Generic Keyboard"
Driver "kbd"
Option "XkbRules" "xorg"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "gb"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Configured Mouse"
Driver "mouse"
EndSection

Section "Device"
Identifier "Configured Video Device"
Driver "vesa"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Configured Monitor"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Monitor "Configured Monitor"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1280x1024"
EndSubsection
EndSection

Debian Lenny Openchrome xorg.conf

This xorg.conf file gets the hardware working fully with all the resources of the openchrome driver. However, I had funny menu behaviour in openoffice with these settings…

# xorg.conf (X.Org X Window System server configuration file)
#
# This file was generated by dexconf, the Debian X Configuration tool, using
# values from the debconf database.
#
# Edit this file with caution, and see the xorg.conf manual page.
# (Type "man xorg.conf" at the shell prompt.)
#
# This file is automatically updated on xserver-xorg package upgrades *only*
# if it has not been modified since the last upgrade of the xserver-xorg
# package.
#
# If you have edited this file but would like it to be automatically updated
# again, run the following command:
# sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Generic Keyboard"
Driver "kbd"
Option "XkbRules" "xorg"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "gb"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Configured Mouse"
Driver "mouse"
EndSection

Section "Device"
Identifier "Configured Video Device"
Option "PanelSize" "1280x1024"
Option "sw_cursor"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Configured Monitor"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Monitor "Configured Monitor"
DefaultDepth 24
SubSection "Display"
Depth 24
Modes "1280x1024"
EndSubsection
EndSection

Debian Squeeze xorg.conf

This one seems to be working with my minimal Debian Squeeze installation on this 500MHz fanless pc with VIA processor and openchrome graphics using the VIA CX700/VX700 chipset.

# xorg.conf (X.Org X Window System server configuration file)
#
# This file was generated by dexconf, the Debian X Configuration tool, using
# values from the debconf database.
#
# Edit this file with caution, and see the xorg.conf manual page.
# (Type "man xorg.conf" at the shell prompt.)
#
# This file is automatically updated on xserver-xorg package upgrades *only*
# if it has not been modified since the last upgrade of the xserver-xorg
# package.
#
# Note that some configuration settings that could be done previously
# in this file, now are automatically configured by the server and settings
# here are ignored.
#
# If you have edited this file but would like it to be automatically updated
# again, run the following command:
# sudo dpkg-reconfigure -phigh xserver-xorg

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Generic Keyboard"
Driver "kbd"
Option "XkbRules" "xorg"
Option "XkbModel" "pc105"
Option "XkbLayout" "gb"
EndSection

Section "InputDevice"
Identifier "Configured Mouse"
Driver "mouse"
EndSection

Section "Device"
Identifier "Configured Video Device"
Option "PanelSize" "1280x1024"
EndSection

Section "Monitor"
Identifier "Configured Monitor"
EndSection

Section "Screen"
Identifier "Default Screen"
Monitor "Configured Monitor"
Device "Configured Video Device"
EndSection

As you can see, less settings needed, and these settings may be more to do with my no name LCD monitor not providing the information in the correct format than the openchrome driver.

lspci output

0:00.0 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 Host Bridge (rev 10)
00:00.1 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 Host Bridge
00:00.2 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 Host Bridge
00:00.3 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 Host Bridge
00:00.4 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 Host Bridge
00:00.7 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 Host Bridge
00:01.0 PCI bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8237/VX700 PCI Bridge
00:08.0 Ethernet controller: Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL-8139/8139C/8139C+ (rev 10)
00:0f.0 IDE interface: VIA Technologies, Inc. VX800 Serial ATA and EIDE Controller
00:10.0 USB Controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82xxxxx UHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev 90)
00:10.1 USB Controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT82xxxxx UHCI USB 1.1 Controller (rev 90)
00:10.4 USB Controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. USB 2.0 (rev 90)
00:11.0 ISA bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 PCI to ISA Bridge
00:11.7 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 Internal Module Bus
00:13.0 PCI bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 Host Bridge
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700/VX700 [S3 UniChrome Pro] (rev 03)
02:01.0 Audio device: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT1708/A [Azalia HDAC] (VIA High Definition Audio Controller) (rev 10)

Just so you know exactly what hardware is on this little box.

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