Friday, 1 August 2008

What Ubuntu Thinks of a TinyTuxbox

I've been meaning to log some, I think I'll call it... Linux type stuff, to do with the TinyTuxbox for a while. Here's my attempt to look at what Ubuntu makes of this little box.

First, the CPU (from /proc/cpuinfo):
processor : 0
vendor_id : CentaurHauls
cpu family : 6
model : 13
model name : VIA Eden Processor 500MHz
stepping : 0
cpu MHz : 498.706
cache size : 128 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 vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge cmov pat clflush acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 tm nx up pni est tm2 xtpr rng rng_en ace ace_en ace2 ace2_en phe phe_en pmm pmm_en
bogomips : 998.77
clflush size : 64


The interestingness here comes from the fact we have a 500MHz Via Eden with 128k cache and just under 1000 bogomips which (although it shouldn't be) is often used as a trivial performance metric of a processor. Next, lets have a look at what's on the PCI bus (courtesy of lspci):
00:00.0 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700 Host Bridge (rev 03)
00:00.1 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700 Host Bridge
00:00.2 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700 Host Bridge
00:00.3 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700 Host Bridge
00:00.4 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700 Host Bridge
00:00.7 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700 Host Bridge
00:01.0 PCI bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT8237 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. CX700M2 IDE
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 PCI to ISA Bridge
00:11.7 Host bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700 Internal Module Bus
00:13.0 PCI bridge: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700 Host Bridge
01:00.0 VGA compatible controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. CX700M2 UniChrome PRO II Graphics (rev 03)
02:01.0 Audio device: VIA Technologies, Inc. VIA High Definition Audio Controller (rev 10)


Highlights here come from the Realtek Ethernet which is well catered for out of the box by pretty much any major Linux these days. There are also two IDE controllers, USB controllers and an audio controller that are all well supported. It's interesting that most of the PCI devices are provided by the single CX700M2 chipset which I believe is built onto the processor board for the Via Eden's. The one thing from this list that has been a pain in the back side is the graphics controller. It works out of the box both in frame buffer mode and via the open source via unichrome driver called Openchrome. However, Openchrome don't support the CX700M2 board yet (not officially anyway, the code is still in SVN according to the guys I spoke to on their IRC channel) so graphics processing was eating lots of CPU. Fortunately, I found a link to later via drivers at linux.via.com.tw than are available through the official Via driver site where they're still only supporting Ubuntu 7.04 and 7.10. Seems I'm caught in the middle for now, the Via drivers work nicely but will be a pain to maintain until the Openchrome drivers find their way into Ubuntu and I switch back over to them.

Then there's the memory. For a small box this one has a relatively generous helping of 512MB RAM, some of which is stolen by the CX700M2 for graphical shared memory. Free is currently showing 439MB total memory, 390MB used and 49MB available; swap is 100% free. That's not bad at all considering I'm running Xorg with Gnome, SSH, SqueezeCenter, 2 instances of MySQL (SqueezeCenter starts its own instance), and a Nanobroker with some Perl code to log my Current Cost data. It'll be running Apache soon too as I move towards writing some more web based Current Cost facilities.

Just in case anyone is interested, here's the list of modules currently loaded into Ubuntu's 2.6.24-19-generic kernel: drm af_packet ipv6 cpufreq_powersave cpufreq_conservative cpufreq_ondemand cpufreq_stats freq_table cpufreq_userspace sbs container sbshc video output dock battery iptable_filter ip_tables x_tables ac parport_pc lp parport loop snd_hda_intel snd_pcm_oss snd_mixer_oss snd_pcm snd_page_alloc snd_hwdep snd_seq_dummy snd_seq_oss snd_seq_midi snd_rawmidi snd_seq_midi_event snd_seq snd_timer snd_seq_device snd soundcore serio_raw evdev psmouse pl2303 usbserial pcspkr button i2c_viapro i2c_core shpchp pci_hotplug via_agp agpgart ext3 jbd mbcache sg sd_mod pata_acpi pata_via ata_generic 8139cp ehci_hcd uhci_hcd libata usbcore 8139too mii scsi_mod thermal processor fan fbcon tileblit font bitblit softcursor fuse

I'll spare the full dmidecode output but from this information I can determine it has an AMI Bios version 8.14 released on 03/28/2008. The CPU is listed with, amusingly, Family "out of spec" and 128K L1 parity cache and 128K L2 ECC cache. A single soldered 512MB Dimm.

I'm still surprised at just how well it matches up to being a standard x86 box, providing all the interfaces you would expect of such a box given its size. Clearly it's never going to be the fastest or have the most memory, but it really does stack up nicely for all but the most intense home serving tasks or gaming. It certainly shows me we can fill most of our computing needs with such a small box and only 8 watts of power. Ubuntu seems no problem for it and it's reported to run Windows XP too. I'll definitely be bearing it in mind next time someone asks me to recommend a box simply for browsing the web, e-mail or a bit of word processing!

<Edit>
Memtest86+ shows the processor as a Via C3 Samuel 2 clocked at 498.7MHz, 128K L1 cache @ 2035MB/s, it doesn't detect L2 cache, and shows 447MB RAM @ 367MB/s.
</Edit>

2 comments:

msims42 said...

Can you run memtest+ on the motherboard and post the MB/sec value shown for the memory speed? Shared memory usually kills memory performance and PC133 memory is already slow by current standards. My ancient Via 533MHz C3 motherboard only clock at 144MB/sec with 512MB PC133 thru the PLE133 chipset. It runs a Mythtv frontend for standard definition TV and works without problems although the menus are slow to come up. Its about to be retired from use as it can't do hi-def .

Graham White said...

msims42: I've added the information to the main blog post...

Memtest86+ shows the processor as a Via C3 Samuel 2 clocked at 498.7MHz, 128K L1 cache @ 2035MB/s, it doesn't detect L2 cache, and shows 447MB RAM @ 367MB/s.