Saturday, February 15, 2014

A-Eon Ubuntu Remix on X1000 - Part 1

Today I wanted to take a look at the recently released Ubuntu Remix DVD released for AmigaOne X1000, available for purchase from AmigaKit.

This is part 1 of a two part blog entry covering this, as I found it would be too long for just one entry.

Here I am looking at using the Ubuntu Remix Live DVD on the X1000. The next part will cover the installation of it to hard disk and more.

I am not a complete Linux newbie, but certainly very very far from a Linux expert. I have been installing and using Linux since 1994 (my University days), when I used to download the old alphabet packages (A, AA, D, K, L, etc) disk image files via 9600 baud modem off the University internet service (anyone still remember these?) to dozens of blank floppy disks.

It used to take so long to download and then to install from floppy disks, with endless disk swapping taking many hours. In those days I was using Slackware Linux on a 386DX-40 and 486DX2-66. For these Linux distributions you had to re-compile the kernel and edit make files every time you wanted to add a new device driver like a sound card, and that required you to then manually configure X Windows video config files through vi before you could use X-Windows. I installed and used Red Hat, SCO Unix and AIX Unix in the 2000's too, all commercial Unix variants.

Fast forward to 2014 and these days I have tried to run Ubuntu and Fedora Linux distributions on laptops, desktops and virtual servers. I build and support Ubuntu 12.04LTS servers running various application services for the company I work for.

The newer Linux distributions are a big improvement over the old slackware and commercial distributions of old - I don't miss having to recompile kernels to listen to music or use X-Windows. However....Linux modern video graphics driver support still sucks on home desktops and laptops. It sucked in 1994 too.

I found for example last year that I couldn't boot the normal Ubuntu Live DVD (not the A-Eon one) on my Core i7 PC with a bog standard modern Geforce GTX680 installed. Plenty of people had the same problem and I had to use the forums to fix it. I found I had to bypass the graphics based startup, do a manual text based install, and then when the installation finished, on reboot break to command prompt before linux loaded, and then modify the boot parameters in GRUB boot loader to not load any graphics modes.

I then had to reboot, and download via the internet from command line the multiple packages for the fixed geforce drivers, apply them via command line and then reconfigure Ubuntu display to use them.

I could then finally get a desktop to work with. I had similar issues with Intel GMA video drivers on the laptops I use for Ubuntu linux - the display would glitch and not display correctly after Ubuntu installation, and the screen would blank out after a few minutes and show nothing until powered off and rebooted...

While typing this I was reminded of the old story someone said on the internet many years ago (I forget where) that if Linux was an airplane, when you checked in at the airport you would be given your airplane seat in a DIY flat pack with installation instructions that were complicated, lengthy and basically incomprehensible to normal people. Once you built it and installed it in the airplane and sat down, it was the most comfortable seat you ever sat in - but tell anyone else about it and they say "you had to do WHAT with the seat??" :-)

Anyway, I digress a bit. I guess Linux fans out there will dismiss me as an inexperienced and dumb linux user, that they would use proper reference hardware, perhaps point to the need to read the Ubuntu hardware compatibility lists and forums for any devices I have installed before trying to install it. Perhaps I did give in too easily on Linux at home, and didn't try enough forum based solutions to fix issues. But seriously, who needs this hassle to install an operating system? Sorry for the small rant but Linux installations generally frustrate me...

For a while now I have quietly watched the complicated installation processes on Amiga NG internet forums for the various Mint, Debian, Lubuntu distributions of Linux on the X1000. I read the various forums troubleshooting many installation problems with it and decided I wanted nothing to do with Linux on the X1000. I had enough bad memories of previous Linux installs. Besides, I bought the X1000 so I could run AmigaOS4.

So this is why I was very nervous about trying this newly released Ubuntu Remix DVD on the X1000.

I then saw the various promises from A-Eon and AmigaKit that this distribution of Ubuntu would be different, designed to be easy to install on the X1000 side by side with AmigaOS4, and included a live DVD to try it out on the X1000 without risk and so I decided I would buy it and give it a go.

In due course I then received my Ubuntu Remix DVD package in the post from AmigaKit:

The Ubuntu Remix package cost around GBP19.99 plus postage, and included the Ubuntu 12.04LTS Live DVD for the X1000, and a single sheet guide to do the Live DVD boot on the X1000 from the CFE (Basically the Bios on the X1000). 

To do the booting of the Live DVD from the X1000, you need to press the 'F' key on boot up when the boot menu appears. You then get the CFE prompt as below (as I have two displays this appears on the Radeon 9250 PCI card):

You then type in the boot command to tell CFE to boot the Linux kernel located on the DVD drive which is batch -fs=iso atapi0.1:bootdvd0.1 as shown below:

Linux then starts booting from the DVD, this process takes a few minutes:

Eventually you are presented with the Ubuntu 12.04LTS Desktop, using the ATI Radeon HD video card and a nice suitably themed AmigaOne X1000 backdrop - very nice:

Here is a zoomed out view showing the X1000 running Ubuntu Remix live DVD:

On the desktop is a shortcut folder that contains the installation instructions, and the icon to start the Ubuntu 12.04LTS installation onto hard disk. I am not ready for that phase just yet (I will do this in Part 2).

First I wanted to take a look at the Live DVD Ubuntu environment, as booted. Below are some screenshots from it (click to expand), starting with the Installation guide PDF:

The installation guide contains some good information about the installation process, although some sections are incorrect at the time of writing (eg. the Amistore is not available yet to download updated kernels).

There are some warnings not to use both of the network ports on the X1000 at the same time under Ubuntu. AmigaOS4 doesn't recognise the onboard network card at the moment (driver is a work in progress), so the PCI network card is the one I am using:

 You do need quite a bit of space to install Ubuntu - as below you need around 8GB to install it. I intend to install a separate 1TB drive in the X1000 for running Ubuntu on the X1000 (more on this later in part 2):

The guide goes on to explain about installation types, partitioning, how to boot the installed Ubuntu from CFE (via USB stick or CF card), etc.

In Ubuntu the dock is on the left hand side of the desktop, and contains pinned regularly used programs, actively open programs and the rubbish bin to delete stuff. In addition the top left Ubuntu icon in the dock provides the ability to search for other installed applications, which you can launch or pin to the dock to save searching for them again.

There is a setting icon on the top menu (right side) which allows you to log out, shutdown and restart.

As a nice touch when shutting down the Ubuntu live DVD it makes sure to eject the DVD and prompts you to press Enter before powering off the X1000.

Below I ran Firefox and noted multiple shortcuts already created for common Amiga related forum websites, A-Eon's website and Trevor's blog (click to expand):

Next I ran Rhythmbox, the Ubuntu Music player included with it, to test play back an MP3 which worked well.

Note that on the Live DVD you can't read the Amiga drives installed in the X1000, so I attached a USB disk with music files on it for testing music and videos:

Next I tried out Libre Office:

Here is the Ubuntu Software Centre, where you can download additional software - most are free, and some are commercial:

If you click the Settings icon on the dock, you can then select Details to see overview information about the X1000 system, showing the 4GB ram (the first time I have seen it as AmigaOS4 only sees 2GB of it!) - interestingly this version of Ubuntu 12.04LTS is the 32bit version:

Displays settings shows just the one display - evidently the other Radeon 9250 card in my X1000 is not detected by the Live DVD and is not used. I had to chuckle that the original name for LG (Goldstar) is used as the manufacturer identifier for the LG monitor:

Unicode support works fine in Linux (unlike AmigaOS4), so displaying filenames with unicode Japanese characters works fine (Click to expand):

However, in my testing, videos do not play at full speed on the live DVD on the X1000, nor anything like full speed. 720p or 1080p videos are played back as static screens updated every 5-10 seconds, with audio stopping also.

Thinking it might be a USB read performance related issue, I tried copying the movie files from USB disk to the music folder, but this made no difference to playback performance on the live DVD. At this point I was a bit disappointed, as this performance is no better than AmigaOS4 MPlayer playback on the X1000. Perhaps it improves when it is installed on hard disk - I will reserve judgement until then.

I then also checked the X1000 Linux Support forums and I ran the glxgears test Trevor suggested to make sure it was using the altivec drivers for playback. You run this from the terminal, which you need to search for via the Ubuntu icon in the dock to run:

The test appears to work correctly, so at the moment I am not sure why 720p/1080p video playback doesn't work well on the live DVD - perhaps it works better when installed on hard disk:

The positive points is that graphics, sound, USB and networking support all worked out of the box with Ubuntu on the Live DVD with no setup needed, and I was able to easily play around with the Ubuntu OS and common applications without affecting my existing AmigaOS4 installation.

Thanks to everyone involved in building and testing this live DVD, as using the Live DVD does make using Ubuntu on the X1000 simple and doesn't affect anything else running on the X1000 to try it out.

Which of course nicely brings me to the next step of installing Ubuntu Remix onto a X1000 hard disk and setting up dual boot capability, etc. I have not done this yet but will shortly!

When I have completed it, I will cover in a separate A-Eon Ubuntu Remix on X1000 - Part 2 entry soon!

1 comment:

    Ubunty is awful slow, use sinaptic to download XLDE (faaast) or KDE (Fast n fancy)