ThinCan + LinuxBIOS = cool LTSP hardware

At the dayjob, we're currently clearing our warehouse of previous hardware to make room for upcoming new models, so here's a shameless plug for those who want cool Linux hardware at a discount:

ThinCan DBE60

Hardware: AMD Geode SC2200, 64MB RAM, 32MB DiskOnChip Flash, 3x USB 1.1 ports, 1/8" audio out, Centronics port, VGA port, 10/100baseT network port.

Firmware: Etherboot or WinCE 4.1 RDP client.

Price: 50 EUR/each - less shipping costs - Minimum order: 10 pieces.

PS: we also have about 50 pieces of DBE60 motherboards (without case) that can be used as embedded controllers. People with good soldering skills can add a CompactFlash socket to the unpopulated pads, as desired.

ThinCan DBE61C

Hardware: AMD Geode LX700 with CS5536 companion chip, 256MB RAM, 4x USB 2.0 ports, 1/8" audio in and out, VGA port, 10/100baseT network port.

Firmware: Etherboot on LinuxBIOS. Supported natively since Ubuntu/Gutsy.

Price: 150 EUR/each - less shipping costs - Minimum order: 2 pieces.

Interested parties can contact us via the request form.

Re: xf86-video-amd: patched xserver-xorg-core available

I previously wrote that:

The next step is to produce patches against the X server 1.4 in Debian/Sid and Ubuntu/Hardy, and then get the fix merged into the upstream X.org tree before X server 1.5 is released.

Good news: Bryce Harrington produced patched X server 1.4 packages for Ubuntu/Hardy!

The LTSP and OLPC communities are hereby invited to test this ASAP. If nothing major is reported, this will be become the standard X server 1.4 for the Ubuntu/Hardy LTS release, following which the patch will also be merged into Debian/Sid.


xf86-video-amd: patched xserver-xorg-core available

Great news: After several weeks of investigating, Bart finally figured out what made the driver for the AMD Geode GX/LX chipset fail on recent X.org servers: it turns out that, starting with X server 1.3, changes under the hood took place that affect a number of products booting off a General Software BIOS, making the whole hardware freeze as soon as a DDC probe is attempted. Bart promptly produced two patches against the x86emu component of X server 1.3 that fix the issue. Hurray!

Ubuntu/Gutsy packages of the patched X server 1.3, plus current AMD drivers, are available in my PPA.

For Debian/Lenny, the same packages compile from Ubuntu sources as-is. Meanwhile, those of you running Debian/Etch only need to compile the Ubuntu sources for the above AMD driver against the X server 1.1 available in Etch.

This should finally allow people developing distributions for LTSP or for the OLPC to use standard Debian packages.

The next step is to produce patches against the X server 1.4 in Debian/Sid and Ubuntu/Hardy, and then get the fix merged into the upstream X.org tree before X server 1.5 is released. We're already working on it, but help is always welcome.


xf86-video-amd from OLPC not for public consumption

Holger reported in his blog that he uploaded a backport of the AMD Geode GX/LX X.org module to Debian. He also points out that what he has backported is from a non-Debian source. In case it wasn't obvious to him, there are good reasons why the official Debian module is not from the OLPC branch: the OLPC branch includes OLPC-only code that breaks operation for non-OLPC hardware. This means that the backport package is completely useless for the vast majority of GX/LX hardware on the market. Well done, Holger!


Hunting for a new laptop (part 2)

Earlier, I had reported on my quest for a new laptop. To recap, I had narrowed down my choice to an LG model whose 12.1" 1280x800 WXGA display and ATI Mobility Radeon X1250 graphic chip failed to be recognized by the Ubuntu CD. Back then, my initial tests were performed using a Feisty CD. Since then, I have returned with a Gutsy CD and got equally disappointing results: E: screen found, but none offers a usable configuration.

Some people suggested buying a laptop with an all-Intel chipset. While Intel chipsets are indeed the best-supported in the business, largely because Intel invests its own resources into coding Linux drivers for all of its products, products based on Intel chipsets tend to be double the price of those based on VIA motherboards with ATI graphic chips. Seeing how quickly hardware devaluates on the market, it feels rather unjustified to pay such a fortune for an Intel-based product, only to see its market value cut in half less than a year later.

Here's a tip for AMD/ATI marketroids: invest as much resources into coding GPL kernel and X.org drivers for all of your products as you did for the OLPC project and always do so a good 12 months before entry to market. Otherwise, prepare for bankruptcy, because companies like Intel who don't shun the Linux market will eat you alive.

Me goes back laptop hunting...