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Mini-ITX based Home Server: Hardware Review //at 18:23 //by abe

from the the-waiting-has-an-end dept.

Mostly for my backups needs, I planned a Mini-ITX based home server around the Chenbro ES34069 Mini-ITX case which features four hot-swap S-ATA bays. I wanted a low-consumption motherboard and CPU in there (not only because of the default 120W power supply) and since low-consumption mainboards with 4 S-ATA connectors are quite seldom I’ve chosen the not so cheap VIA EPIA SN18000G mainboard with actively cooled 1.8 GHz VIA C7 processor and a maximum power consumption of less than 30W (including CPU).

Waiting for delivery

While the Chenbro ES34069 case I ordered at digitec “only” needed a few weeks to deliver, the VIA EPIA SN18000G mainboard from Brack took over eleven weeks to deliver, it finally has been delivered on Wednesday, 5th of November 2008.

I initially ordered the VIA board for CHF 324, now it’s at CHF 397 (without rebate even at CHF 439) because Brack seems to have had a lot of hassles to get some of them at all. Although they usually sell for the prices at the time they ship the hardware (market price), they sold it to me at their purchase price, so it became only about CHF 15 more expensive than when I ordered. And since the RAM price dropped by one third during those eleven weeks, the whole order became about CHF 25 cheaper, the order was CHF 10 cheaper overall than when ordered. :-) (Still waiting for the according voucher, though.)

So I’ve joined the two main components together, installed Debian Lenny on it, crammed four 400 GB Samsung S-ATA disks (formerly in a TheCus N4100) and the 160 GB 2.5” harddisk from my MicroClient JrSX (I never really used it in there, it always runs from CF card) into it, created a software RAID-5 and now fill it with music, games and backups.

But not everything was as easy as it sounds above. Although Chenbro lists the VIA EPIA SN18000G as officially compatible mainboard for the ES34069, not everything really fitted as expected. So here’s my review of this hardware combination.

Chenbro ES34069

It’s really awesome how much features you can stuff in such a small case. Of course it’s not as small as a thin client case or the mCubed HFX micro case, but it’s smaller than most book-size cases like the ASUS Pundits, just a little bit thicker.

Inside the case (laying on its left side) there are two decks. The lower deck contains the 3.5” hot-swappable S-ATA harddisk bays, the internal part of the power supply and the two fans for cooling the interal power supply components and the disks. The upper deck has space for the mainboard, a 2.5” harddisk, a slim-line optical drive slot and all the front-panel stuff (card reader, LEDs, USB sockets).

Both decks are divided in two section. The front section belongs to the case itself and the back section containing the mainboard mount points and the two fans can be easily unplugged after removing four screws and keeping an eye on the cables from the lower to the upper deck. That way the mainboard can be mounted very easily. So far a very convincing design.

To mount the 2.5 harddisk in between the mainboard and the front panel, it’s not really necessary, but convenient to remove the slim-line optical drive slot, since you then have better access to the harddisk’s IDE socket. To remove the slot, you need to remove the front cover. That sounded easier than it actually was and I nearly broke of one its catches. :-/

Although all parts of the case seems to fitting very well together, the bays for the hot-swappable drives weren’t perfect: The drive slots not always connected even if the latch iss already closed. This was definitely better with the TheCus N4100. Additionally the bays seem to be made for slightly larger disks, so mine had play and the screws pressed the it together and you need to take care that the screws don’t cant.

A big positive point of the case was that there were all necessary screws included and they were fitting. This was a bigger problem with the TheCus N4100, since many harddisks ship with their own screws, but those are seldom the needed flat-head ones.

Even a P-ATA to slim-line optical drive adapter was included, so I don’t need to buy one. (Would have costed CHF 42 at digitec.)


While it’s surely not the most performant board out there, I’m quite satisfied with its performance. I installed BackupPC 3.1.0 as backup system on it and it works like a charm. It daily backs up up to 14 machines over ssh tunnels – more to come) and is way more performant than expected. But I probably had very low expectations due to everyone arguing about the bad performance of the VIA C7. ;-)

Not nice, but known is the problem that most (but not all) USB connectors on the SN mainboard have 2.00mm pitch while all the case’s plugs have 2.54mm pitch. Apropriate adaptors are available from Thanks to Akim for this tip!

Power consumption

I hoped to get more details into this posting, e.g. measured power consumption, etc. But then I recently read in the c’t magazine how inexact my watt meter (from Brennenstuhl) is, so its values would probably bring more confusion than help. Additionally I don’t feel like powering down the server just for measurement.


I got quite a few mails with hints to further Mini-ITX boards and TDP but also with questions about the case. I hope that this blog post asnwers some of the questions also for other readers. Thanks to all who replied to my initial blog post about my Chenbro/VIA based home server, either by mail, or comment, or both. :-)

Further plans

For deploying music to my other computers I tried both, mediatomb and gmediaserver but none really convinced me. Currently I just mount the media directory using the FUSE and ssh based sshfs. Not sure if I’ll add NFS due to it’s user base syncing hell.

Further plans are an HTTP proxy with ad filtering and caching capabilities, it’ll be Privoxy combined with either Squid or Polipo. Maybe even a Tor SOCKS proxy.


First experiences with Debian on the OpenMoko FreeRunner //at 00:40 //by abe

from the DIY dept.

I ogled with an OpenMoko FreeRunner since Harald König (of fame)’s OpenMoko talk at last year. I knew that a team around Luca Capello and Joachim Breitner managed to get Debian running on it.

So when Venty told me that harzi wants to sell his nearly unused FreeRunner, I couldn’t resist and bought it just a few days later.

I played around a little bit with the two distributions which were already installed, AFAIK the original 2007.2 and a version of Qtopia. Called Venty with the Qtopia to prove him that you indeed can make phone calls with this phone, but he wasn’t pleased by the echo he heard of his own voice.

Since the included 512 MB microSD card surely is too small for a large Debian installation, I bought an additional 8 GB microSDHC card at digitec and then installed Debian on it.

The installation mostly went smooth: Partitioning threw a timeout error which didn’t cause any further harm than aborting once. A bigger problem was that the hint that you need to update the U-Boot bootloader itself and not only its configuration (called environement) to get it booting from ext2 partitions. lindi (Timo Lindfors) on #openmoko-debian (on Freenode) was of great help spotting the small details hidden in continuous text.

After having Debian booting I installed all software I wanted to play around on a mobile phone including a bunch of web browsers. But since I ran into a bug which occurs after a non-deterministic amount of data is written to a big microSD card, I quickly got annoyed by the fact that I had to wait for the 8 GB fsck each time this bug was triggered.

So I converted the root file system to ext3 by adding a journal. But whatever I did (reinstalling U-Boot, the U-Boot environement, regenerating the U-Boot environement from scratch, trying to load it as ext2 again, etc.) I didn’t get it to work anymore.

On #openmoko on Freenode, PaulFertser was trying to convince me that Qi is the better choice of a bootloader. Although its description didn’t appeal to me at all, I understand that U-Boot seems a maintainability hell and that a more simplicistic approach can have its advantages. But there was feature listed on the Qi wiki page which made me try it: explicit ext3 support.

After creating the appropriate configuration files and symbolic links in /boot/boot and flashing Qi over the U-Boot in the NAND flash, Debian booted again without problems and with a journaling file system. :-)

In the meantime I found a setup which suites my tastes:

  • Matchbox stays my window manager, but I enabled the cursor which is very useful if you want to remote control you OpenMoko with synergy. I installed unclutter to automatically hide the cursor after a few seconds, so I see it when it moves, but it goes out of the way when not needed.
  • Like on my EeePC, I replaced trayer with lxpanel, because it also provides access to the Debian menu system.
  • The best compromise in rendering quality and resource usage is still NetSurf. So that’s my browser on the OpenMoko.

Next step will be to move daily usage from root to an unprivileged user.

As soon as that’s done, I’ll try to get Tablet Amora aka Tamora working on the OpenMoko, too. Currently it only runs on Nokia’s Linux based internet tablets (N800, N810, etc.).

Update, 17:54

To answer Joachim’s question in the comment: I don’t plan to use it as daily phone, but it may replace my old Nokia 6310i where currently my German mobile phone SIM card resides in. Use it mainly to have a cheap way to make phone calls inside Germany.


MicroClient Sr. //at 01:16 //by abe

from the *WANT* dept.

About a year ago, I bought a Norhtec MicroClient Jr., a complete 200 MHz MMX-compatible SoC (“Vortex86”) PC so small that it fits into your hand or onto VESA mountings. Althought thought as thin client, the machine has 128 MB RAM and runs Debian from either netboot, USB stick, CF card or 2.5” harddisk without problems and not even that slow.

Later last year, we needed more MicroClient Jrs. at work and since the MicroClient JrSX had a 300 MHz 486SX-compatible SoC processor (“Vortex86SX”) from MSTi and 128 MB DDR RAM instead of SD RAM, we expected them at least in the same performance range and bought a few for ETH and I also bought one for myself. Well, they were about three times slower, since the FPU is missing, not all programs from Debian Etch work fine, e.g. X doesn’t work without patching and recompiling (with Sid, X works, but not the kernel anymore – Update, 26-Jul-2008: See #454776 for a solution for this problem)…

BTW: I had both machines with me at FOSDEM ‘08 at the Debian booth and the MMX-compatible machine also at Chemnitzer Linux-Tage (CLT) at the Symlink booth and in Kurt Gramlich’s talk about ecological computers. So if you saw them there, just imagine the same case, with a twice to three times faster CPU and four times the amount of RAM, but with roughly the same carbon foot-print!

For our thin client purposes at work we now use ALIX boards from PC Engines (Mini-ITX format) with 500 MHz AMD Geode processors. They’re much faster than the MicroClient Jr. and need even less power.

Today, while surfing around on some Mini-ITX shops, I found some computer in obviously MicroClient Jr. case, but with 500 MHz VIA Eden processor and 512 MB of RAM. I first couldn’t believe it. They are selling it as eTC-2500. Since eTC-2300 was one of the brandings of the MicroClient Jr. which is called eBox-2300 officially by the manufacturer DM&P, I searched for eBox-2500, but didn’t find anything useful. Then I looked at the manufacturer’s product page at and found the eBox-4300 — so it’s really true, they managed to fit a board with 500 MHz VIA processor and half a Gig of RAM into the already fscking small space inside the MicroClient Jr. case, and even without needing more power: Still 15W from the power adaptor. Next stop was Norhtec’s Website. And yes, they also have a new MicroClient product: The MicroClient Sr.. I really need to have one of those for my MicroClient collection! ;-)


Debian and GPRS with the Nokia E51 //at 01:33 //by abe

from the written-via-GPRS-just-because-I-can dept.

A while ago I wanted to have internet over GPRS (either EDGE or UMTS) via my Nokia E51 working before I leave for the weekend. But whatever I tried, I always got an ERROR if I sent any AT command. Even ATZ and ATH resulted in errors. So started googling for all components: I found AT commands which are said to work with the Nokia E51, I found AT commands which are said to work with Swisscom GPRS and I found many sites describing how to setup a bluetooth modem.

But since the even those AT commands which should work with both, Swisscom GPRS and Nokia E51 didn’t work at all, I noticed that all the Nokia E51 howtos were using the USB cable. So I tried that, too, and it worked immediately. It looks very strange to me that the set of AT commands is dependend on which way you connect to the phone. :-/

So here’s my working PPP config:

connect "/usr/sbin/chat -e -f /etc/chatscripts/swisscom-gprs"
user "guest"
bsdcomp 0,0
lcp-echo-failure 10000
lcp-echo-interval 1000
asyncmap 0
and the chat script (/etc/chatscripts/swisscom-gprs):
'' \nAT
OK ATD*99#

So I have now four levels of mobile computing available:

Fixing servers while sitting on a park bench at Schanzengraben
  • Nokia E51 with T9 and phone keyboard (for short texts)
  • Nokia E51 with Nokia SU-8W bluetooth keyboard (for longer texts and emergencies, see photo on the right)
  • ASUS EeePC (7", 630 MHz Celeron, 2GB RAM, 4GB SSD) with Nokia E51 as modem (complete computer, but still small, portable and nearly always with me)
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (14" wide screen, 2.2 GHz Core2Duo, 4GB RAM, 160 GB SATA Disk) with Nokia E51 as modem (complete computer with power and disk space)

Should suffice in nearly all situations. ;-)


One month with Debian Lenny on the EeePC //at 19:15 //by abe

from the small-is-beautiful dept.

I ogled with an ASUS EeePC since it was announced, but didn’t want to order one abroad. So I waited until they became available in Switzerland. Digitec is the official EeePC importer for Switzerland and seeems also to be the moving power for yet to come the Swiss localisation of the EeePC. But initially they only offered imported EeePCs with German keyboard layout, but since I really got used to the US layout, I didn’t want to buy ay new laptops or keyboards with German layout.

When asking them about US layouts they told me they won’t import from the US and that their competitor Steg Computer is importing US models. But I wasn’t comfortable with Steg and EeePCs also were more expensive there, so I hesitated ordering at Steg.

So it was quite unexpected for me when US models showed up on digitec’s website. (Interestingly I never received any mail from their advertised EeePC newsletter, not even when they added 2G models t their repertoire.)

So at the end of March (and therefore later as most other geeks ;-) I ordered an ASUS EeePC at digitec. For me, white laptops look like Macs (and Macs are for sissies or masochists ;-) — so I had no problems to decide that I want a black EeePC with US keyboard layout. 2G was to small for my purposes (and also not that much cheaper) and 8G not available. So I went with the 4G, since Debian doesn’t need so much space if you choose the right packages (i.e. neither or at least not that much of GNOME or KDE ;-). I preferred the 4G over the 4G Surf because of the bigger battery capacity (and not because of the webcam which I consider funny but useless:-).

Initially the delivery date was set the 28th of March. Then it was subsequently set to “beginning of April”, “mid of April”, “end of April” and “beginning of May”. It finally arrived on 8th of May. In the meanwhile there were reports that even the 4G has been equipped with the smaller battery of the 4G Surf because of some battery shortage after some battery plant burnt down. But fortunately the delivery problems with black 4G US models doesn’t seem to have its reason there and my 4G has a 5200 mAh battery (at least according to its label and ACPI).

I also ordered a 2 GB bar of Corsair ValueSelect RAM so that I can pump up the RAM of my EeePC by factor four (for about 10% of the price of the EeePC itself) resulting in having half as much RAM as disk space. Well, I guess, I won’t do suspend to disk in that configuration… ;-)

The original Xandros based Linux only noticed 1 GB of the installed 2 GB as already noted on many other places in the web. But that doesn’t really matter, since it only lasted until I found out how to restore it from DVD in case I want to sell the EeePC later (e.g. for getting the successor). It’s fine for novices, but Linuxes feel strange if you can’t even get a console or a terminal with a command line. ;-)

The Debian EeePC installer worked fine except that it argued over a checksum error on our mirror which wasn’t reproducable after the installation anymore. I’ve chosen the EeePC to be my first (nearly) pure Lenny installation — compared to the three machines running Sid (i386, amd64 and kfreebsd-i386). It though has a few packages from experimental (mostly xulrunner-1.9) installed.

As window managers I have installed ratpoison, FLWM and FVWM. ratpoison — best described as screen for X (although you can’t detach and reattach) since it’s my personal preferences for being productive without big screen resolutions and flwm for a low-resource window manager which can be used intuitivly by both, geeks and non-geeks (and still doesn’t look like Windows at all ;-). And FVWM is installed because it’s my default window manager on all machines with bigger or multiple screens – to be able to compare it with my usual environment.

As web browser I’ve got Opera as primary browser (as everywhere else, too) and Conkeror (the EeePC is the test-case for upcoming Debian package of Conkeror) as well as links2 and lynx on the (nearly) text-only side on it, although I need them seldomly.

As office programs (as I would ever need some ;-) I’ve got AbiWord and Gnumeric installed since I already use a few GNOME applications (e.g. Network Manager, Twitux, etc.) and would take up 170 MB more disk space (then including OOo Draw and OOo Impress) and Siag Office is no more in Debian since years. (Initially I had installed instead of AbiWord and Gnumeric until I noticed that I need some of the GNOME libraries anyway.)

I also decided that I will need LaTeX then and when so TeX Live also got its chunk of the 4 GB of disk space.

I also have a bunch of games on the EeePC. Unfortunately there are a few games which don’t work well on the EeePC due to it’s resolution being smaller than 800x600, so I deinstalled them already again, e.g. I can’t play Cuyo on the EeePC but flobopuyo. Sauerbraten segfaults, but Doom (prboom with freedoom WADs) works fine. Further non-working games unfortunately include Battle of Wesnoth and XFrisk.

Still, although quite some parts of GNOME and GNOME Office, TeX Live, ScummVM with Flight of the Amazon Queen and Beneath a Steel Sky, GNU Emacs 22, Iceweasel 3 (aka Mozilla Firefox 3), Icedove (aka Mozilla Thunderbird) and the Iceowl (aka Mozilla Sunbird) are installed, only 2.3 GB of the available hard disk space are used by the installation (i.e. without my home directory).

Oh, and btw: Although except the very compact and a little bit wobbly keyboard the EeePC doesn’t feel really small to me (I’ve got quite small hands), but when I sat down in front of my 14” ThinkPad T61 after a day or two with EeePC, the T61, — especially screen and keyboard — felt huge as if it would be some 17” or even bigger notebook. ;-)

ThinkPad vs EeePC ThinkPad vs EeePC ThinkPad vs EeePC ThinkPad vs EeePC

OTOH I still think that a 1920×1200 (which means nearly four xterms in a row) resolution on a 14” notebook would be a good idea, especially compared to the 1440×900 (which means nearly three xterms in a row) my T61 has. ;-)

Personal Resumée after one month

Pro EeePC
  • It’s geeky. If you show up with it, people want to lift it to see how much it weights and try the tiny keyboard. They’re surprised that 800x480 aren’t that small and that the performance isn’t that bad.
  • Very compact and robust. With the T61 I always fear that its edges are too close to the the outside of my backpack and could be damaged that way.
  • The price of course: CHF 499 at digitec (plus CHF 54 for the 2 GB RAM)
  • Runs Linux ex factory. So yu don’t have to expect that many driver hassles.
  • RAM upgrades are very straight forward and do not void the warranty. (BTW: The sticker over one of the screws which probably should prove the integrity can be removed and placed again easily… :-)
  • The weight. 0.92 kg can be easily held wit one hand, also because of less leverage effect as with full-size laptops.
  • The SSD despite it’s size. Being such lightweight you accelerate the EeePC unmindfully even when it runs. But it doesn’t matter, at least not to the hard disk. And it boots very fast, especially after the usage of insserv.
  • Intergrated Ethernet network interface. (Hey, the MacBook Air hasn’t a builtin one, not even an external shipped with it! ;-)
  • Three USB sockets (the MacBook Air has only one which is usually taken for the Ethernet network adaptor — Ok, with the EeePC usually one is taken for the Bluetooth dongle, but then are still two sockets left… ;-)
  • Great contrast on the builtin screen.
  • External VGA output. You have to configure to make the virtual screen big enough (e.g. 2048×2048 instead of the default 800×800).
  • Despite its size quite a lot of space for modifications inside the case. Especially a bluetooth case mode should be no big deal.
Contra EeePC
  • The keyboard: keys smaller than usually (ok, wouldn’t work otherwise ;-), very wobbly, no precise contact depth (pressing Shift and Fn with one finger often doesn’t press Fn right), not all keys on the same plane, unusual offsets between the key rows (the number row has about half a key width offset to the left) or position of keys (I often hit Ins when I want Home, Del when I want Backspace or Fn when I want Ctrl, the ~ key is between Esc and F1, Up is between Slash and Right Shift, etc.)
  • The position of the power button: It’s exactly where I want to put thumb when holding the EeePC solely with the right hand. And yes, I already accidentially switch it off several times because of that. For luck the button doesn’t work at all when the lid is closed, because you still can reach it easily while it’s closed.
  • The mouse button(s): It only has two buttons which are one part you can press more to the left and more to the right side. And if you press it in the middle you randomly get either a left or a right click. You have to press it very hard to get both clicks at the same time. (e.g. to emulate a third middle button). Three separated mouse buttons would have been way better.
  • It has (only) a touchpad. I definitely prefer thumbsticks as the ThinkPads have, but got used to it, though. I have seen worse touchpads, too.
  • The noisy and not very precisely beared fan, which seems to strife its environment when the EeePC is being accelerated. Whih happens quite often because of its size and weight and because the SSD doesn’t mind acceleration. The fan does mind – and you hear it. :-(
  • Some programs need minimum 800x600 resolution to work well.
Pro ThinkPad (in direct comparision)
  • Thumbstick.
  • One of the best laptop keyboards around.
  • Three easy to distinguish mouse buttons.
  • Even ressource-hungry programs like Liferea work fine.
  • Quite big screen resolution (1440×900).
  • Bigger battery, space for additional batteries.
  • Could be a workstation replacement.
Pro Lenny on the EeePC
  • The installer image of the Debian EeePC Project works out of the box. All necessary drivers are available, if you include the non-free repositories and the repositories.
  • Stable enough for daily use. (IMHO Debian Testing – and even Debian Unstable – is more stable as many other distribution’s stable releases, e.g. those from SuSE.)
Con Lenny on the EeePC
  • My favourite feed reader Liferea has changed its cache format since the version in Debian Etch, so I can’t sync Liferea caches between my Debian Etch running T61 and the Testing running EeePC. Well, fortunately the version of Liferea in Debian Etch still works on Debian Lenny, so I just downgraded the package to the version from Etch and set it on hold. I don’t use it on the EeePC though since it needs way too long to start (about 10 to 15 minutes compared to 1 to 3 minutes on the T61)

I’m very happy with the EeePC and I didn’t expect that it would replace my 14” ThinkPad in so many (but still not all) situations. :-)


Harddisk prices gone mad //at 17:47 //by abe

from the I-never-understood-business-math dept.

Cut and paste from Brack’s SATA harddisk pricelist:

Samsung SpinPoint S166,  HDD,  80GB, 7200rpm, 8.9ms,  8MB Cache, SATA II NCQ, OEM, 3.5'', SAH-HD082GJ   CHF  53.00
Samsung SpinPoint S250,  HDD, 250GB, 7200rpm, 8.9ms,  8MB Cache, SATA-II NCQ, OEM, 3.5'', SAH-HD250HJ   CHF  64.00
Samsung SpinPoint T166s, HDD, 400GB, 7200rpm, 8.9ms, 16MB Cache, SATA-II NCQ, OEM, 3.5'', SAH-HD403LJ   CHF 109.00
Samsung SpinPoint T166s, HDD, 500GB, 7200rpm, 8.9ms, 16MB Cache, SATA-II NCQ, OEM, 3.5'', SAH-HD501LJ   CHF 101.00

So from 80 GB to 250 GB the price difference is less than CHF 10 and 500 GB harddisks are cheaper than 400 GB harddisks of the same type? We live in a strange world.

And no, none of this harddisks is marked as special price or promotion.

Oh and for all those not having CHF as your daily currency:


(Rates from


IrDA and Sound on the IBM ThinkPad 760ED //at 04:19 //by abe

from the Toy-Story dept.

Since I currently have Debian Sarge and a quite actual kernel ( successfully running on my 10 years old Pentium-1-ThinkPad bijou, I today thought I could see, if I get the builtin infrared port working.

Since lspci and lshw didn’t help much to find out the details about the IR port, I looked at Werner Heuser’s tuxmobil for such information. And I was right: tuxmobil listed all the necessary informations:

It’s an internal serial port infrared device on /dev/ttyS0 working without any special driver. It seems to only need the kernel modules irda, sir_dev and irtty_sir as well as probably also the Debian package irda-utils.

I could immediately play around with gnokii after configuring it ot use the right serial port and the right drivers for my Nokia 6310i. Also sending SMS via xgnokii worked.

It was funny to be able to play ringtones on the phone by clicking around on a virtual piano keyboard.

Inebriated by the success with IrDA, I decided to go on and try myself with the notorious Mwave DSP sound and modem card, which came with some of the ThinkPad 760 versions including my ED version.

This didn’t start as easy as IrDA since tuxmobil this time writes: But MWave and some other sound technologies won’t work or are very hard to get working, e.g. booting to DOS, loading a driver, then using the soundcard as a standard SB-PRO. So you might need a commercial sound driver.

Well, I too often noticed that negative information about hardware support in Linux found on the net with a search engine often is outdated and the formerly badly missed hardware support is available nowadays.

So even not giving up on a 404 for a promising site, I found the no more existing webpage of the Mwave Project for Linux in the WayBack Archive. There I found a still working link to Thomas Hood’s Debian GNU/Linux on IBM ThinkPad 600X page which mentions tpctl, the ThinkPad configuration tools for Linux. And happily, they’re included in Sarge as package tpctl. Another link still worked, too: The one to Dale Wick’s Thinkpad under Linux page, which tell’s what I’ve expected: Some of the information on tuxmobil seems to be outdated, although Dave’s page mainly concerns the modem functionality of the Mwave DSP.

So I first installed tpctl on bijou, then tried to compile the ThinkPad kernel modules from package thinkpad-source with my both current kernels, and using make-kpkg. The modules built fine for the 2.4 series kernel, but failed on the two latest 2.6 kernels ( and 2.6.18), I’m mainly running. So I switched over to playing around with the kernel.

The thinkpad modules loaded fine and I get access to a lot of the ThinkPad’s special hardware. But tpctl at least doesn’t work as expected regarding Standby and Suspend: It has no effect while requesting Suspend or Standby using apm still works fine. But nothing to see in direction sound, modem or mwave.

So I had a closer look at documentation around the mwave module. Tried to find out appropriate I/O and IRQ settings for the module, but what I found in the Linux ACP Modem (Mwave) mini-HOWTO didn’t help. The module just didn’t load.

Then I noticed that module seems to need an mwave daemon. A search in the Debian package repository found the package mwavem. No long thinking – installed it. But the installation script gave the same errors when trying to load the module.

man mwavem(8) gave the reason: Only the 3780i chip is supported. Earlier Mwave DSPs, which were used for sound generation as well as modem functionality, are not supported.

Also according to the kernel documentation for the mwave sound module, the only way to get it making some sounds seems to be to boot to DOS, load the Windows 95 drivers, then call loadlin and warm-boot Linux from DOS.

So native Mwave sound on IBM 760 ThinkPads under Linux is really still a dream while the Mwave modem is said to work nowadays.

I will continue my ThinkPad 760 journey with a closer look at the pcspkr driver and at eBay, where I’ll look for another 760 series ThinkPad, but with ESS1688 soundcard and no modem instead of the Mwave DSP, e.g. a 760L, 760LD, 760EL, 760ELD or maybe also a 765L.

But I won’t do that today. It’s already much too late. Should have gone to bed about two hours ago…

Now playing: Auld Lang Syne (monophonic on the phone :-)

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert


I usually don't buy new hardware. Why should I if I get old hardware I can use thrown after me.

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  • Bastian Sick: Der Dativ ist dem Genitiv sein Tod (Teile 1-3)
  • Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: Good Omens (borrowed from Ermel)

Currently Reading

  • Douglas R. Hofstadter: Gödel, Escher, Bach
  • Neil Gaiman: Keine Panik (borrowed from Ermel)

Yet to read

  • Neil Stephenson: Cryptonomicon (borrowed from Ermel)

Always a good snack

  • Wolfgang Stoffels: Lokomotivbau und Dampftechnik (borrowed from Ermel)
  • Beverly Cole: Trains — The Early Years (getty images)