Tranquil T1 computer and Yoper Linux.

While attempting to install GNU/Linux on a Tranquil T1 computer a number of problems were encountered.

The Tranquil T1 is a low profile computer chassis that incorporates a M10000 motherboard fitted with a VIA C3 “Nehemiah” processor and VIA chipset. Its name is derived from the fact that the computer has no fans and therefore, apart from any noise from the optical drive or hard disk drive, it is essentially silent in operation ... bliss.

Content revision history:
First draft deployed, 25th October 2004

Computer hardware

The computer arrived with a 1 GHz C3 processor, 128 MB of RAM, 40 GB hard disk, DVD reader, plug-in modem card, onboard six-channel audio, 100Mb/s ethernet, serial port, parallel port, two firewire ports and four USB ports.

Penguin standing in blue glow from Tranquil T1 computer
A Tranquil computer doesn't get very hot but its still not as cool as the Antarctic ice.

This particular article discusses the installation of the Yoper Linux distribution. There are other articles on this web site that describe the installation of other GNU/Linux distributions on this machine: Linux and the Tranquil T1.

Conundrums

Interference on the audio signal

With the system hooked up to a power amplifier and audio loudspeakers, it was found that the system would produce an electronic background “tinkling” noise that was particularly evident whenever the system was not idling. Disconnecting the CD audio cable removed the bulk of this noise but meant that it was necessary to play CDs as a digital device rather than a simple analogue one.

Case screws

Really, I probably shouldn't mention this since it has nothing to do with GNU/Linux but then again it was a major cause of frustration — the problem was simply that whoever fastened the case during manufacture had apparently set the torque on their powered screwdriver to a much too high torque setting and had driven many of the lid screws in so hard that it simply wasn't possible to undo them with the supplied Allen key; instead all that would happen is that the screw head would eventually distort and the Allen key would rotate uselessly. Eventually I had to mount the computer onto my handy milling machine and use a 3mm end-mill to cut the screw heads away. Having cut through most of the head, it was possible to lift the lid clear and then it was possible to grip the remaining tiny portion of the screw head with some micro pliers and gently unscrew the shaft from the hole, thus leaving the thread within the case clean and reusable. Sadly most people aren't going to have a milling machine handy so, if this happens to you, I wish you good luck.

Installation of the Yoper Linux 2.1.0-4 distribution

Preliminary steps

An ISO disk image file was downloaded from the YoperLinux website.

The name of the disk image file was “yos-i686-2.1.0-4.iso” and it was used to create a bootable CD. The computer booted from the CD without problem and loaded an initial Linux system into memory. The initial splash screen, shown immediately after boot, was completely distorted but pressing the enter key started the the installation process.

The installation process was not trouble free. In fact it took three attempts at installation before a successful combination of parameters was found. The installation process displayed several error messages at various times but these remained on view for only a fraction of a second each time and thus it was impossible to read them and thereby gain some understanding of what was happening.

Disk partitioning

The disk partitioning was performed using the graphical partitioning tool. The partitioning software was easy to use and performed exactly as it was expected to perform. The computer already had another operating system installed and it was desired that this should remain. Three partitions were therefore created and these were:

  • /dev/hdb6 for use as the swap partition.
  • /dev/hdb7 for use as the root partition.
  • /dev/hdb8 for use as the home partition.

It is worth noticing that the hard disk is connected as the primary slave IDE device hence the hdb designation rather than hda. On the Tranquil T1 computer hda, the primary master IDE device, is the optical drive. This becomes significant later when modifying the boot load configuration file.

The root and home partitions were created with the ReiserFS file system.

Subsequent steps

The transfer of the files from the installation CD to the hard disk drive took about 12 minutes. During this time the screen displayed only a message requesting the user to be patient and there was no progress indicator of any sort.

The network settings was configured with explicit values for the IP address, gateway, netmask and nameserver. The option of using DHCP was offered but was not used because it was not appropriate for the situation in which the computer was to be deployed.

A name was specified for a default user and passwords were allocated for this user and also for the root user.

The installation program was instructed to load the boot loader (lilo) onto /dev/hdb

After the installation was complete the system was rebooted. The boot loader menu did not offer the option of booting the previously installed operating system but only offered the Yoper Linux system. Consequently it was necessary to boot into Yoper Linux and then modify the lilo.conf file.

Modifying the lilo.conf file

Once the boot process was complete the standard KDE login panel was shown and from this the root user was logged in. The “Kate” text editor (the icon was on the desktop) was used to edit the lilo.conf file and the resulting file is shown below:

prompt
timeout=60
default=Win98
vga=791
boot=/dev/hdb

lba32

bitmap             = /boot/yoper_boot.bmp
bmp-colors         = 1,,0,2,,0
bmp-table          = 120p,173p,1,15,17
bmp-timer          = 254p,432p,1,0,0

# Yoper Linux
image=/boot/yos
label=YOS
        read-only
        root=/dev/hdb7
append = "splash=silent "
initrd=/boot/initrd-2.6.8.1-3.img

# Windows 98
other=/dev/hdb1
label=Win98
table=/dev/hdb

# After editing this file it is necessary to
# run "lilo" to make the changes effective.

After making these changes and saving the file it was necessary to run the lilo program in order to make the changes effective. Thereafter the boot loader menu offered the choice of both Yoper Linux and the other operating system.

Tranquil T1 glowing in the dark.

Having attained a working installation, a normal user was logged in and a DVD popped into the DVD drive. It started to play but then began to skip frames and the audio became erratic. The vidoe symptoms might indicate that the correct drivers for the VIA chip set have not been installed or used since the chipset includes a hardware MPEG decoder and is should never need to skip frames. The erratic audio might be the result of the CPU spending too much time attempting to decode the video in software instead of using the hardware.

The system refused to make an nfs connection to a local file server but that might have been because the file server was running with moderately old software (SuSE 8.1). However it was possible to use the Konqueror and the Yoper control panel to connect to the file server via a samba share (the file server in question was operating both as an nfs server and as a Samba server).

The Opera web browser was installed directly from an rpm package file on the file server. This was achieved by highlighting the file in a Konqueror window and clicking on it, whereupon Konqueror offered the opportunity to install it. The Opera icon didn't appear immediately on the desktop but was incorporated into the KDE menus.

Summary

It is possible to install Yoper Linux 2.1.0-4 onto a Tranquil T1 computer but the default installation does not take advantage of the T1's special audio and video hardware and thus performance is less than optimum. Further research might yield a suitable set of drivers for the T1's chipsets in order that all of the computer's features can be properly used and enjoyed.

Links

TranquilPC
The manufacturers of the computer hardware mentioned in this article.
Yoper Linux
The web site for the Yoper Linux distribution.
Via
ViaArena
Opera web browser software
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