Author Topic: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics  (Read 3983 times)

purps

  • NEEDS to work for LinuxMCE
  • ***
  • Posts: 1371
  • If it ain't broke, tweak it
    • View Profile
DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« on: August 12, 2008, 06:04:31 pm »
Hello All,

I am currently looking at building my own slim client using off-the-self components enclosed in a homemade metal case. Having produced a CAD model of the proposed design, I believe I can get it below 1.75" in thickness (allowing it to be fixed to the wall behind a flat screen TV, completely out of view).

My questions relate to the graphics options of my short-listed motherboards (all from www.icp-epia.co.uk). Could anybody please tell me what is the difference between "VIA UniChromeTM Pro II 3D/2D AGP" graphics, and "VIA UniChrome Pro AGP" graphics? Obviously(?) the latter precedes the former, but what is the difference regarding their support in LinuxMCE, and the quality of playback? I've been looking at these onboard VIA graphics as I read that they were relatively well supported, in much the same way as nVidia graphics; however, I also read that there may be problems due to drivers not being licensed, or something like this? Could anybody please clarify the situation?

Ideally I would want my media directors to work with UI2 alpha blending, but it's not the end of the world if alpha blending has to be turned off to improve playback quality (I have to do this with my nVidia card in my hybrid anyway, due to the dreaded horizontal tearing), although I would not be happy if I had to use the most basic graphics option (UI1).

Any thoughts would be very much appreciated, cheers.
1004 RC :: looking good :: upgraded 01/04/2013
my setup :: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/User:Purps

tschak909

  • LinuxMCE God
  • ****
  • Posts: 5476
  • DOES work for LinuxMCE.
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2008, 06:35:16 pm »
In short, the UniChrome II is updated silicon that adds more powerful OpenGL capabilities to the original UniChrome, as well as improved video playback in higher resolutions....

....however, the driver to run these chips, is not available to mere mortals (read: they are only available to first tier systems builders who sign non-disclosure agreements with VIA), and the drivers themselves are binary-only, and do not provide any source code, so they are tied to specific versions of the Linux kernel.

The best you can expect out of any current VIA solution is literally UI1. Go another route.

-Thom
 

skeptic

  • Addicted
  • *
  • Posts: 615
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2008, 06:52:38 pm »
In short, the UniChrome II is updated silicon that adds more powerful OpenGL capabilities to the original UniChrome, as well as improved video playback in higher resolutions....

....however, the driver to run these chips, is not available to mere mortals (read: they are only available to first tier systems builders who sign non-disclosure agreements with VIA), and the drivers themselves are binary-only, and do not provide any source code, so they are tied to specific versions of the Linux kernel.

The best you can expect out of any current VIA solution is literally UI1. Go another route.

-Thom
 
I gotta say, that sounds like a really dumb idea for VIA to not release an existing driver to people that would otherwise want to buy their product.  The source I can understand, but how many potential customers, myself included, are they cutting out by selling a product to the public but not including the drivers to use it?  They must have some reason right?

BTW, wasn't there some talk about them moving away from the partnership thing and releasing the drivers and possibly source for Linux?  I seem to remember seeing something about this when I first started looking into VIA and decided to just wait it out and use a crappy old laptop until it was settled one way or another.

niz23

  • Guru
  • ****
  • Posts: 361
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #3 on: August 12, 2008, 07:58:11 pm »
skeptic.

BTW, wasn't there some talk about them moving away from the partnership thing and releasing the drivers and possibly source for Linux?  I seem to remember seeing something about this when I first started looking into VIA and decided to just wait it out and use a crappy old laptop until it was settled one way or another.

True. But so far it´s only words. They have not released anything yet.

I suggest you look at the new Intel ATOM solutions for a low power solution.
By looking at the specs they should work and today Andrew posted that they do work with a slight modification to avwizard setup.
Probably modeline to make X work good. I haven´t recieved my Gigabyte motherboard yet so I cannot say for sure.
The difference between Intel atom mb and the gigabyte one is that the latter have surround sound onboard otherwise they are oretty much identical.

/niz23

skeptic

  • Addicted
  • *
  • Posts: 615
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2008, 08:26:37 pm »
Interesting.  How well supported are the on-board graphics on the ATOM boards?  I'm guessing UI2 and mpeg2/4 hardware decoding is too much to ask for...

niz23

  • Guru
  • ****
  • Posts: 361
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2008, 10:40:53 pm »
skeptic.
Interesting.  How well supported are the on-board graphics on the ATOM boards?  I'm guessing UI2 and mpeg2/4 hardware decoding is too much to ask for...

According to Andrew UI2+masking work fine. See http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=5735.0
The card use Intel GMA950 which is a part of the 945 chipset and support upto 1366x768 resolution in this configuration from what I have read. It have hardware mpeg2 decoding. Don´t know about mpeg4. Probably part of the mpeg4 processing can be done in hardware.

See, http://www.intel.com/products/desktop/motherboards/D945GCLF/D945GCLF-overview.htm
and
http://www.intellinuxgraphics.org/documentation.html
and
http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS6489450984.html


/niz23

nite_man

  • NEEDS to work for LinuxMCE
  • ***
  • Posts: 1019
  • Want to work with LinuxMCE
    • View Profile
    • Smart Home Blog
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2008, 11:40:03 am »
I played with ASUS P2-M2A690G (http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/ASUS_P2-M2A690G) a bit. Its integrated ATI RadeonTM 1250 is really cool. It supports UI2 with overlay and 1080p playback with the latest open source drivers. Moreover, the box has sound card to pass audio over HDMI! But as I know it's difficult to do that in Linux. Recently I found information that the latest proprietary drivers for Linux from ATI allow to pass audio over HDMI - http://www2.ati.com/drivers/linux/catalyst_86_linux.html#182029. But I didn't test it yet.

So, as I see ATI cards with HDMI output for A/V are the best choice for MD. They are better even then nVidia IMHO.
Michael Stepanov,
My setup: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/User:Nite_man#New_setup
Russian LinuxMCE community: http://linuxmce.ru

totallymaxed

  • LinuxMCE God
  • ****
  • Posts: 4351
    • View Profile
    • Dianemo - at home with technology
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2008, 12:33:49 pm »

BTW, wasn't there some talk about them moving away from the partnership thing and releasing the drivers and possibly source for Linux?  I seem to remember seeing something about this when I first started looking into VIA and decided to just wait it out and use a crappy old laptop until it was settled one way or another.

True. But so far it´s only words. They have not released anything yet.

Hmmm... well thats not completely correct. Via have release some code since the 'Via goe Open Source' announcement back in April. See here; http://linux.via.com.tw

However the source code that is available is for Ubuntu 8.04 and not 7.10... so there are issues about back porting it. Work is underway to see what it delivers under 8.04 though... so this might deliver some demonstrable benefits in terms of be able to use Via hardware at some point in the future when we have LinuxMCE-804... but that is not going to be soon I would estimate.

Until that time the any Via based machine will need a lot of love & care to get working and so I would suggest unless you are prepared to 'roll your sleaves' up and get dirty... its not for you!

Quote
I suggest you look at the new Intel ATOM solutions for a low power solution.
By looking at the specs they should work and today Andrew posted that they do work with a slight modification to avwizard setup.
Probably modeline to make X work good. I haven´t recieved my Gigabyte motherboard yet so I cannot say for sure.
The difference between Intel atom mb and the gigabyte one is that the latter have surround sound onboard otherwise they are oretty much identical.

/niz23

Yes we do have the current Intel i945 based ATOM board under testing here and yes it does work very nicely. Yes it needs some changes to the AVwizard to detect its GPU and configure it correctly.

Andrew
Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom
@herron

Dianemo S Now Shipping on Ubuntu 12.04LTS
Build your system on the latest Ubuntu LTS OS Release!

Get a Dianemo S License: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=8880.0
iOS Orbiter: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Dianemo_iOS_Orbiter
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dianemo-Home-Automation/226019387454465

Sales & Info:
http://www.dianemo.co.uk

totallymaxed

  • LinuxMCE God
  • ****
  • Posts: 4351
    • View Profile
    • Dianemo - at home with technology
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2008, 12:39:04 pm »
I played with ASUS P2-M2A690G (http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/ASUS_P2-M2A690G) a bit. Its integrated ATI RadeonTM 1250 is really cool. It supports UI2 with overlay and 1080p playback with the latest open source drivers. Moreover, the box has sound card to pass audio over HDMI! But as I know it's difficult to do that in Linux. Recently I found information that the latest proprietary drivers for Linux from ATI allow to pass audio over HDMI - http://www2.ati.com/drivers/linux/catalyst_86_linux.html#182029. But I didn't test it yet.

So, as I see ATI cards with HDMI output for A/V are the best choice for MD. They are better even then nVidia IMHO.

I agree about the ATI drivers. We're shipping MD's built around ATI GPU's and they are performing very nicely. However they are not in anyway able to get down to the low level of energy usage and totally fanless silent operation that the ATOM based boards can deliver. So its a matter of trade-offs that depend on what your specific requirements are.

All the best

Andrew
Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom
@herron

Dianemo S Now Shipping on Ubuntu 12.04LTS
Build your system on the latest Ubuntu LTS OS Release!

Get a Dianemo S License: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=8880.0
iOS Orbiter: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Dianemo_iOS_Orbiter
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dianemo-Home-Automation/226019387454465

Sales & Info:
http://www.dianemo.co.uk

purps

  • NEEDS to work for LinuxMCE
  • ***
  • Posts: 1371
  • If it ain't broke, tweak it
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2008, 01:35:45 pm »
Thanks for your various replies, even if it wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear!

So whilst the VIA UniChrome graphics aren't supported now at this moment in time, does that mean that they DEFINITELY will be when the new LinuxMCE comes out? If it's just a matter of time, then that's fine, but if there's any chance that these plans won't go ahead to allow mere mortals to use VIA UniChrome graphics without too much fuss, then I don't want to invest in the hardware.

This is the motherboard that I am currently most intested in - http://www.icp-epia.co.uk/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=186

I haven't found anything else that has the features I am after. They are:

-Fanless CPU (my girlfriend won't sleep with any fan whirring away, no matter how quiet)
-Gigabit LAN
-S-video port (for use with my old CRT TVs)
-DVI port (so that I am "future-proofed" for when I eventually upgrade to flat screen TVs)
-Optical S/PDIF or 5.1 surround sound
-RS232 port (this motherboard doesn't actually have one, but would it be possible to use a USB to RS232 converter for controlling a TV?)

If anybody knows of a mini-ITX board with all of these features, and with onboard graphics that allow UI2 to be used without too much hassle, I would really appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction please.
1004 RC :: looking good :: upgraded 01/04/2013
my setup :: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/User:Purps

niz23

  • Guru
  • ****
  • Posts: 361
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2008, 02:01:40 pm »
Purps.

VIA is a very uncertain choice. the driver issues are not solved in newer ubuntu version or any other distribution unlesss they use a kernel and a via licensed binary driver. IF via sitck with their promise they will release opencrhome drivers. But will most likely not happen in the near future (6month).

If you are lokking for a completely fanless solution. The atom is one way or you can buy a HFX case which use heatpipes attached to it´s chassi.

Look at this site for some hint about what is available, http://www.mini-box.com/s.nl/sc.8/category.15/.f
Their AMD board (nvidia based) have most of what you want, but you have to put some money on good chassi unless you can live with a fan.

/niz23

purps

  • NEEDS to work for LinuxMCE
  • ***
  • Posts: 1371
  • If it ain't broke, tweak it
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2008, 03:01:44 pm »
Think I may have found a possibility - http://www.icp-epia.co.uk/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=361

Your thoughts on this one would be very welcome! Doesn't have optical S/PDIF or 5.1 channel audio, but you can't have it all. It DOES have an RS232 port though.

Does anybody know how Intel® 915GM graphics would cope with UI2?
1004 RC :: looking good :: upgraded 01/04/2013
my setup :: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/User:Purps

niz23

  • Guru
  • ****
  • Posts: 361
    • View Profile
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2008, 04:23:00 pm »
The 915 graphics will most likely handle UI2 pretty well. I have an IBM desktop at home for testing with a 915 chip and UI2 with masking work fine. Forget about alpha blending. Does not work. It can play divx, mpeg-2 etc but compared to the card you suggest my ibm machine have a P4 2.4GHz.

Since the 915 chip only have MC (MotionCompensation) most video decoding need to be done in software and that might be a problem since the CPU lack cache according to the spec. On the the other hand the card have a PCIe x16 slot. Buy a cheap nvidida 6/7x based fanless the problem is solved.

If you use a pcie graphics card you won´t have any other choice than to use a USB sounccard if you need surround sound.


/niz23

totallymaxed

  • LinuxMCE God
  • ****
  • Posts: 4351
    • View Profile
    • Dianemo - at home with technology
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2008, 04:48:13 pm »
Thanks for your various replies, even if it wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear!

So whilst the VIA UniChrome graphics aren't supported now at this moment in time, does that mean that they DEFINITELY will be when the new LinuxMCE comes out? If it's just a matter of time, then that's fine, but if there's any chance that these plans won't go ahead to allow mere mortals to use VIA UniChrome graphics without too much fuss, then I don't want to invest in the hardware.

This is the motherboard that I am currently most intested in - http://www.icp-epia.co.uk/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=186

I haven't found anything else that has the features I am after. They are:

-Fanless CPU (my girlfriend won't sleep with any fan whirring away, no matter how quiet)
-Gigabit LAN
-S-video port (for use with my old CRT TVs)
-DVI port (so that I am "future-proofed" for when I eventually upgrade to flat screen TVs)
-Optical S/PDIF or 5.1 surround sound
-RS232 port (this motherboard doesn't actually have one, but would it be possible to use a USB to RS232 converter for controlling a TV?)

If anybody knows of a mini-ITX board with all of these features, and with onboard graphics that allow UI2 to be used without too much hassle, I would really appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction please.

The latest Open Via drivers look to be moving in the right direction but I would not suggest that you invest in Via hardware currently at all. There is no defined timeframe for either the Via drivers being ready or for those drivers being integrated into LinuxMCE... or for that matter when the next major release of LinuxMCE will be.

This Gigabyte ATOM board looks to almost fit your spec; http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/Products/Motherboard/Products_Spec.aspx?ClassValue=Motherboard&ProductID=2850&ProductName=GA-GC230D(Atom)

But you'd have to remove the small processor fan and replace it with a heat-pipe cooler

All the best

Andrew



Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom
@herron

Dianemo S Now Shipping on Ubuntu 12.04LTS
Build your system on the latest Ubuntu LTS OS Release!

Get a Dianemo S License: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=8880.0
iOS Orbiter: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Dianemo_iOS_Orbiter
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dianemo-Home-Automation/226019387454465

Sales & Info:
http://www.dianemo.co.uk

totallymaxed

  • LinuxMCE God
  • ****
  • Posts: 4351
    • View Profile
    • Dianemo - at home with technology
Re: DIY slim client for use as media director (1.75") - Graphics
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2008, 04:56:36 pm »
Think I may have found a possibility - http://www.icp-epia.co.uk/index.php?act=viewProd&productId=361

Your thoughts on this one would be very welcome! Doesn't have optical S/PDIF or 5.1 channel audio, but you can't have it all. It DOES have an RS232 port though.

Does anybody know how Intel® 915GM graphics would cope with UI2?

Hmmm.... well I would not recommend a Celeron @ 1 Ghz at all. Also it seems very bad value for money at 159 UKP!!! You can buy the Intel i945 ATOM board or the Gigabyte GA-GC230D(Atom) for 45-50 UKP in one off volumes and that has a much faster processor and a better GPU too... the Gigabyte.

all the best

Andrew
Andy Herron,
Convergent Home Technologies Ltd
United Kingdom
@herron

Dianemo S Now Shipping on Ubuntu 12.04LTS
Build your system on the latest Ubuntu LTS OS Release!

Get a Dianemo S License: http://forum.linuxmce.org/index.php?topic=8880.0
iOS Orbiter: http://wiki.linuxmce.org/index.php/Dianemo_iOS_Orbiter
Follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dianemo-Home-Automation/226019387454465

Sales & Info:
http://www.dianemo.co.uk