Testing Kabini on Linux

Subject: Processors | April 14, 2014 - 03:22 PM |
Tagged: Kabini, linux, Athlon 5350, Athlon 5150, Sempron 3850, Semprov 2650, amd, athlon, sempron

An easy way to trim the cost of a lower end system is to skip Windows and install Linux, along with picking a less expensive AMD chip to power your system.  AMD has recently gifted us with new Kabini based Sempron and Athlon chips, the most expensive of which is available for less that $70.  For testing Phoronix used Ubuntu 14.04, the 3.14 kernel and Mesa 10.2 along with the Radeon 7.3.99 driver.  You will be glad to know that there were no compatibility problems with Linux whatsoever, all CPUs performed more or less as expected as you can see for yourself in the full review.

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"It's been a busy past few days since AMD launched their "AM1" Socketed Kabini APUs. After the initial Athlon 5350 Linux review on launch-day, I did some tests involving a faster kernel and newer Mesa code along with some reference DDR3 memory scaling benchmarks for these APUs with Jaguar processor cores. Since then the Athlon 5150 and Sempron 3850/2650 APUs arrived."

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Processors

Source: Phoronix

AAEON's SoC is an impressive implementation of Bay Trail

Subject: Systems | April 10, 2014 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: linux, mini-itx, AAEON, EMB-BT1, Bay Trail, SFF, htpc

You may not recognize the name AAEON but you will recognize its parent company, ASUS.  AAEON makes low power small form factor single board SoCs and with the introduction of Bay Trail they may become more common.  The EMB-BT1-A10-3825 sports a quad-core Atom E3845 @ 1.33GHz and Ivy Bridge era Intel HD graphics with support for up to 4GB of DDR3-1067.  It has a total TDP of 6W but unfortunately Phoronix's WattsUp meter was busy on another system so you will need to wait for an update on total power consumption.

The connectivity on this SoC is incredible, mSATA for an SSD, two SATA 6Gbps ports and two SATA-2 ports, dual gigabit LAN ports, a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single 3.0 port, HDMI, VGA, COM, and audio jacks.  You could configure this as a small media server or as it supports dual displays it would serve wonderfully as an HTPC.

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"For those after a low-cost mini-ITX board for use within an HTPC, SOHO file server, or other low-power situations, AAEON has out an interesting board called the EMB-BT1, or more formally the AAEON EMB-BT1-A10-3825. This mini-ITX motherboard has onboard an Intel Atom E3825 "Bay Trail" SoC for delivering decent performance out of the six Watt SoC and having open-source-friendly graphics under Linux."

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Source: Phoronix

Unleash Ubuntu with the ASUS Zenbook; or vice versa

Subject: Mobile | April 9, 2014 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: linux, asus, zenbook, UX301LA-DH71T, ubuntu 14.04, ubuntu, haswell

There is a lot to like about this particular 13.3" ASUS Zenbook, perhaps the most noticeable is the IPS display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution and a capacitive display capable of tracking 10 contact points.  There is another reason to fall in love with this notebook, it can run Ubuntu with all of the features enabled without any extra work required.  The specifications under the hood are rather impressive as well, a Core-i7 4558U with Intel Iris Graphics 5100, 8GB of DDR3-1600 and two 128GB SSDs capable of supporting RAID.  Those of you looking for a powerful notebook which does not require Windows to run properly would be wise to read this review at Phoronix.

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"As I wrote about at the beginning of March, I bought the ASUS Zenbook UX301LA-DH71T Haswell-based ultrabook to replace an Apple Retina MacBook Pro as my main system. I've been using this latest Zenbook with Intel Iris Graphics and dual SSDs for several weeks now as my main system and have taken it on four business trips so far and it's been running great. Paired with Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, the ASUS Zenbook UX301LA makes a rather nice lightweight yet powerful Linux system."

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Source: Phoronix

Faster MinnowBoard Max With Lower $99 Price Coming In June 2014

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2014 - 10:53 AM |
Tagged: minnowboard, linux, embedded, development, Bay Trail, atom e3825, atom e3815

MinnowBoard.org recently announced the MinnowBoard Max which is a new Intel-powered development board with improved specifications and a $100 lower price versus the original MinnowBoard. The MinnowBoard Max is an open source hardware and software development platform designed and built by CircuitCo with guidance from Intel. The MinnowBoard Max is intended to be used to develop new Bay Trail-powered products or as the brain of embedded equipment that interacts with custom I/O such as FGPAs and specialized sensors.

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The MinnowBoard Max is slightly smaller than the original at 2.9” x 3.9” and features an improved Intel Atom processor. Rather than the single core Atom E640 at 1 GHz the original MinnowBoard used, the MinnowBoard Max uses one of two Bay Trail Atom E3800-series SoCs. The base $99 model uses a single core Atom E3815 clocked at 1.46GHz while the $129 model uses a dual core Atom E3825 clocked at 1.33 GHz. The SoC is paired with either 1GB or 2GB of system RAM on the $99 or $129 model respectively.

The MinnowBoard Max supports a wide range of I/O including:

  • 26-pin low speed expansion port
    • SPI, I2C, I2S Audio, 2 x UARTs (TTL-level), 8 x buffered GPIO (two supporting PWM), +5V, Ground
  • 60-pin high speed expansion port
    • 1 x PCI-E 2.0 (one lane), 1 x SATA 3Gbps, 1 x USB 2.0 host, I2C, GPIO, JTAG, +5V, Ground
  • 1 x USB 3.0 port
  • 1 x USB 2.0 port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 1 x Micro SD
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x Serial Debug (via separately sold cable)
  • 1 x Micro USB 2.0

The small form factor board supports Linux and Android operating systems with pending support for the Yocto Project (which helps developers create their own Linux distribution). Intel’s Bay Trail is not open source, but the company has reportedly provided open source drivers for the HD Graphics processor-integrated GPU.

The MinnowBoard Max starts at $99 and is slated to start shipping towards the end of June 2014. MinnowBoar.org will also be releasing the hardware design files under a Creative Commons license shortly after that launch point. More information can be found on the MinnowBoard Max FAQ.

The open source MinnowBoard Max looks to be a respectable upgrade over the original, and the lower price should help to make the x86 architecture more attractive to developers of embedded systems especially in the wake of the proliferation of ARM-powered alternatives.

Get to know your network better with Linux

Subject: General Tech | March 11, 2014 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: Bandwidthd, Speedometer, Nethogs, Darkstat, iperf, networking, linux

Over at Linux.com is a look at five network monitoring tools that will really help you determine not only what is utilizing your network but also its overall health.  Bandwidthd is a tool for web hosts and LAN admins which tallies up incoming and outgoing bandwidth usage and can present it in a variety of time frames, from usage per day to usage per year.  Nethogs tracks usage per process and Darkstat tracks total usage but comes with an embedded HTTP server which makes it fairly self contained.  Speedometer is fairly self explanatory and to understand iperf you should read the write up here as it is a powerful tool for investigating the quality of your network.

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"In this roundup of Linux network testing utilities we use Bandwidthd, Speedometer, Nethogs, Darkstat, and iperf to track bandwidth usage, speed, find network hogs, and test performance."

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Tech Talk

Source: Linux.com

A wee little Linux bug

Subject: General Tech | March 5, 2014 - 02:47 PM |
Tagged: linux, security

It would seem that there is a fairly problematic bug in the way that GnuTLS library applies encryption for many Linux users.  According to the story on The Inquirer this bug could allow an improperly setup certificate to be reported as valid and while your connection states it is secure it will not in fact be encrypted.  Red Hat has already issued a patch to solve this problem but the vulnerability would apply to any distro which uses the GnuTLS library.  It would be wise to follow the link from the story to locate a patch for your system before attackers start using it in the wild.

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"THOUSANDS OF LINUX USERS might be vulnerable to hackers after it emerged that a significant certificate checking bug exists in a low level library.

The problem stems from the GnuTLS library that provides an API to enable SSL, TLS and DTLS encryption protocols, as used particularly by web servers."

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Source: The Inquirer

Supercharge your Chromebook

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: linux, Chromebook

If you have purchased the Acer C720 Chromebook because it was relatively quick and very inexpensive you have probably been happy with it but maybe you wish it could do more.  To do so you could follow these instructions to install either Ubuntu or Bohdi Linux.  The process is a little more complicated than installing the OS from a CD but they have provided step by step instructions on how to accomplish this process.  Bring new life to your Chromebook with just a bit of work.

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"Chromebooks are amazing little machines. They are a marvel of speed and simplicity. The Acer C720 Chromebook is certainly near the top of the list of Chromebooks to be purchased (next to the Chromebook Pixel, of course). It's speedy and it's inexpensive. But for some, the simplistic nature of the devices doesn't offer enough power or flexibility. For those who need more from this Acer platform, I have the answer – in fact, I have two answers."

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Source: Linux.com

Kaveri loves fast memory

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 25, 2014 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: ddr3, Kaveri, A10 7850K, amd, linux

You don't often see performance scaling as clean as what Phoronix saw when testing the effect of memory speed on AMD's A10-7850K.  Pick any result and you can clearly see a smooth increase in performance from DDR3-800 to DDR3-2400.  The only time that increase seems to decline slightly is between DDR3-2133 and 2400MHz, with some tests showing little to no increase between those two speeds.  Some tests do still show an improvement, for certain workloads on Linux the extra money is worth it but in other cases you can save a few dollars and limit yourself to the slightly cheaper DDR3-2133.  Check out the full review here.

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"Earlier in the week I published benchmarks showing AMD Kaveri's DDR3-800MHz through DDR3-2133MHz system memory performance. Those results showed this latest-generation AMD APU craving -- and being able to take advantage of -- high memory frequencies. Many were curious how DDR3-2400MHz would fair with Kaveri so here's some benchmarks as we test out Kingston's HyperX Beast 8GB DDR3-2400MHz memory kit."

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Source: Phoronix

CompuLab Launches Haswell-Powered SFF Intense PC 2

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2014 - 10:22 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, SFF, mintbox, linux, ipc2, haswell, compulab

CompuLab, the company behind the MintBox, launched its small form factor Intense PC 2 last month in four SKUs using Intel's latest Haswell processors. The systems are now available for purchase starting at $388 for the base model. The Intense PC 2 shares a similar form factor to the existing Intense PC and MintBox systems (resembling a consumer router), but features new hardware and IO options.

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The Intense PC 2 measures 6.3” x 7.4”x 1.57” and has an aluminum chassis that acts as a passive heatsink for the internal components. The case is dark gray with a finned top surface. The front of the system can be customized with FACE modules that offer different IO options. However, by default the Intense PC 2 has two USB 3.0 ports and three indicator LEDs on the front and the following IO ports on the rear:

  • 2 x Gigabit Ethernet ports (Intel NICs)
  • 2 x HDMI video outputs
  • 1 x DisplayPort video output
  • 2 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 3 x RS232
  • 3 x (2 x analog, 1 x digital S/PDIF)
  • 1 x SIM card slot
  • 2 x antenna connectors

The FACE modules can expand connectivity to include VGA ouptuts, video capture inputs, additional networking, and additional USB ports (among other options).

IPC2 IO.jpg

Internally, the Intense PC 2 has a small motherboard that comes with an Intel Celeron, i3, i5, or i7 Haswell processor, up to 16GB of DDR3L 1600 MHz memory (two slots), a single mSATA port, and a single mPCIE port (the mSATA port is a combo mSATA/mPCIe port). An 802.11ac+Bluetooth 4.0 radio is included as part of the package. The 15W TDP CPU can be passively cooled, and at the high end you can get up to an Intel Core i7 4600U with HD 4400 graphics. The dual core (plus hyperthreading) chip can turbo up to 3.3 GHz. The table below from the CompuLab specification sheet (PDF) details the hardware layouts of the various IPC2 SKUs.

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The Intense PC 2 is aimed at desktop users as well as the industrial sector. The passively cooled mini PC can be easily used as a desktop, home server, router+802.11ac access point, HTPC, or Steambox (streaming endpoint mainly), for example. It is also capable of driving signage and large 4K displays for adversiting and other tasks.

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The Intense PC is available in four base SKUs ranging in price from $388 to $902. Adding an SSD and/or pre-installed OS add to that base price. CompuLab offers a 5 year warranty on the SFF system.

Source: CompuLab

Linux powered NUC

Subject: Systems | February 14, 2014 - 06:20 PM |
Tagged: linux, nuc, Bay Trail

If you are thinking of saving some money when picking up a NUC by skipping Windows and using Linux instead then Phoronix has two articles you should be reading before you order.  The initial testing on the Bay Trail processor did not go as well as hoped even if the architecture is based on Haswell but now that they have been on the market for a bit it is time to revisit them.  If you are just concerned about the performance then quickly pop over and read this article.  On the other hand if you want the full story then not only should you read that article but make sure to catch their full review here.

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"With the early Atom "Bay Trail" hardware being disastrous for Linux, when Intel recently announced their Bay Trail based NUC Kit we were anxious and decided to give this unit a go. The Intel NUC Kit DN2820FYK packs an Intel Celeron N2820 Bay Trail CPU and motherboard supporting up to 8GB of DDR3L system memory and 2.5-inch HDD/SSD in a 116 x 112 x 51 mm form-factor. In this article is a rundown of the Phoronix experience so far for this Atom NUC Kit and how well it's running with Ubuntu Linux."

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Source: Phoronix