Friday, 27 October 2017

Ubuntu Cinnamon


Besides Ubuntu there are also recognised Ubuntu flavours that include:
  • Kubuntu — Ubuntu with the K Desktop environment
  • Lubuntu — Ubuntu that uses LXDE
  • Mythbuntu — Designed for creating a home theatre PC with MythTV
  • Ubuntu Budgie — Simplicity and elegance – Budgie desktop powered by Ubuntu
  • Ubuntu GNOME — Ubuntu with the GNOME desktop environment
  • Ubuntu Kylin — Ubuntu localised for China
  • Ubuntu MATE — Ubuntu with the MATE desktop environment
  • Ubuntu Studio — Designed for multimedia editing and creation
  • Xubuntu — Ubuntu with the XFCE desktop environment
with the recent change that the final stable non-LTS release of Ubuntu GNOME is 17.04 as Ubuntu now uses the GNOME desktop.

But in addition to the flavour Ubuntu derivatives are customizations which consist of Ubuntu based distributions which are created and maintained by individuals and organizations outside of Canonical and have varying relationships in working with the Ubuntu community.

At least two of these customizations (Cubuntu and Mintuse the Cinnamon desktop which is a fork of the GNOME 3 desktop.

With Cinnamon now included in the 'universe' repository of community maintained software for Ubuntu three key packages are available:
  • cinnamon — Innovative and comfortable desktop (essentially the Cinnamon shell)
  • cinnamon-core — Cinnamon desktop environment - essential components
  • cinnamon-desktop-environment — Cinnamon desktop environment - full desktop with extra components
and these can be downloaded and installed to create an 'Ubuntu Cinnamon'. Note that the packages are inclusive so 'cinnamon-core' includes 'cinnamon' for example.

To demonstrate this I've respun the Ubuntu 17.10 ISO and installed the minimalist 'cinnamon' package and created ISOs suitable for booting on both Intel Atom-based and Intel Apollo-based mini PCs.

The ISOs can be downloaded from:

Atom (linuxium-atom-ubuntu-17.10-desktop-amd64.iso)
Apollo (linuxium-apollo-ubuntu-17.10-desktop-amd64.iso)

Whilst the ISOs target specific Intel architectures to ensure everything works they should also work on any Intel device.

Unfortunately respinning an Ubuntu ISO with Cinnamon normally fails because the required 'blueman' package installation tries to reload the system message bus configuration. However I've created a workaround which requires patching my 'isorespin.sh' script.

Anyone wanting to spin their own version can download the Ubuntu 17.10 ISO from http://releases.ubuntu.com/17.10 and respin using the following instructions in consultation with my documentation.

After downloading the ISO the next step is to download the basic patch 'cinnamon.isorespin.sh.patch' and decide which Cinnamon package from 'cinnamon', 'cinnamon-core' or 'cinnamon-desktop-environment' you want to use.

The basic patch assumes 'cinnamon' so for the others first update the patch with the package to be installed:

sed -i 's/"cinnamon"/"cinnamon-core"/' cinnamon.isorespin.sh.patch

or

sed -i 's/"cinnamon"/"cinnamon-desktop-environment"/' cinnamon.isorespin.sh.patch

Now patch my 'isorespin.sh' script. You must have the latest version so check using the command

isorespin.sh -v

or

./isorespin.sh -v

depending on whether you have installed the script to '/usr/local/bin' or run it locally. Make sure you have version '7.3.5' otherwise upgrade by downloading it from the link above. Then if you have installed the script to '/usr/local/bin' enter:

sudo patch -p0 -b -d / < cinnamon.isorespin.sh.patch

otherwise for a local script enter:

patch -p4 -b < cinnamon.isorespin.sh.patch

Now check that it has been updated by confirming the version again and making sure it is now '7.3.5.1'. The patching creates a new version of the script together with a backup of the original as 'isorespin.sh.orig' so you can easily revert as required.

Finally to update the wallpaper on the respun ISO two additional commands must be included as part of respinning:

-c "sed -i 's?/usr/share/themes/Adwaita/backgrounds/adwaita-timed.xml?/usr/share/backgrounds/warty-final-ubuntu.png?' /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas/org.cinnamon.desktop.background.gschema.xml"
-c "glib-compile-schemas /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas"

So the complete invocation for the 'Apollo' ISO above using the patched script was:

isorespin.sh -i ubuntu-17.10-desktop-amd64.iso --apollo -p cinnamon -c "sed -i 's?/usr/share/themes/Adwaita/backgrounds/adwaita-timed.xml?/usr/share/backgrounds/warty-final-ubuntu.png?' /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas/org.cinnamon.desktop.background.gschema.xml" -c "glib-compile-schemas /usr/share/glib-2.0/schemas"




By respinning the ISO and just adding the 'cinnamon' package you will get a good indication of whether you like the interface. But be aware that the more Cinnamon you add the more desktop applications you will be duplicating with GNOME so a customized distro such as Linux Mint may be prefered.

Please donate if you find the ISOs or script useful using the following link http://goo.gl/nXWSGf.





Respinning ISOs with 'rEFInd'

Respining ISOs with 'rEFInd' version 0.11.1 (the current default) results in the error message 'invalid loader file!' when attempting to boot.

Version 0.11.0 works correctly and because my 'isorespin.sh' script first looks in the current directory for the 'rEFInd' boot manager files before downloading them from the internet if not found it means a specific version can first be downloaded and used automatically when the script is run.

I recommend downloading the file 'refind-bin-0.11.0.zip' from 'https://sourceforge.net/projects/refind/files/0.11.0' in the directory where you are running 'isorespin.sh':
wget https://sourceforge.net/projects/refind/files/0.11.0/refind-bin-0.11.0.zip/download -O refind-bin-0.11.0.zip
and unzip it:
unzip refind-bin-0.11.0.zip
Then remove the downloaded file afterwards:
rm refind-bin-0.11.0.zip
so that it does not create a conflict when running the script. Check that you just have a directory called 'refind-bin-0.11.0' containing the 'rEFInd' boot manager files. Then run the 'isorespin.sh' script:
./isorespin.sh
or
/usr/local/bin/isorespin.sh
with the required options to respin your ISO as required.

Note that subsequent versions of 'rEFInd' may fix the issue and unfortunately there is always the possibility that the error may also reappear in subsequent versions. It is recommended to always try the latest version and then use the most recent working version as a temporary workaround until a new version becomes available that fixes the issue.

Please donate if you find my 'isorespin.sh' script useful using the following link http://goo.gl/nXWSGf.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Lubuntu Next: Or Lubuntu LXQt the future for Lubuntu

The latest version of Ubuntu has now been released as 17.10 (Artful Aardvark) together with all its flavours with the exception of Ubuntu GNOME.  And whilst this may have everyone's attention and perhaps even searching for alternatives I have been trying out a new distro called Lubuntu Next which was requested in a comment.


Currently Lubuntu Next is a separate release to Lubuntu as it uses LXQt in place of LXDE and exists because no decision has been made on formally replace LXDE with LXQt in Lubuntu.

It is a bit rough around the edges however it is interesting to see what the future direction is. Full details on the release can be found in its wiki.

I've respun the latest daily ISO (saved as lubuntu-next-17.10-daily-141017-desktop-amd64.iso) and created ISOs suitable for booting on both Intel Atom-based and Intel Apollo-based mini PCs.

The ISOs can be downloaded from:

Atom (-i lubuntu-next-17.10-daily-141017-desktop-amd64.iso --atom)
Apollo (-i lubuntu-next-17.10-daily-141017-desktop-amd64.iso --apollo)

Whilst the ISOs target specific Intel architectures to ensure everything works they should also work on any Intel devices but read the wiki to see the limitations.

Anyone wanting to spin their own version can download the latest daily ISO from http://cdimage.ubuntu.com/lubuntu-next/daily-live/pending and respin using my 'isorespin.sh' script using the options above or after consulting my documentation.

Note:

Building ISOs with 'rEFInd' version 0.11.1 (the current default) results in the error message 'invalid loader file!' when attempting to boot.

Version 0.11.0 works correctly and because my 'isorespin.sh' script first looks in the current directory for the 'rEFInd' boot manager files before downloading them from the internet if not found it means a specific version can first be downloaded and used automatically when the script is run.

I recommend downloading the file 'refind-bin-0.11.0.zip' from 'https://sourceforge.net/projects/refind/files/0.11.0' in the directory where you are running 'isorespin.sh':
wget https://sourceforge.net/projects/refind/files/0.11.0/refind-bin-0.11.0.zip/download -O refind-bin-0.11.0.zip
and unzip it:
unzip refind-bin-0.11.0.zip
Then remove the downloaded file afterwards:
rm refind-bin-0.11.0.zip
so that it does not create a conflict when running the script. Check that you just have a directory called 'refind-bin-0.11.0' containing the 'rEFInd' boot manager files. Then run the 'isorespin.sh' script:
./isorespin.sh
or
/usr/local/bin/isorespin.sh
with the required options to respin your ISO as required.

Please donate if you find the ISOs or script useful using the following link http://goo.gl/nXWSGf.

Fixing broken HDMI audio

Recently I noticed that I had no HDMI audio when running kernels starting from v4.12.0 on an Intel Compute Stick model STK1AW32SC (Cherry Trail).

First I ran the command 'aplay -l' to see I had an HDMI LPE Audio device. In fact I had three:


I then tried playing an audio file on the default device with 'aplay /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Left.wav' which didn't work:


So I listed the PCM devices with 'aplay -L':


and tested each PCM in turn:


which confirmed that audio worked on device 2. 

As the default sink device is 0:


it needs to be changed by editing '/etc/pulse/default.pa'. I can do this manually:


 or write and use a script:


The advantage of the script is that I can make use of it when respinning an ISO with 'isorespin.sh' (using the '-f' option) and automatically fix HDMI audio in the respun ISO for use on this device.

After running the script whilst using Ubuntu 'pulseaudio' needs to be restarted (using 'pulseaudio -k' is sufficient) for the changes to take effect:


Now playing an audio file on the default device with 'aplay /usr/share/sounds/alsa/Front_Left.wav' works together with sound in Chrome and other applications.

Please donate if you find this tip helpful using the following link http://goo.gl/nXWSGf.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Ubuntu 17.10 Beta 2 Releases for Intel Atom and Intel Apollo Devices


Canonical have just released the Beta 2 (final Beta) release of 17.10 Ubuntu including builds of the various official Ubuntu flavors.

I've respun the official Ubuntu ISO creating ISOs suitable for booting on both Intel Atom-based and Intel Apollo-based mini PCs as this is the first official testing milestone that the regular version of Ubuntu desktop has taken part in during the ‘Artful Aardvark’ development cycle.

The ISOs can be downloaded from:

Atom (-i ubuntu-17.10-beta2-desktop-amd64.iso --atom)
Apollo (-i ubuntu-17.10-beta2-desktop-amd64.iso --apollo)

Whilst the ISOs target specific Intel architectures to ensure everything works they should also work on any Intel devices.

As there have been some quite significant changes between 17.04 and 17.10 a good overview of these can be found here.

Anyone wanting to spin their own version can download the Ubuntu Beta 2 ISO from http://releases.ubuntu.com/17.10 and respin using my 'isorespin.sh' script using the options above or after consulting my documentation.

Please donate if you find the ISOs or script useful using the following link http://goo.gl/nXWSGf.

First look at an Intel Compute Card and Dock


Previously I covered the product details of the new Intel Compute Cards and Dock so this post looks at the physical devices and their actual operation and performance which is possible thanks to Intel who kindly provided me with a Compute Card (CD1M3128MK) and Dock (DK132EPJ).

The Dock comes with a small power brick with international plug adaptors similar in size to the power brick supplied with the Intel Core Compute Sticks and can be used with any of the Compute Cards. The Card slides into the Dock and requires a firm push to ensure connectivity and can't be retrieved unless the power is connected and the eject button is pressed.

Depending on the BIOS setting the Card will either boot immediately or after the power buttom is pressed.


The BIOS can be accessed by pressing F2 immediately:

Video of CD1M3128MK BIOS
Alternatively F10 can be pressed for the Boot Menu which is how to install an Operating System.


Both legacy and UEFI enabled OS are supported so a USB with an Ubuntu ISO will show two entries.

The specification of the CD1M3128MK Compute Card includes:


and the DK132EPJ Dock includes:


I first installed Windows 10 Enterprise Evaluation to look at performance under Windows.


The performance is very good in part because the SSD storage is attached via NVMe:






and the Core m3 Compute Card performance improves on the Core m3 Compute Stick:


The m3-7Y30 CPU makes watching 8K video possible:


Next I created a 20 GB partition so I could install and dual boot Ubuntu:


I used a standard Ubuntu 17.04 desktop ISO however whilst the installation completed sucessfully the Ubuntu NVRAM entry was incorrect and needed to be fixed by entering:

efibootmgr -b 4 -B
efibootmgr -c -d /dev/nvme0n1 -p 2 -l \\EFI\\ubuntu\\shimx64.efi -L ubuntu

This resulted in a F10 Boot Menu only showing Ubuntu:


which of course is not an issue as Windows can be booted from the GRUB menu:


as can Ubuntu:


Looking at the hardware in more detail for the Core m3 Card and Dock the CPU is a dual core m3-7Y30:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# lshw -C cpu
  *-cpu                     
       description: CPU
       product: Intel(R) Core(TM) m3-7Y30 CPU @ 1.00GHz
       vendor: Intel Corp.
       physical id: 46
       bus info: cpu@0
       version: Intel(R) Core(TM) m3-7Y30 CPU @ 1.00GHz
       serial: To Be Filled By O.E.M.
       slot: U3E1
       size: 2599MHz
       capacity: 4005MHz
       width: 64 bits
       clock: 100MHz
       capabilities: x86-64 fpu fpu_exception wp vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 apic sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 clflush dts acpi mmx fxsr sse sse2 ss ht tm pbe syscall nx pdpe1gb rdtscp constant_tsc art arch_perfmon pebs bts rep_good nopl xtopology nonstop_tsc aperfmperf tsc_known_freq pni pclmulqdq dtes64 monitor ds_cpl vmx est tm2 ssse3 sdbg fma cx16 xtpr pdcm pcid sse4_1 sse4_2 x2apic movbe popcnt tsc_deadline_timer aes xsave avx f16c rdrand lahf_lm abm 3dnowprefetch epb intel_pt tpr_shadow vnmi flexpriority ept vpid fsgsbase tsc_adjust bmi1 avx2 smep bmi2 erms invpcid mpx rdseed adx smap clflushopt xsaveopt xsavec xgetbv1 xsaves dtherm ida arat pln pts hwp hwp_notify hwp_act_window hwp_epp cpufreq
       configuration: cores=2 enabledcores=2 threads=4
root@CD1M3128MK:~# 

with dual channel memory:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# lshw -C memory
  *-firmware                
       description: BIOS
       vendor: Intel Corp.
       physical id: 0
       version: MKKBLY35.86A.1032.2017.0810.1942
       date: 08/10/2017
       size: 64KiB
       capacity: 15MiB
       capabilities: pci upgrade shadowing cdboot bootselect socketedrom edd int13floppy1200 int13floppy720 int13floppy2880 int5printscreen int14serial int17printer acpi usb biosbootspecification uefi
  *-memory
       description: System Memory
       physical id: 3e
       slot: System board or motherboard
       size: 4GiB
     *-bank:0
          description: Row of chips LPDDR3 Synchronous Unbuffered (Unregistered) 1867 MHz (0.5 ns)
          vendor: Micron
          physical id: 0
          serial: 00000000
          slot: ChannelA-DIMM0
          size: 2GiB
          width: 64 bits
          clock: 1867MHz (0.5ns)
     *-bank:1
          description: Row of chips LPDDR3 Synchronous Unbuffered (Unregistered) 1867 MHz (0.5 ns)
          vendor: Micron
          physical id: 1
          serial: 00000000
          slot: ChannelB-DIMM0
          size: 2GiB
          width: 64 bits
          clock: 1867MHz (0.5ns)
  *-cache:0
       description: L1 cache
       physical id: 43
       slot: L1 Cache
       size: 128KiB
       capacity: 128KiB
       capabilities: synchronous internal write-back unified
       configuration: level=1
  *-cache:1
       description: L2 cache
       physical id: 44
       slot: L2 Cache
       size: 512KiB
       capacity: 512KiB
       capabilities: synchronous internal write-back unified
       configuration: level=2
  *-cache:2
       description: L3 cache
       physical id: 45
       slot: L3 Cache
       size: 4MiB
       capacity: 4MiB
       capabilities: synchronous internal write-back unified
       configuration: level=3
  *-memory
       description: Memory controller
       product: Sunrise Point-LP PMC
       vendor: Intel Corporation
       physical id: 1f.2
       bus info: pci@0000:00:1f.2
       version: 21
       width: 32 bits
       clock: 33MHz (30.3ns)
       configuration: driver=intel_pmc_core latency=0
       resources: irq:0 memory:df324000-df327fff
root@CD1M3128MK:~#

and wifi is provided by the Card and ethernet by the Dock:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# lshw -C network
  *-network                 
       description: Wireless interface
       product: Wireless 8265 / 8275
       vendor: Intel Corporation
       physical id: 0
       bus info: pci@0000:01:00.0
       logical name: wlp1s0
       version: 78
       serial: 1a:8e:b3:2b:59:f2
       width: 64 bits
       clock: 33MHz
       capabilities: pm msi pciexpress bus_master cap_list ethernet physical wireless
       configuration: broadcast=yes driver=iwlwifi driverversion=4.10.0-19-generic firmware=22.391740.0 latency=0 link=no multicast=yes wireless=IEEE 802.11
       resources: irq:289 memory:df200000-df201fff
  *-network
       description: Ethernet interface
       product: I211 Gigabit Network Connection
       vendor: Intel Corporation
       physical id: 0
       bus info: pci@0000:02:00.0
       logical name: eno1
       version: 03
       serial: f4:4d:30:c0:62:a7
       size: 1Gbit/s
       capacity: 1Gbit/s
       width: 32 bits
       clock: 33MHz
       capabilities: pm msi msix pciexpress bus_master cap_list ethernet physical tp 10bt 10bt-fd 100bt 100bt-fd 1000bt-fd autonegotiation
       configuration: autonegotiation=on broadcast=yes driver=igb driverversion=5.4.0-k duplex=full firmware=0. 6-1 ip=10.88.88.118 latency=0 link=yes multicast=yes port=twisted pair speed=1Gbit/s
       resources: irq:19 memory:df100000-df11ffff ioport:e000(size=32) memory:df120000-df123fff
root@CD1M3128MK:~# 

with storage using NVMe:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# blkid
/dev/nvme0n1: PTUUID="84ca9e2b-df79-46fd-aac2-3de46da1d716" PTTYPE="gpt"
/dev/nvme0n1p1: LABEL="Recovery" UUID="DAA84E0AA84DE59B" TYPE="ntfs" PARTLABEL="Basic data partition" PARTUUID="f06192fd-455a-4c52-a053-89281d5a6584"
/dev/nvme0n1p2: UUID="F04E-ACEF" TYPE="vfat" PARTLABEL="EFI system partition" PARTUUID="344895d2-98e8-4985-bd74-6b0981d6b330"
/dev/nvme0n1p3: PARTLABEL="Microsoft reserved partition" PARTUUID="4b009a40-9509-4706-8a5d-ab3b78fe3a0b"
/dev/nvme0n1p4: UUID="BAE25191E25152AD" TYPE="ntfs" PARTLABEL="Basic data partition" PARTUUID="0be2fe19-50ea-40b9-8e48-7d5fde6dc711"
/dev/nvme0n1p5: UUID="8239d522-c46d-4d84-852c-8cd1b35414d5" TYPE="ext4" PARTUUID="c96dc18d-f394-447c-9b80-fe5e30f82731"
root@CD1M3128MK:~# lsblk -a
NAME        MAJ:MIN RM   SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT
loop0         7:0    0         0 loop 
loop1         7:1    0         0 loop 
loop2         7:2    0         0 loop 
loop3         7:3    0         0 loop 
loop4         7:4    0         0 loop 
loop5         7:5    0         0 loop 
loop6         7:6    0         0 loop 
loop7         7:7    0         0 loop 
nvme0n1     259:0    0 119.2G  0 disk 
├─nvme0n1p1 259:1    0   450M  0 part 
├─nvme0n1p2 259:2    0   100M  0 part /boot/efi
├─nvme0n1p3 259:3    0    16M  0 part 
├─nvme0n1p4 259:4    0  98.7G  0 part 
└─nvme0n1p5 259:5    0    20G  0 part / 
root@CD1M3128MK:~# lsblk -f
NAME        FSTYPE LABEL    UUID                                 MOUNTPOINT
nvme0n1                                                          
├─nvme0n1p1 ntfs   Recovery DAA84E0AA84DE59B                     
├─nvme0n1p2 vfat            F04E-ACEF                            /boot/efi
├─nvme0n1p3                                                      
├─nvme0n1p4 ntfs            BAE25191E25152AD                     
└─nvme0n1p5 ext4            8239d522-c46d-4d84-852c-8cd1b35414d5 /                     
root@CD1M3128MK:~# df -h
Filesystem      Size  Used Avail Use% Mounted on
udev            1.9G     0  1.9G   0% /dev
tmpfs           385M   12M  374M   3% /run
/dev/nvme0n1p5   20G  7.8G   11G  42% /
tmpfs           1.9G   12K  1.9G   1% /dev/shm
tmpfs           5.0M  4.0K  5.0M   1% /run/lock
tmpfs           1.9G     0  1.9G   0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/nvme0n1p2   96M   29M   68M  30% /boot/efi
tmpfs           385M  148K  385M   1% /run/user/1000
root@CD1M3128MK:~# 

with the following PCI configuration:

root@CD1M3128MK:~# lspci
00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Device 590c (rev 02)
00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Device 591e (rev 02)
00:14.0 USB controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP USB 3.0 xHCI Controller (rev 21)
00:14.2 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP Thermal subsystem (rev 21)
00:15.0 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP Serial IO I2C Controller #0 (rev 21)
00:15.1 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP Serial IO I2C Controller #1 (rev 21)
00:16.0 Communication controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP CSME HECI #1 (rev 21)
00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #5 (rev f1)
00:1c.7 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #8 (rev f1)
00:1d.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP PCI Express Root Port #9 (rev f1)
00:1e.0 Signal processing controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP Serial IO UART Controller #0 (rev 21)
00:1e.4 SD Host controller: Intel Corporation Device 9d2b (rev 21)
00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation Device 9d4b (rev 21)
00:1f.2 Memory controller: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP PMC (rev 21)
00:1f.3 Audio device: Intel Corporation Device 9d71 (rev 21)
00:1f.4 SMBus: Intel Corporation Sunrise Point-LP SMBus (rev 21)
01:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation Wireless 8265 / 8275 (rev 78)
02:00.0 Ethernet controller: Intel Corporation I211 Gigabit Network Connection (rev 03)
03:00.0 Non-Volatile memory controller: Intel Corporation Device f1a5 (rev 03)
root@CD1M3128MK:~# 


Running my usual suite of Phoronix tests shows a similar performance improvement of the Core m3 Card over the Core m3 Stick in Ubuntu:


with Ubuntu's Octane result being slightly better than in Windows:


No problems were encountered using Kodi to plays videos:


The Card itself is similar in size to a credit card and not really comparable to the earlier 'stick' form-factor:


The Dock is obviously bigger than a Stick:


and is also slightly larger than a NUC:


The Dock contains a fan as well as providing the additional ports. The fan is effective in keeping the temperature under control and with a resting temperature of around 30°C:


the temperature under load max'ed at just over 70°C:



However the fan does run all the time and is noticeably noisy when under load:



The external temperature of the Dock didn't exceed 30°C:


One issue I've encountered is when removing a Sandisk Ultra Fit USB from the front port. Because the USB is small it is very easy to accidentally press 'eject' or catch the 'power' button resulting in the Card shutting down.

The lack of a USB Type-C port on the Dock is also a noticeable omission given a DisplayPort is provided. Neither is there an SD or micro SD card slot.

Overall the Card and Dock combination works well and the Card is a great innovation for computing. Whether the Card will be popular as a retail product will be dependent on how useful it is seen together with its adoption by both manufacturers and the public alike.

The original 'stick' form factor initially succeeded as a consumer mini PC because early versions targeted both the portable computing goal and the concept of making TVs 'smart'. To a certain extent though the ongoing success of the 'stick' has been limited by its own form factor and 'boxes' have gained traction due to their provision of USB ports, inclusion of ethernet and better including fanless cooling. But whilst 'sticks' have remained popular for their portability and small size their commercial continuance is under threat. With market segments including digital signage seeing the potential their business requirements have heavily influenced the evolution of design.

A Card and Dock still fulfills the basic requirements of a mini PC. Portability is certainly addressed by the design with the ability to swap out Cards from a Dock. And if alternatives to the 'dock' such as a Card based laptop or a Card based all-in-one materialize then subject to cost popularity should follow. However whilst the Card may be well suited to the commercial market the Card and Dock face challenges in the consumer mini PC market given the size, fan, configurability and price as there are alternatives to using a Card and Dock as a mini PC.

Several Apollo Lake 'boxes' are already available in the market including fanless devices. For the Apollo Lake Cards if a fanless 'dock' creating a solution similar to the Zotac ZBOX PI225 was offered by Intel or their collaborating partners it would make the Apollo Lake Cards more attractive as an alternative 'next generation' Stick. 


Equally for the Core m3 Card the price and configurability offered by Intel's own NUC NUC7i3BNK or similar will probably undermine the need for a second generation Core m3 Stick and is likely preferable to a Core m3 Card and Dock combination although this will still be attractive to those who want a prebuilt solution.

However these points should not detract from what is a very good pair of product offerings. With Intel cancelling its next generation of 'stick' products the Card and Dock proposition must be seen as an alternative to fill that void. It is just that the market has changed and the future of Intel based 'stick' mini PCs is very much dependent on whether manufacturers can offer new products at price competitive points. Unless the Card becomes ubiquitous then 'boxes' are likely to remain as the de facto successor.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

ISO respin script now handles SourceForge outages

Occasionally I've see the following error reported:

Extracting ISO ...
Parallel unsquashfs: Using 4 processors
183918 inodes (199170 blocks) to write

[=========================================================/] 199170/199170 100%

created 129699 files
created 17994 directories
created 54184 symlinks
created 7 devices
created 0 fifos
Extracting isorespin files ...
Updating bootloader/bootmanager ...
cp: cannot stat 'grub/boot': No such file or directory
cp: cannot stat 'iso-directory-structure/boot/grub/grub.cfg': No such file or directory
sed: can't read iso-refind/grub/grub.cfg: No such file or directory
cp: cannot stat '/refind/icons': No such file or directory
cp: cannot stat '/refind/refind_x64.efi': No such file or directory
cp: cannot stat '/refind/drivers_x64': No such file or directory
sed: can't read /refind/refind.conf-sample: No such file or directory
tee: iso-refind/refind.conf: No such file or directory
sed: can't read iso-refind/refind.conf: No such file or directory
cp: cannot stat '/mkrlconf': No such file or directory
tee: iso-directory-structure/preseed/ubuntu.seed: No such file or directory
Fetching mainline kernel packages ...
./isorespin.sh: line 2131: cd: /usr/src/linuxium/isorespin/test/7.3.3/isorespin: No such file or directory

./isorespin.sh: Cannot fetch mainline kernel index ... check your internet connection and try again.

however I've not been able to reproduce until now. It turns out it occurs when trying to download the rEFInd boot manager from 'SourceForge' as when that site experiences issues it is temporarily placed in static offline mode meaning downloads require the use of javascript to function. Unfortunately rather than recognizing this and exiting gracefully my script simply continued before erroring. 

I've now updated my script to try an alternate download if this situation is encountered and a new version (7.3.4) of 'isorespin.sh' is now available for download.

Any issues or improvement suggestions are welcome.

Please donate if you find the script useful using the following link http://goo.gl/nXWSGf.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Early look at Intel's Compute Cards including RRPs


Whilst Intel's Compute Stick can certainly be considered a success as a mini 'stick' PC the next generation is now on hold and in place is an evolution called the Intel Compute Card which has a different form factor and extended target use. It is expected to be available any time soon and there is already available a wealth of information in terms of specifications and costs.

Basically the compute card takes the compute stick but factors it as a module meaning that it is no longer standalone but dependent on a dock or host device.

Four compute cards are initially planned with three launched this quarter and one for mid-late Q4.


Looking at the specification of the cards in detail


we see the amount of storage and memory has been increased for the cards with faster processors. Why? Because there is no limitation from Microsoft as none of the cards come with a pre-installed OS. According to the technical specifications they will
support the following Operating Systems (64-bit only).
· Windows 10 Home
· Windows 10 Pro
· Windows 10 Enterprise
· Windows 10 Education
· Windows 10 IoT Enterprise
· Some Linux operating systems may be supported. Check with the specific Linux distribution to make sure that support is available for this platform
The card itself is relatively small with a footprint slightly larger than a standard credit card.



The card includes a connector which is separated into two sections: a Type C-compliant portion and an extended portion. The Type C portion supports Type C-compliant connections including video with audio and USB. The extended portion supports video with audio, USB, and PCIe. Power is supplied to the card from the device the Compute Card is plugged into using the Type C portion of the connector.

So you can simply plug in a USB Type C cable and be up and running? No. As mentioned you will need a dock or host device and not just any device as the card uses bidirectional authentication to attempt to authenticate the compatible device and the compatible device will attempt to authenticate the card. The authentication uses digital keys which are provisioned by default during manufacturing for every card and compatible device ensuring they only work with correctly provisioned card and devices.

There is a reason for this other than the obvious commercial 'manufacturer tie-in'. The card will get hot and it totally relies on the host device for cooling because it is designed so that direct conductive contact with the card surfaces provide the best overall heat dissipation. That means because the card is capable of operating within all critical component temperature specifications it will produce surface skin temperatures that may violate typical safety guidelines or requirements. To stop you being the cooling device for the card when you touch it the device must delay the card being ejected if additional cooling is needed to reduce the skin temperature to the recommendation of no more than 55 °C.

Given that the market of Intel compute card is now very much orientated to OEMs, manufacturers, distributors and channel partners it is fortunate that Intel have also launched a commercially available Intel Compute Card Dock.



Essentially you insert your compute card and effectively have a mini PC



that also comes with a VESA mount.



Looking at the specifications of the dock


it comes with a power adapter with a range of interchangeable international plugs together with a two metre/six foot long power cable.

When looking at the cost for each card a key factor to take into consideration is that the card comes with a three (3) year warranty. Given the support that Intel offers including regular BIOS updates and RMA for defective devices under warranty then this obviously comes at a cost which is not unreasonable. Added to the card cost is the dock which only comes with a one (1) year warranty (no doubt limited because of the internal fan). And then there is the OS which for Linux users isn't an issue but for Windows users loosing out on an included OEM provided license for a small supplement might be off putting.

The modular format is certainly going to be advantageous in certain circumstances. From a commercial viewpoint the support aspects of simply being able to swap out a faulty card is fantastic. I can also see a use as a 'Chromecard'. In schools where Chromebooks have been adopted the simplicity of a card and ease of portability for the student seems highly attractive.

But what of the future for the Intel Compute Card? Intel indicated that they would be evaluating the future of the Compute Stick in 2018 and decide if it warrants an update with the latest processors at that time.


Useful resources: 

Manuals and Guides
https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/boards-and-kits/intel-compute-card/000024440.html

Technical Product Specifications
https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/boards-and-kits/intel-compute-card/000024427.html

Support Links
https://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/support/boards-and-kits/intel-compute-card/000023817.html

Support Forum
https://communities.intel.com/community/tech/intel-compute-card/content