Low Power Workstation

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Low Power Workstations

  • Motherboard: Via Epia SN18000G
  • Processor: 1.8GHz VIA C7® Processor
  • RAM: 2gb
  • Storage: Compact Flash
  • Case: VoomPC Automotive Mini-ITX Case
  • OS: Ubuntu 8.04 (with gnome)
  • Chipset: VIA CN896 North Bridge
             VIA VT8251 South Bridge
  • Audio: VIA VT1708A High Defination Audio Codec


  • Jumpers for power switch are second two in from the right on the back row, with the rows of jumpers away from you
  • Press F11 during POST to select boot device

To Do


  • Network user profiles


  • Java
  • gedit


  • Boot on PS/2 mouse and USB keyboard
  • Solder power LED on prototype

*Check on:

  • User/global config files for Ekiga to avoid sound device being set to "Default" on first run

Ubuntu 8.10 =

Custom Stuff

  • FUZZY XORG AFTER INSTALL: set driver to 'vesa' OR compile openchrome 902 (901 is the only provided version). Obtain DRM by compiling from git source.
  • BUZZING -> Mute line device for recording.
  • Knowplex and Ekiga don't play nice together unless /etc/asound.conf is added so that dmix works
  • Sample /etc/asound.conf
  pcm.snd_card {
       type hw
       card 0
pcm.dmixer {
       type dmix
       ipc_key 1024
       slave.pcm "snd_card"
       slave {
               period_size 256
               buffer_size 2048
               rate 44100
pcm.dsnooper {
       type dsnoop
       ipc_key 2048
       slave.pcm "snd_card"
       slave {
               period_size 256
buffer_size 2048
               rate 44100
pcm.duplex {
       type asym
       playback.pcm "dmixer"
       capture.pcm "dsnooper"
pcm.!default {
       type plug
       slave.pcm "duplex"
buffer_size 2048
               rate 44100

  • install build-essential for most common stuff needed to build

Compiling a custom kernel

Here's a kernel config file for 2.6.25-7 - use 'make oldconfig' to make it work with newer kernels.

Compile the new kernel by doing:

make-kpkg -initrd --revision=FSepia001 kernel_image modules_image

The revision can be whatever string you want. Use dpkg -i to install the resulting .deb file. You can also build kernel_headers if you wish (it takes a long time though).

I wanted the ALSA release candidate, so I didn't build alsa support in the kernel. Instead I downloaded the release candidate tarball, did

./configure --with-cards=hda-intel --with-card-options=hda-codec-via,hda-generic,hda-power-save
sudo make install

Note that you should be running the new kernel when you do this. Load the new modules by doing

modprobe snd-hda-intel

The module should load correctly on bootup from now on.

Ubuntu Desktop Fails to Start

See: This bug report

The problem is that gnome-keyring-daemon segfaults on startup (apparently related to flash based storage?).


  • edit etc/pam.d/gdm as root
  • remove all references to gnome_keyring
  • save file and restart GDM

Power Saving Tips

Build a kernel with dynticks enabled and use powertop. Some recommendations from powertop:

Suggestion: increase the VM dirty writeback time from 5.00 to 15 seconds with:
 echo 1500 > /proc/sys/vm/dirty_writeback_centisecs

FreeBSD 7.0

Custom Settings

Ports Settings


CFLAGS+= -march=i686 -msse3

Load kernel modules



Disable line-In whine on snd_hda module load



http://lists.freebsd.org/pipermail/freebsd-current/2009-January/002031.html ^^ excellent sound tweaking info (2-18-2009)

Bootup settings




vol 85:85 pcm 75:75 line 0:0 mic 0:0 cd 75:75 rec 75:75 =rec mic

Power Consumption Tuning

Shuttle X27D


Test SFLphone -- http://bd.zenbsd.net:8080/~jontow/sflphone/

for dependencies: sudo apt-get install libcommoncpp2-1.6-0 libcommoncpp2-dev

               libccrtp1-1.6-1 libgnutls-dev zlib1g-dev libgcrypt11-dev 
               libgpg-error-dev libtasn1-3-dev liblog4c3


4gb SATA flash module has been copied to fshellsrv /home/dertow/shuttle.iso using:

dd if=/dev/sda | ssh dertow@fshellsrv "dd of=/home/dertow/shuttle.iso"

then to copy this to new flash module:

boot workstation using usb "livecd"

ssh dertow@fshellsrv "dd if=/home/dertow/shuttle.iso" | dd of=/dev/sda


XFCE Settings

XFCE config directory is /etc/xdg

To make xfce-mixer settings static for all users, xfce4-mixer.xml was created by configuring mixer for one user. This file was then placed in the global config directory for XFCE in the following subdirectory: /etc/xdg/xfce4/xfconf/xfce-perchannel-xml

Dual monitors: Get output from 'xrandr' command

xrandr --output <RIGHT> --right-of <LEFT>

Mixer Settings

Sound card: HDA Intel (ALSA Mixer) Playback Controls:

PCM: 100%
Front: 100%
Mic: 90%
Mic Boost: 60% <-- Without this, the other end of the call reports "quiet and crackly" sound


capture: 40% (with red dot)
digital: 40% (with red dot)


Headphone: checked


Input source: mic

Twinkle Audio Settings

Ringtone, Speaker, and Mic need to be set to "ALSA HDA (ALC662 ANALOG)"

Power Consumption

-1w consumption when off (no peripherals) - connected directly to power outlet --0.56 power factor

-2w consumption when off (kb, mouse, monitor, ethernet connected) - connected directly to power outlet --0.41 power factor

While booting, max power usage reached was 32w for only a moment. Machine consumes 26w whether idle or running numerous applications. While installing packages, consumption was 27w.

Power Consumption With Monitor

-1w consumption when off (kb, mouse, monitor, ethernet connected) and connected to surge protector with switch off.

-3w consumption with power strip on but monitor and computer switched off.

-3w consumption with monitor and power strip on but computer switched off.

-When booting with monitor and computer through kill-a-watt meter, max usage showed 55w during boot. Idle at login screen they are consuming 49w with a power factor of 0.65

Global XFCE/XUbuntu Icons and User Settings

Basically I wanted a kiosk type setup, but xfce4's kiosk mode SUCKS.

To get global icons the easiest way was to install "Sabayon" which allows you to create profiles for groups of users, and then start up an x session within your x session which you can then customize and save. When the users in the created profile login, they will have the desktop settings created. This program is very buggy, and you will want to save the profile after every change, or else it will crash*

* Chances are it will only crash if, like me, you aren't using gnome. I am running xubuntu/xfce on this box and Sabayon looks 
for gnome-session on startup, and gets buggy after that when it doesn't find it.