Installing Debian Linux on a

EPOX 8RGA+ Motherboard

Introduction:
I recently build a computer from scratch around the EPOX 8RGA+ motherboard (nForce2 chipset, and pretty much everything you can want onboard.)
 Epox 8RGA+ mainboard
 	(onboard video, audio, LAN)
 AMD Athlon 2500+
 Western Digital 7200 RPM 160 GB
 generic 52x CD-RW
 1024 MB Crucial DDR RAM
 3c905 PCI ethernet card (for second LAN port)

Status:
(2003-10-20) After one weekend's work, pretty much everything works: the onboard video, network, audio, and USB. I haven't tested Firewire as I don't have any peripherals.

Update: (2004-05-11) I've just upgraded to the 2.6.5 kernel and everything is working Just Fine. You can look at my /etc/modules file here but I'm not sure that much of that is necessary. The "discover" package seems to do a good job of autodetecting things these days.


The following instructions assume you are familiar with installing a new kernel. If not, see here.

Initial Debian Install

This was a clean install of Debian "testing" (sarge) into brand new hardware, performed following the instructions at http://cvs.debian.org/debian-installer/doc/INSTALLATION-HOWTO?rev=HEAD&content-type=text/vnd.viewcvs-markup As "sarge" is a moving target, some of the bugs described below may be fixed by the time you read this.

The system booted off of the CD just fine. It flashed through a bunch of screens almost too fast to read as it loaded modules. I hit the "couldn;t configure network interface" bug as described in the above howto. I followed the instructions to go back and select the "Detect Network Hardware" link. This gave me a blank blue screen for ~ 2 minutes then proceeded properly - Debian should add some sort of text to this screen indicating that things are proceeding OK as otherwise it seems very much like the installer has crashed.

I moved ahead through partitioning the drive without incident. However, after I had set all the mount points and said "finish", then the system went back to blank-blue-screen mode, with no indication whatsoever that anything useful was going on. After about 5 minutes with no change, I gave up and rebooted. I proceeded back through the installer and when I got to the drive mounting stage, I saw that it had successfully formatted ext3 filesystems on my first two partitions. OK, so it was working. It _really_ needs some sort of indication that it's doing something.... So I proceeded forward and again hit the blank blue screen, for something like 15-20 minutes before suddenly starting to copy files off the CD. OK, sure, it's going to take a long time to format 160 GB, but it's going to confuse the hell out of a lot of people if it's just a blank screen throughout.

The installer has a very choppy, unfinished look graphically. Frequently the grey text boxes on screen were only partially drawn, with large chunks missing and just displaying the blue background.

I encountered the second bug described in the HOWTO regarding the automatic HD partition and proceeded through it as instructed there. Rebooted into base-config.

Here I encountered a brief difficulty. I'd plugged my ethernet cable into the onboard LAN port, but this was not recognized by the installer. base-config died since it couldn't find any route to anywhere. Luckily this machine is going to act as a firewall/router so I put a PCI LAN card in as well, which was detected. So I exited base-config, plugged the cable into the PCI LAN card, ifdown/ifuped the interface to hit the DHCP server, and re-started base-config. It installed all the packages I wanted, and voila! Up and running, no sweat. However, this whole mess might have been avoided if the installer had at some point presented a list of which hardware it had/had not successfully identified.


What follows is a bunch of free-form notes regarding getting various peripherals working properly. Sorry for the mess; I'll try to reformat this more nicely sometime, but don't hold your breath...

Installed plenty of modules
	sound worked with i810 module, after fixing permissions / 
		adding mperrin to group audio.

Installed custom kernel 2.4.22 hopefully with correct options for
	I2C hardware monitoring and network masquerading.
	Rebooted OK...

	sound seems to be OK, but network is now broken. OK, turns out I
	was missing the CONFIG_FILTER option apparently; so I added that
	and recompiled. Let's see... Yes, that seems to have fixed it.

	and with the nforce drivers from NVidia installed, the onboard
	ethernet port works as well. OK, so now we need to figure out
	how to debian-ize that driver... Note that this is the nforce driver
	not the nvidia driver which is just for the graphics cards.


installed lm-sensors and lm-sensors-source. before building kernel package.
	Excellent! Following the instructions in these packages, I now
	have sensors working properly.

	And now everything has broken mysteriously. Neither network
	interface works any more... (after I instaled dhcpd??)
	The network cable and oldhg DHCP server are confirmed good using pharlap.
	OK, this turned out to be simple: it swapped which interface was
	considered "eth0" and "eth1" so the configuration file and cables
	were out of sync. I kept turning off the interface I meant to use
	and vice versa. I'm trying now to see if I can get the order to
	remain fixed by explicitly loading both modules from /etc/modules
        Yes, that seems to fix the order of which is eth0 and eth1.

dhcp server installed. configuration file copied over. working fine.

installed cupsys, cupsys client, cupsys bsd, but not yet configured.
	
Based on examining /proc/pci according to the USB howto instructions,
it looks like the epox mb has a OHCI USB driver. OK, so I compiled a 
kernel with USB OHCI support and USB /proc support. In order to activate it, 
you need to add a line to /etc/fstab to mount usbdevfs on /proc/bus/usb.





I used hdparm to measure hard disk performance. Was originally 2 mb/s.
Need to add "amd74xx" module to enable DMA. Performance increased to
66 MB/s. using hdparm -X66 -d1 -u1 -m16 -c3 /dev/hda

 c1 vs c3 doesn't appear to make any difference. 
	udma3 appears to work better than udma2... and udma5 even better yet
	42 MB/s!
added hwtools package and tweaked init script to run hdparm on boot

USB modules load OK. Needed to be added to /etc/modules for autoload on
boot...


CD burner. Needed to add ide-scsi, scsi, scsi generic support to kernel, so
another kernel build. Set up following CD-Writing HOWTO instructions.
Works fine. Note that you can also tune the performance of the CD-RW using hdparm.
However, you need to call it with hdparm /dev/hdc *even when using ide-scsi* 
and then things will work properly. I used 
	hdparm -c1 -u1 -d1 -X udma2 /dev/hdc
and successfully got 24x write speed while using the default settings I did
no better than 16x. Performance is also vastly better and puts essentially
no load on the CPU when using DMA.


Added gshield deb. Configured. OK, need to recompile kernel to add
ipfilter mangling module...

FOr some reason make-kpkg is not automatically running lilo after a new
kernel is installed. This greatly confused me when it rebooted into the
old kernel... Still working on getting gshield configured correctly for ipmasq.
weird problems where it just locks up iptables and requires a reboot to fix...
And why am I still getting that "blk: queue blah blah blah" message and
several second pauses on startup?. OK, the iptables bug was fixed by recompiling
with the ipt_limit and ipt_state kernel modules selected.
	

Audio

I'm now running with ALSA on the 2.6.5 kernel. The digital out (SPDIF) works fine. I wanted the sound card to send output simultaneously to both the analog out (speaker port) and the digital out on the sound card. This lets me run the same music through the computer speakers in one room, and the stereo speakers at the other end of the house (connected to the SPDIF cable). With a bit of experimentation, I was able to come up with an
.asoundrc which enables this.


This page last modified 2004-05-11 by Marshall Perrin