Bauvorschlag für eine Steam-Box

Was eine SteamBox ist, weiß hoffentlich jeder. Auf meiner Wohnzimmer-SteamBox soll Windows und/oder Linux laufen. Der Bauvorschlag basiert auf dem c’t-Artikel „Dampfmaschine“ aus c’t Heft 7/2013. Mehr dazu auf der Projektseite c’t Steam Box: Spielkonsole selbst bauen.


Damit sollte alles laufen. Zusammenbauen und loslegen.


Das Gehäuse ist das alternative Gehäuse aus dem c’t-Bauvorschlag. Es gefällt mir einfach besser als die erste Wahl des originalen Vorschlags. Nachteil: das Netzteil ist nicht debei.

Das Netzteil im c’t-Bauvorschlag ist ein be quiet! Pure Power L7, aktuell ist anscheinend das Pure Power L8.

Das Mainboard aus dem Bauvorschlag gibt es nicht mehr – zumindest nicht in Österreich. Darum ebenfalls eines von MSI, aber mit A88X-Chipsatz statt mit A75-Chipsatz. Kann hoffentlich nur besser werden. (Fingers crossed!)

Die CPU wurde von der c’t als Steam-CPU empfohlen.


Ich habe ein Windows 7 Home Premium, das ich damit verwenden werde. Der einzige Grund dafür ist, dass ich auf Steam ein paar Spiele habe, die leider noch nicht unter Linux laufen. Allerdings werde ich eine Dual-Boot-Installation mit Debian testing einrichten.

Der Plan ist, Steam im Big-Picture-Modus automatisch mit dem Betriebssystem zu starten.


Dieser Bauvorschlag ist derzeit noch ein Projekt. Die Finanzmittel stehen noch nicht zur Verfügung 😦



Installing Windows Vista on an ASUS Eee PC 1101HA

I’m installing Windows Vista on this Netbook for a friend.

The reason to choose Vista is that he has a 32-bit license i.e. “Product Key” for Windows Vista that he doesn’t otherwise use at the moment. The reason not to use the original Windows XP (the Product Key sticker is on the back of this very Eee PC) is that Windows XP is depricated and no longer supported as of 8th April 2014, hence it will no longer receive security updates. On the other hand, according Microsoft Support Lifecycle Windows Vista will be supported until 11th April 2017.

Hardware sepcifications

The ASUS Eee PC 1101HA isn’t very fast. It uses parts optimised for low power consumption.

  • Processor: Intel Atom Z520 1.33 GHz
  • Chipset: Intel US15W Ultra Mobile chipset
  • Memory: 1 GB 533 MHz DDR2
  • Graphics: Graphics Media Accelerator 500 (GMA500)
  • Display: 11.6 inch 1366×768
  • Ethernet: Atheros AR8132 10/100
  • WiFi: Atheros AR9285 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth: ?

Performace isn’t great but sufficient for general office tasks. Windows Experience Index (on Vista from 1.0 to 5.9) reports a 2.7 score for the processor, and a 2.9 score of graphics performance. So the CPU plus the chipset, which includes the graphics, really is what makes it slow on the one hand, but it’s also what makes it burn only a few watts of electrical power on the other hand. The detailed score after all updates on Windows Vista SP2:

  • CPU: 2.7
  • Memory: 4.2
  • Graphics (Aero): 2.9
  • Graphics (3D business & gaming): 3.0
  • Disk: 5.9 (with a SATA-SSD installed)

ASUS support

I have to say that this took me by surprise. Apparently, Windows XP and Windows 7 (x86 i.e. 32-bit) are supported operating systems for the Eee PC 1101HA. This of course means: Windows Vista is not supported directly by ASUS.

This is also reflected when visiting the ASUS support site. You can download all required drivers for Windows XP and for Windows 7. The BIG problem was to find the display driver for Windows Vista.


Installing Windows Vista failed initialy due to the hard disk drive being not supported. I don’t really know what this means, but the hard disk drive was not found and the Windows installation pointed towards loading it from an external source (a floppy disk, CD or DVD or a USB drive). I guess it failed due to the chipset, Intel US15W, not being supported by stock Windows Vista from 2007.

So, I got the chipset drivers from the intel page, unpacked them on another computer that also ran Windows Vista, and put them on an USB pen drive. I had this pen drive connected when I re-tried to install Windows Vista and this time it worked without even a notification if a driver from an external source (the USB pen drive) was used or not.
Anyway, it worked. And that is what matters.

After Windows Vista was installed, I had the greatest trouble finding a driver for the graphics. It used “Standard VGA” and was limited to a 800×600 resolution.

It took some time to find out that the graphics is an onboard graphics card, Intel calls it “Integrated Graphics Device” (IGD), and that it actucally is an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 500. The problem is thou that this one requires a very special driver, because the regular GMA500 driver doesn’t support this particular chipset.

I eventually found it as “Intel US15 Ultra Mobile Integrated Chipset drivers”. It all comes down to the one major truth, that the only hard part was to identify and find the driver, because firstly ASUS doesn’t provide any Vista drivers for this Eee PC and secondly Intel has a blurry way of naming their drivers.

Also, in order to download the drivers, I needed to install the LAN drivers for internet connectivity. Stock Windows Vista has four devices it lacks drivers for:

  1. ACPI: I got lucky and Windows Vista solved this problem all by itself, once connected to the internet!
  2. Ethernet (Atheros AR8132): use Windows 7 driver from ASUS
  3. Graphics (Intel GMA500): use Intel driver
  4. WiFi (Atheros AR9285): provided from Vista Service Pack 1

Luckily, the Ethernet drivers package for Windows 7 provided by ASUS also includes the Windows Vista drivers.

So, these are the initial drivers required after Windows Vista is installed:

  2. Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 500 for Atom processor driver for Windows Vista*32, Version 4.0.2 (08/11/2009), size: 27.72 MB
  3. Intel INFupdate utility

Strange enough, I got a Security Warning message every time after startup with the Intel GMA files, specifically IgfxTray.exe, IgfxExt.exe, hkcmd.exe and PersistenceThread.exe, all of which are located in C:\Windows\system32. While selecting “Unlock” in the preferences of these files did not work, removing their streams completely did. For this I had to use the command line and the Sysinternals streams.exe utility.

Windows Update

I was also surprised that using Windows Update I wasn’t able to install any Service Pack. Firstly, Windows Update installed about 250 GB worth of pre-SP updates. Then it presented Service Pack 1, but installation failed. Maybe a download problem? So I decided to download it from Microsoft directly. I installed it, which worked. I then used Windows Update to download remaining updates, so again I got 250 GB worth of SP1 updates. Then Windows Update failed to present Service Pack 2 altogether. I manually downloaded Service Pack 2 and installed it, again, which worked. Once more, starting Windows Update I then got 250 GB worth of SP2 updates.

All in all I downloaded around 1.5 GB updates:

  • ~250 MB updates after installation (pre-SP)
  • 434 MB for the Service Pack 1 (Five Language)
  • ~250 MB updates (post-SP1)
  • 348 MB for the Service Pack 2 (Five Language)
  • ~250 MB updates (post-SP2)

Looking back it would have been better to download SP1 and SP2 first, install both, and only then check for remaining updates. For what it’s worth, it was interesting to see if and how updating works. I would have expected Windows Update to perform better.

Another thing to consider is time. The hardware isn’t really fast. Every update takes quite long to complete. Doing all the updates took the netbook a day to finish – that was including me looking after it from time to time to see if user input was required (like: restarting it).

But, there was one thing that surprised me in the positive sense: A problem was detected and a solution was found: Windows Vista pointed me to downloading the ASUS ACPI driver, installation was simple and successful. This very driver also installs the EeePC Tray Utility which then complained on every startup about the missing VGA driver (which was solved once the Intel GMA500 driver was installed). But the point is: Windows Vista pointed me to installing the ACPI driver! That was great!

SSD over HDD

An SSD in a netbook is always a good upgrade choice. Especially netbooks get carried around a lot, and sometimes (due to their size) get used in strange places. The idea behind it: an SSD does not contain any rotating parts. While rough handling will not affect an SSD any more than the rest of the netbook, it will greatly affect a HDD with rotating discs inside and might even damage it, destroying vital data.
Another advantage is of course energy consumption: while the HDD constantly has to spin, consuming energy, the SDD only requires power when data is written or read. That is, disregarding the power required for the internal controller of any disk drive i.e. SSD and HDD likewise.

The bad news is that Windows Vista does not support SATA TRIM. Even though this exact hardware setup would support the TRIM feature, Windows Vista will not take advantage of it. On Windows before Windows 7 the SSD will solely rely on the internal garbage collector and/or overprovisioning, since it is not being informed which blocks on the file system have been deleted and are no longer in use by the operating system. On the other hand, Windows 7 will use the TRIM feature by default. On Linux, the “discard” mount option will make sure it is used as a live feature. Various tools will provide means to manually initiate trim throughout the whole file system (e.g. fstrim). Likewise, such a manual invokation of the trim command is also possible on the NTFS partition, but only when booted from Windows 7. This would make NTFS be trimmed (once), including a Vista installation that would be started from that partition afterwards. Since the operating system has to support TRIM, which Vista does not, this would only be useful on dual-boot installations of Windows 7 and Windows Vista; simply put, on a Vista-only installation: no luck with TRIM. (Linux doesn’t have the capability to trim NTFS.) On Linux, only ext4, swap and btrfs among others support trimming i.e. discard. On ext2 and NTFS, trim is not (yet) supported, propably never will be.

Windows 7?

Windows 7 would definitely be a better choice as a replacement for Windows XP on such a limited hardware. The featureset of Windows 7, like the support for SATA TRIM, is also a point in favor for the newer Windows. Only, who has an unused Windows 7 32-bit license lying around? With Windows Vista, there are a couple of computers around that used the 32-bit flavour and that have been dumped in favour of a newer computer, be it a desktop of notebook. I don’t know why, but that is my experience. A lot of computers were updated from Vista to 7, sometimes even from a 32-bit version of Vista to a full 64-bit version of Windows 7. That left a couple of Vista licenses available and ready to be used to upgrade older Windows XP installations.

The other possibility is of course to buy a 32-bit version of Windows 7. But I would rather install, say, Ubuntu Linux or Debian GNU/Linux or openSUSE Linux or… yeah, any Linux distribution at all. Just be sure to use a lightweight one, because of the limited performance of the ASUS Eee PC 1101HA. But that is a completely different story. Only so much: Ubuntu 12.04.4 LTS works out-of-the-box. SSD-TRIM optimizations have to be manually enabled, but there are a few good guides like the one from Debian and the one from Arch. IMHO, depending on the available memory, using RAM drives (like tmpfs) is also a good idea.



This article is incomplete. Some links are missing, and overall it could have been better. But I spend long enough writing it by now and I will not update it, so it stays as it is. I just hope that it will be of any use, or even help an EeePC 1101 owner. I’m sure btw that you’ll figure out how to use streams to remove the security warning and how to get the SATA-chipset drivers from intel unpacked in order to copy them to an external USB pen drive so that the Windows Vista installation can access the internal SATA drive.

Installing Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” without the use of XPostFacto on an iBook G3 Clamshell without FireWire

I just got an original iBook G3/300 (sometimes also referred to as “Clamshell”) from a friend and I have to say that I do like it very much. The hardware performance is essentially the same as I am used to from my Power Mac G3/350 Blue & White.

My friend, who had used it for several years and replaced it a few years ago with an Intel-based MacBook, had its main memory maxed-out so it features 544 MB memory: 32 MB internal + 512 MB from the expansion slot. He also managed to replace the original hard disk drive with a 120 GB drive, so I don’t have to worry about disk space limitation. He also replaced the original CD drive with a DVD drive, as I understand it out of necessity, because the original CD drive broke. He gave it to me with a fresh installation of Mac OS X 10.3 “Panther”.

I wanted to get Mac OS X 10.4 “Tiger” on it, but due to the lack of FireWire the PowerBook2,1 is not supported by Tiger. For the same reason, installing Tiger using target disk mode is not an option. Lukily with the upgraded DVD drive I can use the installation media directly. So I looked for a solution and found that XPostFacto would let me install Tiger. I gave it some thought and went along with my own Open Firmware hack, which is really easy to accomplish. Since it was easy to install Tiger on my Power Mac G3 B&W I thought that it must be possible to install it without third-party stuff on the Clamshell as well. I also found out that the 2000-models of the Clamshell feature FireWire and can happily install and run Tiger. The only difference between the original ’99 models and the 2000 models is more internal memory (64 MB instead of 32 MB), a DVD drive instead of a CD drive and FireWire-400 for the later ones.

My Tiger DVD is the one labeled as “CPU Drop In DVD”. After booting it I am greeted with an alert: „Your computer is not compatible with Mac OS X 10.4.”

I rebooted and went into Open Firmware (holding Command + Option (Alt) + O + F at the chime until seeing the Open Firmware prompt). I decided to alter the model to report PowerMac1,1, same as my Power Mac. That made the bootup stall. So I went with PowerBook2,2, which is the 2000-model of this iBook.

In order to do what I did, type in the following at the Open Firmware prompt:

  • dev /
  • .properties
    you will see a list of properties displayed, two of them are “model” and “compatible” – both have to be changed
  • “ PowerBook2,2″ encode-string “ model“ property
    this will set “model” to  “PowerBook2,2”
  • “ PowerBook2,2″ encode-string “ MacRISC“ encode-string encode+ “ MacRISC2″ encode-string encode+ “ Power Macintosh“ encode-string encode+ “ compatible“ property
    this will set “compatible” to “PowerBook2,2↵MacRISC↵MacRISC2↵Power Macintosh”

The hard part really is to get the commands down correctly. Very important is to have each string starting with a white space after the double-quotes. So “ PowerBook2,2″ is correct, but „PowerBook2,2“ would be incorrect and result in an error. Also, it may be hard to understand the structure of Open Firmware commands. It is based on FORTH, a programming language, where the actual command what to do with a value follows that value. (Like calculating with a HP-28.) So “ PowerBook2,2″ is the string, and encode-string is what to do with it. Thereafter follows another string: “ model“, followed by what to do with it: property. So we set the string “PowerBook2,2” to be the new value of porperty “model”.

The same goes for the property “compatible”, but the strings have to be connected with encode+ – which again follows the second/third/… string. It is easier to understand if the whole command is logically devided:

  1. “ PowerBook2,2″ encode-string
  2. “ MacRISC“ encode-string encode+
  3. “ MacRISC2″ encode-string encode+
  4. “ Power Macintosh“ encode-string encode+
  5. “ compatible“ property

The encode+ command connects the second/thind/… string with the preceeding string. And the last part puts it all into the “compatible” property.

My Clamshell has a german keyboard. If you also have a non-US-keyboard you may need to search for the keys to press to get what you need. On the german keyboard this is as follows:

  •  (double quotation mark): Shift + ä
  • + (plus): Shift + ` (between ß/? and Backspace)
  • (minus): ß
  • : (colon): Shift + ö
  • \ (backslash): (next to the right Shift)

After changing the two Open Firmware strings is finished (it took me not more than 5 minutes) all that is left is to boot from the CD/DVD. Do this by typing the following at the Open Firmware command prompt:

  • boot cd:,\\:tbxi

This will boot from the CD/DVD drive – and search for the one file that is blessed, that’s what the \\:tbxi is for. Otherwise you would have to specify the exact location and filename of the first stage bootloader, which will most likely differ for every installation and installation media.

On the Clamshell I would always prefer this method over hacking a Tiger-DVD because making a DVD for this one-time purpose really isn’t necessary. Also, if you don’t have such a DVD already or if, for whatever reason, you cannot find it right now but have the original Tiger-DVD at hand, the Open Firmware method is faster. The prerequisite and also the only limitation of the Open Firmware method is that you will most likely need a DVD drive in your Clamshell because the original Tiger installation media is a DVD – at least I’ve never heard of a installation CD for Tiger.

You might wander if this Open Firmware settings are saved which would make them permanent. The quick answer: no. On the next boot all altered strings will be lost. Therefor the Open Firmware method is safe since all changes are volatile and will not survive a reboot.

Anyway, this all worked very well and I was able to get Tiger installed properly. Once it is on one of the volumes on the hard disk, you can boot from there. What I did was to restore a backup copy of Tiger I had made from my Power Mac G5, so I didn’t have to make the updates to 10.4.11 and all that stuff again.

Overall I am very happy with my new Clamshell. Compared to my Power Mac G3 B&W the Clamshell has only 50 MHz less processor speed and supports almost only half the memory, but I don’t feel it being very much behind its bigger desktop brother and I like working with it a lot. The only issue is the display which only features a resolution of 800 by 600 pixels and hence prevents some iLife ’05 applications and Adobes’ Creative Suite 2 to run. Also, the newest version of iTunes for Tiger, 9.2.1, will not run because it requires (or checks for the presence of) a G4 or G5 processor. The latest working iTunes on the G3 is 9.1.1, although Apple recommends iTunes 8.2.1 for G3 systems.

All in all I can only recommend to use older computers, especially if they are as though and such great pieces of engineering art as this Clamshell!
Keep them running and use them!

Apple Mac: best case/worst case operating system support in the scope of sustainability

The following are just some thoughts on customer viability, both in the economical and ecological sense. In this case, viability for a computer user is equal to ecological sustainability, provided the user really uses the PC. A computer is worth the purchase when it continues to be of use as long as it is of use to the user. It is understood that certain new developments whet the appetite and as a possible consequence require either more hardware performance (more power!) or a completely different hardware connector, which itself may only be present on or may require newer hardware. Since you as a customer will then no longer have a use for your older computer, you will have to replace it. But until this happens, the computer shoudn’t be loosing usability due to economical reasons, like planned obsolescence.

One example I like to point out is iTunes. Newer versions of it in turn require newer version of Mac OS. This fact alone isn’t a great deal of annoyance by itself, but you require a new version of iTunes if you also happen to buy a newer iPod, iPad or iPhone. While I understand that some functions like videos may actually require a faster computer to run iTunes, it also locks out people who just want to backup their data from their iPad/iPod/iPhone devices. For that you wouldn’t really require a modern Core i-based Mac—actually, an over a decade old 350 MHz G3-based Mac will be sufficient to syncronize contacts and calendar data.

On usability: yes, watching videos in HD quality on a ’99 Power Macintosh G3 with a 350 MHz processor, 512 MB memory and an OpenGL 1.2 (Direct3D 6) graphics card with only 16 MB of VRAM will not work at all. In fact, watching YouTube videos of any resolution won’t work, because rich applications (Web 2.0) in general are too resource heavy and don’t run properly. But checking e-mails and writing texts will continue to work. And especially if you’ve also invested hard cash for a lot of software for this computer that you still like to use and have use for, it is viable to keep that computer as long as you can. That is, if you really continue to actively use it. And that is also how it should be!

In the years 2000 to 2010 the computer market experienced, what I call: “the decade of Windows XP”. PC people were getting used to having an operating system for a longer time period. And Apple made it possible for a lot of computer users to upgrade to their newest operating system. It has to be considered though that releases were not as frequently pushed as they are today.

So, here is something I would like to make the reader of my blog (you!) aware of:

Best case

Someone who bought an Apple Power Macintosh G3 “Blue and White” desktop computer in 1999 got it with Mac OS 8.51 pre-installed. They were then able to upgrade to (aside from the free Mac OS 8.6 update):

  1. Mac OS 9.0/9.1/9.2 (USD 99)
  2. Mac OS X 10.0 (USD 129)
  3. Mac OS X 10.1 (USD 19.95 if you had purchased 10.0, otherwise USD 129)
  4. Mac OS X 10.2 (USD 129)
  5. Mac OS X 10.3 (USD 129)
  6. Mac OS X 10.4 (USD 129)

Their purchase was supported by Apple directly through their operating system from 1999 to 2005. The last of the supported Apple operating systems, Mac OS X 10.4, was current until 2007. It continued to receive bug fixes until 2009.

In summary this computer was supported by Apple software for a decade. All you had to do was buy the software (the OS).

Worst case

Someone who bought an Apple Power Mac G5 Dual-Core in 2005 got it with Mac OS X 10.4 pre-installed. They could then upgrade to:

  1. Mac OS X 10.5 (PowerPC) (USD 129)

Now, someone who thought “hey, Apple is going Intel!” and bought an Apple Mac Mini in 2006 got it with Mac OS X 10.4/Intel pre-installed. They could then upgrade it to:

  1. Mac OS X 10.5 (Intel) (USD 129)

So all in all their purchase was supported by Apple directly through the operating system from 2005/2006 to 2007. Mac OS X 10.5 was the current Apple operating system until 2009. It continued to receive bug fixes until 2011.


Last supported OS available so many years after purchase:

  • Power Macintosh G3 “Blue and White”: 6 years
  • Power Mac G5 “Late 2005”: 2 years
  • Mac Mini “Late 2006”: 1 year

Fully supported through current operating system:

  • Power Macintosh G3 “Blue and White”: 8 years
  • Power Mac G5 “Late 2005”: 4 years
  • Mac Mini “Late 2006”: 3 years

Extended bug fix support for the operating system and most of its software:

  • Power Macintosh G3 “Blue and White”: 10 years
  • Power Mac G5 “Late 2005”: 6 years
  • Mac Mini “Late 2006”: 5 years

The Power Macintosh G3 “Blue and White”, ranging from USD 1599 up to USD 2999, had double the time being supported compared to the fist Intel Mac Mini Core Solo/Core Duo, ranging from USD 599 up to USD 799. Customers of the Power Mac G5 “Late 2005” model, ranging from USD 1999 up to USD 3299, had only one year longer than the first Intel Mac Mini.

Continued use

How older hardware can still be of further use? The main problem seems to be the software. If someone used Linux on an Apple computer back in 1999, they could still use it today without real limitations other than the hardware and performance limits. Newest Linux kernels and open source software tend to run happily on once supported hardware. But if someone used Mac OS, they have to accept that the company behind it is in the position to dictate how long it’s going to be supported. And they have the means to execute this position. (No new iTunes for Mac OS X 10.4 means no iPad 2 and newer on a Mac that cannot upgrade to a newer Mac OS version.) That doesn’t mean that programs and products that are working right now suddenly stopped working. Using hardware devices and software versions of the time when it was supported is normally equally only restricted by the hardware and performance limits. But you just cannot count on it that newer devices will work with older operating system versions. Therefore you will have to check first and maybe stand back from buying the newest and the fanciest stuff.

No one said that sustainability was easy…