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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Based on a reference from another post, I wanted to post this seperately, as I think it's pretty cool.


The Via Epia Mini ITX motherboard ( reviewed here ) is tiny (7" x 7"), low powered, no fans-required, and cheap - $100 will get you integrated AC '97 audio, AGP 2x video, 10/100 LAN, and S-video/composite out w/ an 800 Mhz VIA C3 CPU.

Freevix is a project to put a stripped-down, fast booting linux on a Epia system to just boot into Freevo . He reports that it boots in 30-45 seconds. Compressed kernel its on a 16MB flash card - so you can just boot from flash, and run from memory. No hard drive required. He has reported that his 600 Mhz Via C3 works for TV, but not enough power to watch DVDs smoothly. This is apparently without hardware assistance.


Looks pretty interesting!


Mike
 

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it does look interesting. Some caveats though.


As of the time of this posting there are these issues:

- only accelerated X support in X CVS.

- ALSA support is poor

- mpeg2 decoding is not currently supported

- FIR/CIR support non-existant *SEE NOTE*

- USB 2.0 support poor


Fortunately, almost all of these issues are being actively worked. The mpeq2 decoder is a mystery at this point.


For the curious, here is the VIA hosted linux forum:
http://forums.viaarena.com/categories.cfm?catid=28


-----update-----

+NOTE+ Thanks to mflaster's post on the cyberblade driver I am able to change the disposition of the CIR port. Although FIR support is most likely not done. The CIR port is just a internal jumper set to the ps/2 port. So using some help from this link:
http://www.blackfiveservices.co.uk/EPIACIR.shtml

And this one:
http://www.blackfiveservices.co.uk/EPIAWireless.shtml


Someone could work up a remote setup to this jumper block. Still researching a circuit to use. Anyone with info on how to interface a IR receiver to a ps/2 port, please let me know.


The caveat to using this is that with a circuit using the 'CIR' jumper one cannot use the ps/2 port on the panel. In case that wasn't already clear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
There's another nice review here of the M9000.


One thing it says is that it does hardware decoding of MPEG-2, so it's good at that - but MPEG-4 is a bit too much.


I wonder if I could use Videolan to dynamically convert Divx to MPEG-2 at the server, and stream it as mpeg-2. Then I assume the Epia could handle it...


Mike
 

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That looks like a great project.


Note that the "Hardware Decoding" in the newer EPIA boards is just the motion compensation and iDCT support, like in Radeon and GeForce4MX boards. It needs driver support to enable it, as well as playback support in the DVD player. See this thread for info I've been digging up on XvMC in Linux.


This is yet another example of where the Teralogic boards would be great, if Linux drivers existed. Even the lowly C3 600 could support DVD and HD playback with the hardware decoder of the Teralogic board.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
So just to make sure I understand what you're saying - you think that while everything works correctly with hardware support under Windows (based on the review), on the M9000 under Linux it's not clear that drivers/apps would use the hardware support.


Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·

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Yes, exactly. The hardware is there, and it can be exploited in Windows with the appropriate drivers, OS API's (DirectX), and applications that use those API's (WinDVD, PowerDVD, FusionHDTV, etc).


In Linux, the only drivers, that I know of, which support hardware acceleration (XvMC), are the Nvidia GeForce4MX drivers. But, no DVD players use that XvMC API.


So, it's a nice piece of hardware, but without some significant software work, it's not a great Linux solution.


Quote:
Originally posted by mflaster
So just to make sure I understand what you're saying - you think that while everything works correctly with hardware support under Windows (based on the review), on the M9000 under Linux it's not clear that drivers/apps would use the hardware support.


Mike
 

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From that site: "VIDIX, which provides direct access to the video scaling and colourspace conversion hardware in a number of modern graphics chipsets"


So, while that's an important part to be supported, it doesn't include the full Motion Compensation, and iDCT that the XvMC provide - which helps the actual MPEG2 processing.


Quote:
Originally posted by mflaster
Oh, look what I just found - a Vidix driver for the Epia .


Mike
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by mflaster
Oh, look what I just found - a Vidix driver for the Epia .


Mike
Just to note, the brand new EPIA M boards with CLE266 chipset have an entirely different graphics chip then this driver covers. This vidix driver covers the trident cyberblade (w/out mpeg2 accellerator) while the new CLE266 boards have a (possibly S3 made) castlerock chip (w/ mpeg2 accellerator). Which this vidix driver cannot support.


Since the castle rock chip just got into X cvs it would be possible to write a new vidix driver.


Thanks for the link!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
So are you saying that a new Vidix driver could be written to take advantage of the mpeg2 acceleration of the CLD266, and then if xine/mplayer ran in vidix mode on this mobo, you'd get good playback?


Mike
 

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You are right. But since I noticed that I left out some important info and some other info is ambiguious I am going to try to clarify here.


Since there is a 2D acclellerated X driver one could take that source and write a vidix and/or a kernel fb driver. Given they know what they are doing.


Said drivers would not yet have mpeg2 accelleration because the X driver doesn't have it. But it is a good first step. BTW: X would get access to the mpeg2 accellerator through the XvMC extension as tji has already pointed out.


If the workings of the mpeg2 accellerator are ever exposed one could update XvMC and/or vidix AND mplayer and/or xine to use the accellerator to get better DVD/HD playback (of only mpeg2 encoded streams).


NOTE: mplayer already has some support for hardware mpeg decoding, but tji is struggling with getting mplayer/xine working with XvMC which is the primary interface for the parts of mpeg2 accelleration the epia m boards supply.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Here's a link to a similar system, Freepia :
Quote:
Freepia is small GNU/Linux distribution designed to run on Via Epia-M Mainboards. At present it only runs on the M-9000 but with some modifications like kernel and X11 modules it should be able to run on others too. (if someone has get it running on other Epia´s let me know). The main motivation behind this project is to build a full featured, low noise media box to play movies/mp3s/images etc. For this it uses freevo but in the future there maybe support for others like mythtv or vdr.
Also, here's a good thread for Epia-M Linux support . Unfortunately the summary is "it's not good"... :(


Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
FYI, it appears that someone has reverse-engineered the libddmpeg module for the EPIA. It's described here .


Mike
 

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Has anyone tried this EPIA support with high resolution MPEG2 streams? I can't imagine that it would have enough horsepower to handle HD, even with the hardware acceleration. (I have a Linux server using a VIA C3 800MHz, which is cool & quiet, but not exactly a powerhouse.)


Also, what is the background on the reverse engineering? VIA released binary-only drivers to support their MPEG2 acceleration? I'll never understand these hardware vendors and their reluctance to release spec's.. You would think it would be in their best interest to let the Linux community provide the best possible support for their hardware..
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I don't know if anyone has tried the Epia with HD streams. I think mainly people are still complaining about the crappy Via support... :)


As far as the background to the reverse engineering. It's my understanding that Via released some (source) kernel patches, some (source) (media player) patches, plus some binary modules, to allow hardware mpeg acceleration from, I forget, either xine or mplayer. (I don't really understand the architecture enough to know why you'd need all 3 of those things.)


I *do* know there is a piece that is binary only. libddmpeg. I believe that at first it was only released compiled for RH 8.0! :eek: It's not too big, so this guy just hacked away at the assembler, and now has some C-code! Cool, eh? It's now being tested I think.


I think the right thing to do would be to put support into XvMC. I told them that you posted that XvMC support was (soon to be) in mplayer.


Why does Via do this? A friend of me suggested that maybe they have signed agreements saying that they *can't* release the source code, even though they want to. After all, this reverse-engineering talk is going on on their own forums!! If this was some valuable trade secret they were trying to protect, you'd think they'd squash the thread!!!


Mike
 
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