How to install Ubuntu and Boxee on the Acer Aspire Revo

** UPDATE 7th January 2009 ***

See my new post for details on how to install the Boxee Beta and Ubuntu Karmic on the Revo:
How to install Ubuntu 9.10 and the Boxee Beta on an Acer Aspire Revo (including 64 bit option)

The details below are now out of date, but are still useful if you wish to install Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty) on a Revo.

***

The Revo is a very new piece of hardware and features some cutting edge technology so installing Ubuntu on it is not completely straightforward as not many people own these units and have had a chance to make them work out of the box with this very popular Linux distribution. However, it can be done and the unit makes a fantastic Ubuntu machine and if you add Boxee a great entertainment centre for your living room. The first thing to do is to put a copy of the Ubuntu 9.04 desktop live CD image on a USB memory stick. Do this by visiting:http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download and selecting the 32 bit desktop edition. Once downloaded you copy it to a USB stick by using the USB Startup disk creator located under SystemAdministration. The task of installing centres around three areas: getting Ubuntu on the machine, getting the graphics to work (properly) and getting the sound to work (at all).

Despite the fact the machine promisingly boots up and offers boot options if you press F12 we need to do something else first to get it to boot from the USB memory stick that we have just made. When the machine first starts, press the DEL key to go into the BIOS options and then navigate to Advanced BIOS features and change Boot to RevoBoot to DISABLED. If you don't do this the machine will stubbornly refuse to boot from the USB stick. Now reboot the machine and press F12, you should be able to select the USB stick and see the Ubuntu installer options screen. Select Install Ubuntu and work through the wizard until you get to the partitioner. Here I opted to manually partition the hard disc, dropping the partitions that were already there and making three new partitions, the first one an 8GB ext4 partition, with the mount point of /, for the operating system (leaving plenty of room for future distribution upgrades), a 2GB swap partition (so the machine can be hibernated) and the rest an ext3 partition to be mounted as /home. If you have the 8GB hard disc version you will obviously have to make adjustments. Later in the installation process I also made log in automatic as I want it to boot to Boxee. You should now be able to install Ubuntu as normal.

Graphics

When Ubuntu boots up it uses quite a basic driver for the Nvdia graphics. This means no 3D acceleration, and no Boxee as it needs these capabilities. I tried installing the proprietary drivers from the repositories but found these didn't work for the ION chipset, so I went off to nvidia.com to look for Linux drivers for the ION, but on their site it said (and still says at the time of writing) that no Linux drivers were available for this hardware. Things looked pretty bad, but then I got a surprise tweet from @nvidiaion saying that Linux drivers ARE available. Interestingly the documentation for the latest Nvidia Linux drivers doesn't mention ION, but this link said that "Nvidia debuted ION earlier this year and enables the pairing of an GeForce 9400M GPU with an Intel Atom processor" - the 9400M was mentioned in the documentation – bingo – we have a driver. I installed the latest driver (185.18.14 at the time of writing) using the instructions at: http://stringofthoughts.wordpress.com/2009/04/03/installing-nvidia-drivers-in-ubuntu/ and everything worked. The only problem with this approach is that it will be necessary to reinstall the driver every time there is a kernel upgrade, so if anyone knows a good repository with this version of the NVidia drivers in it then please add that to the comments. Once it is up and running this is a good point to install Boxee as we will need to change some of the configuration in it to get sound working, do this by following the instructions on their website.

Sound

The Revo is a quiet box, however on installing Ubuntu it was a bit too quiet, not producing any audio at all! We need to do three things to rectify this: 1) tell Ubuntu what type of sound card is in the machine, 2) Unmute something that should not be muted, 3) make sure all audio is going out through the HDMI socket. I managed to get all of this working, but the headphone socket no longer works so I might look at some point to see if that can be rectified. In the file /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base add this line:
options snd-hda-intel model=3stack-6ch-dig

You may have to reboot here to get Ubuntu to pick up the right sound card. Now go to Sound Preferences (SystemPreferencesSound) and under Devices make sure that “HDA Nvidia NVIDIA HDMI (ALSA)” is selected for all non-capture options and click Close. Open a terminal and enter alsamixer you should find that “Generic 10de NVIDIA MCP7A HDMI” is showing as the chip. Press the right arrow until an entry named “IEC958 1” is highlighted and make sure it is not muted. If it is press “m” to unmute it. Press Escape to leave alsamixer. If you try the sound tests under SoundPreferencesSound you should find that they now work.

We need to make sure that the system will send all audio output through the HDMI socket to the TV and not to anywhere else, like the headphone socket. This proved a but of a frustrating part to get right, but a post on the Boxee forums at http://forum.boxee.tv/showthread.php?t=8985 pointed the way. Basically we need to provide the sound subsystem (ALSA) with a set of rules to tell it what we want it to do. As the post suggested, I create a file named .asoundrc in my home directory (note the dot at the start of the file name) and populated it with the contents of the example file from http://www.mythtv.org/wiki/Configuring_Digital_Sound#Setting_up_ALSA.27s_.asoundrc.2C_Properly. Like the forum post I commented (put a hash '#' symbol in front of):
#slave.pcm "dmix-analog"

Then uncommented:
slave.pcm "dmix-digital"

To make sure the sound went though the HDMI socket I found the section with the comment:
# - Comment out "device 1" above and uncomment one of the below or create a
# new "device N" line as appropriate for your sound card or

Then commented out:
#device 1

and added:
device 3

This choice of device number was deduced by running the command aplay -l and looking up the device number for the HDMI output. At this point it is probably best to reboot and make sure the new settings have been picked up. Hopefully when the machine starts up you should hear the familiar Ubuntu start up sound. Now all that is left to do is to make sure Boxee uses the sound settings. To do this, start up Boxee, go to Settings on the left hand then to System → Audio Hardware. Change the settings to read:

Audio Output: Digital
Dolby Digital (AC3) Capable Receiver: [Ticked]
DTS Capable Receiver: [Ticked]
Audio Output Device: default
Passthrough Output Device: default

Hopefully now you should have a fully working Ubuntu box featuring Boxee. To make it more set top box like you can make Boxee start up automatically by adding an entry for it under SystemPreferencesStartup Applications and of course you can add a remote control using wither LIRC or the Boxee iTouch application. You will also want to disable the screensaver. This way of installing Ubuntu is a bit messy but at least gets the Revo usable with this great operating system and has the potential to make it into a smart little media centre thanks to Boxee.

EDIT: You should also install the package ubuntu-restricted-extras to make sure Flash and the software necessary to play many media files is installed.

Comments

awesome and very thorough post liam!

we love what nvidia has done with the ION, and the next version of boxee, coming out later this month, will make it really shine by bringing VDPAU (i.e. accelerated video) support under linux, making it the perfect box(ee) for your living room.

cheers,
tom

Hi Tom, that is fantastic news! I wonder if it is time for someone to build something like Mythbuntu (http://mythbuntu.org/) for Boxee?

Very interesting.

I'm trying to make a cheap, low power, thin client for a Windows Server system. I'm pretty novice with Linux. Do you think it would be possible to create a Linux installation that very fast connects to Windows Server through Remote Desktop? Are there any reasons for not using Linux for this task? And how fast can the Revo with Linux boot or wake from st.by?
Hope to read your answer soon.

/John Reinhold

Hi John,

Ubuntu includes tsclient (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsclient) which will enable you to connect to a Windows Terminal Server. I'm getting a boot time of about one minute from the machine being switched on to Boxee being launched. This could probably be improved though! You can also suspend or hibernate the machine for significantly quicker boot times. Hope this helps.

Amazing guide, thank you for your hard work and research into getting Ubuntu on the Revo. I bought the Linux unit the other day with 160 gig hard drive and it's now happily running 9.04 with all drivers working fine. Thanks again

Actually, I am struggling to get any sound from the flash player in Firefox. I've looked around for solutions for this, have realised that it is outputting to the headphone socket. What should I do to stop this and have through the HDMI?

Hi Trolleyboy, Flash uses ALSA for sound by default I think so make sure you set up the sound as per the guide and make sure all of the settings under System -> Preferences -> Sound have "Sound playback" set as "HDA NVidia NVIDIA HDMI (ALSA)". Make sure the Test sound buttons work here before trying to get Flash to work. Hope this helps.

hmm i have it all working dandy but using vga + headphone for audio . The only thing i cant get to work is the sound on flash? strange that its the only thing that doesn't wanna work I origonally tried to setup using hdmi but then went for VGA only gonna use it for iplayer i think . any ideas on flash audio back thru headphone socket?

I'm just running into the same problem -- sound works fine for everything except Flash. Were you able to figure this out somehow?

Interesting that you couldn't get the NVidia drivers to work out of the box. I installed Ubuntu Netbook Remix (which is based on 9.04) on my Revo and although the "Hardware drivers" screen didn't detect the need for proprietary drivers, installing the newst Nvidia drivers from Synaptic worked perfectly. No hunting round the Nvidia website, less issues with kernel upgrades because it's packaged properly. I was doing this around the time you posted your blog, so maybe they packaged them up just after you posted! Just thought I'd post this so others know they can use Synaptic to easily get the graphics working.

Re: the mythbuntu post - I'm using this box as a MythTv front end (among other things) but haven't got a USB tv tuner to try it out as a back end - if anyone has any luck I'd love to find out how it gets on with this function. My current backend is somewhat more powerful than the Revo - 2Ghz processor, 2GB RAM, but also functions as a web, file, squeezebox, and print server and it does ok, I'd be a bit worried about downgrading, but a Revo would be fantastic in the living room, it's more or less silent and considerably less ugly!!

Hi, I got the screen that no proprietary drivers are available too, I think this is because the ION is too new to be detected. I noticed it wasn't even using the open source NVidia driver (which it should by default for NVidia cards unless you opt to install the proprietary driver) I think Ubuntu is mis-detecting it. I would imagine this will be fixed in Ubuntu Karmic. I would recommend trying the proprietary drivers as this greatly improves the graphics performance, I've been experimenting with the VDPAU video acceleration feature of the ION and it is really impressive and worth it just for that!

Just two questions this time:
1. Have you figured out how to install the driver of the WLAN card (ath4k I think)? I haven't gotten it to work with WPA yet so currently I'm using an external WLAN stick. I tried enabling the madwifi driver in "Restricted Drivers" section (or whatever it's called) but this resulted in a system that got stuck during the initialization of Ubuntu. So better not to use madwifi I suppose. :)
2. Could you make a separate post about using VDPAU? I would be particularly interested in using it with DVB-T broadcasts although it seems fast enough by default.

Overall I'm really happy with the system. Thanks for the excellent guide! :)

Hi Juho,

1. I just used the WiFi driver that Ubuntu used by default, I too found the madwifi driver caused the system to crash. I'm using it with a Wifi network secured with WPA as well. Oddly though I did actually install Ubuntu twice on the system (after messing up the madwifi bit I thought it would just be quicker to reinstall). The first time I installed Ubuntu the network connections didn't work, the second time everything was fine. I should have investigated that a bit more really.
2. I've been using VDPAU with Boxee and have found it makes a dramatic difference to CPU usage. I might do a blog post and maybe try to compare CPU usage with the same video using VDPAU and not using VDPAU. Would be nice to try to be able to demonstrate the be benefits of the technology with some numbers.

Let me know how you get on with the WiFi.

Yeah the wi-fi just worked out of the box for me on Ubuntu 9.04

http://www.avenard.org/media/Ubuntu_Repository/Ubuntu_Repository.html

Is a repo that has recent nvidia drivers in it, but I dunno how often it'll get updated.

180.60 is in the regular ubuntu repos now, but doesn't seem to identify the Ion correctly.

I've started blogging about my experiences setting up a revo as a mythbox here:

http://doitdifferent.wordpress.com

Not too much info there for now, but as I get stuff working I'll be updating it.

Liam great article and nicely put together. Still having big problems with the sound on my Revo aspire though. Followed the guide to the T, I know a bit about linux but this is really bugging me. aplay -l shows everything to be ok:

**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 0: ALC662 Analog [ALC662 Analog]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 1: ALC662 Digital [ALC662 Digital]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
card 0: NVidia [HDA NVidia], device 3: NVIDIA HDMI [NVIDIA HDMI]
Subdevices: 1/1
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0

and speaker-test works with no errors (just has no sound on either hdmi or headphones). I did have audio through the lineout at the front before i started though so at least i know the config is taking in some shape or form.

I am actually using XBMC for my media but im not even trying that stage yet.

everything is unmuted in alsamixer

Any ideas?

I had the same probem and, after rechecking everything discovered that, because my screen resolution was only 1024X768 (I was setting the Revo Up on my test bench, connected to a simple TFT monitor), the AlsaMixer was not displaying all the items. By continuing to rt-arrow it displayed another three items, one of wich was the "IEC958 1".
Previously I had not seen this item and so had assumed the instructions referred to the item called "IEC958".
Unmuting the "IEC958 1" fixed my sound problem.
Hope this helps

Implemented Ubuntu withou any major complaints, except:-

Wired Lan is not working 'sudo lshw -C network' shows the LAN is operating but cannot pick up an IP address it will not ping either. oddly the wirless Lan is working fine and I can get away with it for now. I do want the 1G LAN connection working as I intend to use this great little box as a Web server.

Has anyone any ideas as to why this wired Lan connection is not working? I have doubts the correct driver is installed, it currently shows as:- nVidia corp. MPC79 Ethernet.

Any help would be welcome.

Cheers

Works fine for me with a standard mythbuntu 9.04 install. I just setup the lan with the network helper app thingy that lives in the system tray. Sorry I don't have the app name to hand.

Actually wait, I've not tried to get an ip through DHCP on the wired lan yet, only a static setup. I will be moving to DHCP once it's fully setup though, so I can maybe be more help then.

installed 9.04. wired interface or eth0 is not working. it also takes a long time after boot up for the wireless connection to be established.
any help?

Hi, firstly great guide! I have just bought a revo too and used this guide to help me on my way.
The only issue i have is the network card driver. After installing the OS via usb it worked...no problem ran the updates etc restarted then nothing.
I know it has been mention that the MCP79 (?) is not supported, so how can roll back just this driver to one that works?

The other strange thing is have also reinstalled the OS again, this the driver didn't work straight away!!!
Now i cannot get it connected to the network in full install or on the USB live OS
Please help!!

Cheers
G

it appears the driver is only available from 9.10 that supports MCP79

http://manpages.ubuntu.com/manpages/karmic/man4/nfe.4freebsd.html

I'm running my Revo on Ubuntu 9.04 and using the wired connection with DHCP. It is reporting the driver as "forcedeth". Hope this helps a bit, probably worth checking the right driver is being picked up. If anybody can shed any more light on this then please comment.

I installed 9.10 server and the problem went away. However I could not get X to run. Does anyone here know how to back-port the network driver in 9.1 back to the more stable 9.04?
I couldn't find the source in package.ubuntu.com.
thanks.

My network didn't work in 9.04 there was no light in the link led.
I booted in Kubuntu 9.10 Live and the nerwork card work.
I then bootet my 9.04 installastion and the card work here also, so I don't think you need to backport the driver.

Can anyone else confirm this?

I had the same problem just after installing Ubuntu 9.04, no network and no network interface led.
It required a complete power-off (including remove power plug) to fix it. A reboot alone was not sufficient.
It has worked fine since.

Just got my Revo the other day and now started to update it with Ubuntu Desktop. I'm trying to setup Nividia drivers which I managed to install (185.18.14). The problem I'm having is that when I connect the HDMI cable to my LCD TV the image/resolution is oversized and missing the ubuntu menus top and bottom of the screen. They are present but just out of view, changing resolution doesn't have much affect. However, if I connect the Revo using a VGA cable to the VGA socket of LCD TV socket anything is fine.

How to fix the HDMI video oversize issue?

@ dominicf

I had the same problem with my display and needed to change the display area setting on my Sony TV from 'normal' to 'full pixel'. I had to do a similar thing when I tried it with my Samsung monitor through HDMI.

I had the exact same overscan issue, and some TV's do not support automatically fixing it.

Follow the instructions here to solve it:

http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1003099&page=2

Hope this helps.

This happened to me with a Sharp LC42D1E. Its not really an ubuntu problem but that of your TV/monitors setting. Manufacturers tend to 'overscan' the picture so that 'noise' never appears on screen. This means a small picture margin is lost. On my remote there is a button where I can select a full scan or underscan. Setting underscan on my TV fixed the issue and now I have a full Ubuntu screen.

Just wanted to say awesome tutorial. I had everything working just fine, except for HDMI sound. I'd got as far as sound test but no way would have ever figured out the 'asla-base' additions or the .asoundrc file without your help!
This is all for a Ubuntu 9.04 based Mythtv client - for £150 you really can't go wrong!

Hi :)

I have a home file server where I sync 4 usb disks via rsync one time a day.
The machine is an old P4 3ghz, 1Gb ram, 160Gb Disk but is very old and not very quiet as i want.

Do you think that the Revo can be a good substitute for my PC ?

Cheers

AAAle

I am afraid that the Acer Aspire Revo does not support WHS as yet. Hopefully someone will work it out soon!

Further to my first comment, to install WHS on a Revo at all, you must first disable the SATA, as will only instal in IDE mode. Hope this helps!

Sounds like the Revo could do this job, it has plenty of USB ports for the external hard discs and can run Ubuntu which has rsync available in its repositories. The processor isn't quite as quite as your old machine though so not sure if that will make a difference. It is very quiet though.

I've got most of it working, but I cant get the video out through the hdmi. Can someone post their xorg.conf for me to try? I've got the nvidia drivers installed and working fine through vga...

Hi There

I keep getting the following error when testing sounds:-

audiotestsrc wave=sine freq=512 ! audioconvert ! audioresample ! gconfaudiosink: Could not open audio device for playback. Device is being used by another application.

And I couldnt find EC958 1 just EC958 ?

Can any one help?

yes, you need to scroll to the right and you will see more items including "EC958 1"- see my reply on 11 July below

As of August 09 there is an Nvidia ION driver available to download from www.nvidia.com - 185.18.36 as of writing.

To install it you need to stop your X server. With most distros you can do this by Ctrl-Alt-F1 (to get to a terminal) and then 'sudo /etc/init.d/gdm stop'.

I am in the process of trying to install Ubunto on my Acer Revo. I have been given the software on a dvd which has been tested on another pc and works fine but I cannot get it to run.

I manage to get my pc to boot from the dvd and select install which all seems to be okay but after a few minutes the it stops.

If looks fine and no error messages come up, but the scrolling bar thing which shows it's doing something stops. I have left it for an hour to see if it starts again but nothing changes.

I have disabled the Boot to RevoBoot and cannot think of anything else I may have done wrong.

Any ideas?

"I managed to get all of this working, but the headphone socket no longer works so I might look at some point to see if that can be rectified"

Has anyone managed to get the headphone jack working while also using the hdmi output? I am using skype and don't want to have my tv input set to hdmi if I want to hear incomming calls. With the headphone jack I could just configure skype to ring on some crappy speakers.

I actually solved it myself. I found that the Nvidia Ion driver (185.18.36) was what was killing the analog sound. I am still not sure of the cause but by disabling acpi in the bios I was able to get my headphone jack sound back. If anyone has a better understanding of acpi and it's interactions with video drivers I'm curious.

That's strange! I am using the beta NVidia drivers so I will have a go to see if the problem still persists in that version.

It's looking good for Ubuntu with Karmic Koala due out soon. The current beta supports HDMI sound without the need to fiddle as explained above. Supposedly one can have both HDMI and analogue sound working together but at present in the beta this is not the case - well, on the Revo anyway. However, it is an easy matter to switch from one to the other in sound preferences though.

Boxee is a bit of a problem. It needs two libraries only available in Ubuntu 9.04; without them it refuses to install. The workaround is to temporarily add the Ubuntu jaunty main repository while Boxee installs and then remove it.

I have found Boxee now runs much more sweetly on the Karmic beta than before.
Exciting times...

Sorry, the comment about the availability of both HDMI and analog sound together is erroneous. There is no setting that allows you to configure both.

Hi there, thanks for posting this. Using alsamixer and unmuting IEC did the trick for me. Thanks!

Hi,

Kudos to you for figuring this out. I'm in the middle of following your instructions but have hit an obstacle on the way. I installed the nVidia Drivers from one of the repositories (as opposed to what you described as it seemed easier). My Aspire Revo starts up but the screen resolution is messed up when I connect to my TV (the edges of the screen cannot be seen on my Samsung 46" Plasma). I thought that these were supposed to be on auto-detect or am I missing something? Your help would be most appreciated.

Kind regards,

Shaheed

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