Thursday, December 14, 2006

openSUSE 10.2 on the ASUS P5B Deluxe

This board in general is not a good Linux board. It was purchased with Windows in mind. Which in the end turned out to be something of a negative, as three of the five people who got them wanted a Linux-something installed. Two of us have gotten it working, and the third may come around once I'm done dorking with my setup.

There are two big areas that cause problems with this board:
  1. The chipset, Intel 965G, has no native PATA support so ASUS attached a JMicron PATA controller. The JMicron PATA controllers are broken in all but the newest kernels (2.6.18 or newer). There is a limp-mode for 2.6.16 and older that can work (google all-generic-ide). This is a b-i-g problem when you consider almost all Optical drives are still PATA.
  2. The kernel included with the Goldmaster media ( locks up the install hard. The cause of which is, as of this writing, unknown [Update: the kernel falsly detects AGP, which is the source of the lock, using the boot option "agp=off" may bypass this detection]. This will probably change when they remaster the install media later on.
There are some BIOS settings that need to be set in order to make the system usable on Linux. Because there are functionally two separate IDE controllers on the board, there are two separate places in BIOS you need to go to in order to configure your IDE environment. This board has the option of RAID, but it is actually a software RAID and is not well supported in Linux yet. I didn't use it.

On the MAIN page in BIOS there is a sub-menu for IDE Configuration. You want to set 'Configure SATA as' to IDE. Don't use ACHI, so far only Vista can use ACHI right there. Linux will eventually support it. (and if you're reading this article two years from now, Linux probably has figured it out. Google harder.)

The second setting is on the ADVANCED menu, in the OnBoard Devices Configuration sub-menu. Set 'JMicron Controller Mode' to ACHI. That's right, ACHI. Not IDE. This allows the PATA optical devices to be detectable. This looks counter intuitive, but this is what seems to work.

Now that you've done that, you have put the shiny DVD into the optical drive and booted from it. You hit 'install from DVD' on the front screen, and.... it bombs, unable to detect the media.

That's because 10.2 isn't quite smart enough yet to detect it. You can force the issue by putting the following line on the "Boot Options" line on the front screen:


This tells the kernel to force-load the JMICRON driver. This allows the kernel to locate the DVD drive with which it'll continue the installation process.

Now comes the harder problem, the kernel shipped with 10.2 Goldmaster will hard lock the P5B. There is a work-around which you can find in Bug 229365.
  1. When the install gets to the 'now we will reboot your machine', click SKIP.
  2. [Control]+[Alt]+[F5] to get to a shell
  3. cd to /mnt/etc/
  4. vi modprobe.conf.local
  5. Append this text to the file "blacklist intel_agp"
  6. Save the file
  7. Reboot
That SHOULD get you in.

[revised 12/21/2006]
Update 4/2/2007:

Turns out there have been some key problems in the Linux kernel relating to this particular P965 chipset. From a bug I reported a few weeks ago:
Looking at the lspci output I get the understanding that
intel-agp shouldn't initialize at all - there's not Intel Integrated Graphics
controller. The code in intel-agp, however, blindly assumes an 845 if there's a
host bridge with no matching IG (in agp_intel_probe()).
Which is a long way of saying that if Intel AGP is loaded, either compiled in or falsely loaded due to a bad detection by the kernel, it'll have problems. The kernel falsely detects an integrated graphics controller and attempts to load agp_gart, which if loaded does Bad Things. It looks like the openSUSE guys are now aware of this problem, so we may have a new kernel in the not too distant future to fix this. Or perhaps this is just on the list for 10.3 when it comes out. Don't know yet.


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