Thursday Nov 12, 2009

Shuttle X50 vs. OpenSolaris

The X50 wasn't really a battle with OpenSolaris. I only really ran into one problem and that was easily worked around. After booting, select the VESA boot option from the grub menu. It doesn't identify the graphics processor. I booted using a 1GB USB memory stick and ran into no additional problems for installation.  I did preserve the Windows 7 installation by using the Windows disk manager. Note that the Windows 7 installation on the X50 uses two partitions and Solaris/grub identifies both as just "windows".  If you want to boot windows after the install, select the first windows partition.

Once in the installer, everything works fine and the install goes to completion.

The Device Driver Utility finds the following:

Image of Device Driver Utility output

Note that all devices have drivers associated with them.

The Ethernet and WiFi drivers both work fine as does the SATA and USB. The audio devices work properly as well.

The Touch Panel isn't currently supported by OpenSolaris. Note that the Touch Panel device is the same as I found in the Via VIPRO VP7710. Where there is a problem is the USB Camera. While the driver attaches, the utilities that know about cameras don't find one.

It is interesting that several COM ports and an ECP printer port are found. There are no connectors on the outside of the unit to support these. 

One remaining problem is the video. It works, but I haven't had the time to tweak the xorg.conf file and run the video at full resolution. This will be done eventually. It seems like it should work with the "intel" Xorg driver but I haven't found the magic settings yet.

All-in-all, this is a nice little system. Once the Intel video driver is working with it, it should do quite well at a number of tasks. Even without it, it works well and seems snappy enough considering the processors.

Wednesday Nov 11, 2009

Shuttle X50 All-in-One

I recently got my hands on a Shuttle X50 All-in-One PC. The X50 is a low-end desktop that takes up little room on a desk or it can be wall mounted. It is a nice looking unit with relatively basic features.

Shuttle X50



Intel® Atom™ 330 1.6GHz




Intel 945GC + ICH7


160GB SATA 2.5" HDD

Card Reader

Integrated 4-IN-1 Card Reader

Graphic Card

Integrated Intel GMA 950

Web Camera

Integrated 1.3M Pixel Web Camera


10/100/1000 Ethernet
LCD Panel
15.6" 16 :9 Wide Panel, 1366 x 768 pixels

Touch Screen

Single Touch




5.1 CH Audio,
2 x 2W Stereo Speakers


65W Power Adapter,
Input:100- 240V AC

Right Ports

4 in 1 Card Reader,
3 x USB port,
Audio Line-in,
Audio Line-out,
Microphone Input,
Gigabit LAN Port

Left Ports

Power-on Button,
Stylus Pen,
2 x USB Port,
LCD Buttons,
DC-input for Power Supply

Back Panel

1 x D-sub Port for an external monitor


15.4 x 12.8 x 1.4 Inches

The X50 came with Windows 7 installed. The next installment of this blog will cover OpenSolaris.

Shuttle X50 back view

The support on the back of the unit can fold up to be used as a carrying handle or folded fully down.  The handle can also be removed in order to mount the system on a wall.

USB connectors are on either side (two on the left and three on the right). The touch screen works fine under Windows 7. The touch is single touch only.

Next time. installing OpenSolaris and testing what works.

Wednesday Aug 26, 2009

A simple kiosk

The Via VIPRO VP7710 can be configured as a kiosk under OpenSolaris. A simplistic approach that autoboots into kiosk mode can be done by following a few simple steps. For this example, I'm using Opera to create a browser based kiosk. I'm using Opera only because that is what I know best. Similar things can be done with other browsers.

After creating the non-root user account that the kiosk should be run as (I'm using user "kiosk" for these examples), download and install Opera for Solaris on x86 from the OpenSolaris "contrib" repository.

Once the user and Opera are installed, create a startup script that will start Opera with the desired kiosk modes enabled. A script that starts opera as:

opera -kioskmode

is usually sufficient. The Opera documentation and support website have a lot of details on all of the options.

Use gdmsetup to tell Solaris to autologin "kiosk" as the default user after some number of seconds. Then use the System -> Preferences -> Sessions application to add your kiosk script to the applications to startup on login. You want to use a couple of seconds delay at startup on the autologin in order to provide a way to do maintenance on the system. Alternatively, you can use ssh to access the system.

This sets up enough to show that this mode can be done relatively simply. When deploying a real kiosk, it will be necessary to tighten up the security in other places to prevent access to the system itself.

The only thing really missing to fully support the kiosk mode is support for touch screens in the Solaris HID driver. Some touch screens behave more like a mouse and would work as is.

Friday Apr 03, 2009

VP7710 vs OpenSolaris

Installing OpenSolaris is a straightforward process.  For my test purposes, I installed from an OpenSolaris 2008.11 LiveCD. 

The first problem hit is that the OpenSolaris display driver doesn't support the built-in LCD display. I worked around that by attaching an external monitor to the VGA port on the bottom edge of the unit. This let me get to the next problem.

The second problem was with the internal disk drive. The OpenSolaris installer appeared to be confused with the pre-formatted NTFS drive. Not sure why. Since I wasn't going to use the drive in that configuration, I repartitioned the drive to have a Solaris partition and then  continued and installed with a ZFS root.

The third problem I hit was the lack of an Ethernet device driver for the built-in Ethernet controller. If you run the Device Driver Utility, it conveniently tells you where to go to get a third-party driver that supports the controller. This can be obtained while waiting for OpenSolaris to finish installing. Once the "vel" driver is installed, you have a functioning system on the network.

The next problem I had to resolve was the lack of display on the internal LCD panel. After a bit of research on the "openchrome" X11 driver, I found that it was necessary to set the "VBEModes" to "true" in the /etc/X11/xorg.conf file and to add a

Modes    "800x600" 

to each Subsection "Display" entries in the xorg.conf file. This brings up a display that fits on the screen. Without the entry, the X server comes up in 1024x768 mode without panning.  The display does still have some issues that I haven't resolved yet. It frequently comes up with lines on the display that shouldn't be there. See the following image: Image showing an issue with the openchrome driver

The last problem, so far, is that there currently isn't any support for the eGalax touch panel in OpenSolaris. This makes it less useful for a kiosk application, but enough is working at present to allow developing applications. 

More later,





Via VIPRO VP7710 Touch Panel

The Via VIPRO is a Via C7-based system running at 1GHZ with 1GB of RAM. The unit has a touch-panel display and was designed to be mounted in a wall or kiosk. It is also a fanless unit with a hefty heat sink on the back to allow it to stay cool while running.  From the picture, you can see that it is a very simple panel with no buttons or switches and that the heat sink is quite large.View of Vipro VP7710 display View of the heat sink on the back of the unit

The power connector on the bottom connects to a 19V power brick (doesn't come with the unit). There are a number of connectors on the bottom edge and a few on the right edge. On the right edge are a pair of USB ports and an Ethernet port plus PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports.

On the bottom edge are a number of connectors and the power switch. There is an external VGA connector, an RS-485 connector, two RS-232 connectors and the usual trio of audio connectors. The next image gives a better view of the bottom.

Bottom edge of Vipro unit showing communcations ports 

This is the right side showing the connectors there.

This is a side view showing USB and Ethernet ports 

All in all, it is a very sturdy unit. 

My next entry will cover installing OpenSolaris on the Vipro.

We obtained our Via VIPRO unit from and found the team there to be very helpful in getting questions answered. 

Wednesday Mar 04, 2009

Small is Beautiful or OpenSolaris for Consumer and Small Business Appliances

This blog will discuss the use of OpenSolaris in small form factor systems. As such, there will be reviews of small systems hardware as we can get our hands on it as well as discussion of applications that seem a very good fit for use with OpenSolaris. NAS will tend to be a primary application focus, but other areas will also be covered. The hardware will likely cover embedded systems, laptops and MID (Mobile Internet Device) of various types. The only criteria is that the hardware is capable of running OpenSolaris and applications will run on OpenSolaris.

The title comes from some talks by Unix pioneers at Bell Labs such as John Mashey.

Granted, OpenSolaris isn't particularly small, but the hardware it runs on can be quite small. It also makes a very nice platform for a number of appliances that are suitable for small business and consumer use.


Discusses the use of OpenSolaris in small systems. Includes the use of OpenSolaris in appliances for small business and consumer products. Reviews of system boards, small systems and interesting applications will also be covered.


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