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Installing Amahi Linux on the Acer A340

Royksopp – A Higher Place

I recently moved house, to move in with my girlfriend. To make things simple, I sold my old HTPC (a first gen Mac Mini, slightly warmed over and with a 1TB external drive) and home theater to the mates whose flat I was departing.

This leaves me with nowhere to store the copious amounts of porn… errr… linux iso’s that I download. I couldn’t be bothered building something from scratch, and really wanted something that was relatively simple for me to administrate and with low power consumption. Granted I could have chucked a spare Via Epia motherboard with a SATA card into a spare case and I’d have been pretty much done with it, or resurrected my Shuttle. Instead, I got a suave looking Acer Easystore H340 with 2x 1TB drives:

The first problem I have with it is that it comes with Windows Home Server, and I’m thinking of petitioning Acer for a cashback on that. Windows is dandy for gaming but for anything else… no thanks. Plus being a Linux admin I simply can’t and won’t allow that shit in my house (except, of course, for the woeful Vista that I tolerate on the girlfriend’s laptop). And on top of that you need to install management software on a Windows box to set it up, something my girlfriend quite fiercely would not allow. Windows, LOL:

So as a BSD guy at heart I checked out FreeNAS, and decided it was probably mismatched given the hardware specs, though ZFS capability is appealing (albeit basically useless in my case, with my 32bit restriction). Openfiler is much of the same. What I was really after was something that I could pretty much replace WHS with, while tying in with my current BSD and Linux work, as well as being able to hook in with my homebrew modified Wii. Then I found Amahi. It’s beta, it’s not perfect (i.e. I don’t agree with the use of MySQL in the Greyhole subsystem, I’d prefer Postgres for anything where security of data is involved) but it’s pretty damned promising.

Ok, so here’s how I installed it. Windows heads at this point need to realise that Linux has a hidden strength – the ability to move a boot drive from PC to PC, and provided the hardware is friendly – i.e. the same architecture, it’ll just work ™. The same with Windows will tend to screw with the HAL and you’ll get BSOD’s.

First, I removed the boot drive and chucked it into a spare box, an Iwill XP4 Evo with a SATA card. As the specs of the Acer are conservative (Intel Atom, 2G of memory), I went with the 32bit version of Amahi. (Also note: At the end of the post I show how you can modify a PCI-E x16 graphics card to run at PCI-E x1. You could just do that and install Amahi straight on to the A340. The instructions I give won’t work, but they’ll give you a guideline. Standard disclaimers, YMMV’s etc apply)

Then I followed the instructions written by a no doubt devilishly handsome fellow on the Amahi forums. (Hint: it was me!)

Then, with Amahi booted and running, I issued the following command:
rm /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules

Then I vi’d /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0 and removed the HWADDRESS line, and edited ONBOOT=no to read ONBOOT=yes.

We do the above so that when Amahi next boots, it will pick up the first ethernet interface and assign it the device name “eth0”. If you’re after a more descriptive explanation, look up udev in google. Then I issued a halt, waited for the Iwill box to poweroff, then I plugged the boot drive into the Acer box, which I then fired up. Et voila!

Now for some advanced tips:
1) You’ll notice the led’s aren’t right. Do this (adjusting to suit, e.g. get the latest version from here):

yum -y install gcc-c++ libudev-devel
cd /tmp
cd mediasmartserverd/ && make
mv mediasmartserverd /opt
chmod 755 /opt/mediasmartserverd
echo "# start our led daemon" >> /etc/rc.local
echo "/opt/mediasmartserverd -D" >> /etc/rc.local
./opt/mediasmartserverd -D

2) to add another drive, use cfdisk followed by mkfs.ext4 /dev/sdb1, followed by hda-diskmount. This may require some prereq installs:

yum -y install pmount fuse fuse-libs ntfs-3g

3) … probably more to come!

Now, this wasn’t without its issues. But only because of my own stupid fault – I thought I’d shorted the debug jumper but I’d actually shorted the CMOS clear jumpers. FAIL. This set the BIOS date back to something like 2007, Fedora was then complaining about file timestamps being way out of whack and it was subsequently demanding a fsck.

A permanent fix may exist in Network Console on Acid, but for now I had to get the headless Easystore some VGA capability. Balking at the $200 cost and lead time of a debug card, instead I went to a local PC store and petitioned them for any cheap/faulty PCI-E video cards they might have. They sold me a GeForce 8500GT with a dodgy HSF for NZD$30, little did they know that I had a plan.

A couple of drops of sewing machine oil in the bearings sorted out the HSF. I then used my hand nibbler and cut it physically to x4, but that didn’t work. So with some electrical tape I knocked it back to 1x, and that did work. Along with a USB keyboard, I was then able to see that the drives needed a fsck and sorted that out. In the future I’ll pick up a cheap low profile card and make this a permanent addition to the box.

So, that’s it for now. I’ll no doubt update this post and any subsequent ones, but hopefully this helps, and good luck if you decide to try out Amahi 🙂

And for good measure I’ll say it again: ALL STANDARD DISCLAIMERS APPLY! I’m all care, no responsibility. 🙂

Categories: Lunix Lunacy Open Source Technology Write Ups


3 replies

  1. this looks great & I would love to try out Amahi on my Acer A340 but I have one Q.

    Can I do this without installing a graphics card – isn't there some sort of USB headless / remote install method?

    Thanks for the great write-up!

    1. Hey Chris, thanks for the feedback. To answer your question – it is entirely possible without having to install a graphics card. In this example I’ve actually installed the boot drive into another machine and installed Amahi there. Then, because Amahi’s networking will take on the MAC address of the temporary machine’s network hardware, I nuke that configuration. When you put the boot drive back into the A340, it should boot up fine.

      Unfortunately while messing around inside my A340 I jumped the CMOS clear jumper instead of the debug jumper, so it was necessary for me to install a graphics card to correct the BIOS configuration and to run a fsck on boot drive so that the underlying Fedora system was happy with file timestamps etc…

      If you were to install Amahi onto an A340 with a graphics card installed, the process would be slightly different – drive mappings like /dev/sda and /dev/sdb would not be the same as in the instructions I’ve given.

      Hope that helps! 🙂