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deruberhanyok
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build log: k-box (Kabini, M350)

Sat May 30, 2015 9:43 pm

[edit]I have given it a name: the k-box! (I know, so original!)

specs:
Athlon 5350 w/ Gelid Slim Silence AM1 heatsink
ASRock AM1H-ITX with Intel 2230 wifi-n
2x2GB Hynix DDR3-1333 ECC
Lite-on 128GB SSD
Mini-box M350 case, using motherboard's integrated power

Around this time last year I put together a little Steambox. It has served me well in that time, at first as a fun project, and then as a secondary gaming system, and now as my primary-use PC.

When I built it I had wanted to use a Kaveri APU, but you all remember how that launch went - even though the A8-7600 was hyped up in Janurary of 2014, six months later it still couldn't be found anywhere. And I didn't want to use one of the 95W black edition Kaveris (or K edition, whatever they're being called these days). So I decided to go with a lower power Intel processor and a discrete GPU, which, well, that turned into a whole separate thing.

But I was an AMD guy back in the day, and I couldn't quite shake the desire to build an AMD system. One day I'll probably replace the Steambox' guts with one of AMD's new Zen processors. But until then, a combination of spare parts on my desk, a few Amazon Warehouse Deals, uh, deals and a lot of Amazon rewards points gave me the opportunity to put together a system using AMD's desktop Kabini AM1 platform without spending any actual money on new parts. Well, except on a heatsink out of sheer curiosity, but I'll get to that in a bit.

CPU

Athlon 5350 - Kabini is kind of old news at this point and, from what I've seen on various forums, is largely ignored by "enthusiasts" looking for that bang-for-buck sweet spot. There's really no upgrade path on the AM1 platform right now, and I don't know that we can expect to see a desktop version of Beema or the Puma cores, so I figured I'd just go with the top-end part.

Motherboard

ASRock AM1H-ITX - I'd originally been looking at ASRock's embedded Kabini motherboard, with the A4-5000 and a passive heatsink (QC5000ITX-PH), but decided against it mostly because I couldn't find it on Amazon, and that's where my rewards points were. Also I wanted the extra 500MHz I'd get out of buying the Athlon 5350. Found a warehouse deal for this with "packaging might be damaged" that got the price under $50, too.

I also wanted a displayport output and a separate digital audio output for audio, so this was really the only option. The integrated power circuitry was an added bonus, because:

Case and power supply (see last post for update on this, now using a Mini-Box M350)

Antec ISK 110 the ISK 110's power adapter will plug right into it, freeing up a little extra room in the case when I remove the DC-DC power board inside. Which, as you'll see in the pictures (if you're not familiar with it already) is really useful, because they provided some unusually long cables on the inside of this thing. I wanted to build a system in the ISK 100 when they first released it but never had a reason to buy one. So another "packaging might be damaged" deal provided the opportunity to finally try it out (spoiler: the packaging wasn't even dented). The VESA mount is a neat feature that I don't know I'll use, but I'll play with it anyhow.

I haven't decided yet if I want to modify the lights in this the way I did with the pumpkinator. If anything I might switch them out to red ones, because AMD, but there's no real color scheme on the ASRock board and the Kingston RAM is on a blue PCB, so leaving the stock blue ones in place works too.

All the spare parts!

You guys ever look in your closet, or under that pile of papers that's been on your desk for like, months now and you're totally going to sort through it one of these days, and find something you didn't even realize you had?

4GB (1x4GB) Kingston PC3-12800 (DDR3-1600) RAM - I remember finding this when I built the pumpkinator, and it was handy because I wanted to test the system out before the memory I'd ordered for it came in. I think it has been on my desk, untouched, since then. I've no idea where it came from. I can't think of a reason I'd buy just a single DIMM and not a pair for dual channel operation, but it works out pretty well because Kabini only has one memory channel. So good job, past self?

Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 (2230BNHMW) 2.4GHz wifi-b/g/n & bluetooth 4.0 - a couple years ago I bought a laptop with this in it, and I promptly replaced it with a dual-band solution. I've long since sold the laptop, and I thought I sold this, too, but there it was on my desk. I had to pick up some antennae and cables to go with it, and the ASRock's backplate has two little punchouts in it right where those can mount.

Liteon 128GB SSD LCS-128M6S - another pull from that same laptop, I'd replaced it with a larger drive and decided to hold on to this if the first generation 60GB OCZ Vertex in my file server failed before I'd saved up enough rewards points to buy a Synology appliance. I still haven't saved up enough points for that, but the Vertex is still going strong, so I figured I could re-use the drive here.

the heatsink question

So the ISK 110 doesn't have the case fan that the ISK 100 did, which would have made this combination with the passive heatsink embedded board I mentioned above a truly silent PC. I might try that at some point down the road, with whatever Zen AMD decides to do as a follow-up to Puma. SPCR tested the stock heatsink, with the processor fully loaded at 100% for nearly an hour, at under 13 dba at 1 meter, so it's not like this thing was going to be a real noisemaker.

That said, I was still curious about aftermarket solutions for the heatsink (I'm weird that way). I figured there would be a lot of cheap options - after all, desktop Kabini and the AM1 platform launched over a year ago, and 25W processors aren't going to need a giant copper block with heatpipes shaped like silly straws to be effectively cooled, so I figured there'd be a lot of $10-$15 options. Surprisingly, there are not. I guess in the same way that enthusiasts have generally ignored this platform, there isn't a huge market for aftermarket heatsinks when the stock one is so effective. I did a little googling and found a grand total of TWO real live purchasable heatsinks for the AM1 platform.

Scythe Kodati Rev. B

The first is from a company most will recognize, Scythe. Their Kodati got a new version (rev. B) and a new model number (SCKDT-1100; the first version is SCKDT-1000), and with it came AM1 support. This is a heatsink designed to cool 65W processor so it's way overkill for an Athlon 5350. Further adding to the absurdity of buying this thing for an AM1 system is the price. I've found one vendor selling it on Amazon UK's marketplace at a price of £30, which is roughly USD $45. Add in another $10-$15 for shipping, and the heatsink costs more than the processor. This is an easy pass - I can't see why anyone would buy one for AM1 use unless they were intending to re-use it shortly thereafter on a higher-power processor.

Gelid Slim Silence AM1

I don't know if Gelid's name is as widely known as Scythe's, but I know their name as one of those companies that makes a lot of OEM-type heatsinks, along with some hilariously oversized enthusiast-grade heatpipey type of things. At $17 shipped on Amazon, this is more along the lines of what I expected to see a dozen variations of when I googled.

I'd used my rewards points on the other parts, but I figured for $17 I'd indulge my curiosity and also share info on it with whoever might read this, in case they're technology historians curious about the only aftermarket heatsink seemingly designed specifically for FS1b (and not just given a fancy adapter, like the Scythe above).

I'm waiting on delivery of the motherboard and heatsink before I can get started, but they're both expected tomorrow. So I'm going to try and get a few pictures posted in the evening and then get to putting this thing together this week sometime.
Last edited by deruberhanyok on Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:21 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sun May 31, 2015 9:55 pm

The nice thing about a massively overkill heatsink like that Scythe is that you could probably just run it passive!
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deruberhanyok
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Tue Jun 02, 2015 8:13 pm

Heh, I definitely could. It's not like these processors generate much heat.

I'm a little annoyed. Yesterday and earlier this evening I did a first build. I took a bunch of pictures to illustrate the stuff I was going to talk about, but they all came out blurry. Photography's never been a strong suit for me but I thought I could at least had some clear shots without flash glare.

Anyhow, one of the things I wanted to do was run a few benchmark-type applications to see temperatures using the stock heatsink. Then I was going to swap in the Gelid cooler for the rebuild, cable tidying, etc and do it again. So I'll have to re-take the pictures when I do that. I run Linux on my systems, so I don't have anything from 3dmark to report. If you're interested in that sort of thing, you may want to check out Anandtech's 2-part review Part1 Part2.

A few quick notes, and I'll have to get pictures posted when I rebuild later this week:

The case: The ISK 110 doesn't give you a lot of space to work with. With the DC power board removed it's a little better (in fact you may need to remove it to get a motherboard installed), but the less cabling you need in this case, the better. I think an ITX board with onboard wifi and a spot for an m.2 or mSATA SSD would be perfect in here.

Lack of USB 3.0 ports in the front is a little bit of a bummer, but really, all you need to do is take a quick look inside here with a motherboard installed to see there's not really room for the larger USB3 header and the bulkier cables most cases (the ISK 300 included) use for it.

Cabling:

The front USB 2.0 ports include cables that are roughly 12" long, and this is about 8" too long, IMO. The HD Audio header could stand to be a bit shorter, too. And with SATA drives installed in the 2.5" bay, you're going to want short cables - the usual 18" ones that come with most motherboards, this ASrock included, are definitely too long.

I had a lot of spare cable to try and hide in the case, and there really wasn't a good spot to fold them on the bottom by the drives (they coiled so much I couldn't get the bottom lid on easily). I ordered a pair of shorter (11") right-angle SATA cables to try out to see if that works better, but I tried to measure approximate lengths and it looks like, depending on placement of the SATA ports on your motherboard, you could possibly get by with a 6" and 8" cable. Also, I would recommend against the latching-type SATA cables for this setup. Getting to the latches on the hard drives would be difficult at best.

I'm not sure how much trickier this would be with the DC power board in place and the cables coming off of that. Very cramped, I expect.

Motherboard: nice, and happily the ISK 110's power brick works just fine with it. One thing that was a little irksome: there's a spot between the DC power input and the USB-PS/2 stack where a metal bracket would fit for wifi antenna mounting (check out a picture of the QC5000-ITX to see what kind of bracket I mean). Since there's no bracket, the wifi antennae need to be secured directly to the I/O backplate, and it's tough to get them properly secured. It has 3 fan headers, which would be useful in a larger case but not so much here; two are PWM (CPU and CHA) and one is the old 3-pin style (PWR). Doesn't seem to have any trouble powering an SSD + Mechanical disk (I grabbed one from my other system to test), so that onboard power circuitry gets an A+ in my book. I hope ASRock does a similar thing in later generation motherboards targeted to the same class of hardware.

stock fan: well, after looping Unigine Valley for 15 minutes or so, the CPU and GPU temperatures I was seeing (reported by lm-sensors as "k10temp" and "radeon") weren't too surprising. I didn't get individual data for each CPU core, I'm assuming the sensors aren't quite as granular on Kabini, but with an ambient temp of at or slightly below 20C, the temperature hit a high of... 22C. And only briefly - it seems to be sitting at just barely above ambient, even under load. Curious about this, I checked a few more sensors and noticed that the fan was running around 3300RPM - which seems to be the maximum speed for it. That jives with the noise it's making, too. I'll have to check the BIOS fan settings before I switch the heatsinks out - SPCR reported speeds at just about 1/3 of that for idle, which I expect would be very quiet indeed. Maybe the ASUS board SPCR used handles the fan differently?

I'll see if I can't get some clearer pictures later this week. I was going to try and put an extra blue LED in here somewhere but I'm not sure where I could connect it for juice - the ASrock board only provides a SATA power connection when using the integrated power.

I know it's kind of a standard build, but if anyone has questions about these parts, I'll do my best to answer them.
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deruberhanyok
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Tue Jun 02, 2015 9:05 pm

Quick follow-up:

turns out the BIOS had an option for 3-pin and 4-pin fans, and I had it on 3-pin "standard". I switched it over to "quiet" and the speed dropped to around 1300RPM. "Load" is a looping Unigine Valley in a window at 960x540, temps reported by indicator-sensors (lm-sensors). Highest of the two (which I believe are CPU and GPU temps) reported below:

Temps w/stock fan (ambient is roughly 20C):
Idle, ~3300RPM: ~15C
Load, ~3300RPM: ~20C

Idle, ~1300RPM: ~20C
Load, ~1400RPM: ~30C

At the "silent" setting the noise really is barely noticeable. I have to put my ear right up to the case panel to hear anything. Pretty impressive, but I'm curious to see how the Gelid compares (given the sheer size difference, I have a feeling it'll do even better).
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Fri Jun 05, 2015 8:58 am

deruberhanyok wrote:
Temps w/stock fan (ambient is roughly 20C):
Idle, ~3300RPM: ~15C
Load, ~3300RPM: ~20C

Nothing about that statement strikes you as odd? How about the CPU running BELOW ambient temp at idle? IIRC, AMD systems have a history of incorrect temp. reporting. Try comparing the temps reported by the BIOS, HWMonitor, and CoreTemp.
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deruberhanyok
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Fri Jun 05, 2015 4:51 pm

I actually did a little more poking with lm-sensors and found that it could read the SYSTIN, CPUTIN and AUXTIN sensors, which, if I read correctly, are the sensors on the motherboard for system board temp, CPU temp and power supply temp. Those numbers match what the motherboard is reporting (40C for the processor at idle on the desktop) but don't seem to have any basis in reality. Granted, I'm just doing the "poke things with your finger and see if they are hot" test, but I feel like I'd notice if something is running at double ambient temperature (or more, . I lack one of those fancy IR temperature sensors to get actual numbers.

The value it's reading for the CPU, with k10temp, is what I'm assuming would be reported by CoreTemp were I running windows to check that. It also seems much more in-line with reality vs. the motherboard's sensors.

A few other observations I've had since installing:

I installed the Catalyst drivers out of curiosity to see if it might improve graphics performance. It didn't seem to have much effect, but after removing them, it doesn't want to fall back to the open source driver - instead it keeps switching to software rendering via llvmpipe. I've also lost the ability to pull a temperature value from the "radeon" sensor, so I'm assuming something got screwed up with modules not being re-loaded after I ditched fglrx. I just used the "additional drivers" menu to install them, so something to keep in mind if you're running an APU on Ubuntu. I saw a few similar posts when I googled where users had the problem with Kaveri systems too, which I thought was odd.

About those digital video outputs: it can run either HDMI or Displayport outputs, but not both, and you have to change the setting in the BIOS. On mine it defaulted to the HDMI being active, so, something to keep in mind if you were going to just connect it right to a DP input.

Something funny with the wireless keyboard and mouse I'm using. I'm getting this occasional mouse hitching, which seems to be related to a CPU usage spike. Not really sure what that's all about yet, but it's a logitech combo I've used on other systems without issue.

I managed to get good pictures on my second try so I'm going to get some of those posted tonight. Then I'm going to install Ubuntu 15.04 (was using 14.04) and see what that might do as far as the open-source graphics driver and USB hitching goes.
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:19 pm

Alright, most of the pictures came out clearer the second time around, and I got all the cabling cleaned up, so here's the tour of a few things. I'll start with the ISK 110. This case has been thoroughly reviewed all over the place, so I just wanted to point out a few things I liked and a few that I didn't.

Firstly, this case is really short on space on the inside. Here's a shot after I set the motherboard down for a test fit:

Image

I managed to get the board into place without removing the dc-dc power board at the top there, but this was the only time I managed to do it. I didn't have the backplate in for this; once I snapped it into place the only way I could get a good angle for the board was to remove the power board first. That's not really a bad thing, as long as there's sufficient airflow in an enclosure (and the whole top panel of this case is an open mesh, so there's plenty of airflow). I actually like how small it is, even if the cable routing was a bit of an issue.

Image

As you can see, my initial install didn't involve any cable cleanup, and there's a LOT of excess cable from the front panel headers. I really think they could have cut the length in half for the USB front panel connectors. Also, look how tiny the APU heatsink/fan is! I had this really weird feeling of nostalgia when I was putting the system together, a 25W processor with 721 pins and a small (by modern standards) heatsink, this odd mix of Athlon XP and K6-2 days. That actually led me to wonder how this APU compares to a system from back in the day, but that's a separate path that I haven't had time to follow yet.

When I first did this setup I just tried to tidy the cables on the bottom a bit (there's two drives in this picture because I was curious about cable routing, I pulled the second drive from another system to see how it would fit, and it didn't make a big difference. The drives are pretty well hidden in their tray.)

Image

But, I noticed, the bottom lid wouldn't snap back in place, because the cables stuck out by just a teeny tiny bit:

Image

That was enough to keep the panel from connecting. I actually got a pair of very short SATA cables (about 7" from end to end) without the right-angle connectors to try for the second, cleaner attempt and those worked a lot better. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The bottom panel has a pattern on it to mimic a grid for airflow, but it's actually all solid. I didn't care for this particular skeuomorph (word of the day! use it and impress your friends!), so I took a small drillbit to it and put a pattern in it for airflow. The pic is a little blurry, I had to hold it up to a light source for the pattern to show:

Image

It might let some light through if I find a spot to throw another LED in there, but even without that, it should give the hard drives a little more fresh air.

Also, Antec included the same red cardboard paper sort of things to sit between the drives and the drive cage:

Image

These ones had a sticky side on the bottom, so I stuck them on. You can't see it in the first picture, but there was also one included under the DC-DC power board, although that one wasn't stickied into place. I'm guessing it was there to prevent an accidental short, or something?

One last thing. Someone at Antec really put some thought into a feature of this case that I really, really like:

Image

Along the opposite edge of the case from the DC-DC power board, right around the top edge, are two cutouts whose purpose was not immediately evident when I removed the lid. It was only when I was installing the motherboard that I noticed they were there specifically so no screwdriver acrobatics would be required to secure the motherboard. Thank you for that, whichever Antec designer suggested it. I noticed, and I really appreciate it.
Last edited by deruberhanyok on Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sat Jun 06, 2015 12:43 pm

I have nothing to add or comment on, other than to say I have found this series of posts quite interesting especially with the detail and level of discussion you have presented along the way. Thank you for sharing.
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sat Jun 06, 2015 1:47 pm

Thanks, MDBT! I have a tendency to go on and on sometimes, but when it comes to odd hardware choices, I figure no amount of information is "too much" for someone curious about it all.

A few more pics, this time of this Gelid HSF. The first one is a little blurry - sorry! I didn't notice until I copied these over to my PC, and by then I'd gotten everything installed and tidied up, and I really didn't want to take it half apart to do another comparison shot. But I just wanted to give an idea of the size:

Image

The fan on the Slim Silence AM1 is larger by a bit - 65mm x 15mm, vs the 50mm x 15mm of the stock heatsink. Gelid's provided a PWM-capable 4-pin fan for this guy. The heatsink has a nice geometric design, and from what I can tell is basically a solid block - I didn't see any solder joints anywhere. It's 80mm square vs. the roughly 55mm of the stock heatsink and only 26mm tall, only slightly taller than the stock heatsink without a fan:

Image

So wider but shorter, making this ideal for an even slimmer case design. I'm having a hard time imagining a slimmer design than the ISK 110, although at the very least the bump-out it has on the "top" panel that allows for slightly larger heatsinks could be flattened.

Now that I looking at it I wonder if I could fit the Xigmatek Praeton LD963 in there - I really like the one I'm using in the pumpkinator and it's just shy of 60mm tall (and actually, the Xigmatek Janus, which I used recently in another build, is also only 60mm tall and has some ridiculous cooling capabilities), so I'll have to measure it for the day when AMD's Zen APUs are out.

Anyhow, here's how the thing looks installed:

Image

Yeah, it pretty much dominates the board. But, bonus, with the bigger fan and those large fins, it means there's air being blown right across the rest of the board - over the wifi card, right into the memory and back panel, and also, perhaps most usefully, over the power circuitry along the edge of the board at the top in that picture. Not that I think there's be a cooling issue there anyways (it's not like there's a whole lot of power being sucked down by this system) but it's always good to have airflow, and I expect this can push more than the stock one (although, again, not like it really needed it).

So there you have it. The only aftermarket heatsink I could find specifically designed for socket AM1, it's roughly $15 and probably not necessary for a regular build. But if you're working in a case even smaller than the ISK 110, it comes in 13mm shorter than the stock one and that's a pretty signifcant difference.

The switch to Ubuntu 15.04 got me back to the open source graphics driver functioning properly, and I'm not going to bother switching to fglrx/catalyst and then back to see if it sticks me back into the land of the software renderer (although llvmpipe is super impressive, I don't want to have to dig through files figuring out what went wrong with restoring the correct driver, and I don't feel like reinstalling it again).

The USB hitching I was seeing on the wireless keyboard/mouse might actually be related to wireless interference and unshielded cables. I could just be throwing out random words here, but I tried moving the Logitech Nano Unifying receiver thing to a few different ports and it seems to have gone away. That's great, because I am considering hooking this thing up to my TV and using a Logitech F710 controller (or two) with it for games. I also want to try streaming from my other system - haven't got around to trying that out yet, even though the feature has been available on the Steam Linux client for a while, so any potential issue with input would have been a real bother.

I tried a couple cable routing tricks to keep the inside of the case overly tidy. I'm working on the assumption that in the future, when I switch out the platform in this system, I'd need to reinstall the DC-DC power board and will need the extra space to ensure that I have adequate airflow. I'll get those pics posted later on. Still trying to figure if there's a way I can add another light or a small fan for additional airflow somewhere unobtrusive - all in case I need to know in the future. Or if anyone is just curious. :wink:
Last edited by deruberhanyok on Fri Jun 12, 2015 10:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sat Jun 06, 2015 2:47 pm

Another quick followup: I ran into some oddities with Ubuntu 15.04 that reminded me why I decided to stick to LTS releases after 14.04. :/

First was this lovely issue with Steam not being able to load. Running it at command line gave me an error message to google, and I found this:

http://askubuntu.com/questions/614422/p ... untu-15-04

I know Valve is still saying Ubuntu 12.04 for Steam, but I don't think it would hurt them to use system libraries instead of older static ones (assuming my understanding of the issue is correct). You'd think they would have at least updated that recommendation to 14.04. I eventually got it running, tried streaming a game and couldn't get it to recognize input from my keyboard and mouse.

Even stranger, though, was that 15.04 doesn't seem to recognize all of the available audio outputs on the system - it only gives me the onboard digital audio output as an option. Can't select HDMI/Displayport audio or analog output. I know these settings were there before, because where I've got it set up for tinkering right now I had to select the HDMI/displayport audio to test the sound.

So, back to 14.04 it is, then. That suits me just fine.
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Re: build log: little black box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:01 pm

Another update, almost done going through all of the pictures that I have.

I've fiddled with the system a bit more and I haven't been able to get the USB hitching to go away with any certainty. It seems to be on all of the USB ports, and varies in intensity. But it's really irritating - sometimes the keyboard will just stop responding, sometimes the mouse, and sometimes they only stutter a little. I've currently got the nano receiver connected to the monitor's built-in USB hub, to isolate it from interference on the system.

I'm curious as to how the USB ports would react if I weren't making use of the integrated power on the motherboard. In a normal usage scenario I might just connect a wired mouse and keyboard and forget about it, but since I plan to connect this to the TV and use all wireless input, I'd like to resolve it in a way that doesn't involve hanging a USB hub or something off of the box - the less crap in the entertainment center stack, the better.

Reverting to Ubuntu 14.04 fixed the problems with Steam's install, which is good, but I seem to still be missing my HDMI/Displayport audio output option. I may have been running Catalyst when I saw that earlier, and some googling revealed this may be a bug somewhere in Ubuntu. I haven't spent much more time trying to troubleshoot it right now... I can always install Catalyst if I have to, as much as I was hoping to avoid it. Newer Ubuntu releases might fix it too (from what I found it's definitely a confirmed bug in 15.04, with one of the recent updates they pushed out, so maybe once it is fixed I will try that again and hope Steam has straightened itself out).

Also, since we were talking about temperatures earlier, existing temps at idle with the Gelid fan on the motherboard's "silent" preset:

Fan speed ~600RPM
SYSTIN 43C
CPUTIN 44C
AUXTIN 50C
iGPU 19C (reported as "radeon")
CPU 20C (reported as "k10temp")

Something I forgot to mention earlier, as well. In the picture above where I've got the screwdriver resting in the little notch on the case frame, you can see how close the SATA ports are to the front USB port block thingy. If you're thinking to use right-angle SATA cables in a configuration in this case where the SATA ports are in this same corner/configuration, you'll only be able to use two of the ports - the two closest to the edge are too close for a standard right-angle cable. I've seen some "ultra thin" right angle connectors that might work without issue, but, something to keep in mind.

The other pictures I have posted so far have shown how messy the cabling can be in this case, but after a little poking around I managed to clean it up pretty nicely, I think. First is the HD audio cable, which, on this motherboard at least, is just the right length to hide entirely:

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Yep, it's just long enough to run under the motherboard and peak out of the corner, keeping it entirely removed from the rest of the system's insides. YMMV on this one - a quick survey of the two other boards I have on-hand revealed that it would probably be fine with one and likely not be able to stretch far enough for the other.

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The rest of the front panel wasn't too hard to tidy up. The short SATA cables I mentioned were the perfect length, and as a method of tidying things I just had to layer the cables the right way. The SATA cable on the right in this picture actually loops around and serves as a little bracket for the other cables. The USB front panel cables really could have been half their length and still been able tor each anywhere on the motherboard, so not really sure what that was all about.

Here's a shot of the system as it is currently, with everything all cleaned up:

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There's a lot of extra room in here that could be used to keep the cable bundle from the DC-DC power board nice and neat, so once I've gotten a chance to test that out and see if it resolves the USB wireless keyboard/mouse hitching, I'll get a few more pics posted and report back.

I've been enjoying this so far, but I admit I've gotten a bit frustrated with these random issues I keep finding. Did I pick the wrong Kabini motherboard? Maybe the MSI one would have been a better choice if I needed the mPCIe slot, or the Asus one if I didn't. Maybe it was too much to expect low power year old hardware to be fully supported by open source (although to be fair, the bugs seem to be part of a larger issue and are not just kabini-specific). We'll see. If I can get it working the way that I want, it's water under the bridge. If not, well, someone will probably find a really good deal on Kabini system guts on ebay. :)
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deruberhanyok
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Re: build log: k-box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sat Jun 13, 2015 11:54 am

Well, some good news and some bad news and some odd news.

The bad news: I did switch the system over to the DC-DC power board in the hopes that it might eliminate whatever feedback was causing the USB hitching, and it did not. But here's some info about the power anyways!

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Shockingly, the power cables included with the system are not too long (unlike most other cables). And, being a passive solution that sits along the top of the case (when vertical), with the AC-DC conversion happening outside of the box, I'm hoping there isn't too much waste heat being generated. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

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Here it is with the board installed but no cables attached - there's really not a lot of room to tidy those cables up, so I'm glad they're a reasonable length for this case.

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As you can see, getting them all stuffed out of the way wasn't too difficult. A few more pictures:

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The good news: I was able to get the odd USB input hitching to go away once I moved the receiver to the monitor's built-in hub. I picked up a pair of Logitech F710s as well (mini-review: feels great, very responsive, a little on the heavy side, would have been nice if they could do something to show which was "player1" and which was "player2", disappointed to find these had not yet been updated to work with the unifying receiver, as I wanted to have just one little USB thing for all of the system's input devices) and, as long as their nano receivers aren't plugged directly into the system, I don't get any hiccups with those either. I was very happy to see that when in xinput mode the things just worked, as soon as I connected.

Further good news is that Kabini is pretty capable for the simpler 2D indie-type of games that I find myself playing these days. I've tried a little Steam streaming from Pumpkinator and that works... sort of. Maybe I'm missing something with configuration but it's been a bit of a hassle so far. Still, it's a good sign for whenever I consolidate down to one system, whenever AMD's got a decent Zen APU out next year (especially if HBM is involved, but I'd be happy with high speed DDR4, honestly).

I've hooked the system up to my TV, set Ubuntu to auto login, and set Steam to run at startup in big picture mode. So I guess it's basically replicating the SteamOS configuration.

The odd news: I kept running into some weird errors in certain applications not seeing correct OpenGL capabilities. I figure by the time of the next LTS release this might not be an issue, but that's a year off, so I just went with what worked. I had to install the proprietary fglrx/catalyst drivers to get the HDMI/Displayport audio output working, anyhow. Which is strange, because the open source driver should have support for it.

The other is related to cooling. Curious about the temperatures, as I mentioned in the last post, I poked around the system to see if there was a way I could get a fan over the top part of the system (I'm assuming that at least one of the higher reported temperatures is from a sensor near the board's power circuitry. The temperatures were practically unchanged after switching over to the DC-DC power board, which I thought was a little odd (figured they'd be slightly lower since the power wasn't coming directly into the motherboard). So I looked through my box and realized I had a perfect fan:

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Yep, I just pulled the fan from the stock AM1 heatsink and used some heavy duty wire ties to secure it to the open "top" panel. It's a little messy, but it works:

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When closed this is blowing air directly onto the top edge of the motherboard and DC-DC power board. Depending on board layout and number of available fan headers, another could probably be affixed to the bottom part of the panel somewhere. I figured the extra airflow might make a difference (note, the "radeon" temp isn't listed here, as it doesn't seem to be visible when using the proprietary graphics driver), but very strangely:

CPU fan speed ~600 rpm
case fan speed ~1300 rpm
SYSTIN 45
CPUTIN 47
AUXTIN 48
CPU ("k10temp") 21

Barely any difference at all! How odd. So before I "finalize" the system I'll probably pull the DC-DC power board out; after all, it didn't help with the USB interference or temperatures, and I decided not to install an LED onto the spare power lead it provides because I don't want a bright glow coming from a box in the entertainment center. So for this configuration it's just another component blocking airflow out of the top of the case. I'll probably leave the extra fan in, though.

I'm still trying to iron out some random application freezes. I don't know if the APU is getting too hot (maybe I just need to switch the fan speed to "standard" in the BIOS) or if it's a software problem, but it's irritating enough that I'd have a hard time recommending this config to anyone - as many have pointed out, a cheap Pentium might use more power, but if you don't have to do any funky troubleshooting to make it work, it's worth it. It's enough to make me reconsider eventually buying a Zen APU.
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vargis14
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Re: build log: k-box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sat Jun 13, 2015 6:50 pm

Cute little build hope it performs well enough for you and you get the kinks worked out soon

I was a AMD fanboy for a very long time until they let the Phenom 2 stagnate and never shrunk it to 32nm and improved its memory controller or added PCIE lane directly to from the CPU. To this day I wish AMD just kept on improving the 6 core Thuban Phenom and shrunk it to say 32nm then 28nm adding cores in the process instead of the huge Bulldozer disappointment along with the current piledriver. I really hope ZEN is going to get AMD back in the game but they have flopped on so many fronts I just do not see it happening in any timely fashion. I think we have a couple more years to wait and by then AMD might go belly up, which would be very unfortunate and not good for anyone. I would love to support AMD like I did in the past getting a new CPU every year but now I have a Intel 2600k well over 4 years old that is like the energizer bunny and still destroys anything AMD has. Also I have high hope for this new FURY "or whatever they are calling it 390x??"GPU I hope AMD releases it soon before Nvidia snags every person wanting to have a fully supported high end DX12 card..again I think AMD is shooting themselves in the foot by waiting so long releasing it. :x


I cannot see any reason to build a AMD system these days when you can get a much much better Intel system for around 100$ more or so. Now with the new socketed Iris systems coming out I am looking forward to see what Skylakes 15-35watt Iris equipped CPU's can do on the graphics side along with DX12. I think it will be interesting and the Intel NUC's will be very desirable.

I have a Acer laptop with a i7 5500u broadwell 2C4T CPU and it goes from 2.4ghz to 3.0ghz and it is surprising how fast it is doing most anything. Graphics wise I am using the Nvidia 840m with its 15.4" 1080p screen and I am surprised buy its performance also. Sure I have to turn the setting down but with such a small screen at 1080p it looks very good and jaggies are much harder to spot on such a small screen
2600k@4848mhz @1.4v CM Nepton40XL 16gb Ram 2x EVGA GTX770 4gb Classified cards in SLI@1280mhz Stock boost on a GAP67-UD4-B3, SBlaster Z powered by TX-850 PSU pushing a 34" LG 21/9 3440-1440 IPS panel. Pieced together 2.1 sound system
 
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Re: build log: k-box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:47 pm

Asrock motherboards are notorious for screwy USB.

My policy at work is to throw their motherboards in the garbage.
 
deruberhanyok
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Re: build log: k-box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sun Jun 14, 2015 9:12 pm

yeah, the USB issues came back with a vengeance earlier this evening, right in the middle of a game. I had another ASrock board for a build last year that had a bunch of strange issues, too, so I'm definitely left with the perception that quality issues are common with their boards.

I realize it was just amazon rewards points, and I had most of the parts already, but I'm more than a little annoyed. I'm seriously considering an H81 / B85 motherboard and a Pentium for this box right now. I'm not sure trying a different Kabini motherboard would be worth the hassle.

I might give it a go on Ubuntu 15.04 again, see if there might be some software troubles at play, but that will have to wait until the Steam install issue is resolved.
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deruberhanyok
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Re: build log: k-box (Kabini, ISK 110)

Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:18 pm

Kind of an anticlimactic "final update" here - but after two more weeks of intermittent USB issues (are the ports "unshielded" or something? I just don't get it, and I haven't had this issue on any other system) and system freezes while trying to play/stream games, I did just what I said I was going to do and picked up a low-power i3 and an H81 motherboard to replace the guts of this system. I even scrounged some replacement RAM - 2x2GB of older DDR3-1333 with ECC (which apparently Kabini supports, I had no idea) to see if it wold help, but no luck there.

I transplanted this one into a Mini-Box M350 and set it up at my desk so I can poke at it for a bit and see if maybe there's some way to get around its' most grievous of issues, which is to say, the system freezes.

This is actually my first experience with the M350 and I'm really impressed. It's extremely small - heatsink height is definitely an issue if you're doing a higher power processor (they don't recommend using a processor rated for more than 65W in the case due to this); I don't know the exact maximum height but I think the stock Intel heatsink is about 50mm when installed, and has been listed as fitting. I didn't try a test fit with the "new" hardware I picked up - that just went right into the ISK 110, pics to come of that at some point - but you'll also have to take into account any space taken up by 2.5" drives hanging from the top of the case. Here's some pics so you can see what I mean:

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Just eyeballing it I'd say 40mm is a good maximum heatsink height to keep in your head. If you're using a 2.5" SSD you'll have to take 7mm off of the internal height, plus another, what, 6mm or so for the motherboard standoffs, meaning you've got less than 50mm to work with if you don't have an integrated mSATA or m.2 type of SSD. Obviously there were zero clearance issues with this Gelid heatsink, and I think the stock one would have been fine, too, but be aware if you're planning a build in an M350 - it is a small, small case and it has even more restrictions than usual for an SFF enclosure.

All that said, I'm a big fan of it. It's extremely small, it's solid but light (the metal feels strong, but it is far from being a brick), the power LED isn't glaringly bright and it's extremely well-ventilated. It's so funny, looking at the ISK 300 I used for the "pumpkinator", that case just seems so big now! Even the ISK 110 looks big compared to this thing. And the price! Honestly, I'm glad I picked up the ISK 110 (like I said in my first post, I've wanted to try putting something together in this case when Antec first released it, what, 4-5 years ago now?), but I could build a whole horde of machines in M350s and never get bored with it. Show me a Skylake or Zen motherboard with a spot for an onboard SSD and wifi and I'll be first in line, with M350 and Pico PSU already on-hand. :)

...Oh, and as far as the Kabini system goes, the PWM control of the fan has it doing an almost constant cycle between two speeds and I can't figure out how to make it stop. I didn't notice it when I had it hooked up to the TV, but sitting here at my desk a few feet away it sounds like the little thing is hyperventilating. I want to give it a little brown paper bag and tell it to have a sit down. Poor guy. :(

Sigh. I really wanted to like this ASRock board, it's quirky and unique and that's the sort of hardware I love, but it's making that very difficult.
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