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A brief look at running Ubuntu on a Meegopad T02, an Intel Compute Stick (Windows version) and a Meegopad T01

posted 17 Jun 2015, 06:09 by Ian MORRISON   [ updated 5 Mar 2016, 20:14 ]
The first Intel CPU based stick on the market was the Meegopad T01. A small stylish device that initially shipped with only Windows but is now available as dual boot with Android. Next came the Intel Compute Stick touted as available in either Windows or Ubuntu. I thought that Intel would release their Ubuntu OS as a downloadable ISO so I bought the Windows version as it has a better hardware specification and began the wait for Ubuntu. Compared with the Meegopad T01 I was surprised by how much physically larger the device was. However when you look inside and see that there is a small fan and a surprisingly large heat sink it seems justified. Unfortunately the Ubuntu version still hasn't been released and apparently no on-line image will be posted either. Finally the Meegopad T02 has just been released. This is noticeably the biggest yet all you get for that extra size is extra air as all the PCBAs are similarly sized.

So what about running Ubuntu? When I first heard that a mini PC with an Intel CPU was to be launched I thought that everything would be straight forward for Linux. Unfortunately new hurdles were presented with a 32-bit BIOS and neither wifi nor sound. It meant a cumbersome installation for Ubuntu and also compiling an additional module for wifi. Even when a solution for audio was found another bug was encountered in the BIOS. In order to get both a working and usable Ubuntu I've had to recompile the Ubuntu kernel source and include the wifi and audio patches and also a fix for the BIOS and then build LiveCDs to simplify the testing and installation on each of the devices.

But it is obvious that the critical issue of these mini PCs is heat and how to dissipate it given basically everything else is essentially identical. As a quick indicator I thought I'd install Ubuntu along side Windows on the internal eMMC on each device and then compare the CPU temperatures before, during and after running a stress test.

With each device identically connected to a 4-way KVM some basic informational commands were run ('uname -a', 'inxi -F', 'df -h' and 'iwconfig') and the current CPU temperatures were noted for the Meegopad T02 as 52C, the ICS as 56C and the Meegopad T01 as 58C. Then a stress test was run as 'stress -c 4 -m 4 -t 60' and a screenshot taken after around 30 to 40 seconds. Each CPU's temperature peaked at around 70/71C. Nearly two hours later the 'inxi -F' command was re-run remotely and the temperature for each device was recorded for the Meegopad T02 at 50C, the ICS at 55C and the Meegopad T01 at 52C. Having observed this and earlier behaviour basically the new Meegopad T02 runs cooler than the old Meegopad T01 and both run lower than the ICS. And once the CPU is put under load it will rapidly heat up regardless of device. The advantage of the ICS is that the fan will start if the temperature remains high to assist with heat dissipation. Further testing though is required to fully evaluate the cooling effectiveness of each device.

If you have one of these devices and are interested in trying Ubuntu then you can download my 'ISO' for each device from https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B99O3A0dDe67Ym02R2pOY2VKeTA, https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B99O3A0dDe67Q0dzalFHWWhMNmc or https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B99O3A0dDe67NXM5aHl0WXFFbUU. These are development versions and I'll probably update them over time. They are also BIOS dependant. The BIOS for the Meegopad T02 is still subject to change so YMMV. For the ICS the kernel has been created for version 0018 of the BIOS which is the version that was factory installed on my ICS. The Meegopad T01 depends on a BIOS I've modified and full instructions are posted https://docs.google.com/document/d/10tA4ebA1d6-CZju0V92a7fgQGgGgUIqPGK85E32HqCU including a beginner's tutorial for installing Ubuntu along side Windows that is applicable for all devices. ICS specific instructions are posted at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gnjDJKR-OJQPfE4woFeN998WfB5H80OFaL1xdZDNxmk.  

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