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Asus_K8N-DL

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Contents

Introduction

The ASUS K8N-DL is a powerful but unique board as it is a full NUMA Opteron board with 16xPCIe, yet fits in most ATX cases.

The second bios (1004) since the board's release fixed many problems and allowed Dual Core and NUMA support. It works well and is rock solid once configured properly.

The third BIOS (1006) was available at the end of September 2005. While much more stable than 1003 or 1004, it was still a work in progress. Installing BIOS 1006 allowed the first successful boot of vanilla and gentoo sources at 2.6.13 and 2.6.14. Bios 1008 has given me random sata errors, and other problems relating to the usb. Upgrading to 1009 fixed this issue. BIOS 1009 is available since February 2007. It works well and there are no known problems with the mainboard.

System configuration

Right now, there are two things you must do when setting up your system:

Certain systems have experienced problems with the Silicon Image controller as well as the NVIDIA one on this motherboard. See this thread [1] for a description of the problem. However, upgrading to BIOS 1007 appars to fix the problem. SI3114 based PCI controller cards have been reported to be trouble-free -- however, the BIOS on all the cards tried was newer than the original on-board BIOS.

One last consideration, the audio chip (NForce, based on the Intel 8x0) is subpar and buggy. It is always advisable to choose a soundcard with a hardware mixer for Linux. If audio is a concern, visit Alsa-project.org and browse for cards with "(3)" in the notes column.

BIOS settings

If you use the 1004 version BIOS, DO NOT attempt to disable the NVidia SATA controller in the BIOS. The system will hang during initialization. If you did disable the NVidia SATA controller in the BIOS and that's why you are now reading this, you'll need to reset your CMOS. Instructions for this are in your K8N-DL user guide at 2-17. The instructions tell you remove the battery. This is not needed. Simply pull the CLRTC1 jumper, put it on pins 2 & 3, count to 10 slowly and move it back to it's default position - pins 1 & 2. CLRTC1 is in the same corner area as PATA IDE1.

Disable the ACPI APIC. This is in the Power menu.

Note: Using 2005.1, you may have to specify "gentoo noapic noload=sata_nv" to get a successful boot.

The above instructions apply to BIOS version 1004. Version 1006 has been availble since early Sept 2005. Feel free to add BIOS setting instructions if they are different for the 1006 version compared to the 1004 version.

One thing to keep in mind if you have LOTS of hard disks installed on the system: Its a lot easier to just use ONE or TWO on the controller you want the system to work on. For instance, if you are using the SIL controller, the system sees it as "SCSI 5". If you have all controllers available, there are those that appear sooner than the 'sda' that you think is the boot disk. Also important to note that the "boot order" in the bios is critical. You need to choose the appropriate channel/device (in the disk section of boot) as the one that you want to boot from.

LiveCDs

Because of the problem with the NForce SATA drivers, install your SATA drives on the SiI 3114. When at the boot menu, include "noload=sata_nv" among the kernel options. If you only have one CPU installed then you must also include "noapic", otherwise you will get a hang at coldplugging pci devices. Your PATA drives should have no problem.

You may get a complaint about a checksum error on the Silicon Image RAID, and that it couldn't find any drives, but you can ignore it: the single-drive concatenation will be correctly set up as /dev/sda. (If you defined an actual RAID on the SiI controller, it probably won't complain about that; I have not tried it, though.)

Kernel settings

You must disable the IOMMU when building the kernel:

Linux Kernel Configuration:
Processor type and features  --->
  [ ] IOMMU support


You must also include Silicon Image SATA support and exclude nVidia SATA support:

Linux Kernel Configuration:
Device Drivers  --->
  SCSI device support  --->
    <*>   SCSI disk support
    SCSI low-level drivers  --->
      [*] Serial ATA (SATA) support
      < >   NVIDIA SATA support
      <*>   Silicon Image SATA support

Note: is could be incorrect, as nv sata has been reported to work on this MB.

Reminder: You effectively have 3 built in disk controllers. The nVidia PATA controller, the NVidia SATA controller and the Sillicon Images SATA controller. Don't forget to turn on the nVidia PATA controller and be sure the Silicone Image chipset support is off. The SI SATA support is for the SI 3112 chip. Not the SI 3114 chip which is on the K8N DL motherboard.

Linux Kernel Configuration:
Device Drivers  --->
  ATA/ATAPI/MFM/RLL  --->
        <*>   AMD and nVidia IDE support
        < >   Silicone Image chipset support

Final thoughts

Many people complain about NVidia, NForce and kernel drivers but they don't know the full story. Suffice to say NVidia is helping more than many other companies would in spite of circumstances beyond their control. Asus, knowing this board would be popular among Linux users, has chosen parts to supplement the NForce's trouble spots such as the SiI 3114 and the Broadcom BCM5751. These parts should carry most users until the kinks are worked out of the NForce Linux drivers.

Note: As of 2005-10-20, the NVidia NForce 4 drivers seem to work great for Linux, as I'm using them with at ASUS A8N-E Motherboard without trouble. The stable version of Xensource virtualization stil hangs on boot with the sata_nv driver, however.

A Note About Hardware RAID using the Silicon Image Controller

Gentoo will see your drives as their physical size, no matter how you configure your RAID. It is as if Gentoo ignores the hardware RAID settings and sees each drive seperately no matter what. To verify this, create a RAID of type 0, 1, or 10, and boot from livecd. at the command line prompt, type fdisk -l <enter>. All of your physical drives will appear.

Correction: The SIL3114 chip does not support hardware RAID -- instead, it's so-called "fake" RAID with software RAID implemented in the (windows) driver. Correction: The nv-sata with bios raid enabled can be used with a device mapper and dmraid.

Links

* The ASUS K8N-DL Information Society Wiki: detailed practical information about this board.
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Last modified: Wed, 15 Oct 2008 00:22:00 +0000 Hits: 29,149