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Setup and review of the Foxconn NetBox-nT330i

The Project Goals

Build a very small footprint (size and energy consumption) media center computer.

Computer must be attached to my large living room television.

This setup must enable the following:

  • Play Internet video (youtube, hulu, ect.) on the TV.
  • Stream media from other networked systems (desktop, freeNAS server).
  • Emulate and play roms from NES, SNES, Sega, Gameboy, N64, PS1.

Materials

  • Small Phillips head
  • Small Flat head
  • nT330i
  • Memory DDR2 (2GB 200-Pin DDR2 SO-DIMM DDR2 800 PC2 6400)
  • Laptop sata harddrive (80gb)
  • ubuntu iso
  • 2gb+ flash drive

Hardware Installation Guide

  1. Remove hardware from the box.

    /attachment/nt330i-1.jpg /attachment/nt330i-2.jpg /attachment/nt330i-3.jpg
  2. Remove 4 screws from the computers chassis.

    /attachment/nt330i-4.jpg
  3. Remove side cover.
    • This step was very difficult, I used a thin screw driver and slowly pried. I worked my way around the case.
    /attachment/nt330i-5.jpg
  4. Remove the 4 screws on the harddrive bracket.

    /attachment/nt330i-6.jpg
  5. Place harddrive into bracket and screw in in with supplied screws.
    • The bracket has a peg on one of the corners and forces you to insert the drive in that angle first.
    /attachment/nt330i-7.jpg
  6. Place drive and bracket into place on the motherboard and slide its connection into the SATA header.

    /attachment/nt330i-8.jpg
  7. Screw the bracket back into the chassis / motherboard.

  8. Install the ram.
    • Ram inserts on a slight angle, slide the contacts all the way in. Gingerly press down on the stick to lock into place.
    /attachment/nt330i-9.jpg /attachment/nt330i-10.jpg
  9. Replace side of case. Replace 4 screws on external case.

Software Installation Guide

  1. Create a bootable live ubuntu installation on the flash drive.
    1. System -> Administration -> USB Startup Disk Creator
  2. Boot to flash drive and install ubuntu to local harddrive.

Miscellaneous Thoughts

This section documents some other things I encountered and thought about when configuring the nT330i.

How to enable HD video

I had to manually install nvidia-185 driver from Synaptic.

System > Administration > Synaptic

Search for nvidia and install it and any dependent packages.

Once the driver is installed click:

System > Administration > Hardware Drivers

Run a scan and enable 3d support.

Trick for full screen flash, youtube, and hulu.

I found that the video quality was poor when I full screened hulu. I could almost see the video scanning.

After wasting time with different flash versions I found an trick. Instead of using full screen I used compiz enhanced zoom.

The compiz enhanced zoom cleans the image up really well and gets rid of the scanning / strobing. Give it a shot!

Hold down the super key and click down the middle mouse button (scroll wheel) and drag a square on the screen you would like to be zoomed into. When you are finished you may hold the super key again and use the wheel to scroll back to normal size.

You can hold super and 'r' to zoom a window too, great for when I play starcraft in wine window mode.

Pleasant surprises

  • VERY small computer. Very thin. Smaller then most personal routers.
  • Structure "feels" strong and expensive. The engineering is amazing.
  • 6 USB 2.0 ports.
  • Wifi or rj45 connections.
  • Memory card drive on front, MS/SD/MMC
  • Dual Core and hyper threading! (looks like 4 cores)
  • Hdmi OUT! (Audio and Video sent to the TV over one wire!)
  • The video card 3d graphics are amazing for a little unit. (Compiz Cube, lots of eye candy turned on!)

Power Consumption

The nT330i is a green computer, don't feel guilty leaving it on!

I used the kilowatt meter to find the following energy consumptions:

  • IDLE approx 15watts
  • LOAD approx 30watts

nT330i Hardware Drivers

If you are having trouble finding the official drivers for nT330i please refer to the Foxconn Driver Page.

Current status

I get 1080p resolution out to the television but I'm having overscan trouble. Not sure if this is a TV issue or the computer. Some people have resolved this issue using a custom X11/xorg.conf mode and scan resolution.

I'll write more if I figure it out. Either way I'm happy because I full screen the video most of the time anyways

Comments

foxhop 03:53 PM 10-09-2010

Nick: (comment before comment system was build)

Is the SD reader an option in the boot configuration? Could you install to a large SDHC card and have a small, cheap, silent solid state hard drive ?! Or you could install an operating system from the sd card? Is there an option for booting from SD cards in the boot section of the Bios?

foxhop 03:55 PM 10-09-2010

That is a good question. I will have to test and see. I do have a few memory cards laying around, wouldn't hurt to give it a try. Check out my freeNAS-msi-wind article. I used the memory card for the operating system! By the way I'm planning on adding page and user comments to pylowiki eventully.

hjmf 11:41 AM 10-30-2010

I have the nearly the same configuration, but I have a Show-Stopper at the Installation of Ubuntu on the Foxconn. I try to install it from an USB Flash Memort Stick, but I can not succeed to start/install Ubuntu. Using 2GB internal memory and a 500GB Hard Disk (which is found by Foxconn Hardware) I am unable to start Ubuntu. 1. Installation of Ubuntu 10.10 Server leaves me with a blank screen without any notifications. 2. Installation of Ubuntu 10.10 Desktop Client stops after showing the Message: "NET: registered protocol family 1" I do understand you are not running a help desk, but maybe you can give me clue. Thx

foxhop 12:07 PM 10-30-2010

hjmf: I'm sorry I didn't run into such problems...

I would suggest installing Ubuntu LTS (10.04). This is the version I'm running.

Also it could be a problem with your flash drive, I have seen corrupted Ubuntu flash drives not boot well, only only boot once.

Let me know how it turns out and feel free to post more questions when the time comes.

supafrieke 07:14 PM 01-10-2011

I used the tool from pendrive linux (Ubuntu 10.10 desktop adm64 ISO) to create a USB key, a standard SD card and an SDHC and have had no luck in getting the machine to boot from anything but the USB.

I've looked into a sata sled to hold a CF card but the price isnt nearly as nice and easy as simply plugging in an SD. :(

foxhop 06:09 PM 01-11-2011

Thanks for the update supafrieke. If you figure the CF booting out feel free to document it above in the wiki section of this page!

Good luck!

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