Installing Ubuntu 9.04 into Alix2d3

Hi fellow geeks!

For sometime now, I’ve been looking forward to acquire an embedded system that would become my home router and testbed for some networking stuff I’m working on. The requisites are the following:

  • Noiseless, cause I want to sleep with it right next to me
  • Very small
  • x86 architecture, cause I want it as a testbed for my networking applications and don’t want to fiddle with architecture vs compiler/libraries issues
  • Two or more Ethernet devices
  • USB and mini-PCI are pluses
  • Cheap!!

Thanks to my friend João Barraca, I went for a PC Engines Alix ALIX2D3. And must I say, it’s great!! And only 104Euro + 26Euro (customs taxes).  I’m not showing the unboxing process, but here’s a picture of the board.

ALIX2D3 board

ALIX2D3 board

I did some things wrong though, on the rush of getting a new toy (don’t you geeks know this feeling?!). First PC Engines is based in Switzerland, and therefor non-EU, and therefor customs taxes and a long wait for the delivery. Then I ordered the board and a black case only, so at arrival, I missed a DC, a Compact Flash card and a null-modem serial cable. I went to one of those big electronics market and bought the following:

  • Vivanco universal DC 7v-24v (I recommend setting it for 18v, depending on the number of devices you’ll be using, such as USB and mini-PCI stuff). Oh and be careful with the polarity of the board which you can find by looking down the FB18, and using the correct connector size, 2.1mm.
  • Sandisk CF Ultra II 4GB;
  • Null-modem serial cable (female-to-female);
  • Serial-to-USB adapter.

As I said, I also ordered a black case and I had an issue while assembling the board into it. The serial port hex nuts wouldn’t fit the case! Well, just remove them, insert the board, and attach them again. In the end, this is the result:

Board in the case

Board in the case

Front of "the machine"

Front of "the machine"

Size compared to the E71

Size compared to the E71

I recommend you install everything you need and test it before you put the board into the case, so you can avoid repeating the screw/unscrew process.

Now, let’s head for the installation.

  1. First, grab the alternate installer for the latest Ubuntu i386 (9.04 iso). Burn it.
  2. Plug your CF card into a USB card-reader and punch it in your PC/laptop.
  3. Boot from the CD and press F4. Select text-only system installation.
  4. Install Ubuntu into your CF. I recommend setting only one partition and not using swap as you don’t want to “burn” lifetime from your CF.
  5. Don’t install grub into the MBR of the first disk, but on the MBR of the CF.
  6. Reboot.
  7. Boot into your CF Ubuntu system and log-in.
  8. Install an ssh server. sudo apt-get install openssh-server
  9. Edit your /etc/network/interfaces and configure your network devices as you see fit.
  10. As you’re using your PC/laptop for the installation process, udev has persisted the currently existing network devices. You must remove all entries before putting the CF into the ALIX2D3 board, so that all Ethernet devices there are correctly named (eth0, eth1, eth2). Just issue echo “” > /etc/udev/rules.d/70-persistent-net.rules
  11. In order to protect the CF once more, edit your /etc/fstab and change relatime to noatime in the root line (/). Also, add the following lines:

none /tmp tmpfs nr_inodes=200k,mode=01777 0 0
none /var/tmp tmpfs nr_inodes=200k,mode=01777 0 0

Power off. Now, put the CF into the board and have fun through ssh. Enjoy 🙂


9 thoughts on “Installing Ubuntu 9.04 into Alix2d3

  1. Well the long wait was caused by post-office/customs issues. The package was returned to Switzerland and had to be resent.

    As to the wireless card, I’m not getting into it as I’ve plenty access-points around.

    I thank you for the tip on using the serial port as a console for local management.

  2. Joaquim fernandes says:

    Viva! Parabens pela compra!

    Eu nao queria montar um router, mas sim um NAS Server…ou Media server. Sabem alguma solucao tipo esta boa e barata?

    Será que os 500mhz e 256mb ram servem para o efeito ?


  3. Boas Joaquim Fernandes,

    Para um NAS vais precisar de algo mais potente, onde possas enfiar uns discos SATA e ter alguma refrigeração.
    Já um Media server, já ouvi falar muito bem do Popcorn Hour.

    Os 500MHz e os 256MB RAM desapareciam num instante se tentasses decodar um filme HD (.mkv por exemplo). Portanto acho q a escolha vai mesmo ter de ser outra.


  4. tapires says:

    Viva! Para media server se estiver interessado em algo mais que apenas media server aconselhado Azbox Elite HD ou a Premium (Receptor Satélite, TDT, e Media Server) tudo a 1080p. Se quiser algo mais simples o PopCorn Hour A-110 chega para o gasto. Ambas as soluções têm um processador Sigma capaz de dar conta do recado de media server e ainda têm inúmeros plug-ins.


  5. marin kusev says:

    Hello Paulo Pires,
    I saw this page with all instructions how to intsall Ubuntu on Alix2d3, it is great, thank you!
    I am new in this art, just looking for some new solutions for network mangment /like routers, AP/. I found out that many people said only good word for Alix boards, probably I will buy Alix2d3 soon, it will be my new toy 🙂
    Paulo, plese, tell us how is working Ubuntu 9.04 on Alix board, is there enough power to run it? I am using Ubuntu on my laptop and like it.
    Greetings from Bulgaria

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s