It was back in February that we originally looked at the AB9 motherboard from Abit; however, this P965 motherboard had a few problems that had prevented this motherboard from functioning well with Linux. But have things since improved for this motherboard? We now have our compatibility report for the Abit AB9 as we see if things have changed for the better or worse under Linux and Solaris.
To recap, the Abit AB9 motherboard uses Intel's P965 Chipset in conjunction with the ICH8. This ATX motherboard also features IEEE-1394a Firewire, is Intel Quad Core ready, and has its share of Abit innovations such as CPU ThermalGuard, Silent OTES, and OC Guru. However, when it came to the Linux testing and benchmarking our efforts were hampered when using Fedora Core 6 and Fedora 7 Test 1 due to compatibility issues with the JMicron JMB363, which provides two of the Serial ATA 2.0 ports with RAID functionality.
Things still are not shining bright for this motherboard due to the same disk problem, but we have a few comments on this motherboard under our new compatibility testing process.
Being released last week was Fedora 7 Test 4 and thus for our Abit AB9 compatibility testing we had tried both the i386 and x86_64 editions of Fedora 7 Test 4, which is based upon a 2.6.21-rc7 based kernel. When we had tested the AB9 previously with Fedora Core 6 and Fedora 7 Test 1, the system would hang during the Anaconda installation while trying to load the appropriate Serial ATA kernel modules. With Fedora 7 Test 4 this had not happened. All of the needed kernel modules for the hardware had loaded and we were quickly in the graphical portion of the Anaconda installation process. However, when the time came to select the hard disks to install Fedora to, there were none. The kernel modules for the hardware were loaded but it had failed to detect the attached Western Digital SATA 2.0 drive. Being unable to detect the disks prevented us from installing Fedora at all. Unlike some motherboards that experience the same problem but have a workaround, the AB9 had ran into the same issue when passing the all-generic-ide argument during the installation boot process.
Also coming out in April was the final release of Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn. While booting the Feisty Fawn Desktop LiveCD we had run into no issues -- the LiveCD booted without any problems and everything from the integrated Gigabit NIC to the onboard HD audio had worked! When it came to using the LiveCD installer, Ubuntu 7.04 had found and properly recognized the SATA disk and the installation had begun. Feisty Fawn had installed without any issues and the LiveCD continued to work great, however, once booting to the new installation the system would hang over /dev/tty -- it came back to a disk controller issue once again.
KateOS, the distribution being used for its uncommon presence in the Linux community, had worked with the Abit AB9 when using the 3.6 Beta LiveCD. However, like Ubuntu and Fedora, KateOS had experienced similar disk issues with it being powered by the Linux 2.6.18 kernel.
For our Solaris testing, we had tried out BeleniX 0.5.1 with this release. For those new to the Solaris scene, BeleniX is an OpenSolaris distribution (0.5.1 is based upon OpenSolaris Build 52), includes NVIDIA's binary display driver, and other desktop features. However, during the startup process of the BeleniX LiveCD, the system would simply reboot.
The Abit AB9 is far from a motherboard that works "out of the box" with most Linux distributions at this time. Most of these issues, however, are attributed to the JMicron Serial ATA controller. This disk controller issue is not specific to the Abit AB9 but is somewhat common for a number of different Intel 965 motherboards running Linux. However, unlike some of the effected motherboards that have easy workarounds, the AB9 does not. Outside of these disk issues, the Abit AB9 had no problems with the integrated Gigabit NIC or 7.1 channel HD audio.
This is the first Abit motherboard we have encountered to be plagued by Linux compatibility issues and many of their past creations such as the NF-M2 nView, AW9D, and the KN9 Ultra had worked great. We will provide updated information on Phoronix once we see the status of this motherboard change under Linux, but in the mean time you may want to try out another Linux friendly motherboard. You can share your experiences with this motherboard or similar motherboards in the Phoronix Forums.
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