Ubuntu 11.04 on an Asus P7H55

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2011-05-15

A month ago, I returned from a work trip to Kolkata to find my computer dead. None of the tricks learned during its eight years of service could coax it back to life, and I was forced to visit Nehru Place the next day to buy a new motherboard. I was disappointed by the lack of variety in the models available, but had too little time to explore. I wanted an Asus P7H55D-M Pro, but had to settle for the Asus P7H55 that RR Systems unearthed after much consultation on the Nehru Place bush telephone. I got an i3-540 CPU and 8GB of RAM with it, and had to buy a Radeon 4350 PCIe video card too (since the P7H55 doesn't support the on-die graphics of the i3/i5 processors).

I was too busy with work to do more than install the new hardware and continue to use the existing (32-bit) Ubuntu 10.04 installation. Given my track record of upgrading, I may have left it that way for a year or two, but for two things—the thought of half my RAM being unused was sad, and the machine wouldn't boot reliably. The latter problem was difficult to pin down, but I finally isolated it to the Via VT6415 IDE controller. Sometimes the kernel would hang just after enumerating the IDE devices (one of which was my root disk). Disabling the controller solved the problem, but meant I had to set up a new installation on a SATA disk.

Last night, I finally installed Ubuntu 11.04 (whose slick new installer does work in the background while waiting for you to answer questions!), and got my machine up and running with surprisingly little trouble. The proprietary ATI fglrx video driver continues to be horribly broken, but video performance has improved dramatically even without it (but I don't know if that's because of improvements in the open-source radeon driver, or something else). Installing LTSP and booting 32-bit clients worked flawlessly. The only thing I haven't figured out how to do yet is to switch back to using fvwm2 as my window manager, but that can wait.

And now all of that lovely 8GB of RAM is accessible.