I bought the last unit of the Acer RevoCenter RC111 at a local store a couple of days ago, for a steal – RM799 (US$263). It came with a 1TB harddisk that has Windows pre-installed on it. I wanted to install Linux on the RC111 but the Internet seems to be scant on details. So, I thought that I’d blog about how I did it.
It would be a pain to install an OS onto the RC111 without a VGA port. Fortunately, the VGA port of the RC111 can be easily exposed by removing the tab covering it. Just use a sharp blade to cut the edges and press down on it slightly to break the thin strip of metal holding it in. Once that is done, the VGA port is exposed on the back.
Power up the device and you will see a minimal BIOS boot from American Megatrends. If you use a paper-clip to depress the reset button on the back of the unit when you hear a beep, the RC111 will boot from USB instead of the internal HDD.
That is the technique that I used to install Linux on the RC111.
It turns out that it is easier to prepare a USB installation image for Debian than it is for Centos. Therefore, I just went with Debian instead. Simply download the latest netinstall ISO and flash it onto a small USB thumb drive.
# wget http://cdimage.debian.org/debian-cd/6.0.6/i386/iso-cd/debian-6.0.6-i386-netinst.iso
# dd if=./debian-6.0.6-i386-netinst.iso of=/dev/sdb
Once that is completed, slot the USB drive into the back of the RC111 and power on the device. The indicator light on the front of the unit should flash white. The main hard-disk needs to be inserted in the RC111, otherwise it won’t boot.
At the sound of the beep, press the reset button with a bent paper clip. The indicator light on the front of the device should turn a stable purple and the RC111 will boot from the USB thumb drive.
The rest of the Debian install proceeded as normal. However, the ethernet network will not work correctly at the moment. So, it is only possible to install a bare minimal install of Debian on the device.
The built-in gigabit ethernet chip requires firmware that is not installed by default. It requires the firmware-realtek package that is in the non-free repository. Since the ethernet port would not work properly without the firmware, this package needs to be downloaded separately and copied over to the device and installed manually.
# dpkg -i firmware-realtek_0.28+squeeze1_all.deb
After that, the on-board gigabit ethernet will work and can be configured as usual.
All in all, it was simple enough to install an alternative OS onto the RC111. There is no reason why this should be any problem as the RC111 is basically a standard PC design with standard PC parts but with a custom BIOS.
At RM799 with a 1TB HDD, this is a steal and will work splendidly as a file server. I plan to stick in another 3x2TB HDD in the future for expansion.
The indicator light keeps blinking white while the machine is running. This doesn’t seem to be a problem. None of the individual HDD lights blink when in use. This is a small WMI issue that doesn’t affect the operation of each drive.
The system sometimes hangs or reboots on its own during startup. However, once it has successfully started up, it will stay running as normal.
5 thoughts on “Linux on Acer RC111”
very interesting and i too am doing the same …… but how to break in to change the BIOS ? (boot from USB). Or is it impossible ?
Just boot it up like normal and you should see the BIOS boot up after you plug in the VGA cable. Otherwise, hit the usual BIOS keys.
None of the usual methods work, which is why I asked the question…
Acer seem to have customised and locked the BIOS on this machine.
Try to unplug all the internal drives and you should be able to boot from USB.
Yes – I can boot from USB no problem; but that is not what I am trying to do.. I want to enter the BIOS and make it boot “normally” from any source. It seems impossible to get into the real BIOS.
Also a word of warning with this ACER machine.. I had big problems with the 1-TB hard disk mounts (Rubber?) which decayed and allowed the hard disc to fall a fraction out of its mounting… unknown to me the system then used HDD 2 to start storing and over time managed to completely screw up my storage areas, especially when it re-installed the operating files on another (storage) hard disk !!
If the mounts had been METAL as in other computers, this would not have happened…
I have given up entirely now, after a brief try with FreeNAS which kept asking for passwords I didn’t have !!
I thought I would just use the box as a Windows or Linux based storage extension without the horrible Home Server software !
Thanks for your replies – no need to waste more time on this useless machine!