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Linux for the Audiophile - Snakeoil OS

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Hello guys. I have created a Linux distro (based on 32bits Ubuntu Server 14.04 LTS) called Snakeoil. Currently still in beta stage at the moment, and would like more testers.


Snakeoil comes pre-installed with some common players - XMMS, MPD, JRiver, Squeezelite+LMS that users can configure from a web interface, and the list of players will be updated in each release. (You'd need a Linux JRiver license to use JRiver)




The key features of Snakeoil are:


  1. LiveCD - makes it easy for you to try Linux and its players without actually knowing how to use Linux (configure everything from another computer via web interface, and play songs with your tablets, handphones and other mobile devices)
  2. Use a custom built RT kernel optimised for Atom based motherboards. A list of different kernels to try on the Snakeoil forums.
  3. A web interface for configuring the basics
  4. Customisable - Change the kernel and installed software by uploading files (no need to learn Linux commands)


Because of the nature of the custom kernel, only a few audio devices are supported.

  • Intel High Definition Audio
  • ESI [email protected]
  • Asus Sonar Essense ST/STX
  • USB Audio device


And the most important bit, Snakeoil requires a network connection. And the only NICs supported at the moment are Intel E1000E and Realtek chips.


Snakeoil is made for people using Atom based motherboards, but a generic386 ISO is also available that should work for all PCs. Only the boot kernel is different between the two ISOs. Let me know if your motherboard NIC is not Intel/Realtek. I will rebuild the kernel and send it to you, and you just have to replaced the kernel on the USB stick with this new one and it should work.


There is a manual. Unfortunately I overlooked the most important section - how to play music with the installed software. Will try and complete that part of the manual later this week.


That embarrassment aside, hopefully I have made Snakeoil easy and accessible enough for people to give the Linux ecosystem a go.


Some quick links:



Received reports that keyboards and mouse don't work with the latest ISO. If you are just testing Snakeoil in live CD mode you can just start up a web browser from another computer and point it directly to the machine.


If you want to install, please use the VNC method of connecting to the machine and install from another computer. Read this section if you havn't use VNC before.


The machine name by default is called snakeoil. So if you have uPNP setup try snakeoil.local, followed by snakeoil, and finally look up the leased IP address from your DHCP server (if you have a monitor connected to the machine the IP will be shown in the tty0 console).


Head on to the downloads now if you are interested to try. Note that files are hosted on GoogleDrive and the ISO is big at about 520 MB. Google is not very open about any quota limits placed on Drive downloads, so the downloads may be disabled in the future. Rush in while you can.


Please understand Snakeoil is still in beta so bugs and problems are expected (especially when a stripped down kernel is used). Hopefully we can hunt and eliminate most of the bugs down.


Troubleshooting over the Internet can be tedious (especially when we are in different time zones), so I ask for your patience in resolving them.


Thank you :)

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How does your post differ from an advertisement?

It is indeed an advertisement - for beta testers....


If mods think this is suss, please remove this thread and delete my account. Snakeoil can speak for itself so I don't have the need to defend my character from now onwards. Other than the above clarification.


At the end of the day, I'm looking for people to help me make Linux easier for audiophiles to use. Looking for people who are always interested in Linux, but don't really have the experience to dig deeper into.


Anyway, if folks have any issues with installing and using, please post it here and I will assist the best that I can.

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Links for 0.1.2a are live! Refer to top post for the Download link. Hopefully the keyboard will work this time, and as requested - no more JRiver. People using Apple keyboard and mouses will no longer have issues either.


It is hard to imagine Ubuntu (or Lubuntu or Xubuntu or ...) needs another layer of abstraction to make it more useable.

From my perspective nothing is hard as long as one put his/her mind to it.


Why not work with them to make a truly open-source iso distribution focused on GPLed audio software that sounds good, and forget about registrations and donations? Who knows, you might become the Marc Shuttleworth of audio.

Baby steps. At the moment the focus is on:


  • identifying bugs and fixing them
  • finishing up the manual
  • complete the the lists of things in the "features" list.

On the subjects of registrations, donations and snakeoils. Consider this project a social experiment - are you game to try Snakeoil? How much would you pay for snakeoil? Would you recommend Snakeoil to somebody else?


Anyway, folks who have issues/difficulties in using this OS, please comment so I am aware of it (even after you finally figured it out by yourself). Regardless how trivial you think they are - a fresh pair of eyes often can reveal things/issues that I take for granted.


One of the most popular source of confusion is the creation of the user account (and the machine name). Not sure if I can fix that but will look into it when I can.


For people who are installing directly on the computer, please let me know if the keyboard is still not working for you. This is a weird vncviewer issue. If you still have this problem, please follow these steps to fix:

  1. CTRL-ESC, a menu will pop up from the bottom left, Select Terminal
  2. You have type in these words (without quotes) blind as you cannot see the terminal: "killall vncviewer"
  3. Run this command: .icewm/startup


Or just remote access from another computer (the keyboard/mouse) will be working fine.

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Is this free or is there a charge for the product?
Missed your msg.


Snakeoil is free.


Last thing I want is to be audited. I'd try and clarify this in the manual later today.


BTW, what's "hidden" behind the registration (for now they are - change priority, upload new updates/kernels, allow > 1 DAC and 1 mount points), some of these features will slowly be exposed to the public eventually - probably when Snakeoil is out of the current beta cycle, i.e. when I feel more confident with how the whole upgrade process works. Most of these features are not important to get music playing.


And then obviously when I add more features, the more unstable ones will hide behind registration first. And if they are useful and stable enough for everybody - be released to the public. So think of them as experimental features.


That is the plan anyway, unsure if this is going to be messy to execute or not. Time will tell.


I understand now how donations in return for a registration code can be interpreted as charging. The whole paypal really started as a joke - "what prices snakeoil?". Need to rethink this, will change some things later this week.


In the mean time, any bugs, please report. Thanks.

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Thanks for the quick response.

Not a problem.


It seems to me you are missing out on a chance to sell a few more units of your product.

To be fair to them - I did not ask. If they changed their minds and give me the permission to bundle, I am happy to include it back in the next release.


Don't you just buy jRiver like you do for Mac and PC? What's different about getting the Linux version?

It's really the operating system. When you buy a new computer, it often comes pre-installed with the operating system.


To try JRiver on Linux, first of all you need to have some level of Linux know how - how to install Linux, how to download app, how to install app, how to start app. Most people wouldn't bother.


Even Snakeoil right now is probably not simple to install. Something I hope can be improved in the future.

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Just a quick suggestion. If your going to release a Linux OS stick with open sourced projects.

Clementine can be easily configured for bit perfect streaming. It also has a wonderful user friendly GUI and a android remote app. Give it a try.


Clementine, Amarok, plus others (e.g. xmms2) are in the list of players.. Not sure when I'd get them ready yet though, so no promises just yet..

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While I abhor the naming of this, and the name makes me deeply suspicious someone is pulling our legs...


We live in a world where communications has never been easier, and yet people lack basic social skills. Just take me as an example, calling the distro Snakeoil. Haha. I like the name, only because other people avoid it. If this distro slowly climbs up the google ranks when people look up "hifi snakeoil" or "audiophile snakeoil", ever better.


Treating me with suspicion is perfectly reasonable - I just signed up to this forum after all. And eagled eye people will notice I call myself the "Snakeoil Salesman" in my blog. Happy to start at the bottom and earn trust the traditional way.


As for the claim that Linux is easy to get into - as stated in my website's privacy policy, it is using google analytics. Of the people who didn't block it, Linux OS hits only make up 4.55%. They also spent the least amount time as a group.


This makes perfect sense to me, people who already know Linux don't see the need for Snakeoil. Pointing out Linux is as easy as ever to install is moot. Pointing out the small sample size of a new web site is hardly indicative.


The reality is, there will always be people who find installing Linux a frustrating experience. My opinion on this is not just supported by stats, but by the people whom I have met face to face. e.g. tp1 who is the guy who encouraged me to sign up here (imagine my surprise when he didn't even have an account here. ROFL).


So what you're saying, is the reason this particular distro is more difficult to setup than average, is because there's no dte? Everything is done from the command line?

Two options in Snakeoil - you can do most things from the web interface, or everything from the command line..


The 2nd option requires a user account (with sudo rights), and that screen asking for information to create the user account is throwing everybody off so far who are trying out Snakeoil right now. Ironically Snakeoil would be a lot easier to install if I just hide that and have Ubiquity install everything automatically. May consider that in the future (and have the option to create a user account from the web pages, and hopefully even reset the password).


Any people who are lurking and have NFI what we just talked about in the past 30+ posts or so - Snakeoil may well be the distro you should try first. Admittedly the distro is still very raw and the website is still disorganised - but with more feedback the experience will just get better and better.


With Snakeoil I'm taking my technical hat off and looking at Linux from an audiophile's perspective. The Snakeoil web interface will slowly be polished with that idea in mind.


As for feedback on Snakeoil itself, the good news is a local guru in my area has found several critical bugs and gave me notes on how to improve the UI. That list will give me something to work on for now.


And meanwhile, I'd still be here to earn the trust.

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Its a unique perspective, I'll give you that. But I don't know if its really a good idea to call yourself a snake oil salesman. (Unless, of course, you actually do have real, high quality snake oil.) Its kind of like going on a job interview in a bank and telling them your nick name is "Stick Up Man". You may not get hired.

And if the bank decided not to hire me based on superficial stuffs, it'd not be a work environment I want to work with anyway.


Anyway, during the setup process, do you have the option to pick a DE, or must you use CLI or web interface? That's will probably be an issue for most people, even if they do have Linux experience.

This is a LiveCD, so the apps you see is the apps you get.. It's designed to run headless (even the install works over VNC). The only installed windows manager is IceWM. Of course users have full control and ssh in and do everything they want once the OS is installed.


Also, I checked distrowatch and you don't have a listing. If you want to get some exposure, that's one of the best ways to do it.

Good idea.. Worth doing once this LiveCD gets out of beta.

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I do not applaud the naming and if humor is the underlying cause, I still have to wonder what the joke really is.

some day, when you google "audiophile snakeoil", the distro website will be ranked #1...


Not done via SEO, or with cheating. As mentioned in the FAQ, all I'm trying to do is to turn a negative word into a positive one.


People usually associate "audiophile snakeoil" as something negative - Silly expensive things that don't work. e.g. there are already a few comments who are taken aback by the name.


Now people can google for words like "audiophile snakeoil os" and "audiophile snakeoil operating system" to find the website to download this software.


In time I hope they can simply use the words "audiophile snakeoil" and get the same results.


40+ posts so far, and yet not one person tried out Snakeoil, and gave me feedback on usability issues... Is this enough evidence to show people wouldn't touch anything with the word snakeoil in it? And if they are repulsed by the word, is that repulsiveness a irrational response?

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Thanks for the response guys, some new stuff to me. Interesting what can be considered a OS, like starting from a base kernel level and building from there.

Another example of a tiny OS would be busybox.


480 MB isn't considered big in today's world. And perhaps in the future I may ditch Ubuntu and use BusyBox. Is this high up in my todo list? Nope. Why? Other than a smaller download, most people typically wouldn't care for the difference. In some countries downloading a 500 MB file and a ~50 MB file takes them same amount of time. :D


Obviously I will still build new ISO for first time users to install. But once people installed Snakeoil, any subsequent changes/updates are done as 'firmware upgrades", which stands at 20 MB for now.


i'm another one who has tried Daphile and loved it for it's concept but used vortexbox because it had superior sound quality. i'm really unsure with linux and need my hand held so i thought i would give this a go. i'm also an aussie living in NZ so i got the humour straight away.



very difficult to compare sound, but it is at least as good, or maybe a bit better(different in a good way for me?) than VB. i was early on in the beta testing and my hand got held and i was able to install and enjoy.

Have to give yourself more credit than that. I only supplied the manual and videos. If you look back, the manual/videos purpose is giving you the confidence to go ahead. You did everything on your own - installed the OS yourself, set it the various pages yourself, and upgraded the software yourself.


Gotta love that!


yesterday i updated my firmware - again simple and easy once i had some simple instructions.



i am really enjoying the experience so far. i decided i wanted to support this approach so i made a small donation as a form of encouragement.

Thank you for your support. Your donations really made it easier for me commit to Snakeoil and move to another web host (the previous hosting company gave me so much grief).


I was encouraged myself too. Snakeoil is a Team WA effort. There is this group of crazy Hifi enthusiasts here in Perth - crazy as in they think big. It is them who gave me the idea and egged me on to create this LiveCD, including posting here.


Most of the ideas in Snakeoil, including things like usability, etc all come from this collective wealth of experience. And I am very glad (and a bit grateful) that you are enjoying this experience too.


I'm using daphile on ECS Liva, and would love to try the Snakeoil OS. Thanks for your efforts to bring a new distro to computer audio :)

:) Happy to see you willing to look past the name Snakeoil and have a go. If you have any issues, be it general questions, usability issues, or anything that just look plain wrong, please let me know (preferably in this thread, or privately via PM or email).

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I would like to ask some question before installing Snakeoil OS:


1. My mini PC has Intel Bay Trail-M N2807 and Realtek RTL8111G Gigabit Fast Ethernet , then which download I should take? Atom of generic one?

N2807 is a Celeron, download the generic one. And yes, the Realtek NIC should work.


2. My mini PC only support UEFI boot. Does Snakeoil support that boot yet. If not, is there any workaround. I'm using rEFInd Boot Manager as a workaround to run Daphile on that mini PC. The PC firstly boots with rEFInd, then rEFInd loads Daphile boot from Daphile partition.

I have tried Snakeoil with my computer set to UEFI boot only and it works. So at least you can still try out the LiveCD.


Installation wise if not wrong it'd need to pull additional stuffs from the Ubuntu repository (so this require an Internet connection).


Also, I'm compiling a list of hardware that works straight out of the box. If you have installed Snakeoil successfully, please let me know the make/model of your motherboard.


The RT kernel is pretty stripped down, hence it's inevitable it will not boot up on some equipment, the more feedback I get, the easier it is for me to tailor the kernel. Thanks in advance.

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  • 2 weeks later...
I plug USB stick to Liva, power on, select boot from that USB, then the Liva very quickly goes to next boot media (eMMC). It is so quick that I could not see any error message.

Hmm. I don't have this model to confirm for sure. But a quick google tells me it works with Linux in UEFI boot only mode. Does this mean it wouldn't work with LiveCDs in legacy (BIOS) mode?


Can you please try it on another machine and see if the USB stick works? If yes then the above is the most likely cause.. It look into using grub2 for the next ISO, and hopefully that'd work better with modern machines.


Snakeoil is designed primary for mITX atom based motherboards. But these days all motherboard seem to dolegacy/uefi (and yours is UEFI only), so might as well move to grub2. Will keep you posted.


Thanks for trying out Snakeoil.. I think you're the only one on CA to do so. :)

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  • 2 weeks later...

when running the installation, the system formats all attached storage devices, not only the one selected.

This is a major bug.

Thanks for that bug report.


I'd double check this to see how it happens. Ubiquity should tell you whether the partitions will be formatted, or not, and usually, it does a very good job. You'd know if the partition will be formatted or not by looking at the "Format" column, if it's a ticked, it will be formatted. e.g.




If Ubiquity tries to format everything, then have to resort to manual mode, this write-up should explain how.


I'd test and confirm this bug soon.

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when running the installation, the system formats all attached storage devices, not only the one selected.

This is a major bug.

As mentioned above I can't replicate this. Can you expand on this? thanks.


I tried running Snakeoil software as I wanted to experiment with Linux environments on my audio system (after using Win10/Fidelizer/ProcessLasso/JRiver). Snakeoil really surprised me by the sound quality it offers! In my set-up it definitely beats other Linux based solutions I tried so far like the latest versions of Vortexbox 2.4 and Daphile.


Although the software is intended to be used on Atom based processors it also worked on my i5 processor out of the box without any problem. Eazy peazy to mount my NAS where my music is stored as well. The provided on-line manual is clear what settings should be used.

Thanks for the positive feedback.


Personally I think this software really deserves a better name. I can advise everybody to give it a try. As it can be run in Live mode using an USB stick it’s without any risk. (especially if you decouple you existing hard-disk first like I did)

To be honest I thought people will simply laugh off the name and carry on, or perhaps maybe a bit of "WTF". Really did not anticipate some people's negative reaction towards a name - to the extent of using a word like 'abhor'.


Idioms like "don't judge a book by it's cover", or Shakespeare's quote of "rose by any other name would smell as sweet" really comes to mind. What's in a name really? I guess I just didn't factor in the cultural aspect properly when I sign up for a domain name. :( Being a new user here at CA certainly didn't help.


On the bright side, if you feel guarded about the name, and when Snakeoil really do sound good to you, then you know you're on to something here.


Looking past the name, what I'm doing is give audiophiles an easy to use Linux System with a web interface to do most of the tasks a typical audiophile needs to do.


For those who wants do more - there is a user account you can log in to to expand the OS's functionality. But if they don't know how to use Linux, they can tell me what they want and I can wrap up things in a neat bundle for them to upload to their Snakeoil computer.


Snakeoil is really about giving back the audiophile the power of choice - they can choose the kernel they want, they can choose the player they want. The Linux OS is simply too hard for first timer to dive immediately into, hopefully Snakeoil will change that.


Here in Perth we have an active discussion among the first beta testers on which kernel/player/hardware combination sounds best. None of them are Linux users. Snakeoil took out the complications of Linux, and let audiophiles concentrate on the things they like.


One of the features I would like to have most is some kind of configuration file containing the basic settings like IP-address, mounts etc. that can be loaded in the Live environment so I don’t have to go through this set-up every time.

This can be done if you setup the USB as a persistent media. There are more HOWTO articles on the Internet on this, but none of them are really targeted for the novice.


This is in my list of things to do. Hopefully I will get this persistent sorted out soon. Many people are asking for this so I'm already bumping the priority up.


With the latest 0.1.3 ISO, the booting sequence is already setup as such:


  1. if you boot LiveCD, the installer will pop up; and
  2. if you boot in persistent mode, the installer will not load (saving RAM and other computer resources).

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One of the features I would like to have most is some kind of configuration file containing the basic settings like IP-address, mounts etc. that can be loaded in the Live environment so I don’t have to go through this set-up every time.

There is a second way to do this actually. Use two USB sticks, one USB with the ISO image, and the other USB to install Snakeoil to. We tried this earlier today and it works.



Enjoyed this thread so far and tried to use Snakeoil, but no luck so far.


I created a live cd USB using Rufus. On the PC I wanted to use with Snakeoil, when I interrupt boot up, it gives me a single USB option: "UEFI" followed by the name of the USB stick. If I select that option, the PC just ignores it and (eventually) boots into my normal operating system. Just by way of context, I installed Mint from a USB stick using the exact same option on this PC without problem 2 days earlier.


I then tried the Snakeoil USB in another PC just as a test. This time I got 2 USB options when interrupting boot: one as above and another one with just the name of the USB stick, not preceded by UEFI. Choosing the latter option it did boot and I selected the try Ubuntu option, but all I then see is a "basic" Debian style screen - is that right?


Advice on how I can get to run as live cd on the first PC gratefully received.

I havn't tried UEFI booting so far.


You can try this with Rufus, change the the 2nd option "Partition Scheme and target system type", and choose the last one ("GPT partition scheme for UEFI").




That should work, at least as a liveCD. But to install you'd likely need the machine to be connected to the Internet, as it'd need to download more files.

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For me, one the key features of Snakeoil is that is makes running the OS from RAM so easy. I also assume that is one of the reasons why it sounds so good compared with for example Vortexbox which was installed on my HD.

Did you use the 2nd boot option? That's the only way to load the OS onto RAM, but anything persistent (e.g. the casper-rw filesystem) will not be.


I agree on the easy part. You can just swap USB sticks and get different OSes, this is indeed a very powerful feature. e.g. one stick for high quality music playback, and then swap it out with a Kodi USB and you get a HTPC. (This "swapping OS" is the primary reason why I love a Raspberry Pi)


Personally I would like to think why Snakeoil sounds good is because I'm designing this from a audiophile first perspective, but quite frankly I reckon it's just pure dumb luck. :P


Will installing Snakeoil to another USB stick still give me the opportunity running the OS totally from RAM without the USB stick plugged in?

No. For this you'd need persistent. the rough steps for doing this would be, write out the ISO image in dd mode (rufus has the option to do so). Then with a partition manager, create a 2nd file system (format that as ext4), and label it casper-rw. modify /boot/grub.cfg and set the default to the 2nd menuitem, and in theory it will be good to go.


Once I have my second computer setup I will write out a walkthrough for this (not sure if I have missed any steps in the above paragraph).


Thanks, will try again.
Cheers, let me know how it goes.
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  • 1 month later...

Been nearly two months since my last post. Snakeoil ISO is now up to 0.1.4 and the ISO is now down to approx 400 MB now.


A lot of changes were made to the web interface, mostly to make it more user friendly for first time Linux newbies (have a few here in Perth). Snakeoil also comes in a 64 bit edition now. The website has also been re-organised and refreshed to make things easier to read, points/topics/information easier to find (always a work in progress).


If you are interested to try out Linux playback and want a distro that gives you more control (while remain relatively easy to use), give Snakeoil OS a go.


The link for the ISO download is here: Link to download thread.


And if you are going to install the 64 bit version, might as well upgrade to firmware 0.1.5-pre-release so that ulimits is working correctly (e.g. if you want to set squeezelite's or MPD-rt's output thread to realtime, it'd actually work).


0.1.5-pre-release also support different languages (ATM only supports English and Chinese). If you want to help translate Snakeoil's web interface to your local language, please feel free to do so and send me the translated xml file and it will be added to the final release.


As usual, any problems please report 'em here. I've only use and test Snakeoil in my own setup (mini ITX based) so it's somewhat impossible for me to anticipate any problems/issues you guys may have.


Anyways, hope you guys will like it.. Enjoy.

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How to install Jriver?

JRiver requires manual installation.


First of all you need to upgrade the firmware to the 0.1.5-pre-release.


Second step is to download the deb file from JRiver's website and install it on the computer by running the following command


dpkg -i /path/to/your/jriver_install_deb_file.deb


Once you've done that, JRiver will show up in the software list.

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I managed to write 0.1.4 64bit ISO to USB using Rufus, then tried to boot it to my miniPC but it could not boot. Please adjust the ISO so that I can create USB drive with option GPT boot UEFI.


My mini PC now is running Ubuntu Server 16.04 LTS 64bit and Roon Bridge 64bit.

That is my bad.. Sorry.. Hopefully by 0.1.5 I will get that working (so that you don't need to re-author the ISO)..

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  • 4 weeks later...
will the system support other network card, broadcom for example? sound is great but without network it not usable

is no way to compile driver...

Can you tell me the motherboard brand and model so I know the model of the Broadcom network chip (and which kernel module to use).

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tg3 module for BCM5755 gigabit adapter

many thanks

Download this file, rename the downloaded file to vmlinuz.


On your ISO USB stick, replace /casper/vmlinuz with the file above. Booting up from this USB stick will now support the TG3 chip.


Will now work on UEFI next, my apologies for the extended delay ds2k!

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THANK YOU for creating this. I have been trying to hear MPD for months now, and while I'm pretty good with computers, installing and getting MPD to work for me was very difficult--and ultimately unsuccessful. One of my audiophile gurus encouraged me to try it and now I can finally hear it. The web GUI is great, as is the built-in web client. I'd happily donate a reasonable sum to keep this project going.

Thanks for the positive comments. Making Linux easy out of the box for most people to play music almost straight away is one of the key design goals of Snakeoil OS (SQ of course is the primary goal).


Now if only I can make the ISO file itself boot in UEFI mode (or UEFI-CSM or whatever it's called). That feature will make it so much easier for other people to try Snakeoil (e.g. with Mac Minis, NUCs etc). I have installed Snakeoil manually on a Mac mini a while back so the underlying OS already works (grub2 works with UEFI).


But understanding the UEFI boot sequence so far still eludes me. So far managed to get grub2 to load in a UEFI system, however, booting seems to fail with a blank screen (Will try and enable serial console to debug this later this weekend if I have time).


If there's anybody around this woods who have created UEFI ISOs from scratch before and know how the procedure actually works please point me to the right direction. Thanks :).

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