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Intel Skylake with an Asus Z170-AR and Ubuntu Linux 14.04
Posted on 10-26-2015 23:14:48 UTC | Updated on 10-26-2015 23:30:20 UTC
Section: /hardware/motherboard/ | Permanent Link

I bought a Asus Z170-AR (the -A is almost identical except for DVI and VGA port). This motherboard (mobo) runs the latest Intel Skylake processors and has some of the newest chipsets on board. This means that you will likely need one of the newest Linux kernels out there to support these chipsets. But, if your running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and want to run the latest hardware your going to have a problem.

Be advised this was an mobo/ram/proc upgrade and the OS was an original 14.04 install. 14.04.2 and newer point releases will ship with a much later and up to date kernel according to Canonical.

Older kernels and newer hardware

Very new hardware usually needs the latest drivers to work correctly. The closer you are to having the latest Linux kernel the better your chance is that your newer hardware will work. The newer the kernel the newer the driver. This is something that does not work well with Linux distributions that have long term releases in which the major kernel version does not get updated frequently. This is not to say you can go get more up to date kernel modules and build them but, when talking about built in support usually the kernels only get security updates and other fixes. Usually there are no features or support added. This does not bode well for using Ubuntu LTS releases on new hardware.

Ubuntu LTS

Ubuntu made LTS releases so people could stay on them for up to 5 years and not worry about upgrading every 6 months or not getting updates anymore. It is fantastic idea. The only problem is if you stay on an LTS release your were always stuck with the kernel that the release came with. Not any more.

Enter the LTS Enablement Stack

Canonical (the makers of Ubuntu) decided that they wanted LTS releases to be able to be used on newer hardware. They wanted everyone who wanted the stability of an LTS release to be able to use a newer Linux kernel. This would enable to people to buy newer hardware and have better support for said hardware.

To make this a reality Canonical decided to make the LTS Enablement Stack.This set of packages are much more updated Linux kernel and X support for existing LTS releases.

Asus z170 mobo and chipsets

As stated I upgraded a machine to an Asus Z170-AR motherboard with Ubuntu 14.04 already installed. Everything worked well except for the network adapter and the on board audio. These are some pretty important things so I just had to get them working. The following is what I did to do to get them working in Ubuntu 14.04.

Fixing the Ethernet adapter

With the stock 14.04 kernel (3.13.x) the Intel i219-V chip on the motherboard does not work. It also does not work with kernel version 3.15.x either. I had to go all the way to the latest 3.19.x kernel version to get the e1000e driver working with this adapter. To do this I installed the LTS enablement stack for 14.04. Follow that link and run the apt-get line. After reboot your ethernet adapter should be working.

Fixing the audio

Getting the Realtek ALC892 chip on the motherboard working was much harder than just updating the kernel. The 3.19.x kernel did not have a working sound kernel module for this chip. I could see the chip listed using lspci so I knew it was being seen by the kernel.

# sudo lspci -vv

00:1f.3 Audio device: Intel Corporation Device a170 (rev 31)
        Subsystem: ASUSTeK Computer Inc. Device 8698
        Control: I/O- Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr-
        Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- D
...
        Kernel driver in use: snd_hda_intel

It even said there was a kernel driver being used for it. Which was a good sign, but still there was no sound. Alsa did not show any cards listed either. If you run aplay and your audio chip is recognized by the kernel it will show up in Alsa.

# aplay -l

Not until I grepped the dmesg did I find out why the kernel module was loaded but it was still not working. I saw the following in dmesg output greping for the PCI address listed in the lspci output.

# dmesg | grep '00:1f.3'

[   10.538405] snd_hda_intel 0000:00:1f.3: failed to add i915_bpo component
master (-19)

Now I have something to look for to see if anyone else was seeing the same error. Google turned up this post from someone with the exact same problem. Answer was to update to a very cutting edge Alsa kernel module. So I followed the instructions here to update 14.04's Alsa sound system with the latest kernel module. Be sure to choose the correct kernel module .deb package for your kernel on the "ALSA daily build snapshots" page. If your using 14.04.x choose "oem-audio-hda-daily-lts-vivid-dkms - ... ubuntu14.04.1" After installing the .deb package and rebooting, "aplay-l" saw the audio chip. Hooray!

Last thing to do to get the audio fully working is to choose the correct output in your desktops sound system. I use the XFCE desktop so what I had to do was Start "Pulse Audio Volume Control" then go to the "Configuration" tab and turn "HDA Nvidia" -> Off for my Nvida video card. Then in "Built in Audio" I had to select "Digital Stereo IEC958 Output" for my output. There are lots of outputs. My suggestion is to play an audio file on repeat, then go through each audio output to find the one that works.

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