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Old 02-14-2012, 02:34 PM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

Alex Hutton wrote at 2012-02-14 06:26 -0600:
> There was an interesting article about the Trim Slice posted a few
> days ago, I don't know if you saw it:
> http://blog.sesse.net/blog/tech/2012-02-12-21-43_playing_with_the_trim_slice.html

Thanks, I had not seen that yet. Reading that certainly suggests that the
Trim-Slice is not ready for a production desktop system yet!

with custom kernel, assuming that blog is correct:
- slow transfers and frequent bus resets
- power saving not fully implemented
- DVI port trouble at high resolutions
- unstable wireless driver

> To repeat Christofer's question though, what's the problem with a
> non-standard kernel? I get the feeling that these ARM computers that
> are coming out are going to be reliant on customised kernels for some
> time. If the customisation of the kernel can be managed in a
> standardised way, then it shouldn't be a problem.

I am *not* looking for disposable hardware. I am *not* interested in
purchasing a maintenance burden. I need *rock-solid* *long-term* Linux
reliability on *rock-solid* hardware. Will Compulabs continue to provide
updated custom kernels a year or more from now? I doubt it, considering that
the custom kernel they provide for their product now does not work (strictly
speaking).

Frankly, I am surprised that comments here suggest apathy and even hostility
toward (that is, questioning the value of) a search for a strictly "free
software" device, especially considering Debian's social contract and the
purpose of reducing maintenance requirements. Do you or others here enjoy
purchasing a system on which Linux does not work correctly until months
later, if ever?
 
Old 02-14-2012, 02:41 PM
Arnt Karlsen
 
Default free software mini pc

On Tue, 14 Feb 2012 23:26:04 +1100, Alex wrote in message
<CAAvq_=djugEM768Y4M=_Ve16dBWuo=XvB=WesqajPW9NOg8n LQ@mail.gmail.com>:

> On 13 February 2012 00:57, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > So the Trim-Slice is not supported by mainline kernels?
> >
>
> As others said, the main issue is the Tegra 2 is a nvidia chip

...that doesn't work with nouveau? Uh-oh.

> and CompuLab are reliant on nvidia in order to get things working.
>
> I haven't tried upgrading the kernel since I got the original unit.
> Performance was ok with the original but generally it seemed to be
> well below what you would expect given the specs of the Tegra 2.
>
> There was an interesting article about the Trim Slice posted a few
> days ago, I don't know if you saw it:
> http://blog.sesse.net/blog/tech/2012-02-12-21-43_playing_with_the_trim_slice.html
>
> To repeat Christofer's question though, what's the problem with a
> non-standard kernel? I get the feeling that these ARM computers that
> are coming out are going to be reliant on customised kernels for some
> time. If the customisation of the kernel can be managed in a
> standardised way, then it shouldn't be a problem.
>
> Cheers,
> Alex
>
>


--
..med vennlig hilsen = with Kind Regards from Arnt Karlsen
...with a number of polar bear hunters in his ancestry...
Scenarios always come in sets of three:
best case, worst case, and just in case.


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Old 02-14-2012, 04:18 PM
Tom H
 
Default free software mini pc

On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 10:34 AM, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:
>
> I am *not* looking for disposable hardware. *I am *not* interested in
> purchasing a maintenance burden. *I need *rock-solid* *long-term* Linux
> reliability on *rock-solid* hardware. *Will Compulabs continue to provide
> updated custom kernels a year or more from now? *I doubt it, considering that
> the custom kernel they provide for their product now does not work (strictly
> speaking).
>
> Frankly, I am surprised that comments here suggest apathy and even hostility
> toward (that is, questioning the value of) a search for a strictly "free
> software" device, especially considering Debian's social contract and the
> purpose of reducing maintenance requirements. *Do you or others here enjoy
> purchasing a system on which Linux does not work correctly until months
> later, if ever?



The perceived hostility is an artifact of your own aggressivity;
basically "I want this", "I don't want that", "I refuse to compromise
on this".

If the DFSG or an equivalent philosophy gets in the way of my
installing Linux and using it easily, I ignore the DFSG.

I also reject your premise (as I've understood it) that the packages
in main are more stable than the packages in the non-main repos - and
I'm sure that the developers who maintain the latter packages would
prefer that you be more respectful of their work.


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Old 02-14-2012, 04:56 PM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

Tom H wrote at 2012-02-14 11:18 -0600:
> On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 10:34 AM, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Frankly, I am surprised that comments here suggest apathy and even hostility
> > toward (that is, questioning the value of) a search for a strictly "free
> > software" device, especially considering Debian's social contract and the
> > purpose of reducing maintenance requirements. *Do you or others here enjoy
> > purchasing a system on which Linux does not work correctly until months
> > later, if ever?
>
>
>
> The perceived hostility is an artifact of your own aggressivity;
> basically "I want this", "I don't want that", "I refuse to compromise
> on this".

Probably my refusal to compromise is from past experiences with troublesome
hardware on systems that needed to work ASAP. And a significant portion of
those was related to non-free, out-of-tree kernel modules.

> I also reject your premise (as I've understood it) that the packages
> in main are more stable than the packages in the non-main repos - and
> I'm sure that the developers who maintain the latter packages would
> prefer that you be more respectful of their work.

Hey, sorry. I am just trying to express the reason for my feelings, not
trying to bash anything.
 
Old 02-14-2012, 06:27 PM
Tom H
 
Default free software mini pc

On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 12:56 PM, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:
> Tom H wrote at 2012-02-14 11:18 -0600:
>> On Tue, Feb 14, 2012 at 10:34 AM, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:
>> >
>> > Frankly, I am surprised that comments here suggest apathy and even hostility
>> > toward (that is, questioning the value of) a search for a strictly "free
>> > software" device, especially considering Debian's social contract and the
>> > purpose of reducing maintenance requirements. *Do you or others here enjoy
>> > purchasing a system on which Linux does not work correctly until months
>> > later, if ever?
>>
>>
>>
>> The perceived hostility is an artifact of your own aggressivity;
>> basically "I want this", "I don't want that", "I refuse to compromise
>> on this".
>
> Probably my refusal to compromise is from past experiences with troublesome
> hardware on systems that needed to work ASAP. *And a significant portion of
> those was related to non-free, out-of-tree kernel modules.
>
>> I also reject your premise (as I've understood it) that the packages
>> in main are more stable than the packages in the non-main repos - and
>> I'm sure that the developers who maintain the latter packages would
>> prefer that you be more respectful of their work.
>
> Hey, sorry. *I am just trying to express the reason for my feelings, not
> trying to bash anything.

You were wondering why there hadn't been a more dynamic response to
your post and I just gave you my answer. I'm even happy for you to
call me apathetic for my attitude!

I forgot in my previous email to thank you for bringing up these
products because I've been asked to set up a Mac Mini as an intranet
server and I'm going to look at the boxes that have been mentioned in
this thread possibly to make a counter proposal. I'd previously only
glanced at Acer's Revo and Veriton offerings.


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Old 02-14-2012, 09:59 PM
Alex Hutton
 
Default free software mini pc

On 15 February 2012 02:34, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:
> I am *not* looking for disposable hardware. *I am *not* interested in
> purchasing a maintenance burden. *I need *rock-solid* *long-term* Linux
> reliability on *rock-solid* hardware. *Will Compulabs continue to provide
> updated custom kernels a year or more from now? *I doubt it, considering that
> the custom kernel they provide for their product now does not work (strictly
> speaking).
>

Fair points. I guess you would need to go with an Atom or other x86
system which would have a more mature architecture, rather than ARM.
For my personal needs I'm thinking of desktop usage, so I'm not
thinking of a mission-critical application, and ultra-reliability is
not a necessity, though it is desiable . A custom kernel that
doesn't work is obviously going to be a problem, but if it works well
enough then it would be fine for me. But I guess it does make a
difference to something that might be mission-critical because the
changes to the kernel are not likely to be widely tested or reviewed
so it's a definite risk, even if it's a small one, that there are
undetected bugs or security flaws present. However that's just an
uninformed view on my part, I don't really know anything about linux
kernel development and how robust the system is against bugs that
might be introduced with the sort of customisation that Compulab are
doing.


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Old 02-14-2012, 10:45 PM
Mark Neidorff
 
Default free software mini pc

On Monday 13 February 2012 5:04:04 pm green wrote:
> David Goodenough wrote at 2012-02-13 11:31 -0600:
> > On Monday 13 Feb 2012, green wrote:
> > > Is Tegra 3 supported by Linux? Are any of the Tegras supported by
> > > Linux? While I have found nothing definitive, everything I have found
> > > suggests not.
> >
> > If you look at the linux-arm mailing list, or the kernel changelogs you
> > will find lots of references to the Tegras.
>
> Okay, perhaps the kernel does support some Tegras, and perhaps some day the
> Trim-Slice will run mainline Linux.

I have been reading about getting debian working on an ARM system
(raspberrypi) and it seems that they do some custom work with the boot process
to get it going. I don't pretend to understand what they have done, but their
plan is to put out a customized distribution for their ARM processor based
device.

I've stayed on the sidelines of this thread because the original post sounded
to me like trolling. But, after the posts that I have read, you seem quite
serious. I'm still not 100% clear on what is standing in your way. Have you
looked at mini-itx systems on ebay for inspiration? I have one now running
Lenny as my server. It is rock solid. It just sits there, silently, and runs
and runs and runs. Everything just worked on installation. I added a tiny
case fan(which is very quiet) to it, but there is really no need for it.

Have you looked into this form factor?

Mark


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Old 02-15-2012, 03:08 AM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

Christofer C. Bell wrote at 2012-02-13 16:54 -0600:
> Maybe they mean the system halts but doesn't power off. Would that be an
> issue? Having to manually cut power?

Um, maybe the thing that people aren't getting here is that I am interested
in *purchasing* a device. (I am not out to throw mud in faces, just shopping
for what I want.) What I want is what I have already mentioned, 100% free
software and maximum reliability (so everything "just works"; yes, and powers
off too). I have not given any spending limits at all, so suggestions have a
blank check to work with.

If no device fits my requirements, fine. In that case I will not be
purchasing one. I just would like to know now, *before* I make a purchase.
 
Old 02-15-2012, 02:15 PM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

Alex Hutton wrote at 2012-02-14 16:59 -0600:
> Fair points. I guess you would need to go with an Atom or other x86
> system which would have a more mature architecture, rather than ARM.

Yes, x86 seems to be the architecture of choice at this point, with regard to
reliability.

> For my personal needs I'm thinking of desktop usage, so I'm not
> thinking of a mission-critical application, and ultra-reliability is
> not a necessity, though it is desirable .

I am making reliability a requirement in my purchase. Reliability is
actually significantly more important to me than most of the other
specifications.
 
Old 02-15-2012, 06:01 PM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

Mark Neidorff wrote at 2012-02-14 17:45 -0600:
> I've stayed on the sidelines of this thread because the original post sounded
> to me like trolling. But, after the posts that I have read, you seem quite
> serious.

Trolling?! Apparently I failed to clearly express myself in the original
post.

> Have you looked at mini-itx systems on ebay for inspiration?

I have looked primarily at mini-itx systems during my research.

> I have one now running Lenny as my server. It is rock solid. It just sits
> there, silently, and runs and runs and runs. Everything just worked on
> installation.

It is great that your server has worked so well for you.


> I'm still not 100% clear on what is standing in your way.

When you purchased the server on which you run Lenny, did you know for sure
that the installation would go smoothly and all hardware would work
correctly? What if today you needed another system on which to run Debian
and knew that you did not have time to troubleshoot any hardware problems?
You could get the same as what you have now, but what if it is no longer
available? Wouldn't it be helpful to find a vendor that provided a hardware
table for each system with information about Linux mainline kernel versions,
drivers, and firmware? Like, "this SATA controller is supported since Linux
v2.6.29 with the ahci driver". So in that case you could look at their site,
compare with the kernel version in Debian stable, and know with reasonable
certainty that this hardware will "just work" with Debian stable. Or that
you need to consider a kernel in backports, etc.

Many vendors mention various versions of Windows on their hardware pages, but
nothing about Linux. So as a consumer, do I just blindly assume that,
although the vendor apparently does not care enough about Linux to even
mention it, that it will all "just work"? Or those that mention Linux, but
no kernel versions: will the kernel in Debian stable work? Or those with
Linux drivers available for download, do I need to maintain out-of-tree
drivers (remember I mentioned a maintenance burden)?

Now, because of the implication that hardware (as with your server, Mark)
will all "just work" with Debian (and that my post/research is just
silly/trolling), I will quickly mention nvidia, fglrx, and ralink wireless,
all problematic a while back. I have had a Thinkpad T61 with a PSTN modem
for >4 years, it has never worked (Debian amd64); I hope to try again when I
upgrade to wheezy. Okay, so now someone might say "well, of course video,
winmodems, and wireless will cause some trouble sometimes". These
mini-pcs... any of them have onboard video hardware? Or come with wireless
hardware?

And someone might say that many of the problems had in the past are resolved,
and quite possible so. So if I need a functional device now, do I need to
just purchase one and shelve it for a few years before assuming Linux will
work? I understand that Linux has a history of better support for older
hardware, and that is reasonable, but would that need to be so (as much) if
vendor support was better? And the Intel GM965 video on my T61 still does
not quite work correctly for 3d applications, even after 4 years.

Okay, I could look through the specifications carefully and research eg. the
wireless hardware, but what about when vendors change the chipset mid-model?

Am I being demanding here? I want an absolutely functional Linux on a
device, and I am willing to pay for it (I have mentioned no limit, though I
do have a budget). For those assuming I am needing tens or hundreds of
whatever mini-pc I choose, no. I only need a single mini-pc system. More
later, perhaps. It is not for my own use, but at a location where tech
support is not available, and where the system will quite likely be in use
for 5+ years.

So to recap my original post, the basic requirements are:
- fanless mini PC
- it will run Debian
- production environment (reliability is important)
- good Linux support to facilitate fast deployment and low maintenance,
- avoiding non-free software (non-free firmware, out-of-tree kernel modules,
ndiswrapper)

and I mentioned also:
- many devices with only partial mainline Linux support
- unable to find itemized information about Linux kernel support
- some devices ship with Linux (often Ubuntu) and use a custom kernel

My original post did not mention this explicitly, but I would be pleased to
find a manufacturer/vendor that is interested in supporting Linux users, and
provides devices with 100% functionality using 100% free software. Perhaps
that sounds a bit less demanding, while still being very closely related to
the original.

The response I expected to that original post, and would even have expected
to the question in this previous paragraph, is that no, unfortunately there
are no/few significant vendors that are interested in Linux users to this
extent. I would be satisfied with this answer, though disappointed, and
definitely interested in future developments of this sort. (I do not see any
use in beating an old topic.)

I was surprised with the responses I received instead; I hope this and my
other succeeding posts help remove the obscurity.
 

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