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Old 02-12-2012, 01:09 AM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

I need a fanless mini PC; it will run Debian. It will be used in a
production environment. I need good Linux support to facilitate fast
deployment and low maintenance. Avoiding non-free software really helps in
that regard, so I consider non-free firmware barely tolerable, while
out-of-tree kernel modules and things like ndiswrapper are definitely
unacceptable.

I have been surprised how many devices tout Linux in various ways but have
partial mainline Linux support. Or instead, I am simply unable to find
itemized information about Linux kernel support. Just because they ship with
Linux (often Ubuntu) does not mean it is not a custom/tainted kernel.

The other requirements:
- ≥800 MHz processor speed (for x86, or equivalent for another architecture)
- ≥1 GB memory
- VGA (possibly using an adapter)
- ≥2 USB connectors
- audio, including a microphone port
- 1 ethernet port
- wireless: 802.11bg (PCI, PCIe, or etc, NOT external dongle; n is optional)
- >25 GB flash memory (on-board, mSATA, SATA with 2.5 inch mount, or etc.)
- no fans

I have looked at:
- Norhtec MicroClient JrMX
- fit-PC2 (custom kernel, GMA500 issues?)
- Linutop 4
- Trim-Slice H (custom kernel)
- D2Plug
- Aleutia devices (just mentions Ubuntu)

Comments appreciated!
 
Old 02-12-2012, 02:15 AM
Stan Hoeppner
 
Default free software mini pc

On 2/11/2012 8:09 PM, green wrote:
> I need a fanless mini PC; it will run Debian. It will be used in a
> production environment.
[...]
> Comments appreciated!

What type of comments, exactly, are you looking for? You've got 6
systems listed, 3 apparently meeting all your criteria--you listed no
red flags for those 3 anyway.

So what exactly are we supposed to be commenting on?

--
Stan


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Old 02-12-2012, 03:06 AM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

Stan Hoeppner wrote at 2012-02-11 21:15 -0600:
> On 2/11/2012 8:09 PM, green wrote:
> > I need a fanless mini PC; it will run Debian. It will be used in a
> > production environment.
> [...]
> > Comments appreciated!
>
> What type of comments, exactly, are you looking for? You've got 6
> systems listed, 3 apparently meeting all your criteria--you listed no
> red flags for those 3 anyway.

Sorry, I guess that mail was not quite ready when I sent it.

How about this:
- Norhtec MicroClient JrMX (only mentions "Linux", no other information)
- fit-PC2 (custom kernel, GMA500 issues?)
- Trim-Slice H (custom kernel)
- D2Plug (no information: "d2plug" only mentioned once in plugwiki)
- Aleutia devices (only pre-installs Ubuntu, no other information)
- Linutop 3 (uses Ubuntu rescricted modules)

> So what exactly are we supposed to be commenting on?

Basically like, "hey, here is a link for Linux mainline status on the
D2Plug." Or a suggestion for a different device. I have searched and
searched and have found lots of products but so far nothing with *real* Linux
(mainline) support.

Thanks lots.
 
Old 02-12-2012, 03:56 AM
Alex Hutton
 
Default free software mini pc

On 12 February 2012 15:06, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:
> Stan Hoeppner wrote at 2012-02-11 21:15 -0600:
>> On 2/11/2012 8:09 PM, green wrote:
>> > I need a fanless mini PC; it will run Debian. *It will be used in a
>> > production environment.

Hi,

I share your sympathies. I really hate fan noise! There are ARM
computers that run at 5 watts, and can be passively cooled.... but can
they be used as a 'desktop'?

I've been thinking about that question a lot. The main difficulty is
that I frequently use Iceweasel and it requires a lot of memory (or,
at least, it does the way I use it), so these computers with 1
gigabyte of RAM aren't really going to cut it.

What I could do is use one of these ARM computers as a thin-client and
use vnc or xwindows forwarding to run Iceweasel in the cloud
somewhere. The problem with that is, for me, since I live in
Australia, I'm going to need a cloud that is hosted in Australia due
to the latency. But cloud hosting in Australia is nowhere near as
affordable as it is overseas, this is due to economies of scale and
Australian hosting is always going to be more expensive.

So my next plan is to build a 'beowulf cluster' out of ARM computers,
and use that as my desktop. You've probably heard of Raspberry Pi?
Well that's a pretty nice system, and costs on $35, draws 3.5 watts,
but has only 256meg of RAM. I'm sure, in the not too distant future,
there'll be system's like this, at a similar price, with at least a
gig of RAM. Then I could buy 10 of them, for $350, and I'll have a
system with 10 gigabytes of RAM and drawing 35 watts. Plus a network
switch of course.

Anyway, getting back to the original post. I actually bought a Trim
Slice. One of the first ones they rolled out. Unfortunately I haven't
been able to spend much time playing with it, although I was using it
as a VNC client for a while, plugged into a TV. It did ok. The Trim
Slice kernel has been updated since then so some time I am going to
upgrade and see how it can perform. Actually my Trim Slice lacks a
couple of hardware features, for instance the power light doesn't come
on and the system cannot power-off unless you pull the plug out. I
actually need to send my TS back to CompuLab for that because it is a
problem with the first systems they produced.

If you have specific questions about the Trim Slice I'll try to help.

Cheers,
Alex


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Old 02-12-2012, 12:57 PM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

On 2/11/2012 8:09 PM, green wrote:
> I need a fanless mini PC; it will run Debian. *It will be used in a
> production environment.

Alex Hutton wrote at 2012-02-11 22:56 -0600:
> I share your sympathies. I really hate fan noise! There are ARM
> computers that run at 5 watts, and can be passively cooled.... but can
> they be used as a 'desktop'?

That is an interesting question for me; I know that the requirements I have
set are modest, but it will be a small step down from the specifications of
the desktop system currently in use. But it certainly will not be used
heavily, and swapping on SATA SSD Flash will probably perform a bit better
than 7200 RPM drives in use now.

> So my next plan is to build a 'beowulf cluster' out of ARM computers

Wow, that sounds like a fun project.

> The Trim Slice kernel has been updated since then so some time I am going
> to upgrade and see how it can perform.

So the Trim-Slice is not supported by mainline kernels?

> If you have specific questions about the Trim Slice I'll try to help.

Thanks.
 
Old 02-12-2012, 01:26 PM
The_Ace
 
Default free software mini pc

On Sun, Feb 12, 2012 at 7:27 PM, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:


On 2/11/2012 8:09 PM, green wrote:

> I need a fanless mini PC; it will run Debian. *It will be used in a

> production environment.



Alex Hutton wrote at 2012-02-11 22:56 -0600:

> I share your sympathies. I really hate fan noise! There are ARM

> computers that run at 5 watts, and can be passively cooled.... but can

> they be used as a 'desktop'?



That is an interesting question for me; I know that the requirements I have

set are modest, but it will be a small step down from the specifications of

the desktop system currently in use. *But it certainly will not be used

heavily, and swapping on SATA SSD Flash will probably perform a bit better

than 7200 RPM drives in use now.



> So my next plan is to build a 'beowulf cluster' out of ARM computers



Wow, that sounds like a fun project.



> The Trim Slice kernel has been updated since then so some time I am going

> to upgrade and see how it can perform.



So the Trim-Slice is not supported by mainline kernels?



> If you have specific questions about the Trim Slice I'll try to help.



Thanks.


Doesnt thin clients & LTSP qualify for this ?
I have 2 WYSE S50 Thin client terminals running LTSP on stock debian kernel with my laptop acting as the 'server'.


WYSE S series comes with its own version of linux with a GUI but it can network boot LTSP just fine.
I believe there are some other Thin clients that has Wireless cards built in as well (S50 does not).

I was able to get the same S50 with a wifi dongle added to work over wifi but that was noticeably slow as that had to be booted with a trimmed down linux os (knoppix in my case) off a USB thumb drive to get the wifi network connected. As the device has only 128mb memory, this was not suitable for actual work. i did it merely as an exercise than anything else.



It works fine with LTSP (with ethernet cable connection) and even packages like LibreOffice works with very little 'slowness'. However apss that requires Direct 3D access (tux paint in this case) did not work. I dont know if its a case of mis configured Xorg settings or if the S50's graphics system simply does not support it. IT has AMD Geode CPU/GPU.



For general Home office/office/school lab environments, its perfectly usable as a production system.

Regards,
Mihira.
Regards,
Mihira.
 
Old 02-12-2012, 01:28 PM
 
Default free software mini pc

I'm glad to see this thread, because I hadn't heard of the Raspberry Pi
before- way cool!

But I'm curious about the original query- what's the need for such an
ultra-quiet machine? I too hate fan noise, but even when run hard I have
to _try_ to hear my laptop fan. Is there a special reason you need a
machine that's fanless other than noise level, or are you doing something
stealthy?

Keith

> On 12 February 2012 15:06, green <greenfreedom10@gmail.com> wrote:
>> Stan Hoeppner wrote at 2012-02-11 21:15 -0600:
>>> On 2/11/2012 8:09 PM, green wrote:
>>> > I need a fanless mini PC; it will run Debian. *It will be used in a
>>> > production environment.
>
> Hi,
>
> I share your sympathies. I really hate fan noise! There are ARM
> computers that run at 5 watts, and can be passively cooled.... but can
> they be used as a 'desktop'?
>
> I've been thinking about that question a lot. The main difficulty is
> that I frequently use Iceweasel and it requires a lot of memory (or,
> at least, it does the way I use it), so these computers with 1
> gigabyte of RAM aren't really going to cut it.
>
> What I could do is use one of these ARM computers as a thin-client and
> use vnc or xwindows forwarding to run Iceweasel in the cloud
> somewhere. The problem with that is, for me, since I live in
> Australia, I'm going to need a cloud that is hosted in Australia due
> to the latency. But cloud hosting in Australia is nowhere near as
> affordable as it is overseas, this is due to economies of scale and
> Australian hosting is always going to be more expensive.
>
> So my next plan is to build a 'beowulf cluster' out of ARM computers,
> and use that as my desktop. You've probably heard of Raspberry Pi?
> Well that's a pretty nice system, and costs on $35, draws 3.5 watts,
> but has only 256meg of RAM. I'm sure, in the not too distant future,
> there'll be system's like this, at a similar price, with at least a
> gig of RAM. Then I could buy 10 of them, for $350, and I'll have a
> system with 10 gigabytes of RAM and drawing 35 watts. Plus a network
> switch of course.
>
> Anyway, getting back to the original post. I actually bought a Trim
> Slice. One of the first ones they rolled out. Unfortunately I haven't
> been able to spend much time playing with it, although I was using it
> as a VNC client for a while, plugged into a TV. It did ok. The Trim
> Slice kernel has been updated since then so some time I am going to
> upgrade and see how it can perform. Actually my Trim Slice lacks a
> couple of hardware features, for instance the power light doesn't come
> on and the system cannot power-off unless you pull the plug out. I
> actually need to send my TS back to CompuLab for that because it is a
> problem with the first systems they produced.
>
> If you have specific questions about the Trim Slice I'll try to help.
>
> Cheers,
> Alex
>



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Old 02-12-2012, 02:29 PM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

keitho@strucktower.com wrote at 2012-02-12 08:28 -0600:
> But I'm curious about the original query- what's the need for such an
> ultra-quiet machine?

Reason 1: no cleaning. A system with a fan requires cleaning. Frequency
of cleaning depends on the environment. The desktop that this will replace
is in a somewhat dusty environment.

Reason 2: I have seen (slightly) more fans fail than hard disks. So this
second reason suggests that a fanless system is slightly lower maintenance in
the long term.

Reason 3: yeah, noise. Really this is not a big deal, but quietness is nice.
 
Old 02-12-2012, 05:08 PM
green
 
Default free software mini pc

On 2/11/2012 8:09 PM, green wrote:
> I need a fanless mini PC; it will run Debian. It will be used in a
> production environment.

> Doesnt thin clients & LTSP qualify for this ?

For my situation, this would result in maintaining 2 devices rather than 1;
not really a reasonable option.

> WYSE S series comes with its own version of linux with a GUI but it can
> network boot LTSP just fine.

I will certainly look at the WYSE devices, but neither thin client devices
nor a custom Linux kernel are of interest.

Thanks for your input.
 
Old 02-12-2012, 07:31 PM
Richard Owlett
 
Default free software mini pc

green wrote:

keitho@strucktower.com wrote at 2012-02-12 08:28 -0600:

But I'm curious about the original query- what's the need for such an
ultra-quiet machine?


Reason 1: no cleaning. A system with a fan requires cleaning. Frequency
of cleaning depends on the environment. The desktop that this will replace
is in a somewhat dusty environment.


To expand on the OP's reply:
If the unit is fan-less, it may also be a sealed unit.
Consider the case of humid &/or corrosive atmosphere.

Back in the 70's DEC had an enclosure for the LSI-11
irreverently dubbed the "Hitachi".
Five sides were cast aluminum with large fins o get rid of
~100 watts of heat. The sixth side was a heavily gasketed
piece of cast aluminum. Internally it was not fanless, but
it was definitely sealed against external nastiness ;/ IIRC
it was intended for industrial environments including
electro-plating.






Reason 2: I have seen (slightly) more fans fail than hard disks. So this
second reason suggests that a fanless system is slightly lower maintenance in
the long term.

Reason 3: yeah, noise. Really this is not a big deal, but quietness is nice.



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