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 Forum index » Advanced Topics » Hardware
Daydreaming of a small quiet pup
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Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 451
Location: Boston MA USA

PostPosted: Mon 02 Jan 2006, 19:54    Post subject:  Daydreaming of a small quiet pup  

What is the smallest cheapest quietest low-power pup we can build with available new parts? In theory, those goals would be mutually reinforcing. In practice, they rather conflict, and we face trade-offs.

120 x 120 mm nano-ITX (4.7x4.7-in)
170 x 170 mm mini-ITX (6.7x6.7-in)
215 x 191 mm ITX
229 x 191 mm flex-ATX
244 x 244 mm micro-ATX
305 x 244 mm ATX (12x9.6-in)

The best pup is a no-cost pup built out of salvaged parts. But what can we dream of building?

The ideal minimal pup box would be about 5x5x1-in. It would offer these connections:
PS/2 x2
USB 2.0
RJ45 10/100bTX
Audio I/O
simple DC power input (5V or 12V unregulated)
VIA 1GHz cpu
It would have no moving parts, and be absolutely silent. It would use a simple external power supply. It would cost about $100.

This is not an absurd dream. But it does not exist.

If you just want the cheapest new computer, you just buy whatever is OVERPRICED, for about $300. It will be big, noisy, and power-wasting, using about 100W.

If you just want small at any price, you can pay about $350 for a VIA nano-ITX board and build a system.

The practical compromise is the VIA mini-ITX. You can get a new mainboard and cpu for $100-200. You can get complete little system boxes for $165-$250. Because these parts are not commodities, you pay too much for the case etc. So make your own out of something else? The power supply is a challenge. The right thing, nice and small, will be costly. You can probably buy or scrounge a much larger standard ATX power supply much more cheaply ($30 new). Since you need so little power, you might be able to get away with disconnecting the fan inside the power supply -- or get fancy and add circuitry to just turn it on when it is needed, which should be never. But the power supply may be bigger than your computer!

Everyone is begging the MIT OLPC people to sell their $100 laptop to the rest of us. Maybe instead we should beg them to sell us something different and more suitable: A box the size of that laptop with no display, no keyboard etc, just a similar low power mainboard with I/O connectors!

I've seen some posts from Forum folk with VIA mini-ITX. Do they recommend them? Could we see pictures of the smallest pups in actual use?

It's too bad no one makes a VIA C3 co-processor Puppy/Linux system on a PCI board that we could put in old computers, give revived life to older parts.

We may have to just wait for a USB device with not just flash memory, but ram and cpu to run Puppy self-contained. Lacking a good peer-to-peer USB network, it should also have 10/100 ethernet. If they were about 1-in cubes, you could cluster them with ethernet and have hundreds romping together in your living room. Or add wireless and have them assemble in ad hoc mobs out on the playground...

(If you care about the environment, do not ever buy any new CRT computer monitors. Pounds of lead in the glass shielding! Either use a free one that your neighbors are discarding, or buy a good refurbished one, or save up for an LCD...)

(Sorry, this is all from a domestic-US perspective -- how do things look different elsewhere?
= = = = =
The computer that we want -- except that it costs $1000 instead of $100:

Very small system boxes, $165-200+:

Mini-ITX VIA EPIA MII10000, 1.0GHz Nehemiah:
The Onboard CardBus and CompactFlash slots are exp attractive -- but rather useless, since they are not bootable!

Mini-ITX dual-cpu $400:

Very small computers, $100-200+:

Complete computer the size of a stick of gum, starting at $100:
The power of a K6-233, except no FPU:
Might be able to run something like Puppy someday...
Reviewed here:
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Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 397
Location: Tijuana, BCN, Mexico

PostPosted: Mon 02 Jan 2006, 20:24    Post subject:  

Mini-ITX BareBones Computer
http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/store/Mini_ITX_Systems/Mini_ITX_BareBones_Computer ($245)

No hard drive or RAM, but its a start...

(Sorry for the cross post - I've been eyeing this thing trying to decide if I really want it.)
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Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 451
Location: Boston MA USA

PostPosted: Mon 02 Jan 2006, 22:25    Post subject:  

A mystery mini-ITX mainboard?!? Let us know if you figure out what it really is...

Many very interesting mini-ITX systems offered by DSL!

Surprising price on nano-ITX, which he is importing directly:
systems for about $350...
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Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 15239
Location: Paradox Realm

PostPosted: Tue 03 Jan 2006, 07:22    Post subject: delete already covered  

duplicate info - delete
YinYana AI Buddhism

Last edited by Lobster on Mon 16 Jan 2006, 22:50; edited 1 time in total
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Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 451
Location: Boston MA USA

PostPosted: Wed 04 Jan 2006, 12:05    Post subject: OpenBrick  

The OpenBrick project was started a few years back, thinking along these same lines. There are actual products, but they all cost too much.

OpenBrick is a small, light and silent open platform optimized for Open Source / Free Software solutions (firewall, micro-server, PABX, thin client, multimedia...). It is available for 300 to 400 EUR. It is distributed by a network of Open Source / Free Software companies who are joining through the OpenBrick Foundation to optimize it for GNU/Linux and FreeBSD, adapt it to new applications and improve its specifications...

VIA C3 based systems like we want, except for costing too much:
Retail Price: $390.00
OpenBrick-E 533Mhz VIA C3 3-LAN V.90 Modem
OpenBrick-E CV860A3R53 V.90

An interesting AMD-chipset $200 box that can run Puppy. They should give one to Barry for testing! But the USB 1.1 keeps it from being exciting:
Thinbox 333Mhz Geode CPU 128MB RAM
Thin ES466A
The Hacom thinbox is a low-cost thin-client. It is small ( 6.6 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches ) and light (about 1.5 lbs). The default configuration has a 333 Mhz x86 compatible AMD GX2-466 (Geode) processor, one (1) RJ45 LAN connector, and 128MB DDR RAM. Software can be installed on an optional Flash-IDE-Chip or via an external USB flash drive...

Many potential Puppy computers are held back by lack of USB 2.0. They might have 10/100 ethernet. There are USB-ethernet dongle adapters. What about going the other way? Are there any USB 2.0 hubs that can connect to a 10/100 port and provide full Linux USB functions to one computer, or a whole network?

Umigumi is a Free Software published under the General Public License which simplifies the gerenation of custom Linux distributions and their deployment on various media: Flash memory cards, LiveCD, hard disk, etc. Umigumi is also a fantastic tool for system integrators looking to automate configuration and quality assurance of complex Linux based solutions...

$129+ VIA mini-ITX with USB 2.0
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Joined: 16 Jan 2006
Posts: 17

PostPosted: Mon 16 Jan 2006, 21:05    Post subject:  

well, i already plugged the jack-pc... (http://www.chippc.com/) its RISC-architecture would at the least require a kernel recompiling, though. now if they had a geode-based version, that'd be gravy.

actually, those gumstik PCs might work...if you can boot from the usb port or set up puppy on the MMC card. if you just had some sort of tiny monitor, you could theoretically build a portable pc (not a laptop).
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Joined: 04 May 2005
Posts: 636
Location: Washington State

PostPosted: Mon 16 Jan 2006, 22:13    Post subject:  

I think I paied around $250 for my ML8000 Mini-ITX system. I acctually found it cheaper to buy a case with the power supplies (AC-DC & DC-DC) than it was to buy the power supplies and build a case. That included 512MB of DDRSDRAM and USB 2.0. It doesn't include a hard drive or optical drive, but Puppy boots from a 128MB USB stick (about$20 if you don't already have one) so it didn't really matter. Since then I've added a 20GB hard drive from an old iMac, and I've just ordered a CF to IDE adaptor to boot from.
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Joined: 11 Jun 2005
Posts: 56
Location: Huntsville, Alabama

PostPosted: Sat 21 Jan 2006, 21:19    Post subject:  

Don't forget the Devon IT thin client that comes loaded with Puppy. It is about $230 with 256MB ram 128 MB CF to store puppy. Mine is pretty quiet with only 2 small fans, one on the power supply and one on the cpu. It came with 1.0.5 and I have since upgraded to 1.0.6 and installed a wifi card to talk with my router.
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Joined: 04 Oct 2005
Posts: 5431
Location: GB

PostPosted: Sun 22 Jan 2006, 04:33    Post subject:  

Small fans, especially quiet ones, tend to have sleeve bearings, which are unreliable and of very short life with catastrophic consequences for the electronics. It is easy to doctor them, though. Lift the label with a scalpel. If there is one, dig out the rubber or plastic plug protecting the bearing. Mix a tiny dot of molybdenum disulphide grease with one drop of sewing machine oil and wash a tiny portion of this into the bearing with a squirt of switch-cleaner fluid. Reassemble.
Purists will completely dismantle the bearing assembly, polish the shaft and use MoS2 as an assembly compound. Since this is a dry lubricant, the bearing should last forever in this light-duty application. The only difficult part of this operation is removing the shaft-retaining circlip. Two watchmakers No2 screwdrivers and an eye lens will help - be careful it doesn't fly out and become lost!
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Joined: 20 Oct 2005
Posts: 451
Location: Boston MA USA

PostPosted: Fri 17 Feb 2006, 15:18    Post subject: MII10000 1.0 GHz VIA C3  

Interesting two-part series, by Sal Cangeloso, 2005, some mentions of Puppy:

5 Sep Mini-ITX
15 Oct Mini-ITX Part II

My research had led me to believe that the best motherboard choice for my purposes was going to be a VIA EPIA which featured an embedded processor. ...Originally I wanted something fanless, like the MII6000, but due to availability we eventually settled on the MII10000. This motherboard features a 1.0 GHz VIA C3/ VIA Eden EBGA processor and the chipset is composed of a VIA CLE266 North Bridge and a VIA VT8235 South Bridge. The motherboard has some extras too, like built-in CF and PCMCIA readers.
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Joined: 19 Oct 2005
Posts: 2504
Location: Hell more grotesque than any medieval woodcut

PostPosted: Sat 25 Feb 2006, 07:12    Post subject: Re: Daydreaming of a small quiet pup  

kethd wrote:
(If you care about the environment, do not ever buy any new CRT computer monitors. Pounds of lead in the glass shielding! Either use a free one that your neighbors are discarding, or buy a good refurbished one, or save up for an LCD...)

My policy with computers is not to buy anything! (Three things worth buying in this world: records, books and food)
People dispose of perfectly good computers when they "upgrade" to the new Windows. Considering we're using Puppy I really don't see the need for a fancy new computer...
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