[conspire] which box for: low end, low noise, low profile?

Eric De Mund ead-conspire at ixian.com
Tue Aug 7 02:44:08 PDT 2007

Rick, Don, Ross, Edmund,

Eric De Mund <ead at ixian.com>:
] What kind of very small footprint, low profile, low noise, low end box
] (case, motherboard, and CPU) do you all recommend? I'd be perfectly
] happy with 200 MHz processor with passive cooling (in fact I'd prefer
] passive cooling), a 40 GB hard disk drive, and a 3 cm. tall case.

Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>:
] The last (x86-class) CPU I know that really, truly ran cool and allowed
] you -- with care -- to get by with nothing but passive cooling in your
] system was the AMD K6 -- which would be perfectly adequate for the sort
] of system you're talking about.

Was the AMD-K6 a 300 MHz processor? So 300 MHz was the fastest processor
that you ran across which could be passively cooled? I haven't looked
into this sort of thing since about 2002, but I do recall that the 600
MHz VIA C3 processor was fin-cooled and fanless. This article that I
originally pulled up on 2002.03.25 is still alive:

o   VIA's C3 'Ezra' processor (performance review)

The stamp right on the processor says "HEATSINK/FAN REQUIRED"; I presume
from this advisory that fins would be ok, though I have no desire to
push any envelopes here.

Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>:
] With the right mini-ATX motherboard and suitable case with adequate
] airflow, you could probably swing that sort of operation. But _3 cm_?
] I can't imagine how you could honestly get any sort of airflow at all,
] let alone adequate airflow, with a 3 cm tall case.

I was thinking of form factors such as that of the HERA Slim PC, shown

o   HERA (MSI Part No: MS-6218)

Ok, that appears to be 90 mm tall. Perhaps I misremembered. Anyway, I'm
looking for something that won't take much space. I prefer the case to
be shorter rather than taller.

Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>:
] Maybe your best bet is an old laptop. It might not be 100% passive
] cooling, but it would probably be quiet.

This is actually something I'd considered. But I'm just not sure about
the unit overheating if left on for days. My 200 MHz IBM ThinkPad 600
would, I believe, run the risk of overheating if left on and unattend-
ed for that long. Plus, now that there's some cat hair in the house that
might be pulled into the system....

Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com>:
] Be aware that burners generate significant amounts of heat, while run-
] ning in their burn cycles.

Thanks for this. I wasn't sure how much heat was generated here, but
if it's significant, I can live without a burner. The burner would have
been used to simply back up any data that needed backing up to media
without first having to slosh it (back) over to another system having a

Don Marti <dmarti at zgp.org>:
] You could get a Via Mini-ITX board.
]     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini-ITX
] Some have no CPU fan. I use one running software RAID for my home
] backup server. Be sure to use a kernel built for 586 or below, since
] the VIA processors don't have the full 686 instruction set.

Thank you for both factoids. I'm behind the times on knowing all the
various sizes below Mini-ATX. And I didn't know that the VIA processors
were not fully 686-compatible.

Don Marti <dmarti at zgp.org>:
] Another option for a low-power Linux box is the Linksys NSLU2 "slug"
] -- an ARM-based appliance that you can hook up a USB drive to and run
] Debian on.
]     http://www.cyrius.com/debian/nslu2/

Very cool. I like the fact that this has no moving parts. If such a
little box had, say, 1 GB RAM, or, I suppose, if I could hang a 1 GB USB
thumb drive off of it and have the data on that USB thumb drive be acces-
sible in a fast way so a client or I sitting off site could grab data
from it as quickly as if it were on an internal (to this slug) hard disk
drive, then we'd really have something. I worry, though, that USB access
would be prohibitively slow. What are your thoughts on this? I'd prefer
the upload time for a 100 MB file, say, be reasonable.

Ross Bernheim <rossbernheim at speakeasy.net>:
] Given that newer disk drives are more efficient and use less power and
] create less heat, I would get a newer drive. It seems that the small
] ones now start at 80 GB for 3 and 1/2 inch drives. For a bit more
] money, you can move up to a 160 GB or larger drive.

Thank you. I wasn't aware that these newer hard disk drives were better
on power consumption and heat generation. I appreciate these factoids.
Just this past weekend, Fry's was offering a 160 GB drive for $40, and a
500 GB drive for $120, which is down in my price point of 25c/gigabyte,
so I now know that these larger disks, which you've just educated me are
better, are starting to come down in price.

Ross Bernheim <rossbernheim at speakeasy.net>:
] Some people get an old laptop to use as a server since they are al-
] ready designed for lower power consumption. There are tradeoffs for
] this choice due to the space constraints and possible heat issues.
] Also the power bricks may not be terribly efficient and make for a
] less efficient choice than some desktop units.

Yeah, I'm worried about the heat generation over the long haul.

Edmund J. Biow <biow at sbcglobal.net>:
] My cheapo solution is an Asus Terminator for about $95 delivered:
]     http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16856110056

Thank you for this pointer. This isn't a bad price at all, but the form
factor is a tad bigger than I'd prefer. However, it does pique my in-
terest a little.

Edmund J. Biow <biow at sbcglobal.net>:
] It isn't silent, unfortunately. I suppose if I put a decent after-
] market fan on it I could quiet the VIA C3 Samuel 800 MHz CPU down.

A useful factoid. Thanks. This rules out the 800 MHz VIA C3 for me,
then. I'm keen on silence. I think I'll be looking for 600 MHz VIA C3's.

By the way, my preferences for silent fans are Speeze fans
<http://www.speeze.com/> for CPU fans, and Enermax fans
<http://www.enermax.com/> for case fans. However, I haven't purchased
either of these in four years, and would like to hear what makes of fans
other folks like for silent running fans.

Rick, Don, Ross, Edmund, thank you all a million for your help,
"No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the
officious demands of policemen, government clerks,
and electromechanical gadgets." --Edward Abbey

Eric De Mund              |      Ixian Systems      | ...................
email: <ead at ixian.com>    | 650 Castro St, #120-210 | fax: (321) 600-6005
http://www.ixian.com/ead/ | Mountain View, CA 94041 | Y!M: ead0002; ICQ: 811788

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