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

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Tue Aug 7 07:58:21 PDT 2007

Quoting Eric De Mund (ead-conspire at ixian.com):

> 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 actually said fastest _x86-class_.  ;->  However, I forgot about the
VIA C3 Ezra / Nehemiah (et alii) series, that Don mentioned -- which
was the successor to, and very vaguely based on, the Cyrix CPU product 
line before that (but mostly using some technology from IDT Centaur, I
gather).  Subject to the nagging compatibility weirdness that Don
warned about -- something about lacking the cmov instruction[1], I think
-- that might be, on reflection, your best bet.  It depends on your
needs -- and whether you'd consider something not x86-based, which a
whole different kettle of fish:  more promising, but also less familiar.

I heard horror stories about emulation problems all the way back to
Cyrix days, and so steered clear of them in favour of AMD-made clone
CPUs (had, at one point, a nice AMD 386/40), but that's just because I'm
seriously risk-adverse about hardware.  (Strictly speaking, I have a
rule that I'm willing to be hassled by hardware _or_ software, but not
risk both.  Since usually I'm playing around with slightly weird
software, I just don't want anything but absolutely bog-standard
hardware parts.  But that's just me.

By my standards, then, _I'd_ try finding and using an AMD K6, if I didn't
need a really fast CPU.  I was really happy with a K6/233 for ages upon
ages, by the way.  It's been my experience that, for _most_ uses, people
tend to greatly overestimate their need for CPU power on Linux boxen --
provided they're not doing things requiring heavy FPU crunching.
Exceptions include GNOME, KDE (in both cases, particularly with all the
UI tinsel enabled), Enlightenment, heavy use of graphics-manipulation
apps, and of course serious computational work of various kinds.

My K6/233, with 128 MB (if I recall correctly) PC100 SDRAM rated for
CAS2 operation, was both a general-purpose server and a graphical
workstation at the same time, running in the latter role Window Maker,
whatever the X11 Web browser du jour was, and a bunch of xterms, mostly.
It was a good, well-rounded machine because I correctly guessed that, in
_my_ usage scenario, I had to worry more about being I/O-bound than
CPU-bound, and so took the care to put a fast SCSI subsystem into it.
Worked for Me.(tm)

Just for perspective:  For, say, service in a router / NAT / WAP box,
the K6/233 CPU would actually have been overkill.

> 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.

Noted.  Remember, though, the more you cut corners on air circulation,
the more likely heat buildup is.  Heat buildup kills parts -- either
outright, or else by drastically shortening time before failure.


> This is actually something I'd considered. But I'm just not sure about
> the unit overheating if left on for days.

This is one reason I'd try to use only an external hard drive, to reduce
the heat load.

[1] I hear that the VIA C3 "Nehemiah" (C5XL) revision fixed this
problem, but don't take my word for it.

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