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2000-08-02 17:56:26+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

As I take some machines into the new office I'm thinking about how my home network is configured. I still think I need a server to manage my 'net interface to my other computers and beef up some of my shared in-house resources so I can make my laptop my primary at home machine, but I'd still like to cut down on my power consumption (Granted I've had a Windows development box running, but $70 for a month of electricity in the summer seems a little steep). The latest Linux Journal also has a review of the Symphony wireless network cards that makes me think it's time to ditch the 50' CAT5 cable I've got draped across my living room. So: Anyone got suggestions for building an ultra-low power box that can handle three PCI cards (two ethernet, one wireless) and some disk (could be a laptop drive), at least 32 meg of memory and maybe a serial port? Enough power to run Samba, Apache, MySQL and maybe, if memory's cheap enough, a few apps as an X client. I figure it's gotta be possible to do this in under 10 watts, preferably from a wall brick or something so that if I start to play with 12 or 24 volt alternative power systems (I still think about a solar array for Burning Man that I could use year 'round) I can cobble a reasonable supply for it.

[ related topics: Free Software Burning Man Interactive Drama Wireless Cool Science Microsoft ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:14+00 by: steve

How about a used laptop. You should be able to pick up a used 486 75MHz Thinkpad for about $300 on ebay. Low power consumption, quiet (no fan) and a built in UPS if you keep buying batteries for it (they only last about 18 months). Something like a 755C would have 40M of RAM and 2 PCMCIA slot for ethernet cards. For another $50 you could get a docking station to add some ISA slots but these docking stations have a fan and are thus noisier.

#Comment made: 2000-08-03 02:59:18+00 by: ebradway [edit history]

Seriously, though, do you want to fight a bunch of weird hardware and deal with a slow connection when no one is paying you for it? The shopping list:

  1. DSL or CableModem service
  2. LinkSys Router/NAT with 4-port 10/100 switch $159.95
  3. Symphony PCI Card for remote workstation $111.95
  4. Symphony PC Card for laptop $120.95
  5. Symphony Ethernet Bridge $389.95
  6. Espresso PC for Samba, Apache, etc. $949.95
  7. USB Ethernet adapter (because the SaintSong engineers didn't see fit to build ethernet into the Espresso $33.95
This should give wireless broadband ethernet to your home with a decent little server that you can take with you when you need. The Linksys router does port-forwarding so you can even host on the Espresso. The whole setup should fit in a shoe-box theoretically run off solar panels. All for well under $2K.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:14+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've got an old laptop that, unfortunately, seems to have stopped recognizing all but 8 meg of RAM, otherwise I'd just go that route. The three PCI cards is kinda the tough part, as Eric commented my Ricochet really is too slow and needs to be replaced with cable modem, which is why the two ethernet cards are necessary. I was thinking it would be cool to bypass the Symphony bridge and let that machine do the masquerading and forwarding, partially because I may want to be able to hit some database functions from the outside and I don't want to learn how to configure yet another piece of routing hardware. And I definitely need to look at USB support for Ethernet and the like, that Espresso PC looks very cool!

#Comment made: 2000-08-03 15:49:47+00 by: DaveP [edit history]

The Cobalt Qube2 might do it for you, too. It's already got dual ethernet, and a single PCI slot. Only thing weird is that it's a MIPS chip inside there, so you have to recompile nearly everything if you want more than the base software you got with it. The base model at $1k also only has 16M of RAM, which isn't enough. I'm finding I need at least 32M just to compile MySQL. And it uses a funky RAM standard (3.3V 72-pin EDO SIMMS), which means you pay more for memory than you otherwise might. Not a whole-hearted recommendation, but it only draws 30W from a 12VDC power brick, and is only 8 inches on a side. Oh, and it does have serial, too. Comes pre-installed with Samba and Apache and other somewhat useful software.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:30:14+00 by: ebradway

As I said, the Linksys supports port forwarding and configuring the thing is a no-brainer. It has a nice web-based config (it actually doesn't support telnet or serial). Of course, that assumes that the cablemodem with come with some kind of external ethernet terminal adapter. Otherwise, if the Cobalt Qube2 supports the cablemodem card and the wireless ethernet. Personally, I've found buying small single-purpose devices like the Linksys router and the Symphony Ethernet Bridge to be a much less painful way to build a network. Sure, you can do it all inside one Linux box, but do you really want to?