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new hardware: inexpensive, quiet, and tiny with good support
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morphal
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 5:50 am    Post subject: new hardware: inexpensive, quiet, and tiny with good support Reply with quote

I think the subject sums up what I'm after. I've been using a budget PC I bought for a hundred bucks as my Gentoo rig for what seems like a decade. I've replaced a few of the fans and it's quieted back down a little but it's getting pretty decrepit in its old age.

I've seen plenty of barebones systems for sale but I've had to fight a few oddball driver issues over the years and I'd like to avoid that in the future. Like my Gentoo server, I've gotten cranky and intolerant over the last decade and I don't want to slay kernel demons or be forced to kill forum trolls with kindness to aid me in my quest.

All it does is act as a very lightly-used web server and infrequent proxy server when I'm somewhere I need the privacy. Beyond that, it's just a hobby box; there's no X or anything too heavy.

I'd like something fanless, if there's a platform out there that has proven the lack of fans does not also lead to a lack of lifespan. It should be smaller than a breadbox but even smaller is even better.

Has anyone had good luck with a particular offering? Has there been any serious technical review or comparison about which products are really worth anything? Is there anything I should definitely be on the lookout to avoid in order to save myself headaches?
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krinn
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you can have a dodge viper sounding computer, as long as you don't put next to your bed, you'll be fine.
I found out that my garage is really a nice place to get a computer quiet (it works also with kids, but the diff is that you don't need to chain your computer to keep it there)

If you really want slept with your computer, maybe you should look at an raspberry pi.
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morphal
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My garage gets a hundred degrees in the summer. It needs to be inside and it needs to be quiet and I want something small that I can put in a corner or on a shelf and forget about it.

I think I'd prefer to stick with something in the Atom range, although not necessarily an Atom, exactly. I imagine there are a whole slew of fanless options in the x86/amd64 space.
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Ant P.
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've owned 3 different Atom-based things and they've ALL had some serious BIOS problem or another. One of them was my server box until the fans started failing loudly, but with no way to use lm_sensors on it I ended up never using it again.

My current box is an AMD E-350 board with a passive heatsink and SSD, but I've put a "silent" fan in just to be on the safe side. It's so quiet it's hard to tell if it's powered on. I know there's someone on the forums who runs similar hardware without a fan with no problems too.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I ran a diskless fanless AMD E-350 system as a media player for a number of years.
It had to be silent to be in the lounge. My wife would not have tolerated it otherwise.

When SSDs got to a sane price point, I fitted a SSD. Its still silent, still in the lounge but its a lot more convient and faster to maintatin, now it has its own HDD.
Its about 4 years old and still going strong.

There is a bug in the AMD E-350 hardware that means it wan't boot with more than 4G RAM fitted.
You can fit 8G but it won't work, at least, not with the silicon revision I have.
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morphal
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

See? That's the kind of insight I was hoping for. Not that I need more than 4g but that does seem interesting. I assume the CPU is 64-bit and all that. I'll look into it.
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Ant P.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

NeddySeagoon wrote:
There is a bug in the AMD E-350 hardware that means it wan't boot with more than 4G RAM fitted.
You can fit 8G but it won't work, at least, not with the silicon revision I have.

Hmm, maybe I got lucky - mine's had 8GB from the start...
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Roman_Gruber
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/nuc/overview.html

Is it cheap, it depends on your understanding of cheap.

Something like atom / nettop will fit your needs but do not expect wonders. for webbrowsing and youtube enough with some office work.
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morphal
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 17, 2014 9:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would have to stretch to imagine a situation in which video would ever touch this thing at all. There won't even be X on it. The only browser would be links. Office work is right out. It would be purely a headless server.

I was looking up those AMD systems but they've all been out of production long enough that I'm not seeing any more for sale anywhere. I checked some of the equivalent, newer-generation stuff but most of it comes as part of a laptop or a Windows desktop. I don't want the expense of the Windows machines or the driver/hardware hassle of a laptop. I did find some bare mobos so maybe I can look into those but the support on that is just as much of a gamble as anything else.

That NUC seems good at first glance but by the time I added everything I would need to the barebones kit, I'd be up to $400+ and that seems like an extravagance for what this is doing. It's tempting though.
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Roman_Gruber
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2014 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

check the second hand market when you are on money pressure. you will surely find something cheap which works
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morphal
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2014 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't mind secondhand stuff but it's easier to find something secondhand when you know what you're looking for in the first place.

On paper, I do like the idea of something with all the modern details but very low power, just not sure if I can find something appropriate for my uses.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 18, 2014 9:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

morphal,

Look at ARM.

Raspberry Pi runs as a server.
If you want something with more factilities, look for something with an Allwinner A20. That will even host virtualisatian.

Building on ARM, at least, the slower systems, is not reccomended but cross distcc works.
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soulsource
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think, the Raspberry Pi will be perfect for your use case. It's cheap and fanless, and Gentoo is running just fine on it. While my Raspberry Pi currently is running Debian, I've been using Gentoo for some time, and even compiled most of the installed packages directly on the Raspberry Pi. Compilation time is an issue, and you should definitely hook up an external HDD to put the portage build dir on, if you want to use the Pi to compile stuff, since SD-card storage is very slow.
Currently my Raspberry Pi is working as Mail- (Postfix, Dovecot) and Cloud-server (Radicale, Apache) for me, and occasionally as Proxy (SSH's included SOCKS proxy functionality) as well. What you should know beforehand is, that the Raspberry Pi has rather limited RAM, so, combined with the lack of storage speed and the slow CPU it will not work well for server applications that manipulate large image files, like Owncloud.
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morphal
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's really tempting. I think if I could find a kit for an A20 that really seemd to have it all, I'd probably wind up with one.

As much as the NUC kits are really expensive, they really do have everything I'd like to see. That and one of the custom, fanless enclosures would pretty much clench things for years and years to come.

I was really hoping for a silver bullet but I guess I'll save a little while longer and keep an eye out to see what develops.
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Ian
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 22, 2014 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For what it's worth, I used a Beaglebone Black last winter to detect our cellphones on the home network, and use that to control my Nest thermostat (if we're home, turn on the heat, if we're not, turn it off). It was running Debian, but I'm trying to put Gentoo on it now (haven't had time). It's silent, no fans, and it uses about a watt or two of power, and it's only a little bit bigger than a credit card.

The biggest problem with a BBB is there's very limited storage, unless you plug a USB Hard Drive or a Micro SD card into the thing, and then you start increasing your costs.
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morphal
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 23, 2014 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the price? Holy crap.

I feel like that's a pretty unique offering though. Do you have some resources or info on support?
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morphal
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe I skimmed too quickly but I'm surprised at what all you mention the Raspberry Pi is doing for you. I don't have an external drive beyond a standard flash drive but it's pretty compelling.

Until I find "the perfect solution," I think I'll probably stick with a cheap VPS solution. I found a place that offers a 1cpu/256mb/10gb VPS with 1TB of bandwidth for $1/month and they only bill on actual uptime. So, being up for two weeks would cost me 50 cents or less. For that cost, it would take me years to break even with even the cheapest hardware.

Still, I do like doing it myself so I'll probably just keep an eye on the low-cost hardware options over the next few months and hope to spot something that really appeals to me.
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NeddySeagoon
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

morphal,

Amazon Web Services has a free tier, at least, its free for a year.

OVH have some very low cost whole servers. Their support is hopeless, so don't go there unless you know what you are doing. They have to make savings somewhere.
When I say low cost, its to the point of competing with VPS prices.
Don't even think of using their Gentoo - its so out of date.
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those that have never had a hard drive fail.
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morphal
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 24, 2014 7:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

They have VPS setups for $2.99 a month which is pretty competitive but, I mean ... a dollar! These VPSs have a quarter of the RAM and I do expect terrible support, should I ever need it, but I really don't care about much as long as I can SSH alright.

I still like having my own hardware because ... hey, we're geeks, we like toys. But for a dollar, I don't have to rush into a hardware decision.

I found on intelnuc.blogspot.com that Intel is getting ready to release some new NUCs in the next six months or so. I'll keep an eye on those for a more modern x86 possibility and I'll keep poking around through Raspberry Pi, Allwinner, and HummingBoard stuff for the really low-powered options.
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