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I've been having a bit of fun putting together a new home server, and have some info for others who might be pondering building their next PC, but who are on a budget. This is kind of off-topic, except that we all need hardware to run Perl on, and many of us are on tight budgets right now.

I do most of my work on a laptop, using a server for mod_perl/Samba/CVS/etc. My old P133-based server was getting unstable (I suspect that the disk controller was dying), and I was looking around for what to replace it with. None of the refurb boxes I found inspired great confidence, new equipment seemed rather expensive, and I wanted something small. The Shuttle boxes looked tempting, but were still expensive. My needs didn't require 1.8Ghz+ speed.

Researching further, I found that an emerging alternative to Intel- or AMD-based motherboards are the all-in-one Via Mini-ITX boards, many of which run the low-power, i586-compatible Via C3 chip. The Mini-ITX boards have Audio, Video, and LAN on-board. Some have TV-Out. You basically plug in RAM, hook up a disk and CD/DVD, install an OS, and away you go. Oh, and you need a case. That's where some people have been having a lot of fun, building Mini-ITX boards into lunch boxes, toaster ovens, old game consoles, cigar humidors, etc. The low-end processor can be run fanless, for truly quiet computing.

I was skeptical of the stability of these boards until I did some research, and found that they could run RH8 and recent builds of FreeBSD (and gentoo linux, with a bit of futzing), and that people who had them were pretty happy with them.. A positive report from a serious FreeBSD developer I respect was enough to push me over the edge.

I opted for this board in this case (which is quiet, but not silent), adding a 256Mb RAM stick and a Sony CDRW (on sale), and reused a 60GB IBM drive from the old server. (The board actually booted off of the old drive, which had RH7.2, but I installed RH8 to get newer drivers.) In total, I shelled out about $350 USD, including taxes.

I'm happy with the result, with a few caveats:

  1. The C3 processor is i586 compatible, but lacks a few instructions in the i686 set. This means compiling some stuff from source. I haven't had any trouble with anything from a fresh RH8 install, which claims to be built for i686, but I'm probably just lucky (so far).
  2. The on-board AGP graphics is pretty much limited to 1024x768x24 graphics. It's fine for text or X, but don't expect to play graphics-intensive games. I run the box mostly headless, so I don't care.
  3. TV-Out may require drivers that aren't yet stable on Linux. Again, no issue if you're just running headless or don't plan on plugging the box into a TV.
The linITX forum has more reports from people who're running Linux on Mini-ITX boards.

Disclaimers: None. I'm just a happy customer.


In reply to OT: Building a small home server by dws

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    [ambrus]: Corion: I mentioned that the unix event loop of Prima always wakes up at least once every 0.2 seconds. Have you found out whether the win32 event loop of Prima does that too?
    [Corion]: ambrus: Hmm - I would assume that the onDestroy message is sent from the destructor and doesn't go through the messageloop, but maybe it is sent when a window gets destroyed but all components are still alive...
    [ambrus]: Corion: partly deep source dive, partly just conservative coding even if it adds an overhead.
    [Corion]: ambrus: Hmm - no, I haven't looked at wakeup intervals ... I wonder why it should want to wakeup periodically because it gets a lot of messages from the Windows message loop (on Windows obviously)
    [ambrus]: (Alternately a deep source dive and then rewrite that event loop to make it better, and then as a bonus you get an idle method.)
    [ambrus]: The 0.2 seconds wakeup is likely a workaround for some bug, but I can't guess what bug that is.
    [ambrus]: It's been there since Prima 1.00 iirc
    [Corion]: Hmmm... Weird. Maybe it needs that for doing its timers or something. Still weird.
    [Corion]: But I guess I'll find out soonish, as my application seems to use Prima for more than just displaying the OpenGL output soonish ;))
    [ambrus]: No, I think the timers are handled fine in the event loop, as far as I can see.

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