The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

This year, selecting the ULB goes interactive. Add your suggestions and comments every step of the way.

Once again, it's time to consider how to build the Ultimate Linux Box. This time we're going to do things a bit differently: I'm going to analyze one element at a time, write a web article on it, take readers' feedback from that, add the next component and so on, until we've built the entire box together. A little open-source project, if you will.

This year the idea is to build a multimedia workstation. We want a dual-head video card, professional quality USB sound, the latest in serial ATA RAID storage, a DVD recorder, some serious horsepower to drive it all and, of course, a nice case.

So, let's get down to cases. For this sort of project we want a case that can hold as many ATA drives as possible, for future expansion, but that is still something approaching a normal size. It also should have good cooling, because all that hardware will tend to get rather warm. I looked at three different mid-tower cases: the Chenming ATX-601AW, the Thermaltake Xaser III V1000A and the Lian Li PC-65B.

The Chenming is a rakish looking thing, available in several different colors of anodized aluminum. It has four 80mm fans—two in the front and two in the back—four 5.25" bays and six 3.5" bays, the lower four positions being internal-only. The external bays are concealed by a hinged plastic cover. The side panel is unique in that it is not held into position with thumb screws; instead, it locks into place with a key. (I'm not sure this is an advantage for tinkerers who are apt to lose their keys.) The fixed motherboard tray accommodates the extended-ATX-size motherboards (12 x 13), although the largish bar across the open end of the case (an artifact of its being all-aluminum) is going to make getting the motherboard in and out rather interesting. On the other hand, getting 5.25" devices in and out is a breeze. No having to pop the front bezel; simply unplug from the back, then unclip and pull. No problem. Street price: $85.99.

The Thermaltake is the giant of the group, nearly 21" tall. It sports, among its other accents, a blue Thermaltake logo that lights up when the machine is powered on. Both the front and side covers lock, which is good for the security-conscious. The front panel has a built-in Hardcano 7 display, which has a Firewire port, two USB sockets, a temperature readout and a fan speed control for the seven fans. As for fans, there are two each in the front, side and rear, a seventh one in the top. Twelve drive bays lurk under the cover, with the usual four-and-two accessible from outside. This cavern of a case takes the E-ATX motherboards with room to spare. It's almost completely tool-less inside, from the drive bays to the PC card holders. The drive and card holders are plastic, however; having shipped a lot of Linux machines in a previous incarnation, I'm a little dubious as to how well that would stand up under shipping. It lists for $169.99.

Then, we come to the Lian Li. A sleek all-black affair with a hard-anodized finish, this case appeals to the tinkerer in me. Undo a few thumb screws in the back, and the entire motherboard tray (standard-ATX sized) slides out. All the innards come loose with metal thumb screws, even the PC cards. The usual case wiring is on a ribbon cable with a quick disconnect, making major surgery on the machine a breeze. There are four fans, two up front, one in the rear and one in the top. The drive mounts are unique; there are the usual four 5.25" bays, but all three of the upper 3.5" mounts are accessible from outside. The lower five are mounted sideways across the bottom of the case, directly in front of the twin fans. The pop-off front bezel conceals the fan speed control, and it has a nice metal door covering the USB ports. (The bezel is the one major part of this case that does not involve thumb screws.) There aren't any locks on the case, although there is a bracket in the back into which you could insert a small padlock and keep folks out. $124.99 takes it home.

So we have three nice cases—but which one really deserves to be the foundation of the Ultimate Linux Box? The Chenming quickly can be eliminated from contention; it's missing two drive bays and a top fan in comparison to the other two cases. The decision between the other two cases, thought, isn't quite as easy. Seven fans and the front panel display are awfully alluring advantages for the Thermaltake. However, the slide-out motherboard tray is an effective counter to a hardware geek, and metal thumb screws trump plastic latches. Besides, one is likely to spend more time either inside the case or looking at the screen; a snarky-looking case gets you points at a LAN party, but it doesn't do anything for you when you're trying to get work done. The final factor that puts the Lian Li over the top is it's all-aluminum construction, which dissipates heat better than the Thermaltake's steel chassis. (The Lian Li is the only all-aluminum case that I have seen that really seems as sturdy as a steel case, the Chenming included, and the price tag reflects it.) The one downside to the Lian Li is it is limited to a standard ATX motherboard; the big monsters won't fit. But, not to worry—there are ways of putting quite a bit of horsepower into a 17" case. But that's a topic for next time.

Next installment: the Chairman of the Board.

Glenn Stone is a Red Hat Certified Engineer, sysadmin, technical writer, cover model and general Linux flunkie. He has been hand-building computers for fun and profit since 1999, and he is a happy denizen of the Pacific Northwest.

email: gs@liawol.org

______________________

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Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

Pretty nice cases,but not practical...
Hear me out. First of all, all these fans are going to make quite a bit of noise. I know because my case has four fans, and it drives me crazy at night when I`m trying to sleep. I suggest a taller case so that the airflow will be more throughout.

Secondly, any case that has those closing doors in front should be eliminated right away. Why, you ask? Its okay for people who are going to run IDE or SERIAL disks, but the problem arises when you want to put hot swap scsi`s and the door won`t close all the way in. And I don`t understand why you are not considering scsi drives, especially the new 320`s. I know the prices are a little steep, but afterall this is supposed to be the ULTIMATE LINUX BOX performance-wise not price-wise. High-end costs top-dollar and it`s worth every penny.

--diesel

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

subvertigo's picture

I'm a vote for the thermaltake. It is quite functional and has some of the smoke and mirrors of a macintosh (like the glowing logo which should be replaced with our feathered friend). Its huge enough to stick your Chai machine on top. Going nuts on fan noise should be saved for later, especially since most computers are not put in rooms which are designed for acustics.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

I wish you'd consider a case that's on locking casters. This is something that's important to use with the case placed on the floor because we no longer have the upper body strength to easily move it.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: NOT

Anonymous's picture

I Think we all agree that this gentleman is not building the ultimate linux box.

This seems to be just journalistic hyperbole. Why don't we find an author that IS not so prone to such exageration.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

My vote would be also for the Lian Li in the article, and definately NOT THE THERMALTAKE! For me, I find that style of case too overstated. Everybody knows that a computer's real power has no relation to the way it's case looks! For me, a sharp black misterious Lian Li is the ticket. Lets not make our super powerful computer in what equates to a toybox.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Jimbob's picture

BTW - The Thermaltake 1000A has a stell case but the Xaser III 2000a is blessed with an all aluminium frame and looks better than the Lian-Li - you can pick on up with a 420W power supply for $230 + $15 S&H

Re: Many Ultimate Linux Boxes

Anonymous's picture

My ultimate Linux box is not a Windows gamer PC that happens to run Linux. I run the noisy single-cpu server in the closet and have a quiet, high-performance Xterminal (Nforce-based) on the desk.

All together, it feels like running a dual-cpu setup. Sure, I don't run any 3D games, but that's my style. The wife also runs an Xterminal. We both work at home. For me, the ultimate Linux PC is whatever happens to be the latest $75 Athlon CPU.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

just my 0.02? (as several others already expressed): the ultimate box should _NOT_ sound like a F16.

I just built my 'ultimate linux box' a few weeks ago, and it owns. Single-handed.
Specs:

  • Shuttle SB 51 G
  • 2533MHz P4
  • 512MB CL2 PC333 Ram
  • IBM 80G HDD
  • LG 48/24/48 CDRW that reads DVD at 16x
  • GF4 Ti 4200
  • 17" TFT screen

see it: pic of my box and another pic of my box

bye,
[L]

Its been a while since then

emk's picture

Amazing what has happenned to technology and prices over the 6 years since 2003. I just built a quadcore box with 4GB PC1066 ram and 1.3TB of SATA 2 storage, running Ubuntu.

Its not even a ULB these days!

Wonder how much the posters box cost back i n 2003.

emk

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

Too bad that your ULB is running Windows.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

redgiki's picture

You may wish to reconsider your desire for "pro usb audio". As an amateur musician who's been working with computer-based pro audio tools in various studios for over a decade, I can tell you that USB audio is far more a tool for convenience than a robust audio recording accessory at this point. That may change in the future, but for now PCI cards rule the roost.

You'd be far better off going with one of the pro audio cards on the ALSA list, particularly one of the models with an external digital to analog converter (for best sound quality since outside the case there's less RFI). Even a PCI card with an internal DAC, such as a Sound Blaster Live! at this point would give you better results for professional multitrack recording than a USB audio system. They just aren't there yet.

My two cents.

--

Matt Barnson

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

You folks who are interested in building quiet systems should consider joining the Yahoo eGroup called "Silent PC". All these issues are dealt with there, along with copious links to the resources from whom you can purchase the products that are reviewed on specialized Web sites.

I *completely* agree that for me, quiet computing is more important than raw horsepower! So, for me the "ultimate" Linux PC is one in which, for instance, I can put a *real* 24/96 or better sound card and actually *hear* it!

David

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

What is your definition of "a multimedia workstation"??? A PC that can play MP3 and flash, or do 24/96 7.1 surround audio while handling video? This will have a profound impact on any selection you make.

[S]?ATA RAID

Anonymous's picture

I strongly suggest the 3ware Escalade 8500 series of SATA RAID controllers. I just built a dual Xeon box with one at work , and its a wonder. It cost us AU$1200, pretty steep for the features, but its an 8 port SATA RAID controller - rreal hardware RAID.

For SCSI proponents, the controller actually uses the linux kernel SCSI driver framework and behaves in almost every way like a SCSI RAID controller - it just takes ATA drives indstead.

That device made RAID worthwhile. Perhaps SCSI prices in Australia are just higher (relative to ATA) than in the rest of the world, but I doubt it.

The 4port version might be an excellent choice for the ULB.

We've got 2x40g in RAID 1 + 3x120g RAID 5 with Western Digital HDDs at work, using ATASATA converters, but you could always use native SATA drives from Seagate. We only wanted SATA for future-proofing, hence the parallel ATA drives.

The only problem with this controller that I've found is that it doesn't support hot-expansion of arrays. The array must be deleted and rebuilt. Not an issue for us but could be for some. It does support hot spares and hot-rebuilds from degraded state, so its good enough for us.

ATA drives also tend to be quieter than SCSI :-) I can't reccomend a dual xeon box for the living room, though.

This RAID controller, say over 2x120g RAID 1 disks, an Athlon, P4 3.06 or single Xeon, and about 2 gigs of RAM would make a really nice start to a system.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

Pardon me but, $169 for a case that would sound worse than a vacuum cleaner ?

And you call this the Ultimate

Sorry but I guess we live on different planets. Even different dimensions, here you can buy a board with onboard ethernet, sound card, modem, ethernet + cpu my that money.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

borg's picture

You've got to be kidding to consider this an "ultimate" Linux box and even think about putting ATA drives, serial or otherwise into this box.

SCSI beats ATA hands down in every respect except for storage size/price ratio but then this is to be an Ultimate Linux box right?

Consider that Linux SCSI works in a much more robust fashion than its ATA drivers do.

You need a bare minimum of SMP with PCI-X (64bit) pci. At least Ultra 320 PCI-X scsi controller attached to 15kRPM SCSI drives like the Cheetah. There are lots of good reasons to use SCSI drives over junk like ATA. Stuff like 1.2 million hours MTBF for the SCSI drives, stuff like superior multitasking capacity and just plain superior electronics.

Secondly how on earth can you possibly think about a case without first knowing which motherboard you want to use? A point in example is the Dual Xeon boards like Iwill or SuperMicro which use the EATX form factor to house the larger 12x13 boards. Additionally you need WTX powersupplies to power these boards. And these powersupplies might or might not necessarily fit correctly into your new fancy case.

Then you have the problem of cooling. Keeping the 15k SCSI drives cool via forced air cooling is easy, but consider if you use say Dual Xeons with wind tunnels + drive cage fans and exhaust fans, you will have 1 very noisy and annoyingly loud workstation.

(Trust me I learned about this the hard way).

Building the ultimate box requires a *LOT* of careful research, and I guarantee it will only be the ultimate box for about 4 to 6 months if you are lucky. But the good news is at least the SCSI drives will be able to be reused in your next ultimate linux box.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

krf's picture

15k RPM SCSI drives are all well and good, performance-wise, but they are loud. According to StorageReview, they can be around 47 dB each. They're going to sound like jet turbines, trust me, I had an array of 3 10k drives for a while. They are not easy to work with at one's desktop, and, as someone pointed out earlier, they would totally negate the investments made in a good sound system.

I think that this year's ULB should also focus on noise reduction. To that end, why coat the inside of the case with something like NoiseKiller? I'm not sure how it would effect the heat dissipation properties of the case, but if a post I saw earlier is true, then the heat dissipation properties of the case material don't matter anyway and can be safely ignored.

Secondly, I think that the cooling apparatuses for the processors (I'm assuming a dual processor box here) should be no more than adequate. The days when overclocking provided any significant gain in performance have long since passed, and one can get away with a rather quiet cooling assembly if one is running the processors at the rated clock speed. I had made the mistake in the past of getting a high-powered Delta fan to go on my heatsink with the idea that it would keep my Thunderbird cool better than the standard setup. Well, it was pointless (though effective) and very, very loud (a high-pitched whine, even). I ended up removing it in favor of buying a 40mm to 80mm adapter and placing a very quiet 80mm fan in there instead. This should certainly be looked into.

Likewise, the case fans should be quiet models. As several have said before, there need not be any fans in the front of the case - indeed, they are often counterproductive to good airflow.

Speaking of good airflow, Serial ATA drives would fit this role more adequately, as they have much smaller cables than SCSI ribbon cable. Not only that, but they are also much quieter and generate less heat. Of course, this comes at a tradeoff for performance, and the decision between SATA and SCSI is anything but clear cut.

Actually, come to think of it, aren't there some mainstream cases available now that come with a water cooling system? That could be the quietest of all, though I'm unsure about the reliabilty of said cases.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

tkeiser's picture

Ultimate should equal low noise, high power, and convenience. I rather like the newer Antec cases for that reason. Go see

http://www.antec-inc.com/pro_en_perfPlusAmg.html and look at the 660AMG and larger cases.

Note that the engineers have found that front fans add little or nothing to cooling; that the ps should have a bottom plate fan to pull heat up from the cpu, and that a rear fan is good if it is behind the cpu. The Antec case meets all of these recommendations.

Finally, the Antec tru-power ps not only regulates its own fans according to temperature, it also connects to two external fans which will be similarly slowed if temps are normal. Consequently, this box is one of the quietest on the market. While not aluminum, it is also very well made and finished.

T.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

gbmoody's picture

The noise and heat generated by an ultimate Linux box makes
it somehow less than ultimate to me, and apparently to many
other readers.

I always enjoy reading these articles, but I agree wholeheartedly
with those who say that their ulitmate Linux box is one that is
silent, cool, and capable (in that order); small is good, too, but
size gets fourth place in my list.

Unfortunately, the market for such boxes is neglected, and it is
quite difficult to find components for them. An article with
specific product recommendations might encourage some
enterprising PC builder to become a one-stop shop for buyers
of silent boxes, in the same way that previous LJ articles on
ULBs have influenced builders.

Please consider publishing an article or series about building the
ultimate silent Linux box. Perhaps one of those who
have commented above might want to tackle this?

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

I've read past 'Ultimate' Linux Box articles with some amusement.

I think the term ultimate has been misused. Granted, you've built some systems that certainly qualify for words like awesome, super, ultra, mega, great, etc. but ultimate? I don't think so.

First of all. I was pretty dissapointed the first time around to see a system with a single CPU. Especially since at that time, before XP's release, 98 was the primary workstation OS from Microsoft. And it does not support SMP. This was, and still is an advantage. I've run and SMP system for a few years now and I'll never go back.

Linux handles SMP very well, happily balancing the load, even among the system tasks.

Even a modest SMP system is more snappy and responsive than a faster (MHz wise) single CPU system. Even it it doesn't crunch raw numbers as fast, the UI is a more pleasant experience.

Next, ATA/IDE.

Please guys, putting IDE in a box labelled 'ultimate' is like taking

hopped up Mustang to the indy 500. Sure, it's fine for street use, but not equipped for duties of an ultimate nature.

Any box wanting to be ultimate needs to be SCSI, and I'd even think RAID/striping wouldn't be out of the question.

I've seen nice, Linux capable, Dual Xeon, SCSI, FireGL etc. workstations for under $3000 CAD. So I think you guys can manage something in that performance level.

Tachyon

P.S. And of course, if it's going to be an 'ultimate' Linux box, it should run SuSE Pro.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

Noise is a big factor. give me peace of quite any time.

I can barely stand the noise from my 1 ghz atholon at home.

at work, my 2.2ghz dell gx260 with 1 gb ram is so quite i have to put my ear next to it to hear the fan.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

Hmm. Looks like the author already made his decision... I thought he was supposed to wait for comments. A few issues:

1.) Aluminum doesn't change the temperature in your case at all. Every test on the web shows this. The only reasons to buy aluminum are it's light and it looks good.

2.) Why Serial-ATA? If you're going ATA get parallel and rounded cables. You have a lot more variety in drives to choose. On the other hand, you should be going with SCSI in the first place.

3.) Buy http://www.coolermaster.com/case/p110.htm It's better than the other cases and if money is no object...

Why SATA instead of PATA?

Anonymous's picture

Hmm... they're not making 10K RPM PATA drives...

If it were me, I'd get a cheap SCSI card off of ebay, and use a 10K RPM (maybe mirrored) for the "system drive", say, 74GB. Then I'd use ATA/SATA for all my storage needs. Need backups?

Well, it just seems cheaper go buy a bigger IDE HD to backup the data on a smaller HD or two. Until they stop getting bigger, then it's hard to beat that.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

Aluminum doesn't change the temperature in your case at all. Every test on the web shows this.

I'd like to learn more about this. Does anyone have any links to those studies? Thanks!

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

Here's a case they might have missed, 2x 120mm fans and rubberized mounts for the hard drive cage. Looks like a reasonable size too.

http://www.newegg.com/app/viewproduct.asp?DEPA=&submit=Go&description=an...

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

I vote for the Lian Li

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

I couldn't tell from the web sites but do these cases

support a USB plug in the front of the case? Given

that floppies are going away and USB flash disks are

getting cheaper, this would seem like a Good Thing (TM)

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

"For this sort of project we want a case that can hold as many ATA drives as possible"

8-Bay-raidcom :

http://www.ibuypower.com/parts/CASE/8-Bay-raidcom.htm

- Moulinneuf

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

It's funny. I started doing the same thing just last month. I bought this same case. The only gripe I have with it is the Case Mod (plexi-glass window) Very horribly done..............

With most self-installed case mods the plexi-glass is form-fitting to the hole, no overlap. Very nice and clean. With this case, there is just a large square piece of plexi-glass covering the hole from the inside. Very ugly and unprofessional.

Granted this is the first time I actually bought a case with a pre-made mod. (from xoxide.com) But come on...........

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

A good sound system should be able to cancel the noise of the fans.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

I couldn't tell from the web sites but do these cases

support a USB plug in the front of the case? Given

that floppies are going away and USB flash disks are

getting cheaper, this would seem like a Good Thing (TM)

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

How many processors are planned? Dual you will probably get a way with this cases but that is not ultimate (I am using a dual AMD with a dual PIII behind me and I my first Linux machine over 6 years ago was a dual Pentium Pro 180!). In my view you need to at least a quad cpu for an ultimate system and that usually means an atypical case.

Is the Opteron considered as an option? If so, will it go into these cases?

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

Why bother even listing the Chenming in the article if you're ready to eliminate it from the running before the paragraph is out?

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

My ultimate Linux boxes use removable hard drives mounted in drawers in the 5.25" bays. I like to have 3 drawers plus one for the CD reader/writer = 4 5.25" bays on the front of the computer. It would be nice to have hot swap IDE drawers...

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

I have to agree with some of the other posters. Small and elegant is the way to go today for desktop machines. You are obviouslly building a workstation and not a server based on the cases you are looking at. Personally, the workstation should be as small as possible have one very fast drive and all the RAM you can stuff into it. Then build a server with 1TB of disk space and put it in a closet somewhere connected to a 100mb or 1gb LAN and be done with it.

So really the Ultimate Linux Box would be the Ultimate Linux Boxes. One server possible an older box with lots of hard drive space and crappy video, etc and one small computer with great dual, tripple or quad monitors with a single fast hard drive to hold the OS. All data lives on the server.

My vote

Anonymous's picture

I personally like the Lian Li. The Thermaltake is a little much for me.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

My ultimate linux box would be housed in the Antec PLUS1080AMG File Server. This case comes with a 430watt power supply and Antec is known for making some of the best and quietest power supplies. This seems to have been ignored in the above comparisons, and strikes me as far more important than several other considerations above. It can be had for about $120 and has two rear fans and places to add an additional three fans if you need it to be capable of liftoff. There are 10 drive bays to go crazy with, front mounted USB & IEEE1394 (FireWire) ports, etc. Check it out at: http://www.antec-inc.com/pro_details_enclosure.php?ProdID=91082#

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

I second this. I've built about a dozen machines with Anatec cases, and I've _never_ had a problem with them.

I can't say teh ssame (no problems tta is) fro any other brand.

Highly recomended.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

dmarti's picture

Good points on the fans. If your Linux box sounds like a hovercraft, why did you put a 24/96 sound card in it again?

You don't have to populate every mounting point that's available for a fan. You can put a fan there, block it, or leave it as a vent. More mounting points doesn't necessarily mean more fans -- it means more easy-to-try options.

For this project, Glenn can install temperature probes on critical hot parts for testing, then experiment to find the right number of fans, plus one loud "emergency" fan on a thermostat. Most home PC builders don't have this equipment but Glenn has the vast resources of the Linux Journal media empire at his disposal.

Another idea to look at is running fans at low voltage. Some 12V fans will run from the 5V wire; I got two to run very quietly at 6V by connecting them to the 12V in series.

Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

Anonymous's picture

> Another idea to look at is running fans at low voltage. Some 12V fans will run from the 5V wire; I got two to run very quietly at 6V by connecting them to the 12V in series.

Is this a safe thing to do? Won't the fan draw more current from the 5v circuit, potentially damaging other devices that rely on 5v power?

The 'OTHER' Ultimate Linux Box.

Anonymous's picture

To me there are things changing in the PC arena, especially for the non-gamer. Smaller, quieter and more elegant box would be the way to go.

Here it is the 'OTHER' Ultimate Linux Box, from my point of view.

  • Case: Hush Technologies Mini-ITX. Elegant, small and with heatsink included.
  • Motherboard: Via EPIA M. Everything included (5.1 Sound, TV-Out) and fully Linux, and FreeBSD compliant. Low power consumption, low heat dissipation.
  • HDD: Seagate Barracuda. With sound barrier technology (SBT). Fast, Big and Quiet.
  • Monitor: EIZO Flexscan L375. Slim, functional, cheap and nice.

    Hope you like it.

    Miguel P.C. migpcNOSPAM@eresmas.com

  • Re: The 'OTHER' Ultimate Linux Box.

    Anonymous's picture

    Looks *very* expensive to me!!!T

    he picture gives the impression of a carefully hand-crafted, - overengineered yet underdesigned - prototype, that won't stick around for long.

    I cannot believe that such massive heatsinks are neccessary to dissipate the 30 W or so the EPIA M series is specced at - it looks like someones idea of "cool".

    I prefer a cheap, mass-produced box for the Via EPIA card, a DVD drive and an 80 Gb HDD - with the option of using a heat pipe + passive H/S for the CPU cooler if the thing should be truly silent. But that is hardly needed when using an oversized fan at low RPM's.

    Problem with the EPIA is that there are no decent cases widely available just yet.

    Re: The 'OTHER' Ultimate Linux Box.

    howard_b_golden's picture

    I'm thinking along the same lines, but I want to build a bunch of silent LTSP clients to a server located out of earshot. So, skip the HDD. To start with, I'm going to convert my existing computers to be LTSP clients, but as they expire, I'm going to go minimalist.

    The point is: The ultimate Linux box, as I see it, isn't a PC. I realize this system isn't going to satisfy those looking for the fastest game experience, but I've never gotten into really compute/graphics intensive games.

    At my house, I "administer" my computers and a computer for each of my wife and two kids. I'll be a lot happier with them using LTSP clients. This is also part of my weaning them away from Windows. I'm almost completely cured. ;-)

    Re: The 'OTHER' Ultimate Linux Box.

    Anonymous's picture

    good point. I'm planning on building something very similar next term -

    Shuttle SN41G2 barebones

    Athlon XP2400+

    512MB DDR

    40GB hard disk (who actually *uses* more?!)

    19" monitor

    keyboard

    Logitech MX700 mouse

    under 700 quid. small, quiet, does the job.

    Re: The 'OTHER' Ultimate Linux Box.

    Anonymous's picture

    The downside is that you still have a fair amount of noise to contend with. You need a good sized CPU fan, at least 2 case fans, the power supply fans, and the hard drive itself is noisy. I'm considering going with an entry level water cooling kit to eliminate the CPU fan but since that leaves all the other fans, it certainly won't be silent. One thing is certain, get the best dual ball bearing case fans you can find since they are sitting pretty much right in the open.

    Re: The 'OTHER' Ultimate Linux Box.

    Anonymous's picture

    They always seem to focus on the bogomip numbers in the "ultimate" yearlies. The VIAs don't put up fantastic numbers in this regards. However, I agree, a box that sounds like a jet turbine engine and puts out the heat of a baseboard heater is NOT ultimate in my eyes. I think dB, radiant heat, and other "livability" factors should be as important as bogomips. If they want a performance demon, then don't even look at towers because your best bet lies in a function focused rackmount.

    Re: The 'OTHER' Ultimate Linux Box.

    HenrikTreadup's picture

    Take a look at
    this thread over at the viaarena forum for info on the Linux support for the EPIA M.

    First of all you have to use one of their supported distros; Debian, SuSE or RedHat. What about the people (me) whos preferred distro isn't in the above list?

    Then there are problems with USB 2.0. USB 1.0/1.1 seems to work fine

    A lot of people are having problems with the binary only video driver supplied by VIA. VIA has said that they are working on a new driver that will be open sourced but I don't know if I can trust them on this...

    The hardware MPEG decoder is not supported.

    The above mess doesn't qualify as full Linux support in my book.
    Can you tell that I'm a bit dissapointed ;) The reason I havn't returned mine is that it's so damn quiet :D

    Oh, smaller, silent and elegant is definetly the way to go for a normal desktop box. :)

    Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

    Anonymous's picture

    Wow, finally a computer that literally blows me away... Are you building a computer or a wind channel?

    Re: The Ultimate Linux Box: A Case Study

    Anonymous's picture

    Please consider the decibels. I love my Pogo with Gentoo on it, but the noise from one fan will cause its replacement.

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