Ultimate Linux Box

The "Ultimate Linux Box" time of year is coming around again, and here at the Linux Journal office, we've been debating how to define what it means to be "Ultimate." I'm sure that my opinion is the correct one, but we decided it would be best to ask an impartial judge. That's where you come in. When you have visions of "The Ultimate Linux Box" in your head, what kind of computer is it?

Ultimate Gaming Machine
14% (217 votes)
Massive Storage Beast
7% (114 votes)
Super Green Earth Friendly
10% (152 votes)
Uber Cheap Bargain Basement
8% (119 votes)
Perfectly Silent Hear a Pin Drop PC
14% (213 votes)
Rockin' Rackmount Server
8% (121 votes)
Mega Multimedia Creation Studio
11% (174 votes)
Entertainment Extravaganza Living Room PC
15% (237 votes)
Hard Drive, Schmard Drive -- Gimme an Ultimate Thin Client
3% (42 votes)
Computers are for chumps. I want a brain implant.
10% (160 votes)
Total votes: 1549

So, Linux Journal readers, what says you?

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Ultimate GNU/Linux box--low power, but with some juice

Terrell Prude', Jr.'s picture

My "ultimate GNU/Linux box," if we're talking a traditional desktop here, is actually quite vanilla. It'd be a Shuttle case or something similar, with the following hardware:

VIA C7 CPU, 2GHz
2GB DRAM (3GB if the mobo supports it)
Solid-state hard disk, at least 100GB (yep, they exist now)
Thin-line DVD/CD burner/reader
USB keyboard/mouse
Gig-E copper (yes, I know, very standard now)
Ralink or Realtek wireless
19" LCD video or larger
Any video chipset for which Free Software accelerated drivers exist today

Some might say, "hey, that's not exactly high-powered! What about the l33t gamerz?" Valid question. My answer to that is as follows:

This box is perfect for what the vast majority of people want to do with a computer. That means Web surfing, online shopping, office productivity (OpenOffice.org- or KOffice-type stuff), ripping some MP3's--normal stuff. And further, you can easily power the entire thing, including the display, on a small solar array. A single 150W panel will do it. The large DRAM will help keep you off of the solid-state hard disk.

Additionally, such a box would be quite affordable. That means more GNU/Linux boxes sold, not just in the US/Europe/Japan, but also in China, India, Latin America, and Africa.

The "l33t gamer," by contrast, is going to have the latest Quad-Core Extreme CPU, dual $500 video boards, etc. Not cheap, and not low-power. Can't run that on a 150W solar panel. Sure, such a powerhouse is great, no doubt, but you'd need at least 500W to power such a beast, and you're talking well into the four figures.

--TP

Ultimate GNU/Linux box--low power, but with some juice

Terrell Prude', Jr.'s picture

My "ultimate GNU/Linux box," if we're talking a traditional desktop, is actually quite vanilla. It'd be a small Shuttle case or something similar, with the following hardware:

VIA C7 CPU, 2GHz
2GB DRAM (3GB if the mobo supports it)
Solid-state hard disk, at least 100GB (yep, they exist now)
Thin-line DVD/CD burner/reader
USB keyboard/mouse
Gig-E copper (yes, I know, very standard now)
Ralink or Realtek wireless
19" LCD video or larger
Any video chipset for which Free Software accelerated drivers exist today

Some might say, "hey, that's not exactly high-powered! What about the l33t gamerz?" Valid question. My answer to that is as follows:

This box is perfect for what the vast majority of people want to do with a computer. That means Web surfing, online shopping, office productivity (OpenOffice.org- or KOffice-type stuff), ripping some MP3's--normal stuff. And further, you can easily power the entire thing, including the display, on a small solar array. A single 150W panel will do it. The large DRAM will help keep you off of the solid-state hard disk.

Additionally, such a box would be quite affordable. That means more GNU/Linux boxes sold, not just in the US/Europe/Japan, but also in China, India, Latin America, and Africa.

The "l33t gamer," by contrast, is going to have the latest Quad-Core Extreme CPU, dual $500 video boards, etc. Not cheap, and not low-power. Can't run that on a 150W solar panel. Sure, such a powerhouse is great, no doubt, but you'd need at least 500W to power such a beast, and you're talking well into the four figures.

--TP

Ultimate Linux PC

Bob Evans's picture

An ultimate machine would be something to replace all the PC's I have. It can run VM's to support all the applications and multiple OS's I run. Enough storage and memory to replace a desktop full of system boxes by one machine. For me this means minimally x86_86 and i386 architectures are supported.

Ultimate Linux Box, or Ultimate Linux Box that I'd pay for?

Technojunkie's picture

For the Ultimate Linux Box I'd want a quad processor motherboard with four AMD quadcore Opterons (the new B3 stepping), a high-end video card or two preferably ATI if I were confident that they'll continue to rapidly improve their Linux drivers, as much RAM as I could cram into it, four Raptors in RAID0+1 for programs and several terabyte drives in RAID6 for data, 3Ware PCIe SATA RAID controller for that, watercooling for quiet, a big aluminum case so I could move the box without a forklift, two 26" LCD monitors, a good Logitech keyboard and laser mouse, a good (not Creative) soundcard, a LG GGW-H20L Blu-ray burner, Nero Linux 3 to go with that burner, PC Power & Cooling's biggest power supply, and a big APC SmartUPS to defend it all. Oh, and a FTTH Internet connection to plug it into. That way I could do insanely fast program compiles, run game servers, play games, render video, and basically do whatever the frack I want with ease.

What I'd pay for if I had the money: probably just a Phenom 9850 BE CPU, 8GB DDR2-1066 RAM, an AMD 790FX chipset motherboard with SB700 southbridge (6 SATA ports) and decent onboard audio, a Radeon 3870 X2 video card, maybe water cooling for quiet and overclocking, a decent aluminum case, a PC Power & Cooling Silencer 750 power supply, a Raptor for the boot drive and one or two pairs of 750GB SATA drives RAID1 mirrored for data, that LG Blu-ray burner, an APC SmartUPS, one 26" LCD monitor, a good Logitech keyboard and laser mouse, and I'd buy FTTH Internet if AT&T would get a clue and understand that fiber to a box a kilometer from home is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Oh, and a HDTV tuner.

give me lots of CPUs and RAM

terry's picture

I want lots of CPUs and RAM, the better to run multi-threaded apps, such as my favorite: playing the game of Go.

to me the ultimate linux box

beso's picture

to me the ultimate linux box means:

a machine that runs a 100% compatible coreboot as bios, with double bios for backup, an ultra high memory (8gb would be enough), a double amd am2 double core processor (not quad) and with 300mbit/s sataII controller. also it would use a great deal of hw sensors and be full acpi compliant to reduce at best the power consumption when not needed, and as system would use an ultra customized and stable gentoo.
with this you'd be able to use the box for whatever you'd want.

Ultra-portable, yet usable

Gumnos's picture

It would be small enough and light enough to tote anywhere (less than 2 pounds), but with a large enough screen to see and a keyboard for touch-typing. It would have a good battery life, no moving parts, and would run cool enough to actually use on the lap without being scorched (or even breaking a sweat). It would have WPA-enabled wireless that works in all generic distros. And it would be affordable. I think the new EEE with the bigger screen will come very close.

ultimate portable computer

NLP researcher's picture

Yes, what is ultimate really depends on what you need...

For example, I am a computer science (natural language) researcher. I need three kinds of machines/devices:

1) Ultimate computation device: high-speed, multi-cpu, high-memory device with fast networking that I can buy 100 (or 1000) of, network together and run distributed models of computation on

2) Ultimate desktop device: a comfortable machine that I can use to accomplish my everyday work (word processing/writing, experiment design and monitoring, searching the web for relevant info -- and reading it, mostly in web pages or pdf). This needs a big monitor and access to my network above

3) Ultimate portable device: a small (as small as possible) machine that I can use while on the go for as many of the same purposes as my #2 machine as possible, but in a very light and small (easy to carry) package, with good wireless networking. Think Nokia n810 or eeePC type device. Good battery life (8+ hours) would be great. Also being able to do presentations from it (OO.o impress) and quick editing of the same would be great.

If machine type #3 is good enough, I guess I don't need a type #2 machine.

Ultimate Linux Box

Garrick's picture

I am a bargain basement kind of guy.
My main machine is a Black Macbook booting between OSX 10.5.2, Windows Vista Ultimate (free from running Microsoft spy ware for 3 months on my other test machine), and Ubuntu 8.04.
My Desktop is a refurbished Compaq Presario with a 3.2 Ghz P4, 2 Gb RAM, booting Ubuntu 7.04 and Windows Vista Basic. It has turned out to be a great budget machine since I picked it up for only $200, and with a $30 RAM upgrade along with a fresh Linux install, it has been more than powerful enough for most of my daily needs.

For this we need check boxes, not radio buttons...

HeavensRevenge's picture

Well, I'd say all except 2 above are reality, the brain implant can wait.... for now lol but I'd say the single least most attractive market for Linux to completely decimate any other OS, is to have some sort of Ultimate Gaming situation. Blow all others out with game performance and overtake the desktop sticking point and take the market by storm. So that is basically because I believe Linux is already everything but that anyway, so, we need to complete its usage in that lacking area. If it's what we are lacking, it's what we need to create, to make the OS a truly Ultimate Linux Box.

P.S. I triple boot sidux, Arch, and FreeBSD.

After closing

Timo Zimmermann's picture

After the pool is closed how about a nice article "how to build the ultimate linux box"? If "Rockin' Rackmount Server" wins, I'd be curious what you think this is supposed to be ;)

Um

Justin Ryan's picture

D: None of the above.

What would thrill me is a super-fast production box; something with enough memory to virtualize just about anything I want, run Compiz without a second thought, and still be blazing fast even when I've got four browsers, email, three RSS readers, IRC & two IM clients, a half dozen OpenOffice windows, GIMP, ssh, VLC, and a handful of other as-needed apps open.

So, yeah, none of the above.

Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.

The perfect linux box

Anonymous's picture

You act like all the things in your list are mutually exclusive. They are not.

+ As Small as Possible (like the kPC)
+ Silent, Silent, Silent.
+ At least 320 gb HD / 1 gb memory
+ Decent videocard (NVidia, Ati)
+ TV-Tuner
+ i368 compatible chip with good energy behavior
+ USB, Wifi, BlueTooth, TV-Tuner, DVD-Writer
+ Remote Control that can act as a phone, Wireless Keyboard/Mouse
+ 4 LAN-ports

Why 4 lan ports? Because I want it to act like a router by default. Ready to be the home server, tivo, gaming box.

Perhaps, and that would be most cool, they should separately offer thin-client (that are integrated with their screen) that connect to this one main box.

I didn't mean to

Justin Ryan's picture

I didn't mean it to sound that way; that's simply the list of what would make the Perfect Linux Box for me. I didn't see any of the options in the list as what I want; I don't want a gaming box or a silent box or a server, so I said "none of the above" and listed what I would like. I'm quite sure it's not mutually-exclusive, but it's not in the list of survey choices either.

Justin Ryan is a Contributing Editor for Linux Journal.

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