"Tiny, sub-$100 PC runs Puppy Linux"

Forum: Hardware Talk
Topic: "Tiny, sub-$100 PC runs Puppy Linux"
started by: dougz

Posted by dougz on Aug. 25 2006,14:20
A Bangkok-based company is shipping a tiny, sub-$100 PC capable of running Puppy and other lightweight Linux distributions. NorhTec's MicroClient Jr. measures 4.5 inches square, draws 8 Watts, and has a 166MHz Pentium-compatible processor with three integer units.  < LinuxDevices article >

Can mount on back of VESA LCD display.  USD$120/single unit, including power supply.  More info on the hardware:
< Overview >
< Details >

Posted by hs7sv on Aug. 26 2006,14:23
It looks nice.  I want to test DSL on it. :D
Posted by roberts on Aug. 27 2006,20:14
About a year ago, John had DSL on an ebox tiny computer.
A 200Mhz, 128MB, disk-on-a-chip, three USB ports, 10/100 ethernet, sound and bootable USB 1.1 a silent fanless hand-sized box very similiar to this.

But with only a 166Mhz and still only USB1.1, I think I will pass.
You could get a used lappie with those specs and have it all, screen, keyboard, and mouse.

Posted by John on Aug. 28 2006,06:11
Just to chime in, I was considering selling these units (still can) but the performance was to slow -- you have to remember that these machines (like the Puppy unit) are running without a hard drive and therefore do not have a swap too.  I've found the lower limit for practical use without a swap to be 256MB.  Such a unit could make a fine low power server, maybe mp3 streamer, but it was just too slow for desktop use.

I'd much rather have something like the DSM:
< http://www.damnsmalllinux.org/store....Machine >

I still use that unit daily, on it now :-).

Posted by dougz on Aug. 31 2006,23:11
Agree with John and Roberts about the performance.  The machine makes more sense as a thin client, kiosk, or demo box.

OTOH, the idea of making a tiny box that can mount on the back of a standard LCD is brilliant packaging, IMHO.  Also, I have to applaud DSL, Puppy, etc. for encouraging the use of older or more efficient hardware.

While my taste may run to John's "Damn Small Machine," my wallet puts me more in mind of < "John's cheap little mini" > or a used "obsolete" laptop.

(I know mini -- I used to do hardware & software for Intel 8048 controller-based instruments.  Before that, I did lab automation in Forth.  Talk about mini!)    :;):

Posted by humpty on Sep. 28 2006,06:32
The article was updated. It'll be 200Mhz.
< http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS6372429785.html >

I can't wait, I'll definitely buy one if it's in my area.

Posted by tawalker on Sep. 28 2006,12:21
Anyone know how someone in the UK could buy one?
Posted by hs7sv on Sep. 29 2006,03:45
< Shipping price > for UK is $42. You can make an order on < their website >. They told me that the item will be available on 2nd week of October. :D
Posted by tawalker on Sep. 29 2006,14:36
Shipping price for UK is $42.

Yowch - shipping for a little thing like that is 1/3 of the cost of the machine?

Never mind - $162 total (about UKP85) is still pretty good for a "thin client", and it looks as if it's more-or-less pocketable. Just find a keyboard, monitor and mouse where you are, and plug in - I like the sound of that :D

Also, CF cards are so cheap now - about UKP10 for a 512Mb, and not much more for a full gig... if anyone here picks up one of these machines and tries it with DSL, could they please post a review?


Posted by tawalker on Sep. 29 2006,15:02
Actually, looking at this again:

I get the idea that 128Mb RAM could be a bit tight for DSL, especially if on this machine, it is non-upgradeable. Would I have to disable some features on bootup to get DSL to run manageably?

Also, would it be a bit underpowered for multimedia (XMMS (MP3/Ogg decoding, etc.), video, Flash animations, etc.)?

Having said that, if the MicroClient Jr can run Puppy reasonably well, I would think that DSL wouldn't cause problems... would it?

Posted by John on Oct. 04 2006,03:09
Anything running on flash isn't going to have a swap, and without a swap, I'd recommend at least 256MB of ram.  Also, at 256, you still need to be careful. Fortunately, the UCIs run fine, so you still could use open office.  Another thing, you want to set your Firefox cache low, I keep mine at only 80Kb.
Posted by tawalker on Oct. 12 2006,18:52
Hmm... as the MicroClient Jr's 128Mb RAM isn't upgradeable, that could be a problem :(

Then again, though: haven't some people here got DSL running on other thin clients, which presumably don't have 256Mb+ RAM in them?

Maybe I should go looking for an old laptop instead... :p

Posted by Greengrass on Dec. 31 2006,14:44
I just received my Norhtec Microclient Jr.  It's actually a eBox 2300
< eBox 2300 >

The bad news, if DSL 3.1 on and USB stick (my only bootable media for the 2300) doesn't work.  The boot sequence gets as far as trying to start 'X' and then the screen blanks and the error message "Input not Supported" is displayed.  Tried starting with different options but no success yet.  The USB stick will boot my VIA EPIA M-II 6000 so I think the USB image is ok.

If anyone know the magic spell to get this little beastie to boot DSL, please let me know.

Posted by roberts on Dec. 31 2006,15:07
screen blanks and the error message "Input not Supported" is displayed.

This may be from your monitor. I have DSL working on a  < eBox II >
I get a black screen with "input out of range" message.

However I can run it at 800x600x24. No problems

Posted by Greengrass on Dec. 31 2006,21:13
Quote (roberts @ Dec. 31 2006,10:07)
screen blanks and the error message "Input not Supported" is displayed.

This may be from your monitor. I have DSL working on a  < eBox II >
I get a black screen with "input out of range" message.

However I can run it at 800x600x24. No problems

I have a second mini-ITX based on a VIA EPIA MII-6000 that boots the same USB pendrive image and works with the same monitor, so I don't think it is the monitor.  Can you tell me which version of DSL are running on the Ebox/Norhtec/TU-40 box? and what options are using at boot time?


Posted by roberts on Dec. 31 2006,22:33
I have run every version of DSL, that I have made! I have had the ebox II for about two years now. Only requirement for me is the 800x600x24. But then my old eyes enjoy that!

My boot options:  vga=788 noapm noscsi frugal

Currently, running DSL v3.2RC2, the latest. I updated it last night and then I saw your post. It seems with Xvesa 800x600 is the most you will get. The Sis controller outputs at a much higher freq than tinyX Xvesa can support. However, with Xorg and the Sis driver it may be possible to get the higher resolutions.

Posted by Greengrass on Jan. 01 2007,11:15
Thanks for the info.  I got a version of 2.0 to boot with vga=788  The other options noapm noscsi frugal didn't help.  The monitor displayed the same problem, or the boot sequence indicated it couldn't find the Koppix file system.  Your use of "frugal" would suggest a hard disk.  I may be wrong in this.  Setting the resolution to higher values resulted in the same "Input Not Supported" message which confirms my suspicion that memory usage is the cause of the display problem.

For now the eBox 2300 with DSL works, (just) but is too slow to be practical. Others have suggested 128M of ram is too small for DSL without a swap device.  I may remove my WIFI card and purchase a 2 1/2 laptop drive to try to improve the performance.


Posted by roberts on Jan. 01 2007,16:02
I agree with your performance statement and that is why John and I decided two years ago to not offer it for sale pre-loaded like that other small os. Instead John offers the eBox 3800 which at 800Mhz 256MB and USB2.0 ports is practical. I still use my eBoxII for dillo. The eBoxII has an embeddedDisk flash device which I have DSL frugally installed.
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