Home > Product Development > It’s Starting to Sound a lot like Linux Part I: the R&D

It’s Starting to Sound a lot like Linux Part I: the R&D

December 28th, 2009

Well I hope everybody had a great Holiday Season!  It’s still going on for me; I don’t call it quits until January 1.  Among other things I wanted to get done in the new year was to upgrade my computer systems.  I’m running a Presario notebook, an HP Media Vault, and a Slimserver across a simple network using a Linksys router.  Not much to it really.  But the old notebook, never very fast, seemed slower and slower.

As it so happens I’ve been wanting to transition to Linux for quite a while (several years) but for various reasons didn’t.  Mainly because my work environment was Windows, and so over time it became somewhat scary to think about switching.  Friends of mine had been telling me for years to make the switch “cold turkey”.  I tried various CD-Boot disks, thought about creating a dual boot system, etc.  What I really wanted was a dedicated Linux box, and a dedicated Windows box.  But I was afraid of the price.

But I kept thinking about it, and since I was already using one Linux device (the Slimserver), and another (the HPMV), and they were rock-solid (the HPMV has been up for a year with no downtime except once, the other day, when I accidentally unplugged it), and I am rebooting Windows every day to start fresh, and the Linux guys just seem to having so much fun, I felt I had to do something.

So I decided to start using as many Linux applications on Windows that I could find.  First Thunderbird (and the Lightning extension), and then the Sun OpenOffice Suite.  And of course Firefox.  So I had all the basics going with respect to office productivity, no reason not to switch. Right? Well I just was not going to do it. I had iTunes, I had other things, whatever.

So I thought well I’ll get a new computer and use the old one as a Linux box.  Then I said, well, why not buy a used laptop? Something still useful, something that had some life left with a bit of care and an upgrade or two.  The bottom line was I wanted small footprint, and better then what I have now.  But I didn’t see anything I wanted, or what I wanted was not available at my price, and when I looked at new equipment I could not find the right balance of price and utility.  Ah yes, the magic product triad: utility, price and availability!

I was stymied.  Ah but necessity is the mother of creative thinking.  I asked myself this: could I get my hands on SFF computer with no OS and no hard-drive, and what would it cost?  I didn’t need the OS because I could install it myself, I didn’t need a HD because I had the HPMV, I didn’t need wireless, I didn’t need a high end device to run Linux, and I was thinking 2GB would work fine.  All this thinking was over the course of the last couple of months.

I went search for a small form factor device, no OS, a basic mother board and CPU.  As it so happens the first thing I ran into was the fit-PC. A neat little device that fits in the palm of your hand.  I saw a few other SFF devices that were contenders, but none were quite right.  About then I got the idea that one thing I could do would be to upgrade the processor to my laptop.  So the Linux box thing took a back seat for a couple of days while I tracked down information on a CPU for my laptop.  This turned out to be a Dothan CPU, which I ordered from MDParts.

Now I had the plan: install the new CPU, set up a small Linux box, and make the transition.  The research i was doing on small form factor PC’s convinced me I could get by with an Intel Atom Dual Core.  I should point out I did hours of reading to nail down what I wanted — doing the research up front saves a lot of headache down the road.

My budget? $200 bucks plus change was the target.  The CPU, being old technology, was cheap ($30).  And I figured I could find a bare-bones deal out there somewhere to fit my needs and budget — and I did!  All that and more in part II!

Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by.

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  1. December 28th, 2009 at 18:38 | #1

    Given that I’m one of the Linux friends you are referring to… Congratulations. It takes courage to break away from the hold that Windows has on us and it’s nice that there’s an alternative to the great but expensive Mac option.

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