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 Post subject: DIY Diskless PC on the wall
PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 10:47 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 05, 2004 3:32 pm
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This is a diskless VIA C3 system mounted on the wall, running Linux. It boots Puppy Linux off a USB flash drive, uses a single 5v fan for cooling, consumes less than 17W at idle, and is fit inside an A4 paper tray. It's easy to put together, and total cost using all new components is under $200.
Image
More details blogged here.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 12:08 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 24, 2005 8:22 pm
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Location: London
May I ask what the image quality is like with the box pushing 1600*1200?

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 5:58 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2004 7:50 am
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Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Is that motherboard essentially the same as the PC Chips board that NewEgg sells for ~$55? I once had that board but I accidentally killed it when I was being too sloppy removing the CPU heatsink fan. (My plan was to replace it with the Northbridge heatsink off of a junked dead motherboard. The mounting holes fit perfectly, of course.)

Before I killed it, I ran the on-board video at its maximum resolution of 1600x1200. The video output looked fine, but the overall system performance was sluggish (as you'd expect from a Via).

For a long time, I've thought this board would make an excellent low budget board for tinkerers wanting to do a silent mini-ITX project but without the mini-ITX premium costs. The board isn't all that much bigger than mini-ITX, but it's a heck of a lot less expensive.

I'm glad to see someone actually do it! It looks great. I'm surprised that the CPU would get so hot when run fanlessly.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 20, 2006 9:24 pm 
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Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Nice little project. :)

For people up here, it's good to know that NCIX also sells the PC Chips version of that board for ~$77 if you search for it. For a while I had wanted to try to make a small ITX computer of some sort (inspred by MikeC's breadbox PC)... but it always seemed too slow for the price to justify it.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 21, 2006 2:54 am 
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It is essentially the same as the PC Chips M789CG except for color scheme (I actually bought a PC Chips board first and used it for another project). The heatsink is stuck to the CPU with double-sided adhesive thermal tape, and I suspect removing it before powering it up will be easier (before the glue melts). The board actually only measure 17x23cm (even though website states 19x23cm), so it's only 5 cm wider than mini-ITX.

The C3 CPU has been compared to a Pentium III - 500mhz in terms of performance, but for non-processor intensive tasks it's acutally not too bad. Windows XP actually booted up quite quickly with this board. The CPU supposedly consumes a typical 5W and has a TDP of 8.5W, so it shouldn't be too hard to cool, maybe I got such high temps because I tested in a small room with little airflow and a 29C ambient. I suspect the board temp readings should not be too far off as the Zalman heatsink was quite hot to the touch when running fanless.

As for image quality at 1600x1200, I haven't spent extensive time with this system yet, but it looks fine. Web browsing refresh is a little slow (switching between browser windows) but I suspect that has more to do with Puppy Linux or the Sea Monkey browser.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 23, 2006 1:11 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 06, 2004 2:42 pm
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Location: UK
i'm guessing that the C3 isn't removable judging from the pictures?
if it is, then would not a celeron 600 @1.5v not be both cooler and faster? (whats the relative area of strength of the c3s?)
personally i'd just have left the case off and ran it passively; 73*C is ok for a via.. and u won't be stressing it 100% consistantly for any long periods of time i'd imagine. perhaps it looks better in the box. puppy linux is great; i found switching to opera from mozilla made things much better [although that was in the v8 days], as did moving to iceWM (and it looks and functions better IMO)

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 7:32 am 
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There is no socket, the CPU is soldered directly onto the board so it cannot be replaced; part of the reason for the board's low cost. This does limit heatsink selection, but also gives the board a very low profile.

Celeron 600 might be slightly faster, but should run hotter (13W compared with 7.5W). IMO other advantages of this C3/board is 1) it's a newly manufactured component still in production and comes with warranty (for the Celeron you'll have to look for a used CPU/mb - probably manufactured 5-6 years ago) also not sure all s370 mb will properly set the lower vcore for 1.5v Celerons; 2) it has USB2.0, can boot from USB flash, supports large HDD which might not be available on older socket 370 boards; 3) uses DDR memory which is still readily available.

The system could probably be run fanless without stability problems even with the case (as long as the vent holes run along the top), however personally I prefer the system to run cooller (makes me feel like the components will last longer, and also in case the room gets very hot). It could probably look just as nice or nicer without the cover (depending on your taste), but I prefer not to have the components exposed as someone migh accidently short out the board, jiggle a component, etc.

I installed the Puppy version that comes with SeaMonkey, but will try Opera and Firefox as those seem to be supported by a wider range of web pages. Have you managed to install any temp monitoring utilities in Puppy, maybe LM_Sensors?


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