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Hardware Hacking Build Linux

$100 Linux Wall-Wart Now Available 464

Posted by kdawson
from the not-to-be-confused-with-wal-mart dept.
nerdyH sends us to LinuxDevices for a description of a tiny Linux device called the Marvell SheevaPlug. "A $100 Linux wall wart could do to servers what netbooks did to notebooks. With the Marvell SheevaPlug, you get a completely open (hardware and software) Linux server resembling a typical wall-wart power adapter, but running Linux on a 1.2GHz CPU, with 512MB of RAM, and 512MB of Flash. I/O includes USB 2.0, gigabit Ethernet, while expansion is provided via an SDIO slot. The power draw is a nightlight-like 5 Watts. Marvell says it plans to give Linux developers everything they need to deliver 'disruptive' services on the device." The article links four products built on the SheevaPlug, none of them shipping quite yet. The development kit is available from Marvell.
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$100 Linux Wall-Wart Now Available

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  • by Anonymous Codger (96717) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @03:48PM (#26973999)

    I've run into this with a number of shopping carts, including some big name sites. I usually have to switch to a different browser - a lot of carts don't work with Safari or Chrome, and some don't even work with FireFox.

  • Re:Ethernet (Score:5, Informative)

    by sowth (748135) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @03:53PM (#26974101) Journal

    Are you kidding? Not enough CPU power? 1.2 GHz is enough for me to do raytracing!

    Anyway, if you are going to do video encoding and translate your camera's pics from raw, it is not as if you need to sit and watch it. Just let the device run and do the work. 5 Watts isn't that much.

    Kids these days.

  • Re:Ethernet (Score:5, Informative)

    by charlesnw (843045) <charles@knownelement.com> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:01PM (#26974189) Homepage Journal
    I'm glad it doesn't have built in wifi. I'll simply attach an Atheros USB dongle with SMA connector and high gain antenna. Instant very high powered access point/storage system.
  • Re:Hard Drive Slot? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:02PM (#26974217)
    Then sucks again once you realize NFS over GbE easily hits 70MB/s while USB2 gets maybe 30MB/s on a good day.
  • you can sniff/analyze/record all unencrypted traffic until you run out of RAM.

    And if you can get away with opening an encrypted network connection to some drop box, you don't have to worry about RAM.

    Just be sure to remove it the next day before anyone notices.

    I suspect that in most places it could be there for months -- maybe years -- before anyone noticed. Make sure the drop isn't traceable to you and just collect the take as long as it goes unnoticed.

  • by againjj (1132651) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:13PM (#26974359)
    Here is good response to this meme: http://www.mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk/people/matt.davis/Cmabrigde/ [cam.ac.uk] The most interesting analysis is after "Update 2". Also click on Graham's thesis summary.
  • by larry bagina (561269) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:14PM (#26974367) Journal
    Do you have no imagination? Put a thumb drive on it and use it for most anything you'd use a linux server for, but with no moving parts, negligible power usage, and less than negligible space.
    • Web/ftp/etc server
    • streaming media
    • download torrents in the background
    • tor node
    • proxy server
    • MUD server
    • fill it with kiddie porn and plug it into your boss's house
  • Re:Ethernet (Score:5, Informative)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:31PM (#26974589) Journal
    By the look of it, this is more of a polished dev kit than a shelf-ready product. Marvell, typically, sells silicon, not widgets, so that would be standard for them. Also, TFA mentions schematics being available under some sort of free licence, and a bunch of companies already building devices based on this thing.

    I suspect that products derived from this model will tend to have more in the way of peripherals; but as a dev kit that requires no special handling or equipment, and is priced within the range of virtually any student, linux hacker, or general tinkerer, this looks like a fun bit of kit. I know I'm tempted.
  • by Perf (14203) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:38PM (#26974683)

    The design is open - re-engineer the board.

  • Re:disruptive? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Areyoukiddingme (1289470) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:39PM (#26974689)
    Beagleboard [beagleboard.org] is another. Same chip as the latest generation of Gumstix, circuit board double the size but with many more on-board connectors, for the same price as the Gumstix.
  • Re:Heresy (Score:2, Informative)

    by onezan (908534) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @04:53PM (#26974869)
    I recently just dumped my linux server from my house. not from lack of love, but from lack of space. i replaced it with the DNS-323 from Linksys. it's a NAS box (2 drives) that is easily hacked to run linux. the tiny box now serves as my web server, ftp server, upnp video/music server, torrents, the whole enchilada. all in a box the size of 2 hard drives. i have the whole thing tucked in a back cupboard. much easier and quieter than a full system.
  • by Eil (82413) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @05:20PM (#26975205) Homepage Journal

    LinuxDevices constantly showcases new and fascinating Linux-based hardware like this. Everything from phones to tablets to embedded systems. The problem is that few of these ever seem to make it to market and the ones that do are usually only available to companies who can buy them by the thousands. The remainder that are within the reach of the average hobbyist don't stack up price-wise to more pedestrian solutions that can do the job for cheaper (e.g., a netbook, WRT54GL, or NSLU2).

  • Re:Ethernet (Score:5, Informative)

    by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @05:34PM (#26975347)

    "I'm just not quite sure what I could use it for. It's too underpowered for video encoding/decoding,"

    It could probably do a bit of that, transcoding and serving anyway.

    This sounds like an absolutely perfect replacement for my Linksys NSLU2. It's only 266MHz and has 32MB of RAM. At the moment I have one doing mail/web server duty and one running torrentflux-b4rt and mediatomb, streaming music and video to my PS3 and to my machine at work.

    That second one is straining to keep up, this little box sounds like it fits the bill perfectly. Similarly powered NAS boxes cost multiple hundreds.

  • versus NSLU2 (Score:4, Informative)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @05:44PM (#26975453) Homepage

    It's interesting to compare this to the Linksys NSLU2 [wikipedia.org], which I'm using as a home music server.

    ............Marvell NSLU2
    price ($).....100 67 (amazon.com)
    memory (MB)...512 32
    flash (MB)....512 8
    ethernet......yes yes
    usb.......... yes yes, 2 ports

    So I guess with the Marvell box you get somewhat higher specs, but I'm not sure you really need the higher specs. For most applications, you're going to attach a keychain usb drive to these things, and then the internal flash becomes irrelevant. 32 MB of memory may not sound like much these days, but it's actually plenty for a file server, music server, home automation system, etc. The main advantage I could see to the Marvell is that it sounds a little more open. Linksys ships the NSLU2 in a configuration where it's not really a general-purpose linux box, and you have to go through some hassles to get a real linux on it where you can install packages, etc. Linksys does, however, officially bless the use of third-party linix distros on the NSLU2.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @06:29PM (#26975849)

    It's not all that uncommon in smaller networks to whitelist MACs to an ethernet port or a subnet. It's an easy way to discourage the salesweasles from trying to access the network with an unauthorized notebook. Won't stop MAC spoofing, of course, and something like this little device could work inline with a PC, spoofing it's MAC address, and be accessible via a separate 802.11 link to a hostile network. But, you would need to do more than that to remain undetected on a reasonably secured, wired network.

  • by sqrammi (535861) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @06:51PM (#26976115)
    Why not just use something that's already available, like a RouterStation or Microtik RB433? The RouterStation's cheaper than Marvell's wart, too.
  • Re:Ethernet (Score:3, Informative)

    by Clover_Kicker (20761) <clover_kicker@yahoo.com> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @07:44PM (#26976759)

    Back in the day, ftp.cdrom.com served ~1TB a day from 1 box, a 200-MHz P6 Pentium Pro.

    (yeah yeah, ftp.cdrom.com had industrial quality I/O, but 1.2GHz is a LOT of computer power for anything but graphics.)

  • Re:Ethernet (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @08:14PM (#26977049)

    Have you actually attempted to do raytracing on an ARM processor? For one thing, there is no hardware floating point on this processor, all floating point has to be done with software code taking 10s of instructions for things like adding two floating point numbers.

    You are falling for the megahertz myth, but in the other direction. An Xscale core like the one this chip uses is basically a classic five-stage pipeline with very few frills (interestingly it does have very rudimentary branch prediction). There is no superscalar type features.

    Multiplys can take up to a few clock cycles, for example, halting everything else.

    WMMXT is also a very simplistic SIMD offering compared to the SSE* you might be used to.

  • Re:versus NSLU2 (Score:3, Informative)

    by david.given (6740) <dg@cowlark.cCURIEom minus physicist> on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @08:18PM (#26977069) Homepage Journal

    Well, I used to run my home server on an NSLU2 with 500GB of USB disk, before the power supply packed in. This was my main world-facing machine, and did routing, firewalling, HTTP serving for my website, NFS/SMB internally, SMTP and IMAP, backups, etc.

    32MB is not quite enough for this. Picking the right software helps a lot --- spamassassin no, spamprobe yes; apache no, thttpd yes. The biggest load was processing spam; adding a greylister wot I wrote myself [sf.net] helped enormously, as most spam now got rejected before transfer and before the enormously expensive Bayesian filtering stage. But even so, logging into it and working remotely was deeply frustrating as every time it processed an SMTP message the session would freeze; and unison/rsync/rsnapshot (my favourite file transfer and backup system) basically didn't work, as it would just sit and swap continuously until you nuked the process.

    So this little box, which runs at 4.5 times the speed anyway and has scads of RAM, looks ideal to me. Right now my server is a PC of about the same spec, and it's a huge, loud, power-hungry monster. The whole stack, which includes an ADSL router, a WRT54GL, and two hard drives, is currently sucking down 90W!

    So one of these gadgets, with a home-made SSD (4x16GB USB sticks and RAID. Half the price of a real SSD. Slower, but a low-end server won't care) and an external drive that only spins up on demand, would be cheap, small, and low power and silent...

    Incidentally, by the looks of it the Sheeva SOC this thing uses does not have an FPU. Common on ARMs, but a bit of a shame, as the new ARM VFP FPU system kicks arse.

  • by shawb (16347) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @09:39PM (#26977665)
    Problem solved [radioshack.com].
  • by pheede (37918) on Tuesday February 24, 2009 @11:48PM (#26978395)

    YMMV.. I have a pair of Panasonic powerline network adapters. I get about 45 mbps sustained (indeed these adapters are also "up to 200 mbps"), but the latency is quite decent at less than 5 ms extra latency compared to an ordinary wire.

    I'm very happy with this solution since my apartment is bombarded with competing WiFi networks from the neighbors as well as the super-crappy old microwaves my apartment complex uses that completely kill anything at 2.4 GHz.

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