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What to Do With a $99 Wall Wart Linux Server 346

Posted by kdawson
from the best-computer-is-an-invisible-computer dept.
Guanine writes in with a follow-up to our discussion a few months back on the SheevaPlug: 1.2-GHz ARM-compliant processor, 512 MB DDR2, 512 MB flash, USB 2.0, gigabit ethernet, in a package the size of a wall wart, for $99. Saul Hansell's Bits Blog in the NY Times talks about a few applications for such a device, whose price point Hansell claims will drop to $40 before too long. "The first plausible use for the plug computer is to attach one of these gizmos to a USB hard drive. Voila, you've got a network server. Cloud Engines, a startup, has in fact built a $99 plug computer called Pogoplug, that will let you share the files on your hard drive, not only in your home but also anywhere on the Internet. ... [Marvell's CEO said] 'Eventually you won't see the plug. We want this device to be in your TV, your stereo system, your DVD player.'"
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What to Do With a $99 Wall Wart Linux Server

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:29AM (#28053575)

    that thought Wal Mart was selling linux servers?

  • I've got one (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nursie (632944) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:30AM (#28053599)

    I don't really see the revolution here - it's a small headless server. A bit like an NSLU2 only a lot faster. They're pretty cool.

    They also seem to suffer from dodgy NAND memory, which is a shame, and booting from SDHC is not yet very well supported. That said, they come with Ubuntu server pre-installed and it was trivial to turn it into a media server.

    • by AHuxley (892839)
      Like a hacked Appletv too.
      • by Nursie (632944)

        I suppose so, though the Apple TV has various video outputs, this doesn't, and (correct me if I'm wrong) probably has a much large power draw. Mine's a media server in the sense that it serves media to other machines, like the PS3 and Xbox360.

    • Re:I've got one (Score:5, Informative)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:08AM (#28054127) Homepage

      booting from SDHC is not there yet but booting from SD is solid.

      I've been using these for weeks now. also the dodgy flash can be overcome by running a full scan on it and marking the bad spots, I prefer running off SD though.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eap (91469)

      I don't really see the revolution here - it's a small headless server. A bit like an NSLU2 only a lot faster. They're pretty cool.

      They also seem to suffer from dodgy NAND memory, which is a shame, and booting from SDHC is not yet very well supported. That said, they come with Ubuntu server pre-installed and it was trivial to turn it into a media server.

      I hope they don't have the NSLU2 disadvantage of not powering on automatically after a power failure.

      This annoyance makes the NSLU2 unsuitable for remote monitoring where the electricity supply is unreliable.

      The NSLU2 software distributions are also crippled (stripped down versions of utilities that break things like CPAN). Hopefully this one is more standardized and less unique.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by petermgreen (876956)

      on't really see the revolution here - it's a small headless server. A bit like an NSLU2 only a lot faster
      Faster and a lot more ram. Also this device is being explicitly sold as a "devkit" which means you get console and JTAG access (via a USB to dual UART/FIFO chip) out of the box rather than having to hack them on.

      On the downside you only get one host-side USB port while the slug had two.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:30AM (#28053603) Journal

    What to Do With a $99 Wall Wart

    Wall warts are usually nothing to be concerned about unless they grow or spread rapidly. Usually you can just freeze 'em off--just be sure to get all the abnormal growth cells. It's a common wall growth caused by HPV (Hewlett Packard Virus).

    Linux Server

    Your warts are functioning as Linux servers? You may need to see a specialist ... and until you get that checked I would refrain from any prolonged exposure to GPL software.

    Count yourself lucky, it could be worse. My friend once had a case of $10,000 Server Room Herpes Microsoft Servers that kept him up all night ... not something you want on your resume.

    I applaud anyone who successfully markets this product ... the name is a bit of an obstacle. "Wall Hugger" or "Plug Pal" or even "Linux Lump" might have been more prudent for coining.

  • by mbone (558574)

    I had to read this several times to realize that the OP wasn't talking about something being sold at WalMart. Maybe Michael Robertson should add this to the Linspire line.

    • by King_TJ (85913) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:53AM (#28053917) Journal

      You're not the only one. Scary, isn't it, how a corporation's name can get that ingrained in one's head that anything similar immediately looks like it?

      I was thinking, "Well, that'll be kind of cool, if I can grab a $99 server computer at Wal-Mart."

      • by mangu (126918) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:07AM (#28054107)

        Scary, isn't it, how a corporation's name can get that ingrained in one's head that anything similar immediately looks like it?

        That's what I think every time I see a mention to GM food [wikipedia.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by JWSmythe (446288)

              Would that be Chevrolet corn, or Pontiac beef?

              I'd worry about the Oldsmobile green. It's made from old people.

             

          • by corbettw (214229)

            I just read "Chevrolet corn" as "Chevrolet.com", demonstrating that's it not just corporate trade marks that can cause confusion, but any term that resembles another.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        It's just brain pattern matching, it's not 'in grained' do to some corporate plan.

        And yes, I thought the exact same thing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by OldSoldier (168889)

        Rather than thinking it as WalMart market dominance that forces us to read "Wall Wart" as "Wall Mart"... I prefer to consider myself and all the others who mis-read the headline as being "up-down dyslexic".

        Seriously thought... 2 thoughts...
        a) a "fax" receiver. although last I checked I didn't think there was a phone line port for this. I do know that I really like my older generation Mac running OSX sitting on my phoneline getting all my faxes. Would love to have a smaller machine for this.
        b) the question i

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by johannesg (664142)

      Same here. I was already thinking that a computer the size of a Wallmart might be a bit too large for my house...

  • Have it run either skype or magicjack. I have heard that the second is planning to support Linux "soon". I would definitely be more interested in cheap phone service at home if it didn't require me to have a desktop computer on whenever I wanted to make a call.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or asterisk (www.asterisk.org) for a full PBX at home

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Ideal for Asterisk PBX. No question I'll test drive my ARM port of Asterisk on this thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by clarkn0va (807617)
      Or freeswitch. [freeswitch.org] Show me a dual-port version of said wart and I'll make it into a router.
  • by digsbo (1292334) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:35AM (#28053665)
    The difference with this thing is that it's got an easy to use dev kit based on a popular Linux distro, not some goofy one-off that doesn't have the packages you want (i.e. LAMP, media server, SAMBA, CUPS, etc.).
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      It's slightly more significant than that. It's a 1GHz ARM board with 512Mb of RAM for $100. That's maybe a 5th what you'd find in a SBC format.

      Now, if only it had enough of the right kind of i/o ports to make hobbiest projects more appealing. 2x Ethernet and/or wifi would have been a good start.

  • Can they do a wireless version though? I have relatively few cables in my house and I'd like it to stay that way. I assume there are more people like me in the world considering how many WAPs there are in my area. It's a fantastic idea and I'm sure it's a fantastic device. I just wouldn't have one without wireless access.
    • Re:Wireless Version (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nursie (632944) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:41AM (#28053743)

      It's got USB and an SD slot. You can get wireless devices that fit in either, so I should think it'll be ok.

  • by Vytalon (825024) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:46AM (#28053791) Homepage
    I was thinking of using it for monitoring and control in a smart house type environment. I there are several company making USB sensor packages and relay controls. I found some with Linux support at phidgets.com. You could have a full set of sensor in key room and relays to control lighting or fans.
  • More RAM (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spikedvodka (188722) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:46AM (#28053793)

    If it had more RAM it'd make a great web-development server. With only 512MB Ram, I think some SQL databases might be a bit much.

    I'm thinking throw a USB external HDD, or maybe just a 8GB Flash-drive on it, and "let'er-Rip"

    maybe also add a second USB port, so you can add a USB WIFI adaptor, though the GigaBit ethernet sounds nice.

    I can also see using one as a low-end monitoring server (Nagios), or network print server.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      Nowadays, I suppose you'd want a SAN and a beefy server to put your DB on, then you can add an 8-way powerstrip of these things as nicely load-balanced web frontends, all connected over iSCSI to the SAN too!

      That's if you need the kind of power that a 512Mb device can't handle for you - remember that a lot of web servers fitted with 512MB were considered midrange not that long ago (and it is considerably more than most people get with their VPSs)

      • by suggsjc (726146)

        8-way powerstrip of these things as nicely load-balanced web frontends

        That is a very interesting idea indeed...a grand total of $830 ($30 for the powerstrip). However, other than the novelty and space savings, how would the efficiency of these things compare to a pair of "tranditional" low powered/cheap web servers ($400 each) in terms of both $/throughput and $/watt?
        It would allow for easy/cheap capacity planning. $100 for an extra node in your webserver cluster...guess this would be a poor mans implementation of blade servers.

  • by chrisbtoo (41029) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:51AM (#28053881) Homepage Journal
    ... are using one to host their website.
  • by qoncept (599709) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:51AM (#28053889) Homepage
    "The first plausible use" for the thing is better served by a OpenWRT/dd-wrt router. As a web server, you might as well be using the computer you're on, or, if you're servering outsite your LAN, you should pay for real webhosting. I DO think it might be a good starting point for my networked home thermostat or even a full home automation system. But it's probably overkill.
  • by meist3r (1061628) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:51AM (#28053893)
    Hook up an external hard-drive or NAS and one of those USB displays http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS9676037801.html [linuxdevices.com] to create something like this: http://technewsline.net/displaylink-for-linux-turns-a-humble-wireless-router-into-a-beautiful-pc/ [technewsline.net]. I'd build myself a nice BitTorrent client for which I don't have to leave my computer on all the time. Other than that I'd use those as fileservers and for routing/processing duties. Any bets on when the first Beowulf wall cluster will emerge?
    • by Nursie (632944)

      Torrentflux-b4rt (with transmission underneath) runs adequately on an NSLU2. On the Sheevaplug it runs very nicely indeed, with plenty of resources left over for mediatomb and a whole load of other stuff. And all for a few watts.

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:54AM (#28053941)

    Our current home network setup has my wife and I primarily using laptops. Our printer, however, is shared out by a desktop computer upstairs. The desktop computer also acts as a file server. (For example, keeping years' worth of photos that we wouldn't keep on the individual laptops.) While the monitor is shut off unless the desktop computer is actively being used (rarely), we would definitely save power by turning the desktop computer off. This would mean, however, that we would need to go upstairs and turn it on whenever we wanted to print or retrieve a file.

    I wonder how much energy these wall wart servers draw. If it's less than a standard desktop PC (which I build back in 2002), then it might be worth it to buy one, hook up a large USB HDD and the printer and share those out. Anyone know if this is possible (laptop & desktop computers currently run Windows XP)? If it is possible, any ideas how much power (if any) I would save?

    • by Nursie (632944) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:04AM (#28054065)

      Take a look at this page. [cyrius.com]

      Martin Michlmayr is a debian contributor/porter/activist/whatever with a keen interest in these sorts of devices, he published some early power use figures.

      But in short, yes, I think you'd save a lot of power. Though you'd have to buy an HDD caddy and take the power consumption of that into account. We're still likely talking about a lot less than a full PC.

      As for it being possible - Using samba, a linux box can appear to windows machines in much the same way a windows machine does - with exposed shared directories and shared printers. It's fairly simple, though I've not done the printer bit for some time.

    • by jtev (133871)
      I'd give you a very strong probably on that. You'd still need to have a USB Hub to attach more than one device to this particular plug computer. But with Samba and CUPS you could set it up to share files and printing to the windows machines. Then attach a hard drive and the printer, and all will be good.
    • by tweak13 (1171627)

      Unless you focused on buying power saving components or a particularly efficient power supply, it wouldn't be totally unreasonable to assume about 100W for a desktop PC at idle. This wall wart computer probably pulls down about 5W when idle. The specifications page for the product lists 19W as the capacity of the power supply and I'm sure it's rated for more than it will ever need. An external USB drive with a script that powers it down after it isn't used for a period of time probably isn't going to add

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Does your wife know about these "years' worth of photos that we wouldn't keep on the individual laptops"?

    • by pz (113803)

      Our current home network setup has my wife and I primarily using laptops. Our printer, however, is shared out by a desktop computer upstairs. The desktop computer also acts as a file server. (For example, keeping years' worth of photos that we wouldn't keep on the individual laptops.) While the monitor is shut off unless the desktop computer is actively being used (rarely), we would definitely save power by turning the desktop computer off. This would mean, however, that we would need to go upstairs and turn it on whenever we wanted to print or retrieve a file.

      I wonder how much energy these wall wart servers draw. If it's less than a standard desktop PC (which I build back in 2002), then it might be worth it to buy one, hook up a large USB HDD and the printer and share those out. Anyone know if this is possible (laptop & desktop computers currently run Windows XP)? If it is possible, any ideas how much power (if any) I would save?

      In the New England region of the US, one desktop computer, left on 24 hours per day but idle most of the time, costs about $20 per month, in very rough figures. This is with the monitor powered down.

      I have no doubt that this varies by region, and it certainly varies with the class of hardware. If you're concerned about running costs, I would think seriously about undervolting / underclocking your server, ensuring that all disks spin down, and that it has a high-efficiency power supply. And, generally, mo

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JoeMerchant (803320)
      My old, underpowered (Celeron 800MHz) PC draws about 60 watts. My new(ish) QNap TS-109 NAS box draws something less than 20 and is a better file server... The new eeeBox desktop also draws less than 20.
  • by pfigura (1308835) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:54AM (#28053947)
    The actual link where to buy the wallwart was pretty deep linked from Marvells website. This is apparently the official place to buy these things: http://www.globalscaletechnologies.com/p-22-sheevaplug-dev-kit.aspx [globalscal...logies.com]
  • by TinBromide (921574) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:56AM (#28053961)
    you can get USB touch screens [gadgetadvisor.com] for (not cheap), but If you could tie a 7" USB touch screen to this device, you'd be able to create something that you can plug into almost any room and use for browsing, chat (rudimentary due to touch screen), and other very basic tasks.
    • by Compholio (770966)

      you can get USB touch screens ...

      Is the video done over USB or just the touch capability?

  • free food (Score:5, Funny)

    by thegreatemu (1457577) on Friday May 22, 2009 @09:58AM (#28053991)

    I've been trying to come up with a way to install a webcam somewhere in the department lounge so I can be the first to know when free food shows up...

    • Granted d'link has had a solution waiting for you for the past few years with its wireless security camera line [dlink.com], using this would be cheaper by half (100+$20 webcam vs $350).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Molochi (555357)

        There are a slew of little device servers that tend to be rather pricey that this device could replace. I think I paid $100 for a wireless printserver that only supports a single printer. I could run all 3 of mine off this gadget. And I could run my all in one off it, it wasn't supported by the printserver.

  • Scanner server (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doug Neal (195160) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:04AM (#28054059)

    I'm planning to try making one of these into a scanner server. It could potentially turn any plain old USB scanner into a network-attached scanner, using the vast array of SANE [sane-project.org] drivers available.

    Initially it should be very easy just to run an instance of saned, which lets SANE frontends talk to the backend over a TCP socket. A more ambitious project would be to combine the SheevaPlug with a web-based SANE frontend... the only one I could find was phpSANE but it seems to be a dead project...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Hadlock (143607)

      That would be great. The cost on double sided, "output to pdf" scanners is comming down and I'd love to not have a "fat" computer attached to one just so I can scan my mail. Scanner + wall wart server on the entryway table, with a trash can right below it. Scan and trash. W00t.

  • Logitech Duet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jackflap (715225) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:10AM (#28054167)
    Install NFS/Samba or whatever, mount a network drive from a NAS to it and then install Logitech's SqueezeCentre software so that the Logitech Duet can play tracks from your NAS rather than a PC.
  • "We want this device to be in your TV, your stereo system, your DVD player.'"

    Kinda like this [sigmadesigns.com]?

    It's not necessarily bad to be second. First-place sometimes gets the arrow in the chest. And you duck the incoming. But media server? In my DVD player? Well, maybe right after you make a remote that works, and we find a way past the CableCard fiasco. Until then, I welcome our alien Hulu-spewing overlords. That has promise.

    ps - Sorry for the PDF. I'm feeling retro this weekend.

  • We want this device to be in your TV, your stereo system, your DVD player.

    im in ur stereo, sharing ur tun3z!

    Seriously, what's the novelty here? This sort of thing [wikipedia.org] has been available for a long time. Maybe not pre-packaged into a wall plug, but certainly small enough that they could have been. Is it just that this one is pre-made and relatively cheap?

    • I think that it is pretty much the "cheap" part that does it, followed by the "quite hacker friendly out of the box" part.

      Single board computers and small embedded boards generally, tend either to be very expensive for their spec(in the case of dev units and relatively low volume industrial hardened stuff, like most PC104 boards) or super cheap; but rather hostile to would-be modders(in the case of mass market consumer stuff, like most consoles and cell phones).

      This one has the convenience of mass mark
  • downloads + vpn (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I've wanted an ultra-low power solution for these two reasons (but mostly the first):

    1. Overnight downloads ( usually bittorrent ). There's no reason to leave my entire PC turned on, when all I really need is an internet connection and storage. Combine this with a high capacity SD card and power savings should be huge.

    2. VPN / remote desktop. While at work, I often find it useful to connect to my home machine for various reasons. It could be for a secure IM connection, or it could be just to have acce

  • Nobody saw this and think "external HD + bittorrent"? Just leave it on for as long as you like. I'm always looking for ways to offload background tasks to lower-power devices, and the best I can do for P2P right now is a laptop with a USB HD. It's low power, but if I didn't have a spare old laptop then the next-cheapest thing would be a netbook, which I'd probably want to use as, well, a netbook...
  • I can't wait till someone installs Linux on it, and creats a beowulf cluster!

  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:34AM (#28054575)

    VPN'd to all your friends and family.

    Cruciall feature being trivial vpn config support.

     

  • This could be a space- and capital-efficient way to have many memcache servers. That was my first thought when I saw this.

  • X-10 gone wild (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant (803320) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:38AM (#28054625)
    First accessory I'd want for a smart wall-wart would be powerline networking (that works, unlike X-10 that seems to be about 99% reliable, which is crap when it's open loop.) The next most obvious accessories include things like:
    • relay switching / dimming of the power line for lamp control, simple appliance control
    • An LED "night light" that could also convey information
    • A motion sensor
    • Microphone / speaker for intercom / VOIP functions
    • Temp sensors for room by room environmental data (and subsequent control of HVAC diverters / thermostat)
    • Battery power backup

    Problem is that most of these functions would be happy without their own local CPU, but if the CPUs do drop below the $50 price point, it could be feasible to just have local CPUs anyway for data integrity, local signal processing, autonomous operation in the event of network failure, etc.

    Did it strike anyone else as lame that the MIT dude said he'd have it run a spam filter?

    • Why would a spam filter be lame? It's quite elegant compared to the canonical "old P3 in the closet" that people use.

  • by Bert64 (520050) <bert@slaSLACKWAR ... com minus distro> on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:43AM (#28054693) Homepage

    When will these devices become available in Europe?
    So far, i've only seen units designed for use in the US, which means they have a physically incompatible plug (and thus require a bulky adapter) and require 110V whereas european sockets provide 240V...

    • by swillden (191260)

      So far, i've only seen units designed for use in the US, which means they have a physically incompatible plug (and thus require a bulky adapter) and require 110V whereas european sockets provide 240V...

      According to the feature list [globalscal...logies.com], it handles 100-240VAC/50-60Hz. So you may need a plug adapter, but the voltage isn't an issue.

  • buy 9 more and cluster them. Then you can rent out processing time on your cluster.

  • Sorry if this was mentioned in the article...
    It would be nifty to get a bunch and hook them up as cheap compute farm.

  • by jhfry (829244) on Friday May 22, 2009 @01:21PM (#28057131)

    =profit!!

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