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

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

    by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:30AM (#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.

  • 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.
  • Wireless Version (Score:2, Interesting)

    by notarockstar1979 ( 1521239 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:36AM (#28053683) Journal
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:42AM (#28053765)

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

  • by Vytalon ( 825024 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:46AM (#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.
  • by meist3r ( 1061628 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:51AM (#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 Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:54AM (#28053941) Homepage

    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 TinBromide ( 921574 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @10:56AM (#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.
  • Scanner server (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doug Neal ( 195160 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:04AM (#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...

  • Logitech Duet (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jackflap ( 715225 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:10AM (#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.
  • downloads + vpn (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:20AM (#28054343)

    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 access to a different IP address for testing.

  • Re:Scanner server (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:33AM (#28054561) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:34AM (#28054575)

    VPN'd to all your friends and family.

    Cruciall feature being trivial vpn config support.


  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:37AM (#28054615) Journal
    I agree that this device, at present, is a trifle too limited. USB expansion works; but it gets rather clunky if you want more than a few devices. On the plus side, the platform on which it is based [marvell.com] offers a variety of more serious expansion options(2x SATA, 2xGbE, 1xUSB, 1xPCIe, and a bunch of serial and similar). It would be quite easy and, I suspect, quite likely for either Marvell or third parties to build slightly more expensive and substantially more functional versions of the device.
  • X-10 gone wild (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:38AM (#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?

  • by OldSoldier ( 168889 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:43AM (#28054695)

    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 is wrong... "what would you do with 'one' wall-wart" may be missing the point... may not be much you can do with one, but with lots???

  • Re:P2P (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @11:43AM (#28054701) Homepage Journal

    I'm doing just that with a Buffalo Linkstation Live. It's sold as a network drive, but it is a complete ARM server running Linux, at least after you install a proper distro. At 400 MHz and 128 MB, it's not as powerful as this wall wart, but on the other hand it has a proper SATA drive.

    http://www.nas-central.org/index.php/Main_Page [nas-central.org]

  • Re:free food (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Molochi ( 555357 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:15PM (#28055165)

    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.

  • by RawsonDR ( 1029682 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:41PM (#28055573)

    quite likely for either Marvell or third parties to build slightly more expensive and substantially more functional versions of the device.

    Bingo. This product is simply their entry into the market. It IS quite likely that it will eventually be $40, but there will still be a $99 ******Plug, uncoincidentally containing a couple of the upgraded features dev's will want to utilize.

  • by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @12:59PM (#28055837)

    They got a slightly larger version, not plug form unfortunately, that brings out both GigE ports, an Esata connector, and 7 USB ports(although it looks like you could only use all of them with extension cables).

    200 bucks, though. Kinda pushes it.

    http://globalscaletechnologies.com/p-21-openrd-client.aspx [globalscal...logies.com]

  • Re:I've got one (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eap ( 91469 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @01:30PM (#28056341) Journal

    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.

  • by digsbo ( 1292334 ) on Friday May 22, 2009 @03:02PM (#28057795)
    True. Also, I'm sure there was a lot of debate for them to decide whether to add that stuff and push the price over $100. I would expect, if they get enough interest, they will offer such an item next year (1GB RAM, 2-3 USB, maybe wifi), and could do it for the same price.

An elephant is a mouse with an operating system.