Diamond is Alice's desktop machine. It was purchased in 2006, and while it has been reliable, it seems to be running out of resources. In particular, we host a virtual machine Baobei on it, on which we run TurboTax, which has expanded, and it runs at the speed of an arthritic snail. It's time to upgrade the hardware.
We have current requirements for Diamond, but we also want to shift jobs to Diamond from Jacinth.
Diamond's main job is as Alice's desktop machine.
We would like to continue to use OpenSuSE Linux on this machine.
Virtualization is an absolute requirement, for the virtual machine Baobei (which runs Windows). Also we would like to use virtual machines on Diamond for development and testing. Virtual machines are disc pigs.
Low power is not a major requirement, but Alice does tend to use the machine a lot, for non-CPU-intensive tasks. The old machine was flaky doing suspend-to-RAM. I expect that the new one will be reliable and that we will be able to use the feature to minimize power use.
Reliable wake-on-LAN and USB wakeup are required. Timer wakeup is not likely to be needed. Wake from S3 (suspend to RAM) is most preferred. Wake from S4 (suspend to disc) is a distant second choice. Wake from S5 (remote power on) is helpful.
We want to move backup storage, the distro mirror repo, and databases from Jacinth to Diamond. Jacinth is the main gateway, and putting high-value material there is unwise in security. Also Jacinth is very slow in general, and some distro operations are painfully slow.
If backups are being done to Diamond, it must have a disc burner. An external (USB) drive is acceptable (and is what we're using now, on Jacinth).
The way the house net is arranged, the printer (USB) has to be on Diamond. This device also acts as a scanner.
Alice would like better sound on Diamond, since the wired connection to the speaker in the office has been decommitted.
The monitor presently on Diamond is excellent and we don't need to replace it. Similarly, peripherals such as the mouse and keyboard do not need to be replaced.
The house machines are trending to lower power and lower speed
CPUs, and for CPU-intensive tasks it would be nice to have a
real processor in one machine, provided it doesn't turn the
machine into a power pig when used for ordinary desktop jobs.
Are we going to need a USB hub? Expected USB devices are:
Likely we will have enough USB ports on the machine itself and won't need a hub.
Networking is now, and will continue as, 802.3 100baseT Ethernet to a MOCA bridge.
How much disc space do we want? Currently we have a Seagate
Barracuda 160Gb 7200RPM (SATA). Jacinth's storage is also 160Gb.
It is not exactly maxed out, but we should probably get 250Gb to 500Gb.
I want to continue with Seagate products due to their good reputation.
Almost certainly the machine will take laptop drives internally, but I would
like to get 7200RPM if available. If at all possible I would like to get
a discless machine and provide my own drive, rather than taking the vendor's
There are quite a number of possibilities for the replacement machine.
UCLA-Mathnet is replacing computers, and a lot of Dell Optiplex 755's and 785's are going to be donated or recycled. I could easily have one of them. However, they are about as old as the existing machine, a Dell E520. I don't think we're going to take advantage of this opportunity.
The obvious choice is a new Dell desktop machine. However, we have
noticed that Dell's quality has decreased in recent years, and we're moving
away from Dell. Also, Dell motherboards tend to be power pigs. For example,
Zino 400HD (from 2009) draws 29 watts at idle, or 43W with the
CPU maxed out, which is better than the present Diamond, but not much. We're
soon going to have one of these available, but I think I want to keep looking.
We have a Zotac Z-Box AD03BR with an AMD E-350
processor. This is a good machine with one very large, gross fly in the
ointment: when waking from S3 (suspend to RAM) it often freezes up with the
CPU maxed. I'll bet the BIOS is at fault. This disqualifies it for the role
as Diamond's replacement, either the instance we already have, or a new one.
Often mentioned in connection with low power computing is
CompuLab Ltd., manufacturing
complete industrial PCs, single board computers, etc. They are physically
located in Israel but to USA and Canada destinations they ship from an office
in Florida. They have a branding division called
Fit-PC for use outside of the factory.
On the website find this product line under
Looking at their product line, some of which are available on Amazon:
It is offered in 6 variants. The processor can be Intel Atom Z530 1.6GHz or Z510 1.1GHz; 1 or 2Gb RAM; 250Gb rotating disc or 16Gb flash disc or no disc; with or without WiFi (mini-PCI); Win7 or Linux. Other features: Intel GMA500 graphics (1080p via HDMI connector); audio AC'97 and S/PDIF; 1Gb/s ether; 802.11n WiFi (RaLink RT3090); 6x USB 2.0; IR receiver; Phoenix BIOS. Physical size: 101 x 115 x 27mm, 370 grams, 0-45 C operating (limited by the disc), die cast aluminum case. Power: 6W idle, 7W for 1080p, 8W max CPU, 0.5W asleep. Power brick and HDMI to DVI adapter are included.
Lowest variant: $275 from Amazon (discless). Higher variant (discless): $482. Amazon has a fin assembly (heatsink) for this unit, about the same size, for $15, recommended by reviewers.
Fit-PC2 normally does not boot when power is applied. Specify
auto-on when ordering; this gets you a hack on the motherboard
so it always boots when power comes on. Fit-PC2i always does auto-on.
Almost the same thing, but this kind has 2x 802.3 1GHz (vs. one); 4x USB 2.0 (vs. 6) (the front 2 ports are mini-USB and an adapter to type A is sold separately); no IR, yes serial port, no mini-PCI (vs. optional internal Wifi). Current dual core model apparently uses the Atom Z550 (vs. Z510).
The current revision 1.2 responds to wake-on-LAN.
Lowest variant: $279 from Amazon. Higher diskless variant $486. When ordering direct, prices are generally similar, ships from Florida.
This product is credible as a replacement for Jacinth or as an audio playback node.
It is offered in 4 variants.
Amazon has the CompuLab fit-PC3 Pro Diskless, AMD 1.65 GHz dual core, RAM 4GB, Internal bay for 2.5" SATA HDD, $379, sold by Compulab and fulfilled by Amazon. Model: fit-PC3-D2x2-T56N-WB-FM4U. Includes 802.11bgn wireless. Physical size: 6.3 x 7.5 x 1.5in. Also available: fit-PC2 and 2i; fit-PC3 with AMD G-T40N (1.0GHz dual core) ($299); fit-PC3 with AMD 1.65GHz and 250Gb disc ($449).
Looking at the Novabench result list,
In this forum post on Tom's Hardware, OP Collier2010 (2011-11-01) starts a discussion of NovaBench. It appears to test integer arithmetic, MD5 hashing, floating point, 3d graphics, RAM speed, and disc write speed. Windows and Mac only. A number of respondents complained that scores, particularly the composite score, were higher or lower than expected. (Likely any benchmark will have this problem.) Clearly it's testing the complete system, and the composite score is not entirely relevant to the CPU specifically.
Review of Fit-PC3 on Engadget by Tim Stevens (2011-01-19). He
identifies the 1.6GHz processor as the AMD
Fusion Zacate, same
as in Iris.
This one would make a good replacement for the Z-Box (Iris), if we didn't want to return the Zino (Aurora) to this role.
This family has higher CPU power.
Novabench scores of these CPUs:
Not on Amazon. If ordered direct, we would be getting the
PC Pro Barebone with CPU Intel i7-3517UE, no RAM, no disc, no OS, yes
WiFi, 4x USB 2.0 ports on the front. $799 + shipping and tax. Ships from
the Florida office within 2 weeks.
Review on Phoronix by Michael Larabel (2012-09-08). The Core i7 processor has the IvyBridge chipset. It is fanless (cook eggs on top?) He says it got very warm under load but he didn't encounter thermal-related performance issues (what might that mean?) No compatibility problems reported (presumably with 3.4.x kernel). The reviewer liked it.
This one, with the Intel i7 CPU, is the one I'm targeting for replacing Diamond.
If we got the Compulabs Intense PC, what else would we need to buy?
These are offered on Amazon:
Seagate Momentus 7200 750 GB 7200RPM SATA 3Gb/s 16 MB Cache 2.5 Inch Internal Notebook Hard Drive -Bare Drive ST9750420AS. Various sizes:
Sustained data rate 76 Mb/sec. A reviewer (2011-12-27) says his 750Gb drive was flaky, developing at least 2 bad sectors within 2 weeks of installation. Also, the 750Gb drive uses 4K sectors, and you need to update your Intel Matrix Storage Manager or it won't work (doesn't say which kind of Windows).
Although Seagate has likely fixed this problem, I think I'm going with the 500Gb drive.
The two major vendors on Amazon are Corsair and Kingston. Which one? I've heard of Kingston, so I think I will do the dumb thing and specify that vendor. They are well regarded in reviews. We need DDR3 1600MHz SODIMM dual channel, 2 slots, up to 8Gb each.
Kingston Technology HyperX 8 GB (2x4 GB Modules) 1600 MHz DDR3 SODIMM Dual Channel Kit (PC3 12800) 204-Pin SDRAM KHX1600C9S3P1K2/8G, $66 for the pair. Non ECC.
I really am not sure about 24 watts in this size of case; Jacinth is hot enough at 10 watts. The ideal would be a an external fan that the machine could signal to turn on, but that's not going to happen. This is the USB powered fan I've picked out:
Thermaltake Mobile Fan II External USB Cooling Fan , $14. It has a speed control knob and is said to be very quiet if you turn it down. Comes with a special cable (USB type A male on one end, Molex thingy on the other) in a wind-up hub. Claimed 30k hours MTBF. Uses 2W. Reviewers like it.
I ordered the CompuLab (Fit-PC) Intense PC from CompuLab for USD $799 (2013-04-06).