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Linux Wall Warts Small On Size, Big On Possibilities 316

davidmwilliams writes "Every geek and technology lover will undoubtedly have stumbled across online adverts for tiny headless Linux-powered devices that are barely larger than the power point they plug into. What can you actually do with them? Plenty, it seems!"
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Linux Wall Warts Small On Size, Big On Possibilities

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  • oh man (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @03:50PM (#33280006) Homepage

    Firewalls, Torrent Slaves, Front end for a "remote desktop" style connection, small traveling computer for a hotel that has a flat screen, etc.

  • No wireless? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by slaxative ( 1867220 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @03:53PM (#33280056)
    After reading the article I am rather surprised there is no wireless interface. They could have saved one more cable.
  • by IICV ( 652597 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @03:56PM (#33280098)

    Isn't this like the billionth Slashvertizement for SheevaPlugs? They're neat and all, but I think at this point everyone here knows about those things. I'll probably get one if I can ever think of a use for it.

  • Re:Wall warts? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SnarfQuest ( 469614 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:00PM (#33280152)

    these devices are the same size and shape as many of the transformers used to power such things as laptops and video games. If you didn't know they were a complete computer, you'd be looking for the device that it was powering. The only difference you can see is that instead of a power cable going to some device, you have a network cable going into a router.

    Since they look like a "wall wart", it isn't that surprising that they get called by the same name. These things are SMALL.

  • by EvanED ( 569694 ) <> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:06PM (#33280266)

    The gigabit Ethernet and on-board USB 2.0 means the device could be a media server, a file server or print server for your network.

    Print server I can see; that'd actually be pretty spiffy. But a media server? File server? With 512 MB of flash?

    Sure you could add an external drive, but at that point why not just get a laptop or something?

  • What indeed? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zouden ( 232738 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:16PM (#33280406)

    "What can you actually do with them? Plenty, it seems!"

    Not really. The article spent 3 pages to say that you could use it as a file server with an external hard drive or... a web server. That's it?

    This reads more like a slashvertisement for a product with no real purpose. Yes, it's great that it's cheap and runs linux, but if you need an external hard drive to get any real use out of it, what's the point in making it so small? Just make it the size of a caddy.

  • by proxima ( 165692 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:20PM (#33280446)

    The article mentions internet router, file storage, and print server. Really? That's the best you can do?

    A decent dd-wrt compatible router is pretty inexpensive, and will give you a few port switch and a decent set of wireless antennas. Most people aren't so constrained on space that they can't tuck one away somewhere. They often include the capability of handling USB hard drives as well for file or print sharing. Many printers these days have built in ethernet or wireless to handle their own print serving capability.

    Devices of this size do have possibilities, but the article doesn't mention anything really interesting. Apple has had its airport express base station for a while, and while it's mostly an ordinary wireless N router, it does provide music sharing via airtunes which works well if you happen to use the Apple/iTunes ecosystem for music.

    So what do you do with a tiny Linux box? mpd or a squeezebox client would provide music sharing (though you can get Logitech's own radio for $100-$150, and it comes complete with a screen and controls). It would either need a good quality sound chip on it (unlikely) or a decent USB sound card (added expense, though).

    What would be really neat is if they had an HDMI port for a thin client. Maybe an install of Android and its browser to turn a smaller LCD monitor into a little internet browsing box in otherwise cramped spaces (e.g. kitchen). Or have something powered off 12V and use it as the basis for a car computer.

    Even with the current offerings, I'm sure there are much more interesting ideas that people could come up with (probably involving more significant hacking) than a file or print server.

  • by bhima ( 46039 ) * <> on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:22PM (#33280480) Journal

    I don't think there is an ARM port for puppy. So you'd be setting yourself up for a fair bit of work.

  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:23PM (#33280486)

    Sheeva plug as a server? Is this a joke? No raid or redundancy and these things are infamous for blowing caps, overheating, and other hardware issues tells me you need to start doing testing before publicly proclaiming your business plan.

    Oh and those "big ol fancy servers" no one needs? You're paying for raid, hardware warranty, same/next day parts, dual power supplies, support, proper engineering, etc. If your company came to me with one of those toys as a "solution" you'd be walking out of my office with that sheeva plug shoved in your own "plug."

  • by Anrego ( 830717 ) * on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:39PM (#33280694)

    Totally agree..

    Not saying a small business (especially if not IT based) needs an "enterprise" level server.. but running web and email off one of these things sounds very dubious.

    Probably better off with a hosted solution.. most ISPs won't let you run a server on a standard plan .. and though you tend to get away with it.. I wouldn't have "hope my ISP ignores this" in my business plan. As soon as you start paying for a business ISP account you may as well pay the excess and get all the redundancy and proper data center perks.

  • Re:oh man (Score:2, Insightful)

    by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @04:49PM (#33280818) Journal

    >>>Torrent Slaves

    Ooops read my mind! It would save a lot of money to have a 5 watt Torrent-downloading plug to download my favorite TV shows,* versus leaving my ~150 watt computer running all the time. Some quick math: 0.140 kilowatt * 24 * 365 * 12 cents per KWh == about 140 dollars saved.

    Okay maybe not a lot of money. In fact: Never mind. I'll just use my laptop to save electricity. ;-)

    * Trivia - 5 watt is the US-enforced maximum wattage allowed on Digital TV converter boxes.

  • Re:oh man (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Blymie ( 231220 ) on Tuesday August 17, 2010 @11:27PM (#33284568)

    "In US usage, especially colloquial, of is often omitted, as in "I went there a couple times"."

    "Especially colloquial", indeed. From where I sit, this highlights why Wiktionary has failed me at every use. Using this "dictionary" to defend the dropping of "of", is the same as using "Ain't" all over the place, because Wiktionary claims "However, its use is common among all social classes".

    Common among all social classes, my ass. Yes, you see the Trumps (or the people they call peers), using ain't regularly.

    This dictionary is a FAILURE. It will always be a failure, because most of the people editing it, are not capable of proper english usage!

    (and yes, I left "english" lower case on purpose..)

  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Wednesday August 18, 2010 @11:32AM (#33289160) Homepage Journal

    Comcast, FiOS, DirecTV, and DISH all need access cards.

    I don't consider any of those to be relevant comparisons. The benchmark for the basic level of functionality is analog cable. Remember the words "cable ready?" Remember when you could plug the cable into anything -- a TV, a Tivo Series 1, a PCI tuner card -- and it Just Worked? I sure do. I paid Comcast literally thousands of dollars for that over the course of many years. It was a proven business model, and it's the reason that Comcast didn't close their doors decades ago.

    Apparently some bean counter looked at all that money reliably coming in, month after month, year after year, and decided, "We need to do something about this. Can we use the switch to digital as some sort of excuse to get paying customers to go away?"

    What should people switch to?

    Piracy, until they offer the basic level of functionality that we've come to expect. I didn't pirate before, and I won't pirate after. I can't believe you asked that, because it's such an easy question. You can even verify that's it's probably the best answer, by the usual tools of ethics.

    "What if everyone pirated TV until the basic level of service we expect were offered?" Answer: a service that Just Works would appear. You'd plug your cable into the back of your TV or HDHomeRun or whatever, and there are the TV shows that you paid for, hassle-free.

    "What if not enough people pirate TV until the basic level of service we expect is offered?" Answer: the TV companies will never get serious and professional. People will continue paying for something that would have made everyone laugh with derision just ten years ago.

    It's pretty obvious that it's the best thing for everyone to do.

    There are plenty of amateurs out there who are willing to go through the inconvenience of repairing content to make it Just-Works-Ready, but I think the situation is not quite ideal. If a professional organization were to offer that, and use a better distribution tech than bittorrent (imagine some kind of multicast technology which could be received by some sort of standardized "tuner") it would flourish. How much would I pay for

    • works with any device without needless resolution loss
    • time-shiftable
    • no legal risks
    • no missing a few episodes of The Daily Show last week because some amateur took a break
    • vastly improved performance (bittorrent works, but it also kind of sucks)

    as well as other conveniences, feeding right into my MythTV? Shit, I'd pay $50/month for that. And I can prove it: I did it for many years (except with a Tivo1 instead of Myth), as did millions of other people. We all know this works. Comcast could crush their pirate competitors in a heartbeat if they just put their mind to it, and they wouldn't even have to underbid them. Until then, though, piracy is the only game in town. Nobody else offers it at any price.

    I'm not saying it would be free of consequences to the TV delivery company. Whatever TV company is able to come out with Just-Works service first, is going to have the same problem that cable companies had in times past: income. The poor bastards are going to have to hire accountants to keep track of all the money, pay more taxes, etc. It won't be easy, but that's the price of having stockholders. I know some cable exec is muttering, "fucking stockholders, all they want is a growing base of paying customers. Why can't they leave us alone?" to which I respond: Nobody held a gun to your head and said you had to work at a for-profit business. If money repels you so much, you can always join the Peace Corps.

    And since when does BitTorrent work for live sports or live news?

    (I get live news from over-the-air local channels, but I guess that's not universal.) Bittorrent won't get you those things right now, and yet it is The Way to eventually get them. Anyone who wants live news and sports to come back, is going to have to take a long-term strategic view. Pirate today, working realtime TV tomorrow.

FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner