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Low-Power Home Linux Server?

Soulskill posted about 5 years ago | from the how-long-can-a-car-battery-power-it dept.

Power 697

mpol writes "For years I've been using a home server with Linux, but recently I've been having doubts about the electric bill. I'm not touched by the recession yet, but I would like to cut costs, and going from a 100-Watt system to a 30-Watt system would save me 70 bucks a year. The system doesn't need to do much, just apache, imap, ssh and some nfs, but I do prefer to have a full-fledged system, where I can choose what to install on it. I also don't really care if it's a low-power Via or an ARM processor as long as it's cheap. I'm aiming for $300 or less for a full system, which I could then earn back in about four years through power savings. I've been reading about the Western Digital Mybook World Edition, which has an ARM processor but isn't that easy to install Debian on. A Mac Mini draws about 85 Watts, so that isn't an option either. Something a bit more than turn-key would be fine, but preferably not a complete hack-job. Adding a temporary CR-ROM or DVD-ROM, or a USB disk with an iso to install from would be nice. Any Slashdotters run nice and cheap low-power Linux systems? What can you recommend?"

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Linkstation Pro Duo (4, Interesting)

ceswiedler (165311) | about 5 years ago | (#29865387)

I'm working on getting a Buffalo Linkstation Pro Duo [] set up with Debian Lenny. It's mostly complete, I'm rebuilding the kernel as I type to get USB printer support working. It's very compact and low-power, and has mirrored 500 GB disks, which I think is essential for any home server.

The downside is that I had to solder on a serial connection in order to get access to uboot (a bootloader similar in concept to GRUB) so I could view early kernel output and diagnose problems, log in if networking didn't come up, etc. If you can find a NAS device which supports a serial console (or at least can use netcat instead), that would be good.

One thing to be aware of is that you get a lot less CPU power with these low-watt ARM CPUs. The Linkstation Duo is great for fileserving, printing, and light email and webserving duties, but when I installed Gallery and postgres to view my photos over the web, it ran extremely slowly. That's not too surprising given it's a NAS not a full-fledged server, but it's something to keep in mind. You may only need a low-power device for 90% of your apps, but that last 10% can use a surprising amount of CPU.

Re:Linkstation Pro Duo (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865459)

I have a DNS-323 which looks similar. You can indeed install Debian on it, but it seems that some of the peripherals are not handled properly, in particulare the thermal sensors.

My current mini-server of choice is the Micro-Client Jr DX (~10W)

Re:Linkstation Pro Duo (3, Interesting)

karnal (22275) | about 5 years ago | (#29865681)

All I do from my home Linux server is read/write files - mostly from Windows clients, but I have a few Linux clients as well. Also some very basic MRTG which I usually don't even look at anyways. One thing I've consistently read about NAS devices is that they won't necessarily have the horsepower to push the network connection on file read/writes to the max.

What's your experience with the speed of files in and out of the Buffalo device?

Re:Linkstation Pro Duo (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865771)

i don't know if it's the nappy hair or the large flat noses or what, but does anyone else think that most black women they have ever seen are pretty damned ugly? there's a few exceptions but not many. black men must agree or else they wouldn't consider white women such trophies. hell they don't even seem to mind FAT white women as long as they're white and that's gotta tell ya something! Then there's the way that most black women have attitudes that make you wonder if they all grew up in boot camp or in a Catholic school, very tense, edgy, controlling, and bitchy. Seriously it's rare to find a sweet one who knows how to relax and doesn't bitch up a storm about absolutely nothing.

and why is it that commercials and media love to show a black man kissing a white woman, but they never show a white man kissing a black woman? is there some kind of unwritten rule about this that nobody wants to talk about?

Re:Linkstation Pro Duo (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | about 5 years ago | (#29865735)

I'm actually running an old P3 machine, and it idles around 30w, but today I would have gone for a VIA or Atom solution.

It all depends on what you want to do and how much computing power you need.

Don't forget that disks and other items also require some power.

Underclocking (5, Interesting)

XPeter (1429763) | about 5 years ago | (#29865397)

You don't look like you need extensive processing power, so why not just underclock your current server? That alone will save you a pretty penny on your bill.

Also, the mac mini draws 110 watts

Re:Underclocking (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865741)

110 W is the power adapter max output, so that your Mac Mini is able to run both cores at 100% and power 5 USB drives for example. Actual power depends on actual usage.

Re:Underclocking (5, Informative)

Sorny (521429) | about 5 years ago | (#29865759)

I get a whopping 35 Watts used running SETI@home on my Mini... That is with a bus powered FW external HDD for Time Machine hooked up and not spinning down the disks when idle.

A Mac Mini uses nowhere near the power you claim, unless you've got a case where both cores, the GPU, the HDD, and the DVD Burner all all running full tilt at once; a pretty tough thing to do with the use described by the submitter, I'd say.

X86 ok? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865403)

Have you looked into AMD Athlon 64 Neo or an Intel ION system?

Sheeva Plug (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865417)

Get a Sheeva plug its 5W and it looks like an adapter.

Got me one of these (4, Informative)

Nursie (632944) | about 5 years ago | (#29865749)

Highly recommended.

I installed debian (lenny) and then updated to squeeze because (and this is to be expected) the squeeze installer is currently borked. Attached to an external drive caddy this solution chopuld come in well under your 30W and will do all you need.

I have mine serving media to the PS3, downloading stuff, serving my music collection to wherever I happen to be, doing Samba, NFS, TFTP, SSH, SMTP and IMAP.... it's a great.

Re:Sheeva Plug (4, Informative)

Headworx (1664123) | about 5 years ago | (#29865763)

I agree, nothing beats Sheeva... I have two servers running on this platform... One gathers information from weather sensors - some 30 of them, the other one is running Ubuntu 9.04 as a FTP/Web server for periodically changing content... Pretty impressive performance for $99 and 7 Watts... []

Re:Sheeva Plug (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865773)

I have one. It is preloaded with Ubuntu. This is a no-brainer.

Re:Sheeva Plug (4, Informative)

hansamurai (907719) | about 5 years ago | (#29865783)

I've had one of these for about two months now and it's amazing. It needs a bit of configuration out of the box to fix some of the odd choices Marvell made in their distribution, but there's two great wikis that support the SheevaPlug so there's plenty of help. I'd highly recommend it, super low power, very small, and totally open for you to mess with if you'd like.

I use mine as a media server and rtorrent downloader. It can serve up multiple samba streams at a time without a hitch. It also has a USB port that I have an external HDD plugged into, though it has its own power plug too (though there are some 2.5 drives that can be powered off USB).

Definitely get the dev kit, has an SD card slot and serial USB port in addition to the normal USB and ethernet ports.

Go with the Digi-Comp (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865423)

PicoITX from VIA (1)

TheDarkMaster (1292526) | about 5 years ago | (#29865429)

Maybe something like this [] solves your problem? With a low-power PSU (on VIA too), you will get a low-power PC with a lot of flexibility

Mac Mini idles at 13 watts! (4, Insightful) (463190) | about 5 years ago | (#29865437)

Where on earth did you get 85? Are you reading that off the power brick? Those figures are meaningless for this purpose - that's the total load the PS is rated to deliver, not the average load at the wall socket.

The Mac Mini has all the components and power management features of a notebook so it's going to be about as good as you can get. For less money, the FitPC or a second-hand laptop is probably the next best choice.

Re:Mac Mini idles at 13 watts! (1)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | about 5 years ago | (#29865457)

Hint: servers don't idle. He is talking full load.

Re:Mac Mini idles at 13 watts! (2, Insightful)

RedK (112790) | about 5 years ago | (#29865521)

Hint : He's not running an enterprise off his server. It's going to be idling most of the time (and no, idling doesn't mean sleep or hibernation).

Re:Mac Mini idles at 13 watts! (2, Informative)

Sorny (521429) | about 5 years ago | (#29865649)

Funny, my Mac Mini (running SETI@home 24x7) uses about 35 Watts with both cores at 100%. That is with an external FW bus powered backup drive hooked up as well (which draws a few Watts by itself). APC might be lying to me about the draw, but somehow I doubt it.

Mind you, a Mini is still out of the projected price range anyway...

Re:Mac Mini idles at 13 watts! (4, Insightful) (463190) | about 5 years ago | (#29865515)

Here is Apples's spec on the power usage: []

I have confirmed 13W on a recent model using a kill-a-watt meter.

Fit-PC2 (Intel Atom) uses only 6W at idle, 8W full load.

Re:Mac Mini idles at 13 watts! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865717)

Yes, the OP doesn't seem to understand modern power management. If you get a laptop class chipset and CPU and integrated graphics, the system can be on 24x7 and draw very low power. The laptop-style HDDs (or SSDs) are also good for a light use home server because they can spin down frequently when idle, actually spin up quickly enough to serve requests without timeouts (unlike desktop class HDDs), and even draw much less power at active idle.

Another option is used laptops. My 5 year old Thinkpad X40 (1.0 GHz Pentium-M) is both faster and lower power consumption than an Asus Eee Box (1.7 GHz Atom N270) while having similar specifications as far as RAM and HDD capacity. It also has good Intel gigabit ethernet, Atheros ABG wireless, and a built-in screen and keyboard for diagnostics and configuration. I'm currently using it as an OpenWRT wireless access point because it is faster and more stable than the integrated wireless in my cable router.

Mac Mini (2, Insightful)

Evro (18923) | about 5 years ago | (#29865451)

You mentioned a Mac Mini, but what if you put Linux on the Mac Mini and clock it to 500 mhz? Maybe you can shut down one of the cores somehow to conserve more power.

Marvell Sheevaplug (1) (1542279) | about 5 years ago | (#29865453)

I've been thinking of getting one of these for similar purposes: [] You'll probably need to hook up an USB drive, and what not, but still seems intriguing. They claim 2.3W idle power consumption, with no attached devices.

Re:Marvell Sheevaplug (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865565)

For a powered hub (13Watts) with audio, video, Ethernet and 4 USB2.0 ports, see the Plugable Technologies Docking Station at $100:

Laptop (5, Interesting)

talcite (1258586) | about 5 years ago | (#29865461)

An old laptop will probably give you the lowest power for the cheapest cost. It doesn't sound like reliability or performance is your main concern. You can disassemble it and take out the LCD to save a couple more watts if you want, but a typical laptop draws between 10-20 watts.

Re:Laptop (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865761)

Does the LCD draw significant power if it is shut off while the lid is closed?

Turn off your server and hold your breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865463)


Re:Turn off your server and hold your breath (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 5 years ago | (#29865581)

You could try combining wake-on-lan and tuxonice. That should be able to operate the server at 0 watt half of the day, with the power-on delay being 1 min.

Need more information (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 5 years ago | (#29865469)

A BeagleBoard is well supported by Linux and draws under 1W in typical operation. It supports USB and MMC+ for peripherals and storage, but there's no IDE or SATA so you won't be able to connect it to an array of disks, for example. For the simple tasks you want it will probably be more than adequate, but when you say 'apache, imap and nfs' that could mean anything; is it just a single user occasionally accessing files, or do you want to host complex web apps for a few thousand visitors?

Open-Rd (1)

nukem996 (624036) | about 5 years ago | (#29865477)

I'm doing some ARM development and we use an OpenRD( board to compile and test some apps. It has dual NICs, a ton of USB ports, and an eSATA port. Internally it only has a 4G SATA DOM so you probably want to use some sort of external media. It comes with Debian Lenny installed, but you can install other things. The biggest pain in the ass is dealing with uboot but once you get it working its like a normal PC.

How about a Linksys router or D-Link NAS box (4, Informative)

thomasdz (178114) | about 5 years ago | (#29865483)

The Linksys WRT54G router runs a version of Linux in an open source distribution...
Or a D-Link DNS 323 NAS box... there's quite an active hacking community using these boxes...

nettop (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865487)

I got worried about this about a year ago. So, I bought one of those MSI wind nettop barebones systems. They are based on the Intel Atom, so it is fairly low power. I picked the single-core model in order to reduce power usage. Then I bought a pen drive and a compact flash card and an SDHC card. I put the compact flash card on the connector on the motherboard. This puts it on the IDE channel. I put the SDHC card into the SDHC reader on the front panel of the machine. I put the pen drive on a USB port. I set up a 3-way striped software raid situation and ended up with a relatively cheap, relatively fast 32 GB partition. I think that probably saved a bit of energy over installing a hard drive. It runs Linux and is pretty quick and I think pretty low power.

eeebox (1)

godrik (1287354) | about 5 years ago | (#29865497)

I am using a eeebox at home as a file/web server and to do music and video in my living room. The first models B202 uses around 30W of power and doesnot make much noise (eay less than my fridge). There is no optical drive. It can not render full HD but 720p can still be done.

It may not be what you are looking for, but I think it is a faire reference point.

scrounge an old laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865505)

I would have said use a linksys router or an old pda, but when you say apache/NFS it sounds like you want a hard disk. If the amount of data is less than a few GB you can of course use a flash card instead. Hmm, in that case a PDA may be enough. Or a gumstix board ( or beagle board ( if you want to get a bit fancy.

So it's $70 a year.... (2, Insightful)

iamhassi (659463) | about 5 years ago | (#29865511)

Even if going to a new system would save $70 a year, how much would a new system cost? $300? So it would take 4 yrs just to pay off. My advice? Go with a old p3 laptop with external USB drives or forget the whole thing because it's not really that cost effective.

Re:So it's $70 a year.... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865575)

It's not about the money. It's about using less energy. Less so, but it's also about leading by example for the next person that wants to run a server.

Re:So it's $70 a year.... (4, Insightful)

jumpingfred (244629) | about 5 years ago | (#29865601)

There is a lot of energy that goes into making a new computer. You need to factor that in before you can decide if you are really saving energy.

Re:So it's $70 a year.... (1)

iamhassi (659463) | about 5 years ago | (#29865653)

and how much energy goes into tossing the "old" stuff into the trash and creating all new?

If he was building his first server and trying to make it as efficient as possible I'd be all for it, but tossing what works to buy all new just to save a few watts is a waste. Besides a 100w server is already pretty efficient given our current technology, only way he would beat that is going with a laptop which typically draw 15 to 45 watts [] .

Mac Mini power usage (1)

techmuse (160085) | about 5 years ago | (#29865525)

That sounds rather high for the Mini. Apple claims [] that the new mini uses 14 Watts when idle. Typical laptops use 30-40 Watts or less when idle.

Your best bets are probably the Mac Mini, or another computer with an ultra low voltage desktop chip, an ARM processor, or a low voltage mobile processor. Laptops would be particularly good. Use an SSD instead of a hard drive. Use enough memory to cache your files so you don't have to keep hitting the drive, but don't use more than that, because memory takes power too. Don't use a display. Don't hook up unneeded devices to it - they draw power.

Via Epia 5000 (4, Interesting)

robertkeizer (1596715) | about 5 years ago | (#29865527)

I just finished setting up a via epia 5000 - it maxes out at 20watts power and runs a 533mhz cpu. It retails for about $100 US.

Re:Via Epia 5000 (2, Interesting)

jeroen94704 (542819) | about 5 years ago | (#29865701)

Second that. My home server runs FreeNAS on an EPIA 5000. Including a gigabit ethernet card, 4-port SATA card and four 1 TB drives, this system draws about 35 watts. When the drives spin down, power usage drops to
One downside is that the EPIA 5000 is too light-weight to do software RAID (even JBOD), which I found out the hard way (by losing data!), so I am now running the HD's as plain, separate partitions.

Re:Via Epia 5000 another vote (2, Interesting)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 5 years ago | (#29865801)

I have one set up too. With no disk (CF card on a CF-IDE adapter) it's as slow as a dog for loading programs, but only uses 13Watts. Plus it's completely silent. So long as you have enough RAM to keep all your apps resident, their response times won't be too bad. Plus writes to cache help speed things up - so long as your electricity supply is reliable.

Not great for surfing, or HD video but a home server is generally just passing data around and leaves the compute intensive stuff to the users' PCs.

SheevaPlug, Open-RD, Beagleboard (1)

joib (70841) | about 5 years ago | (#29865529)

.. and certainly others too. Lots of exciting hardware available.

Mac Mini or Sheeva Plug (4, Informative)

IceFox (18179) | about 5 years ago | (#29865531)

I recently went through the same search, two good options show up 1) Get a mac mini. The idle power consumption is 13 watts. You get a dvd rom, intel cpu, video out if you need it etc. It costs more and the high cpu usage is 110W. Make sure to not get the older mac mini's, only the ones starting I believe last January had the low idle watt usage. And as a bonus at the end you have a mac you can resell. 2) Get a Sheeva Plug. It only costs $99 and only draws 5 Watts of power. It is arm. I myself simply put a usb stick in it loaded up debian and have been happy ever sense (So I am running at 5.5 W). Silent, low power draw. Downside it that it takes 10 minutes to setup and you can't just plugin a monitor and drop in a install cd you have to drop an install image in a sd or usb stick, but there are helpful webpages people have made showing you step by step how to do this.

Re:Mac Mini or Sheeva Plug (4, Informative)

IceFox (18179) | about 5 years ago | (#29865577)

Some more links:
Sheeva Plug review/picture:,7104.html []
Where to buy the Sheeva Plug: []
Installing Debian on the Sheeva Plug: []

Use a linux router (2, Insightful)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about 5 years ago | (#29865533)

Use a router supporting this [] . Look for a router equipped with one or more USB ports, so you can add disks and USB printers at will. Asus routers are probably the easier to hack, although I have been a bit disappointed with the quality (my experience with Asus is however limited to a WL-500g).

netbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865535)

Get a netbook with an SD card slot that can be boot off of.

Eee PC (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | about 5 years ago | (#29865539)

Just get a low-end Eee PC; configured right, they consume only a few watts.

If you want something even cheaper and smaller, get an NSLU2 (but they're a little more work to install on).

VIA Nano + Linux on CF + Green WD 1 TB (1)

aduchate (656665) | about 5 years ago | (#29865541)

I would probably go for a VIA Nano mini ITX platform with Linux installed on a Compact Flash and a Green 1 or 2 TB WD hard drive with aggressive sleep settings.


Atom (1)

scream at the sky (989144) | about 5 years ago | (#29865543) []

I have a box similar to this one shown, with a pair of 1TB WD Scorpio drives running it, one disk gets used to system partitions and home directories, the other is mounted at /srv/media. The box provides NFS and SMB shares to 2 desktops, 2 laptops and a Myth TV Box that's hooked up to the 42".

The only thing I haven't been able to do with it so far (time has been a factor, and I haven't been able to research it properly) is DLNA streaming to work properly to the PS3. Time has been a factor and I haven't really looked that closely.

SheevaPlug, UD-160A and USB hubs (3, Informative)

lkcl (517947) | about 5 years ago | (#29865545)

The [] runs a 1.2ghz Marvell PXA 270 ARM, and costs $99.

The UD-160A [] gives you a full set of ports (4x USB2, VGA-out, 10/100 Ethernet) thanks to DisplayLink [] drivers. Price: $90-ish.

If you don't need a screen, you can get away with a 4x USB2 hub ($8) or a 7x USB2 hub ($12) and spang on peripherals as you need.

Then, if it turns out that you do want a screen after all, you can always go for a Doublesight DS-90U [] USB 1024x600 screen, again, using DisplayLink [] free software drivers.

There are plenty of other ARM-based low-power CPUs with at least 512mb of RAM: the beagleboard and the IGEP-v2 go for $100 appx at 600mhz.

Charity For Free (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865547) [] - Please help poor children around the world. Donate by completing a simple survey which generates money for charity! It costs you NOTHING! Only a little bit of your time! Thanks for help.

who are we turning the kids' education over to? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865549)

none other than the most notorious crook since john gotti. []

what the heck, they can't be any worse off?

kudos to linux et al, finally addressing the wireless issue, which helps us with disposing of any remaining payper liesense bugwear stations in our .org.

Used P3 (2, Informative)

mcrbids (148650) | about 5 years ago | (#29865551)

I have a Compaq low-profile Presario P3. It's tiny (about 3 inches tall and about 12 inches on a side) and consumes very little power - about 20-25 watts.

1 Ghz CPU, 512 RAM, 100 Mb Ethernet, 250 GB HDD, worth about 20 dollars w/o the HD, been my "mini" server for years now running CentOS 4.

Tough combo to beat....

Save power in other ways (3, Insightful)

goodtrick (1201109) | about 5 years ago | (#29865557)

I would bet that your 100 watt server running 24/7 is just a small fraction or your overall usage.

Save money in other places first, have you replaced all your light bulbs with CFL's yet? You won't notice the difference between a 100 watt incandescent and the equivelant 24 watt CFL, but you probably will notice the difference between a 100 and 30 watt server.

Why a server? (1)

cpct0 (558171) | about 5 years ago | (#29865559)

We went from having 2 computers with a server and a laptop to having 2 laptops, a base station and no cables. With today's 1TB 2.5 HDD and easy sharing through wireless N, it's relatively simple, efficient and in the past 3 years, we saved a crapload of money since we don't even come near a 500W power supply recent towers (nearly) require. When we wish to have access to our data from home without our computers, we leave them open and they are shared through our router. Otherwise, we have our computer with us, so we don't need to connect to them ;)

However, for your question, most vendors have small busyboxes with potential to plug a 2.5" USB-powerede external HDD, with hacking potential for more. If you want more (as you advertise), go to your local cheap used hardware store, get a netbook someone got tired of, and put additional HD. It should solve your problem.

Re:Why a server? (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | about 5 years ago | (#29865709)

He wants IMAP, does your setup share email?

Smallest Linux server (1)

chx1975 (625070) | about 5 years ago | (#29865563)

Yoggie Open Firewall SOHO.

Re:Smallest Linux server (1)

chx1975 (625070) | about 5 years ago | (#29865597)

Also, SheevaPlug. You can add storage to this via SD cards and USB.

mini ITX C7 (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865579)

Try a mini-itx C7 processor and MB combo.

These processors are typically soldered, but run very cool, and generally fanless.

I have a VIA-C7 at 1.2Ghz, with a DVD+RW, and 500Gb HD, and the whole system uses only 24W under full load.

C7's are basically PIII class processors, but have hardware accellerated encryption making them 20-30X faster than even a P4 at AES, MD5, SHA, etc.

The boards have everything you could possibly want, USB 2.0, Ethernet [GigE], Audio, Video [integrated] , and even a PCI slot.

at 17mm x 17mm these boards can fit anywhere. DC powered at 12V. Cases and powersupplies will be more expensive due to the size, but well worth it, they can look very nice on even a small desk.

RAM is a bit limited at 2Gb, but that should do.

Marvell Plug (3, Insightful)

Doches (761288) | about 5 years ago | (#29865583)

I think you're after a plug computer ( [] ) and just don't know it yet. Super low power, ARM-based system that can (easily) run debian + an apache stack, along with whatever else (well, within reason) you need. [] has it for $99; you can get a European or UK version as well.

Re:Marvell Plug (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865707)

DANGER! It is not without reason a development kit. The support is lousy and you need to have really good linux knowledge to use it. I think everyone that want to have some server that simply works, should wait till the community installer is in a better shape and the distributions have more support for it.
More information about the plug:

A good community forum:

Also the 99$ is the price without shipping AND custom duties. I payed near 125 Euro in germany with shipping and custom duties.

My computer just let out with a shudder (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865587)

Be careful about mentioning 30 watt power supplies. My whole system just got withdrawal shakes even thinking about it. I had to open a few more apps and max out the CPU just to calm it down.

LEX mini PCs (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865589)

Look at Lex has got many small systems which run perfectly Linux and OpenBSD. Some of them are fanless - the alu case doubles as cooling block for the CPU.

Bubba|TWO NAS server (3, Informative)

jomcty (806483) | about 5 years ago | (#29865603)

Check out the Bubba|Two Server [] . Its a PowerPC-based NAS running Debian Etch with with 2 x 1Gb ethernet ports, 2 x USB and 2 x eSATA ports.

Mini doesn't use 85W at idle. (1)

fahrvergnugen (228539) | about 5 years ago | (#29865607)

Where are you getting 85W for the Mini? Maybe under load it's that high, but at idle it's much less. Apple publishes power consumption numbers [] on all their consumer systems, and the mini pulls 13.5W at idle load (aka. "apache, imap, ssh and some nfs."). Not to say you couldn't do even better with some other lower-power ARM- or ATOM-based options on busybox, but for your specs the Mini is certainly a contender.

my experience (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 5 years ago | (#29865609)

I started off with a linksys nslu2 -- slug -- reflashed with debian. Those are 266 Mhz ARM (mine was dumbed down to 133 and I didn't ever get around to performing the surgery required to bump it back up) with 32M ram, 2 usb ports, and an ethernet (10MBit?) port. The RAM was too limited, so I replaced it with a qnap 409 (256M Ram, ~512Mhz ARM) RAID box with 4 SATA slots, 3 USB ports, and a 100MBit ethernet port. That was reflashed with debian as well and I love it.

Newer stuff to consider: qnap 419 [] (1.2 ghz arm), openRD client [] (1.2 ghz arm), sheevaplug [] (the walwart computer)

Mac Mini power draw (1)

michael_cain (66650) | about 5 years ago | (#29865611)

A Mac Mini draws about 85 Watts, so that isn't an option either.

Measuring the power draw of my (admittedly four years old) Mini, I have trouble getting it up to 65 watts. And when not doing anything in particular, it fairly quickly drops off into the 15-20 watt range. Averaged over the whole day, it comes in pretty close to your 30-watt target. But even the minimum configuration costs much more than you want to spend, new. I would also comment that I have been regularly frustrated when porting assorted software packages to OSX; I find myself doing more and more "UNIX" things in a VirtualBox VM running Ubuntu.

Technologic Systems' ts-7800 (1)

erikscott (1360245) | about 5 years ago | (#29865617)

I've been using a TS-7800 from Technologic Systems [] for a few months, running it off of solar panels. It draws 4 watts and has half a gig of flash on board and an SD card socket. It runs cool without even so much as a heatsink, let alone a fan. Gig-E, 10 serial ports, 6 A/D, more digital I/O than I could even use, and USB. Runs Debian. Buy the development kit - the slight extra cost is worth it.

fit-pc2 (1)

oddtodd (125924) | about 5 years ago | (#29865627)

I just bought a fit-PC2 [] (linux) with semi-intentions to do what you're wanting to do. It's pretty nice, I've been booting from USB into fedora 11 but haven't got the poulsbo chipset video working, yet. Of all the gadgets I have fooled with (not a large number) this one installs 'normal' linux distros much better, except for the video driver (google poulsbo). It draws 8w max when it's bttw and you can get one for just over US$300 at amazon.

Re:fit-pc2 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865729)

There is also the previous model - the Fit-PC Slim. It has a 500Mhz AMD Geode processor, which is an x86 chip. (The Fit-PC2 has an Atom, which is also an X86.) The Fit-PC Slim is (was?) $200 on Amazon.

I could not get the Slim to boot a USB CD-ROM drive, but it can boot USB memory sticks. I installed Ubuntu off of a USB stick, and it works fine.

The Slim (and the 2) can also both run Windows.

Zotac Ionitx (3, Informative)

someone300 (891284) | about 5 years ago | (#29865629) []

According to this article, it's between 25-30W, and it fits into any standard Mini-ITX case. Couple it with a low power hard disk or CF drive and it'll be very power efficient. It's also possible to run it completely passively cooled, and if you wanted to use it as a media frontend, it'd be more than capable. You can even get a version that comes with it's own external power brick rather than a PSU.

Kurobox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865631) Basically a Buffalo External Hard drive enclosure with 128mB of RAM. I use mine as NFS server, print server, scanner server, DNS, VPN, DHCP server, Slimserver, Haupauge video server, Gallery 1.5 photo server and probably something else I left out.

why bother (4, Insightful)

flok (24996) | about 5 years ago | (#29865633)

300 dollar? you could pay the 70 bucks extra for the old system 4 years for that...

Re:why bother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865747)

My thought as well. How likely is it that somebody would be happy with a low-power server solution for the next four years? I think most people would be bound to come up with more functions for that server, that it won't be able to handle.

Re:why bother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865791)

Exactly. When you buy because you need a new computer, buy a low-power system that's going to last you while. Don't buy a new system to save money or power. That said, low energy consumption usually results in a system that is easier to cool silently and that may well be a good enough reason to buy new hardware, especially since there are quite a few options available now that didn't exist a couple of years ago.

Jetway w/ VIA (1)

wytcld (179112) | about 5 years ago | (#29865651)

Been running a Jetway VIA box [] for about six months in a home server role - just added ram, a big cheap HD, and Ubuntu. Installed the OS over the LAN with PXE. Works just fine so far. Meets your budget. Haven't tested actual power draw though. It's small, reasonably quiet - an internal fan for the CPU but the power supply is a fanless external brick. No Ubuntu compatibility hitches at all, so Debian should be fine too.

LINUTOP uses 8W and comes with Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865655)

amd geode or intel atom boards would fit... (1)

Ruede (824831) | about 5 years ago | (#29865661)

amd geode is really slow but takes about 5 - 10 watts. i use it as a router and want to put more stuff on it soon.

intel atom takes up to 40 watts iirc but is kinda fast compared to amd geode. also there is a big variety of boards out there. some are shipped with a pci-e16x slot - you could add a raid controller or something like that...

also the atom boards with the nvidia ION brand can do HDTV playback - so it would also be applicable as a media center...

5 minutes to install debian (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865671)

It just takes minutes to install debian lenny on the arm laptop

Laptop or Equivalent (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865685)

You really cannot beat a laptop for the sub-30 watt range in terms of compute power and actual power consumption. The Mac Mini, as mentioned by many above, idles at about 12-13W (in my experience) and has about 4x the compute power of a dual core atom board, which idles at nearly twice as much. I can't say for sure, but being essentially a laptop shoved in a 6x6x3 box, I suspect you'd get similar power usage from (m)any other comparable systems.

It's really a question of how low you want to go. If 13W on average is not too high and you want the ability to spike to many times the amount of work that can be done at that wattage, a laptop/mini is the way to go. If you want consistent, seriously low power utilization with limited CPU power, you're going to need an ARM, Geode, or other embedded processor.

I spent quite a while looking into mini-itx boards, Atoms, VIA cpus, etc, and in the end found that a laptop or mini beats all of those options both in power consumption at idle and maximum potential performance. The only way you'll go lower is with something embedded, and then you're giving up much functionality, a large amount of performance.

Back to individual components (1)

fgaliegue (1137441) | about 5 years ago | (#29865693)

* you want lots of RAM (high buffer cache);
* you want a CPU with good cpufreq support (any ACPI-compliant CPU will do);
* you want SSD (yes, they're expensive, but the cost of a simple seek is far less than rotating platter disks, and in case your machine just wakes up, SSD has close to zero seek time);
* you want a kernel compiled with "ondemand" CPU frequency governor as the default;
* you DO NOT want "drowsy ACPI states" (sure, it saves power, but you want to SSH in: if the machine's not there, what's the point? WOL won't help, that's my experience with it - either the machine is constantly up or it's down long enough before it answers that it turns out highly frustrating);
* you want a hardware router in front of your machine, with packet filtering ability (this router will do preliminary packet filtering before said packets even reach your machine - and see above).

ASROCK ION 330 NETTOP (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865699)

All in One ITX small factor PC. Takes only 30W of power. Some specs:
- dual core Intel Atom 330 CPU (1.6GHz)
- 2GB RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD, 1000BaseT ethernet
- Nvidia ION chipest + HDMI out makes it ideal also for multimedia

I'm using it as HTPC (Home Theater PC) running Ubuntu Linux + XBMC, but it can be good also as file server.

I have also some other devices described in this thread (EEE netbook, WRT54G router, DLINK NAS) but in most cases they have disadvantages like: i386 incompatibility, impossible to run mainstream linux distribution, CPUs and system boards are not powerful enough

Re:ASROCK ION 330 NETTOP (2, Interesting)

BLKMGK (34057) | about 5 years ago | (#29865803)

Ding Ding ding!!!

I too am using one for an XBMC machine. 2 real cores, 2 hyperthreaded cores, decent price, good performance. NOT the fastest at compiling XBMC but it gets by :-) Overclocked and 100% usage it hits just 40watts. []

I too am pondering the old electric bill. My new I7 machine may only be powered up as needed, I'll move my torrent client to this box instead soon I think. Just need to get a WEB client working for it. My unRAID servers all spin drives down and use 80+ PSU for efficiency.

very old link (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865705) []

These guys did it and it's powered only by potatoes.

Asus EEE or other netbook (1)

redelm (54142) | about 5 years ago | (#29865711)

For a general (not compute) server, I'd recommend just using an inexpensive nettop like the Asus EEE. I measure (Kill-o-watt meter) mine at 14W. If you need more than SD cards for storage, get a USB external HD. Or you could try some hacked NAS.

The nice thing about the nettop is you can take it with you if you want, or use it as a full machine my plugging in LCD monitor, kbd, and mouse.

QNap Turbostation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29865719)

check out [] for this. Especially the TS-109 has good power specs (14W under load), and there is a Debian Howto on the referenced page. The system has a 500MHz ARM cpu. Its newer sibling, the TS-119 has a 1.2 GHz cpu but I couldn't find power specs for it (only that is has a 36W power supply).

thin client (1)

confused one (671304) | about 5 years ago | (#29865725)

grab a second hand thin-client from ebay then reflash it with a linux image and use it as a server. They're cheap. Typically they are fanless Via c7 or Geodes; so, they're low power. Do your research first, some use CF cards but others have flash on the circuit board, which makes reflashing them harder. I've found some of them actually have a 44pin ide header and use a CF card adapter; so, you can plug in a cheap laptop harddrive. In either case, most of the newer ones will have 4-6 usb ports.

Dell Studio Hybrid (1)

joelgrimes (130046) | about 5 years ago | (#29865753)

I've been running a Dell Studio Hybrid for 6 months. They're assembled from laptop parts so they're very low power. It's completely silent. It has a fan but I've never heard it. It's about the size of a mac mini and starts about $100 less. Looks very inconspicuous in the living room - more like stereo equipment than a computer.

I couldn't compare speed between it and the mac mini, but mine is running windows 7 (because I couldn't get Ubuntu to send sound through the HDMI to the TV) and 2 instances of Ubuntu simultaneously under Sun's Virtualbox and I've never had a speed problem except some sketchiness when running the blu-ray dvd player (regular dvd is fine, Hulu is fine).

It comes with a wireless keyboard and mouse that has a pretty good range - I use it from across the living room.

NSLU2 (1)

idsfa (58684) | about 5 years ago | (#29865765)

Also the NSLU2 [] can be upgraded to debian through purely software upgrades. The power supply tops out at 10W. I use one with a 1GB flash drive for web, ssh and file serving (though I use sftp rather than nfs).

New Intel D945GSEJT & PC Engine Alix!!! (3, Interesting)

niko9 (315647) | about 5 years ago | (#29865777)

Intel just released the D945GSEJT Atom board. This is not the same boards that used to older 945 chipsets. The older boards needed a fan on the chipset for it sucked up almost 20 watts!! The new board is mini-itx so it should fit in just about any case and runs on a single 12 volt coaxial plug so no need for a buly ATX PSU.

A nice review here: []

I also use, and am a big fan of the PC Engines Alix boards: [] You have several board styles to choose from. You can install Voyage Linux (Debian based and keep APT!!) on a compact flash with a simple installation (specifically for ALIX) script: []

My alix, which I use as a USB music server, draws a measly 3 watts (Kill-A-Watt meter) when playing FLAC files. You can attach a low power USB hard disk for added storage if you want to run NFS.

atom barebones (1)

wherrera (235520) | about 5 years ago | (#29865779)

Consider one of there:

atom barebones []

Core2 Duo Mobile is an option (1)

TheHaven (781093) | about 5 years ago | (#29865787)

I'm currently running an MSI Fuzzy GM965 board with an intel core 2 mobile (T8300) in a Sugo SG05 chassis. 4 gigs or RAM and 1 x TB 3.5 WD Green drive gives a total Wattage of 35 idle. A little over what you wanted but it idles at 1200MHz and scales to 2400 when required. This is in the process of replacing my old server that pulls 230Watts constantly (Opteron 246 with 2GB RAM) so likewise I'm hoping to save a decent ammount on my electricity bill. My only gripe with the system is that the bios in the MSI is shocking, try and run an external graphics card in the system and the bios does not let you turn off the internal one. You then get to play the "which graphics source gets detected first" game as that then becomes the default. I've ended up just sticking to the internal which is fine for a server purpose but rules this out as a desktop replacement anytime soon.

Don't expect ECC RAM (1)

dokebi (624663) | about 5 years ago | (#29865789)

I've been looking for the same thing for a long time, except I want to have ECC RAM on a machine that runs 24/7 and shuttles files back and forth. Apparently, there is no such product (Not mini-pc, not Atom-anything, not notebooks, etc). I've ended up using one of those cheap Dell T100 series machines (ECC RAM, but only two drives supported) that you can pick up during a dell promotion. It draws 50W at idle.

Does anyone know of _any_ low power solution that uses ECC RAM?

netbook (1)

fyoder (857358) | about 5 years ago | (#29865799)

I know a fellow who has had a little netbook running as a server for about a year. I told him he was crazy, since those things weren't designed for 24/7 use, but so far he's proving me wrong. Will it survive for the 4 years you're looking for? Ask me in three more years. I find it amazing that it has done as well as it has so far.

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