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Stealth Computers: NY Times on Mini ITX Modding

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the omnipresent dept.

Hardware 185

securitas writes "What's smaller than a breadbox? Or a toaster? Or a teddy bear? The New York Times has just discovered mini-ITX based computers (Google /CNET mirror, minus the pictures). It's a nice overview of the mini-ITX scene and suggests that small form computers are a hot growth area while the traditional PC business languishes."

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Don't forget... (-1)

SCO$699FeeTroll (695565) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305330)

...to pay your $699 licensing fee you cock-smoking teabaggers.

First reply (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305343)

You can't fault his consistency, though, can you?

Re:First reply (1, Offtopic)

satanami69 (209636) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305421)

Worse is that he's a friend of a friend for me, so he shows up first on almost all stories.

Re:Don't forget... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305408)

what kind of commie fag reads the NYT anyway? Might as well read the Havana Herald.

orange (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305335)

yeah, that's right.

No need to mod her. She's perfect. (-1, Offtopic)

Ceren Rocks (717225) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305336)

How can people say BSD [freebsd.org] is dying when it has a mascot [freebsd.org] like this?! Linux [debian.org] needs to get its act together if it's going to compete with the kind of hot chicks [hope-2000.org] and gorgeous babes [hope-2000.org] that BSD [openbsd.org] has to offer!

You just can't take Linux [redhat.com] seriously when its fronted by losers [nylug.org] like these. Would you buy software from them? I don't think so! You Linux [suse.com] groupies need to find some sexy girls like her [hope-2000.org] ! I mean just look at this girl [madchat.org] ! Doesn't she [madchat.org] excite you? I know this little hottie [madchat.org] puts me in need of a cold shower! This guy looks like he is about to cream his pants standing next to such a fox [spilth.org] . As you can see, no man can resist this sexy [spilth.org] little minx [spilth.org] . I mean are you telling me you wouldn't like to get your hands on this ass [kurtspace.com] ?!

With sexy chicks [kurtspace.com] like the lovely Ceren [kurtspace.com] you could have people queuing up to buy open source products. Could you really refuse to buy a copy of BSD [netbsd.org] if she [kurtspace.com] told you to? Come on, you must admit she [kurtspace.com] is better than an overweight penguin [tamu.edu] or a gay looking goat [gnu.org] ! Don't you wish you could get one of these [drexel.edu] ? Personally I know I would give my right arm to get this close [kurtspace.com] to such a divine beauty [kurtspace.com] !

Join the campaign for more cute [madchat.org] open source babes [madchat.org] today!

MOD PARENT DOWN (1)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305370)

Should've posted with his username, not as AC, so that /. knows its heroes.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (1)

SirJaxalot (715418) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305401)

hehehe, you beat me to it. (our uids are only 70 numbers apart.)

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (1)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305443)

"beat to it" is overstatement, this was registered a week ago.

Uh oh, looks like /.'s user conversion ratios are not that great

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (1)

SirJaxalot (715418) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305466)

I created this account 12 days ago (just went and looked at the signup email, Oct 12)

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (1)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305539)

Oct 11th for mine.
So how does yours feel?
So far I love mine.

Re:MOD PARENT DOWN (1)

SirJaxalot (715418) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305558)

Just started using it today. I'll see how it works out.

Re:No need to mod her. She's perfect. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305434)

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_?88____________________88P______`8P
__88b__________________d88
__888888b__.d888b,_d888888________88b_.d888b,
__88P_`?8b_?8b,___d8P'_?88________88P_?8b,
_d88,__d88___`?8b_88b__,88b______d88____`?8b
d88'`?88P'`?888P'_`?88P'`88b____d88'_`?888P'

______d8b________________________d8b
______88P________________________88P
_____d88________________________d88
_d888888___d8888b_d888b8b___d888888
d8P'_?88__d8b_,dPd8P'_?88__d8P'_?88
88b__,88b_88b____88b__,88b_88b__,88b
`?88P'`88b`?888P'`?88P'`88b`?88P'`88b

pp &g.m (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305338)

, Batman!

Re:pp &g.m (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305362)

What are you trying to tell us? That CmdrTaco and Batman are lovers?

Mini-ITX? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305339)

Nah, I'm waiting for Nano ITX for to be available in about half a year from now.

nyt sucks (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305345)

The Stealth Computer
By FORD FESSENDEN

Published: October 23, 2003

IKE CHIN'S eureka moment came in an Ikea store, on a spring day in 2002.

Mr. Chin, a technology writer in Vancouver, British Columbia, had just gotten a tiny motherboard from a Taiwanese chip maker, and he had been growling that he could not find a similarly small case so that he could build the computer he had promised to a friend's daughter.

Then his eyes fell on a blue plastic Ikea breadbox - the "perfect marriage of cheap modern art, chintziness and utility," he said.

The fully functional breadbox PC that he then built and described on the Web was among the first to spring from an idea that has become a raging obsession in a far-flung community of electronic do-it-yourselfers: the stealth computer.

Across Europe, the United States and the Far East, hobbyists have been stuffing the works of personal computers into toasters, humidors, biscuit tins, lampshades, even a plush E. T. doll.

"It's tiny, it's wonderful, it's all integrated, it's extremely low power, and it fits almost anywhere," said Mr. Chin of the mini-ITX motherboard at the heart of his breadbox computer, which measures about 10 inches by 14 inches by 6 inches.

But the mini-ITX is not just an object of obsession. The stealth builders are the extreme flank of an assault against the status quo by the originator of the mini-ITX boards, Via Technologies. Via, which is based in Taiwan, wants to make the little computer the next big thing.

"We were surprised it was the enthusiasts who were interested," Richard Brown, the vice president for marketing at Via, said when the company introduced the tiny motherboard idea in early 2002. Today, the concept has already spread beyond hobbyists; a few stylish new PC's using Via's tiny boards have reached the consumer market.

The mini-ITX, which often includes the central processing unit, or C.P.U., as well as audio and graphics circuitry and other built-in components, measures less than seven inches on each side, about half the size of a typical board. The Via boards include relatively slow C.P.U.'s, which in terms of raw computing power are "a long way behind the Pentium 4 and top-of-the-line Athlon," Mr. Brown said.

But with sales of personal computers lagging, Via and others in the industry have been pushing the idea of the "second PC" - an inexpensive, quiet device that can take the pressure off the family computer, perhaps even breaking out of the home office and moving into the living room.

Such a computer would make a virtue of Via's competitive disadvantage. Although other manufacturers have begun to offer mini-ITX boards that accept its competitors' C.P.U.'s, Via so far dominates the field. With fewer transistors and slower speed, the Via generates very little heat and therefore does not necessarily need a noisy fan to keep it cool. "At 100 percent of what it can possibly do, it draws 23 watts of power, where my big PC draws 150," said Dave Helander, the computer manager for the Rochester Housing Authority, who has built a computer inside a plastic gasoline can. Mr. Helander's creation and others are featured at the Web site mini-itx.com.

For the little computer to catch on, some significant changes in the direction of computer marketing will be required - not just away from the competition for faster processing that has driven sales for years, but also toward a new design paradigm.

Computers are typically either beige or black and businesslike, or fancied up by gaming enthusiasts with lights and picture windows that show off the esoteric beauty of circuitry. Either way, they are mostly air; the components occupy little space inside.

Mini-ITX boards contain everything a computer needs on one board, but they sacrifice flexibility. You can't add more than one video card or sound card, and with a Via, you can't swap out the processor, which is soldered to the board.

But the boards are inexpensive, selling for about $100 to $200, and they invite miniaturization. Mr. Helander's most seditious inspiration was to lop what seems like an impossibly small corner off a beige computer case with a hacksaw, and stuff a full-featured computer into it. Next to his "Bantam PC," the standard box seems outlandishly outdated, like the fins on a 1959 Chrysler.

The first mini-ITX computers to grab the attention of the enthusiast community reflected the gaming esthetic. The Space Case, a computer enclosed in a Plexiglas cylinder, featured the circuitry prominently. When Ewan Wilcocks posted pictures at the mini-ITX Web site he runs from his London apartment, influential techies at slashdot .org took notice.

"Site activity went up after that, and people began sending in projects," he wrote in an e-mail message. He now features dozens of "mad" computer projects, and rejects dozens more. The mini-ITX Web site is viewed 100,000 times a day, he said.

"Small form-factor PC's are definitely an up-and-coming thing," Mr. Wilcocks said in an interview.

"It's a little bit like the hot rods," said Henry Minsky, who works for an Internet company in Cambridge, Mass., and has built a mini-ITX computer inside an old teletype machine. With cars, he said, the technology has advanced to the point that most people can't do their own customizing. "For people who want to tinker - take it apart and put it back together - what choices do they have?" he said.

And like the hot rodders who built the little deuce coupe by marrying a new Oldsmobile V-8 engine with a chassis pulled from the weeds, the builders of mini-ITX computers often use vintage machinery as a shell. Some of the projects featured by Mr. Wilcocks are housed in old Commodore and Atari computer cases.

As the projects have evolved over the last year, the geek esthetic has given way to stealth, often with tongue in cheek. Greg Sowell, a network administrator for Universal Computer Systems in Waco, Tex., built a computer housed in a cabin made of Lincoln Logs. Daniel Larsson of Sweden built one in an old Telefunken tube radio; only when a CD pops out of an inconspicuous slot in its wooden case does it become apparent that the box is anything other than a vintage radio.

The competition at the mini-ITX Web site is lively. Pictures document every step of the projects, highlighting technical innovation and obsessive detail. Mr. Helander calls it a "desperate cry for attention," but he and others also see a method to the madness: the focus on the outside of a computer has already helped pave the way for some sleek new consumer products.

Mr. Wilcocks said: "I don't think everyone wants a computer in the shape of an E. T. doll; maybe they account for 1 percent of mini-ITX sales. But it shows that you can be versatile and have any shape of case. What the small-form-factor companies are doing is putting a bit more thought into the design of their cases."

Mr. Brown of Via said: "The hobbyists are actually the ones leading the way. They're very serious mechanical and technical projects."

In addition to his log cabin PC, Mr. Sowell has built a computer inside a sewing box for a relative who didn't want an intrusive beige appliance on her desk. Jamie Burke, a builder of serious gaming computers, made the transition with a mini-ITX board hidden in a small humidor that sits beside his flat-screen television.

"I could build a big box, but when people walk into your living room, they don't want to see that big box," said Mr. Burke, 26, of Boise, Idaho.

Mr. Brown of Via said the company had staged some competitions at which it asked enthusiasts, ''What would you do with this board?"

"A lot of the ideas were predominantly for the living room,'' he said. "What I heard was, 'Well, the only way I'm going to get a PC past my wife into the living room is if it's small and doesn't make much noise.' And we as an industry haven't done a particularly good job of making cases look good."

That may be changing.

"It doesn't look like a PC and it doesn't sound like a PC," said David Thompson of the new generation of sleek multimedia computers he hopes to pioneer. An entrepreneur in Manchester, England, Mr. Thompson is selling an appliance that he calls the Tranquil PC and describes as "very much a chic design, a high-class, hi-fi design."

The computers from Mr. Thompson and from a European company called Hush Technologies both use the Via processors, and both dissipate heat with aluminum fins on the outside of the case, obviating a noisy fan and creating a design opportunity.

Stuart Brown, Richard Brown's brother and the marketing director for Hush, envisions his company's elegant product, which was introduced in June, not only on the shelf with the stereo, but "on the managing director's desk, or in the architect's design studio."

"The whole idea of the computer as an appliance, as a stereo component, is only just coming in," said Mr. Chin, who runs the Web site silentpcreview.com. Via recently introduced a design for an even smaller motherboard, the nano-ITX, and Mr. Chin believes that the revolution his breadbox helped start is just beginning.

"I don't think it's going away," he said. "It's here to stay."

Re:nyt sucks (1)

digital bath (650895) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305559)

It's funny, though, since google links are IN THE ARTICLE.

Yikes (2, Funny)

Atario (673917) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305701)

The mini-ITX, which often includes the central processing unit, or C.P.U.
You can almost hear them pronouncing it "see...pee...you??" as though it were a new concept. I wonder what color the sky is in the world of the NYT.

In other news, motherboards "often" include CPUs. Meaning sometimes they don't. GHOST CPU! OooOOOOooOOO!!

Re:Yikes (1)

realdpk (116490) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305869)

Er, the mini-ITX is somewhat unusual in comparison to the standard ATX motherboard mostly because it does include the CPU onboard, when you buy it at the store.

Most motherboards do not include CPUs.

Wow (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305347)

I guess now evertime a new *TX comes out slashdot has to report it

Re:Wow (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305437)

Excuse me, but EPIAs have been available for a couple years. This is just the first acknoledgment by a major mainstream (as in non-computer related) publication of the Mini-ITX platform.

Re:Wow (2, Funny)

t0ny (590331) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305587)

No, they need to wait two years til the NYT discovers it, and THEN report it.

Traditional PC languishes (2, Informative)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305352)

...traditional PC languishes

What the heck? Pc business is growing [thestreet.com] , not too fast, but there are more and more PCs sold each year. Whatever product you come up with for post-PC era, PC kills it from the price standpoint. Network computer, dedicated e-mail devices, Internet-enabled frames, image viewers you hook up to a PC - all crushed by the PC.

Re:Traditional PC languishes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305395)

... from where did you copy & paste that nugget of wisdom?

Re:Traditional PC languishes (0, Troll)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305430)

I work as a top analyst for herewithal unnamed top research company.

Opppss (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305487)

IHBT, I thought you were this [slashdot.org] jerk. Ya got me :-{

Re:Opppss (1)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305511)

Ha-ha, got ya!

Well, to be fair, my agency is not that top and I am not really a top analyst in it.

Nothing New (0)

Hi_2k (567317) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305356)

Apple has been making computers smaller than the normal ATX standards forever. We have a set of ATX compatible but extremley small IBM computers at my school. Why is it news that you can make them smaller?

Re:Nothing New (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305632)

By your logic, if they made it fit on the head of a pin, it still wouldn't be news. Anyway, the news here is that the NYT is covering it. Read the subject.

Very Cool (1, Redundant)

SirJaxalot (715418) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305361)

Here is another article [com.com] on the same subject.

Re:Very Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305647)

Did you find that link in the story? I did.

Re:Very Cool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305811)

No, dumbass. That is the same NYT story.

fucking karma whore

And shame on the idiot moderator who modded this up

first known linkage to a google cash? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305363)

on slashdot? ...seemed the obvious thing to do.

ok Cube (1)

ennerseed (463366) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305368)

there, said it

Re:ok Cube (1)

twoslice (457793) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305572)

there, said it

Yeah well... the cube shape worked for the Borg. That is why mine looks exactly like a Borg Ship.

Small Cocks? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305379)

Compensating for something?

Great (-1, Troll)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305384)

Mini ITX is great... really... I mean, for $2000 I can build myself a Mini-PC that is kick ass (well, shitty video card, ac97 audio, integrated LAN), but if I spend $1000, I can have a kick ass PC, with the ability to expand it in the future!!!

It's a PC for crying out loud... you need something small and powerful, by a custom solution... what is it with constantly trying to adapt an x86 architecture to solve all the real world problems out there? Whether you agree or not, the x86 is a PC solution, stop putting them in pagers [blackberry.net] , phones, cars, and whatever else...

Mini ITX is crazy, it prevents you from customizing the PC the way most PCs can be. You have limited space for expansion slots, logistical problems with cooling, and adding storage/optical drives, and in the end the damn thing runs the same OS as your desktop, and is used the same way... WHY??? There is a reason for the need of a small computer, and damnit, there is always a better more economical and practical solution than stripping an x86 to fit the criteria.

Re:Great (1)

Dark Lord Seth (584963) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305413)

Mini ITX is crazy

For normal people who want a normal PC, yes. For hobbyists who want to turn ye old derelict piece 'o junk into a nice PC, no. Think outside the box.

Re:Great (1)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305461)

For normal people who want a normal PC, yes. For hobbyists who want to turn ye old derelict piece 'o junk into a nice PC, no. Think outside the box.

Mini-ITX boards have the CPU soldered on, you can't turn your old piece of junk into a nice PC... you can buy a replacement... and at that point, unless you really like the small form factor, you're really pissing away money (and yes, I am one of those people who does piss away money, so I can see a relatively large market here)... but my point is, if you want a PC replacement, than sure this is an option (pricey and non-expandable, but an option)... on the other hand, I've dealt with companies that used these boards to control motors on industrial machines, etc... there are much better solutions out there, but people keep using PC's... I think I am thinking outside the box... it's the people who think a PC is *THE* solution to every problem that need to think outside the box... or case.. ;)

Re:Great (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305585)

you can't turn your old piece of junk into a nice PC

He wasn't referring to upgradability of Mini-ITX boards. He was referring to the fact that you can gut (insert old computer equipment here) and throw a MITX board in it, and get a semi-modern PC in an old C64 or Apple //c case (DEAD //c's ONLY!).

Missed the point (1)

vericgar (627150) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305601)

"Mini-ITX boards have the CPU soldered on, you can't turn your old piece of junk into a nice PC.."

Old piece of junk, as in, say an old toaster that doesn't work anymore, clean it up and turn it into a computer. Mini-ITX is more about art and fashion... i.e. hiding the uglyness and size of computers as they are now.

As for companies using these boards to control motors on industrial machines... it comes down to what is cheaper to implement and maintain... software on Mini-ITX vs. custom hardware.

Re:Great (1)

akedia (665196) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305528)

I just built my first Mini-ITX based system this past weekend. I didn't go for a custom case-mod, though. Got a nice 1U Mini-ITX rackmount case [linitx.com] that fits a laptop CDROM and a 120GB WD Caviar Special Edition hard disk just perfectly. Since this one will probably be co-located (once I get FreeBSD running properly on it) it will make a great fileserver. You don't need good onboard sound or video if you're running headless, and mine is an EPIA V8000 [directron.com] with an 800mhz processor and it handles FTP and Samba with ease. Nice and inexpensive to build the whole thing, too, the case was a bit pricey (overseas shipping, ouch!) and I had the hard disk and memory already. It's not a custom case-mod, so it's not much to brag about, but the Mini-ITX serves its purpose well.

Re:Great (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305429)

It's good for some things. I know people who have made their own DVRs out of them, and they don't look horribly out of place sitting next to their DVD player and game consoles. Kind of looks like a platinum gamecube sitting there. Sometimes looks matter.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:Great (2, Informative)

BrynM (217883) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305474)

You're neglecting the Wow Factor. Wow Factor is street cred among most geeks. As an avid case modder (I re-use old parts though, I usually don't buy new), half the fun is having someone say "that's a computer?". (Please be gentle to my very low bandwidth - personal DSL - server) You can see two basic examples of my own work making odd firewalls here [networkoftheapes.net] . They're nothing special, but I get the "that's a computer" stuff all the time about these two and they aren't even the good ones, they just happen to be the two I made for my own use.

Re:Great (1)

Eyston (462981) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305495)

There is no reason why a Mini-ITX machine would cost twice as much as a PC. The motherboard/cpu will be the same price, if not cheaper, as a normal computer, you will just get less raw performance. All the other components can be the same. So the premium you pay for Mini-ITX isn't cost but speed.

$2000 versus $1000 is FUD.

I find it funny you slam Mini-ITX for 'logistical problems with cooling' when it dissipates much less heat than any standard PC. The new AMD/Intel chips are approaching 100 Watts; that is a much more logistical problem for cooling.

-Eyston

Re:Great (1)

MR.Gates (161769) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305552)

FYI the M10000 is going for $130 - $150 US, thats the 1gig cpu version. I just bought 2 on ebay, brand new.

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305531)


The only way to spend $2000 on a mini-itx box is to shove 16 $100 bills into the box.

...

Oh yeah, I forgot to add "You fucking moron".

Re:Great (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305606)

Actually, it IS possible to spend $2000 on a Mini-ITX box without cramming cash in it (which wouldn't affect the cooling that much - it's a friggin C3, after all!). Get ripped off on the M10000, use 2GB sticks of Crucial (can it even take 2GB sticks?), use a fscking 600W ATX PSU, use a slimline DVD burner, use a 300GB HDD, use a floppy, custom build the case out of stained glass, and include the NEW Endura Pro 104 and 20" LCD flat panel.

However, no one would be STUPID enough to do that - after all, it's a 1GHz CPU!

Re:Great (1)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305649)

However, no one would be STUPID enough to do that - after all, it's a 1GHz CPU!

And here I was envying the setup you describe. :)

Except knock off the 600W power supply and floppy. Neither are required in this case. And I'd rather a matrox and 3 LCD panels. With that setup you could literally hide the computer in the back of the middle panel, and attatch all three with a hinge...

semi-portable three-head gaming. Nice. Only problem is that setup gets rid of the stained glass :(

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305548)

You're way off on both pricing and cooling for Mini-ITX. RTFA.

Horsecrap. (1)

RatBastard (949) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305593)

I have three Mini ITX-based systems in my house. One of them being a file/print server. The server because the motherboard has no fans and a 500Mhz C3 is more than enough to dio what that system does. One is a tiny system hiding in the entertainment center in my living room. It does its job: playing old Win9x/DOS games and MP3s just fine. The third is in my wife's computer.

In each of these situations the system does what is needed. The server doesn't need any more speed, only more drives, which I took care of with an old Promis IDE card I had in a pile of unused stuff, and my wife's idea of a rip-snorting good time is playing Freecell. Upgradability isn't a consideration in the design of those systems.

The only part of the equation that raises the price above "traditional" PCs is if you decide to go to using the ultra-small cases and the laptop drives they require. But even then the increase is not on the order of $1,000.00.

Cooling isn't an issue, either. Most mini ITX systems run very cool and use so little power it's insane (I had to sell a 450 watt PSU to a friend because the mini ITX board in that system didn't draw enough power to keep it alive).

Foy YOU mini ITX systems don't make sense. But don't think that what's important to YOU is important to everyone else. For many people computers are not the nerd equivelant of hot rods, but are simply tools to be used for a specific set of jobs and they'd really like to get that tombstone-sized block of steel out of the house.

Re:Horsecrap. (1)

IM6100 (692796) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305830)

One of them being a file/print server. The server because the motherboard has no fans and a 500Mhz C3 is more than enough to dio what that system does.

A little 386SX motherboard doesn't have a fan, and it would make a print server at a significantly lower cost...

For a file server, you put an old Pentium 90 board in a huge tower case and shove it in a closet.

Many of the people who I see here giving examples of their ITX server seem to have spent quite a bit of time coming up with an excuse to spend the money, for the most part...

Re:Horsecrap. (1)

really? (199452) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305870)

What you say is true _IF_ you already have the old 386 or P90 bits kicking about...

Re:Great (2, Insightful)

merlin_jim (302773) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305602)

This whole post is FUD or a troll... point by point:

Mini ITX is great... really... I mean, for $2000 I can build myself a Mini-PC that is kick ass (well, shitty video card, ac97 audio, integrated LAN)

I built my Mini-ITX for $480 with an ATI TV Wonder. Had I wanted to shell out another $100 I could've had it with an ATI Radeon 8500 AIW, which I would certainly not call shitty. And this box has remote keyboard, mouse, remote control, and DVD player included.

but if I spend $1000, I can have a kick ass PC, with the ability to expand it in the future!!!

In the theoretical world where I bought an ATI Radeon instead of a TV Wonder, I spent $400 less than you for the same thing. Of course a mini-ITX is expandable. It has PCI and USB 2.0. Sure it doesn't support AGP... but if you don't NEED AGP, that's not really a problem is it? It doesn't ALWAYS have to be JUST about framerates, people.

what is it with constantly trying to adapt an x86 architecture to solve all the real world problems out there? Whether you agree or not, the x86 is a PC solution, stop putting them in pagers, phones, cars, and whatever else...

x86 has a choice of robust and powerful operating systems that many people have lots of good experience on, as well as lots of cheap (in many cases free) easy to understand and powerful development choices.

Embedded architectures are limited to one or two scaled down flaky operating systems that most programmers have little to no experience with, and the development platforms are almost universally a barrier to entry in terms of cost, support, and functionality.

You tell me which one you'd rather work on?

Mini ITX is crazy, it prevents you from customizing the PC the way most PCs can be.

How so? Oh I see you list some points... let's look at them shall we?

You have limited space for expansion slots

2 PCI plus USB. With the number of integrated devices, you don't need more... especially if you opt for USB audio and bulk devices.

logistical problems with cooling
How can one possibly call a processor putting off 13W of heat a logistical problem with cooling? When I built my Mini-ITX I literally slapped the thing together. I didn't put a single extra fan in it. And it runs not only cool but quiet as well. The warmest part is the power brick which is OUTSIDE THE CASE... not really a problem in my book...

and adding storage/optical drives
I have one hard drive and one DVD drive in my Mini-ITX. Yes, I am out of room in my case. But I could've opted for the two-3.5" bay case for just a few extra dollars. But you don't need it. The Mini-ITX is supposed to be a second computer, not a first computer. Or its for the non-computer enthusiast who just wants a computer thats non-obtrusive and maybe a little stylish. In the first case, if you need extra storage, set up some server shares. In the second case I doubt the user is really thinking about one day adding a 500G drive...

and in the end the damn thing runs the same OS as your desktop, and is used the same way... WHY???
I beg to differ that it is used the same way. I use mine as a DVR. Others use them for jukeboxes, mixing computers, and even office tasks. While my main computer has to be mediocre at everything, my mini computer can afford to specialize and be very good at one or two tasks at the expense of others, because I have my main computer if there's something I need to do that it can't really handle.

There is a reason for the need of a small computer, and damnit, there is always a better more economical and practical solution than stripping an x86 to fit the criteria.

I would hardly call a mini-ITX a stripped x86. With onboard EVERYTHING, decent processor speeds (their design criteria was "good enough in a low-heat low-cost package", not "as fast as possible at whatever cost". I believe they succeeded), and industry-standard connectors it can do everything that any x86 can do. And do it cheaper and quieter.

What I would like to see. (5, Interesting)

niko9 (315647) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305391)

Things I would like to see.

A new Linux distrubution, one aimed at including the most efficient
programs currently being developed: Blackbox, Thunderbird, Firebird, Dillo,
etc. Debian C3?

A 2.6 kernel running on these things so they're more desktop resonsive, work on swsup to be stable enough that the computer will always be instant-on available, thus
never needing a reboot.

Start a project that aims to develop extremely efficient programs designed
to run very well with slow procs like these. Hell if you can web browse
on a C64, this can be done.

If word of this can get out, then more people will question the Intel and
Microsoft monopoly.

Any other suggestions?

--

Re:What I would like to see. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305422)

"Any other suggestions?"

Hang yourself.

Re:What I would like to see. (2, Funny)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305577)

Any other suggestions?

How about good ole WinXP Home with .NET Framework 1.1 and MSIE 6.0?

these are not slow machines (1)

penguin7of9 (697383) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305685)

Start a project that aims to develop extremely efficient programs designed
to run very well with slow procs like these. Hell if you can web browse on a C64, this can be done.


Yes, it's called RedHat 3.0.

Seriously, even a 700MHz C3 is a pretty fast machine. And it will actually run today's software quite well.

There also is a full complement of small, efficient programs as part of the Linux handheld projects.

Re:What I would like to see. (2, Interesting)

yppiz (574466) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305691)

The "Damn Small Linux" version of the Knoppix distribution might fit. It's a 50M bootable ISO that concentrates on small and fast applications. It boots into Blackbox and I believe includes Dillo and Firebird.

--Pat / zippy@cs.brandeis.edu

Re:What I would like to see. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305747)

I believe it runs Fluxbox, but I don't know how that compares to Blackbox.

Not just for modders (4, Insightful)

DrCode (95839) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305423)

For my first all-new PC in about a decade I wanted something that had good performance, all the various external ports (usb, 1394, audio, svideo) that I might ever want, and that was also semi-portable. A Shuttle sn41g2 fills the role nicely, with Nvidia video built in, a 2.5 Ghz Athlon, and a DVD writer. There's also an AGP slot if I ever want to get better video, and a PCI slot that I'll probably use for a TV-tuner card. It was a breeze to put together, actually easier than the larger cases I've dealt with in the past. And Linux (Gentoo) runs fine on it.

Just before buying, I had second thoughts, and checked out the price of a Dell system. They start at around $400, around $230 less than I spent. But... that's with only 256Mb memory, no floppy, and the CD wasn't even a writer (which I didn't think you could buy anymore). "Upgrading" all those thing brought the price considerably higher than what I paid, and then I'd end up with a system with unknown pieces that might not play well with my choice of OS.

Re:Not just for modders (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305536)

I was wondering when someone would mention one of the shuttle systems. I put one together last spring, and am really happy with it. Unlike some bitching in previous posts, the CPU is most definately upgradeable. I love the heat pipe cooling system.

Re:Not just for modders (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305608)

I read your thoughtful, intelligent, grammatically-correct post with the utmost respect for your well-informed opinion. Right up to the word "Gentoo". Then I stopped reading. Now I just hope you die a painful death very soon.

These are incredibly cool (2, Interesting)

Our Man In Redmond (63094) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305444)

The first time I saw one I thought I was looking at a desktop stereo -- you know, the boxy plastic-and-chrome kind you'd put in an office. I didn't believe it was a computer until I got a look at the connector array in the back.

And that was without putting it in an ET doll or a fishtank.

I want to get my hands on one of these. With a wireless ethernet card and a set of speakers hooked to a built-in sound card you could make a very nifty wireless MP3/streaming audio player -- one that the wife wouldn't object to having in the living room.

Raise your hand if... (1, Offtopic)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305445)

...you thought "New York Times, Registration Required" was the name of the newspaper. New York Times [snip] [link to Google copy of article]

And in other news, NYT(reg required) reports that Satan is wondering who turned off the heat. Also, NYT(reg required) reports that pigs were spotted on apporach for Laguardia, but nobody noticed because of the Concorde. Meanwhile, WMDs were actually found in Iraq, except only aljazira(sp?) reported it, so nobody actually believed it.

I mean seriously- you first-time-readers might not realize what a big deal this is! This has got to be a milestone on slashdot- "first story ever which contained a NY times article with a no-registration-required link provided in the actual story".

Now, for the obligatory conspiracy angle- was it editors only approving articles w/reg-required links, or were they editing the stories? Or are the slashdot 'editors'(term used loosely) little green men from another world?

Re:Raise your hand if... (1)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305564)

He still placed a non-reg link though.

Even though anybody who's worth a squat already has a nice passworded NYT registration account, free as in beer, and free as in Free Willy.

The day will come when there will be a NYT link to a reg-required page with no mentioning of the procedure whatsoever.

On that day, millions of thy cursed shall hang their head in shame and try to figure why they cannot see the article.

Re:Raise your hand if... (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305625)

On that day, millions of thy cursed shall hang their head in shame and try to figure why they cannot see the article.

Or, they just use slashdot124 pass:slashdot. After all, I've been telling people to use that for a couple months now, and I think an AC mentioned it first.

Re:Raise your hand if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305660)

The day will come when there will be a NYT link to a reg-required page with no mentioning of the procedure whatsoever

Already happened. There was a lot of strife here, hasn't happened since.

Re:Raise your hand if... (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305726)

The day will come when there will be a NYT link to a reg-required page with no mentioning of the procedure whatsoever.

No, I don't think so, and the reason is that the free registration is an excellent proxy for the free/open software debate. Most people are happy to register as Dwight Eisenhower, from 69 Up Yours Avenue, Intercourse, PA; and they get their free article. Others get all uptight over the distinction between "free registration" and "freedom", and bore everyone to tears about it in the comments.

My opinion: It won't kill you to register, and I'd rather read the article and learn something interesting than rail against them as a matter of principle and isolate myself.

Lifetime (4, Insightful)

alpha713 (701963) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305453)

I applaud any company that is reducing the size of the components that we need in computers. While I'm not one to try and hide my computer in weird objects, the smaller the computer the more likely it will move into the living room as suggested.

My only reservation is the fact that this technology may lack the ability to upgrade, quite similiar to what we find with laptops.

That aside the PC industry has been pushing on with faster and bigger components (CPU, RAM) every few months, in an effort to stay afloat. The thing is that I still have a dual 166 which works quite nicely ( if a little noisily), under my desk. My point is that we have not needed to upgrade our computer half as much as we have.

Yeah sure those of us that want to do funky stuff like hardcore gaming, or video editing might be an exception, but for my dad who's sole computing experience is checking his hotmail account and typing up documents, this is far from necessary.

Re:Lifetime (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305624)

My only reservation is the fact that this technology may lack the ability to upgrade, quite similiar to what we find with laptops.

That shouldn't be a very big reservation. It's a standard form factor, just swap in the latest and greatest mini-ITX.

Look out for XTX as well (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305477)

These form factors are even cooler. The smallest one, Femto XTX, is a mere 49 cm^2 (thats 7x7 or around 2.5"x2.5", smaller than a floppy disk!). These motherboards will be coming out commerically in early 2004, and still has a PS/2, USB, Serial, Sound, Ethernet and VGA. The 1.5 Ghz C4 coming out soon will scream on that machine. Put linux on it and the possiblites are endless!

These are fun... (2, Interesting)

mgarriss (615232) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305478)

I have three of the mini-ITX's in a rack that I made for $6 worth of home depot parts. I use them as diskless nodes. Total cost each is around $180, this includes board, power supply, ram, and network cable. The entire rack fits on top of one of my towers.

They take load off my desktop box by doing things like DNS, httpd, dhcpd, fetchmail, procmail, qmail, postgres, etc...

However I would like to see them move to gigabit ethernet.

For the robot geeks these boards offer a lot [roboteq.com]

Re:These are fun... (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305740)

They take load off my desktop box by doing things like DNS, httpd, dhcpd, fetchmail, procmail, qmail, postgres, etc...

However I would like to see them move to gigabit ethernet.


How much traffic are you putting through your desktop box to require three servers, each with gigabit ethernet, to handle the load?

Re:These are fun... (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305767)

The whole thing for 180$? Link PLEASE.

Re:These are fun... (2, Informative)

mgarriss (615232) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305817)

the board [logicsupply.com]
power supply [power4pc.com]
ram [buyaib.com]

Re:These are fun... (1)

jjshoe (410772) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305853)

does each itx perform a single function or are they clusterd?

It has a niche, that is for sure. (1)

maudite (264348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305483)

PCs are ugly and useful. Say you want watch some divx or xvid flics that accidently got on your harddrive. Instead of dragging your beloved gaming rig up to the TV, you have a small, quiet, dedicated unit that can do the job well without the PC eyesore. Also modding is popular. The small footprint of these boards allow modders more freedom of expression. These PCs are not going to run Doom3 or Half-life 2 but sometimes are better not seen or not heard. HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer) you are going to hear this buzzword often in years to come!

64 bit ITX motherboards? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305494)

Does anyone know if there are any 64 bit motherboards in ITX form factor? I'm planning to upgrade to x86_64 in a few yearss and I would like a small powerful box ;).

Re:64 bit ITX motherboards? (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305650)

Damn, and I thought the Commell boards had a lot of area for the CPU+heatsink (comes from using a Cel466 all the time)! How much would an Athlon 64 take up?!? You PROBABLY couldn't get something like that. However, you could try to call Transmeta up - they DID license the AMD64 technology, so maybe the Uh-fishy-on could handle it.

Putting together a low-wattage server (5, Interesting)

wjr (157747) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305504)

Just this morning I put in an order for the parts required to make a new server for our home network. The principal requirement was that it be low-wattage: living in California (home of the gouging power companies), I didn't want to leave a 100+ watt machine turned on all the time.


After reading a lot of info about the various mini-ITX boards, cases, and so on, I settled on this configuration:

  • VIA EPIA ME6000 fanless mini-ITX motherboard (has audio, 10/100 ethernet, USB 2.0, 1394)
  • Morex 2699 mini-ITX case
  • 512M PC2100 DDR memory
  • 120GB disk
  • Slimline CD-ROM

The total was less than $500, and I could have reduced it some more if I'd been willing to place orders with 3 suppliers, rather than getting everything from one place (logicsupply.com).


While this machine is underpowered for a lot of computing tasks, and is a joke for playing games on, it should do just fabulously as a SMB/NFS file server, web server for pictures of the new baby, and so on. I'm downloading the Fedora beta (Severn) as we speak.


The total power draw for this machine ought to be about 30W. Even at inflated California prices, that's less than $5/month to run. Plus, since the motherboard and case are both fanless, it should run very very quietly, and should be small enough to just tuck away on a shelf somewhere.


Now I get to wait anxiously and see if my expectations match reality.

I call Faker (2, Funny)

twoslice (457793) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305607)

web server for pictures of the new baby

A true geek would never sexually reproduce, let alone have a girlfriend - everyone knows geeks just clone themselves using a RAID 1 DNA sequencer 3000 from thinkgeek.

Re:Putting together a low-wattage server (1)

RatBastard (949) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305618)

I built a file/print server out of a VIA EPIA 500Mhz unit and it works fine. I built mine in a huge ATX case as I am running a pair of mirrored 120GB drives off of a Promise controller along with a single hard drive dedicated to the OS (Win2K Server). The system handles it's task quite nicely, even with all four workstations hitting it at once.

I think you'll be happy with the results of your system.

You hear that? (1)

AaronStJ (182845) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305508)

...influential techies at slashdot .org took notice.

You hear that? We're influential!

Re:You hear that? (2, Funny)

Sir Haxa1ot (715348) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305527)

They were referring to me.

influential (2, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305583)

Only influential to server bandwidth.

OpenBrick is best (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305515)

http://www.openbrick.org/

Re:OpenBrick is best (0)

Nihynjahs (680486) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305580)

www.mini-box.com is better

Re:OpenBrick is best (1, Offtopic)

SirJaxalot (715418) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305594)

this [hotbox.com] site is way better.

MICROSOFT ADD!!! ON SLASHDOT (-1, Offtopic)

Nihynjahs (680486) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305556)

I JUST SAW A MICROSOFT AD ON SLASHDOT THOSE WEASELS, yeah i know its off topic, but this must be brought to attention of the people

VIA EPIA boards (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305634)

try http://forums.viaarena.com/categories.cfm?catid=32 and http://linitx.org/forum/ to see the good and bad points.
A key problem is that VIA is almost totally unresponsive to complaints - the details of the chips are impossible to come by without ordering 1000's and signing NDA's hence the hardware Mpeg decoding is not fully functional under linux

Practical uses (1)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305640)

I've got a big old steel desk (WW 2 Government Surplus - 400 lbs. - built like a studebaker) supporting my desktop Tower PC, a couple of 20" monitors, and lots of peripherals. I think my next project will be fitting a couple of these puppies and some lightweight storage and networking gear into the space between the backs of the drawers and the desk's back. Replacing half this stuff might lighten the whole array enough that the floor lasts a few more years. It's creaking I tell you. Creaking.

Re:Practical uses... Desk Mod Anyone (1)

ratfynk (456467) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305731)

I am considering a desk mod. The idea is to cable and setup my computer desk as a computer itself. Kind of like Crammers Coffee Table Book Coffee Table. Make the MB easy to clean and integrate the electrics. I think I won't monkey with the chair though. Make upgrades practical and I might have something. Multiboot optimised and an Apple board to boot.

Various questions (1)

yet another coward (510) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305702)

The article missed some great mini-itx uses, projects that really need to be small. The automobile computer projects are great. The time for computers to coordinate sound systems and navigation has come.

How far away are the nano-itx boards? The footprint of a CD is amazing.

Will there be tiny boards with DVI connectors? Many applications in small spaces also benefit from small displays, not CRTs. LCDs and DVI go together particularly well.

Mini-ITX machines can be fast (1)

CoolGuySteve (264277) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305704)

I just bought an older Mini-ITX barebones system at the end of the summer for US$240, it's the Shuttle SK41G. It fits conveniently underneath the desk drawers in my small dorm room.

I've added an NVidia GeForce4 Ti4200, an AMD Athlon XP 2000+, a TV-input card and it uses a VIA KM266 chipset with integrated everything else. Most of the newer mini-ITX systems use NVidia chipsets but I was too cheap. : /

Anyways, the article says that Mini-ITX are less powerful and that VIA chipsets (some of the fastest for Athlons) don't support anything but the Cyrix stuff. These are lies. They're less expandable maybe, but more than adequate in terms of power.

dual nics (1)

gyratedotorg (545872) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305717)

now that they make a mini-itx with dual nics, you can build a pretty nice homemade firewall appliance out of one of these. pc-power out of something a little bigger than a linksys router. sounds good to me!

Fits anywhere? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#7305738)

Across Europe, the United States and the Far East, hobbyists have been stuffing the works of personal computers into toasters, humidors, biscuit tins, lampshades, even a plush E. T. doll.
Do the goatse people know about this? (No pictures required, thanks.)

Small is good? (2, Insightful)

Call Me Black Cloud (616282) | more than 11 years ago | (#7305771)

Hell, who has mini-ITX hands? Not me. In fact, I want a case the size of a walk-in closet. I want to see everything at eye-level on the wall. I don't want to worry about bumping a ribbon cable and taking the CD-ROM drive offline. I want to be able to have lunch inside the case while I'm working on an upgrade. Yes, with a table and chair so I can put my stuff down. And I want a monitor inside the case so if I need to look up some jumper assignment or order parts I don't have to leave the case.

It's like cars. I like old cars, where you can practically sit in the engine bay while you work. Now to change the plugs in my car I have to remove the intake manifold and half the fuel injection harness. And damn if there isn't a computer under the hood too, so now I have to worry about bumping a ribbon cable lest I take the airbags or brakes offline.
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