Subject: Re: portable box ideas?
To: None <>
From: Douglas Allan Tutty <>
List: netbsd-users
Date: 04/13/2007 20:06:29
On Sat, Apr 14, 2007 at 08:17:35AM +1000, Michael Smith wrote:
> On Fri, 13 Apr 2007 17:57:38 -0400
> Douglas Allan Tutty <> wrote:
> > I used to use an old Thinkpad but the tent I was using it in got hit by
> > lightening and the screen and HD got fried.
> Bummer! I trust that the "wetware" survived the experience?

Yea, metal tent poles work well.  Tent survived too.  

> > Hard drives seem to be what dies on a computer so the ability to use
> > new drives with old hardware would be good, just like I can put an 8
> > GB drive in my 486 box.
> I have to say I am surprised about that. I have struck no end of
> problems trying to install netbsd and other OS's on old computers with
> very new disks.

The 8 GB drive was a WD IDE (it recently died too). 

> > Ideally, the box would have built-in basic video, USB, serial port
> > (so I can attach my Courier modem), CD drive, hard drive, and be
> > silent.  As much as possible, I want to be able to use off-the-shelf
> > components like drives (so that means 3.5" SATA), standard LCD
> > monitor, standard (mini?) keyboard, mouse, etc.
> Sounds a bit like the mac-mini (mini-mac?) but you would still need a
> screen and the initial outlay is still $AUD 1000.

I'd like less than $200 CDN for the whole package.  

> > Finally, I want it to be chaaper than a used laptop.
> Well, used laptops more than about 10 years old are usually free ...
> "take it away, it uses too much space" ... anyway. It depends on who
> you know I suppose. But you won't be able to give it a lot of RAM, and
> HDD space will still be limited. If you want a big disk you will need
> something newer.

> > Does anyone have any links to such a beast?
> No, not really. As you suggested you could roll your own out of bits
> from a swap meet, or buy/borrow another old laptop.

Another problem with laptops is that the design criteria is put as much
visible bang for the buck and have it just outlast the warranty.  Nobody
builds a slow solid cheap tank of a box that I've been able to find.

> Actually here's an idea: take a look at compact embedded computers.
> They come with provision for flash disks and usually have low power
> CPU's under clocked so that the power/cooling requirements are modest.
> It will cost a bit, though.

I don't need much power.  I have been using Debian but while I may be
able to upgrade my 486 I'll never be able to install from scratch.  And
disk size needs keep going up with memory footprint.  Compared to the
recent NetBSD install I did (my first) on a spare 171 MB (IBM, 1989,
from a 386 out of the dump) drive.  Took 10 minutes from start to being
able to ssh into it.  I didn't have to remove anything from the base
install and still have lots of room left (no I can't compile, oh well).
On the 486, I'll _attempt_ a debian upgrade but I'll be moving the 486
to NetBSD.

Aside: it was a bit of a rude wakeup to have made a typo in rc.conf and
have the boot process dump me into ed to fix it.  Its been a _loooong_
time since I've use ed.  

So _anything_ that will let me install NetBSD will have ample oompf for
what I need (in order of priority):

a shell, vi, ppp, mutt, mc, lynx, and max:  X, and a lightweight
graphical browser with javascript and https.

By comparision, my 486 has 32 MB ram, 1.6 GB total drive space, acts as
a backup repository, full debian install with Icewm, dillo, and for
heavy-weight browsing I ssh into my athlon box and run Konqueror.  Its
idle 92% and uses 4 MB swap.

So for what I want to do while traveling, the 486 is overkill.  The only
reason I'd want more than the 171 MB drive is so I can install all of
the NetBSD sets and be able to compile security patchs.

It would be nice to have something the size of a linksys blue box with a
VGA, USB, and for bonus serial and ethernet ports on the back.  My
linksys blue 10/100 switch only cost $9.99 after $20 mail-in rebate.  

Thanks for the ideas.