What kind of hardware do you know of that can provide:

  1. Very low power consumption (< 5W);
  2. Silent operation;
  3. Low cost;
  4. Compatibility with a major linux distribution, such as debian;
  5. Internal Solid state disk for booting the OS and basic applications;
  6. External or internal ports to plugin high capacity HDs (Sata ou USB), for downloads and file serving;
  7. Two Ethernet ports (for routing and firewalling);
  8. Optionally a Wifi-port

My guess is that some kind of ARM-based machine would work. I've even given some thoughts on using an old notebook or WindowsCE machine.

Ideally, I want to leave it always on. I want to ssh to it to manage it and maybe run a VNC server. Of course you can't have it all. If it is too slow to send a x264 signal to DVI out, it is ok. But I would like to run some VOIP sw on it.

So, do you know of anything that can be used to that purpose? (please give some links, if possible)

Thanks Luis Fernando


I'd look at the various systems running on Via's C3 architecture: they're pretty fast, will run from an SSD, and draw only a few watts.

Alternatively, you might look at the Soekris boxes. One of the guys in my local LUG uses the Soekris boards to make pretty fast routers running m0n0wall.

Also, see the DSL store.


Check out Plat'Home for preloaded Linux micro servers. They specialize in tiny ultra low power servers. Their open micro server is compatible with Debian, has gigabit ethernet ports, power over ethernet, and 2 usb ports. alt text


You might want to check out the boxes made by Soekris. They're small and fulfill all your requirements except WiFi. I have written a blog post documenting how I installed Debian on one of them.


Some of the low-cost routers supported by OpenWRT or DD-WRT have the features you're looking for, including USB2.0 ports for expansion. They don't have much memory, though, so running any kind of GUI on them is out of the question.


The Linksys NSLU2 might be an option, although it only has one NIC. It's sold as a NAS device (plug in up to two USB hard drives and it shares them), but it's well documented how to install various Linux distros (including vanilla Debian) onto one of the USB hard drives and use it as a general purpose box.

It's low on RAM - 16 or 32MB - and the CPU is not very powerful, so it probably isn't suitable for heavyweight server software. Lightweight web serving, firewall and routing should be just fine, though. And I'd be surprised if you could find a cheaper and lower power solution - it's about 60 (probably less on Ebay) plus the cost of a USB hard drive, and it's fanless (though the hard drive won't be!) therefore silent and low power.


You could check out the Space Cube. It supports just about every one of your requirements except for the dual NIC, though you could use a USB NIC if you really need two. Priced at $325, though I don't know if it's immediately available.

Space cube size comparison


Recently, the fitPC slim was introduced to market:


Pros for your requirements:

  • preloaded with two major Linux distributions
  • 802.11b/g included (Master mode is possible)
  • powerfull CPU (AMD Geode x86, 500 Mhz, 128kb L1 & 128kb L2)
  • IDE 2.5" optionally included, can also be used for CF-Card w/ IDE adapter
  • 256 to 512 MB RAM included
  • USB 2.0 ports
  • Power consumption in your range, obviously silent operation


  • only one ethernet port
  • price range $245 to $295 (not bad, but I heard about cheaper devices)

Possible solution:

The fitPC 1.0, predecessor and still available, comes with 2 ethernet ports. Other than that, it is a little bit bigger in size and some of the specs are not as good. Basically, you trade the second ethernet port against WLAN, RAM, size and one USB port.

You should also have a look at LinuxDevices.com. They have articles about several similiar boxes, mostly based on Via Eden processors.



Marvell introduced their SheevaPlug product earlier this year. It's a $99 "wall-wart" with a 1.2 GHz ARM-like CPU, 512 MB RAM, 512 MB Flash, a USB port, and Ethernet. Consumes 5-10 watts. More info at PlugComputer.org.


Linutop 1.


Before I bought my Qnap NAS Server, I was really interested in the Kurobox.

Took the info below from the website:

the KuroBox/HG, sports a

  • 266Mhz PowerPC processor;
  • 128MB of RAM;
  • 2 USB;
  • 2.0 Ports;
  • a 10/100/1000Mbit network interface.

Consuming 17 watts, being very silent at 22dB.

The KuroBox comes without a hard drive, but can hold any standard IDE (parallel ATA, not SATA) 3.5" drive. The KuroBox runs on a Linux kernel, and has multiple options for actual distribution. Actually, any Linux distribution that supports PPC will work, but so far the community has ported over Gentoo, Debian, Fedora and Sylver's Distro (which is the current incarnation of the Kuro's original embedded distribution).


A Beagle Board would work for you, however like others my suggestion would entail using USB peripherals. It comes with Linux out of the box and is very developer friendly.

A friend of mine is using several of them for his robotics hobby projects and can't stop raving about how easy they are to work with. I was considering one when contemplating getting back into RC planes and helicopters.

If you get any run of the mill USB hub and disassemble it, you could fit everything into a neatly packed small box.

I've used some 3.5" biscuit SBC's with built in dual nics, etc .. which promised < 5W consumption, however I found it got closer to 7 as I started actually using the daughterboards .

Please update this and let us know what you got and how it went for you :)


A very low-energy and low-cost solution would be the Asus wl-500 gP. It doesn't have SSD, but it does have USB ports so you can attach external harddisks.

It's normally used with OpenWRT, but you can also run debian on it, with some work.


The PCEngines ALIX boards use AMD Geode processors, which are low power x86 processors. Soekris boards also use the Geode.


www.pcengines.ch is pretty good

I have an ALIX running as my main router (has 3 ETH ports) with http://m0n0.ch/wall ALIX is offered with 1/2/3 ETH Ports, pc card slot for wifi, usb, vga, serial (the very basic version has at least 2 eth and serial I think)

The ALIX Board runs AMD Geode CPUS (which are x86 compatible), the whole thing is silent, has a CF slot for solid state storage and they are pretty cheap. I don't know about power consumption though...


Soekris net5501 I have with a 4G CF card. Uses 6w at 500MHz. I turned the CPU down in BIOS to 400 MHz and it's down to 5.3 watts. No video card. 4 10/100 ethernet, plenty for firewalling. I stuck a USB wireless dongle in from Linksys, 1 additional watt.

The fitpc slim looks more like what you're talking about, and ethernet USB dongles are pretty cheap. You'll need the ata adapter for a CF card.


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