[aprssig] RE: Single Board PC

Steve Huston huston at astro.princeton.edu
Fri Sep 9 23:31:09 CDT 2005

On Sep 09, 2005, at 23:52, Tyson S. wrote:
> So how do these work anyway? Bob beat me to the punch, I was just  
> about
> to send the exact same question to the group about how to find one of
> these units. I have access to a 5,000 foot tall mountain with  
> broadband
> Internet at the site free of charge for me to use. I would like to put
> up a server for multiple things just like Bob wants to do. I see the
> MSI P4MAM2-V at newegg as Shanon describes and that looks plenty cheap
> for a ham, but does it need a hard drive? can it run on a 12v battery?
> once I configure it, can I unplug the keyboard, mouse and monitor and
> have it sit there and run all by itself? Please forgive the simple
> questions, but these things sound too good to be true.

I guess one major question would be, would you be able to access the  
device if necessary to fix things, and on what kind of timescale?   
Also, what you plan on running on it.

Personally, if I had a location where I could set something up  
(digipeater, PBBS, etc) I would want to run it on 12v also, since I'd  
already need that for the radio.  If the device doesn't have to store  
anything locally, or doesn't matter if whatever was stored since it  
came online disappeared and it started over, I'd probably boot from  
some sort of flash device - no moving parts to wear out, and less  
likely to have a corrupted OS or drive if you never write to it (use  
a ramdisk instead for temporary local storage of things).  I'd  
probably also run some sort of Linux distribution on it, since remote  
administration is safe and secure, especially since you said internet  
access will be available - SSH is much faster and I believe more  
secure than remote desktop.  I don't know how well things like  
DOSemu, a DOS emulator for Linux, would work for running DOS based  
programs (I used it many years ago, and it served me well at the  
time, so I can only imagine it's become even better).

Most PCs don't care if you disconnect their keyboard, or have a BIOS  
setting to determine how much they care.  If you don't run any kind  
of windowing environment (ie, use DOS or Linux without X11) then a  
mouse doesn't matter either, and I haven't met a computer that minds  
if there's no monitor plugged in.  Matter of fact, I've got three  
running here that way now :>

Many PCs can also boot from USB media of some sort, which will be  
detected at boot time as either a floppy disk or a hard drive.  The  
OS will detect it as a hard drive usually once it's booted.  So a USB  
key, or a compact flash card plugged into a USB card reader could be  
booted, and sizes range from miniscule (32MB) up to gargantuan  
(4GB).  I've got a 1GB key that has a full Knoppix CD on it,  
bootable, as well as many other useful tools.  Makes newer PCs that  
are USB bootable into an instant Linux machine, without touching the  
local hard drive - when done, reboot the PC and pull the key, it'll  
never know the difference.

Steve Huston - W2SRH - Unix Sysadmin, Dept. of Astrophysical Sciences
  Princeton University  |     ICBM Address: 40.346525   -74.651285
    126 Peyton Hall     |"On my ship, the Rocinante, wheeling through
  Princeton, NJ   08544 | the galaxies; headed for the heart of Cygnus,
    (609) 258-7375      | headlong into mystery."  -Rush, 'Cygnus X-1'

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