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Old 04-14-2018, 11:02 AM   #1
ZhaoLin1457
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What you recommend for a very small desktop? To go ARM, or x86 and Intel Atom?


There are many small single board computers, some using ARM others are x86, usually Intel Atom.

Probably you heard about ARM ones, like the Cubietruck, BananaPI, OrangePI, but there are many others in the same style, and to have an idea about what offer the x86 variants, there is one board on which I consider: http://www.lex.com.tw/products/3I525AW.html

I intend to build a very small desktop with modest expectations.

It will be connected to an usual 1440x900 LCD and it will be used to do small web surfing, checking the mails and watching movies sometimes.

As the title says, what you recommend? To chose the x86 path or the ARM?

I would like to note that in both cases I intend to install Slackware on it and I have no high pretentions about desktop.

In any case, I will be more than happy if it runs smootly with XFCE.

Last edited by ZhaoLin1457; 04-14-2018 at 12:38 PM.
 
Old 04-14-2018, 12:33 PM   #2
fatmac
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I have Atom based netbooks, & I have Raspberry Pi3 SOCs, internet is quite usable on both, as long as you only have one or two tabs open, but I have 2GB ram on my Atoms, & just the 1GB on the ARM RPi3.

I believe there is a Slackware Arm distro available for the RPi3, whilst the Atom can use any Linux distro.

(The RPi3 will cost 32/$35)

Last edited by fatmac; 04-14-2018 at 12:35 PM.
 
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Old 04-14-2018, 05:04 PM   #3
Darth Vader
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@ZhaoLin1457

From my limited experience, I do not think that ARM devices are ready for playing the role of "desktop". At least those cheap.

Please do not understand me wrong, the ARM SBCs are nice things to play with, and you can do many useful things with them, from automation to NAS servers, etc...

But they are so cheap because they are very limited.

Sure thing, the Atom-based SBC which you given as example costs considerably more than RaspberryPi 3, I bet on at least double.

BUT, an ARM device which gives you 2 SATA who really works as SATA, not over an USB 2.0 bridge, 2x 1GB Ethernet, 2x PCIe x1 (one with mSATA), 8x USB 2.0, slots for SODIMM memories and so on, well... probably it will costs several times more than the x86 counterpart.

Another important thing: do not imagine that the ARM World is like the x86 one. There are not so many companies who treat seriously the idea to contribute drivers to the Linux kernel. You participated in that discussion about Linux, firmware, blobs and freedoms. IF you really want to see blobs, real blobs, huge like whales not activist bullshit, as in proprietary code running in your Linux OS, I suggest to play with an ARM device.

To figure out the 3D support, imagine that if you are lucky, you will get a binary blob, just like NVidia do, but of quality of infamous Via S3 (also as OS support) and which may work in your particular GLIBC. OK, I am not at current with what Broadcom do today, for their RPi - looks like this company play a bit the counterpart of ATI/AMD.

And yet another important thing: usually a SATA port, a real SATA port and not one over a USB2 bridge or really limited at 33MB/s, well... that's a premium feature.

And living with the OS in a SD-card is not so fun. Compared with a SATA hard drive, a SD-card is considerable more slow and prone for damages. And you will discover quickly that the SD-cards costs much more than the hard drives.

Let's not forget also that an ARM device comes with fixed memory, soldered on board. Today you say you will not need more. BUT, if you arrive tomorrow at idea that you need more more memory, you cannot replace it. In the x86 SBC you can do that.

So, if you want my honest opinion, as one who played a bit with ARM devices (I have even two ARM netbooks), my suggestion is to chose the Atom-based SBC, even it costs considerable more, if you intend to make a really small desktop.

Heck, you can put 4GB RAM and a 2.5 inch harddrive, and you can even dare to go Plasma5...

Finally, let's not forget about your actual habits. The x86 SBC probably has some kind of small BIOS, while the ARM devices has particular ways to do it, usually "bloblificated". For example, a RPi 3 has a different boot way than a BananaPi.

Again, the x86 SBC will be more familiar.

----------------------------------
In other hand, WHY you want to go SBC? Is the space a premium constraint for real? The power consumption should be minimal? You want a really silent little PC?

I ask that because I am myself owner of several very small and silent computers. And I learned something: the SBCs, all of them, costs much more than the real PC hardware, for same performances.

Please take a look at this mini-ITX board: https://www.asrock.com/mb/Intel/Q190...X/index.us.asp

Yep, there are very small motherboards (this thingie is large like your IO shield), with embedded SOCs (then, in fact they are SBCs too), which do not need active fans and which works with power adapters like of laptops.

You can find also small computer cases for those boards. Like this one:

https://www.aliexpress.com/store/pro...2e6449e5Bx9vpg

Idea is that you can build a really small PC, but a real PC, where you can put an mini-ITX, with low power consumption, and you obtain also a silent thing, but the final result will be a bit larger than the SBC variant.

BUT, you will discover quickly that at those dimensions, the computer will be liliputan comparative with the monitor dimensions. And you can even chose a case with VESA mount, and you can put the computer in back of monitor.

----------------------------------
Hope that my explanations will help.

Last edited by Darth Vader; 04-14-2018 at 05:25 PM.
 
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Old 04-14-2018, 10:13 PM   #4
mralk3
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What you recommend for a very small desktop? To go ARM, or x86 and Intel Atom?

I have only used Raspberry pi's for my ARM SBCs so I can report what I have been up to.

As a personal Slackware mirror, mpd music server, back up server (rsync), git server, print server, WAN/LAN gateway router (Hostapd/DNS/DHCP), these little computers are great. I have 3 Pi's splitting the load of all those services at my home, all running Slackwarearm 14.2.

BUT, I do not recommend using (even the Pi 3 B+) as a desktop with Slackwarearm, or even Raspbian. Web browsers only work with 1-2 tabs, multitasking is slow on the desktop, and you will want to use youtube-dl to download and then watch videos. Your patience will run thin and you are better off using more powerful hardware.

Last edited by mralk3; 04-14-2018 at 10:15 PM.
 
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Old 04-14-2018, 10:51 PM   #5
Timothy Miller
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Having had multiple Atom based laptops, I'd definitely go Atom. I like Arm for many things, but for a desktop, there's just too many applications I like that aren't available for it in my preferred OS (Debian). And with the Apollo Lake Atoms, performance honestly to me isn't an issue. I have 2 N3450 laptops, and they're absolutely perfectly usable even with running a full Plasma by KDE desktop and normal browsers, libreoffice, etc. I wouldn't hesitate to build a J3455/J4205 based desktop.

Last edited by Timothy Miller; 04-14-2018 at 10:52 PM.
 
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Old 04-15-2018, 01:19 AM   #6
Skaendo
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I have a Atom D2550 (1.86GHz) with 4GB DDR3-1066 RAM and it runs a full install install of Slackware64 pretty decently. Probably decent enough for what your looking to do.

It's not a actual computer "per-se", it's actually a mobo out of a cash register that I hacked it into a working PC.

Honestly, I would try and go for x86_64. x86 is a dying breed IMO. Outside of routers and stuff like that, I think that it's days are numbered.

Last edited by Skaendo; 04-15-2018 at 01:21 AM.
 
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Old 04-15-2018, 01:30 AM   #7
Regnad Kcin
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We have a i7-5650 micro-mini produced by the Shenzhen XCY company (深圳新创云).

It is a fanless design with a ribbed black aluminum case.

Although it is not nearly as fast as my overclocked i7-7700k, it is
faster than the majority of laptops and has been very reliable.

The little machine comes with windows installed (chinese version) but it
can very easily be set up to dual boot slackware64 linux.

I have also built a couple of J1900 based small box computers for dedicated
service driving lab equipment. All are ok. The Asrock j1900 is better
than the Biostar model but both are not slow at all.

These micro-minis all have a desk footprint about the size of cell phone.

Last edited by Regnad Kcin; 04-15-2018 at 01:48 AM.
 
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Old 04-15-2018, 05:44 PM   #8
abga
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@ZhaoLin1457

With regard to your usage requirements, small form factor, low power and presumably low budget, you don't have too much choice in the ARM world. I second to everything that was written about the ARM boards in the previous posts and would only like to add some more details about:
- the recent ARM boards need cooling (passive or active), after a certain sustained load they'll start to overheat and then they'll get busy throttling instead of performing
- you're limited to a small amount of RAM and while you can do some of your tasks individually, multitasking - that's loading all your programs and use them simultaneously - is not really working well and you'll end up writing on your swap partition, which would be on your SDCard, it'll be slow and it'll be shortening the SDCard life for sure
- the desktop environment choice is limited to the few lightweight ones. While XFCE performs pretty well on these ARM boards, you can see that the folks at Raspberry have put some effort in optimizing LXDE&OpenBox and releasing their faster PIXEL desktop in Raspbian - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raspbian
- the usual desktop programs might perform acceptable, but your web browsing experience will be a painful one and you'll definitely need to configure your web browser to not use the disk storage for the cache (protecting your SDCard)
- the compilation on these ARM boards is painfully slow and since Slackware is not shipping LibreOffice, you'll need to compile it if you need it. Additionally, you might want to try Chromium instead of Firefox and you'll need to compile that too on your own.
- these better performing ARM boards, while apparently cheap - around 50 USD, will cost you in the end more as you'll need some 20-30USD extra for the case/cooler/card/power adapter, thus reaching 60-80 USD - excluding delivery fees.
- nevertheless, you can try a Raspberry Pi 3B or 3B+, they're cheap and well supported under Slackware, and glue (somehow) a huge passive cooler on it, that's in case you don't want a smaller active cooler sucking the dust around:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AYGnw6MwFM

x86 - Atom or Celeron related, here you have many choices, but all of them are (way) more expensive. A promising board was/is the LattePanda:
http://www.lattepanda.com/products/3.html
However, it's pretty expensive ~100USD for the 2GB/32GB and ~150USD for the 4GB/64GB, adding a case and a power supply will cost you some 30USD extra and you'll almost reach 200USD, which is the point where you can get a decent and passively cooled Atom/Celeron powered laptop/netbook, that comes with "additional" display (it also has HDMI output), camera, touchpad, keyboard, USB 3.0 instead of SATA, power supply and an UPS (battery).
The HP Stream could be a really nice system for desktop usage:
https://store.hp.com/us/en/pdp/hp-st...energy-star%29
A pity that getting Slackware on it is a little difficult (impossible?):
https://www.linuxquestions.org/quest...fi-4175620316/
But there are other small factor netbooks in this price range.
You can also go for a NUC, already fitted with RAM & storage, starting at 120 USD or get one of these mini-ITX motherboards starting at 70-80USD on which you have more flexibility but you'll need to buy the RAM+storage+case+power adapter on your own and you'll again reach (at least) the 200USD price.
On the Atom/Celeron systems you will be able to do simple desktop work, even multitasking, but make sure that Slackware (Linux in general) will run OK on them before making a purchase.

Last edited by abga; 04-15-2018 at 08:33 PM. Reason: 3 little typos
 
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Old 04-16-2018, 08:20 AM   #9
Didier Spaier
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abga View Post
- the usual desktop programs might perform acceptable, but your web browsing experience will be a painful one and you'll definitely need to configure your web browser to not use the disk storage for the cache (protecting your SDCard)
This can be done globally:
Code:
didier[~]$ cat .profile
export PAGER=/usr/bin/most
export GROFF_ENCODING=UTF-8
export XDG_CACHE_HOME=/dev/shm/$(whoami)
mkdir -p /dev/shm/$(whoami)
chmod 700 /dev/shm/$(whoami)
export XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=$XDG_CACHE_HOME
didier[~]$
 
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Old 04-16-2018, 02:39 PM   #10
bassmadrigal
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I kinda glanced through the posts and it seems like I agree with them that ARM doesn't seem to be up to the task to take over in the desktop space for most users. In addition to what was said, keep in mind that SBo does not test their software against ARM, so 3rd-party programs might or might not work.
 
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Old 04-16-2018, 03:14 PM   #11
abga
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Didier Spaier View Post
This can be done globally:
Code:
didier[~]$ cat .profile
export PAGER=/usr/bin/most
export GROFF_ENCODING=UTF-8
export XDG_CACHE_HOME=/dev/shm/$(whoami)
mkdir -p /dev/shm/$(whoami)
chmod 700 /dev/shm/$(whoami)
export XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=$XDG_CACHE_HOME
didier[~]$
Indeed, for the applications that comply with the XDG Base Directory specifications:
https://standards.freedesktop.org/basedir-spec/latest/
Firefox doesn't look like:
https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php...ectory_support
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=259356
Besides, I'm against using the RAM for the disk cache of the browsers on these limited ARM boards, better disable it for good (it does impact the performance of the browser a little).
The common standard amount of RAM on the ARM boards is still 1 GB, out of which you need to provide some for the GPU(128-256MB), the core Linux components will eat around 100MB, the X desktop another 150MB. You're already at only 512MB free RAM when starting the browser, which, nowadays eats by itself around 200MB (clean, without any addons), finally you're left with 250MB RAM for browsing/displaying your pages.
For the record, just disabling the disk cache for the two common browsers:
Firefox
https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/questions/905902
Chrome(ium)
https://unix.stackexchange.com/quest...le-in-chromium
 
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Old 04-16-2018, 03:35 PM   #12
Didier Spaier
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Quote:
Originally Posted by abga View Post
Indeed, for the applications that comply with the XDG Base Directory specifications:
https://standards.freedesktop.org/basedir-spec/latest/
Firefox doesn't look like:
https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php...ectory_support
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=259356
?? I use this setting since several months and didn't encounter any issue so far, including with Firefox (52.7.3ESR at time of writing). To be honest, I have 8G of RAM and reboot at least daily.

Last edited by Didier Spaier; 04-16-2018 at 03:38 PM.
 
Old 04-16-2018, 03:39 PM   #13
Darth Vader
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If you like to simulate a bit the ARM world, grab an AMD Socket 754 from your garage, preferable with video on-board (to be all fun, ensure a Via S3), give it 1GB RAM, then give to video a share of 128MB.

In this computer try to run your thing. OK, it still will behave MUCH BETTER, so to appropriate by RPi in your simulation, install the OS in a SD-card, via whatever adapter.

Last edited by Darth Vader; 04-16-2018 at 03:58 PM.
 
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Old 04-16-2018, 03:50 PM   #14
abga
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Didier Spaier View Post
?? I use this setting since several months and didn't encounter any issue so far, including with Firefox (52.7.3ESR at time of writing). To be honest, I have 8G of RAM and reboot at least daily.
Sorry, got confused by the ~/.mozilla folder and missed the ~/.cache/mozilla one. You're right Firefox seems to partially comply with the XDG Base Directory specs, at least for the cache folder.
However, I still do not recommend moving the browser disk cache to RAM (tmpfs) on these limited ARM boards, my arguments are in my previous post.
 
Old 04-16-2018, 04:10 PM   #15
Darth Vader
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BTW, I think we all do wrong with our ARM thingies...

These ARM devices was designed for Android, and it install essentially as a live system. Maybe the Linux-live from SD-card will do considerable better.

Remember that the transfers from filesystem will be compressed.
 
  


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