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jmcnamara@mac.com
2004-05-25, 16:05
> From: "S. Ben Melhuish" <sben (AT) pile (DOT) org>
> Date: May 25, 2004 11:59:47 AM EDT
> To: Slim Devices Discussion <discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com>
> Subject: [slim] suggestions for small aac server?
> Reply-To: Slim Devices Discussion <discuss (AT) lists (DOT) slimdevices.com>
>
> jmcnamara (AT) mac (DOT) com wrote:
>
>> 1) small, quiet, cool
>> 2) 100baseT
>> 3) iTunes support (I guess this means windows, not linux)
>> 4) relatively inexpensive
>> 5) fast enough to do some transcoding (and not have xp burden it too
>> much if that's what's needed for #3)
>> I've built a few shuttle systems for friends (amd athlon based) but
>> I'm looking for something quieter/cooler/cheaper. Any suggestions?
>> I've already got a kvm switch so it doesn't need to be headless. I'd
>> prefer to run linux, but my music collection is about 95%
>> iTunes/AAC-based so it seems that could be a problem.
>
> I picked up a used Cube a little while back and added a quiet external
> Firewire drive. It meets 1-3 and 5 very nicely. Its compliance with
> 4 varies greatly, depending on your definition of "inexpensive" and
> what you're able to find and how much work it needs (e.g. mine had OS
> 9.1 installed). You could certainly do worse than that. Another
> option might be an old-ish Mac (or Windows) laptop.
>
> On the off chance you haven't discovered this yet, note that
> Slimserver/Squeezebox don't support DRM-protected AAC files from the
> iTunes music store (.m4p files).
>
> -- S. Ben Melhuish

I had in fact thought that a cube could be a good solution. The
problem is indeed price, they seem to still fetch a pretty high price
on ebay. As for the protected AAC files it seems like HYMN could
address that.

I may just end up doing one of the Shuttle compact boxes which I'm at
least familiar with. They are small and relatively quiet. It's too
bad winXP is such a large percentage of the price, though. I prefer
something with native quicktime support so that (non-DRM) AAC playback
will just work.

Another option, but something that I have no experience with is that
mini-itx form factor (I guess VIA makes these for instance). You can
apparently get some really small/quiet boxes. I'm not so sure about
the pricing and capabilities on these systems, however. Can anyone
offer some insight on these/suggest a particular box?

--
John

Peter Heslin
2004-05-26, 16:51
On Tue, May 25, 2004 at 07:05:14PM -0400, jmcnamara (AT) mac (DOT) com wrote:
> Another option, but something that I have no experience with is that
> mini-itx form factor (I guess VIA makes these for instance). You can
> apparently get some really small/quiet boxes. I'm not so sure about
> the pricing and capabilities on these systems, however. Can anyone
> offer some insight on these/suggest a particular box?

My slimserver is (was) a mini-ITX box with a VIA EPIA 5000 fanless CPU
(533 MHz), running Linux, which lives under the stairs like Harry
Potter. It works very well, consumes little power, and is very quiet,
but the CPU is *slow*. Don't judge it by the MHz -- like the old
Cyrix chips, it feels just a bit slower than an Intel of the same
rating. I would guess that it has the same weakness in floating-point
performance. This is no problem whatsoever when it comes to using it
as an ordinary slimserver, internet firewall, backup/samba server,
etc., but it may be a problem for you, since you say you want to do
audio transcoding. I run Lame on it sometimes to transcode Real audio
streams, etc, using alienstream, but I find it best to lower the
output quality by using the -q 7 option for Lame -- otherwise the load
gets pretty high, and performance suffers. For the low-quality
streaming audio off the internet that I am listening to, this makes no
difference at all, but if you want to transcode music files to
high-quality mp3, you may be out of luck with that particular CPU
model.

If you like the mini-ITX form factor but want more CPU power for
transcoding and other CPU-intensive tasks, you could try one of the
more recent and faster EPIA models -- but these generally require a
CPU fan. They run up to 1.2Ghz nowadays. You could ask at
http://linitx.org/forum/ if anyone has any experience running Lame on
one of these higher-end models -- it's a discussion board for Linux on
mini-ITX.

I used to have a Chyung-fan minicube case, but I was never very happy
with it, because it had a fairly noisy PSU fan. Eventually that PSU
died, and I couldn't get a replacement, so I have bought a Cubid case
with an external power brick. I haven't gotten around to setting it
up (or even taking it out of its box) yet, but I understand that it
only has two small fans to cool the internal DC-DC voltage converter.
I'll probably experiment with disconnecting those fans, to see if I
can get away with a totally fanless box.

For pricing (UK), see http://www.linitx.com/. Most cases take a
normal (non-laptop) HDD; some take a normal optical drive, but some
only take an expensive laptop-style one; some require low-profile RAM;
some have room for a single PCI card, some don't.

Peter