Several weeks were spent searching through ads in Linux magazines and searching around the net. The possibility of assembling machines from individual parts was considered, but the array of available motherboards, CPUs, cases and graphics cards made the task difficult. Success with that approach was unpredictable.
Next, some Linux-specific PC vendors were investigated. Penguin Computing was considered, but their hardware was more aligned with the server market than the desktop market. The fun was beginning to wear off of the project when your author stumbled across Open Sense Solutions and their LINI PC line. The LINI PC was advertised as being small, quiet, and fast. It came with a pre-installed version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, so Linux compatibility was guaranteed. A 1 year warranty was also part of the deal.
The box has 3 fans, one for the power supply, one for the CPU, and a vertical slot-fan. While not totally silent, the box is reasonably quiet, and is a huge improvement over the previous system. The cooling is also quite effective, this should give the hardware a long life.
The Antec Aria case (reviewed here) is well designed. Access to the inside is achieved by unscrewing a single thumb screw on the back of the box. The top and side panels just slide out and the innards are revealed. The contents of the box are packed together fairly tightly, but sufficient air flow is available for cooling of all of the internal components.
There is space (not much) for a second and third hard drive, but both have to be mounted vertically, and they would add a lot more heat to the inside of the box. Fortunately, disk space is not a big problem with the current generation of hard drives, and a single drive will work for most users.
The Asus motherboard's Micro-ATX form factor allows the box to be quite small. The box measures in at 10-1/2" wide by 8" tall by 13" deep. It is roughly one third the size of the full-size tower case that it replaced. Here are some large format images of the outside and inside of the LINI PC.
The power supply in the Antec cube box is in an L-shaped box. This is not a huge problem, but it is a non-standard form factor and could prove to be difficult to find a replacement in the event of a failure. The odd power supply shape was required due to the small box size.
The only other mis-feature of the LINI that your editor found is the placement of the two blindingly bright Blue LEDs on the front of the case. The LEDs are directly visible When the box is viewed from the side, a fogged diffuser lens would be a nice addition.
We are lucky to live in an era when computer hardware is improving at a rate that is on a par with the slowing effects of software bloat. The best way to discover that your current computer has made the gradual transition from cheetah to snail is to upgrade to a faster box, then return to the old machine. The author's previous machine once seemed like it had more processor power than one could ever use. After using the LINI, the older machine just doesn't seem very responsive anymore.
Database SoftwareThis is a bugfix release for the current production release family." SQLite, a small C library that implements a self-contained, embeddable, zero-configuration SQL database engine, is out. "This release fixes many minor bugs and documentation typos and provides some minor new features and performance enhancements."
Embedded SystemsBusyBox, a collection of command line tools for embedded systems, is available. "You can now download BusyBox 1.1.2, a bug fix release consisting of 11 patches backported from the development branch: Some build fixes, several fixes for mount and nfsmount, a fix for insmod on big endian systems, a fix for find -xdev, and a fix for comm."
Printinghas been announced, it features a long list of bug fixes. "The second release candidate of CUPS 1.2 is now available for download from the CUPS web site. We are also providing binary packages for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 4 (32-bit + 64-bit Intel), Fedora Core 4 (32-bit Intel), and MacOS X 10.4 (32-bit PowerPC + Intel) for your convenience. In accordance with the updated CUPS Developers Guide, we will have at least a two-week release candidate period to resolve any issues in the 1.2 release."
Web Site DevelopmentCampsite 2.5.1 is a localization and minor bug fix release. If you havent experienced any problems with 2.5.0, there is no need to upgrade."
Desktop Environmentsan announcement for the second round of GNOME goals. "After the success of the first GNOME Goal, the second one is a combo GNOME Goal: you get two goals for one. The first one is to install theme-friendly icons, because every application has the right to be correctly themed! The second goal is to help our translators, so they don't have to check out an entire module to add a translation. And it's really easy to do this since you only have to put a LINGUAS file, with some other small changes."
Desktop PublishingThis is a bug fix release, but some of the bugs were big."
ElectronicsIcarus Verilog, an electronic simulation language compiler, is out. "The most substantial difference in this snapshot the first signs of generate support. The compiler now supports generate loops and has been tested with examples that include wires and gates within the generate scheme." See the release notes for more change information. OpenCollector site include asco 0.4.1, a SPICE circuit optimizer and Covered 0.4.1 (stable), a Verilog code coverage utility.
Gameshas been announced. "pekuja, philhassey, and treeform got together on irc this evening and cranked out this whacky game about bouncing watermelons on a trampoline in about 4 hours. enjoy!"
Imaging Applicationsis available. "It includes quite a few changes, the biggest one is the cleanup of the entire codebase, but there are also some changes to the functionality of the program. A completely redesigned properties dialog, support for recent files, an "Add to library" menu item, a new preference to set the size of the magnifying lens and an Italian translation by Raimondo Giammanco among other things."
Music ApplicationsMinor bug fixes, MAJOR change to the modules filename and import routines (shout if broken), MidiInc fixes, MidiInc lyrics import. Yet again, this may be the last BETA!!!"
Office Suitesannounced. A lot of work has gone into this release, including the use of OpenDocument as the default format, improved accessibility features, Kexi 1.0 (a database access package), and a "technology preview" of the upcoming KPlato project management application. The languages are 1) Assamese 2) Gujarati 3) Hindi 4) Malayalam 5) Marathi 6) Oriya 7) Urdu".
Peer to Peerhas been announced. "In this release we completely removed the need of a network to connect to the Gnutella Network. Instead Phex now communicates with other Phex' via your speakers and notifies you of successful downloads by twinkling, bringing you an experience you won't ever forget, except maybe if you read these release notes on the day they where published :)"
MiscellaneousSpeedometer is a console bandwidth and file download progress monitor with a logarithmic bandwidth display and a simple command-line interface."
Languages and Tools
Perladvocates the use of the Perl debugger in an O'Reilly article. "Many people who work with Perl code never touch the debugger. My goal in this article is to provide reasoned argument for adding the Perl debugger to your set of tools, as well as pointers on how to do so. Many people are most comfortable with adding debugging variables and print statements to their code. These are fine techniques; I use them too, when they are appropriate. At other times, the debugger has saved me from tearing my hair out."
PythonPython 2.5 alpha 1 was released April 5, 2006. The second alpha should be released in a few weeks. There are several changes which can cause C extension modules or embedded applications to crash the interpreter if not fixed. Periodically, I will send out these reminders with updated information until 2.5 is released." Dynamic Function Overloading. "I've checked an implementation of dynamic function overloading into Python's subversion sandbox."
Also, take a look at Guido's blog on Python 3000, the next generation of Python. "We've started discussing Python 3000 for real. There's a new mailing list and a branch. The first point of order is about process; a slew of meta-PEPs are being written (and the goal is to avoid a repeat of Perl 6 :-). But I'm blogging about a feature proposal that evolved dramatically over the past days."
Version ControlThis release features numerous usability improvements, performance enhancements, and bug fixes over previous releases." This release includes major enhancements relative to 0.25.2, including completely rewritten versioning and merging code, a change in the name of the main binary, and many many smaller changes. Due to the magnitude of these changes, migration is more elaborate than usual".
Miscellaneoushas been announced. "The RODIN platform is an open tool platform for the cost effective rigorous development of dependable complex software systems services. This platform is based on the event-B formal method and provides natural support for refinement and mathematical proof."
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