Thursday, April 23, 2009

An Atom-based NetTop from System76

After the initial lust after a Netbook, I started thinking how cool a NetTop would be!

A Netbook is a power-sipping laptop that handles most basic tasks people use. It is geared to longer battery life over horse power (CPU speeds).  The biggest limitation is often the small size of the screen or keyboard.

At home, though, we have a spot where the laptop goes now where it is always plugged in. It's in our "Command Center" which is the center of activity in the house, next to the phone and next to the official (paper) calendar. I've always thought about replacing the laptop with a flat screen monitor and a basic desktop computer.

The problem has been not only space, even though there is space under the counter it can go, but having another computer on is a draw on electricity and after changing out all of our incandescent light bulbs for florescent I don't want to eat those savings with a desktop basically checking email and doing some browsing!

Since I'm already running Ubuntu on the laptop, desktop and server, I looked into System76 to see what they have available. System76 is a computer manufacturer that sells laptops, desktop and servers with Ubuntu installed. In fact they do not sell anything with Windows installed so you know they have to make sure the necessary drivers are installed.

Enter, the Meerkat NetTop.

It comes with an
  • 8 Watt Atom processor at 1.6 GHz (which is 0.2 GHz more than my laptop)
  • 1 GB of Ram  with space for an additional GB (my laptop is 512 MB)
  • 80 GB hard disk upgradable to 750 GB (beats out my 30 GB disk)
  • Available CD-RW, USB Wireless, and up to 3 yrs Ltd. Warranty and Technical Support
Not a spead demon or computational-crunching monster but definately adequate for what we would use it for, especially considering it's more powerful than what we're using now.

Then it got me thinking...

Why not set it up as a low power-consuming home server for files and stuff that uses more electricity for less power like the current Pentium IIIs I am running?  I definately do not need the high-end full-fledged "servers" and can easily set it up with Ubuntu Server or even CentOS (the Red Hat clone from Red Hat's own source code)!

Most home systems don't have RAID setup anyway.  Heck, could probably run two of these for less voltage than my Pentium III (and I have 2 of them running anyway) or run one with an external USB hard drive (1 TB?!) for backups!  Add a battery backup and see how long this sucker can keep going!

If all I do is max out the Ram (2 GB) and Disk Space (750 GB) it still costs less than $400!

Combined with the starting price of just over $300, I could get 2 basic setups to replace the laptop and desktop ($600) and a Server with max Ram and Disk Space ($400) and replace all 3 systems for a little more than $1,000 (plus tax, title and insurance...).  And the whole system would use less electricity to boot!

Then again.. maybe for a little more I can also get a System76 Netbook when they come out.. for me!

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