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Oct 13, 2014

So I may be going out on a limb, but anyone every work with single board computers?

I'm thinking about expanding my current workstation with one as there are some tasks I'd like to run on a separate system (server, VM); the small form factor and keeping it in my chassis would be a plus for me.

Some info for those who haven't heard of these things. They're essentially a miniature motherboard, and with the PICMG1.3 spec they plug into the PCI-e slot (they also have PCI support.) Previously with PICMG 1.0 they used ISA and PCI. They include what you'd expect a motherboard would have: CPU socket, ram slots, SATA, VGA, Ethernet, BIOs, Chipset, etc.

I've never worked with one myself, but I figure there is a possibility that some of the more technologically inclined goons have.

Brief synopsis of my current system:
OS: Debian 7.6 Wheezy (Windows 7 in hypervisor)
CPU: AMD FX-8120 Zambezi 8-Core 3.1GHz
HDD: 4x WD 320gb 7200rpm (raid 5)
VGA: 2x ATI FireStream 9270

This is an all-encompassing budget workstation that I have. Programming (OpenCL, OpenGL, C, etc), VMs, gaming (I can confirm that modern games do work on firestream), media and other personal use.

I do have a few concerns about buying one of these, like cooling and connectivity to a pretty standard desktop board. From what I've gathered, they offer at least 2 types of connection to the mainboard and these cards seem to simply “flip” around to accommodate which one you would like to use. I may be way off base. As far as cooling, it seems like I'd be purchasing non-standard solutions.

Also, sharing any work or personal experience with these would be valuable and buying suggestions. I'm looking for at least an SBC that supports a dual-core CPU and 8GB of ram. DDR2 and the older Intel Core CPUs are fine. I'd prefer a board that supports a quad-core CPU and 16GB for running some applications 24/7. I mostly plan to connect to the board with VNC, but I do have a KVM switch. Any software provided by the manufacturer is pretty much irrelevant to me as long as the board powers on. My price cap for just the board would be around $400.


Mar 29, 2012

while [[ true ]] ; do

PICMG SBCs are meant to go in chassis like this where they attach to a backplane that provides power and PCI/PCI-e slots for expansion. They're not designed to be an 'add-on' to an existing computer, they're meant to be the entire computer itself, albeit in a much more modular format.

If you're constrained by power and space but your computing needs do justify extra hardware, consider an Intel NUC or a similar small form factor system. You'll still end up around the $400 mark.

Oct 13, 2014

I'll look into smaller form factor then. You've cleared up a misconception I built up in my mind despite having read manufacturer datasheets and other information I could find about SBCs; it certainly seems there is limited information about these devices or at least it isn't convenient to access. The whole idea of simply having an add-in card with a functional system made my eyes sparkle, but alas you've prevented me from throwing my money away based on incomplete knowledge.

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