Sunday, January 18, 2009

my green alix 2c3 box

This is my beloved fanless 24x7 box: Alix 2c3 board, consisting of:
  • CPU: AMD Geode x86 500MHz, 256MB RAM, 2x USB2.0, 3x LAN 100Mb, 1xMiniPCI
    (from http://pcengines.ch/)
  • CardFlash 4GB (as root filesystem)
  • WD Passport 500Mb (USB 2.0), using board's power via USB
  • Power supply: DC 12V 20W :-D

I tried several x86 OSes on it:
  1. OpenBSD 4.4: by far the easiest and +straightforward installation via PXE
  2. Debian stable: all Debian versatility thru your serial console installation :)
  3. Voyage Linux: 1-shot copy-to-CF (no PXE needed) && boot'it && apt-get'em =)

After some back&forth, I finally kept Voyage Linux, mostly because of
  • debian versatility
  • apt-get install screen ;)
  • fully tuned for flash => root filesystem is booted readonly, with all the writable noise kept in memory by using aufs (union fs) and tmpfs
  • smaaaaall (merely less than ~150Mb after install)
  • openssl/OCF by default
  • hardware watchdog, rng, aes support by default
Hardware info:
  • /proc/cpuinfo
    processor       : 0
    vendor_id : AuthenticAMD
    cpu family : 5
    model : 10
    model name : Geode(TM) Integrated Processor by AMD PCS
    stepping : 2
    cpu MHz : 498.056
    cache size : 128 KB
    fdiv_bug : no
    hlt_bug : no
    f00f_bug : no
    coma_bug : no
    fpu : yes
    fpu_exception : yes
    cpuid level : 1
    wp : yes
    flags : fpu de pse tsc msr cx8 sep pge cmov clflush mmx mmxext 3dnowext 3dnow
    bogomips : 997.25
    clflush size : 32
    power management:
  • lspci
    00:01.0 Host bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] CS5536 [Geode companion] Host Bridge (rev 33)
    00:01.2 Entertainment encryption device: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] Geode LX AES Security Block
    00:09.0 Ethernet controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT6105M [Rhine-III] (rev 96)
    00:0a.0 Ethernet controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT6105M [Rhine-III] (rev 96)
    00:0b.0 Ethernet controller: VIA Technologies, Inc. VT6105M [Rhine-III] (rev 96)
    00:0f.0 ISA bridge: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] CS5536 [Geode companion] ISA (rev 03)
    00:0f.2 IDE interface: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] CS5536 [Geode companion] IDE (rev 01)
    00:0f.4 USB Controller: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] CS5536 [Geode companion] OHC (rev 02)
    00:0f.5 USB Controller: Advanced Micro Devices [AMD] CS5536 [Geode companion] EHC (rev 02)
  • lsusb
    Bus 002 Device 002: ID 1058:0704 Western Digital Technologies, Inc.
    Bus 002 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0002 Linux Foundation 2.0 root hub
    Bus 001 Device 001: ID 1d6b:0001 Linux Foundation 1.1 root hub
  • lsmod | egrep geode (special hardware)
    geodewdt                4500  2             ## watchdog
    geode_rng 1920 0 ## random number generator
    rng_core 3716 1 geode_rng
    geode_aes 5508 0 ## aes cipher
Some measurements/stats:
  • HDD /USB 2.0 throughput:
    jjolix:~# hdparm  -t /dev/sda

    /dev/sda:
    Timing buffered disk reads: 56 MB in 3.04 seconds = 18.40 MB/sec
  • The CPU/chipset/RAM/netw are nice enough to run things like rtorrent/mlnet and serve NFS.
    This is top output at the alix box whilst doing a tar cf - /mnt/Fotos/ > /dev/null (~2K photos, ~3MB each) from a LAN NFS client:
    top - 20:51:47 up 18 days, 22:41,  1 user,  load average: 5.65, 2.39, 0.90
    Tasks: 60 total, 1 running, 58 sleeping, 0 stopped, 1 zombie
    Cpu(s): 4.0%us, 23.1%sy, 0.0%ni, 8.9%id, 31.7%wa, 21.5%hi, 10.9%si, 0.0%st
    Mem: 256860k total, 252860k used, 4000k free, 604k buffers
    Swap: 0k total, 0k used, 0k free, 197128k cached

    PID USER PR NI VIRT RES SHR S %CPU %MEM TIME+ COMMAND
    30635 p2p 20 0 57232 36m 5196 S 9.2 14.4 3:00.93 mlnet
    11028 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 4.0 0.0 0:06.09 nfsd
    11030 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 4.0 0.0 0:08.98 nfsd
    11024 root 20 0 0 0 0 D 3.6 0.0 0:06.20 nfsd
    11025 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 3.6 0.0 0:06.21 nfsd
    11027 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 3.6 0.0 0:06.16 nfsd
    11026 root 20 0 0 0 0 D 3.3 0.0 0:06.06 nfsd
    11029 root 20 0 0 0 0 S 3.3 0.0 0:06.11 nfsd
    11031 root 20 0 0 0 0 D 3.3 0.0 0:06.84 nfsd
    30349 root 15 -5 0 0 0 D 2.6 0.0 0:05.58 usb-storage
    3 root 15 -5 0 0 0 S 1.6 0.0 3:44.10 ksoftirqd/0
    88 root 15 -5 0 0 0 S 1.0 0.0 2:55.14 kswapd0


  • for above, iftop shows >70Mbit/s, ++enough to do a remote DVD toasting session :)
  • a full-steam-ahead rtorrent download at 1.5MBytes/sec makes it use ~25% CPU.


Previously I had a conventional , fanfull, noisy, old desktop (P4 1.5Ghz) for doing 24x7 stuff @home, as you can imagine it won't be missed =)

7 comments:

blog said...

:)

I bought 4 of these boxes (mini PCs) a while ago. They run OpenBSD and I use them in pairs (fail-over) as a firewall, VPN concentrator and IPv6 router. The ALIX is an extremely versatile box, cheap, and has power enough to run as a NAS or even as VoIP machine.

Tadeo said...

I want do the same. But I think in the Atom processor, the 330 series (two cores).

Péter said...

I've been using a similar Alix box with a 160GB no-name USB drive. Recently, I connected an 500GB WD Passport as a second drive. The first drive started to constantly disconnect. I had no problems with the 160GB drive and a 3.5 disk USB case (with its own powersupply). I wonder if Alix is supposed to be able to carry the two USB drives at all; if this is a power problem or something else.

JuanJo said...

USB standard specifies 500mA per port [1], and I'd guess that the 2 ports dont have independent current drains, *and* Alix's AC adaptor states: "Output voltage 18 V DC, 800mA"[2].

BTW I couldn't find any WD Passport power consumption spec, but some loose refs say ~650mA to 1A (ie: waaay above USB spec :)

I'd definitively try with a self-powered hub for 2 bus-powered disks.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB_hub
[2] http://pcengines.ch/ac18veur.htm

Péter said...

Thank you, JuanJo, for your insightful reply. It is most appreciated.

Mstaaravin said...

Quetal, para qué usas ese equipo...?
Tiene 3 interfaces, asumo que como un routercito.

Saludos

JuanJo said...

Hola Mstaaravin,

En realidad por ahora no lo estoy usando como router (tal como escribo en el post, es mi estación 24x7, rtorrent-friendly ;),
porque ya tengo un WRT54GS c/openwrt que me dá ~esa funcionalidad.