2. It is tiny
3. It is quite power efficient
4. It has GPIO pins, which make it usable for experimenting with hardware.
5. It has a great community (you can easily find many projects for it, and there are some great OSes available, which run nice educational software)
6. It is cheap
All of this makes it fantastic for education and as a gadget. The whole point of the raspberry pi is to be unlike other computers. You can set it up as a server, but this is not its main purpose.
The Dell Optiflex FX160 probably outperforms the pi at all measures, but it is just stupid to compare it to a raspberry pi, because it has none of its unique points which make the pi a good choice in the first place.
Now, there are actually some better raspberry pi clones out there. For those products, a title like this might make sense.
I can throw my Internet connection router and FTTC box on as discretionary load but that's another ~300Wh/day; it is quite staggering how relatively efficient the RPi is, compared to presumably similar or lower processing requirements in the other two boxes!
(You can only see the RPi's power consumption when the networking gear is pushed back onto mains.)
I thought the article was very clear about that as it's point. If you were thinking of using an RPi as a server, it's not meant for that, here is a better alternative.
Ubuntu and some of the other 3rd-party OSes are compiled for ARMv7, and won't run on the 0/1/1+. A couple are compiled for ARMv8/AARCH64, and won't run on anything but a Pi3. There's a lot of work that went into making things like Raspbian as close to foolproof as possible.
(Only use the real ASUS power adapters; the no-name 3rd party units overheat, don't provide enough power, or in at least one case, catch fire.)
When I get one in, I put in the Xubuntu USB stick and run the memory diagnostic for an hour. If that passes, I wipe the machine completely and install Xubuntu 16.04LTS. Works fine. All the peripherals are supported. (There was some trouble with 14.04 LTS; the infamous "disappearing cursor" bug affected these units, because they had a certain model of Intel graphics processor. But that's fixed.)
I use one with a $30 USB microscope to help with surface mount soldering. Others run antique Teletype machines. One is used as a normal laptop.
But an hour is certainly better than nothing.
Sure these servers might be handy for some things, but the Pi still has a lot of advantages. For me it's small form factor, low power consumption and GPIO.
And I indeed do run mine (off-grid) from a battery where every W counts, and I do use GPIOs and ADCs!
And (along with my pony) I want a system so widely used that most questions/issues can be solved with a cut-n-paste into Google!
I'd go with a Qotom box for that, but something like this would be about as good and, at the cited prices, a fair bit cheaper - and wouldn't involve the same US Customs import encumbrance that I've found Qotom hardware to entail, besides. But I think it would depend on being able to find used FX160s cheaply, as the article describes, and since its description of a sudden glut in the used market seems written from an Australian perspective, I imagine that might be an issue elsewhere.
A video with some of them:
I've recently bought one of these and it's been great so far. Though its a NanoBSD currently you can squeeze an SSD in there.
My current favourite is HP t520 (dual core AMD embedded apu, fanless, M2 SSD drive, a miniPCIe slot, gbit ethernet, USB 3.0 and low power consumption). I haven't measured it but HP states 7W for normal operation. More info at http://www.parkytowers.me.uk/thin/hp/t520/ & in the quick specs www8.hp.com/h20195/v2/GetPDF.aspx/c04303956.pdf
You can have one second-hand for about $60-70, and prices are bound to go down.
edit: the linked article mentions that mini-pcie can be used for an SSD. This is usually not true, as mSATA while sharing the same physical connector needs to be wired differently. You can see e.g. pcengines doing that on their apu2 boards. Even the aliexpress page mentions "NOTE:this is msata , can not use in mini pcie or wifi interface" in bold red letters
But I'd still own a number of raspberry pis since they're great for hacking or just to support a cool mission (in my opinion).
Charities can make "investments" too.
AFAIK the RPi foundation is completely straight in this respect, just worth mentioning the general position for UK Charities IMO.
> we provide outreach and education to help more people access computing and digital making. We develop free resources to help people learn about computing and how to make things with computers, and train educators who can guide other people to learn
I run apache and some low-demanding webapps on it:
- miniflux (feed reader)
- shaarli (bookmark manager)
and it serves pages via my home DSL connection (with DDNS).
I did consider the alternatives - netbook/notebooks - but for my use case reliability, safety and power consumption would be much worse. These devboard is fanless and runs everything off an SD card. OK, SD cards are slow but on failure (never happened in three years!) I can just swap it with a (recent) cloned one with almost no downtime. I could use the faster onboard NAND but it did fail once on blackout and I went back to SD cards. I could even use a SATA HDD but I don't need that much storage.
So... it depends on your use case, I guess.
There are some Amazon sellers who have put together complete systems running Windows 7 or 10 for around US $100:
If you're buying one to use as a server this won't matter to you, but if you want a tiny Linux or BSD desktop, you may want to look elsewhere. The video hardware is SiS Mirage, which has terrible support in non-Windows OSes.
A few months ago I decided to build myself a super quiet replacement, I took a small well ventilated case, put an underclocked i3 in it, a fanless heatsink on top, a super quiet power supply and it's amazing. For about 350 euros I have a completely silent and rather powerful HTPC. A lot more expensive than the computer in TFA obviously, but well worth it if like me you can't stand fan noises.
For the plugged-in laptops I use as servers, I have a repeating task in my todo system to unplug and drain them once every couple of months. The intention being to keep the thing's own idea of its calibration honest, in case it ever gets used like a normal laptop again.
The margins of error are quite small considering that they sometimes explode well within their intended use case (which is not powered on 24/7).
The consequences of a fire in a battery is quite severe, and unlike normal laptop usage you probably won't be around it when it starts (or, worse, you might be asleep).
So, I'd err on the safe side and buy a UPS that at least covers the intended use case. For something as efficient as a laptop it isn't expensive either.
Usually, though, by the time they become my HTPCs, the batteries are completely shot already and so I recycle them at work.
The only annoying thing is that my TV doesn't provide USB power while on standby, so I needed a separate power supply.
The former is popularly taken over by the integrated system within TV / media player (yes, many of the newest DVD & BlueRay media players do come with a better, surprisingly , integrated system), and you can play media like Netflix / YouTube from your mobile phone.
The latter is somewhat a customized solution, depending on what you do. I would run on my old laptop, or I can run on a raspberry Pi (which is capable of running HD video at 1080p), plus a large SSD network storage device (or use "cloud" if you have a good Internet connectivity).
There are plenty options out there, but for a $60 deal (USD) is pretty good. Most big brands can easily cost you $100+ with just Atom CPU in it. I wouldn't mind getting one though, if it becomes available again.
: Samsung BD-JM57C Streaming Blu-ray Player (love it)
Using non-x86 devices like Raspberry Pi is the first step in breaking this. Yes, Pi itself has closed-source components, but once the people understand that it is feasible and not hard to run generic server code on ARM/RISC CPUs, the demand will appear, and the market would act and bring cheaper and faster servers to the market. And this is already happening -- for example I think odroids got popular only after Pi has created the demand.
So if you have a choice between x86 and non-x86, chose the latter if you can, to make the world a bit more secure and open.
The Dell is a complete computer in a box.
Contrast to PC engines, which sell a collection of parts. A motherboard, a case, an AC adapter. Etc.
Oh, and btw careful how you mount the motherboard. I.e.: Conductive cooling from the CPU to the enclosure through a 3 mm alu heat spreader. Please contact us for advice if you want to integrate this board in your own enclosure.
Not that the PC Engines stuff is bad; it's just that I usually prefer to have the manufacturer screw things together and then test the final product.
It seems to be running fine even inside of a closed cupboard, the CPU is at 31ºC and using about 16-17 watts on average. It's warm to the touch but it might be the apparently good thermal design of the case which allows for fully passive cooling.
What I don't like is that (at least judging by the heat it generates) most of the power consumption seems to be originated in the video chip, which in a headless server is useless. I tried to disable but didn't have any luck (it's a SiS 771/671 chip).
The only minor problem I've run into is that the processor is just slow enough that it chokes on high-entropy 1080p video. 99.5% of the time it's fine, but if there's something on screen with lots of tiny objects moving in lots of different directions (a swarm of locusts, an explosion in space, etc.) the frame rate drops substantially. It makes perfect sense if you think about how video compression works. I just wish it had a tiny bit more oomph.
Edit: looks like it's not. Maybe I'll try to fix it later, but probably not. That should really work out of the box. The hardware definitely supports it, per vainfo.
The one advantage of the Raspberry Pi is it's the one with the most of everything. Other noble competitors, like the Beagle, are pretty good too but getting anything to run on them can be really frustrating.
I mean I'd think you'd prefer an arduino for this application over pretty much everything else since you can quickly upload small programs to the arduino that keep the "fast" logic on the arduino.
Cool thing about them is that you can write in C-like AVR code (like Arduino), or micro versions of Lua, Python, and other choices.
btw ESP32 are reaching the 6-7$ range for module + serial board.
14 GPIO (although with hacks you can do more), including 10 bit DACs on all of them, and 4 with hardware PWM. Most have alternate functions, like I2C, that can be used.
"Neither fast nor efficient, but it surely is slow!"
I had an older Atom device running Plex server for quite a while, but back then I almost never needed full transcoding for playback -- usually 'stream direct' which just shifts the MKV container to MP4 -- relatively easy work. And when I did have full transcode, it was either from h.264->h.264 with slightly different profile settings or MPEG-2 -> h.264. I had to configure it for the lowest quality transcoding settings in order to avoid interrupted playback, but it worked. I upgraded to fastest i5 that was offered about two years ago and it's handled everything quite well -- though h.265 transcoding takes substantially longer to start-up and seek than h.264 full transcodes.
I'm curious what modern Atom processors can handle. I know they've made some improvements to the chips, but is it enough, yet?
Dell Optiplex FX160.
When I think "Raspberry Pi" I think "Oh yeah there's not very many of those, and they're super cheap and low power and useful"
When I think "Dell", I think "Conglomerate"; when I think "Optiplex", I think "stupid-expensive desktop machines"; when I think "FX160" I think "oh great a !@#$ing model number to look up specs for". Yeah, it's 'cheap' and 'powerful' and 'useful', but far more effort goes into identifying its purpose. And, since it doesn't have any GPIO, it's useful in a different way.
Honestly, it's like comparing apples to oranges. One just keeps the doctor away while I use the other as the base for soups.
I think that they are both good brands, aimed squarely at the comfort zones of their target market segments.
RPi 3 does these very well, why bother with a more power-consuming box? Not to metion RPi 3 has WiFi builtin (I know it's slow, but good enough for my usage)
The prime example was crashplan. Every year or so they would push a new package, and I would end up taking their jar files apart to replace the native x86 packages with ARM binaries. Then there was the ongoing problems with performance or running out of RAM on machines with soldered RAM. Today you can get low power skylake motherboard/celerons which are sub 15 watts in normal operation and and have very fine grained power controls which allow them to go into suspend or idle below 5W.
I've made web apps for managing Contacts, Quotes, Invoices, Expenses, Income Reports, ToDo, Chat, and others. I can back up all my data to a remote server (IBM Cloudant for example), and to another Pi in-house as well.
And I've configured it to boot off of the Hard Drive. You don't even need an SD card in it to boot.
Plus, it comes with all the apps already installed on Raspbian so it works well as a desktop PC too. That's a pretty sweet deal.
Woah, that's awesome! I had no idea the pi 3 could do that.
I have a Raspberry Pi 2 B and a 3 B at home. I host my website using the 2 B with cloudflare in front of it , as well as use it as a login server, but every couple of months the SD card gets corrupted. The last time that happened was a couple of weeks ago and since I'm currently away from home there's nothing I can do to fix it until I get back so now my website is down and additionally I can't send data to my desktop computer for backup, though fortunately I have two external drives with me so I can have multiple copies of my data still just not at different physical locations.
Totally going to put the 3 B in charge of my website and have it boot from a USB stick instead of from SD.
Searched and found a post with more details about this from the Raspberry Pi guys: https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pi-3-booting-part-i-usb-mas...
You may want to check your power supply before switching to USB storage. In my case, the corrupt SD card turned out to be an issue with the power adapter I bought for the raspi Model 3B. Switching to a better 2A adapter fixed the issue.
To be honest I think perhaps the SD card I am using is actually bad. I seem to recall that I lost some photos from the same SD card previously when I used it in a digital camera. So I could also try replacing the SD card if I haven't already but at that point I feel like a USB stick will be just as good anyway.
I intend to configure my Raspberry Pi to not write logs and such to persistent memory in order to reduce wear on the storage since such files are of no interest to me anyway, but haven't gotten around to do so yet. Still the files for my website will be on the USB stick though so therefore I wonder, will the read and write speed be ok even with USB? I think it probably will. Additionally I've been wishing to keep the website files themselves in memory as well (but to write to disk when they are changed ofc) but haven't gotten around to that either.
This is the forum post I followed to setup the Pi to boot from the HD, I think it may be newer than the one you found:
Worked like a charm.
That kit cost $109.99
Let's do some math...
Power Supply: 12.99
375GB HD: 37.49
From anywhere else:
Pi 3: 40.00
You still have no keyboard or mouse.
It's powerful enough for what I want to use it for and it's tiny enough as to be basically invisible. Could I get more bang for the buck? Sure. But there's something to be said for the qualitative aspects of hardware preferences.
The moment you start having to plug extra bits in (i.e. USB to SPDIF) you've completely undone the the reason to get one imho.
I'll stick to my bread-box mini-itx units. That said, I do like the custom integrated PSU in the Dell.
It's incredibly easy to build an emulation box with a Raspberry Pi that you can connect to an old CRT TV an have the true retro game experience.
If I wanted to do the same on a normal desktop PC, I would need to look around for an old graphics card with a composite output or for some HDMI<->composite adapter (which are quite expensive IIRC)
4 or 8 cores at 2+ghz plus a very decent gpu. with a high end motherboard you get it for $100! and there is one itx motherboard that cames with a 20V input plug to not even need a psu!
best part: mine with a ssd and a hdd streaming movies to the tv in 1080p (supports 4k but i get tearing) de will only consume 35W!
You probably want an OTG cable that allows you to charge it while using the network card.
Or, if you want a fast dev board, the Odroids are $35 to $60.
The Odroids are fast, yes, but they are stuck with old kernels in Linux, buggy drivers (especially video), and a very limited OS compatibility list overall. If you're developing with the Odroid as your target, fine, but for general purpose computing you're better off with the Pi if you want ARM, or else a cheap x86 box like the article mentions.
As for odroid, I mentioned it because one of the points in referenced article was lackluster speed on the Rpi. If the Rpi is fast enough for what you're doing, none of this is needed.
Odroid says it works with Ubuntu 16.04. that's the current LTS, isn't it?
The one the author links to on eBay has 2GB RAM installed. No HDD installed though.
>Raspberry Pi, case, power adaptor AUD$73.26. Dell Optiplex FX160 around AUD$60
translated to USD:
>Raspberry Pi, case, power adaptor US $54.19. Dell Optiplex FX160 around US $44.39.
(I used Google to convert the currency, didn't look up prices.)
There are a few things that offset this, though. The eBay OptiPlex ships without RAM. The author points out that this adds a minimal $20AUD, but that offsets the sticker price difference. In addition, if Hacker News is the target audience and you folks are anything like me, I have a medium sized box filled with USB cables and power adapters -- more than half of which meet the specs to power a Pi, not to mention about 4 high-end multi-port units, one of which sits where my servers are and has available ports. Plus, on my nightstand next to me are three 16GB MicroSD cards that I could re-purpose for a Pi, so those costs are very efficient for me -- I'd just end up actually using something that's laying around.
Neither come with substantial storage, though. So you're going to be buying a drive to attach to either if you want to serve up video files or the likes.
This puts them about even at sticker price, but you're not leaving them in the box. You have to consider total cost of ownership with a PC just like with a car. The author states that these are silent but it has an HDD fan and it's unclear if there are other fans in the device -- these will wear. And then there's the cost of electricity. I couldn't find any data on power consumption at load/idle but a look at the specs indicates that this ships with a (rather economical/small) 50W power supply (it's 87% efficient). 50W for a PC is quite good, but it's awful compared against a Pi. The Pi is 1.4W idle and 3.7W at load. Granted, more would be required for any external disks being added, but going SSD would be low power as well. Assuming the device will be 'always on', the Dell PC will cost substantially more.
 If this source is to be believed, anyway: https://www.pidramble.com/wiki/benchmarks/power-consumption
> It’s faster, cheaper and still relatively small
Yes, the Optiplex is going to perform better at a lot of things. The prices I'm seeing are around $60 -- the Pi is either $10 for the Zero with WiFi or $45 for the "3" with a reasonably sized Micro SD card. Granted, your needs may include more storage than what's offered by a Micro SD card, so that would set the sticker price higher, but the Optiplex that was linked to didn't include storage, either. But the bigger area where the Pi is going to be less expensive is in power utilization. The Pi is really cheap to run. These things don't even need active cooling to run well.
But it's also not really fair to equate these two devices. It's not even fair to say 'for a home server' -- that all depends on what you're going to use it for. If you're using it as a low power home server for sharing files and/or basic web app, REST service or home automation hub and have no intention of doing processor intensive tasks like media re-encoding, the Pi is a good fit and economical to leave powered on all the time. My Plex server, in fact, points to a device that's a Pi competitor which has archived media on it.
Then, there's noise and heat. Provided spindle drives aren't used, Pis are completely silent and generate substantially less heat than a full-sized PC. I am fairly certain the Atom processor in that Dell has active cooling. Even if it's a heat-sink only design, those usually include ducting that feeds off one or more other fans in the device (which end up being more powerful/louder to handle cooling the extra components). Minimally, there's at least one fan running all the time. Yes, you can buy quiet fans (adding to the cost) and nearly eliminate this sound, but in my case, my Pi clone doesn't even have a heat-sink on the CPU. It shares a case with three, rather hot, drives (though I've designed it with ducting and separation to reduce the impact of this heat). It has been running that way for over a year without difficulties.
 The specific mention of Plex leads me to believe the author was targeting those of us who want a Plex Media Server on an RPi. I'm not sure how well Plex works on the Pi, but I use my Plex server with a Roku and many of my videos must be re-encoded to h.264/MP4 from h.265/MKV on the server in order to play them back -- I also have to re-encode to a lower bitrate when I'm remote. I'm not confident the Pi could handle those tasks.
 It's either a Banana Pro or Orange Pi; can't remember -- I haven't had to touch the hardware since I set it up. It's Ethernet attached with a 1TB SATA drive and two 2TB USB disks. The device handles the task perfectly. In fact, I only set it up because my i5 server case was too small to take on the storage, so I printed up a case to house the Pi clone and the drives. It also serves up a REST service that my SmartThings uses to control my garage door and older Pioneer receiver, as well as a node service that lets my Alexa control my Roku. I even had it set up to run Octoprint to control my 3D printer, but purchased a Pi 3 for that because I wanted to relocate the printer.
I'm guessing that the Atom processor in that device can't handle H.265->H.264. I'm using a two-year-old i5 (top-end of that class of processor at the time) and while it manages, it's pretty close to the edge with the version of ffmpeg they're using.
Interesting for other uses, surely not for HD video playing, which to me is the only strong selling point for a RPi now that the Orange, Nano PIs and other SBCs surpassed it nearly in every other aspect.
Install a caching plugin!
Unfortunately there is an issue with the Ethernet: https://bugs.freebsd.org/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=206567 so right now my home server is on Wi-Fi :D Which has been perfectly reliable so far, thanks to the good old Atheros card.
And then if you follow the other advice and spend $20 AUD on RAM, and buy an SSD, and do a few other things...
It's not cheaper.
You better be right!
What's the purpose of installing one of these in a home server? (Genuinely curious)
Just just got a W zero for $24 CAD shipped (Vancouver)
The irony is that most corporate class hardware will last until well beyond obsolescence before breaking. I've heard people say they don't want to buy a refurbished ThinkPad because they're worried about longevity.
Those things will outlast any consumer grade laptop you buy today.
My T42 is also still useful enough to continue using, though its battery also succumbed to "always plugged in" syndrome.
My current daily driver is an i7-equipped X201 Tablet. While I don't have much use for the pen-based tablet mode, it was still a very nice laptop for a very nice price.
The X201 came with a good enough battery that I decided to set a maximum charge of 80% to (hopefully) make it last a few more years.
I highly recommand the odroid xu4
It is supposed to have GBit Ethernet now:
I mean, almost every claim debatably, is an exaggeration or blatantly false.
As CFTM pointed out, the whole thing is a bunch of weak arguments for you to buy some old, out out lease hardware on ebay.
Or buy a known good product, spend the extra cash on the accessories you want, and get what you want.
There's a cognitive bias whereby we assume that if something seems wrong to us, nobody else could possibly hold that view in good faith (i.e. they must be astroturfing or shilling). But people hold opposing views in good faith all the time.
TFA made a reasonable argument for why this was a great deal. I can't find any fault, and certainly it's not an ad.
The reality is that this little PC is a solid choice to consider for a low-end home server -- especially if you have a particular need/desire for x86. They're different platforms that serve different purposes and a micro-desktop like this has a lot of good uses. I used to use a similar device as my playback PC and loved that I could play back every format without having something have to transcode it for me.
It didn't even cross my mind to think of that post as 'advertising' or that you might be the actual seller, and I use affiliate links any time I link to a product where I have an affiliate account. I think I've made $5 over a few years, so I wouldn't be inclined to think the inclusion of an affiliate link causes a post to be considered spammy or a motivation to spam. For me, it's just easier to click the associates banner at the top and get a short-link that way.
Personally speaking, I enjoyed the post and think it had plenty of value even though I didn't agree completely with the conclusion and decided to pull a 'Someone is Wrong on the Internet!'. So to offset this small amount of grief you have received, consider this my 'Many Thanks for Sharing' and encouragement to continue to do so.
 Personally, I reload my computer enough and it's always painful for me to go through the steps of setting up my environment for cross-compiling to ARM. I never quite get it right on the first try and often give up half-way through, delaying getting things done that I want to do. If it's x86, I can compile locally and cp away.
 I'm not sure if that processor could handle H.265, but at the time I was running this device -- which later became my Plex server -- H.265 didn't exist. If it can play back h.265, that would make this quite a solid product for that purpose.
 And this being 10:30 PM, my time, I'm literally: https://xkcd.com/386/
Glad you enjoyed the post :)
I have a question.. for anybody, what is the difference between using a PC as media server as OP describes, or using a little Android box thing like the Mi, or something like Apple TV?
Basically I have a MBP, and I'll be getting a TV soon, and I want to be able to easily watch dls on the TV, using a remote. And I'd prefer not to have my laptop doing the grunt work.
Any opinions/explanations appreciated! ta