FreeBSD on the fitPC and on the EeePC

FreeBSD is a nice environment, and I tend to gravitate to it (though I love Linux and Solaris as well). It does tend to work better in smaller environments than either Linux or Solaris.

There was recently a discussion of FreeBSD on the EeePC; it appears that while some items do not work (to be expected) it runs nicely and works nicely (including wireless). There was recently posted a simple introductory article which also refers to a comprehensive article on FreeBSD on the EeePC.

There was also an article (with followup) about running FreeBSD on the fitPC; in contrast to the EeePC, this sounds like it is not as good. However, the fitPC has less memory and a slower processor; it is unclear as to whether the processor is “fast enough” (I still use Pentium IIIs for my use!) or if it really is slow. It is, however, very surprising that the default Ubuntu install would be a graphical installation that swaps badly and comes without SSH.

The fitPC forums have a nice Linux on fitPC section, which also includes the BSDs as well. The biggest problem with FreeBSD seems to be its lack of a USB CDROM driver in the base kernel; however, apparently OpenBSD loads fine. Since the system has only 256M of memory, it perhaps should not be swamped with heavy desktop applications.

The fitPC: Is it a good fit?

I’ve been seriously considering the fitPC for my own purposes. Currently, the DHCP server (ISC) and the web proxy (Squid) in my home network are two separate servers running versions of Red Hat or CentOS. Both are slimline computers, but otherwise are standard in their configuration: standard hard drives, standard motherboards, etc. I think it might be safe to assume that this also means standard power consumption (200-250 watts, I’m guessing).

Along with the wattage is the noise as well. With the two servers and two desktops running (and a rackmountable switch), that is a lot of fans and a lot of noise (more than non-techies would realize!).  That’s four computers with 200-250 watts each (high estimate) – for 800-1000 watts of power consumption.

This doesn’t even take into account what it would be like with the Sun SparcStation 20 or the UltraEnterprise 1 started up – I shudder to think how much power they take up (and I know how noisy they are….).

A 5-watt computer with no fan (silence!) would be very nice. The things that are most appealing about the 5-watt fitPC are the silence, the minimal power drain, and the standard configuration. Many computers that fall into this category are in fact, embedded systems – small memory, small flash drives, and so on – often with specialized software (even if it is open source).

The fitPC is a standard system, so it will run anything that will run on an Intel 586-based system.

The company is in Israel, and until recently was the only source for their product. They appear to have been overwhelmed with orders sometime in November, but are going as fast as they can.  I’ve no idea if they are backed up now or not. They’ve also introduced resellers apparently: System Industrie Electronic AG in Austria, Anders Electronics in the United Kingdom, and CompuLab Embedded Systems in the United States.  None of the resellers has the fitPC listed as available, but presumably if you contact the right people from their list, everything will be just fine.

They have a set of forums that are excellent, and serve as an excellent resource for purchasers and owners of fitPC systems.

One of the questions that comes up on the forums is: Does the fitPC work well with X where X is:

It comes with either Windows XP or Ubuntu (an optimized Gentoo is also available). The listed cost is $285 US.