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[News] 8 Big Things to Do with a Mini **LINUX** Server (in wallwart)

  • Subject: [News] 8 Big Things to Do with a Mini **LINUX** Server (in wallwart)
  • From: Terry Porter <linux-2@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 11 May 2009 19:47:03 +1000
  • Bytes: 9393
  • Newsgroups: comp.os.linux.advocacy
  • User-agent: KNode/0.10.9
  • Xref: ellandroad.demon.co.uk comp.os.linux.advocacy:764584
Remember the ARM chip that loves to run Linux ??


Tiny computers are everywhere?our cell phones, handheld gaming devices and
set-top boxes, to name a few?so it should be no surprise that Marvell
Technology in Santa Clara, Calif., one of the companies that makes the
chips that go into such devices, managed to cram an entire home server into
the SheevaPlug, a two-inch by four-inch (five- by 10-centimeter) box that
plugs into any wall outlet and is almost indistinguishable from an oversize
power supply.

Sheevaplug is designed to deliver storage capacity and processing power for
technophiles looking to string together every network-capable device in
their house so they can share movies, music, photos and other files, hook
up surveillance cameras or create a mini data center that fits in the palms
of their hands. Although much of this can be accomplished today using a
standard computer server or even a PC costing anywhere from $500 to several
thousand dollars, Sheevaplug's diminutive size, low price ($100) and
minimal power consumption (less than five watts) make it an intriguing

Knowing that its current audience consists of tech-savvy tinkerers
interested in experimenting with new computing platforms, Marvell designed
the Sheevaplug to run on the Linux operating system, whose source code is
freely available for anyone to use. Marvell also documented the device's
hardware on its Web site so the curious could see how it works. "What we
want is for developers to get this kit and come up with nifty applications
for it," says Raja Mukhopadhyay, Marvell's product marketing manager.

ScientificAmerican.com found some adventurous alpha geeks at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (M.I.T.) Computer Science and
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Carnegie Mellon University,
Intel and elsewhere and asked them what kind of uses they could come up
with for the SheevaPlug. We came away with eight different ideas:

1. Home automation:
"I would hook it up to a Web camera and track myself in the house," says
Nikolaus Correll, an M.I.T. CSAIL postdoctoral associate. "The system could
react to my presence by simple motion detection and then turn heating and
lighting on and off. It could also detect my activities such as studying,
dining and watching TV, and match them to a preset set of [automated]
actions. Eventually it could even create a statistical profile of my
activities that helps me optimize energy consumption."

2. Desktop computer replacement:
Sheevaplug features a 1.2 gigahertz processor made by Cambridge, England
based ARM, Ltd., 512 megabytes of RAM and 512 megabytes of flash storage
all comparable with what is found on low-end PCs. "Small-scale computing is
catching up with the amount of [computer processing power] people need to
do meaningful interactive tasks: Web browsing, e-mail, listening to music,
and even?if not now, soon?watching movies or TV," says Dave Andersen, an
assistant professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and a
former CSAIL PhD student. Andersen, whose research demands that he use
small clusters of low-power processors to tackle larger computing tasks,
sees a lot of potential in using SheevaPlug's processor, memory and storage
capacity to make a low-cost computer server.

3. Data-center replacement (with a power strip full of plug-in computers):
In order to keep up with the demands of computer users, data center
administrators often must link together large numbers of computers. These
clusters are used for large computing tasks like simulating the weather or
serving up the billions of Web pages visited daily. These "server farms"
collectively draw a large amount of power. (A 2007 report by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency estimated that power used by data centers
in the U.S. had doubled between 2000 and 2006 and is set to double again by
2014.) "If these things would replace the cores of a virtualized farm of
servers I'd be interested," says Eric Schwartz, a CSAIL system
administrator. "If these things can compare with [server farms']
computational throughput at a fraction of the power consumption, that's

This trend toward low-power computing is on the rise. Microsoft recently
announced that it is testing servers powered by Intel's tiny Atom
processor, the chief competitor to the ARM processor that powers the
SheevaPlug. The hope is that, although these servers may require more
processors to do the same job as more powerful computers, they will, on the
whole, draw less electricity.

4. Data availability:
San Francisco-based Cloud Engines Inc., the first company to license
Marvell's SheevaPlug, sells a device called the Pogoplug based on the
technology that computer users can connect to their hard drive (via a USB
port) to make the entire contents of that drive available via the Internet.
With a Pogoplug attached to the hard drive storing your information at
home, you could access that information even if you are sitting in a
Starbucks a thousand miles away, says Daniel Putterman, CEO of Cloud

5. Data mining:
Once servers are cheap and ubiquitous enough, they allow for interesting
monitoring tasks of all sorts of devices, like vending machines. "Back in
the day, some hackers hooked it up to the network, and anyone could connect
to it and check the selection and supply levels of the sodas," says Jason
Biddle, a first-year master's student in the M.I.T. Computation for Design
and Optimization program. The soda machine is no longer connected to the
net but, Biddle says, "we tossed around the idea of finding a small Web
server [like the SheevaPlug] to bring the soda machine back to its former
glory. I'm sure someone out there could use the data to find an unknown
trend among soda drinkers." With low-cost and low-power servers, it is no
longer prohibitive to start connecting devices to the Net, he
adds. "Information from those devices could then be aggregated and mashed
up with other streams to lend new insight."

6. Life filter:
SheevaPlug could be used to monitor incoming e-mail and other information,
presorting it before you open your in-box. "I think it's important to view
this as not only an always-on storage resource but an always-on processing
resource," says Luke Hutchison, a fourth-year PhD candidate in CSAIL. "The
device has enough power to run a decent machine-learning algorithm. It
could sit there logged into my e-mail account and be learning from my
reading and categorizing habits and would try to tag or star messages
before I get to them based on what it thinks I would be most likely to want
to read immediately or classify a certain way."

7. Surveillance:
Video security could also be a SheevaPlug strength. "We're in discussions
with service providers about remote service capability," Mukhopadhyay
says. "A lot of people have cheap USB [digital] cameras in their home. With
SheevaPlug you can plug in a camera, and with the right software, you can
get a surveillance camera. These retail for $700 to $800, so you can
imagine service providers trying to sell this as remote surveillance."

8. You name it:
Because SheevaPlug uses the Linux operating system and open-source software
(both of which can be downloaded for free), it could be a cheap Web server,
a source-code repository, a backup server or countless other things. "In
general," M.I.T.'s Hutchinson says, "it would be possible to host a lot of
different types of services on such a box."


If we wish to reduce our ignorance, there are people we will
indeed listen to.  Trolls are not among those people, as trolls, more or
less by definition, *promote* ignorance.
          Kelsey Bjarnason, C.O.L.A. 2008

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