Sunday, 13 July 2008

Introducing the TinyTuxbox

My second choice of home media server arrived on my doorstep last week after my unwillingness to maintain the painfully slow and awkward slug. This time around I've plumped for a TinyTuxbox Series 8 which seems to be a UK resold version of the e-Box 4300. It fits the extra requirements I made after parting with the SLUG, that is it's an x86 based machine and has lots more memory. I'm not the only one at work with one of these types of boxes either, James Taylor has the Netvoyager re-badged version of the previous box to my one, the e-Box 2300.

It is, in fact, a fully functional x86 PC but just a really small one, even smaller than the pretty tiny Fit-PC which I was also seriously considering and probably would have gone for were it not for the excellent pre-sales support of one of the TinyTuxbox staff over e-mail. That said, the excellent pre-sales was balanced with painfully slow delivery. It took 28 days to get it to my door which for a delivery cost of nearly £20 I consider poor. I've been left with a upward feeling though, post-sales support has been promising too as I initially had some problems installing the box, which it turned out were my fault and I solved quickly enough anyway. I'm not going to talk software here though, that's a story for another day. So how does my TinyTuxbox look and spec up....?

The workhorse of the TinyTuxbox is the 500MHz Via Eden ULV processor which provides a 32-bit x86 processor along with a built-in graphics processor with hardware MPEG decoding. The processor is an impressive bit of kit, it runs all that from just 1 watt of power, see the link for the full specs! Away from the processor we have 512MB RAM (some of which is shared for the video output), on-board Ethernet, 3 USB ports, VGA output, a PS/2 connector (supplied with PS/2 Y-Splitter cable to connect both keyboard and mouse), a compact flash slot, sound in and out, power button, and hard disk and power LEDs. The box is also fitted with an IDE connector and can house a 2½" laptop type hard disk in it. I ordered it without the hard disk and fitted my own as the supplied ones were not good value for money probably due to the services incurred from the fitting itself.

The TinyTuxbox site advertises the unit as consuming a maximum of 8 watts and I'm pleased to report that was absolutely accurate. According to my current cost meter, it uses 8 watts with the hard disk spinning so once I get it to spin down on idle it should use very little juice. Click the various images for a link to my Flickr page and some more notes.


andypiper said...

Ah, so it is the same thing that James has... and you have Fedora on there now? How's that working out, can you run Apache etc?

Graham White said...

James has what is essentially the eBox 2300 where as I have the new version, the eBox 4300.

I'm not running much under Fedora yet, as I think I'll be re-installing it again soon, going down to Fedora 8 for some debugging I'm doing.

When I was running Ubuntu it was quite happily running the following servers: VNC, Apache, 2 instances of MySQL (one for SqueezeCenter, one for Current Cost), SqueezeCenter itself, X11 (Gnome), SSH and a microbroker.

andypiper said...

Actually looking at the spec, it;s only marginally less powerful than the PIII server I already run my home web server etc. on. I really should just make the jump to something small and low-powered like this.

Jon said...

Hi Graham,

I came across your blog having searched on the SlimDevices' forum sites.

I wondered about the performance you were seeing from the TinyTuxbox with regards to SqueezeCenter, as Id like to find a replacement for my power hungry desktop. How large is your music library? (I have about 25,000 tracks, roughly 1/3rds FLAC and 2/3rds MP3.) Do you run MusicIP on your setup? What are you webpage load times like?

Many thanks,


Graham White said...

Hi Jon, the performance seems to be very good on the TinyTuxbox, seems equally as snappy as when I've run SC on my laptop or full blown home PC.

In my experience SC appears to be more memory hungry than processor hungry, so pick something with a reasonable processor and plenty of memory and you should be on the right road.

My own collection has just over 3000 tracks, only MP3s, taking about 14GB disk space. I don't run MusicIP and I haven't tried to optimise SC either, just running with a default set of plugins.

Bruce said...


I would be really interested to know what sort of disc speed you see with your eBox. I have a 4300 with a Hitachi IDE drive attached and the read/write speed are about 3 MB/s which seems really slow. What do you get when you do:

hdparm -tT /dev/hdc

Graham White said...

You're right Bruce, you should see much more than 3MB/s. That hdparm command reports about 26MB/s for me on the TinyTuxbox which sounds like it's in a feasible range although I'm not sure how decent that is as a benchmark. Maybe you should look into iozone or something similar to do a file system benchmark instead?