Tuesday, November 23, 2010

CompuLab Fit-PC2 1.1GHz

It arrived, and I had some time to play with it. Here are some first thoughts.

This PC is damn small! Really!! As everyone else who did a review on this tiny piece of art work, I have to state, the things is smaller that I thought it would be! To stay in QRP standards, the PC is just a fraction bigger than two Altoids tins.

So, here's what my impressions are.

My PC came w/ ubuntu 9.10 ... and that is what it should run, I think. The problem with ubuntu is, it motivates you to update it.... don't do it! Some drivers seem not to be compatible with more recent versions.
Playing with some other operation systems, the following remarks, WinXP works ok with the drivers found on CompuLabs wepage. Win7 worked, however, I got a crash or two, I could however not find out why.
Finally, ubuntu 9.10 came out best and hence will be the OS on my Fit-PC2 (WLAN works too).
A final test concerning the OS will be running Jolicloud on it... I will report about this by updating this posting.

Some words on the hardware. The device does not employ a fan. Even though the case looks like cheap plastics, it actually is made from Al and serves as a heat sink. The device can develop some temperature...
The manufacturer however design the PC for 24/7 up-time, I therefore believe that the temperature is not issue here.

As indicated in the title, I bought the 1.1GHz version. This may have been a mistake, not a big one however. This version is the only one of the Fit-PC2 which wont be able to read miniSDHC-cards. So, 2GB is the limit on SDHC-cards. With a built-in 160GB HDD this is no real issue to me.

QRM: The USB-keyboard/mouse created some rf-noise. I also could hear the attached LCD-screen in the receiver. The switching 12V PSU that came along with the PC created some QRM too. I have not yet figured out how noisy the PC itself is.

Since this is a relatively weak CPU, my impression is that the operation system should be made a light as possible, meaning, all services not required should be disengaged. The usual linux-distro carries a lot of stuff which would not be required on a daily basis, all this could/should be disabled for enhanced system performance.

Should I ever buy one of those PCs again, I would choose a more powerful model, in particular for the added miniSDHC capability, I do however not regret having bought the one I got.

4 comments:

  1. I recently purchased a Zotec ZBox for an art project, but now have it at home, the price is much more comparable, but is a dual-core hyperthreaded machine. Just thought I'd mention it as something to check out, though. I agree with the sentiments about upgrading, as that can break things often, especially things you may run which are the latest development version, or just generally experimental. Such things use the edge-case features, which change the most.

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  2. Hi twm,
    looks like a nice box!
    You may see that this blog really concerned about amateur radio rather than computers.
    There is some history about why selecting this particular PC, which are obvious to the regular reader of this blog. I would like to summarize the advantages I see in the Fit-PC2, in particular in the context of an amateur radio station, as follows:

    - the chassis is aluminum and hence shields rf and can be grounded decently
    - mouse, keyboard and monitor can bed isconnected when no needed, another source of noise gone
    - mouse, keyboard and monitor cords can be supplied with rf chokes
    - no fan (!)
    - 12V supply voltage, so it can be run from the station supply, also good for portable action
    - with 6W in average and 9W max, power consumption is even lower
    - the hdd can easily be removed, a grabber could possibly run from a thumb-drive or miniSD-card

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  3. My apologies, and your points are very great. Sorry still new to radio, so thank you for summarizing the sorts of things I need to be thinking about. I had come across such thinking in audio engineering machines, and we often just tried to get everything away from the instruments, making the dac happen as a soon as possible.

    You made me think of a couple of things:

    1. Could a grabber be constructed with just a microcontroller? I may try this according to this thread... http://www.arduino.cc/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1224777046 the sampling rate is low, but it is possible. I could see this as just making the data available in onboard memory read periodically?

    I do spend too much time thinking along the lines of computers with radio, however, I do need to spend some time and make a couple of chokes around my setup, for sure.

    Thank you, as always, for taking the extra time, this also serves as a nice checklist, the 12v operation is perfect.

    Thanks,

    Thomas

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  4. Hi Thomas!

    No reason for apologies here! No problem at all!
    Running a grabber from just a micro-controller is something most of us are waiting for. Although it does not sound like a great deal, some FFT some JPG-image creation, some inet-FTPing, for most of us, and I am no exception, time is an issue... 48h is just not enough for one day ;-)

    As to spending too much time on this and too little on that... I believe that actually is a good thing. We all could share tasks, some are better working out the theory, some are better programmers, for some reading schematics is like reading pulp... As long as we build cooperations and work together, we can create wonderful things!

    Back to the idea of using micro-controllers for grabbers, I am sure that there many who would be interested in such a firmware. Such ideas are best posted on the KnightsQRSS-mailing list.

    Feel free to drop me a mail on dl1gsj@qsl.net for additional contacts/info/ideas etc.

    73! Joachim

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