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Nuvola Player: Enjoy all your Cloud music services from one interface

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And with tight integration with the Linux desktop (multimedia keys, system tray, media player applets, dock menu, notifications and more), it provides a better user experience when compared to using the same Cloud music services from a Web browser. read more...
permapage | score:9960 | -finid, August 21, 2013

Python Client/Server Tutorial

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A tiny Python tutorial...
This application can easily be coded in Python with performance levels of thousands of transactions per second on a desktop PC. Simple sample programs for the server and client sides are listed below, with discussions following
read more...
permapage | score:9574 | -Ray, June 22, 2009

Currency Traders Telnet Game

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A new, large Currency Traders game is up. To connect enter the following command from an xterm, konsole, or other terminal/command line window:

telnet teotwawkigames.com

It runs on port 23, just like traditional telnet. It's free to play and no software is required to play. All you need is an internet connection.

This is an old-school, no-graphics strategy game. All you need is a telnet client to play -- and every modern operating system comes with one. It's free and you can play anonymously. Just choose a name and a password and log in. If you don't know what to do, just press your H key for a Hint and a context-sensitive Tip.

This game is played in a persistent world where whatever you build, buy, or otherwise 'acquire' in the game will still be there tomorrow. Unless you make an enemy of another player, that is. PVP (player-versus-player) is always enabled here so other players can attack your deployed fortifications -- or even, heaven forbid, you.

This is a turn-based game that can be played any time of the day, night, or week. Each player is issued a certain amount of energy (turns) per day that is used to travel, trade, or play at the arcade in the several Malls. If you don't use your turns, they accumulate for as much as several months -- so there's no disadvantage to skipping a day or even a few weeks.

A slightly longer description of Currency Traders is here.
mail this link | permapage | score:9533 | -Ray, January 23, 2013

VPS: Xen vs. OpenVZ

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This is a short overview of the key differences between OpenVZ and Xen that you might consider when choosing a VPS. Note that this article is based on my opinions and that you must do your own research to determine which, if either, technology is best for you and your application.

First, some terminology. OpenVZ isn't fully virtualized and could be more properly referred to as a 'container', not a VPS. That shouldn't affect your choice. It's the technical differences that matter.

Cheap VPS offers are everywhere lately, it seems. However, upon closer inspection I saw that almost all of the low-priced offers were for OpenVZ. While both Xen and OpenVZ offer their advantages, I chose Xen. So, there's my first bias, right up front. :)

OpenVZ advantages:

  • Efficient (fast)
OpenVZ disadvantages:
  • Shared kernel (no custom kernel)
  • Shared memory with other users
  • Vendor can easily oversell, killing performance
Xen advantages:
  • Dedicated memory
  • fully virtualized (can run other kernels or even OS's)
  • vendor more limited in overselling
Xen disadvantages
  • Less efficient (more overhead due to a kernel-per-VPS)

You'll notice I left price out of the above comparison. In theory, there should be a small price advantage for OpenVZ. I don't know how big it should be but it pertains to two things: 1) Xen uses more memory due to each VPS having its own kernel, and 2) Xen uses more CPU, also due to the additional software layer required to virtualize the kernel.

In practice, however, the price gap appears larger than the above technical differences suggest it should be. I think the remainder of OpenVZ's price advantage is based on 1) the ability for a vendor to easily oversell OpenVZ, and 2) The price competition that results from some vendors overselling OpenVZ.

OpenVZ doesn't encapsulate its containers into a fixed amount of memory, so it runs processes in the host environment to monitor memory usage and kill processes as a container allocates more than its assigned amount.

As a result of this difference, loading down an OpenVZ container is problematic. To partially offset this disadvantage, most OpenVZ vendors offer 'burst' memory in addition to 'dedicated' memory. That is, the monitor process is set to allow the container to use more than its allocated memory -- for a short period of time. This messy situation results in a potentially unreliable environment as some of your processes may be arbitrarily killed -- at the busiest times.

Xen, on the other hand, allows the use of a swap space and excess memory allocation results in (hopefully) idle segments being rolled out to the swap area. While this is good for the memory-hungry VPS user, it can consume significant I/O capacity when memory is overallocated to the point of busy segments getting swapped out. This is bad for everyone sharing the underlying hardware.

I see Xen as clearly the superior technology. A Xen VPS feels and behaves more like a dedicated server. However, I still would have purchased OpenVZ at some price difference. After a bit of research, however, I located Xen VPS's at practically the same price as the cheapest OpenVZ containers. That made my decision easy.

With that said, keep in mind that a bad hosting vendor can ruin either technology through various means. Both technologies share the disk drives and I/O paths as well as the processor cores. Hardware can be poorly configured and managed in any case. A reputable vendor is probably the single most important consideration in choosing a virtual server.

Lastly, carefully check the 'allowed use' policy. Make sure your application is allowed on the server you intend to purchase. Note that due to their different characteristics, the allowed use policy may differ between OpenVZ and Xen for the same host. Also, it's good to understand the memory usage characteristics of your applications. If you know how much memory/swap they require on a physical system, it'll probably work with that same amount of memory/swap on Xen.

[I'll post a review shortly of my current VPS vendor and I will then add a link to that article here.]

mail this link | permapage | score:9484 | -Ray, June 13, 2011

CMS: Serendipity 1.0

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If you're looking to start a new website, take a look at Serendipity...
Serendipity is a PHP-based content management system (CMS) for powering blogs and other sites, and has a feature set that should make any blogger happy. After several years in development, the Serendipity team hit the 1.0 mark on June 15. Let's see how the 1.0 release shakes out.
read more...
permapage | score:9476 | -Ray, July 18, 2006

Apple DIY Repair

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I won't be buying any more Apple products. Here's why:

I'm generally capable of repairing my own equipment and can recognize when self-repair has been deliberately undermined. I recently had to replace a hard drive in an early generation white Intel iMac. Innocently, I believed the interior was accessible and serviceable in the manner of the externally identical white PowerPC iMacs.

No such luck. Not only do you have to remove the LCD to get to the hard drive, but you must also remove shielding around the LCD -- mostly by tearing it to bits. No doubt it is attached this way so that an authorized Apple technician will be able to confidently void your warranty if you've ever worked on the system yourself.

You'll also need a #10 torx magnetic screwdriver. And, no, #10 torx bits just won't do due to the narrow and deeply recessed screw holes. Also, since most torx screwdrivers aren't magnetic, you'll probably need to tape the screws to the screwdriver to reattach the LCD. Good thing there's a hardware store near you.

Oh, and don't forget to pick up some rubber cement to 'properly' reattach the hard drive temperature sensor while you're out looking for magnetic torx screwdrivers.

Considering the logical design of its predecessor and the tamper-evident shielding, I'm certain that this machine has been deliberately designed to prevent the owner from performing DIY upgrades and repairs.

While that is all quite annoying, at least working on the system is possible for someone with experience and determination.

Now, Apple has improved their anti-customer techniques with the 'Pentalobe' screw. It doesn't solve any problem but one: it'll keep customers from even being able to open the case.

If you're curious about Apple's evil new invention, you can read its rap sheet and view its mug shot here.
mail this link | permapage | score:9470 | -Ray, January 25, 2011

Ubuntu 11.04 Preview

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An early look at the next release of Ubuntu Linux...
Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty Narwhal) Beta 1 is powered by Linux kernel 2.6.38, GNOME 2.32.1 and X.Org 7.5. It will included applications such as LibreOffice 3.3.2 as the default office suite, Banshee 1.9.4 as the default audio player/organizer and Mozilla Firefox 4.0 as the default web browser.

A set of seventeen new and beautiful wallpapers will also be present in the Beta release, to please every Ubuntu user out there. And now, the features we've promised...
read more...
mail this link | permapage | score:9446 | -Ray, April 1, 2011

Linux file manager comparison review

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Reviewing and rating six of the best Linux file managers...
The litmus test for any file manager, then, is its ability to manage large numbers of files efficiently, and this is one of the two main criteria for the applications in this roundup. Our other primary concern is advocacy. Could each file manager here help convince inexperienced Linux users that the OS can be either familiar and easy to use, or different in that it's much more flexible than what they've previously experienced?
read more...
mail this link | permapage | score:9442 | -Ray, April 20, 2011

Linux network tools: iptstate and pkstat

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Two small Linux tools for network stats...
iptstate displays information held in the IP Tables state table in real-time in a top-like format. Output can be sorted by any field, or any field reversed. Users can choose to have the output only print once and exit, rather than the top-like system.

Refresh rate is configurable, IPs can be resolved to names, output can be formatted, the display can be filtered, and color coding are among some of the many features.
(here are some red prints) read more...
mail this link | permapage | score:9393 | -Ray, March 4, 2011 (Updated: April 24, 2012)

The Virtual Private Nightmare: VPN

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Maybe the 'P' really stands for Public...
Here's a question: What's the number 1 vector for security outbreaks today? Given the title of the article we hope you answered Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Today's convenient world of mobile access to critical applications and information has come with a hefty burden for the world's already overburdened security teams.
(and here are some nightmare prints) read more...
mail this link | permapage | score:9384 | -Ray, August 4, 2004 (Updated: April 24, 2012)

UnixLite: A Light GPL Unix in C++

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You can browse the source code right on the website. I'm not sure how long they will be able to use that name though...
UnixLite is a lightweight unix/linux compatible operating system written in c++, it is open source and released under the GNU General Public License.The complete operating system is made up of kernel and applications, just like linux, unixlite is only the kernel. The kernel itself is written from scratch and the most part is written in c++, however, the library used by unixlite comes from uClibc and applicaitons running on unixlite comes from GNU project.
read more...
mail this link | permapage | score:9376 | -Ray, June 13, 2006

MultiSystem: Live USB MultiBoot

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Put more than one bootable Linux distribution on that big USB flash drive...
Installation instructions can be found at http://liveusb.info/dotclear/index.php?pages/install, where several install methods are available. After installing MultiSystem, open it, and follow the steps. I received an error message in French saying that Multiboot does not like spaces in the USB Stick's name. I renamed the stick and then logged out and back in to make it work. Below are screenshots of the whole process.
read more...
mail this link | permapage | score:9370 | -Ray, April 19, 2011

Linux dominates Windows

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Linux dominates Windows -- and everything else -- on supercomputers in 2010. Microsoft's renowned engineering quality and down-to-earth pricing shows brilliantly in its capturing 1% of the top 500 supercomputer projects. Perhaps next year, utilizing all the organizational pressure they can bring to bear, they can retain 0.8%.

Formal Unix, now long dead*, controls 4.4%. Meanwhile, Linux is now installed on 91% of the remaining 95% of top systems. Add in the single BSD system and you have Unix-like systems (Unix+Linux+BSD) accounting for 95.6% of the top supercomputer projects. The remaining 3.4% of are 'mixed' systems and may also contain significant percentages of Unix and Linux.

There are many reasons for Linux' success. Among the top factors are surely these four, in no particular order:
  • Price (starting at free)
  • Quality (excellent code, Unix-based design)
  • Hardware Support (most all modern quality gear is supported)
  • Open Source (open to tinkering -- and redistributable)
Check my math on the top 500 systems here.

*Of course, counting functional Unix systems while ignoring the trademarked term, Unix is clearly not dead since Linux is one of the truest of the true Unix work-alike systems. Linux is, of course, the reason formal Unix has suffered such a precipitous decline. Many Unix users just switched flavors -- and Linux was a most appealing flavor.
mail this link | permapage | score:9368 | -Ray, June 2, 2010

Top BSD distributions

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Here are the top five BSD's...
As some of you may know, Linux is not the only Unix-like operating system available. There are other UNIX derivatives, and one of the most popular among them is called BSD. If you have been to Distrowatch, you will see different BSD distributions listed in there.
read more...
permapage | score:9344 | -Ray, April 5, 2009

How to customize your Linux system

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Ubuntu, Arch, Suse, and Linux from Scratch are covered in this multi-page article...
You can install and remove packages as and when you want to, and you can choose whether to install free or non-free software on your system. Why should you have to live with community decisions when you can make Linux work your way?

However, the distribution you install will likely contain drivers and components that you don't really want or need on your system.
read more...
permapage | score:9326 | -Ray, December 4, 2009

Download: Ubuntu Linux Live CD ISO

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Here's a downloadable .iso image of Ubuntu's new Live Linux CD. There is a direct download link as well as a bittorrent link available.
This CD will allow you to try out Ubuntu before installing it, without repartitioning or overwriting any existing software or data. Just place it in the drive and reboot your computer.
[Alternatively, you can download the latest release directly from Ubuntu. -Ed.] read more...
permapage | score:9301 | -Ray, October 11, 2004 (Updated: March 19, 2007)

Linux Top command examples

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Fifteen examples of Linux usage of the top command with short explanations...
In this article, let us review 15 examples for Linux top command that will be helpful for both newbies and experts.

1. Show Processes Sorted by any Top Output Column Press O

By default top command displays the processes in the order of CPU usage. When the top command is running, press M (upper-case) to display processes sorted by memory usage as shown below.
read more...
permapage | score:9297 | -Ray, January 12, 2010

How to install Ubuntu Linux on the decTOP SFF computer

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I recently bought a decTOP small form factor (SFF) computer. My goal was to build a cheap, fanless, quiet, and low power consumption Linux server. For $99 plus the cheapest available shipping, $40, my machine arrived 11 days after I placed the order.

This is a tiny computer, about the size of a Mac Mini. But, because it has no fan, it runs a bit quieter and, with the help of a 1-watt, 366 MHz CPU, consumes only 8 watts. For comparison, the G4 Mac Mini consumes about 20-30 watts, depending on load.

The decTOP comes with 128 MB of RAM in its sole SO-DIMM slot and a 10 GB 3.5 inch hard drive. I understand that it's a simple matter to replace the drive and to upgrade the memory to a maximum of 512MB.

It also comes with no operating system and the ability to boot only from a USB drive. This article details the steps I used to build the USB boot/installation drive and install Ubuntu 6.06 on the decTOP.

There is another article -- with additional decTOP links -- here on installing Ubuntu 6.06 on the decTOP with the aid of a Windows system. Fortunately ;), I run Mac OS X and Linux (Ubuntu 7.04), so that article didn't work for me. I did the installation of the Ubuntu 6.06 LTS Server Edition using my Ubuntu Linux box and a 1 GB USB flash drive -- although a 512 MB USB drive should work as well.

  1. Download the Ubuntu 6.06 server ISO image from the Ubuntu download page. Depending on your plans for the decTOP, you might want to choose the desktop version. Unless you have already upgraded your decTOP's memory, however, you'll want to stick with the 6.06 releases.

  2. Install the mbr, mtools, and syslinux packages on the Linux system you'll be using to prepare the USB drive. If you run Ubuntu or some other Debian-derived system, the following commands may do the work for you.
    apt-get install mbr
    apt-get install mtools
    apt-get install syslinux
  3. Partition the USB drive with a single FAT-16 partition. I used the fdisk 'n' command to make the new primary partition 1. The fdisk 't' command can be used to change the partition type to FAT-16. My device name was /dev/sda.
    fdisk /dev/sda
  4. Make the FAT-16 partition the active partition. I used the fdisk 'a' command.

  5. Install a master boot record on the USB drive.
    install-mbr /dev/sda
  6. Install syslinux on the USB drive. Note that the USB drive should not be mounted when you do this.
    syslinux -s /dev/sda1
  7. Create a mountpoint and mount the ubuntu ISO image using the loopback device.
    mkdir /iso
    mount -o loop -t iso9660 ubuntu.iso /iso
  8. Create a mountpoint and mount the USB flash drive.
    mkdir /usb
    mount /dev/sda1 /usb
  9. Copy the contents of the ISO image to the USB drive. This will take some time.
    cd /iso
    cp -r . /usb/
  10. Copy the /usb/dists/dapper directory into a new /usb/dists/stable directory.
    cd /usb/dists/
    cp -r dapper/* stable
  11. Copy several files from /usb/install to the /usb root directory.
    cp /usb/install/vmlinuz /usb/
    cp /usb/install/mt86plus /usb/
    cp /usb/install/initrd.gz /usb/
  12. Install the following text into a file named syslinux.cfg in the /usb root directory.
    default vmlinuz
    append initrd=initrd.gz ramdisk_size=24000 root=/dev/ram rw
  13. Flush all writes, unmount, and remove the USB drive. After the sync step, wait for all of the data to be written to the USB drive.
    sync;sync
    umount /usb
  14. Connect the ethernet adapter to the decTOP and connect it to your network to allow automatic configuration of the network interface.

  15. Insert the USB drive into the decTOP and power it up. The decTOP should automatically boot from the USB drive and start the Ubuntu installation.

  16. Answer only the first two questions concerning language selection and go to the next step, below.

  17. Press Alt-F2 (hold down the Alt key and press the F2 function key) to open a shell. Then press enter to start the shell.

  18. Create a /cdrom and a /dev/cdroms directory in the installation ramdisk
    mkdir /cdrom /dev/cdroms
  19. Go to the /dev/cdroms directory and build a symlink from /dev/sda1 (that is likely the device name of your USB boot partition) to /dev/cdroms/cdrom0.
    cd /dev/cdroms
    ln -s ../sda1/cdrom0
  20. While still in the shell, mount the USB drive to mimic an installation CD-ROM.
    mount -t vfat /dev/cdroms/cdrom0 /cdrom
  21. Return to the installation program with Alt-F1 and continue the installation.

From this point, the process should be identical to a routine CD-ROM installation.

For a grand total of $140 and 8 watts of power consumption, I now have a near-silent Linux server running 24/7. You can telnet to it here and marvel at its blinding speed running a 250,000-sector Space Tyrant game.

mail this link | permapage | score:9282 | -Ray, August 16, 2007 (Updated: April 26, 2011)

Librenix T-Shirts and Coffee Mugs!

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For today's example of my (semi)elite C programming skilz, I submit for your inspection the Librenix T-Shirts! Yes, I created the images on these shirts and coffee mugs entirely with C code. While the code isn't up to the standards *cough* of my open source Space Tyrant project, at least the output is colorful and not entirely textual!


click either image to see the T-Shirts, Coffee Mugs, etc.

(If you like the images but don't care for 'librenix' on your shirt, these same styles are available for all 50 US state names as well as with the signs of the zodiac here)

(and here are some modern prints)
mail this link | permapage | score:9228 | -Ray, June 6, 2010 (Updated: April 24, 2012)

Linux hardware review: Biostar iDEQ 200V Cube

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I ordered my Biostar iDEQ 200V from Newegg a couple of weeks ago. My goal was to build a small form factor Linux system that was quiet, fast, inexpensive, reasonably flexible, and easy to work on. I also wanted a Socket A motherboard so that that I could take advantage of AMD's excellent and cheap XP 2500+ Barton core processor. I already had a Maxtor 40 GB disk drive, a Sony CD-RW drive, and a floppy drive so off to Newegg's website I went, credit card in hand.

I ordered the Biostar iDEQ 200V ($189), a Crucial 512 MB DDR PC-2700 DIMM ($79), and an AMD XP 2500+ (Barton) ($91) processor. [Note that some of these prices may have changed since I last checked them.]

Even though I saved a little more money by selecting the 'Free FedEx Saver Shipping' option, my order arrived in three days. I unpacked the Biostar system first. It is housed in a 210mm wide, 187mm tall, and 323mm deep aluminum case [8.3 inches wide by 7.4 inches tall by 12.7 inches deep]. Four thumbscrews on the back lets you remove either side panel and the top panel without tools. Inside the case is a red system board with an 8x AGP slot, a single full-size PCI slot, two 184 pin DDR slots for up to 2 GB of PC-2700 memory.

Already installed are all the cables you need for an IDE system, prerouted, labeled and cut to exact length. The cables snake around the chassis so cleanly that they are barely visible. The cables are labeled in easy-to-read lettering on sturdy pull-tabs. This is a very well-organized and uncluttered system.

A custom heatsink fan assembly is included, already attached inside the system. This makes the already easy task of figuring out how to mount the CPU cooler almost trivial. Once you've removed the heatsink to install the CPU, you already know how to reinstall it. While you don't really need the included manual to assemble this system, you'll probably want to scan it first just to make sure you install the parts in the recommended order. If you follow the Biostar manual, you won't wind up with one part blocking access to another.

Also included in the iDEQ shipping carton was a pair of brackets to cover the optical and floppy drive bays in the event that you don't install drives in those bays. There was also a set of cables for a serial ATA (SATA) drive. Since I'm not yet the owner of a serial ATA drive, I didn't test that feature. However, Linux kernel 2.6 will support the SATA controller included on the system board and I understand that it already works with the current 2.6 test kernel. [Update 3/7/2004: Here and here are comments based on attempts to get SATA working on 2.6 with no success. It appears that our original information was incorrect and RAID is not yet supported on this system with Linux 2.6. -Ed.]

The system comes with a 200 watt power supply, plenty for the XP 2500+, the three drives, and the AGP and PCI slots -- as long as the more power-hungry video cards are avoided.

The AMD XP 2500+ came with a large aluminum heatsink/fan with a thick copper plate on the bottom. I set it aside to use with another system and, after removing the custom Biostar cooler, plugged the CPU into the socket. The heatsink easily and firmly latches down with a pair of springy levers.

I put the Crucial 512 MB DDR333 DIMM in one of the two memory slots, then turned my attention to the drives.

The hard drive bracket slides out of its slot when you press the trigger release making it a snap to install the Maxtor disk. The floppy bay is centered beneath the 5.25" optical drive bay. I put a floppy there and then installed the Sony CD-RW drive, carefully routing the audio cable alongside the IDE cable so as not to compromise the clean look of the system's interior.

I've assembled about 25 systems and this was the easiest build so far. Everything is where it should be, there is enough room to easily install the components, and everything fits just so. I hooked up the system and popped in a Red Hat 8 installation CD. Using a distribution several months old revealed one problem -- in addition to the aforementioned issue of SATA support. The sound chip wasn't recognized. A little research showed that it, also, would be supported in Linux 2.6. Meanwhile, I bought a cheap but well-supported Creative Lab Sound Blaster 128 PCI ($24) sound card to solve the problem. After plugging the Sound Blaster into the PCI slot, I disabled the onboard audio chip on the mainboard and rerouted the CD-ROM drive audio cable to the Sound Blaster.

That produced acceptable sound without breaking the budget -- and should get me by until I can acquire and install a Linux 2.6-based distribution.

Other than that small sound support hitch, everything has worked perfectly under Linux. The iDEQ 200V is the quietest, fastest, and one of the smallest computers in the house. While it was intended to be a test machine for a while, it has quickly become my main desktop system.

Other features of this system include a sliding door that, when closed, covers the floppy and optical drive bays; a bright blue HDD activity LED; and two depressions on the bottom of the system that provides heat contact between the processor and chipset and the case. That last clever bit of engineering turns the bottom of the aluminum case into a compnent of the cooling system and helps keep the two hottest chips in the box running cool.

The Biostar's BIOS allows control of the processor bus in 1 MHz increments. Just as a test, I stepped up the speed until I had overclocked the CPU to 2 GHz from the XP 2500+'s base speed of 1.833 GHz. Since I'm more concerned that the system run cool inside my poorly ventilated desk, overclocking was not the ultimate goal -- so I reset the bus back to 166/333 once I was satisfied that 10% overclocking was within the capability of my components.

Overall, I'm very satisfied with the Biostar iDEQ 200V, the AMD XP-2500+, and the 512 MB Crucial DDR PC-2700 DIMM. The performance is excellent, it's a nice-looking system inside and out, and the price is certainly nothing to complain about.
System tested: Biostar iDEQ Barebone System for Socket A at 266/333MHz FSB AMD CPU, Model IDEQ200V

Specifications:
CPU Support: AMD Athlon XP (Socket A, Max.FSB 333)
Chipsets: VIA KM400 + VT8237
Memory: 2x 184pin (DDR333 up to 2GB)
IDE: 2x ATA133, 2x SATA(RAID)
Graphics: Integrated VIA UniChrome
Expansion Slot: 1x PCI, 1x AGP 8X
Audio: C-Media CMI9739A
LAN: 10/100 LAN
Extension Bay: 1x 3.5", 1x 5.25"
Front Panel Ports: 2x USB, 1x 1394, 1x SPDIF_Out, Audio ports
Back Panel Ports: 1x COM, 2x PS/2, 1x VGA, 1x RJ45, 2x USB, 1x 1394, 1x SPDIF_In, Audio ports
Power Supply: 200W(PFC)
Dimension: 210 x 323 x 187 mm

If you're looking for a small form factor computer that's a bit higher end, take a look at the Shuttle XPC SN25P Barebones, which supports the Socket 939 dual core chips.
mail this link | permapage | score:9192 | -Ray, December 9, 2003 (Updated: April 18, 2007)
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