Sunday, February 13, 2011

My itty bitty Ubuntu Box

It was scary because it was all so easy. First I ordered the parts:
Then they all came just as they said they would. First the motherboard and the memory, then the case, and finally the optical drive. At the same time, I had been working with Ubuntu. I had downloaded it back when I was working on my Windows Home Server. It was there on the hard drive on my laptop. I first put it on a thumb drive just because the possibility of booting from a thumb drive seemed so cool to me. Then I burned it on a CD just in case the BIOS on the motherboard wasn't up to it.
Then came Saturday morning. I woke up having slept like the righteous dead at approximately 6:30. The computer was together by 8. I didn't shower, but I did shave; I did make coffee and eat breakfast. I did put the previous day's dishes in the dishwasher. (We'd had a plumbing emergency on Thursday with the dishwasher.)
The point is that it all went together like a puzzle.
The case is the size of a 4-slice toaster. Seriously. It is red and as cute as a button. The mini-ITX board with the Atom CPU is square and a smidgen over six-and-a-half inches on a side. It all plugged in nicely with the various wires: power, SATA cables, USB cables, and front panel wires. Having learned previously the hard way, I took great care with the front panel wires, but there was a nice, color-coded schematic that came along with the motherboard.
Then I put in the hard drive, which I'd bought last September at Wal-Mart, and then the optical drive. This is where the smallness of the case and the strength of the design came into play. It all fit easily. I did stop to think it out; this is something else I have learned. But it all fit.
I'd thought ahead to put the SATA cables on before I even thought about the drives. There would've been no way my huge hands could've gotten in there to put them on with a hard drive in the way. If I ever put more memory in, I will have to take both of the drives out. This is just how it is going to be.
Anyway, the process was somewhere between stacking toast and the second round of Jenga in complexity.
Then I install Ubuntu Linux.
I'd never done this before. I didn't know what to expect. I stuck in the CD, turned it on, and it booted to the optical drive. It began installing. At various points it stopped to ask questions. Once I thought it was stuck but I was patient and it continued. Then it came time for the final restart and it did stick at the BIOS screen. I figure that was more of a function of the BIOS than Linux, so I just turned it off and turned it back on. (Having screwed-up and restarted a lot has given me an inner calm that allows me to do stuff like that.) It worked.
It has now been about 24 hours and I am happy. Ubuntu Linux looks a lot like MacOS on the front-end. I might just be saying this because I am a PC user, but it is my opinion.
Some issues that I've discovered that might matter:
  • it doesn't work with iTunes and
  • it doesn't do Netflix.
These are things I've discovered as I am now contemplating building a machine like this for my youngest daughter. Her iPod and TV are very important to her.
All said, it was a nice couple of hours, but those who've been inspired should read earlier in the blog about the failures.

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