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The Mini Linux PC the Size of a Wall Plug

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 32 comments

Fabless chip design company Marvell unveiled a new concept for a computer that fits inside the palm of your hand, or on your wall socket.

Remember that $10 (or even $20) PC that ended up being a huge disappointment? Marvell might finally be able to make good on some of the expectations set by that original concept, unrealistic price points aside.

Marvell calls it the Plug Computer, for its small form factor that can plug directly into a wall socket (it looks like a big AC adapter wall wart without the cord) and at is designed to draw so little power (5 W) that it can be left on all of the time.

Specifically, the Plug Computer unveiled is called “SheevaPlug,” a development platform uses a Marvell Kirkwood processor based on an embedded 1.2 GHz Sheeva CPU equipped with 512 MB of FLASH and 512 MB of DRAM. Connection to the home network is via Gigabit Ethernet. Peripherals such as direct attached storage can be connected using a USB 2.0 port.

Multiple standard Linux 2.6 kernel distributions are supported on the Sheeva Plug development platform enabling rapid application development. The new device is ideal for use as desktop terminals in large support offices, where only basic client and logging software is being used, such as a tech support facility. These modules can also be used at sales terminals at retail locations. Needless to say, very low power usage, extremely small foot print, and very low cost of ownership make Marvell's Plug Computer an attractive option for businesses of any size.

The SheevaPlug development kit is available now for $99, but promises an eventual version at $49. At that price, the plug could make one very attractive home media server solution for those who want something unobtrusive and economical, but aren’t afraid to tinker around with Linux.

Check out Marvell’s site on plug computing for more on the concept. What do you think? Is this something that you would buy to serve other machines, or even something to replace an existing server?

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  • 0 Hide
    jsloan , February 25, 2009 8:53 PM
    nice, but wasnt there a smaller thumb drive sized linux box for $99
  • 2 Hide
    SAL-e , February 25, 2009 9:14 PM
    jsloannice, but wasnt there a smaller thumb drive sized linux box for $99

    Yes, it is called Gumstix http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS6027032354.html
    But it requires special Linux distribution. The Sheeva Plug will be able to run standard distributions like new Debian 5.0 "Lenny".
  • -5 Hide
    jeverson , February 25, 2009 9:15 PM
    Hmm... but can you game on it?!
  • 0 Hide
    falchard , February 25, 2009 9:16 PM
    I am still waiting for the watch computer.
  • 3 Hide
    norbs , February 25, 2009 9:28 PM
    Hmm this could be turned into a kickass router if it just had another ethernet port. DD-WRT anyone?
  • 0 Hide
    IronRyan21 , February 25, 2009 9:36 PM
    I hope someone doesn't say "Yeah, but can you run crysis on it!"
  • 1 Hide
    A Stoner , February 25, 2009 9:37 PM
    Where do I get the video output from this thing? is that the SDIO or SOIO? I really think they should have utilized the sata interface that is supposedly available. you only need one USB port and can have that replicate out to 127 devices, but having a crappy disk interface just blows. Also, is there any way to fit a wireless WIFI into that? I am sure most of this has to do with price, but hey, wishful thinking.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , February 25, 2009 9:40 PM
    Well, it is not going to replace anything of mine. A lack of high speed(usb is the only interface I see for a hard drive)storage and a place for my TV card.

    It would make a great file box or even a router with a USB network card.
  • 0 Hide
    daft , February 25, 2009 9:41 PM
    im thinking a good little internet surfer, that way you don't have a larger desktop, laptop, or netbook to use unwanted energy. 5 watts is plenty and all you will have to do is turn on a monitor when you want to get online. BTW, DSL will be the bestlinux distro for this
  • 1 Hide
    SAL-e , February 25, 2009 9:48 PM
    daftBTW, DSL will be the bestlinux distro for this

    Hi daft,
    The Sheeva Plug is using ARM based CPU, do you know any ports or plans to port DSL to ARM architecture?
  • -1 Hide
    kingssman , February 25, 2009 10:08 PM
    wow me like this. always wanted some way of having a NAS for my 4 external USB drives
  • -1 Hide
    Flameout , February 25, 2009 10:27 PM
    this would b great to use as dumb terminals that only require to run 1 program
  • 1 Hide
    Tindytim , February 25, 2009 11:00 PM
    This would be great for thin clients.
    jeversonHmm... but can you game on it?!

    Is that a joke. It runs Linux, and it's extremely underpowered, not to mention it's not x86. So, while I can run TF2 fine in Ubuntu, this thing isn't going to be able to run any games made for actual gaming machines.
  • -1 Hide
    Tekkamanraiden , February 26, 2009 1:05 AM
    What the heck would you do with it?
  • 3 Hide
    nukemaster , February 26, 2009 1:23 AM
    Quote:
    What the heck would you do with it?

    High performance linux router?
    Lower power file server(as long as usb is not too slow for you)?
    small web server?
    teamspeak,vent server?
    Torrent box?
    Paper weight?
  • 0 Hide
    Flameout , February 26, 2009 1:23 AM
    TekkamanraidenWhat the heck would you do with it?

    did u read the whole article? it would be used for low powered tasks, but tasks that would probably need a computer to be on constantly.

    "The new device is ideal for use as desktop terminals in large support offices, where only basic client and logging software is being used, such as a tech support facility. These modules can also be used at sales terminals at retail locations."
  • 0 Hide
    bosjee , February 26, 2009 1:28 AM
    Reminds me of my currently still running NSLU2.
  • -1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 26, 2009 1:32 AM
    they should have dropped the ethernet port and used Ethernet Over Power!
  • 0 Hide
    ossie , February 26, 2009 6:10 AM
    As for those interested in a small file/www/ftp server, a SDHC card can be fitted... If more storage space is needed, an external USB drive can be used but it's questionable if the power supplied is enough for more drives, eventually a powered USB hub is needed.
    For Wi-Fi access, a SDIO or USB card could be the solution, if it supports hostAP mode.

    norbsHmm this could be turned into a kickass router if it just had another ethernet port. DD-WRT anyone?

    No problem with an external VLAN switch.
    Most routers use internally VLAN switches anyway, due to a single ethernet port on the CPU.
    DD-WRT looks nice but has it's inherent limitations. openWRT anyone?
  • 0 Hide
    zak_mckraken , February 26, 2009 3:26 PM
    It's Power Over Ethernet, not the opposite. But yeah, seeing that this thing will always be in a wall socket and is developped by a networking company, why not?

    For the average consumer, this things has almost no interest but it could prove very useful in a small to medium organization that has a lot of repetitive low tasks and/or restricted space and access to networks.

    The question is: where do I plug my monitor?
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