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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

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I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Mon, 28 Mar 2011

The problem with Excito’s Bubba 3 server? It’s nearly $400. So where do I go from here?

I really like the idea of an ARM-based, Debian-running home server, and I really like Excito’s Bubba 3.

The only problem? The Bubba is .75 U.S. (€279.20, exchange rate calculated by Google).

What can I do between those less-than-hardy plug servers for and this item?

Here’s what I’m looking for: * Small form factor * Low power consumption * Linux or BSD OS * Uses standard SATA laptop hard drives * Fanless motherboard and power supply

ARM is very attractive because of its low power use, but Intel’s Atom chips are getting better and better. While the Bubba does a lot, I would be more than OK setting up the server myself in Linux or BSD, or using something like FreeNAS.

In the realm of things that are actually available, there’s always Soekris, although price-wise the Bubba looks better. Alix is cheaper, but in the case of both Soekris and Alix, performance won’t be what I can get out of an Intel Atom board.

Factoring into this are the power-consumption numbers for Intel Atom (Pineview)

I don’t see much out there in the way of ARM hardware for this particular purpose (and available for user builds).

But if I do decide to dip into the plug-computer space, Tonido Plug is there.

Original comments (when this entry was in my FlatPress blog)

VoidAndAny Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 09:30:33

I have almost the same need (file server, backup serveur) and for the moment I play with a Seagate Dockstar wich is a dock for usb seagate hardrive but wich can be hacked to install a Debian.

It’s a great alternative to sheevaplug and other tonidoplug and it’s cheaper (30-50€)

Alan Rochester Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 10:05:50

+ drive. 512 Mb RAM?

Ebay? http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Habey-EPC-6668-Dual-GbE-Mini-ITX-Barebone-Server-New-/200575581628?pt=COMPENServers&hash=item2eb33c7dbc +drive. 1Gb RAM, upgradable to 2… OK 5 Watts v 12 Watts.

Nigel Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 17:04:51

Steve, I really would recommend you to just get a decent x86 server instead.

I got a HP Microserver which has the £100 rebate offer going on it here in the UK.


Ended up with a server which is very quiet with 5 sata ports and bays complete with CPU, 1 GB ram and a 250 GB HDD for £130.

Upgraded it to 2 GB with a matching 1 GB ECC stick off eBay for £14, and put in 3 Samsung 1.5 TB HDD in Raid 5.

The AMD CPU only runs at 1.4 Ghz but is dual core and can easily cope with mdadm raid 5 along with most linux services you throw at it. Hell people even use it for running 3 VMs with ESXi…

Currently running Debian 6.0 with XFCE, loaded SubSonic on to stream my music collection over the internet, and WebMin to manage it.

Any server with a HDD in it, really needs a fan in it btw unless it has a very good case heatsink system, so I wouldn’t try for fanless unless you want a cooked HDD.

Have fun.

Grant Wagner Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 17:57:33

I agree, unless you specifically want arm for some reason, you can still use an atom based all in one mainboard, build a descent server for about , and with a descent after market heat sink, be fanless. Expect this to eat 25 or 30 watts. Not bad, but not arm. Definitely much less power, noise and size that a repurposed old desktop, especially with a well suited case.

I personally wanted something for solar powered off grid use, and used a pandaboard. As well as cost ( for the board it self), the downside is lack of a high speed drive interface. I’m using usb 2.0. This setup draws between 2 and 5 watts on overage. Details at my web blog as part of the comment. I’m especially proud of how the case came out.

If you insist on arm, maybe the dream plug might be what you want. http://www.globalscaletechnologies.com/t-dreamplugdetails.aspx

Grant Wagner Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 18:02:41

On a side note, it’s generally a bad idea these days to use Debian for arm platforms, as they compile for an old arm4 standard. It’ll work, but you get a massive boost using Ubuntu’s arm7 instead. Of course, you can compile your self and ignore the entire issue as well.

Dmitri Popov Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 18:04:02

Hi Steven,

I’m an evangelizer and community manager at Excito, and I thought I’d add my two cents to your blog post. There is no denial that, being a high-end product, B3 can seem expensive. But consider this. B3 is designed and manufactured in Sweden, and it’s built to last. For example, B3 sports carefully crafted thermal design, so the server is cooled passively even under heavy loads.

Unlike a typical Plug PC, B3 sports an internal hard disk (we use Western Digital Caviar Green-series disks to reduce power consumption) and excellent connectivity (two Ethernet ports, an optional Wi-Fi inteface, two USB ports and an eSATA port). In addition to that, we also provide free of charge software updates on a regular basis.

I invite you to take a look at http://wiki.excito.org/wiki/index.php/About_Bubba for more info about B3and how it compares to Plug PCs.

We also do our bit to help open source projects and promote open source software. For example, we sponsor the digiKam project and offer a 50 EUR (approx. 70 USD) discount to all open source developers and Linux user group members.

steven Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 18:57:16

Make no mistake, I think the Excito Bubba is a great product.

One thing about the Bubba that isn’t emphasized as much as I think it should be is that (I’m fairly but not completely sure) it includes a 3.5-inch desktop-sized hard drive and not a 2.5-inch laptop drive.

That’s how the Excito people get such high-capacity drives in there. From what I see, laptop drives > 500 GB are very rare, while there are plenty of 1 and 2 TB desktop drives available.

I’m still very much in favor of the Bubba, especially due to its Debian base, and I’d love to see the company make some kind of move to sell in the U.S. If they could knock the price down to even , that would make the Bubba a lot more viable.

steven Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 18:59:16

@grant — I thought that in Squeeze, Debian changed its ARM port to “armel,” which is somehow newer than the old ARM.

Grant Wagner Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 21:13:49

Per http://wiki.debian.org/ArmEabiPort, it’s still targeting arm V4, but with the thumb extensions.

turtaf Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 21:28:06

well, well, well

I bought a few days ago a bubba 2 for the 200€ giveaway price…

depending on your needs, it might be the low-cost solution…

Looking forward to get it!!

steven Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 21:57:29

They’re blowing out the Bubba 2 - you can get it for €167.20 with WiFi and 500 GB drive. I’d kick in the extra for 1 TB or for 2 TB.


steven Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 23:27:23

@Grant Regarding ARMv4 vs. ARMv7, you are correct.

The Ubuntu Wiki ARM page:


Now all we need is some ARM hardware to work with …

previso Friday, April 1, 2011 - 00:44:11

Server? Try an old desktop (or brand new bottom of the line generic), and install FREENAS. Requirements: 128 MB footprint, x86 CPU, 32MB RAM. It’s no-brainer.

turtaf Friday, April 1, 2011 - 07:56:24

you’re welcome…