Tag Archive: Cheap


Small PC Options

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Raspberry Pi : http://www.raspberrypi.org/ a credit-card sized computer. I intend to use one (or more) for home automation and possibly XBMC (media pc) for streaming movies throughout the house.

This got me looking at what other options are currently out there for small computers which can run linux:

Raspberry Pi CuBox PlugPC Alix
Website http://www.raspberrypi.org/ http://www.solid-run.com/ http://www.plugcomputer.org/ http://pcengines.ch/alix.htm
Cost $25 / $35 $135
Size 85.6 mm x 53.98 mm 2" x 2" x 2"
Housing No Yes
Processor ARM v6 ARM v7
Video HDMI + RCA Video HDMI
Audio Analog Audio Jack SPDIF
USB 2x USB 2.0 2x USB 2.0
Network No / 100 Mbit Ethernet 1 Gbit Ethernet
RAM 128 MB / 256 MB 1 GB
Power MicroUSB 5V DC PSU?
Card Reader SD MicroSD
Extra IR, eSATA
Power (Watts) ~3

CuBox:

You can see I’ve only partially filled out the table as the PlugPC (many variations available) and the Alix didn’t really excite me like the Raspberry Pi and CuBox. The first of which still looks the most promising because of it’s incredibly low price point. Neither product are currently available (as of posting this article 7th Jan 2012) but the first 10 beta boards from the Raspberry Pi are currently being auctioned off on eBay for charity http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/raspberry_pi/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=&_trksid=p3686 and fetching over £1,000 each!

I’m hoping to see both devices available later this month and will be trying to get my hands on both!

*EDIT* Forgot to add this link to a video of the Raspberry Pi running XBMC: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKhnoQMwjmQ&feature=player_embedded

*EDIT* Thanks to Tyrell Beveridge for pointing out the fitpc: http://fit-pc.co.uk/ this looks like another good contender although rather pricey

*EDIT* 11/01/2012: Discovered another device- the Bifferboard: http://www.bifferos.co.uk/. It’s not very powerful and will set you back about £50 include a case and power adapter but does support a few common linux distros with apt-get/yum etc

L

I’m often seriously impressed by cheap (or possibly even free/open-source) alternatives to enterprise software- so decided to look into purchasing some form of support ticket / helpdesk / issue tracking system to help me get on top of things.

I had a fairly small list of requirements:

  • Cheap (I will be the sole user so cannot justify much expense)
  • E-mail Integration (Clients must be able to e-mail support@blah.com and a ticket is automatically created. Updates must then be sent from support@blah.com to the clients)
  • Web based (I need to be able to access from anywhere, any o/s etc)
  • Time tracking (I want to be able to log “time spent” against each update to help with billing)
  • Hosted (It would be nice not to have to host myself and have some form of uptime guarantee and limited level of suppport)

I did a lot of googling and spent quite a bit of time on wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_issue-tracking_systems) and looking at each individual solution. I found a few offerings that I liked:

Help Scout ()

 

  • Free for up to 3 users, 150 tickets/month
  • Brilliant simple, neat effective hosted web front end (and novel concept)
  • Unfortunately it is a little too “simple” and doesn’t offer many features- it really is just notes (no time logging etc)

Zendesk (http://www.zendesk.com)

 

  • Price looked reasonable at first ($9/month/agent for the starter package) but e-mail integration (domain mapping) is only available in the regular and plus+ flavours ($29/month/agents and $59/month/agent respectively)
  • Nice hosted neat interface
  • Good e-mail integration (really like the rules/actions/macros you can setup to streamline/automate workflows)
  • No time tracking (they offer the ability to add custom fields to the ticket but not to individual updates- a bit limiting)

I was still unconvinced and realised I was going to have to compromise on some aspect of the chosen solution. I started looking at products which don’t offer hosted packages or where their host-it-yourself package is considerably cheaper. Nothing excited me until I stumbled across:

Web Help Desk (http://www.webhelpdesk.com)

 

  • Quite pricey for a hosted solution but if hosting yourself free for a single user license- perfect!
  • Excellent e-mail integration
  • Clean modern web interface
  • Ability to track time against individual updates
  • Tons of other features (runs on all platforms, supports multiple database server technologies, reporting etc)

I am now using Web Help Desk! I will treat it like a trial for the first month (I think I will have definitely decided by that time whether it has any serious flaws). After a month I will treat it as a production system!

L

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