Sunday Dec 21, 2008

Building an energy efficient and virus-free office PC with OpenSolaris 2008.11

I chose the Intel D945GCLF board with an Intel Atom processor 230 with a TDP of just 4W. The northbridge/GPU apparently needs more power, so it is cooled with a fan whereas the CPU does not need one. Unfortunately, the fan is really loud. The following picture shows the original configuration with an additional case fan for CPU and RAM:

I looked at various northbridge coolers (for example the Zalman ZM-NBF47, mentioned in this blog entry by Matthias Pfützner) but then found a much cheaper and very elegant solution: I just removed the existing northbridge/GPU fan and installed a standard 80mm quiet fan (about 1000/min) on top of the cooler, using just one of the two cooler holes by mounting the fan with a 3mm screw and nut:

I also added a small part of a plastic packaging to the fan so more air would flow downwards towards the CPU cooler (this reduced the CPU temperature by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius):

The whole PC with 2 GB RAM and DVD-ROM drive needs just 30W which is OK, I think.

For the OpenSolaris 2008.11 installation, my first attempt was to install it on an external 200GB USB drive. But contrary to my installation experience on my Intel D201GLY2A (see my other blog entry), this time the USB ports got renamed at every next cold boot attempt, so I had to try all USB ports until the disk drive was found. Which is really funny if your USB disk has two connectors (an additional one for extra power). The good thing was that the power supply of the case had an additional SATA power outlet. And as the D945GCLF mainboard has two SATA connectors, and my external USB disk was a SATA type disk drive, I could remove the disk from its USB case and install it inside the computer case. As it only has 5.25" and 3.5" drive bays, I attached an additional u-shaped sheet of metal in the 5.25/3.5" drive bay so that the 2.5" disk is supported from below and has a solid, flat metal surface to lay on, and the two mounting screws on just one side of the disk are sufficient to keep it in place:



Installation went smoothly from the OpenSolaris 2008.11 CD. Network and Sound worked right from the start. Up to now, I only had a problem with printing from Firefox: The fonts were either pixel fonts with a very coarse resolution or the font hinting was not implemented (the spaces between characters did not look correctly). I have not yet analyzed that problem so far.

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