The (/wiki/openrd) I’ve been using for development is the forerunner of a much smaller, and cheaper home server than anything that has ever existed before. The various Plugcomputers contain the first embedded processors I’ve seen since the Strongarm (way back in 1998) that have a nearly fivefold jump on embedded processors designed before them.

(There are several others - notably the chips used in the android and iphone cell phones - that represent a similar quantum leap, but they don’t have ethernet)

The Strongarm chip, running at about 200 Mhz, back in 1996, blew away the 33mhz 68xxx processors that came before it, not only in speed but in power consumption, and obsoleted PalmOS almost overnight. Strongarm based handhelds caught Palm (and me!) by surprise. PocketPC took off in 1999-2001, not just due to the OS, but due to the chip that it ran on.

For a brief while handheld Linux was competetive, too, during that period.

Palm struggled mightily to catch up. They never really did.

I feel much the same excitement, now, when I hack on my 512MB ram, 1.2ghz, 5W arm based open-rd as I did when I got my first strongarm based handheld 11 years ago.

The marvell “kirkwood” chip in it, and the various plug computers - can run multiple sata busses, 2 GigE ethernet ports, a pci interface, multiple USB interfaces, has on-board encryption, and a ton of other features. It is also REALLY well supported by multiple versions of Linux. It “feels” very fast for an embedded system - especially since the fastest embedded chips I had been working on before it ran at 400Mhz or less.

For 129 dollars (and a little effort) you can build one heck of a great home gateway. A few days after I got an open-rd and got debian running on it, it replaced both my home file server and internet gateway/web/email server. It’s been incredibly reliable - this website, blog and wiki are run on it!

I’d like to get another so I can hack on the kernel some… maybe get the hardware crypto working… the guruplug server has the most promise to me - with a decent antenna on it it could (maybe) compete with a conventional wireless router.

In particular, I have found bind9 to be a lot - noticibly - faster in practice than the DNS servers in most of the wireless routers I’ve used recently. A fast, local DNS server + GigE ethernet, brings a qualitative improvement on the home Internet experience.

I’ve been trying to find a set of ideas that will bring a fivefold improvement in the home internet experience with the pocobelle2 project. Me being me, it’s difficult to put the ideas into words that others can understand at this stage of development, and I admit to be mostly going down a difficult path (enabling ipv6) rather than trying to create a useful-for-the-masses product at this point. (I’m not actually trying to create a product, I’m trying to get to where a product is creatable)

The Amahi folk are doing a much better job than I am at describing the core idea AND at creating a useful product.

I haven’t tried their stuff yet, being kind of committed to going down my own path, for now… but their materials look pretty good.

Find me elsewhere.

Best of the blog Uncle Bill's Helicopter - A speech I gave to ITT Tech - Chicken soup for engineers
Beating the Brand - A pathological exploration of how branding makes it hard to think straight
Inside the Internet Mind - trying to map the weather within the global supercomputer that consists of humans and google
Sex In Politics - If politicians spent more time pounding the flesh rather than pressing it, it would be a better world
Getting resources from space - An alternative to blowing money on mars using NEAs.
On the Columbia - Why I care about space
Authors I like:
Doc Searls
Jerry Pournelle
The Cubic Dog
David Brin
Charlie Stross
Eric Raymond
The Intercept
Chunky Mark
Dan Luu's rants about hardware design
Selenian Boondocks
Transterrestial Musings

February 10, 2011
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