Experiences and Ideas - Building a small form PC for dedicated Flex use as part of a new shack design

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I am currently building a new house after buying some land last year to move us further away from Christchurch which is experiencing a shift in populous after the earthquakes.

One of the fun challenges of that is I get a new shack and new antennas/towers. So I have been working towards building a modern shack that will sustain me over the coming years. 

My main interests are DXing at HF, VHF-SHF, Moonbounce and contesting and the remote location we bought suits all that.

Building a new house and shack is an interesting in that you get a chance to really start from the ground up. Normally you don't get to choose the boundary of the house, it's orientation and location of rooms etc. And that combined with where I can site the shack and new towers is really fun!

As part of the new shack layout I decided that I wanted to ensure that I can provide racked space for amps with vented air into the roof space to keep my shack cool in summer ... its can get warm out on the Canterbury plains and we have had some hot, dry summers due to El Nino.

I also decided that I want to minimise cabling etc and have been looking to IP radio connections, antenna switching, rotators etc as much as possible and bury network cables out to the towers etc.

As part of the new strategy I also decided to look at the layout of the desks and station positions. My room is big enough for 2 larger positions and at a squeeze, 3 positions for contests. Plus I have the ability to run an operating position in the workshop on the garage and an external position in my shipping container room that currently is used on site as a shack.

Thinking about these new positions I decided on 2 x Flex 6500's .. one for HF/VHF DX and one for HF/EME. As part of the new shack I decided on reducing space for peripheral devices. For example I have bought a Wavenode system and will run this with remote mounted sensors - this will allow integration into Flex and also means that a PC and screen can be used at each op position for monitoring.   To drive all this I also wanted to reduce PC space. Normally I have been using simple desktop PC's but the fans drive me mad and in the middle of the night during EME skeds the less noise the better.

To fit in with the reduced space reduce noise concept I started looking around at PC options but wasn't finding much in a reasonable price bracket. Intel NUC type boxes are great but they are extremely expensive in NZ but then by chance I stumbled across an article by lee W9OY on this experiences with fanless PC's.

So with this in mind I spent some time researching these devices and set out to find myself a new PC or 3!

For those who are not familiar with them, these PC's are usually small form factor (SFF) cased units that do not have fans for the CPU but rely on conduction cooling to the case. They also normally also rely on external 12V supplies and use low power components so these don't need a huge PSU. Of course this comes at a trade off. Size is tight so usually uses small 2.5" drives and SODIMM laptop memory. But I can say this does not come at a reduction in interfaces, my fanless PC described below has 8 USB slots!  These device are usually lower power spec machines too so usually rely on mobile chip sets and processors similar to those found in laptops.

Looking at the market for these fanless PC's you can find 100's of them in all sorts of specs, so how do you choose. I broadly set out the specs as:

- Needs to be Windows 10 capable
- Minimum of an i5 processor and at least 2 GHz or better
- reasonably later chipset version - broadwell or better 
- 8GB min ram
- 250 GB of disk space
- reasonable graphics performance
- As many USB slots as I can muster!
- Small case


With this in mind I started shopping and in the end chose this barebones PC.

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/Hot-sale-5th-Gen-Core-i5-5250U-processor-Mini-PC-Windows-10-4K-HD-int...




This offered pretty much the best of all worlds, plus a decent spec with an i5 5200U chipset and Intel 5500 graphics processor.

This also supports a couple Msata drives, a SATA3 interface (cable supplied in the box) and 2 x SODIMM's. Plus dual LAN ports, Dual HDMI connectors, 4 x USB2 slots, 4 X USB3 slots, and the normal 12V in and speaker/mic connections etc.

You can buy i7 versions if you need something more powerful but of course the cost jumps. My experience using a cheap nextbook tablet suggested this i5 would be more than capable.

The PC  has all named brand chipsets, so its a standard Intel chipset, broadwell drivers, AC93 audio etc etc So all the drivers are in Windows 10 off the bat - no messing trying to find driver disks!  In fact the only driver I had to update was the Wavenode which has a kooky installer but that's not a Windows problem more a dev issue!

Shipping was reasonably quick and great comms from the seller. I was able to use paypal and protect my purchase too, so I felt comfortable with the buy from China.

The only things I can say is the model in the picture is slightly different from the supplied one. the supplied model has no RS232 ports anymore. I was a bit miffed by that but Hystou sent me 2 x USB - RS232 adapters for free (and yes with FTDI chipsets!) so cannot complain about that really :)

Shipping took about 10 days with a holiday weekend slowing things down.


While this was in shipment I set about looking at hard drive options.

I settled on a Solid State Disk for the new PC due to power needs, fast access and also noise .. no spinning components. But this comes with a warning!  SDD's have a HUGE amount of info on them on the net. Trying to find out what was best buy, price and performance was incredibly difficult but I can sum it up pretty easy!

- There's a lot of hoodoovoodoo about SSD's - some of the tech talk on them is quite
   questionable - so skip the bit that I did and focus on finding a reasonable priced one !
- Buy a well known brand - there are a lot of no name - no idea brands out there
- Buy a recent model one - technology has moved on quickly ... look for something modern
- Performance for this application is really a mute point - anything reasonable will do ... aim for   
  something in the 500mb/sec WR times - anything will be be
- Don't panic about extreme, PRO models etc. Look for something that has a good balance of
  price vs performance. It's not a gaming machine so does not need to squeeze every Ms of 
  performance out!

I finally settled on a 240 GB model as a balance of disk space and price. The Windows 10 install and basics like SSDR, N1MM, FLDigi, SDRbridge, CW Skimmer, DDUTIL etc comes in at about 30 GB. You could get away with a 120GB device to save a few $ but to be honest the few dollars saved might bite you later! I chose this disk which came in at about 170 NZD. 

https://www.sandisk.com/home/ssd/ultra-ii-ssd

You can of course choose an Msata drive if you want something smaller but larger sized Msata drives are still pricey. I chose the SATA 3 as a best option for $.


RAM is another wide area of choice. I chose a named brand 8GB SODIMM from Kingston and the fastest the board will support is 1666 MHz - it is a low power RAM slot - so just watch that. 

Oh...  one of the nice things about this PC is that it has WIFI built in and 2 antennas - one less box and you can connect external antennas to the two SMA ports!

 

Installing the parts in the case was easy .. 5 mins with a small screwdriver and that's it done!

They are nice and compact - just remember don't take the board out as its bonded to the case!





I installed Windows 10 and tried to upgrade with a Window 7 key but I didn't realise that this upgrade path is not supported. If you're upgrading from Windows 7/8 you need to install this first and then select the upgrade installers from the Windows 10 site. This worked perfectly!

Here's a tip too.... if you're building a new PC and don't have a spare W7/8 licence you can legitimately buy Windows 7/8 OEM licences on Ebay. You can grab these for like $25 install that key and then upgrade to Windows 10 for free. But be quick you can only do this inside the first year of Windows 10 and this will cut off at some point!  

Installing Windows 10 was super quick due to the SDD! That really flies.

I also installed the SSD monitoring software that SanDisk supply which can help manage SSD's and alert to any issues. All pretty painless.

After that I set about installing updates etc and then left the PC running overnight while it installed all the latest patches and updates.

BTW ... the SSD is a MUST!   I can boot from cold to a Windows 10 screen in 11 seconds! Recovering from sleep ... well a blink of the eye!  Definitely a huge advantage!

Next day I installed SSDR 1.5.1 and connected up one of the Flex 6500's.

Run up SSDR and .. bam ... perfect!  The PC supports all the normal windows resolutions and even 4K!  The display was sharp and crisp and despite using system RAM, does not use too much system memory.

Running a single slice barely tickles the box running at about 13% CPU. Even running 4 slices consumes about 40% CPU. The case is barely warm even running 4 slices. Power consumption was about 15W running 4 slices!

DAX ran straight out of the box ... no issues with drivers, no issues with LAN etc SSDR/Flex Control all work out of the box without issue.

Performance even for such a small box is quite amazing. I ran up a couple slices, plus N1MM, CW skimmers, SDR bridge, TELNET for DXcluster and it was running about 35%. A doddle for a this box.

So mission accomplished. Total cost under $450 USD for an i5, 240GB, 8GB machine. 

So far nothing I have done with this PC has been an issue. It's a comprise in space, i.e. no card slots but what you gain in size reduction, power needs, speed and noise reduction is great!  

I am pretty impressed so far. Will see how the box runs over the next months but I am already looking at an i7 for the main PC in my office and get rid of annoying fan noise.  It really is quite spooky to hear the lack of noise when you press the power button! Not even hearing the hard drive spin up ... hmmm very odd!

So there you have it ... I'll keep you posted on progress but thought someone might find the experience interesting and useful as I learnt some new tricks and there's some pitfalls you can avoid during the build, whereas I learnt them the hard way :)

Happy to answer questions!

Cheers


Simon ZL4PLM

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Simon Lewis

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Posted 4 years ago

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Jim Gilliam

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SSD's are super as the main drive. I LOVE, also, a terabyte SAT drive for Images. Reimaging between two SAT drives is just minutes. It is so easy to get corrupted these days and so easy to rectify it with image restoration.


Jim, K6QE

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Simon Lewis

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64 bit i5 5200U chipset
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Lee, Elmer

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I get into my bios with "esc" but I think a couple other keys work also.  Make sure you have the vendor send you a driver DVD as well.  I did a fresh install of win 10 after the upgrade and the driver DVD came i handy.  

73  W9OY
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Simon Lewis

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didn't need the drivers but did ask and they did send me a disk .. my board seems to be standard chips - W10 managed all of them. The Wavenode was the problem child :) Cheers Simon ZL4PLM
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Jim Gilliam

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What is the Wavenode, what problems did you have?
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Simon Lewis

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Wavenode is a USB based power metering system - the driver is not signed and a PITA to install under W10 signed driver signature process ... you end up having to turn it off to install the driver  
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Steve W6SDM

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Nice article, Simon.  You should really consider sending that to QST.  It would be useful to a lot of people.

I went through the same experience five years ago.  There weren't as many choices then. but I ended up building a Shuttle PC from the ground up.  I did pretty much the same thing you did as far as specifications.  I ended up with an i7 machine and a 256 GB SSD.  The boot up speed is phenomenal.

The only thing I would add to your configuration is a couple of hardware serial ports.  I use them for my LP-100A and my voice keyer.  Although you can work around them with USB converters, it's one of those mystical areas where stuff seems to go sideways, especially working along VSP Mgr or CAT.

Thanks for the article.

Steve
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Simon Lewis

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Hi Steve .. yup I should do .. might tart it up a bit and send it in :)

I owned 2 Shuttle PC's and both mainboards died within a couple years and within a few months of each other. Not sure if its the dreaded dried caps but I left them alone for the past 4 years or so.

This was a chance to get back to SFF PC's with reduced risk - the Shuttle PC's are not cheap here either and hard to get hold of unlike when I lived in EU :)

Hardware Serial ports .. I have kind of been hoping to move away from them - The spec on this PC had 2 serial ports but seems they not longer supply with them as that would have been the icing on the cake!  Must have a look see if there is an add on box.

I need to ask if they have anything at the same store ... there is some internal slots for other stuff on the board.

Enzo IW7DMH was looking at something too around that as an add on using Arduino and SSDR CAT. 

I'll have a hunt and report back if I can find anything !

Thanks Steve

Cheers

Simon
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Walt - KZ1F

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I definitely agree with Steve.
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Great post , thanks for taking the time to put it together.

I would love to hear from you how it performs at 4k if you get a monitor that supports. My only concern would be not being able to add a more powerful video card.
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Simon Lewis

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Hi Salvador - if you supply a 4K monitor I will gladly try it :)

My stepson invests heavily in the gaming market for graphics cards but he can spend as much as a 6300 on a card alone! The other problem of course is the power supply, his monster cards generate huge amounts of heat ... and therefore noise.

I think I like the quiet PC :)

I did see some screen extension software that allows you to extend the same screen over multiple monitors .. not sure what kind of stress that would have on graphics cards but I can try and see what it does!

So you need my address for the 4K monitor HI :)
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EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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On its way! I addressed it to the cool ham nerd in NZ. Post office should know. Lol
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Simon Lewis

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Thanks Salvador :) I tell you when it arrives  ROFL!
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Steve W6SDM

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My solution to the video card problem was to run USB adapters for the video.  I use the DVI and HDMI ports for two 27-inch monitors.  I needed more real estate (at least I think I do) for things like cluster monitors, N1MM, keeping a browser up, etc., so I added three USB video adapters. 

They work okay - if I was doing this again I think I would opt for two really big monitors rather than five smaller ones. 
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Lee, Elmer

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Nice setup Simon.  I have the i-7 version of your rig in the shack and the i-5 version in my office running things remotely.  Fanless is the only way to go!  I also had some shuttles and they all died within a couple of years.  The only real advantage of the i-7 is when making youtube videos the 'puter has a little extra overhead.  Be happy your rig needed usb serial as the built in version did not work for me for my serial needs.  I use ethernet between the puters and the 6500/6300 and the lag is virtually zero.

Congrats

W9OY
(Edited)
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Simon Lewis

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Hi Lee

ohh great ... at least wasn't me then with the Shuttles .. A colleague in Germany had the same problem in the same time with his Shuttles as well!

Been super happy with the fanless PC... now I will build a second one :)

The serial ports never materialised! The PC they sent no longer has them but Hystou were good and offered a couple of USB adapters :)

But the i5 is fast for sure!

The i7 will be for the office PC :)  I think I will end up with an i5 for the other station position too

Thanks for the help Lee .. Cheers!

Simon
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Peter K1PGV, Elmer

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BTW ... the SSD is a MUST! 
If you use an SSD, just make sure you create regular backups.  Consumer-level SSDs have either very little or no failure protection (in the interest of keeping costs down).  There's a reason that Enterprise grade SSDs cost more than a thousand dollars each (for a 200GB drive), and Consumer grade SSds cost 20% of that.  Note that lots of Consumer class SSDs are now labeling themselves as "Enterprise" SSDs, which serves to confuse the matter further.

I'm not saying not to buy an SSD for your system... SSDs are great.  I'm just emphasizing the necessity of keeping a backup.

If you haven't considered online, constant, backup that might be something to look into.  I'd recommend something like CrashPlan.

Also, if you're looking at "directly attached PCIe SSDs" (such as NVMe -- which I do NOT yet recommend for home use) be absolutely sure you have the EXACT slots available on your system needed to support them (and be sure whatever SSD you buy is returnable).  Mainboard compatibility issues can be very tricky with these.

Peter
K1PGV
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Steve W6SDM

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Good advice.  SSDs are cheap enough that keeping a second one on hand with the operating system and the essential programs is also a good idea. 
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Simon Lewis

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no different to any consumer HDD - I lost enough HDD's over the years ... always have a system image tucked away and back up data regularly! A lesson painfully learned!
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Jim Gilliam

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I have at least two SATA HDD's in the computer one for OS and the other for backing up data and accruing image files. I find an image restore from SATA to SATA to be extremely fast compared to using an image restore from a USB drive. However, always have a USB image as an ace-in-the- hole. Been stung too many times to do otherwise.
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Lee, Elmer

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I'm using a mSATA for the OS/programs and a SATA3 drive for storage in the computer and a 2 tb usb 3 drive which catches system snapshots as backup in my office environment.  USB 3 is amazingly speedy for this need.   I've also started using some cloud storage for specific files that I need to access across platforms or want to keep independent of a disaster, like my DXCC logbook from DXLab.  A man has to have his priorities in order.  I have both Google drive and One Drive.  Each gives like 15gb of free storage which is a hell of a lot of storage for ham radio stuff.  

I decided to go with a 5 license subscription to office 365 since my wife and kids all need word processing on their computers/phones/tablets and they are into photography etc.  There is 1tb cloud storage with each of these licenses so it's very easy to store a LOT of data for not very much money, if not free.  

73  W9OY
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Jim Gilliam

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I think back-ups are worthless with a corruption of the operating system. The only way to guarantee integrity is to make system images...period. Perhaps you are using the word back-up to imply making a system image.


Jim, K6QE

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Norm - W7CK

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I agree with the importance of system images.  Makes restoration a snap. 

As far as SSDs go, I've used several Samsung SSDs.  I have 2 of them that have been in constant service for 3 years now and have never had an issues at all.  Its the only brand I'd go with currently.

Great article.  I've been wanting to do the same thing but have been dragging my feet.  I appreciate the inspiration.  Thanks!
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Peter K1PGV, Elmer

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>I agree with the importance of system images. 

Hmmm... I don't see it that way myself.  I stopped creating system image backups of anything more than 10 years ago.

What I care about is my data. On my radio PC, I care about my log and I care about notes I've taken and settings I've made in various programs.

It takes about 20 minutes to install Windows to a brand new disk drive.  After that, add 15 minutes to install SSDR and whatever other software I need.  As long as I have my data, I can be very easily back in business with a clean, fresh, up to date system... and without any of the mess inherent in restoring a system image.

That's the way I see it, at least.

Peter
K1PGV
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I thought I'd just chime in with my 2 cents, Peter.

Images, and I mean full, complete, bootable images are quite valuable to me. Well, really, I clone the drive to an identical SSD, as well as image the primary drive to another server on the network.

I wish that installing a fresh copy of Windows and accompanying software was just a matter of an hour or so. Between all the software, and especially the customization of that software, it would take hours, if not days, to get me back to where I was prior to a drive crash. 

After experiencing an SSD failure a few months back, I can't begin to tell you how nice it was to have an identical, cloned SSD in the box, waiting to go. No downtime at all. Between my amateur radio ventures, audio editing, RTL-SDR software, work use, and more, it was a real time saver. Boot into BIOS, select the second drive, back in business in under a minute. 

I also image externally on the network to an additional server that backs up everything on my network in the cloud. 

Data backup is important. My log and important documents live permanently in the cloud (Dropbox). This also comes in handy as my log can be used in Log4OM on any of my computers. Handy for remote work. 

For those who have heavy customization and time into configuring a computer the way they want it, having a cloned drive ready to go is a smart idea, IMHO. 

All of this said, I cannot recommend Macrium Reflect enough for this purpose. Great piece of software. 
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Jim Gilliam

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Well...we all march to a different drummer. I restore approximately 200 GB, including data, programs and operating system in about 15 minutes restoring from one SATA drive to another. I guess I should strive for 10?


Jim, K6QE

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Simon Lewis

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same nut ... different hammer :)

I reinstall but I can see the value of an image too :)
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Jim Gilliam

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Last time I did "your" way, I spent half a day doing Windows updates.
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Peter K1PGV, Elmer

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Hey, whatever floats your boat, I say.  Just so long as you're backing up!
The trick to avoiding the Day of Updates -- at least these days -- is to start with the latest download image from MSFT.  They've started to "slipstream" updates into the downloads. The last time I installed Win10, the only update it installed was one released that day.

I like the data-only backup because I usually find it useful to do a bare-system re-install of Windows once every couple of years in any case, just to clear out the accumulated cruft.  Despite having spent a great part of my career working on the internals of the Windows operating system, I still have no idea why the darn system gets slow and needs to be "de-cruftified" every once in a while.  It seems silly, but it works.

Peter
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Walt - KZ1F

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Wintel? If ones system slows down progressively over a couple of years, in this consumer throw-away society, people just buy a faster PC. Intel gets a new sale as does Microsoft and Dell.
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Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

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When I build a new computer, I install the OS and 'essential' software, register it with MS and then take an image of it - I use Acronis 10. I do not install any MS Updates - I have seen them make grown men cry.

Once a year or so, I reinstall the image and start again. 

For me it's just the way I have done things for the last 20 years. Bit like backing up - it's an automatic process and saves a lot of time and searching for driver disks and patches.

Tim
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Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

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Thanks Simon for a very interesting and informative post.

When I lived in England I ran a computer business and supplied lots of Shuttle computers, for both home use and business. My experience is similar to others on this thread, Shuttles are great computers but they do seem to have a limited life span. It really is a shame, I used to meet the Shuttle guys every year to talk about the current and future products, they were a nice bunch of guys and cared about their product but seemed to expect that computers should be replaced very 2 or 3 years and that was their design life. 

When I moved to France 10 years ago, I carried on supplying computers but tried to steer clients into buying slightly more robust machines, suffice it to say that computers I built 10 years ago are, in many cases, still working.

It just so happens that earlier this week, my own work machine, an I7 CPU & Gigabyte motherboard crashed and I decided to start looking for a replacement to put on the shelf for when the inevitable happens. Now that I am retired, I cannot justify real top of the range and to be honest, I don't really need it either (but it is nice to have!) so Simon's posting made me do some thinking and research. From what I discovered, these computers, and many others like them, are well regarded and at the price, can almost be regarded as disposable. Please note, I said almost! It grieves me to spend $400.00 in the expectation of having to spend it again in a couple of years.

Suffice it to say that I have placed an order for an I5 with an SSD and memory. Should be with me in about a week and I am looking forward to getting it fettled up and working.

Thanks Simon,

Tim  
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Lee, Elmer

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Tim. Pass along your experience once you get it cobbled together

73. W9OY
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Jim Gilliam

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In my humble opinion two things have really changed my thinking: Softether and the "embedded" computer concept supplied by Simon. It is great to belong to such a great group of hams passing on their information to make our lives with Flex more complete. Thank you all.

Jim, K6QE

(Edited)
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Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

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Fully agree Jim, this forum is one of the things I love about being a Flex owner.

Lee, will do, I intend to document everything quite carefully. Going to have a lot to do when it arrives as I have an Expert 1K arriving in 3 weeks.

Tim
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Simon Lewis

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Lee W9OY must take some credit he planted the seed .. I just pushed it on a bit :)
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Jim Gilliam

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http://www.hystou.com/products/fanless-computers/c-2/page-4.html


I contacted Hystou and they said that they will supply Windows 10 free with their line of computers assuming you buy the computer supplied with a SATA SSD.


Jim, K6QE

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Lee, Elmer

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Excellent deal.  My computer with windows 10 works perfectly once all drivers like my scanner driver were updated.  

73  W9OY
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Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

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Is that a 'legal'copy of Windows 10? I have asked for mine to be loaded with Win7 - just don't like the idea of MS's data acquisition policy with 10. Even though I know some of it can be turned off, I am not convinced that you can turn everything off.

After the Talk Talk hack last week (if you don't know what I am talking about, Google is your friend, just look for Talk Talk hack), I am now giving serious consideration to having a computer that is only turned on when I or my wife want to access our bank accounts of make online purchases.

Tim
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Jim Gilliam

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I don't know it is a "legal" or cracked copy, I didn't ask. I only will be using this computer dedicated to the Flex and third party software. Don't think any hacking can take place. For corruption, I added a second (it will take 3) SSD drive for image backup in the event of corruption. Wii also do an image on an external USB HDD.


Jim, K6QE

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Walt - KZ1F

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Tim, in the case of talk talk, that wouldn't help. You machine wasn't hacked, theirs was.
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Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

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Agreed Walt, I do suffer from the occasional CRAFT moment from time to time!

Tim
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Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

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First of all I want to thank Simon Lewis for his superb posting about his search for a small, quiet computer.

So, having read Simon's article and all the comments, I did some research and using the knowledge gained having had over 30 years professionally designing and building PCs, I took the plunge and ordered a computer via the Aliexpress website last Friday.

I decided on an Intel I5  1.6Ghz with 8Gb Ram and a 128Gb SSD hard disk. The price was $360.00 including DHL delivery. If I had bought a motherboard, CPU, memory, hard disk and so on, I would have easily spent the same amount of cash and had to build it.

A few minutes after placing the order. I received an email acknowledging the order and giving me a couple of days to change my mind.

3 days later another email arrived telling me that the computer had been dispatched.

This morning, it arrived, almost exactly 1 week, to the hour, after I had placed the order. 

When I ordered it, I asked for Windows 7 Pro 64 bit to be installed and it was, but Service Pack 1 was not installed

I tried to download SP1 and couldn't! I tried changing the Internet Explorer settings without success. I have been doing this sort of things for years but I could not get it to access anything without getting a security notice. 

When I had a closer look at the Windows installation, I could see that the files were all dated July 2009.Obviously it has been installed from an old image.

Rather than spend any more time getting frustrated, I decided to do a fresh install of Windows.

Over the years I have learnt that the fastest way to install Windows is from a USB drive so I plugged my Win 7 Pro 64 bit in, restarted and 9 minutes later it was done. 5 minutes later all the drivers were done - they came on a DVD and I had them ready to run on another USB drive. 30 seconds to register with Microsoft and it's ready for the next step.

Another 10 minutes and I have the wireless network up and connected, AVG and .Net installed.

3 more minutes and SSDR was installed and talking to the 6300 and I have had a QSO!

My main work machine is an I7 running at 3.4Ghz and works very well but the baby machine, running at less than half the speed with half the memory is pretty nippy. Of course it hasn't got Dreamweaver and Photoshop loaded or a lot of my other software but the decision is made - my workhorse is now only going to be switched on when I need it's brute power. This little baby is going to be my everyday/Flex machine.

The power consumption is peanuts, I haven't measured it but the PSU brick is only just warm, the computer itself is only just warm so it isn't dissipating very much. The build quality is very, very good and so far I can't find any faults with it. I may buy another 8 Gb of RAM - there is a SODIMM slot free. I will certainly add some storage - my 256Gb SSD will fit in the case.

Would I buy another one? I already have made the decision to buy 2 more and put them away for when my workhorse and media server die. For the media server I'll probably get an I3 and save a little money.

In my work life, before I retired, I personally built over 600 computers. I have installed Dells, HPs and Compaqs, from desktops to high end servers. I have been impressed by the quality of many computers but this thing ranks very high on the list of the best I have ever seen.

To say that I am pleased would be putting it mildly. To say that I am impressed would also be mild.

Is it value for money? You bet!

This little machine is superb. No question, no argument.

 

Any questions, please feel free to email me - tim (at) desarbres (dot) eu

 

Tim


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Norm - W7CK

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I may not know exactly what I'm talking about but here goes the question.  I seem to remember that HDMI ports have different versions.  I believe only the newest version 2.0 supports 4k at 30 or 60 fps with 4:4:4 chroma subsampling.

4K TVs can make wonderful PC displays, but not many are compatible with 4:4:4 chroma subsampling at 60Hz and 4K resolution. If a display is not using this specification, text will appear blurry.

Does anyone know if this small form factor pc with the 5200U, 5250U or 5257U processor provides HDMI v2.0 with 4:4:4 chroma subsampling?
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Norm - W7CK

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I think I just found some information that may be useful.  Please correct me if I"m wrong but it appears that this processor will not support HDMI v2.0 therefor may not be very good when trying to us it to display to a 4k monitor / TV.  4:4:4 chroma sub-sampling is not supported and from what I understand the display on a 4k monitor may be somewhat blurry. 

Am I understanding this technology correctly?
Photo of EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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I keep going back to this thread as a reference for a MiniPC build. Thanks OP.

Browsing through the MiniPC options at Aliexpress I found this one which has 4 RS232 ports that might be a great PC to have in the radioshack to control all those devices that still use serial ports (Amps, rotors, many current radios,etc...).

http://www.aliexpress.com/item/New-arrival-Fanless-Mini-PC-Windows-Core-i5-3317U-processor-Dual-LAN-...

Something like this with a newer processor and better video card is almost a must have. :)



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Jim Gilliam

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I have been dealing with the company directly. They hare great support and sales personnel.

http://www.hystou.com/

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Norm - W7CK

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Is anyone using any of these to drive a 4k monitor and if so, how is it working for you?
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Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

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Jim Gilliam

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Also, one can order extra HDD or SSD drives as well as loaded Windows 7,8.1, or 10.
(Edited)
Photo of Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

Tim - G7GFW / F4VQP

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See my comment above about pre-loaded Windows. They don't charge for doing it but my experience says DIY is the best way to get Windows.

Tim
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Steve (N9SKM)

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I have an intel NUC with an i7 and its great as a shack computer.
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Jim Gilliam

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I think Flex has a burden on expectations. It is just a radio and a good one. But not a miracle. To meet all expectations it needs a little assistance from host computers to run all the "goody software" to be an end-all radio. I think the idea of using a small dedicated computer to provide all the peripheral support is a great help to Flex and takes a lot of pressure off of them give us everything. We are getting spoiled.


Jim, K6QE

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Phil - N6ERP

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Hello All - First Post..

Have taken the plunge into the world of SDR. Ordered a 6500, and really like the concept of the 12vdc Fanless PC since am running solar power with a large battery bank.

Ended up choosing this as a dedicated PC:
i7-5500u/16GB/256GB SSD/Windows 10
http://www.hystou.com/products/fanless-computers/fmp05b-core-i3-i5-i7-2-lan/16g-ram-256g-ssd-i7-4558...

When it's all up & running will share my findings..

Thanks to Simon and everyone for sharing their ideas..
-Phil
(Edited)
Photo of EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

EA4GLI - 8P9EH - Salvador

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Have you given some thought to the monitors? I think 1 4k or at least 2 hd monitors is almost a must. Good luck with the new radio and welcome aboard.