I can’t really explain it, but fanless, small form-factor computers have always held a lot of appeal. Over the years I’ve twice selected SFF models as my desktop. Compulab, and Israeli company, has consistently offered very interesting SFF platforms, including the Fit-PC and Intense PC Series.
I bought an original Fit-PC simply because it was interesting and relatively affordable. However, novel as it was, Fit-PC was destined for industrial and signage applications. With hardware common to a netbook it simply didn’t have the grunt to be more than a plaything. While the Intense PC models were more powerful, they were also considerably more expensive than a traditional SFF desktop. I admired them from afar.
This week Compulab noted that they are beginning to produce their newest model, the Airtop-PC. It looks like their most innovative design yet.
CompuLab, the company that brought us the Fit-PC series have a special place in my heart. Their little super-small-form-factor PCs hold an attractive quality that’s hard to describe.
I rather impulsively bought a Fit-PC2 even though I really didn’t have any need for it. The little 4″ square box is actually mounted on a VESA bracket on the back of an LCD monitor. It essentially turns that monitor into a net-top.
As cute and appealing as they were, a Fit-PC was never going to be my primary desktop. Sporting an Intel Atom running at 1.1 GHz they just didn’t have the CPU power to fill that role. However, that may be changing. The introduction of their latest offering, Intense PC, might make a viable replacement for my ailing desktop.
Selecting hardware appropriate for a particular Asterisk installation has been a topic of discussion ever since the emergence of Asterisk. This typically centers around choosing hardware to handle n users or x concurrent calls. Often the focus is on how to scale up to the greatest number of users for a given server. However, there can be different but related considerations as we consider ever smaller applications.
In various circles I’ve lately witnessed a minor spike in interest in small form factor Asterisk systems. I have found it curious to survey the various hardware platforms that people are considering when creating their own DIY Asterisk Appliances. To establish some perspective on this I recently posted my own history of using Asterisk my own little Asterisk retrospective.
There are quite a range of small computing platforms available to the enthusiast seeking to tinker with Asterisk. It seemed to me that an overview of such hardware and related resources would be helpful.
For my purposes I’ll only consider generic platforms suitable for a DIY project , not the commercially offered embedded Asterisk devices, of which there are many. These small host platforms tend to be in the $50-$300 range which makes them approachable for hobbyists, home users and some small businesses.
I am just such a sucker for little embedded systems platforms. It started with the Soekris Net4501, but I’ve also used the Soekris Net4801, ALIX boards and HP thin clients in appliance-like roles. Most recently I bought a FIT-PC2 to use as a little Astlinux server.
My roots in VoIP are closely intertwined with embedded systems. I really like the idea of small, quiet, lower-power hardware that just runs…and runs…and runs. That’s what drove me to my 2006 article about Astlinux on Soekris hardware and was in part the genesis of this blog.
When I saw the original FIT-PC I thought that it could be an interesting platform for Asterisk. However, with its 400 MHz Geode CPU it wasn’t that much different than the Soekris platform that I was using, so there was little motivation to make the migration.