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Building a mini- 'quieter-than-a-whisper' linux pc

By mikell in Technology
Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 01:38:08 PM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

After building a quiet, but by no means super quiet computer i still wanted to get to the point of 'quieter-than-a-whisper'. Not wanting to go the route of water cooling or putting the computer in the basement and running the cables through the floor,the next best solution is to try for a cooler running processor, which will not require as many fans.

Background to building a quieter pc

I built my main computer with an AMD T-bird 1.2ghz, Abit KT7 mother board (m/b), and full size Antec SX-1030 case, including floppy, cdrom, cdrw and 2 hard drives.Along with the video card, i installed a sound card, NIC, and a TV tuner card. The system has a total of 3 fans: cpu, power supply(p/s) and case fan. The next step was to reduce the fan noise as much as possible.

The original fans were replaced with the quietest ones i could find at a reasonable price (less than $10 each). The case fan and the p/s fan are also thermal-controlled, so they normally run at reduced rpm. Since the processor is not overclocked, i was able to wire all 3 fans for 7 volts instead of 12 volts and thus reduce the rpm and resultant noise even more, while still keeping cpu temperatures around 45C. A safe recommendation is to keep the cpu below 55-60C at full load.

This experiment in noise reduction resulted in a relatively quiet pc where the noise of the 7200 rpm hard drives was the loudest sound. That led me to use the new Seagate Barracuda IV 7200 rpm drive with fluid bearing motor for a definite reduction in hard drive noise and then continue the quest for a quieter pc.

How quiet is 'quieter-than-a-whisper?

dBA Levels for some Common Sounds

  • 0dBA-Threshold of hearing
  • 10dBA-Normal breathing
  • 20dBA-Whispering at 5 feet
  • 35-50dBA-Standard PC
  • 60dBA-Normal speak
So the quest is for a pc that produces less than 20dBA of sound.

My interest in a smaller and quieter computer was peaked by the widely publicized Shuttle Spacewalker SV24 mini pc. Reading its reviews gave me thoughts of building a really quiet pc based on its flex ATX m/b and a Celeron or PentiumIII processor.

Checking the thermal properties of the processors, showed that while a AMD 1.2 ghz T-bird's power dissipation is 66 watts ,the Tualatin .13 micron Celeron 1.0 ghz dissipates 28 watts. The Shuttle SV24 pc flex ATX m/b has a socket 370 for Celeron/PentiumIII processors. And the newest Spacewalker pc, the SV25 is compatible with the new .13 micron Celeron/Pentium.

I liked the concept of the SV24 pc for building a 'quieter-than-a-whisper' pc, but i did not want a cube shaped case. My preference was for a slim-line case like the book-pc or something around the size and shape of the thick yellow pages phone book, which sits under my 19" Viewsonic monitor.

After much web searching, i was not able to find the Shuttle flex ATX m/b used in the SV24. But i did find the Shuttle MV/25 m/b which is a micro ATX size. This board is 244x200mm versus 190x180mm for the down-sized flex ATX used in the Spacewalker pc. Accounting for the slightly larger size were the 5 expansion slots: 3 pci, plus isa and amr, compared to only 1 pci slot on the SV24 m/b. Now both these boards come with built-in video,sound and lan.

That brings up the case size considerations. Any slim-line case is less than 4 inches high thereby requiring half-height add-on boards. This is another reason i was planning on using the built-in video,sound and lan. Now in the midst of all these hardware considerations the integrated m/b would also have to be supported under linux, because thats what was going to be used for the operating system. The Shuttle CD has drivers for the Windows o/s, but i would have to find the required linux drivers.

Again a check of web sites and mailing lists showed that the VIA Apollo PLE133T chipset on the Shuttle m/b used the Trident Blade graphics engine which is supported under XFree-4.2. Similarly the lan was a RealTek RT8100, supported by the RealTek 8139 driver under linux. And the VIA686 southbridge sound is supported with the VIA82cxxx_audio driver.
Confident that linux could eventually be up and running on this m/b using all the integrated devices, it was time to find the rest of the parts for the pc.

VIA Apollo PLE133T Chipset Key Features

  • Supports Celeron, Pentium III (including Tualatin), and VIA C3 processors
  • 66/100/133MHz FSB settings
  • Integrated graphics with up to 1600x1200 @ 85Hz refresh
  • Two DIMM slots for up to 1GB of PC100/133 SDRAM
  • Support for Advanced Communications Riser (ACR)
  • Integrated 10/100Mb BaseT Ethernet controller
  • Two UltraDMA 100/66/33 Dual-channel IDE ports
  • 4 USB ports, UHCI compliant
  • Integrated Super I/O
  • Support for LPC bus for CRT, Digital Flat Panel and TV display
  • Integrated hardware monitoring
  • Advanced power management capabilities
Finding the right components

With enough information to satisfy me that the Shuttle MV/25 was the board i was going to build with, i needed to find the smallest case that would hold this m/b and most importantly, decide on a cool running processor.

There are actually many book-size pc cases available, and i found some as small as 12"Wx3.7"Hx14"D, but i finally chose the AOpen slim-line case H340D with a 180 watt power supply measuring 12.76"W x 3.74"H x 15.71"D. This case size is big enough for any micro ATX motherboard not just the down-sized ones. And it will work in either horizontal or upright position.

The slim case will take a full micro ATX board (244x244mm) plus hard drive, floppy and cdrom, and has a rotatable and removeable frame to hold the drives. This feature makes it really easy to swap drives in the confined space. Now it was time to look for that cool running processor that would make the truly 'quieter-than-a-whisper' pc, a reality.

The Shuttle MV/25 supports the following Socket 370 type CPU:

  • Intel FC-PGA Pentium III with 100/133MHz FSB
  • Intel FC-PGA2* Pentium III with 100/133MHz FSB
  • Intel FC-PGA Celeron with 66/100MHz FSB
  • Intel FC-PGA2* Celeron with 100/133MHz FSB
  • VIA PPGA C3 with 100/133MHz FSB
*PGA2 is for the new Tualatin Pentium and Celeron .13 micron core which is cooler running than the previous versions.

The thermal specs show that the new Tualatin Celeron would be dissipating 28 watts of heat (vs. AMD 1.2ghz T-bird @ 66 watts). And after reading the reviews of the SV24 pc running the Celeron or PentiumIII i knew a cpu fan would still be required, in the confined space of the small slim line case. If i wanted to eliminate the cpu fan i would need a cooler running processor. And a check of VIA's web site revealed that their newest VIA C3 using the Ezra-T core is the coolest running processor on the market.

This VIA C3 uses .13 micron core and has the smallest x86 processor die size, to minimize power comsumption and heat dissipation. The processor runs so cool that it can operate without a fan. And the thermal spec shows an average power dissipation of 5.6 watts while running typical desktop apps. So i have gone from a AMD T-bird at 66 watts, to the Tualatin Celeron at 28 watts to really cool processing at 5.6 watts. And no cpu fan is needed! This is the same power dissipation as the new mobile chips.

Now its time to check the internet and see if this new VIA C3 is for real. Doing a google search turned up enough satisfied VIA C3 users on various mailing lists and also a review on the VIA C3 866 (6.5X133mhz) that convinced me that this processor was worth a try in building the quiet desktop pc. Armed by this research into flex ATX motherboards, slim-line cases and cool running processors i was ready to start building a 'quieter-than-whisper' pc. The questions remaning were: Would it do the job running desktop applications, would it be stable and cool with only one fan in the whole case, and would it run linux?

Getting it up and running with linux

I ordered the case, m/b and processor and planned to use a Seagate hard drive with fluid bearing motor (the quietest 7200 rpm drive i know of- 2.0 bels idle acoustics). Completing the package were a generic cdrw and floppy, along with 256MB of Crucial PC133 memory.

Assembling the components was made easier because the AOpen case had the rotatable and removeable drive frame. And i took the Seagate drive from my AMD box and put it in the new case, so i would be able to start with a running linux system after using a boot floppy to....well...boot everything.

The VIA C3 866mhz processor comes with heatsink and fan. Since it should run ok without the fan, i removed it and just dropped the C3 into the 370 socket and snapped on the heat sink clip and that was it. The Shuttle MV/25 comes with standard length floppy and ide cables, but if you have some shorter length cables, use them to save some space in this small enclosure. All the parts hooked up without a hitch.

This case doesn't come with a pc speaker, so you won't be hearing annoying beeping sounds, which i think is perfectly appropriate for a quiet pc. Well now comes the moment of truth, a slight trepidation as i plug in the monitor and make the final connections just before the first press of the on button...will the BIOS recognize everthing and post, will the boot disk allow me to start linux, will the VIA C3 overheat without a cpu fan and just as importantly, will it run 'quieter-than-a-whisper'?

The BIOS on this board is by Award, the same BIOS thats on the Abit-KT7 m/b but without the overclocking options (the Shuttle manual has a very good section devoted to using the BIOS to setup hardware related functions in your system). The first check in the BIOS is the PC Health Status for the CPU temperatures. Its only 25C as i begin to check the BIOS settings. After idling a while the tempurature rises only a bit. So it looks ok to boot.

The Seagate hard drive swapped from my running linux box has 5 different linux distros on it and uses Grub for the boot loader. After booting with the floppy to bring up the Grub boot menu, i make the adjustments for the swapped hard drive and boot to the built-from-source and optimized for i686 distro named Gentoo linux. No luck. It just hangs. Well lets try again with the Slackware partition. OK it boots this time. Now let me try Debian. That boots also.

Well after some time i realize that Debian and Slackware are built for i386. And the VIA C3 processor won't boot a complete linux distro compiled from source with i686 optimizations. But i really want to use the new Gentoo linux. Well Gentoo also has an iso built with i586 optimizations. I get that and put it on the hard drive and soon its up and running the optimized for i586 Gentoo linux. It feels comfortable, but how high are the CPU temps running?

I download the latest lm_sensors, which is used to monitor cpu temperatures. After a quick #make, install and probe, you only need to #modprobe the i2c-isa and via686a modules and run #sensors to check the temps and voltages. No problem. The cpu hovers around 35C. The cpu core is set at an ultra low 1.35 volts. I am really happy with the quietness of Seagate's fluid bearing hard drive and this m/b supports Ultra DMA-100 mode 5, for fast hard drive performance that enhances system responsiveness. Linux uses the hdparm utility to set DMA mode on and test the drive. Running #hdparm -d 1 -t /dev/hda gives :
Timing buffered disk reads: 64 MB in 2.44 seconds = 26.23 MB/sec

Not bad performance at all, and since there are IDE1 and IDE2 connectors i plan on using the floppy drive slot for a second hard drive. In case you need to revert to a floppy its really easy to swap out with this case. As far as i know AOpen is the only mini case with the rotatable and removeable drive frame. Now its time to check the on-board sound and lan. Again just run #modprobe VIA82cxxx_audio for the sound and pop in a cd to listen. The lan driver- 8139too i have compiled into the kernel so the eth0 interface is recognized at boot and the net connection is made by the distro. I run #rdate to the nearest time server to check that the net connection is good and set the time.

Now if you connect with a modem you will have to buy an amr modem card which will run about $10-20 extra. Luckily i have a cable connection. How about stressing this cpu with a kernel compile? Well the VIA 866mhz takes about 8 minutes to compile the 2.4.17 kernel. Thats about 5 minutes longer than a AMD T-bird 1.2ghz using a similar config file. But this isn't built for speed, its built to be 'quieter-than-a-whisper'. Fortunately the compile time temperatures stay around 40C, so a CPU fan wont be needed.

Now its time for_my_stress test...configuring X for the built-in graphics. I run #xf86config knowing that it needs support for the Trident Cyberblade (generic). In the XFree86-4.2 cardbase its listed as card #501. Another tip for your XF86Config is to Load "extmod", else you lose the X display when you switch to console. A few more choices and i am ready to run #startx ...using the new XF86Config file. Success! The Sawfish window manager starts up with a very sharp-looking 1024x768 display.

Well the noise coming from the single fan in the cpu is certainly quieter than my other pc's, but it can be quieter.So i pop open the case and remove the power supply. The original p/s fan comes out and in goes a new 80mm manually adjustable (1000-3000rpm) fan. Its a tight fit because the original fan is 20mm thick and the new one is 25mm. This is an Enermax fan and it is used in the latest Enermax power supplies to adjust the fan speed. Everything is put back together (did i mention how easy it is with the removeable drive frame) with the fan set to the lowest rpm. Now its back up running and ....let me tell you folks...this puppy is quiet.
It definitely meets the less than 20dBA noise level.

With a single fan running at 1000 rpm there is now a blissfull quietness. It puts me at complete ease while working at the computer. I relax and savor the sound of silence between the clicks of the keyboard.

There is a neat monitor for linux apps which sits in the corner of your screen called gkrellm. So with the Gentoo linux distro you run this single command: #emerge gkrellm ...to download the source, compile and install it. Then configure the sensors settings and voila! The cpu temps and voltages from lm_sensors are displayed on the desktop in the gkrellm monitor panel, along with practically any other monitor readings you want,including the weather.

So does this processor do the job on the desktop?

Right now, the desktop has 4 workspaces open: opera web browser in space1, sylpheed mail/news reader in space2, xchat-irc in space3 and various stuff in space4, along with 10 open xterms, the gkrellm monitor and a file manager. And top shows the cpu at 90% idle.

After setting up printing with CUPS and the latest gimp-print-drivers, my Epson inkjet is ready to print. In this environment the VIA C3 is the equal of the newest Celeron. Games and video intensive apps may suffer because of the integrated graphics but at about $400 for the guaranteed 'quieter-than-a-whisper' mini pc I am very happy with the results. Peace at last.

As for upgradeability, VIA has announced in the second quarter of 2002 C3 frequencies will increase up to 1.2GHz. Also, a C3 processor with a 1.2GHz frequency will be released, but it will be based on a new core with a second level cache increased to 256KB and will be made with 0.13-micron technology. A number of other improvements will be made to increase its performance. At the same time, the new processors will stay compatible with Socket 370 (FC-PGA2). I am anxious to see the thermal specs on this new C3.

After using this pc for a few weeks, i decided to install a Pinnacle full- size TV tuner/fm stereo card. So i found a pci risercard with right-angle adaptor that allows the full height card to fit into the low profile slot, by positioning the card parallel to the mother board. After drilling a few holes in the back panel for the TV/fm cable jacks, i was perfectly content to use this mini pc as my full time desktop computer.


As the parts list shows this is a pretty affordable pc that runs linux on the desktop. The slim-line case can sit under your monitor to save space and because its "quieter-than-a-whisper" you wont even notice its there. Its not for the hardcore gamers, but for anyone looking for a little peace and quiet at their desktop this is one cool performer.

Parts List:

  • $55-Shuttle MV/25 mother board
  • $53-VIA C3 866mhz processor
  • $44-AOpen H340D slim-line case
  • $86-Crucial P133 265MB SDRAM
  • $77-Seagate Barracuda IV 40GB
  • $66-CDRW
  • $ 9-Floppy drive
  • $ 8-Enermax adj-speed fan
  • $398-Total

For easy shopping i bought all the parts from newegg.com except for the AOpen case which i got from myaopen.com


VIA Apollo Chipset:VIA chipset
VIA C3-Ezra-T Processor:VIA C3
Aopen Case:slim line case
Review of VIA C3 cpu:C3 review
Review of SV24-pc:SV24 review
The Silent PC:noise factors
ATX form factors:ATX spec
Celeron Thermal Management:: see google cache page for this title


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o Google
o motherboar d
o VIA chipset
o VIA C3
o slim line case
o C3 review
o SV24 review
o noise factors
o ATX spec
o Also by mikell

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Building a mini- 'quieter-than-a-whisper' linux pc | 43 comments (41 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
866MHz? (none / 0) (#1)
by dark on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:10:22 PM EST

The idea sounds interesting, but I can feel my manhood withering at the mere thought of having less than 2000 BogoMIPS :)

On the other hand, I don't really care how fast or slow my firewall is, and having a quiet firewall might actually be more important because it's on all the time.

Does this system consume significantly less energy?

Too late (5.00 / 1) (#24)
by Ni on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 05:06:46 PM EST

The idea sounds interesting, but I can feel my manhood withering at the mere thought of having less than 2000 BogoMIPS :)

I suspect your mandhood is already withering from quoting a bogomips number as a speed indicator. The BogoMIPS number your kernel spits out is strictly a timing value for the kernel to use, and doesn't tell you much of anything about the actual speed of the processor. See the many posts on the subject to the lkml, or the many entries about it in all manner of FAQs.

<mrgoat> I can't believe I just got a cyber-handjob from ni.
[ Parent ]
You underestimate me... (none / 0) (#36)
by dark on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 07:49:55 AM EST

I know all that! Please notice that I wasn't quoting BogoMIPS as a speed indicator. I was using it for its highest purpose: meaningless ego fuel.

[ Parent ]
Umm it's a firewall dude (none / 0) (#29)
by tzanger on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 08:00:16 PM EST

If you want a firewall just get a goddamned P90, underclock it to 75MHz and run without a fan at all. Boot off of a floppy (or CF, or CD) and run from RAM. Now use a 250W power supply and remove the fan. There's your silent firewall.

I simply hate overspeccing hardware for something a simple and non-processor-intensive as a goddamned firewall. Hell my 80386DX/33 was able to keep my 1mbit DSL connection full with ISA interfaces.

[ Parent ]
Heh (none / 0) (#35)
by dark on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 07:45:35 AM EST

I currently have a 486DX/33 as my firewall. The problem is, its fan grows noisy every two years, and it sucks more power than my other systems. It won't run without a fan -- I know that from when the fan broke, and it started to smell of burnt plastic.

[ Parent ]
Just curious... (5.00 / 3) (#2)
by sudasana on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:13:09 PM EST

...why didn't you want to make a water-cooled system? It has the aesthetic advantage of being able to work a little waterfall or fountain into the scheme. Add a sand garden/litter box and you've got the ultimate versatile urban Zen garden!

Cost? (none / 0) (#6)
by zenit on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:45:11 PM EST

Water cooling is expensive, I think around $200 is a realistic price. That's a significant amount when the computer itself is just short of $400.

[ Parent ]
Avoid moving liquids. (5.00 / 1) (#27)
by Spooky Possum on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 05:43:05 PM EST

I work with water cooling every day. It's great: right up to the point it springs a leak, or blocks up, or ...

I have a rule:

Nothing good ever came out of a machine involving moving liquids.

The pink stains on the lab floor from when a dye laser let go are testament to this.

Computers don't work well under water.

[ Parent ]
Moving parts (4.00 / 1) (#3)
by marx on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:26:24 PM EST

Why not eliminate the fans and disk altogether? I have a 486 which only has a heatsink. I don't see why modern processors should require one. The disk can sit in some box in a closet, and you can boot from CD or ethernet. The only problem is the power supply fan. Is that necessary though? Maybe it will require a special power supply, but to have a PC without moving parts (or only intermittently moving parts) would definitely be worth it.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.

Perfectly possible (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by zenit on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:42:38 PM EST

Thin clients are very usable, and as you say you don't need a disk or a very powerful computer. Modern processors need proper cooling, but I've got 486s (and 386s) with just a bare CPU, not even a heatsink.

A few of my old 386s have a powersupply without fan. Of course these supplies don't supply enough power for a more modern computer, but I guess it's adequate for a thin client without disk and with an old/slow CPU.

You don't even need a CD-ROM on a thin client, just boot off a floppy or a boot ROM on the network card. I know of several schools that use thin clients; it works perfectly!

[ Parent ]
Just a warning about Realtek cards (4.25 / 4) (#4)
by Skippy on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:29:09 PM EST

The Realtek cards integrated into a lot of these are crap. This is from /usr/src/pci/if_rl.c of your local FreeBSD system

/* * The RealTek 8139 PCI NIC redefines the meaning of 'low end.' This is * probably the worst PCI ethernet controller ever made, with the possible * exception of the FEAST chip made by SMC. The 8139 supports bus-master * DMA, but it has a terrible interface that nullifies any performance * gains that bus-master DMA usually offers. * * For transmission, the chip offers a series of four TX descriptor * registers. Each transmit frame must be in a contiguous buffer, aligned * on a longword (32-bit) boundary. This means we almost always have to * do mbuf copies in order to transmit a frame, except in the unlikely * case where a) the packet fits into a single mbuf, and b) the packet * is 32-bit aligned within the mbuf's data area. The presence of only * four descriptor registers means that we can never have more than four * packets queued for transmission at any one time. * * Reception is not much better. The driver has to allocate a single large * buffer area (up to 64K in size) into which the chip will DMA received * frames. Because we don't know where within this region received packets * will begin or end, we have no choice but to copy data from the buffer * area into mbufs in order to pass the packets up to the higher protocol * levels. * * It's impossible given this rotten design to really achieve decent * performance at 100Mbps, unless you happen to have a 400Mhz PII or * some equally overmuscled CPU to drive it. *

I'm still thinking of doing this but filling one of the PCI slots with a real card. Thanks for the pointers!

# I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

No joke (none / 0) (#7)
by Hong Kong Phooey on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:45:55 PM EST

I agree with the above poster. Stay away from realtek cards. Nothing but trouble and low performance.

[ Parent ]
Typical BSD elitism ;-) (none / 0) (#8)
by hythloday on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:48:28 PM EST

That card's more than adequate for the use he describes. Sure, if he was running a nine-fives Oracle database, he'd be well off steering clear of them, and going for (up to 10x the price) 3com cards, but he isn't.

The bit about needing a 400MHz machine is rubbish, btw: my firewall (a 233MHz PII) has three of the things, and even while I'm using all of them at capacity it never uses more than 10% CPU time. The drivers are extremely stable, I've had 80 days uptime on them.

I'd also like to nominate the FA311 card by Netgear as the "worst. card. ever." - I've read it's incapable of doing 100Mb/s full duplex. (I've never verified it because, well, would you buy a card that had that reputation?)

[ Parent ]
Netgear FA311 (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by FattMattP on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 01:44:35 PM EST

I'd also like to nominate the FA311 card by Netgear as the "worst. card. ever." - I've read it's incapable of doing 100Mb/s full duplex. (I've never verified it because, well, would you buy a card that had that reputation?)
So in one breath you claim that the FA311 is the worst card ever and in the next you state that you've never owned one. That doesn't give your statement much credibility. I own 12 FA311 cards and 17 FA310 cards. They are in use in all my servers, my firewall, and my workstations at my business. I even use three FA311's in my home computers. I recommend them to my friends, family, and clients and where I have built computers for friends or family, I've used the FA311 (and FA310 prior to that). I've never had a problem with them and I highly recommend them.

[ Parent ]
Slight correction... (none / 0) (#20)
by hythloday on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 03:23:45 PM EST

I own one, but I've never verified it - I tried once and the machine locked up ;-).

[ Parent ]
Netgear FA311 (none / 0) (#23)
by booyeah451 on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 04:38:42 PM EST

I have a Netgear FA311. It is the worst card I have ever bought. The windows drivers for it are flawed. Some guy wrote a test program that demonstrates this flaw, and explained this to Netgear, but Netgear did not listen. I have emailed them many times and posted bug reports to their web site, but they give some canned response and never really do anything. After that I have never done business with them.

Check out this site


My computer crashes about once a week with an DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL error.

[ Parent ]
Don't blame netgear... (none / 0) (#38)
by Anonymous American on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 02:24:36 PM EST

I don't think your card is the reason your PC crashes. I run a network with over 100 FA311 cards in Windows 2000 workstations. I have never encountered this problem. My experience with these cards has been very good, they are reliable and benchmark the same as the 3com 3C905B.

I'll see if I can reproduce this "flaw", but not with somebody's code I don't even have the source to. Did this guy even put out a website with some technical details? The information I found on tek-tips was less than reliable, and definitely not enough to erase the impression 100 good nic's left on me.

[ Parent ]
oops! (none / 0) (#40)
by Anonymous American on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 02:41:11 PM EST

but not with somebody's code I don't even have the source to. Did this guy even put out a website with some technical details?

Erm. My bad. He will send you the source code with the program. If anyone else wants to try to verify this contact ccooper21_AT_hotmail.com (replace the _AT_ with @).

[ Parent ]
Netgear 'flaw' (none / 0) (#42)
by Anonymous American on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 08:31:24 PM EST

OK, I tried the test program and was unable to reproduce the error. I am using the Microsoft provided driver for Windows 2000. I have also use this card with Linux and have had no complaints.

[ Parent ]
Bah (none / 0) (#28)
by fluffy grue on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 06:59:16 PM EST

The Realtek 8139 is great for my home network, and only cost like $10. Both of my Athlon systems (one Linux, one Windows) have one, and it performs admirably on both of them. They're certainly better than the ne2000s they replaced.

Granted, they do have some occasional timing issues (which makes networked armagetron somewhat unreliable), but they're certainly no worse than the various NetGear cards I've had the displeasure of working with, and at least they work with Linux without having to patch the kernel with a broken, bass-ackwards modified tulip driver.
"...but who knows, perhaps [stories about] technology and hardware will come to be [unpopular]." -- rusty the p
Parent ]

I had an idea the other day... (5.00 / 2) (#9)
by rebelcool on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 12:56:22 PM EST

I was staring up at a ceiling fan, and I noticed that even though it moved alot of air, it was silent.

This is of course because it is bigger in size, and runs at a lower rpm.

What im curious about though is if this could be made to adapt to computer cases...that is, can larger fans running at slower speeds be quieter, yet have the same cooling ability?

I once a knew a guy who replaced one side of his case with a box fan running at a fairly low speed while he overclocked (this was several years ago)

So I wonder, if one placed just a heat sink on the various components that require fans, and one used a large general-purpose fan, or perhaps a couple of larger ones situated over an area, rather than the component itself, would the same cooling ability be achieved? All you need to do would be move the same amount of air over the heatsinks. A larger fan running at a slower speed could do that, and would be quieter.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

I don't know. (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by physicsgod on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 01:10:09 PM EST

At first blush it seems to me that the important parameter is the amount of air moving through the heatsink (which should be called the component-air thermal coupler), which means that moving air that doesn't meet the sink is a waste. Now if you had a heatsink that filled the entire case....

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
well.. (none / 0) (#15)
by rebelcool on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 01:52:43 PM EST

larger fans can service multiple heatsinks. and yes, its the amount of air passing through them that is important.

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[ Parent ]

Answer to your "baffling" question... (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by pla on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 02:08:49 PM EST

Yes, you could, with one constraint...

You would need to take some measures to make sure enough air flows by/through the areas of highest heat production (CPU, video chip, HDD, MB chipset, and memory, most likely in that order... I have assumed the power supply has its own adequate airflow).

I would suggest having the air come in past the hard drive, and use a system of baffles to channel some significant portion of the air past the CPU and video chip. The rest should do okay with just having a lowish ambient case temp.

[ Parent ]
2 fans on the side ought to do it. (none / 0) (#17)
by rebelcool on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 02:23:04 PM EST

assuming you're using an ordinary minitower, one could put a couple of large fans on the side of the case. One up almost directly over the processor area (this will also service the MB and memory), the other down lower near the video card.

Of course the side of the case should be replaced with some kind of frame for the fans, with some simple filtration (ive found packing foam in motherboard boxes works as a decent intake fan filter)

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[ Parent ]

You need something like this (4.00 / 3) (#18)
by KWillets on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 02:53:34 PM EST

Try this design.

You could design a larger centralized air system, but I don't see a happy time routing air ducts all around the case. The cooling per cfm would be the same either way, as long as the air is sufficiently turbulent.

[ Parent ]

G4 Cube (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by scruffyMark on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 05:14:01 PM EST

By arranging all the components carefully, you can even get such a result without any fans at all, as the Apple G4 Cube most nicely demonstrates.

The G3 iMacs also use this principle, but they use the monitor to generate extra convective airflow. Even so, if you set your monitor to go into power saving mode after some time (presumably this puts the video processor to sleep too), but not the CPU or harddrive, they still don't overheat

[ Parent ]

-1 This can do some work (3.00 / 1) (#13)
by theboz on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 01:38:46 PM EST

I don't really care about running linux since the hardware is the main focus, however, if you are going to put a section title that talks about linux, you could at least mention it in the paragraphs immediately following, rather than waiting until like 5 paragraphs later to mention linux.


OT: Weird (none / 0) (#19)
by theboz on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 03:23:12 PM EST

I could have swore I chose editorial when I posted that, but the story was posted before I clicked on the "Post" button, so this may be a scoop bug.

[ Parent ]

RISC (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by jaymagee on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 03:44:13 PM EST

Did you have objections to using a RISC processor instead of a CISC? I know that they are more expensive, but linux runs beautifully on G3's and G4's. Also, they are very cool. My G4 tower has two fans, a large (and quiet) main case fan, and the p/s fan. The cpu has only a small aluminium heatsink.
Making a better humanity, one genetic change at a time.
Via C3 (3.00 / 2) (#22)
by ersatz on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 04:12:29 PM EST

I don't really know much about them, but it seems that the Via C3 family or processors would be about ideal for this application. Looking at Via's website they look fairly well suited to the problem, as they don't require active cooling.

This is silly, but... (4.00 / 1) (#26)
by banstyle on Sun Apr 07, 2002 at 05:25:53 PM EST

For about the same price, you can actually pick up some really decent premade machines. HP sells these new line of PC's called the e-Vectra and e-PC. You can pick 'em up for around the same price as this on E-Bay or uBid, they come with a 3-year warranty and make one noise: the fan revving up and back down when you turn it on. Other than that, they are zero-noise (the spec sheet claims 24db noise) and they run Linux (intel i810 chip and 3c920 networking), BSD, or Windows.

I bought one of these for my mother at Christmas time, and she loves it. I think it would make a great little Linux box, and plan on buying another in the forseeable future. Of course, the one thing that sucks about these is their lack of upgradability, but if you don't care about that, this is the way to go.
"Everything done in weakness fails. Moral: do nothing." -Nietzsche
How do I quieten a case fan? (none / 0) (#30)
by DodgyGeezer on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 01:18:34 AM EST

The source of most of noise from my system is the case fan. There's a little clip-on box at bottom at the front of the case. Holding it in my hand with the fan running has an acceptable noise level. However, as soon as I clip it on to the case, the noise level sky rockets. I can hear bloody thing in other rooms of the house. I have to listen to music very loudly to drown it out. If I put my hand gently on the case, I can feel vibration, which I assume comes from that fan.

Has anybody here had this problem and been able to resolve it?

An idea (none / 0) (#32)
by infraoctarine on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 04:44:42 AM EST

I've seen hard drive bays that separates the drive from the case with some sort of suspension mechanism in order to prevent vibrations from the drive to propagate to the case.

I guess you could do something similar with the case fan. Perhaps attaching the fan with foam-tape (don't know if this is what it's called in english?) would do it?

[ Parent ]

Here's an idea (none / 0) (#39)
by awgsilyari on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 02:31:06 PM EST

The noise is probably because the fan happens to vibrate at or near a resonant frequency of the case. The solution is to either prevent the fan vibrations from transferring into the case, by mounting it with foam or silicone, or to change the frequency of either the case or the fan.

If you know how to do it (I don't, exactly), you could increase the speed of the fan. This might make the fan noisier, but if it quiets down the case you could end up winning. The other option is to change the resonant frequency of the case, which you could accomplish by taping a moderately-sized piece of metal to the inside of the side of the case.

Please direct SPAM to john@neuralnw.com
[ Parent ]

Your have a resonance problem (none / 0) (#43)
by Medievalist on Wed Apr 10, 2002 at 05:16:49 PM EST

Normally, I solve resonance problems with a powerful magnet wrapped in black PVC electrical tape. Stuck to the side of my big anvil, it damps out the ringing caused by forged steel hammer faces striking the hardened steel plate that forms the top surface of the (cast iron) anvil.
However, that's probably not a good idea with a computer; the size magnet I'm using would most likely prevent the fan from moving at all, and probably cause havoc with nearby magnetic media.
Try sticking a large blob of silly putty to each side of the case. If that works, open the case and use similarly sized blobs of silicon bathtub caulk on the inner surfaces so nobody has to see this kludge.
Or, go to the local speed shop and buy some rubber gasketing of the type used in internal combustion engines. Cut a custom gasket from it to fit between your fan and the case, then put a little dab of silicon caulk on each nut when you bolt it in.
Good luck!

[ Parent ]
If you live in the UK or Canada (5.00 / 1) (#31)
by vrai on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 04:33:29 AM EST

Then take a look at QuietPC (no I don't work for them). They're not cheap but I built a PC using their PSU, CPU fan, and drive sleeve: its nearly silent, you can only hear that its running by sticking your ear next to the case. Perfect for stuff like firewalls and file servers that have to up 24/7 but are in your bedroom. Obviously those au fait with the joys of soldering could probably do this for 1/10th of the cost, but I'm basically very lazy :)

Shuttle has 2 new Barebone systems (none / 0) (#33)
by Lazy Jones on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 06:36:55 AM EST

Check out the SS50 - it has a neat feature for regulating the CPU fan speed.

The 2 new barebone systems:

Fans are sooo 90s (none / 0) (#34)
by cyberdruid on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 07:29:54 AM EST

Why not use the magic of convection to cool your precious electronics? Like the guys over at www.calmpc.com
Mmmm... *silent*

Sounds cool but ... (none / 0) (#37)
by Anonymous American on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 02:04:28 PM EST

* Are you over-clock mania?

There is tip about how to cut more heat using additional cooler.


[ Parent ]
Engrish! (none / 0) (#41)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 03:50:53 PM EST

Haha. greatest engrish ever. "All of you !! It was so much waiting !!"

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Building a mini- 'quieter-than-a-whisper' linux pc | 43 comments (41 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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