Project TinyMiniMicro: Reviving Small Corporate Desktops

teafarer

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Jan 23, 2020
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@teafarer did you try it with linux or windows though?
Windows, specifically is where I had the problem. That machine never got Linux, so I hadn't tested it there.

It would not surprise me if Linux had no problem and Windows did, however. Though Linux is a bit tangential- as people with Windows have seen both situations (works fine or doesn't work fine/is laggy)
 

tinfoil3d

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I know :p , but will I get the "real" graphic experience this way? Will the live mode use the same graphic drivers as a normal installation?
If it does work fine with presumably non-bleeding-edge livecd kernel, chances are it will be as good or better with newer kernel. my personal experience is i could go beyond specified supported max resolution on 2nd-3rd gen intel core builtin gpus, but with slower refresh rates that is. which technically should be totally fine and expected. you're still rendering same supported amount of pixels per second. you set higher resultion but at slower speeds. i cannot test it with 4k displays because i dont have one, but logic tells me this should totally work. ymmv but tias if you can?
 
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siwyboy

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If it does work fine with presumably non-bleeding-edge livecd kernel, chances are it will be as good or better with newer kernel. my personal experience is i could go beyond specified supported max resolution on 2nd-3rd gen intel core builtin gpus, but with slower refresh rates that is. which technically should be totally fine and expected. you're still rendering same supported amount of pixels per second. you set higher resultion but at slower speeds. i cannot test it with 4k displays because i dont have one, but logic tells me this should totally work. ymmv but tias if you can?
I will test it next week at the office. Maybe I will prepare the Ubuntu live USB and some other distro.

Also next week I will get my hands on Dell 5070 Micro i5-9500T. Colleague has one and will borrow it for couple of days so I can perform tests with my own SSD.

I will update this thread once I see the results on my own eyes ;-)
 
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Marsh

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My daily desktop was a HP mini I5-6500T with 4K monitor 60HZ, using Windows 10 without any issue.
I used the HP I5-500T mini between late 2019 to March 2021, then I upgraded to Dell 7070 mini with I5-9500T.

I did not notice any real difference between I5-6500T and I5-9500T.

Reason for upgrade was price was too good to pass. Around March 2021 time frame, brought as least 6 HP / Dell mini with I5-9500T, price was below $200 each.

Add:
If you are using it as 4K HTPC, I5-7100 or higher is godsend for decoding video using quick sync
 
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Markess

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I will test it next week at the office. Maybe I will prepare the Ubuntu live USB and some other distro.
Since you had a decent amount of RAM, you may want to start the live USB of the newest version (21.10 for Ubuntu) and run the software updater to update to the latest version packages. You can do that without writing to disk. It takes up RAM to do this, but with 16GB it would probably be OK if there aren't a ton of updates. 20.04.3 is the newest Long Term Support (LTS) version, but I'm not sure how many updates there are for that if you try to run updater live.

If you're just trying to test functionality of the newest kernel/package builds, another live choice that is handy is Manjaro. Since its based on a rolling relase (Arch) its going to be pretty up to date. Manjaro tyically runs a couple weeks behind Arch, but the latest version (21.2.1) is based on packages as of January 3rd of this year, so its still going to be quite fresh.
 

n00bpro

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Jan 19, 2022
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Can I just use this thread to get a few questions answered? Seems that you guys are the real holy grail in terms of these mini computers :)

My plan:
I want to use the system with proxmox 24/7 to control smart home (mainly lights) and get some advanced network security. So I thought about some lxc containers (dont know if I need a VM at all) with
  • HomeAssistant
  • Deconz
  • pfsense
  • adguard
  • Maybe some tools for video surveillance and a little playground
My first setup was an old raspberry 3b for HomeAssistant, but this is crap due to different reasons. So I thought about odroid (this is advertised by HomeAssistant) and NUCs and then tried to search alternatives for small and compact home servers (and stumbled over your website).

My requirements:
  • Should not be too big because I want to screw it below a sideboard in the living room, beside the router. It will get installed headless.
  • That said, it should be as quiet as possible in idle
  • As low as possible energy consumption in idle (I wont have a lot of load, so idle is most important)
  • I would go for a more mid-range CPU (actual i5 or comparable) and 16-32 memory because I just want some buffer to play around
  • I need to get Proxmox working on the machine (read about some troubles with not official supported OS)
  • 2x RJ45 (ideally in 2,5G) would be great because I would be able to separate internet from LAN
  • possiblity for a fast RAID 1 would be optional but nice
  • ECC would be optional
My thoughts:
  • I am not sure if I should go with Intel or AMD, but the Lenovo M75q Gen 2 sounds nice. Problem is, that I would only get 1x RJ45 and I didnt find an extension for the punch-out hole that would get me a second. I would be able to buy a campus version of it (5650GE, 16GB RAM, 512 NVMe) for about 600$ (in Germany, so it is not compareable to your prices, but compared to other new units the price/performance is fine)
  • Then I read about the minisforum line on servethehome and thought about a HX90, but the CPU is a bit oversized, it is big (even though 2L case would fit as well) and might be louder than the Lenovo. And it costs around 680$ as a barebone with not significantly more advantages for my use case
  • The minisforum TL50 would give me 2x 2,5Gb ports with a slightly outdated CPU, but nevertheless more than I need. At around 570$ with 16GB installed, it almost compares to the Lenovo. TH50 on presale seems to be the minor update

Has anyone of you some experience where I should look and what I should grab? Any hints in combination with proxmox?
Thank you guys!
 
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tinfoil3d

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as a guy who owns P340 tiny and a couple of passive cooled low-end lenovo units:

1L is 1L, its not that big.
Personal experience p340 tiny is quiet in idle.
-cant tell anything on how much they use, you should check out patrick's reviews on STH for that
cpus are upgradable for most but not recent ryzen units (M75q Tiny Gen2) if you buy new then maybe consider buying low-end then buy one you want and swap. most lenovo units easily support 2x32(64GB) so no troubles running 8GBx2 or 16GBx2.
what issues with proxmox and where? i'm interested. these units are almost like little servers and their hardware is supposed to be supported by all modern linuxes, you can check out compatibility/certification of ubuntu for example to make a decision.
lenovo: no native 2.5G LAN, i'd recommend using 2.5G USB NIC or "5G" USB NIC. "5G" because it's superspeed and superspeed is 5Gbit. Add the usb protocol overhead and you end up with something like 4. Patrick did a video on that a long time ago. optionally i350 in pcie slot for 4x1G ports.
hwraid via PCIE card if you want to but where are you gonna put the drives is the question.
haven't heard of ECC in these 1L units from lenovo specifically. P340 due to its non-xeon chipset won't power up with xeon and ecc ram.

my thoughts: minisforum are bga onboard-everything, with no path for upgrade or component replacement. and they're costly thingies. and then i had some laugh on gamersnexus video
maybe you'd enjoy that too. make sure to grab some popcorn.
 

n00bpro

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Jan 19, 2022
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as a guy who owns P340 tiny and a couple of passive cooled low-end lenovo units:

1L is 1L, its not that big.
Personal experience p340 tiny is quiet in idle.
-cant tell anything on how much they use, you should check out patrick's reviews on STH for that
cpus are upgradable for most but not recent ryzen units (M75q Tiny Gen2) if you buy new then maybe consider buying low-end then buy one you want and swap. most lenovo units easily support 2x32(64GB) so no troubles running 8GBx2 or 16GBx2.
what issues with proxmox and where? i'm interested. these units are almost like little servers and their hardware is supposed to be supported by all modern linuxes, you can check out compatibility/certification of ubuntu for example to make a decision.
lenovo: no native 2.5G LAN, i'd recommend using 2.5G USB NIC or "5G" USB NIC. "5G" because it's superspeed and superspeed is 5Gbit. Add the usb protocol overhead and you end up with something like 4. Patrick did a video on that a long time ago. optionally i350 in pcie slot for 4x1G ports.
hwraid via PCIE card if you want to but where are you gonna put the drives is the question.
haven't heard of ECC in these 1L units from lenovo specifically. P340 due to its non-xeon chipset won't power up with xeon and ecc ram.

my thoughts: minisforum are bga onboard-everything, with no path for upgrade or component replacement. and they're costly thingies. and then i had some laugh on gamersnexus video
maybe you'd enjoy that too. make sure to grab some popcorn.
thank you both for your reply! I think 1L is perfect, 2L would fit as well - so one or the other.

NIC: do these USB things work without issues? If I would install these things, my LAN would totally depend on a USB to LAN converter. Dont know if this is stable?

Raid: No need for hardware-raid, software would be fine as well. But it would be nice if the drives where then identical and fast (so m2 2280 for example). Most of those tiny servers only support 1x m2 and additional 1 or 2 sata-ssds

ECC is not a must and up to around 2L would be ok as well...

I know the video, but that doesnt bother me to be honest. It is a chinese manufacturer and it seems that they exaggerated their marketing a little. I dont need carbon in these things and the liquid metal doesn't cool the system better than the classic version. So both nice to have but not necessary. The price is another aspect, because you dont get compareable specs cheaper than the classic manufacturers. They are costly but would provide dual NICs from stock...
 

tinfoil3d

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i use a lot of usb nics and so far they didn't fail or flap. just doesn't happen. but i only use 1g, mostly tp-link(again, rtl chip based), ymmv but as it's a normal usb device it should be as reliable as any other usb device, granted it's a well-known brand like tp-link.
if interested, tp-link UE300 is the most commonly used usb nic in my network. on older kernels they seem to be having issue with not sensing packets which i used to solve by enabling promisc mode on the interface and that solved it but don't remember doing that on a newer installations anymore. also might have been a single faulty unit. at a price of around 10 bucks new it's a good deal to me for 1g nic. if you need reliability do some form of soft-failover that would let you hotswap a faulty unit.
 

n00bpro

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Jan 19, 2022
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i use a lot of usb nics and so far they didn't fail or flap. just doesn't happen. but i only use 1g, mostly tp-link(again, rtl chip based), ymmv but as it's a normal usb device it should be as reliable as any other usb device, granted it's a well-known brand like tp-link.
if interested, tp-link UE300 is the most commonly used usb nic in my network. on older kernels they seem to be having issue with not sensing packets which i used to solve by enabling promisc mode on the interface and that solved it but don't remember doing that on a newer installations anymore. also might have been a single faulty unit. at a price of around 10 bucks new it's a good deal to me for 1g nic. if you need reliability do some form of soft-failover that would let you hotswap a faulty unit.
ok, so then the options get a lot better. And there is no problem with proxmox routing the traffic directly to a USB-nic? Do have experience with this?
 

tinfoil3d

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oh, right. i never really played with usb virtualization, so no idea here. i do know that a legit four-port intel 350 in pcie would do the trick.
 

Parallax

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ok, so then the options get a lot better. And there is no problem with proxmox routing the traffic directly to a USB-nic? Do have experience with this?
No issues, you connect it to the box and the base Proxmox Debian-based OS detects it and sets it up there. Then all your VMs are virtualised above that and talk to the USB NIC through the Proxmox abstraction layer (ie KVM). USB NICs will even work under ESXi although you do need the USB NIC Fling (link is in the Lenovo Tiny Reference thread advertised earlier). You can even install a 2x 10GbE PCIe (or presumably 1x 10 GbE) card in the Lenovo Tinys, check the reference thread for info on that as well.
 
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Parallax

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I want to use the system with proxmox 24/7 to control smart home (mainly lights) and get some advanced network security. So I thought about some lxc containers (dont know if I need a VM at all) with
  • HomeAssistant
  • Deconz
  • pfsense
  • adguard
  • Maybe some tools for video surveillance and a little playground
If you want to run this all on one physical server then yes, you will need something like Proxmox to at least have two VMs, one for pfSense/OpnSense/Sophos and one for the applications you want to run. On the application server you would run your favourite flavour of Linux and Docker.
  • 2x RJ45 (ideally in 2,5G) would be great because I would be able to separate internet from LAN
In this setup technically the "LAN" connection from the firewall VM to the applications VM could be over a bridge within Proxmox, and then you only potentially need one LAN port. However I would actually recommend having two NICs since you presumably have other devices on your LAN.
My thoughts:
  • I am not sure if I should go with Intel or AMD, but the Lenovo M75q Gen 2 sounds nice. Problem is, that I would only get 1x RJ45 and I didnt find an extension for the punch-out hole that would get me a second. I would be able to buy a campus version of it (5650GE, 16GB RAM, 512 NVMe) for about 600$ (in Germany, so it is not compareable to your prices, but compared to other new units the price/performance is fine)
  • Then I read about the minisforum line on servethehome and thought about a HX90, but the CPU is a bit oversized, it is big (even though 2L case would fit as well) and might be louder than the Lenovo. And it costs around 680$ as a barebone with not significantly more advantages for my use case
  • The minisforum TL50 would give me 2x 2,5Gb ports with a slightly outdated CPU, but nevertheless more than I need. At around 570$ with 16GB installed, it almost compares to the Lenovo. TH50 on presale seems to be the minor update
Most of us here are buying these small units second hand, not new. So then the cost of even a performant model using one or two gen old tech (Core Gen 8/9, or a Ryzen 3400GE) with 16GB RAM and NVMe is more like £250/$300, which makes it much cheaper than what you're suggesting. You could buy two complete physical systems for what you're proposing to spend. This also would avoid the issue of a Proxmox update or issue bringing down both your firewall and your application server at the same time, your whole home network getting upset because you no longer have a default gateway while the server is rebooting, etc. The Lenovo Tiny Reference (sorry to keep advertising it) lists many of the CPUs and their Passmarks so you can get a feel for what you need in terms of compute performance. With my boxes I run out of RAM way before I run out of CPU.
 
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tinfoil3d

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Can't agree more on the costs. Unless you need warranty i dont see any reason buying these new. A valid point may be these can be smelly second hand, say coming from smoking environment or like my ip phone, still smells with some perfume years since i bought it second hand lol.
 

cptcrunch

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I run a mix, HP Mini 800 G5, Dell 7040 micro, Lenovo m720q, so if you have questions about any of these, I'd be happy to help. Most are maxed in ram, 64GB with with 8-12 threads, 1tb nvme drives, they make great low power ESXI 6.7/7 work horses. The lenovos are nice because of the pci-e capability, but they are all solid with plenty of usb ports.
 
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n00bpro

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Jan 19, 2022
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Can't agree more on the costs. Unless you need warranty i dont see any reason buying these new. A valid point may be these can be smelly second hand, say coming from smoking environment or like my ip phone, still smells with some perfume years since i bought it second hand lol.
I didnt do intensive research, but the 10-15 typical used resellers were as well pricy for second hand hardware on the german market. There are a lot of Intel Core i5-8500 from Fujitsu for around 450€ - with 16GB RAM and 256 ssd. In comparison to this, I would highly recommend the new M75q 2 for 520€...

In the range of 300€, you get HP 800 G2 with i5 6500T or Lenovo M900 i5 6600T with only 8GB RAM. There may be some expeptions where you get more for you money, but these pricetags can be found at the big used resellers (there are 100+ of each unit on stock). If you find some private sellers on ebay, you might get more lucky. But I am not able to get gen. 8/9/10 for 200-250€...