Project TinyMiniMicro: Reviving Small Corporate Desktops

Parallax

New Member
Nov 8, 2020
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Wild Scrod - obfuscated
Nicely done. The VMs on each host are then named after characters from that group. Hex is an outlier because strictly speaking it should be the name of a VM on Unseen, but I couldn't resist. VMs on Hex are thus named things like Ant, Mouse, FluffyTeddy, and Bees, and I hope one day to have a GreatBigLever and a sticker that says "Anthill Inside."
 
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itronin

Well-Known Member
Nov 24, 2018
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Denver, Colorado
You have one of the better host/vm naming schemes I have seen in a while and I am a fan of having rationale! prodvm001 is SOOO boring.
sadly sometimes boring is necessary / mandated for P&P reasons though.
 
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Parallax

New Member
Nov 8, 2020
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You have one of the better host/vm naming schemes I have seen in a while and I am a fan of having rationale! prodvm001 is SOOO boring.
sadly sometimes boring is necessary / mandated for P&P reasons though.
Yeah, we have around 90,000 servers at work so I like to leave the cattle behind to return to my pets.
 

Quartermaster

Right, now pay attention 007!
Jun 3, 2020
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Has anyone found if any TMM style box is able to support a 15mm HDD?

They'd be great for a low power small Plex server, but the lack of (cheap-ish) internal storage options is a downer.
 

Parallax

New Member
Nov 8, 2020
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Has anyone found if any TMM style box is able to support a 15mm HDD?

They'd be great for a low power small Plex server, but the lack of (cheap-ish) internal storage options is a downer.
The chassis of these boxes are generally about the same height as a 3.5" drive so you have no chance of stuffing a big, fairly hot spinning disk in there. As I said I use an HPE Microserver Gen10 Plus for mass storage and that's compact considering what it holds, but if you like this form factor they do usually have 4-6 USB ports on them so technically you could add an external drive array that way.

However I do think you'd be better off using something that's designed to be a compact NAS in the first place (either off the shelf or self built). These are really great compute units - you could offload Plex re-encoding to them, for example - but mass storage is not their purpose in life. There is a next size up in most of these devices and even those aren't great for cramming drives into either, it's just not the manufacturers' design criteria.
 

Quartermaster

Right, now pay attention 007!
Jun 3, 2020
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The chassis of these boxes are generally about the same height as a 3.5" drive so you have no chance of stuffing a big, fairly hot spinning disk in there. As I said I use an HPE Microserver Gen10 Plus for mass storage and that's compact considering what it holds, but if you like this form factor they do usually have 4-6 USB ports on them so technically you could add an external drive array that way.

However I do think you'd be better off using something that's designed to be a compact NAS in the first place (either off the shelf or self built). These are really great compute units - you could offload Plex re-encoding to them, for example - but mass storage is not their purpose in life. There is a next size up in most of these devices and even those aren't great for cramming drives into either, it's just not the manufacturers' design criteria.
I have an Optiplex 7050 Micro from which I'm typing this message :)

So I know the form factor, but what isn't documented from anything from most of the manufactuers is the HDD height compatibility.

It doesn't appear to be possible with my unit, or the 9020M, documented in this blog post

My use case is to send something pre-built to family overseas with Debian and Tailscale for a semi-managed Plex instance. Given the travel restrictions currently in place (and ~30 hours of travel without restrictions) something stable, not hacky and as simple as possible is key.

My decision criteria revolves loosly around:
  • Serviceability - Can I walk someone through replacing the fan or 2.5" HDD easily? The Optiplex 7050M is great in this aspect.
  • Power efficiency - All content will be direct play, so no transcoding required.
  • Size - It must be as small as possible.
  • Lifespan - 2 years of service, 3 would be even better.
  • Appearance - It'll be placed in the middle of an open TV console unit, so not having a bunch of USB HDDs or a mess of cables is a plus
  • Ease of use - Power button for power-on or shutdown.
  • Low noise. Synology makes some nice units like the DS220+, but two 3.5" disks whirring is a lot of noise in a quiet living room. I have various Synology units with differing amounts of drives, so I've ruled this out already.
  • Cost. The most applicable Synology unit (DS220+) is much more expensive than a TMM style box, and arguably less capable. Large capacity M.2 or SATA SSDs way overkill, and too expensive.
  • Tailscale. Absolute must have for manageability.
  • 'Shipability' - I'll be sending this far overseas, so components need to be relatively secure, or easily re-assembled by non-technical people with some instruction over video call. Obviously, weight and size is a consideration here.
  • Quality/Support - I'd rather stick with one of the big manufactuers where quality is good and parts are readily available from eBay vs something like Zotac/Gigabyte/Asus. I was considering an Asus VivoPC VM42 I have here, but can't get the proprietary HDD screws from *anywhere*
  • Dual-drive isn't essential, but having boot on a seperate drive (eg M.2 SSD) means easy replacement of a media drive if it fails.

I've toyed with the idea of a Raspberry Pi 4 with 8GB of RAM and a Samsung Endurance MicroSD card for the OS along with Plex database/media on a USB HDD (with seperately purchased short cable) but a 1L MicroFF box is the much more performant and elegant solution.

There are some 15mm 5TB drives on the market (Seagate, ugh!) and this is what I'm looking at. An option might be to 3d-print a new HDD cage, but if there's an option to get something that supports a 15mm drive off the shelf, that would be my go-to.
 
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Parallax

New Member
Nov 8, 2020
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I have an Optiplex 7050 Micro from which I'm typing this message :)

So I know the form factor, but what isn't documented from anything from most of the manufactuers is the HDD height compatibility.

It doesn't appear to be possible with my unit, or the 9020M, documented in this blog post
I can only speak to the Lenovo Tinys, but you couldn't fit 15mm drive in the supplied 2.5" drive bracket, they have a plastic tab that limits the height to what looks to me like a standard 7mm. The older Tinys had an external storage unit option connected by USB2 and intended for a slim optical drive. You could buy this fitted out for a (500GB!) 2.5" drive but the maximum supported height also seems to be 7mm (part 0B47375). It's strange because it shares the footprint of the Tiny so you should be able to fit at least 2 drives into it, but that doesn't seem to have been an option.
My use case is to send something pre-built to family overseas with Debian and Tailscale for a semi-managed Plex instance. Given the travel restrictions currently in place (and ~30 hours of travel without restrictions) something stable, not hacky and as simple as possible is key.
I gather that streaming from your home Plex environment is not an option, which would also rule out putting the media temporarily somewhere you can both reach, such as the cloud. (If necessary you could use Rclone to sync and mount the cloud drive on to your family's file system.)

If you had a USFF with a small m.2 boot drive - 32GB may be enough, although I would not be surprised if 128GB was almost the same price nowadays, then you could use that for your base unit and just ship 2.5" drives in a USB 3.x external enclosure, that shouldn't be too messy. Your family can ship the drive back to be refilled that way - perhaps have two on the go, one being filled and one being viewed?
 

Parallax

New Member
Nov 8, 2020
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It doesn't appear to be possible with my unit, or the 9020M, documented in this blog post
Reading that blog post (and I'm slightly jealous of his domain name since we share first names, although realistically I rarely have answers) it occurs to me that with the Lenovo Tiny (which has a flexible SATA connector) you may be able to remove the plastic drive caddy inside and velcro the drive to the lid of the case - a bit fiddly, but it may work/fit and it's better than your Dell which has a fixed connector.

I would be a bit concerned about the thermals though given the number of platters and enclosed space, whether such an arrangement would survive being shipped, and whether the heat of the drive would melt the velcro glue over time (same problem with double-sided tape).
 

mackle

Active Member
Nov 13, 2013
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We’re looking at heading back to WFH, after a lengthy period back in the office. Since going back into the office I’ve moved to a 4K screen. But I’m running a haswell laptop and sandy bridge desktop at home...

My question is aimed at a specific use case (and I may have missed the answer in all the data and posts): is tinyminimicro the cheapest way to get to get a 4K capable Remote Desktop client and if so, which model?
 

Marsh

Moderator
May 12, 2013
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Last week, I picked up a HP 600 G2 mini with I5-6500T , 8gb ram , no drive for $109
It will drive 4K monitor easy.

It is hard to define the cheapest .

Earlier this year, brought the cheapest HP 800 G2 I5-6500T with 8 gb ram for $40 .
 

mackle

Active Member
Nov 13, 2013
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Thanks, I ended up getting a ‘new’ GT1030 as it was somewhat time sensitive. There doesn’t seem to be a whole heap at the lower end of the market.
 
Jul 30, 2017
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Last week, I picked up a HP 600 G2 mini with I5-6500T , 8gb ram , no drive for $109
It will drive 4K monitor easy.
Had a Precision 5510 with an 6820HQ(also HD530) and the external 4k display was always fine, until I switched to using a PC again on the same monitor. The PC experience was a slot "snappier". It's like the laptop could only put out 50fps on the 60hz display or something.
This was on KDE and W10.
I think a cheap dedicated GPU would indeed be a lot better.
Just my $0.02