A Simple, Low Cost, Linux PC

No bells & whistles, but highly capable for everyday tasks

This project started out as a search for a cheap PC. Work & travel demands a good laptop which lives in my briefcase, but I wanted something for email, web browsing, basic multimedia etc. without having to boot up the laptop each time. The cost of even a simple desk top PC was several times what I had in mind, so I set about building a minimal PC at the target price of £100, although I was planning to scrounge or re-use some peripherals. It had to be small, quiet, reliable, and just work - as messing around with drivers, software, configurations and the like is not my idea of fun!

The key elements:

I wanted something small. It didn't need to be very powerful, I don't do fancy graphics or multiplayer games, or host a multitude of websites; as long as it responds at the speed I can type & read, it would be OK. The EPIA 5000 is in the mini-ITX form factor & is very small. It's been around for several years so is proven, and at £45, is my idea of PC pricing. With a 533MHz processor, it certainly isn't quick anymore, but it should do for what I want. It's also fanless, which raised the interesting possibility of having a completely silent machine and save money by eliminating a hard drive. With another £20 for a 256Mbyte DIMM, the budget wouldn't allow any more, but it should do.

The case is a Morex 3688, selected as it was on offer at £42. It has a silent external power supply, space for a hard drive which I don't use, and one slimline optical drive bay for a Sony CD-RW which at £22, was the last purchase for the PC, bringing the total to £129.

The monitor, mouse & keyboard were office throwaways from earlier systems, as were the cheap speakers - no need to buy anything new here.

The operating system was to be Linux. I had no experience with it other than playing around with a couple of LiveCDs, but it's free, runs easily on simple hardware, and has all the day to day software needed. My final choice was Puppy Linux 2.02 by Barry Kauler.


Fanless 533MHz  VIA Processor

Two DIMM memory slots, 2 USB ports. Sound & video all included on the one card.

Morex 3688

Mini-ITX. Silent external power supply. 1 slimline optical drive bay. 1 2.5" hard drive bay (not used).

Memory: 256MByte

Optical Drive: Sony CD-RW Slimline

Operating System: Puppy Linux, version 2.02

Run as multisession. System boots from CD, and saves everything back to the same CD. Current version at www.puppylinux.org 

Monitor, keyboard, mouse

NEC LCD 14" monitor, Logitech PS2 mouse & keyboard.

Internet Connection

D-Link DWL-900AP+ Wireless Access Point