MSN TV Linux Cluster

msn cluster

I just saw this MSN TV Linux Cluster over on Engadget. The boxes have a 733mhz Celeron, 128MB RAM, 2 x USB, Ethernet, and a 64MB CF card for storage. That’s twice the RAM of an Xbox and with a node cost of $0.99 it makes a much more sensible and compact cluster. The only limit right now seems to be a 64MB capacity cap for the CF card.

You do need to build a level shifting serial cable to talk to it though. Microsoft included serial pins on the board, which is convenient. I think that a TTL to RS-232 level shifting box is becoming the second most useful device behind the bench power supply. You need to do serial level shifting whether you are talking to an NSLU, iPod, GP2X, or WRT54G. You might as well make the thing USB while you are at it. So, who wants to do the how-to?

Comments

  1. deg says:

    awesome! not quite $0.99 each though..more like $10 each (20 for $200). looks like a perfect use for the cheap and plentiful hardware.

  2. ANdrew says:

    maybe we can get a cluster goin for F@H.

  3. eski says:

    Awesome! Although I don’t plan on using a cluster of these, it should make a suitably cheap MythTV frontend…

  4. awdark says:

    How interesting.
    How much linux could we get on it? Er I guess my big thing is what can you do with it after it runs linux? Without a GUI, I would definitely be lost with linux.

    Could I hook it up to a switch and use it as an embedded, but customizable router? Maybe run Xbconect and printer server on it?
    Perhaps wait until they fix the limit and use it has a carputer or file server?

    It certianly looks like it has potential and doesnt seem like a huge power eater so it could run 24/7.

  5. Anthony Zinni says:

    I looked into this quite some time ago, I always thought it would be a really cheap source of decent power. I lack the knowledge to get where it is right now and am really glad to see the idea getting realized. my idea however was to use the box as a geexbox, so I can stream video over my network.

  6. ... says:

    hmm, has there been any progress getting the tv out on it to work? If we could get that working I would have to buy about 10 of them…

    Also, can it mount usb hdd’s? I can see it becoming a nice networked raid array/web server/ftp client… Me dreamz

  7. tiuk says:

    Very powerful for the price. Main drawback of course is lack of IDE, kind of limits the usefullness. Still, can’t beat it for the price.

  8. shokx says:

    Lack of IDE? Is the CF interface not IDE (effectively)? Some sort of converter should be possible…

  9. dan says:

    compact flash is ide, so hacking a hard disk on it shouldn’t be as hard as getting TV out to work, [which will need someone proper l33t] as for usb hard disks, well nothing about the usb support is stated but it shouldn’t be hard.

  10. marvin2004 says:

    xboxes can have 128mb as well. As long as it’s a v1.0 to v1.5

  11. Niacin says:

    Thanks for your support. I will have video out working in the next few days. Other then that it works just like a standard PC. Usb hard drives will work. Sound/network/IR work fine and hopefully in a day or so you can load 4gb+ microdrives. I plan on supporting it for a while to come. Including some sort of replacement gui (maybe x11? ) so people can use Linux as vaild replacement for wince.

    Niacin
    irc.toc2rta.com

  12. node says:

    Does anybody have an idea of this thing’s effective power? Maybe some benchmarks?

  13. jfe says:

    Hey, can someone mirror this page?
    It seems to me that it is down or “DoS”ed….

  14. paul h says:
  15. Slash says:

    Some interesting info about the original WebTV (Which was my first experience with teh intarweb):

    “WebTV Networks, Inc was incorporated on June 30, 1995 by three veterans of Apple Computer and General Magic, Steve Perlman, Bruce Leak and Phil Goldman. Primary design criteria were ease of use and low cost. The original device retailed for $350 at a time when inexpensive home computers were $1000.

    Because the device was a dedicated web browser appliance, the cost of licensing an operating system could be avoided. The box featured such cutting-edge technology as a 64-bit RISC CPU chip, and a smart-card reader, neither of which ever caught on in the US. The web browser was compatible with both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer and the box featured 2 MB of RAM, as much as many PCs. At a time when 28.8 kbps modems were common, the WebTV had a 33.6 kbps modem, and used a caching firewall for acceleration – something that most dialup ISPs didn’t offer, even as an extra-cost option, for years later. As a thin client, there was no need for a hard drive, but by putting the browser in non-volatile memory, upgrades could be downloaded from a WebTV server.”

    That is pretty neat. I remember when upgrades came out. Like for example, when they added cut, copy, and paste functionality- holy crap! That was the most amazing thing I ever seen :p

    What is also interesting it how much the sysreqs went up when they put WinCE on there :x

  16. expert01 says:

    Wow, really going to suck trying to buy one of these in the future thanks to this article. I would love to run a normal OS on something this cheap, or maybe buy these and resell them as personal computers.

  17. Computer_kid says:

    as soon as I can get my hands on one, it will be modded! Are there any hacks for the first one, I see them at garage sales all the time.

  18. travis says:

    I just got 3 of them and a cheap power supply on ebay, this is going to be fun

  19. Nat says:

    I so want some of these. O man, a cluster footrest that cures cancer and warms the toosies, now thats awesome :)

  20. ravuya says:

    i want one now — but so does everyone else. it’ll drive the price up on ebay. accursed free market!

  21. modul8 says:

    I wonder how much a cluster of this size and performance could help the team’s Folding @Home’s production numbers..are clusters like these useful in this application? I also noticed that since this hackaday story was released, the price on ebay for these things has tripled… nice work..

  22. ryguy says:

    Call me a noob, but what can I make it do?

  23. Robert says:

    now that msntv2 service will end soon – can it be re-used?

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