Help me give a near-useless embedded machine a useful life!
January 14, 2010 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Do people have ideas about what fun things I can do with a little embedded, Linux-capable machine I have lying around?

Just around two years ago, I received what appears to be one of the few CherryPal C114 embedded-Linux computers that were shipped out. (There's a huge backstory to these almost-vaporware computers that's available if you hunt for it...) By the time I received it, I was no longer expecting it, and I'd seen the reviews that rated it poorly-functioning and nearly-useless, so the box went into the bottom drawer of a lateral filing cabinet and was soon forgotten about. Earlier this week, I re-discovered the box, and now I'm curious about what fun things I could do with this little heap of plastic and silicon.

The specs on the machine, which is the exact same hardware as the LimePC X1 that was rebranded by CherryPal, are:

* Freescale MPC5121e 400MHz processor (PowerPC architecture)
* 256Mb RAM, 8Gb SSD (NAND) drive
* 10/100 ethernet port
* 802.11b/g wifi adapter (looks to be based on the ZyDAS ZD1211 chipset)
* dual USB 2.0 ports
* VGA port

It's said to draw around or less than 5W power at peak, so it seems like it'd be a fun little toy to have running somewhere doing something neat. So far as I can tell, getting a Linux distro that'll install from scratch on it is near-impossible, so I might be stuck with what's on it already (LimeOS, a Xubuntu Hardy-based distro that is running Linux kernel; from my memory, nobody even figured out how to get the machine to boot from alternate media, so that's even further-limiting. I did manage to get nearly all the Xubuntu packages updated today (leaving the kernel-related ones behind, since without knowing if there's a custom kernel on there, I don't want to brick it).

Any ideas?
posted by delfuego to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Setup bit-torrent and some scripts so it will automatically download new TV shows.
posted by Iax at 1:13 PM on January 14, 2010

Mobile robot controller? Wireless router? Webcam thingy for telepresence or surveillance? Doorstop?
posted by hattifattener at 1:16 PM on January 14, 2010

Home web/database/file/printer server?

A machine you can leave running to download large files when other computers are turned off?

Electric Sheep screen-saver renderer (possibly - I don't know if it is powerful enough?

posted by James Scott-Brown at 1:25 PM on January 14, 2010

Setup bit-torrent and some scripts so it will automatically download new TV shows.

This is a great way to get caught. Scripts can't judge which torrents are likely to be from trustworthy sources.

How much do you know about linux? Do you have a home server? It would be great for small webhosting, non-automated BT, or turning into a router to hone your linux networking/firewall skills.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 1:26 PM on January 14, 2010

Why not make it a single purpose appliance?

MAME dedicated video game emulator

MythTV homemade tivo

Ardour / jackd / jackrack / jamin dedicated multitrac recording / editing workstation

xsynth / whysynth / zynaddsubfx / rosegarden / hydrogen dedicated electronic dance music making machine

file server / automated backup storage

blender 3d modelling workstation

gimp / cinelerra photo and video editing station

scribus / inkscape desktop publishing word processor
posted by idiopath at 1:36 PM on January 14, 2010

I think it'd be fun to have an extra machine like this around for telephony. Specifically, having it act as a NCID server to broadcast incoming caller ID info to whatever screen I happen to be looking at. Playing around with Asterisk might be fun too.
posted by pb at 2:21 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

FreeNAS server.
posted by killdevil at 2:21 PM on January 14, 2010

I think I would personally try to install wget (though it might already be installed if the OS is derived from Xubuntu), youtube-dl and some sort of bittorrent program then set up a crontab to download stuff in the middle of the night when my ISP doesn't count data usage. The low power usage would make it okay to leave the computer on for long periods of time as well.
posted by fearthehat at 2:27 PM on January 14, 2010

Put some scripts on it to display the current weather. Everyone likes to look at the current weather. Or show a twitter feed - NASA's or something. Route it out to your TV. Profit!
posted by jquinby at 3:01 PM on January 14, 2010

Use it to control your lights & home electronics
posted by Jon_Evil at 3:25 PM on January 14, 2010

add a USB HD, and you've got a iTunes/music server
posted by scruss at 4:19 PM on January 14, 2010

Add a cheap webcam, install ZoneMinder, instant security camera recording system.

Warning: ZoneMinder thinks it is intuitive and easy to set up, and it is not.
posted by intermod at 7:06 PM on January 14, 2010

Response by poster: Well, alas, it looks like the warnings about this little embedded machine were true -- I left the machine running overnight, and when I came in this morning, it wasn't responsive to the plugged-in keyboard. Restarting it, it appears to be bricked entirely... and since there appears to be no way to boot it from external media, that's all she wrote.

Thanks for the suggestions -- I was really excited to make this useful!
posted by delfuego at 6:15 AM on January 15, 2010

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