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I'd like to find a small linux box with the following specifications:

  • Small (mini-ITX size is OK)
  • Fanless
  • Runs Debian
  • At least two gigabit network interfaces
  • WLAN that supports "host ap" with hostapd + mac80211 in AP mode
  • Can encrypt AES at least 10 megabytes per second
  • Total cost $300 or less

Solutions from multiple parts also accepted - I can buy an external network card etc. and build the box myself if the components are available. If you don't know about the "host ap" thing, just suggest your solution, I'll find out if I can get that resolved.

If I can't get all that, I can possibly skip the "runs Debian" part, and I can definitely skip the hostapd part if the box can be a wireless access point with multiple ESSIDs out of the box.

Something like Asus RT-N16 is close - doesn't run Debian easily, and probably doesn't encrypt AES fast enough. Something like Zotac ZBOX HD-ID11 is also close - no idea which WLAN card it has and it lacks second gigabit interface, but otherwise nice.

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note that questions concerning budgets are not very interesting to this site, because prices will change over time. this is not a shopping site. we don't mind questions asking for hardware recommendations to fit certain tasks or requirements, so otherwise this is fine. since there's not "one right answer" though it should probably be made Community Wiki. – quack quixote Apr 2 '10 at 10:32
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Look into the fit-PC2i. Tiny, low power, offered with Ubuntu (so Debian should run fine), includes dual Gig-E networking and 802.11g wireless networking.

I don't know if it'll handle your AES-at-10MBps requirement, and most models are slightly over budget (but that may change with time).

alt text

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Looks very interesting, thanks! 1.6GHz Atom can do a bit more than 10 megabytes per second with AES-256, so that fits the bill nicely. Now I need to find out what the WLAN card actually is... – Nakedible Apr 2 '10 at 12:15
@Nakedible: the forums indicate the fitPC2i uses a Ralink RT3070 chipset (see source), supported by the rt2x00 driver in 2.6.33, HTH – quack quixote Apr 2 '10 at 12:36
Found a HOWTO about the AP-mode, but it's a bit iffy - plausible, but not confirmed. Thanks! – Nakedible Apr 2 '10 at 12:54
Bought the box - I will see in two weeks whether I can get "host AP" working on it. First thought about ordering it directly, then found a reseller in Finland and finally found out that the main store I get most of my hardware from actually resells the box, I just missed it for some reason. Thanks for all the info! – Nakedible Apr 3 '10 at 18:19
Got the box today. The wireless radio is RT2870 USB chipset - and rt2x00 driver doesn't support "host AP" on USB chipsets. Bummer :-( – Nakedible Apr 18 '10 at 23:24

"guru plug" (successor to the sheeva plug) w/ usb wifi adapter. fits all your reqs. 5W as spec'd w/ 2x gig E, hardware accelerated encryption (linux kernel in-tree, but not in openssl yet), has sdhc card slots, e-sata, and a couple usb ports. No video (device targets headless uses). $130. size of a large wall wart. Probably want the jtag interface too for +$30.

Has built-in wifi, but may not be sufficient for your uses... if it is, then the usb wifi req can be removed from above-- it looks like it will not be... haven't read anything definitive yet, and mine hasn't arrived yet. I had similar reqs in a device, and stumbled upon your q while looking into usb wifi... not done with research, but currently looking into suitability of AR9170 based usb wifi adapters.

Note it comes in two configurations... there is a cheaper one for $100 that doesn't have all the stuff above.

Ships with a 2.6.32 kernel.... probably want to be running Squeeze, if Debian. Debian targets old ARM arch... I know this is an issue with the omap3 (deb runs fine, just slow)... if issue w/ marvell, maybe run a derivative or use apt-build to build better optimized pkgs.

good luck!

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I stumbled upon this as well (later on). It seems pretty nice, but in the end I value out-of-the-box installability without any flash or bootloader oddities. I like to regularily update the kernel and it's nicer if it doesn't have to be a special kernel to run correctly. So, I'm still pretty happy with my purchase. As for USB wireless modules that are stable in host-AP without proprietary drivers, it might be that the cards supported by carl9170 are the only choices - so finding ar9170 based adapters seems like a really good bet. – Nakedible Jun 9 '10 at 7:06

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