Below you can read about my attempt to build a dedicated machine for Skype. I never really finished it as I moved over to use SIP instead, but I believe it would have worked pretty well.
I found SIP to be much more stable and a better option for replacing the normal analogue phone. I still use Skype but now as a video/audio chat program communicating with family and friends.
When we moved to Holland I wanted to come up with a solution for us to make cheap and hassle free phone calls overseas. I decided already in Sweden to use Skype to make calls over the Internet. I showed my parents how to use it and it worked very well and it was easy for them to use. I also bought a USB DU@Lphone, which is a normal cordless phone plus a USB phone specially made for Skype. The phone has two answering buttons, one for the normal phone line and one for the Skype connection. On the phone display I can see all my Skype contacts that are online. I can also get the list of all my SkypeOut numbers in the display. Press here to read about SkypeOut.
Everything works fine and because of the fantastic telephone it does not feel at all that I am making a call from my computer over the Internet, which actually is the fact. The only thing I am not 100% satisfied with is that I use my normal computer to run Skype. If it is switched off I can not use Skype. And to have the PC always online would only be a waste of power.
My plan is to build a quiet and low energy consuming computer as possible. The PC need to be able to run my USB phone and Skype. The USB phone only has support for Microsoft Windows OS, so that pretty much leaves me with Windows 2000 or Windows XP.
- CPU: Minimum 400Mhz - Skype's requirements
- RAM: 256MB - Could probably do with less
- HD: Less than 1GB will be enough. Only space for OS, Skype and phone software.
- USB: 1 USB slot for the USB phone
- LAN: 1 network port
With these requirements it is not actually a top of the line PC I am looking for. Top priority is to get low power consumption and make it as quiet as possible.
The 512MB Disk on Module(DOM) was not in stock so it took a while for them to deliver.
Meanwhile I had prepared a stripped version of XP with all unneccessary components removed. I was able to get it down to a 100MB iso-file.
I have no CD-rom in the box and there is only one HD/CD-ROM power connector from the PSU, so I had to connect an external CD-ROM and power it from my desktop computer. When I started the installation I got an error that my disk were too small. Need at least 1GB!! I had forgotten to remove the check of disk space when I stripped XP, I went back and redid that part and created a new image.
After that the installation went a lot better.
The only issue I had with my stripped XP is an error when installing the driver for my mini-itx motherboard. I don't know how crucial it is to leave that, if it will affect performance in any way. I got this error because I removed some required components in Windows, I do not know what and I do not feel like redoing the image unless I run into problems.
The whole installation took about 240MB of diskspace, leaving more than 250MB free. In addition to XP I have installed the software for the USB-phone, Skype, Firefox and VNC server. All togheter it took about 50MB.
The case looks pretty cool and is very tiny. The only thing I am not happy about is the case fan. I am thinking about removing it completely, replacing it or putting a resistor that will slow it down. As I am using the Eden CPU, which does not produce a lot of heat, and also no hard disk I might be fine with removing the fan completely. But it would also be nice to have some air flow in the case. So I will see what I do.
I also bought a device this weekend to measure the power consumption.
My Skype box consumes about 25W! Not too bad.
Have now ordered the hardware for my HVPC. I went with the VIA EPIA ME6000 motherboard. It has integrated CPU, 600Mhz Eden architecture. I also ordered a 512MB Disk On Module. A few weeks back I also both a 512MB USB memory so now I can test both with different OS setups. More will come soon...
Been reading about various things on the Internet related to building quiet and low energy consuming computers. A computer with a VIA Mini-ITX motherboard seems as the best alternative at the moment. VIA have several motherboards with different integrated CPUs. I have been looking at the VIA Eden CPU at 533Mhz.
What I also realized is that I probably should try to skip the normal hard drive to save both power and noise. At first I was thinking about using a USB memory, but after reading about Windows XP and booting on these it seems impossible. During startup, XP resets the USB controller. So booting from a USB device is not feasible. I have not check if this also is true for Windows 2000, if not I might as well go with that instead.
My other idea is to use a flash hard drive, call Disk on Module.