I bought a teeny tiny Viglen MPC-L PC after a friend told me about them. I’m going to use it for the same reason he does – to connect my CurrentCost to so I can collect electricity usage data (I’m currently using an old Dell laptop which isn’t ideal).
The little Viglens are normally £99, but can be currently bought for £77 including VAT and Delivery – details are available by listening to the Ubuntu UK Podcast. Mine was delivered today as promised by Viglen but sadly didn’t come in a box that is far too big for it like most people’s have. Also in the box was a Microsoft mouse, a really cheap and nasty Viglen-branded keyboard, and something of a nice unexpected surprise – a 2Gb memory stick! There are plenty of other blogs detailing the size of the box and also the specs of these things, but basically they are a silent fanless very low-power (10W) PC with a 400MHz AMD Geode CPU, an 80Gb hard drive and 512Mb of memory.
They come with some sort of Ubuntu installed on them by default, but I wanted to run Windows XP on mine as I’m not quite nerdy enough to use Linux.
Installing Windows XP on one of these poses some interesting challenges, as the device obviously has no optical drive to stick a CD into. They can be booted from a USB stick though (providing you use one of the two USB1.0 ports on the rear rather than one of the four USB2.0 ports on the front)
After some very brief googling, I found this excellent guide to installing XP from a USB stick. I used a 256Mb memory stick to create the boot drive, and copied the i386 folder from the XP installation CD to a USB hard drive I had laying around.
The installation was much easier than I was expecting. The steps I performed are as follows:
- Follow these instructions for creating a BartPE bootable memory stick using a separate PC
- Connect an external USB hard drive to the other PC and copy the i386 folder from the XP installation CD onto it
- Plug the keyboard and bootable memory stick into the USB1.0 ports on the rear of the Viglen
- Power up the Viglen and press F1 to enter the BIOS
- Change the boot order so that the USB memory stick is first in the list
- Power the Viglen down, plug the external USB hard drive into one of the USB2.0 ports on the front of the unit and power it all back up again
- The Viglen should boot into BartPE from the memory stick
- Follow the rest of the instructions to kick off the XP installation
And that’s it. Pretty simple.
Performance-wise, this thing isn’t going to win any awards when running XP, but it’s more than usable. I’ve got it connected to my 37″ LCD telly running at a resolution of 1600×1200 quite happily
Next steps are to get the CurrentCost connected to it and see how it performs with that…