Notes on the Article in QRP
"A Dedicated Computer for the QRP Ham Station"
Fall 2007 Edition, Page 39
by Rick Black, K4RAB
As I mentioned in the QRP Quarterly article, I am posting some notes here which include additional information that is not
included in the magazine article because of time constraints.
In addition to the Micro-ITX form factor motherboards discussed in the
article, there are two even smaller motherboard form
factors which have been developed and are now available, the Nano-ITX
and the Pico-ITX. For comparison, the sizes of the three small form
|Micro-ITX||17 cm x 17 cm||6.7 in x 6.7 in||Slightly smaller than Elecraft K2|
|Nano-ITX||12 cm x 12 cm||4.7 in x 4.7 in||Slightly smaller than Elecraft K1|
|Pico-ITX||10 cm x 7.2 cm||3.9 in x 2.8 in||About size of SWL SW+ xcvr bd|
Fully functional motherboards are now available in each of these
which include VGA video, sound, IDE connections, serial ports, USB
and even SATA ports. Other motherboard manufacturers have entered
the Micro-ITX marketplace in addition to VIA Technologies, most notably
Intel and AMD. The Intel boards support the new Intel Core 2
Duo CPUs. Hardware suppliers in addition to Mini-Box.com are listed
below which have an even greater choice of boards and cases for these
Most of these boards are capable of running Microsoft Windows and
Linux. Windows 2000 Professional is a good choice for hams as most ham
radio related Windows software of recent vintage will run under it. XP
will also work, but Vista is still so new that many software vendors
have not yet adapted their software to run on it. The best Linux
distributions for ham radio use are Debian and its derivatives, such as
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Xubuntu. Slackware Linux also has good ham radio
support. AI9NL has built a remaster of Knoppix Linux which is known as
“Harv's Hamshack Hack.” It boots from a CD-ROM and is capable of
running without a hard drive. It is based on Debian Linux and features
most of the ham radio related software that is found in the Debian
distribution. An advantage of this is that it can be run on what is
normally a Windows machine without disturbing the Windows installation
on the hard drive.
I will be adding more notes and Web links to this page as I get
Web Links Listed in the Article
– The Elecraft Web site, where the K5JAZ article is posted in the Tech
– A direct link to the K5JAZ article.
http://www.mini-box.com – Hardware vendor where I obtained
the M-300 case with the VIA Jetway Hybrid motherboard described in the
article. They have many other cases and motherboards besides the ones I
selected for my system.
– Manufacturer of very quiet fan I bought in a local computer store to
replace the noisy original fan in the M-300 case.
– A Debian based Linux distribution that also contains the ham radio
software that is distributed with Debian. This particular distro
utilizes the Gnome desktop environment.
– A close relative of Ubuntu, also Debian based, but features the KDE
– Another of Ubuntu's siblings. This one uses the Xfce desktop
environment. Great for older machines with more limited graphic
– One of the oldest Linux distributions. Has good ham radio support.
Not for Linux newbies, though. If you have experience installing SCO
Unix or Xenix (before Unixware), Slackware will be a cake walk for you
– Another Debian based distribution that is small enough to fit onto a
50 Mb “business card” sized CD-ROM. This site includes a store which
sells Mini-ITX and Nano-ITX hardware and cases and shows them in use.
Ham software is located in the myDSL repository.
Additional Web Sites of Interest
– A hardware vendor that specializes in Mini-ITX and smaller hardware.
They have a huge selection of motherboards, cases, and other hardware
for small systems.
– Another Mini-ITX hardware vendor.
– Mini-ITX, Nano-ITX, and Pico-ITX related news. Links to many vendors
and other sites of interest.
– Linux drivers and articles on VIA ITX systems.
– Linux distribution for EPIA M boards.
– Harv's Hamshack Hack, a remaster of Knoppix Linux based on Debian
which features ham radio software. Boots from CD-ROM without installing
on hard drive.
- A great example of what can be done with Mini-ITX boards and Linux.
(Editorial viewpoints expressed concerning 'global warming/climate
change' do not represent the opinion of this Web page or K4RAB.) No ham radio software that I have discovered so far.