It's been a while since we've had much to say about them, but low-power, tiny form-factor PCs are an EcoGeek staple. Some low-power PCs are designed as desktop replacements, with greater functionality, while others are designed for more specific tasks. The SheevaPlug is the latest example of a computing appliance that falls into the latter category.
Marvell's SheevaPlug uses less than five watts under normal operation, making it more practical and efficient for use in an always-on application. It is about the size of a large power adapter wall wart and is designed to be plugged directly into an outlet. "Unlike other embedded devices in the home, it contains a gigahertz class processor to offer PC class performance. This makes it a viable alternative to a PC for any software service." Marvell supports a number of Linux distributions for development with the SheevaPlug.
The SheevaPlug has a 1.2GHz Marvell Sheeva™ CPU with 512MB of flash memory and 512MB of DDR2 memory. In addition to the power connection, it also has a Gigabit Ethernet port, as well as one USB and one Mini USB port, and a SDIO slot. That's not really suited to serve as a desktop replacement, but it makes for a power sipping appliance with strong processing power.
The SheevaPlug is already being used for online file server devices such as the forthcoming Cloud Engines, Inc. Pogpplug, which uses a SheevaPlug and the user's own external drive to provide a network connected, low-power file server that a user can access via a Web browser.
The SheevaPlug is also likely to make this level of computing more affordable. The developer kit from Marvell is only $99. As these devices get less expensive, other home-based applications for smart systems, including things like home automation and appliance controls, become more available.
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