Fitlet2 Impressions – Long posts

Fitlet2 Impressions

Robert
@pnut developerd, #🐝 keeper
Notes on wiki.pnut.io

@33MHz on Pnut

This is a follow-up to Fitlet2 Pre-Impressions

I received my Fitlet2 over the weekend, assembled it, and ran it for a test drive. I've been using it since Saturday as my primary desktop at home.

The box is unremarkable. Just like me!

Fitlet2 -the box

Hardware Overview

RAM, SSD, microSD – So small!

The SD card is just to leave inserted in the microSD card slot on the Fitlet as a semi-permanent on-device backup.

There are two green LED lights on the front of the Fitlet2, marked LED1 and LED2. These can be toggled programmatically, so I will be looking into how to do that, and what I want to do with them!

Hardware Setup

Thankfully, though the 8GB HMT41GS6AFR8A-PB memory module wasn't in the compatibility list, it does work with the Fitlet2 motherboard.

The M.2 SSD is very small, at 2242 (42mm long). I tried to install it on the board straight away, but it attaches to the included metal plate before being installed on the motherboard.

The metal plate has two thermal pads, with plastic covers.

Removing thermal pad cover

After removing one cover, I screwed the one side of the SSD down to the thermal pad. The SSD's identifying sticker covered the SSD where it touched the thermal pad, so I pulled that off first (sticker visible at the top-right).

M.2 SSD installed

Then I was ready to slide the SSD into its slot and screw the plate down to the Fitlet2 case.

Plate installed

The CMOS battery plugged into a power slot and set in that round spot in the metal plate.

The BIOS didn't immediately see my installable USB stick, but after resetting to defaults, it did. I set the BIOS to allow the max RAM to be used for the onboard graphics as possible, because I know it's going to be weak.

My BIOS version, RAM, etc:

My BIOS

Front Panel Audio

The 1/8" speaker and microphone jacks extend out the front of the device. Being so small, it would be unnecessary to have ports in the back as well. But it is not ergonomic to have my speakers' cable running to the front of the device on my desk. We'll see if I care about this over time.

Software

Installation using a regular bootable Linux Mint USB stick was straight-forward. It loaded "live" and installed without issue.

I started off with Linux Mint 19.3 with the MATE desktop environment. After trying this out for a while, I switched to Cinnamon, and it actually has shown to be just as performant. Both are snappy and work just like my 8-core 16GB desktop beast.

I'm able to run all of my regular software without issue. Thunderbird, Firefox, Pnut.io apps, LibreOffice, The Gimp, Sublime Text or Visual Studio Code. I can open all these apps together and once they've loaded initially*, they work largely without hiccup.

Backup SD Card

I set up Timeshift to back up my files to the 128GB microSD card. Interestingly, Timeshift does not back up user files:

It is designed to protect only system files and settings. User files such as documents, pictures and music are excluded. This ensures that your files remains unchanged when you restore your system to an earlier date.

So I will still need to be thoughtful about my personal files.

Sound

I haven't been able to figure out sound yet; it plays through the HDMI cable to the monitor, but I think there is a BIOS setting I need to change (that is not the Hi-Definition/FPA BIOS settings!) to get the front 1/8" port to play. It isn't an option in Mint's audio outputs.

*Loading

Opening applications is slower than my old desktop SSD. I'm not sure yet if this is a limitation in the motherboard I/O, or the SSD itself. I'll try to look into this. Initially I encrypted the whole drive, and thought that might be related. So I reinstalled just encrypting the home directory, but it is just as slow opening applications. Any storage activity clearly slows the system down. Opening an application or file, or saving to the drive. I may be able to test with a USB 3 drive, as well.

Conclusions

Here she is in all her tiny glory:

Assembled!

This device is wonderfully small. It's powerful enough to be a thin desktop client. The Fitlet2 runs on less than 12 watts. It definitely suffers when accessing any amount of data from disk.

Because of my particular needs and circumstance, I think I can use it long-term as my primary desktop. I'm considering ways to make it easy to slide my old desktop back under my desk to fire up for editing audio/video projects, while still using my Fitlet2 for regular use and even compiling applications.

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Discussion

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@33MHz why that and not, say, a Raspberry Pi?
@phoneboy I don't have a RPi 4, so that could be a good option. But fitlet has a lot more I/O, RAM, and storage space. Often these Fitlets are used as firewall/router appliances, but they're Good Enough--for me--to be a desktop.
@phoneboy I also kinda wanted to stay on x86 instead of rolling over to ARM. Diesel instead of gasoline, but they have more punch, IMO.
@33MHz you might not have a RPi 4 but you have 4 RPi s ;) // @phoneboy
@phoneboy ah, and critically for me, replaceable RAM and storage. I hope it'll last me for years, replacing what I want. The whole drive as a heatsink is quite helpful compared to the heat issues I've heard of on the RPi 4.
@blumenkraft hey now! I have an RPi3 (hello @pnutprinter), a broken RPi2 from work, and an RPi1. :) @phoneboy
@33MHz yeah, I could see that being a benefit. You can also have more RAM (16GB versus 4GB on the current Pi 4).
@33MHz ok, but still one more than i have. ;)
@pnutprinter @phoneboy

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