Green Low-Power Alternative Computing Intel NUC Boxes

The key features of low power NUC boxes are that they are small,lightweight,portable,efficient and the low power means less heat and energy savings which all mean “Green Efficient Computing for the Environment”.  In addition consider that you could run these units without power on a UPS for a much longer period of time than most laptops or Desktop computers.  In an emergency or any issue with lack of power, these units will be first and foremost.

As a bit of continuation of my Green Computing talk these NUC boxes take it to the next level from Intel using low power laptop DDR3L SODIMM memory.  I recently bought a barebone Intel NUC J3455 Box for my wife and was impressed at the power usage (literally 10W to the wall at 110V!) and it is still a Quad-Core albeit with slightly lower CPU frequency of just 1.5Ghz but it works great for most functions.  I was able to upgrade it easily to 8GB of RAM (2x4GB), it has an SD card slot built-in, HDMI, VGA and 4 USB 3.0 ports and a 2.5″ SATA 3.0 port that I plugged a 256GB SSD into and installed Ubuntu/Linux Mint on.  It works quite well but there appear to be a few bugs and fidgeting required, for example the NIC cable came loose and it wouldn’t work until I replugged and rebooted it (actually the BIOS stopped showing the NIC at all so somehow it got disabled on its own and there was no option to rThe cheaper one on the left is bare-ones and e-enable or disable it in the BIOS).  You also have to disable the C-Step functions or the CPU doesn’t work properly.  In Linux it looks like there is a bug in the Intel Graphics driver for this model that sometimes causes the graphics/mdm to be restarted. Aside from the tinkering it is well worth the cost saving and works well and reliably.

One thing I will say I am a little surprised at is that the unit does get fairly hot if you are using it heavily and there is no fan in the Intel NUC which means things do get a bit hot (but nothing compared to a laptop).  It comes down to HDD, RAM and CPU being cramped into an incredibly small package.

The Vorke V1 J3160 is basically the same thing as above but does not have the 2 RAM slots (only a single).  However it is priced well and only uses 6W instead of 10W, quite the power savings!  I have purchased the unit below but have not had a chance to test it but I am hoping for the same or better results as the Intel J3455 unit above.  I love how this one comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB SSD out of the box and includes Windows so it’s ready to go out of the box (many like me will just be installing Linux though).  It can serve as an excellent backup box (eg. plug it in somewhere else and hook up a bunch of large USB 3.0 HDDs and keep another copy of your data). Or in my case it could just be an excellent “stand-by” computer with a mirror of your current config “just in case” your main unit goes down you could get going instantly with the backup one.  One other feature I am hoping for in this unit is to see the BIOS is a little more stable and less buggy than Intel’s.  Finally I am hopeful the unit will run cooler due to the 6W CPU and built-in case fan which I think Intel may want to consider too.   Time will tell but I am looking forward to getting a chance to open and test the Vorke V1 and hope they will keep producing similar units.

Bitcoin’s Hard Fork of BCH Bitcoin Cash a milestone for cryptocurrency

The hard fork occurred on August 1st, 2017 with some nodes of the Bitcoin network implementing the “Segwit update”.  Although a lot of potential chaos could have happened, many in the industry called it correct that the most probable scenario is that the split would occur with the creation of BCH and Bitcoin users would not lose any coins and would be rewarded with an equal amount of BCH.  However, most exchanges and users were advised to backup their wallets and not do any transactions in the meantime.

Beyond this a lot of questions and issues need to be sorted out in the cryptocurrency world for things to stabilize and be universally accepted by businesses and individuals.  The key issues in my mind are “volatility”, “stability”, “security” and “regulation”. Really a serious issue with either of my three cores issues puts people and businesses at big risk although new updates and coins keep coming out with some promising the solution to these various issues.

Volatility

This is in reference to the extremely unpredictable nature of many currencies and Bitcoin is a core example with rapid swings.  Now people have often been warned that “don’t store your coins for the long-term” and this comes from the Bitcoin team itself as no one can be certain of the future of any coin at this moment.

Some have lamented that cash is the same, this is true but with the caveat that cash is backed by a government and central bank (all of who which do not really like cryptocurrency unless it is managed or under their control-more on regulations later).  Cash of course has had its issues whether run on banks, robberies, theft, fraud and other misuses of currency however cash is what most of us know and there is some safety and security in the “right cash” and at least often some predictability.

Take for example a record high of Bitcoin at the time in 2013 of approximately $1300 USD but sometime in 2015 trading was just at $267 USD.  The point here is that at this time cryptocurrency can be very volatile and unpredictable.  It can create chaos in everyday life for both business and individuals.  A risk that many businesses echo is the above scenario what if you accept payment based on USD in a cryptocurrency and the value plummets by 80% or some other high number suddenly?  It creates huge issues to say the least and time should address them but until there are more coins that have some consistency in their valuation without rapid descents there will be some reluctance.

Stability

There have been many instances on both the networks and exchanges for Bitcoin and Etherum where there are a ton of unconfirmed transactions.   I still have trouble understanding this but there are various numbers of “confirmations” before once can be comfortable they really have the currency that has been sent.  What if the network stops working or slows down creating massive fraud or inability to process transactions?

Fortunately there are new coins coming out which are instant that solve this issue but still there are many in the wild, common and highly valued that do not have these features.

There is also of course the concern that massive DDOS attacks could take out the network of a cryptocurrency or effectively shutting it down.

Security

The biggest threat is that there is the assumption that blockchain is secure and irreversible and it is impossible to play around in ways you shouldn’t.  However, this also relies on someone not finding a weakness or exploit against the blockchain, and what is more probable going forward is that an organization with massive computing power ultimately finds this and exploits this in various ways.

There are also other considerations such as people losing their coins to viruses or hackers, this has even happened to exchanges such as Coinbase executives.  One thing for sure is that it is not wise to leave your coins in an exchange if not for the risk that in the recent Bitcoin Fork the exchange refuses to give you the split/new currency.

Regulation

This is the biggest uncharted territory but governments and large financial institutions have made their position clear and my interpretation is that “we love blockchain” but “we hate that it is not under our control yet”.  This will have significant repercussions worldwide on how individuals and businesses deal with cryptocurrency.  Significant regulation and the introduction of state-run/central cryptocurrencies could potentially wipe out or make worthless some coins overnight. On another note it appears to be increasingly difficult to buy or sell out of the cryptocurrency markets with banks making it increasingly difficult for the coin exchanges to operate.

Conclusion

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have made it far beyond the naysayers and through many difficult and unpredictable times.  Ultimately I believe cryptocurrency will continue to evolve and improve but as with any tool there are always going to be some pitfalls and bottlenecks.