Friday, December 30, 2005

Might we see the Epia-N in Q4?

VIA are naturally keeping quiet about the exact availability date of their Nano-ITX boards, no doubt more than a little embarrassed by the ever-slipping dates. However, a little bird tells me that the issues presented by the diminutive design, (namely heat and electical interference due to close proximity of components) have now been overcome.

Ever the optimist, and despite having no proof, I'd hazard a guess that we'll actually see boards appearing for sale in Q4 (Jan-March 2006). I'd not be surprised if VIA actually ship their first volumes by air since the product is small, light, high value and strategically important, which would bring them to market much quicker than conventional sea freight. Additionally, I guess it's quite likely that initial production will be smaller scale in case of production issues.

Tantalising, isn't it?

Incidentally, can anyone attending CES in January give me news of any interesting sightings, such as enclosures, PSUs, etc. for the Nano-ITX?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Mini-PCI parts and more

OK, now we've got Christmas over with, let's hope that VIA's New Year resolutions look like this:

  1. Release Epia-N / Epia-NL ASAP.
  2. Support third parties to develop and bring to market supporting products (cases, PSUs, etc.)
  3. Announce a whole load of new variants like dual lan, RAID SATA, etc. and lower the price :)
Anyway, until that happens, here are a couple of links to interesting UK resellers. Firstly, BVM, who sell quite a few mini-PCI cards along with single board computers, Mini-ITX boards, etc.. I guess this'll be useful for the mini-PCI WiFi card they sell. Secondly, I came across ITX Warehouse, who sell a fairly standard range of Mini-ITX products. They do however have quite competitive pricing by the looks of things, and sell a good range of cases, etc. Unfortunately, no Mini-PCI cards or TFTs with LVDS interfaces, though :(

Just out of interest, if anyone has a car PC with WiFi & TFT, can you email me info or a link? I'm interested to know if you're downloading tunes or video to your car via WiFi and what keyboard / mouse setup you're using. I'm planning a links page soon to collate all the sites I've found, so you'll probably get added :).

Finally for today, I found this forum. For some reason, it hadn't shown up in earlier searches, but it does seem to be alive and kicking. There are some cool sites to be found in some of the posts, like Mashie Design, which I've seen before, but had forgotten about. Milliput / dremmel heaven!

Just updated the look of the site - I think it looks a bit nicer than the plain vanilla template I was using before. I'm actually getting quite a lot of traffic to this blog, so I plan to flesh it out a bit with a links resource, plus perhaps some reviews. If anyone would like to send me bits for review, let me know. This can range from hardware like cases, monitors, LCD screens etc. to software utilities capable of running on Epia boards (like CF-based Linux installs, etc.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Epia-N production pushed back further?

I've been told by a dealer that Epia-N mass production will not start until March 2006. If this is true, I don't think we can expect to see boards in the UK until around May at the earliest.

Of course, the report could be wrong, but it did come from a dealer who was actually showing pricing on his site that looked realistic, if a little pricey ($399 for the Epia-N 8000E).

Although this is in some ways disappointing after reports of nano-itx sightings in Tokyo's Akihabara district, it further supports recent events, such as the publishing of drivers and manuals, which indicate VIA has not given up on their aim to bring these boards to market.

If you've got any further information, please feel free to get in touch at

OK, straight after writing that, I got another email from a dealer. This dealer says ETA is 'Q1 / 06', and is quoting prices as well, although they're reseller prices - $340 for the Epia-N 8000E and the Epia-NL 8000E. This is interesting, as it indicates that pricing for the NL will be the same as for the N variant.

For the public, I'd expect to see these boards at about $375 dollars, I guess, so
expect a £219 price point in the UK. I'm reluctant to publish details of these dealers yet, but when the board is available, I'll post the cheapest prices I find. Not being in retail, I'm not sure what markup is usually put on this type of product, but if anyone can enlighten me, please do.

I'm guessing that prices will come down as the Nano-ITX steals sales from some Mini-ITX models and production volumes increase.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Mandriva Globetrotter 2 has arrived!

I've only had a chance to have a quick play with it so far, but I did manage to plug it in and get it to boot off my Ideq PC without any mishaps. Looks good!

Initial comments are that it could do with a carry case.

Watch out for the review on, after which I'll post some further usability comments before Mandriva's PR team come to reclaim it...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Interesting blog from a VIA exec

There's some old material here which might be of interest, plus some fairly recent information. However, Richard, of all people, is going to know when the Nano-ITX is going to be launched, so I, for one will be watching his blog.

Found an Epia-N for sale here. I'm waiting to hear back if they do actually have one in stock. I'd be careful not to buy before stock is confirmed though, especially at that price... Seems a little high to me, compared to the price reported from Akihabara.

Update: They don't have stock, as suspected.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Via Arena

Visited Via Arena today for the first time, and it was pretty interesting. This site is probably old hat to you seasoned modders, but this is a learning curve for me, so please be patient. Anyway, interest in Nano-ITX is still bubbling away under the surface, but I think most people are just getting on with their lives now :)

I used to work for a big printer company who shall remain nameless. I worked as a techie in their marketing department. One thing I'll always remember is the product that was in the top right corner of their roadmap. It stayed there, occupying the same slot of the roadmap (expensive, long way in the future, technological milestone) for what seemed like an age. It promised everything that customers were calling for and all we could do was say 'wait and see'. Eventually, it was launched, and then proceeded to affect every other product in the range.

Hopefully, VIA have reached that point. Fingers crossed it's time to get excited again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Found this link to Nano-ITX memory today. Doesn't really confirm anything, but might be of interest. I checked out the websites of VIA's European distributors as well, but no news yet.

Also, thanks to EpiaCenter for putting a link to this blog on their news pages.

Jimbobmcg's comment on this post contains a link to memory on for the Epia-N as well, but I can't seem to select the text of the link from the webpage (could be a Firefox thing). Anyway, here is the link again..

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mandriva Globetrotter 2

I should be receiving a Globetrotter 2 for review within a couple of days - Mandriva are sending one out today.

I'll be reviewing this for IT Reviews, so I'll post a link to the review when it's live, but I'll also post a few comments about the product here. I mention it because it'll be just a bit smaller than my Nano-ITX project when I finally get hold of a board, so it'll be nice to see how these compare in use as portable Linux installations. Not sure at the moment if I'll be receiving the 40GB or the 80GB model.

You might also be interested in the Netgear SC-101 review I wrote for IT Reviews, and my 100GB Fujitsu Handydrive review.

That RAID thing, plus component height

OK, I think I've worked out why there's something called a RAID driver on the VIA site for the Epia-N. This was a bit odd because there's only one SATA port, one 44-pin IDE port and 1 40 pin IDE. I think it's just called a RAID driver because you need to install additional drivers during setup of Windows 2000/XP to use the SATA port. As far as I can tell, there are no real RAID features on this version of the board.

On another note, I've noticed the Operator's manual includes board dimensions, which is pretty useful. As suspected, the heatsink is the same height as the IO ports on the rear - 35mm.

If you've been here before, you'll know that my plan is to make a PC fit within a CD-drive sized case, so it can be simply installed into a normal PC base unit as a development server or some kind of application server that you want to leave on while turning the 'host' PC off. My height constraint for this is 39mm, or 40mm at a push. This means that, with thin stand-offs, I can just about do it.

I think that I will be using anodised aluminium or copper for the top and bottom of the case - perhaps 1mm thick. If this is too flexible, I'll reinforce if necessary. I'll probably then use polystyrene sheeting (the kind that you buy in a model shop) at whatever thickness is required to push the heatsink up to touch the top of the case, so the heatsink can disperse heat through the aluminium case. The front of the case will most likely be 3mm clear perspex which has been spray-painted on the rear, or if I'm feeling a bit mad, how about silver?. I'm planning to keep the front free from ports if at all possible - perhaps apart from a single USB port and a power button. The idea is that this PC will be configured before being installed, and then will be accessed 'remotely' using something like SSH, web interface and perhaps Webmin and/or VNC. I'll use Damn Small Linux to run it, either from a spare 2.5" HD or a compact Flash card (In which case, I'll make that accessible from the front).

Monday, December 12, 2005

Manuals update

Thanks to Jens Rupp, who pointed me in the right direction for Epia-N downloads. RAID driver? What's that about? I think I'm going to have to look into that a bit more tomorrow.

I'm looking up at the sky over Hemel Hempstead at the moment. It's weird to see your town on the national news... That place is 2 miles away from me. It woke me up at 6 on Sunday and the shock blew my loft hatch open. Freaky.

Anyway, that's a bit off topic. Going to look into the RAID thing tomorrow. Could be the answer to the useless Netgear SC-101 I sent back a while ago... A nice Epia-N with a couple of hard drives...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

OK, more signs of boards appearing for sale

Look here. That is a Google translated page. Looks like the name of the original author translates as 'Small Dumpling'. How funny is that?!

Also see this page, and this page for futher information about that 'Piccolo' box, which it seems has the following dimensions: 135 (width) ×135 (depth) ×75 (height).

Excuse lame link names, but the Google-translated page URLs are really long.

Another interesting page is this one, which gives quite a lot of detail about the board. The company seems to be a kind of wholesaler. Now look at this: They show you the connector accessories you get in the box!

Finally, dunno about you, but the links to manuals on the VIA site didn't work for me (they were using what seems to be a private IP address), but I found this link to the user guide.

Really funky little Nano-ITX box found - Piccolo?

Just came across this little box for the Nano-ITX, called the Piccolo by the looks of things:

Looks like it's about twice the height of the board itself, and can probably accomodate a 2.5" HD on it's side. It has no CD opening.

Time will tell if I'm going to be able to achieve what I really want, which is to fit a PC inside a 5.25" CD-drive sized box, to fit into a normal tower PC as a kind of 'embedded' or slot-in server which can be taken out and used anywhere.

My plan is to make it possible to power it via molex (12v yellow line) or a DC adapter. It will probably feature Wifi via the mini-PCI slot or perhaps USB, and the plan is to run Damn Small Linux via flash.

I'd appreciate any comments on this. As far as I can tell, it should be possible to fit within the height constraints of the 5.25" drive bay. I guess if necessary, I could use the Epia-NL to reduce the height.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Looks a bit odd

Damn Small Linux ( is advertising a 'Damn Small Box', based on a Nano-ITX board. Looks like the board in their pictures is a pre-production Epia-NL. It certainly doesn't look like the picture on Via's site.

Speaking of Via, although they've published the manuals and firmware for the Epia-N and NL boards, they've published links to their own private class B network. Which means of course, that you can't download them.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A couple of other blogs that aren't totally out of date

OK, just been looking around some more and found these other blogs which might be of interest: (Search it for 'nano'), and this one:

If anyone can find any more recent blogs or other news, let me know and I'll post a link here. Most of the stuff I find in Google is old (like, October 2004 old).

Finally. Blimey, they took their time.

EPIA-N spotted for sale!

Using Google to translate (badly, but at least you get the gist), it seems the Epia-N nano-itx board will be up for sale with a price of about 42,800 yen, which I calculate is about 300 Euros, or about £200.

See this URL, which is the Google-translated page.

This site says there will be three clock speeds on offer: 533Mhz, 800Mhz and 1Ghz, available for both board versions, the Epia-N (With ports) and the Epia-NL (With just header pins). Note too, the small 'HDTV' in the tables. Dunno what the rest of the line says, but that'd be interesting, wouldn't it?!

Epia-N Power supply - probably old, though

This is interesting: This site shows what the power supply module for the Nano-ITX might look like. Of course, the Nano-ITX form factor uses a small power connector, and this little power supply seems to plug directly onto the main board (no wires). Ignore the picture of the main board on that page - it's an old one. The power connector and many other things have changed since that pic. The power supply is quite interesting, though. It looks like they might have been planning to make one that wraps around the heatsink somehow, although heatsink design is one of the things that has changed.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Just an introduction:

OK, so I'm looking around for info about the Nano-ITX. I really like the idea of the Mini-ITX format, but it's just not small enough for what I want to do with it.

What I want - what I've been thinking about for the best part of a year - is to make a PC fit within a 5.25" drive bay.

Why? Well, I use VMWare Workstation quite a lot, generally with Linux, as a development machine on which I install LAMP. Anyway, the idea is that I can install Linux (Probably Damn Small Linux) on a Flash card or something, and have a completely fanless little box running within my (already small) PC's CD drive bay. Look, I just want to, OK? Because I can. The Nano-ITX form factor, for those who don't know, is a 12cmx12cm sized board. Get a ruler and see how small that actually is.

Well, to be more precise, I can't, but I know I will be able to, soon.

Anyway, today, I looked at, but the owner of that seems to have lost interest a bit. Then, I did my usual Google search, which turned up the following:
Anyway, I'm on the press list for VIA now to get one of these when it comes out. I'm reviewing it for IT Reviews, so we'll see what it's like soon! This blog will contain all that I find out about the board, both before getting my sticky mitts on one, and about the build project when it finds it's way to my door...