The fully assembled K48
Now that the Shuttle K48 system has been assembled, it's time to fire it up and check it's working. One good thing to do before you start is run a memory test to check the RAM, it should be OK but you never know, and it's better to find out sooner rather than later. You can do this from the live CD, by booting into the appropriate test tool from the boot menu. Or see linuxtech.net for more about using memtest86+.
I tested this system with a live CD of Debian Lenny, as it was conveniently to hand and I had been impressed with its ease of use when I tried it out on the laptop. Everything seemed to run fine, the machine ran quiet and the reported temperatures seemed fine too. The machine is not silent though, there is a noticeable fan whine which is continuously present. It's more noticeable than I thought it would be, but doesn't bother me too much. Certainly it's a lot quieter than some alternatives!
One thing which is perhaps worth mentioning here as it's not specifically related to the installation, is the transfer of data and files from my previous (now dead) computer onto this barebone. Of course I could download a lot of stuff, and I could transfer a lot of other stuff using a USB stick or SD card, and also over the network from other computers (using network shares), but there still remained the dead laptop and the contents of its hard drive.
My solution was to take out the hard drive from the laptop, and put it inside an external hard drive enclosure with USB connection. This enclosure from Sharkoon is amazingly neat and good-looking, just a simple slimline 2.5" package with one cable. Assembly of this was laughably simple, just take out the hard drive from the side of the laptop, unscrew the facing plate and take off the plastic plug adaptor, fit it onto the front plate of the external case and screw it together. Done!
Of course once this was connected by USB cable to the new box (no power cable required), the partitions were automounted in Debian and I could just access all the precious data from the drive. The only odd feature was that the uid of the Debian system (starting from 1000) don't match the uids on the old Mandriva system (starting from 500). So root access was needed to copy the files over and then chown them.
Perhaps I can reclaim the space used by XP on that drive in future, and also the swap and recovery partitions, and turn it into just a single partition for backups, but in the meantime I'm leaving it as it is until this barebone is properly set up and I've made sure I've got everything.
There are just a few things which are currently minor annoyances on this otherwise impressive hardware - firstly and most obviously the USB ports are powered even when the machine is off. So for example the USB hub which I bought to make the USB ports accessible has a blue LED light on it. This light is on even after powering the machine down. Presumably the webcam is also receiving power 24 hours a day too, but at least it's not lit up. The blue light is more irritating than anything else, I assume it only draws a tiny amount of power, but constant heat dissipation can't be healthy for it I'd have thought. And I like to think that when I've switched the PC off, it's really off. For that I now have to actually pull the plug out of the wall.
Secondly, the audio ports are annoying at the back, especially with regard to headphones. I use the audio out to go to the monitor so I can use its internal speakers, but then there's no way to plug headphones in without rooting round the back of the Shuttle. An ideal system would have a headphones socket at the front of the unit, which when you plug headphones in would automatically switch off the audio output to the rear sockets (hence disabling the speakers when you want headphones). This is how I'm used to the old laptop working (except plugging in the headhones disabled the laptop's internal speakers) and how other PCs work - it's intuitive to just have to plug headphones in and listen. But without such a second headphones socket on the Shuttle (and without anything on the monitor to do the same), there's no easy way to switch between speakers and headphones. There may be a DIY solution involving extra cables, adapter sockets and a DPDT switch, but that would probably turn out ugly and expensive.
And yes the USB sockets being all at the back are awkward, and the hub (although quite small and neat) offers more clutter than I'd like. An ideal solution would provide the USB sockets exactly where I want them - which means either on the side of the monitor or on the keyboard. Sadly neither my monitor nor my keyboard has such a thing, so I'm left with the USB extension cable and the four-port hub. I have since seen some little USB hubs with integrated SD card reader, which would have also saved me a little extra adaptor.
The next step is to install a full linux distribution onto this brand new barebone system. For various reasons I decided to try out Debian on this machine, and keep clear of KDE for a while too. So I went ahead and installed Debian Lenny on it.