Ultra-Small Form Factor (aka SFF or Mini) PC – Intel NUC

I’m sick of* this huge PC case sitting here in my home office. (*Honestly it’s my wife who is REALLY sick of it.) So I’ve been researching other options lately.

Here is my requirements list:

  • At least dual-core processor
  • At least 8GB RAM
  • Support for an SSD system disk
  • Support for a USB3 external disk
  • Support for at least two monitors
  • Support for Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Low power consumption
  • A number of USB3 and USB3 ports
  • >>>Small form factor<<<

I’ve followed the Xi3 product line for a long time now and that was the first device I seriously considered. A concern I have with that option though is that once you bump up the RAM and the SSD size to something reasonable, you’ve very quickly at a cost of almost $1,000 and you haven’t addressed the additional storage, CD writer, wifi, etc.

So I started looking around at other options. I looked at the Apple options, the Dell options, a number of generic brand options, etc. I also spent a good deal of time researching the Lenovo Tiny – which is actually quite impressive. While reading reviews about the Tiny I found a couple of sites that mentioned while it was a very nice device, it didn’t score as well as the Intel NUC (“next unit of computing”). Having never heard of the NUC before, I started researching that option.

So the current models of the Intel NUC include quad-core Haswell chips. One option comes with the i3 chip and the other with the i5 chip. Otherwise they appear to be the same. They also recently introduced an option that works with standard 2.5″ SSD drives (as opposed to mSATA SSD drives).

The NUC base “kit” includes a super-small motherboard with expansion ports of course, and a CPU. Everything else needs to be added. The case is about 4″ x 4″ x 2″ – super small! And the power consumption is really low – average is around 8.5 watts from what I’ve read in real-life usage reviews.

I pulled the trigger on one this weekend and will wait for the parts then put it together over the next week or two. I ordered the i3 core model, a wifi/bluetooth module, 8GB of RAM (it supports 16GB), a 2TB USB3 super-slim drive, a CD/DVD writable drive (also super-slim), and I’ll use an existing SSD drive (I have a spare sitting around collecting dust from a previous upgrade). It will already support my dual monitors.

I’m investing $510.74 into this project. Super-cheap right? If I had to buy an SSD drive that would be a couple hundred more, but still, I’d be all-in for under $1k for everything I need to replace my current desktop.

When everything arrives I’ll do another couple of posts and include some pictures. I’m looking forward to playing with this and seeing how things go!

Circuit Board Geeking Back in Vogue?

I remember my first year of college when I took AC/DC Fundamentals, and Circuitboard Design. Capacitors, resistors, switches of various functions… ah, the good old geeky days. Even before then I (and a number of geeky people I knew) would take apart clocks, radios, telephones (black box anyone?), and anything else I could get my hands on. Little motors were tons of fun. Of course Radio Shack had, and still has, starter kits you could buy and then tons of little electronic accessories.

Then those days went away. Few people seemed to care about that type of technology geeking anymore. It was also PC-on-a-chip or software. Well, now I’m seeing more and more articles that seem to point to a growing movement again in circuitboard geeking.

Raspberry Pi

Check out the Intel Minnowboard Max. A $99 open-source board for DIYers. It can run Linux and Android. Or how about the BeagleBone Black? Isn’t that a cool looking little board? (Or is it just me? :>) Of course if you’ve been paying attention you already know about the Raspberry Pi (shown here), a “low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse

Pretty exciting stuff if you ask me. This certainly plays into the big picture “Internet of Things” (IoT) that has also been growing in talk and starting to bleed into the mainstream (Nest anyone?). Maybe we can get some of our young people excited about this and create a generation (or two) of technology creators rather than just technology consumers.

Laptop Charger Size and Weight

I don’t know about you, but my laptop charger is huge – and heavy. My laptop isn’t super-light, but it isn’t heavy either. But when you carry both the laptop and the charger, the weight adds up. The charger is also bulky and a bit odd to store and carry in a laptop bag.

Well now a company named Finsix is working to shrink both the size and weight of laptop chargers. This is very cool and long overdue. I can’t wait to see the released product and how this might change the “market” for chargers. Perhaps PC makers will jump on board with similar technology. Or maybe they’ll license the Finsix technology. I don’t care who or how but I love the idea of improvements (finally) in this area.

I’ll be keeping an eye on these developments and you might want to also (unless you like heavy and bulky chargers :>).

Akamai NetSession Required to Try Out SQL 2014?

I went to download the 180 day trial of SQL Server 2014 today, and after being forced to log on to Live and verify a couple screens of data (annoying), I then got prompted that to complete the download I would have to install the Akamia NetSession Interface.


Just how annoying can this be? Is it Microsoft’s goal to purposely make it difficult for people to try out SQL Server 2014? It seems that they should want the lowest possible barrier to entry for people to get this. If it’s a great product, which I suspect it will be, then make it super simple for people to use so that you can get them hooked on it and they’ll make a purchase.

I’m annoyed enough with this process so far that I cancelled the download above and I’ll look for another way to get the software. The last thing I want is to install some unknown piece of software on my test machine – just to get a download.

Convert a Folder to an Application on a Remote IIS Host

The topic recently came up of the best way to convert a folder to an application on remote shared hosting server. Some hosts may have this built-in to their control panel. I know many (like Cytanium) have options in the control panel to create Virtual Directories, but sometimes an application specifically needs its folder to be marked as a literal “application” within IIS.

Since I’m most familiar with Cytanium’s shared hosting I’ll use their service as a base in this example.

Within the Cytanium control panel first make sure that you have enabled Remote Management. This feature will allow you to directly connect from IIS Manager running on a remote server to the IIS service running on the hosting server.

Enable Remote Management of your shared hosting site

From your Website Properties page in the control panel, click on the Management tab (red box above), fill in the information for the new account you want to create for managing the site (blue boxes above), then click Enable (green box above). After a moment or two you will have Remote Management enabled for your shared site.

Next you set up the connection from your local IIS Manager service. If you don’t already have this installed, grab a copy here.

Open your IIS Manager and choose the option to Connect to Site. Do *not* choose Connect to Server (it won’t work) unless you have full administrative access to the server, which won’t be the case with shared web site hosting.


Specify the connection information. This should be the name of the server in which to connect (your host can clarify this for you) and the *exact* name of the site within IIS – the host can also clarify this for you if you don’t already know. The name should not have http:// and it may or may not match the domain name of the site, so if you can’t connect, the first thing I’d do it confirm these two settings.


Assuming the IIS Remote Management service is running and enabled for the site, the next dialog box you see will be asking you for your username and password information (which, in this example, we set in the Cytanium control panel above).


You might get a certificate warning (you will at Cytanium). As long as you trust the source (and I sure hope you trust your host if they’re supporting your site for you :>) you can click Connect and move to the next screen.


On this last screen it is going to ask you to name the connection. You can leave it as the name of the site or give it a name that has more meaning to you – it doesn’t matter technically and is only a reference that will be displayed in your IIS Manager.


Viola! Your connected now!

Here is what it will now look like in the IIS Manager GUI. Note also that I’ve drawn a red box around the folder that we’re going to convert to an application.


Right click on the folder and choose Deploy -> Convert to Application.


You’ll now see that the icon next to the folder has changed to denote that it is an active “application” within IIS.


That’s it – your done! That folder is now an application and should work exactly as-if you had made the changes locally on the server.

By the way, you might want to poke around with the other features you can manage from the Remote IIS Manager tool. Depending on what your web host has enabled, this is a nice way to make configuration changes to your IIS hosted site.

Happy hosting!