I’m addicted to hardware. I can’t stop thinking about all of the CPUs that currently exist, how they compare to each other, and how to write the fastest possible code on them. (Actually I want to learn FPGA programming too, in case they ever start bundling FPGAs with computers).

A year and a half ago I bought a SheevaPlug which is a little ARM computer that’s hardly bigger than a wall wart AC adapter. It has USB and Ethernet and that’s about it (no display). Unfortunately when I tried to start playing with it again tonight I discovered it was bricked thanks to a faulty power supply, which is apparently a very common problem with SheevaPlugs.

I was a bit sad about this, and I started looking for alternatives. I wanted something that runs on a non-x86 architecture and that I could stick in a closet and SSH to. I discovered that there is a new form factor of computers known as a nettop. I found a nettop that appears to fulfill my wishes perfectly: the EFIKA MX Smarttop made by a company called Genesi. It’s surprisingly capable for $129: it’s powered by an ARM Cortex-A8 800MHz CPU, has 512MB RAM, 8GB of flash, Ethernet, WiFi, Bluetooth, USB, and 720p video output through HDMI (with hardware-accelerated video decoding). Not bad for $129! And it has a maximum power consumption of 15W.

So I ordered one – will look forward to seeing if it is really all it’s stacked up to be!