In this article I present a how-to for doing a simple case mod for the Alix single board computer (SBC).
Haven’t heard of the Alix yet? The Alix is actually an entire series of single board computers made by Switzerland’s PC Engines. Each Alix board features an AMD Geode LX CPU (Fig. 1) and various combinations of RAM, LAN ports, miniPCI slots and USB ports, depending on the model.
According to PC Engines’ website, potential applications of the Alix include thin clients, kiosks, industrial user interfaces, wireless routers, firewalls and special purpose network devices. The Alix is an excellent choice for such applications because it is small, silent (due to fanless design), energy efficient (“Surf the web on about 5W of 12V DC power using ALIX.1C as a thin client”) and yet quite powerful. Powerful enough, in fact, to use as a VPN endpoint (check out Netgate’s performance metrics for the Alix2d3). Apparently, the Geode CPU even has built-in hardware encryption for 128-bit AES! Not bad for such a small package.
And that’s not all. The Alix also has a compact flash socket for storing the operating system and applications. That means you can build a sweet little x86 embedded system with no moving parts.
How much does all this sweet, sweet hotness cost? Not that much! I recently bought the Alix2d3 board from Xagyl Communications for only CAD$156. The whole package with the board, case, power supply and 1GB compact flash card was only CAD$200, plus shipping and taxes. Sure, that’s way more than you would pay for a LinkSys WRT54GL but you really can’t compare the two devices for power, ease of configuration and versatility. By the way, Xagyl’s service was excellent and my order was shipped fast.
The only quibble I have with my Alix is that it is impossible to swap the compact flash card without opening the case and removing the board, a process that involves unscrewing 8 tiny screws and 2 tiny hex nuts. It’s a tedious task, to say the least, and if you’re constantly trying new versions of software, this process can be quite a burden.
Thankfully, I’ll show you how to mod the Alix’s case so that you can swap the compact flash card without opening the case. Read on for all the goodness…