Some correspondence I've had...
As I was writing up the Z90D7 in August 2016 I had some correspondence with Steve who was thinking of using one as the basis of a silent PC that he could use for writing.
"I am about to start writing a book and I need a quiet computer if I am going to spend lots of hours writing. My main PC runs Fedora and has six fans and uses a lot of power....other than that I have an old Toshiba Tecra laptop which has a screaming fan and drives me nuts."
I supplied him with a link to the eBay source I'd just bought mine from and he bought one. I then felt slightly guilty as he seemed to be having all sorts of problems in using it - primarily with his USB connected keyboard and mouse, and also with Lubuntu.
There is definitely an issue with the usb controller as it wont boot from the pen drive unless it is the only device plugged in. Once it has booted you can plug in the keyboard and mouse, but I still have intermittent problems with the keyboard not working.
I finally got Lubuntu installed on a 120GB SSD using an extension cable but with continuous USB problems. Every time I had to reboot, the keyboard and mouse stopped working so I had to unplug them and plug them back in again. Once it was installed to SSD it was fine although it took a long time to boot and refused to shut down. I dare say there is a fix for the shutdown problem. I installed LibreOffice Writer and that worked ok.
I didn't understand the problems he was having with keyboard, mouse and Lubuntu so I suggested that he try out Tiny Core as I had had absolutely no problems with it in my tinkering. He came back with:
"I tried Tinycore plus and it only took a couple of minutes from download to having it booted. I have no usb problems and it runs a treat. Just for comparison I loaded the 64 bit version and that's even faster. 30 seconds boot time from pressing the button to desktop up. So I have decided to stick with that. There are fewer 64 bit apps but plenty for what I need. I have cleaned the original 4GB SSD and am using it for the tce backup folder. I think this is the neatest solution rather than trying to cram a SSD and extension cable in the case. Just need to find a lightweight wordprocessor from the 64 bit list and I'm all set.
I don't know if this has any relevance but a week or so later I had an email from David Parsons in relation to a Wyse S10:
"Using a USB keyboard that I had I could not get into the BIOS by pressing the DEL key. After doing some searching I saw a suggestion to either try a different keyboard or a WYSE keyboard. I happen to have a WYSE keyboard and, using that, I got access to the BIOS."
...so maybe some Wyse thin clients are a little bit finicky about the USB keyboards they will work with? Most of my testing is done with a Genius LuxeMate i200 - smallish footprint and I like the feel of the keyboard. It's never given me any problems that I can recall.
I can confirm 12 volts on connector CN109, my first thought was an internal FAN connector (usable for external 3,5" HDD perhaps). In my experiments I used 5 volts from the internal USB port to power a 2,5" Sata HDD, working like a charm.
Actually, I have been experimenting a lot with those Z90SW's. My first thought was to create a HTPC/Mediacenter, but it lacks speed and/or power for playing 1080p HD content.
I used several linux distro's on it for comparison.
- Arch Linux, running very smooth, installed on 2,5" Sata HDD.
- Ubuntu 14 and 16 LTS also on 2,5" HDD, running like a fat pig.
- Xubuntu 16 LTS, running smooth.
- Frugal installed Puppy Linux on Sata DOM, running very smooth.
But, in those experiments I found only two useful applications for my personal use of the Z90SW. That would be a NAS and a low-end terminal in my kitchen, just for Internet browsing and remote controlling my HTPC.
In October 2016 I heard from Gergely Csiszar who had recently got hold of a Z90. Unlike Jorn (above) he was using it as a HTPC. He wrote:
I installed OpenELEC 7 on it and it is working well as an HTPC. 4k doesn't work but it will easily play any 1080p _if_ it's playing from the local hard drive or a wired network connection. It can't play 1080p over a wireless network connection. I don't know if this a hardware issue or just a poor driver.
In January 2017 I heard from Chris Satterfield about his experience with a Z90DW. He wrote:
I picked up one with a config of an AMD G-T56N, 2 gigs ram. 2 gig DOM and WPEA-121N (AR9382) wireless for $23 shipped. I've since thrown in a 16 gig SSD (~$9 SSD on ebay + $3 adapter) and a 160 GB HDD and so far all is going well. It's not being used as a video player or anything like that but a Zoneminder camera box. Not the fastest machine but it beats the t5740e I was using.
For SATA drives I've found you can either use a SATA extension cable off the built in DOM connector (like an HP T5740e) or you can use the SATA connector and steal power from one of the various connections around the board. I used CN11, right beside the SATA port, which has two 5V and two ground pins that are usable for a SATA drive. Pins 1 and 2 are +5V and pins 3 and 4 are Ground. Verify with a multimeter before trying drives though, it'd be easy to swap around.
As for bugs with USB and such, I've not had any issues at all with various USB devices and USB booting. I've done a few OS installs with a Samsung 32 gig USB 3 flash drive (Note: Can't boot from USB 3 ports, only USB 2) and haven't had issues having an 8 gig Sandisk flash drive, Dell USB Smart Card keyboard or Logitech M500 plugged in at the same time. As long as the USB is set to the first boot device in BIOS it works fine.
The one issue I have had is the BIOS password won't stay unset. The factory BIOS password is Fireport, however any time you change up the SATA devices inside the password is reset. I have absolutely no idea why it won't let you unset the password and keep it that way, even happens after upgrading to the latest BIOS by upgrading to the last available Windows image for the device.
The photo below shows how Chris decided to mount his hard drive.
In September 2017 I heard from Bradley. He had got hold of a couple of Z90D7s. He wrote:
I ended up using them as servers. I loaded up server 2016 and upgraded them both to 4GB of RAM. I have one set up as my domain controller and another one for my Plex media server/general file server. (I put a 1TB drive in the latter). They work pretty good for a home server set up as they have good horsepower. They're also nice and small so they can be put pretty much anywhere.
One other thing I did was install fans because they did run a bit on the hot side. HWmonitor was showing temps of 65C-70C. With the cooling mods they never go above 44C.
In October 2017 I heard from Bognar in Hungary. He is using a Z90D7 running Debian as a file-backup server.
I am using the stock 4GB SATA DOM as the system disk and added a 2TB 2.5" HDD for the data storage. To power the HDD I bought a 'Y' SATA power cable which meant I also had to find somewhere new to locate the SATA DOM as this was now on the end of a cable rather than being plugged straight into the onboard socket. After some thought I ended up using a small screw to fit it to the main heatsink.
I added a 6cm fan. You can see in the photo that it is missing its usual housing. I think in the cramped surroundings the airflow is better without it in place.
ACPI-cpufreq is enabled. The CPU temperature is 42-44C at idle, and 56-58C at full load. The HDD's temp is 30-32C all the time.
Any comments? email me. Added October 2016 Last update October 2017