Fast booting Linux PC

[080411]
This is a little project to create a fast booting Linux PC. As usual it will as long as possible use parts that I have lying around, I don't like to buy things if I already have usable parts.

The use for the PC is mainly as a TV, and as we only have digital broadcasting in Sweden DVB support is crucial. The components to be used are:

  • Mainboard - a small 17x17cm from an old Thin Client. Has 4x USB, tv-out and some more goodies.
  • PSU - Modified ATX with a 12cm fan which doubles as CPU fan.
  • 256 megabyte RAM
  • Twinhan Vision Plus USB DVB receiver

For storing the operating system and some media files there are a few alternatives. The most obvious is to use a 2,5" hard drive, but I haven't any usable disk at home. One alternative is a 40Gb external disk, but although the mainboard can boot from USB disks it refuses to boot with this. It's also slow as the mainboard only has USB 1.1 ports. This has been confirmed by tests, where the boot files was put on a 256Mb CF-card in a IDE-CF-adapter. The rest of the [Ubuntu-]system was placed on the external drive. That installation works, but it's slow to load.

There are some ideas to test next:

  • A small Linux system (probably Debian) installed entirely on the CF-card. Should be fast to boot, and with a media player that don't requires X the boot time will be as low as possible.
  • A USB2.0 plugin-card. May the computer boot from the external drive connected to a card like this?
    The difference in transfer speed is big:
    450 MB file transferring from the USB HDD to the C:/ drive:
    -USB 2.0: 29.03secs
    -USB 1.1: about 8 minutes

Modified PSU: