I've been waiting for the ARTiGO A1100 (Fig. 1) to show up for some time now. Unfortunately demand for VIA Technologies' ARTiGO A1100 has been rather high and eval units were harder to come by. After putting one together I can see why. This is a sweet little system and the mechanical design is much better than its earlier A1000 sibling. I have other projects in the queue but this looked so nice I decided to crank it out in an afternoon. The project was actually done before the AUVSI show I covered recently but I didn't get around to writing it up until now. I had talked with Alp Sezen of VIA Technologies about the A1100 at the 2010 Embedded Systems Conference. Check out the video interview I did with Alp.
The compact white box is about the same size as the ARTiGO A1000 (see "VIA ARTiGO: Small But Powerful") I built awhile back. It uses a VIA EPIA-P820 Pico-ITX board running a 1.2 GHz 64-bit VIA Nano processor. I packed it with 2 Gbytes of DDR2 memory and a 128 Gbyte Western Digital SiliconDrive N1x (see SiliconDrive N1x 128 Gbyte SATA Flash Drive) solid state disk (Fig. 2).
The process is actually quite simple. Pop the top of the ARTiGO A1100 (Fig. 3) for mounting the 2.5-in disk drive. Next, open the bottom ARTiGO A1100 (Fig. 4) to insert the memory card. Of course, I tend to mess things up all the time so I tried out the system with the Western Digital drive with just the cables attached (Fig. 5) I found that Ubuntu 9.04 installed nicely although 10.04 was a bit more of a challenge. I didn't have a copy of Microsoft Windows 7 handy but Vista worked well. Once I knew the system was working well but there was more hardware in the box.
ARTiGO A1100 Wifi
There is an optional USB-based WiFi module that fits inside the system. There is even a mounting hole for the WiFi antenna. The directions call for removing the duct work to gain access to the USB header so I popped off the metal frame after removing the screws (Fig.6).
The WiFi unit consists of a small board and cable (Fig. 7). The unit screws into the cover (Fig. 8) where the hard drive is mounted. Another cable connects to the tiny 10-pin header on EPIA-P820 Pico-ITX. As it turns out, I didn't have to take off the duct because the header is accessible with it mounted (Fig. 9). It just means a pair of needlenose pliers will come in handy. A small Philips head screwdriver is needed to install the WiFi unit.
That's about it. If you have the tools and parts the whole thing goes together faster than it takes to install the software.
The A1100 is solidly constructed and as you can see it is easy to equip. In theory you can run without the fan but you will need to dial the speed way back. Unfortunately the cover is not suitable for conduction cooling because the hard drive is installed there. The design would have been more interesting if the drive and WiFi were mounted on the base plate instead of the top cover. For now, the fan is running. It is a bit noisy compared to no fan but not much worse than the clicking of the hard drive on the DVR it is sitting next to.
The Western Digital SiliconDrive N1x is probably a bit of overkill for most applications although it is silent making the cooling fan the only source of noise on the system.