Sunday, November 11

initial notes on the intel nuc (NUC6i7KYK)

Previously: initial notes on the dell xps 13 developer edition (9360).

Rationale: I’ve been using laptops as my primary working machines since I quit my last in-office job in November of 2014, and wanting to go back to a robust desktop setup for almost as long. Laptop ergonomics are a disaster, and while low-level pain from typing too much has been part of my life since I was a teenager, it’s been quite a bit worse lately. I finally decided to do something about this last weekend.

My ideal here would be to take an old case I’ve had since the first time I did a custom PC build in 2001 and jam it full of stuff. I may still do that eventually, but this time around I spent a couple of evenings looking at workstation build lists and manufacturers before throwing up my hands and ordering an Intel NUC, the one with the stupid gamer-aesthetic-looking skull graphic on top of it, at around 3 in the morning while drunk and high.

I’m still mad at Intel for a wide range of pretty mind-boggling security fuckups over the last couple of years (or decades) and I really don’t like giving them money, but here we are.

What I bought:

  • Intel NUC Skull Canyon NUC6i7KYK Kit - Newegg, $528.00
  • Crucial 32GB Kit (16GBx2) DDR4 2133 MT/s (PC4-17000) DR x8 SODIMM 260-Pin Memory, CT2K16G4SFD8213 - Amazon, $289.00
  • Samsung 860 EVO 1TB M.2 SATA Internal SSD (MZ-N6E1T0BW) - Amazon, $162.99
  • The 250 gig version of the above, from Best Buy, after I realized that the 1 TB one wasn’t going to get here in time to do setup this weekend.

(Here’s a pro forma apology for giving Amazon money. The NUC was cheaper on Newegg, and I’d intended to get storage and RAM from them as well, but they were wildly more expensive there and, having reached the point of making an actual decision about what to buy, I knew that further hesitation might derail me for months, so I just pulled the trigger.)

The NUC is a “kit” in the sense that you have to open the case and plug in memory and storage. For those not familiar with these things, they pretty much read as laptop hardware in a little box, sans keyboard and display. They’re basically single-board computers with “real” specs. This one has 4 USB ports, a USB C port, and one each of HDMI and DisplayPort, SD card slot, and headphone/speaker jack. There’s also builtin ethernet and wifi, an optical port of some kind, and what I assume is an IR sensor. It’s not the plethora of legacy ports I really want, but neither is it nearly as lame as the typical modern laptop profile. I think it might be possible to break out some additional interfaces - there’re some connectors on the board under the lid.

Setup: This thing is rumored to run Debian pretty much ok, as long as you update to the latest BIOS first.

So far I’ve:

  • Installed the latest BIOS from Intel by downloading the “Recovery BIOS update” to a USB drive and pressing F7 at start. You then get a menu that lets you select the update to install.
  • Installed Debian Stretch 9.6.0 from the netinst copied to a different USB drive. (I used pv debian-9.6.0-amd64-netinst.iso | sudo dd of=/dev/sda to image the drive.)
  • Copied firmware-iwlwifi_20161130-4_all.deb onto the drive from step one and inserted it when prompted during the Debian install. I’ve had all sorts of trouble with installing proprietary drivers this way in the past, but this time it was fairly painless. I am, as usual, irritated that proprietary drivers are a thing. The computer hardware industry sucks.

Next I’ll spend some time figuring out how to share the vast majority of my home directory between this box and the laptop I still use when I leave the house, while keeping separate configuration for stuff that touches screen resolution and so forth. I’m planning to use relatively low-resolution monitors so that I don’t have to fight with how many of my tools are still terrible at high-DPI environments and how bad my eyes are at reading tiny, tiny fonts.