Experiences with Intel NUCs?

arcadian

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My own experience in FreeBSD is limited to servers for the most part. However, I have a few Intel NUCs and similar systems (Gigabyte Brix, Zotac Zbox) around and was wondering what people's experience with FreeBSD was on those systems, as either servers or desktops. I guess ethernet and audio would be the biggest question marks for me. For ethernet, I aways seem to run into issues with Realtek ethernet chipsets - they look like they're working for a while and then throttle or even crash under load - and with a mini-PC that's not something you can easily replace.
 

SirDice

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I have two Zotac boxes and they run FreeBSD just fine. My Zotac ID41 runs a simple desktop, haven't tried to use the wireless but everything else works without problems (currently running 12.1-STABLE).

No experience with the Intel NUC myself but I do believe we have a few users that do.
 

lasuit

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My own experience in FreeBSD is limited to servers for the most part. However, I have a few Intel NUCs and similar systems (Gigabyte Brix, Zotac Zbox) around and was wondering what people's experience with FreeBSD was on those systems, as either servers or desktops. I guess ethernet and audio would be the biggest question marks for me. For ethernet, I aways seem to run into issues with Realtek ethernet chipsets - they look like they're working for a while and then throttle or even crash under load - and with a mini-PC that's not something you can easily replace.

I have two Cappuccino PCs. See https://www.cappuccinopc.com/
And those run great with FreeBSD. They are older Core2 fanless boxes. (I sending this on one). But, I've never had a single hardware problem. They're great.
 

tingo

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I have a couple of ASRock BeeBox "NUC style" boxes that run as servers, one is my bhyve vm host, the other runs Mediawiki. Both work well. They are probably not loaded enough to give problems on the Realtek ethernet (FWIW, Realtek Ethernet works fine for me, always have).
 

Phishfry

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I have two NUC's that both work fine. Dunno about audio though because these are not desktops.
My first NUC was used for NFS storage/backup device.
This second NUC came in a Digital Signage machine called Tightrope Carousel 270. It uses Intel i218V and Intel 5010U CPU

I really don't think all Realtek network interfaces are bad. It's just that the newest interfaces are poorly supported compared to Intel network interfaces.
The RT8111 up to model letter G have worked fine for me. (IE. RT8111A-RT8111G)
 
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tankist02

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I tried to use a NUC as a home theater client a couple of years back. Could not get sound through HDMI.
 

kpedersen

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We use the NUC as the brains for an arcade game cabinet. Unfortunately I cannot quite recall the specific version; I will have a look when I can.

Everything works very well with FreeBSD (I never tested the WiFi). One thing to note is that the bios / uefi system is pretty horrible and consumer-centric. For example you need a mouse to actually use. If this could be flashed with coreboot or something else then that would be perfect.

The GPU is Intel which makes like much easier than faffing with obsolete NVIDIA blobs.
 

neel

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I had a Zotac BI323 a few years ago as a Mini PC, but sold it off. Never really used it as I moved out of my parent's home.

I also had a quad-Gigabit Chinese Mini PC running OPNsense, but it didn't work too well as a router. Despite its Intel NICs, the PCIe buses were constrained. I replaced it with a SFF HP ProDesk desktop (also OPNsense), the ProDesk is big and power hungry, but works well.
Well, I run a Tor relay on a beefy server (not the ProDesk or the Mini PC) and have 300 Mbps FTTH and that uses my server. I average at 100 Mbps of usage at the current moment.
 
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arcadian

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Thanks to everyone for your responses - I really appreciate it. I'll post more when I get them up and running.
 

Hermann

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Hi Arcadian. Did you get fine with Intel Nuc at end?.
I’d like to have one for desktop PC.
Thanks,!
 

Argentum

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I had an experience with an Intel Nuc some 5 years ago - a positive one. Nice piece of hardware. FreeBSD was involved, but not directly - I ran Wmware ESXi on NUC and several FreeBSD machines on ESXi. Everything was fine :) Today, in that situation, I would use FreeBSD as a bare metal and BHYVE...
 

aponomarenko

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Mjölnir

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IBM DOME microDataCenter 24x12 core/24 threads, 10GbE switch, hot water cooled, in a shoe box ;)
IBM_microserver.png
 

ralphbsz

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My former manager (when I worked at IBM) tooj a 4-core Raspberry Pi 3, installed the Hercules emulator on it, and had as much CPU power as an IBM 3084, in a small side pocket of his backpack. The 3084 was one of the largest ever mainframes (physically).
 

MNtinkerer

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I tried to use a NUC as a home theater client a couple of years back. Could not get sound through HDMI.
Some of the NUCs had a problem with the HDMI audio output, which was handled by the processor that required a patch only available in Windows 10. Someone had a work around for Linux that roughly worked. I ended up just using the analog audio output of the NUC, but the sound quality wasn't the same as the Windows solution. I just installed FreeBSD on my NUC, and will have to see how it handles once I get a desktop on it.

EDIT: Typo
 
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dkline201

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New problem to add to this thread since I don't see any other references above...
NUC7i3DNH running a new download of FBSD13.0 - system boots fine to our custom software whether it is set to BIOS BOOT or UEFI BOOT (with the appropriate boot drive, of course)
NUC8i3PNH running the 'SAME' BIOS or UEFI BOOT DRIVES as above, UEFI BOOT version OK, but BIOS BOOT hangs up with an 'underscore' character in the upper left corner of the screen, it NEVER continues normal boot.
Normally, that 'underscore' comes up during BIOS or UEFI BOOT sequence, but it just stays there a second or 2, then continues booting.
NUC8 i3-8145U CPU, NUC7 i3-7100U CPU, otherwise same NIC Intel i219LM, same 4GB memory, same BIOS settings...
That 'stuck underscore' is a clue, but I can't figure it out?
Oh yeah! FBSD 10.3 fails the same way on the NUC8. UEFI OK, BIOS 'hangs'. We upgraded to 13.0 to see if that would make a difference. Nada!
 

astyle

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New problem to add to this thread since I don't see any other references above...
NUC7i3DNH running a new download of FBSD13.0 - system boots fine to our custom software whether it is set to BIOS BOOT or UEFI BOOT (with the appropriate boot drive, of course)
NUC8i3PNH running the 'SAME' BIOS or UEFI BOOT DRIVES as above, UEFI BOOT version OK, but BIOS BOOT hangs up with an 'underscore' character in the upper left corner of the screen, it NEVER continues normal boot.
Normally, that 'underscore' comes up during BIOS or UEFI BOOT sequence, but it just stays there a second or 2, then continues booting.
NUC8 i3-8145U CPU, NUC7 i3-7100U CPU, otherwise same NIC Intel i219LM, same 4GB memory, same BIOS settings...
That 'stuck underscore' is a clue, but I can't figure it out?
Oh yeah! FBSD 10.3 fails the same way on the NUC8. UEFI OK, BIOS 'hangs'. We upgraded to 13.0 to see if that would make a difference. Nada!
Usually, 'Stuck with a blinking underscore' means that the hard disk is either empty or not detected. For example, I recently put together a nice rig, and put in an empty aftermarket SSD. The BIOS can see that SSD just fine, but when I booted my rig, I got that same 'Stuck with a blinking underscore'. In this case, that was not a problem, I know I have nothing installed on that SSD yet.

So, for you: Your 'D' machine is fine, but your 'P' machine is not booting. I'd check to see if the BIOS on your 'P' machine can even 'see' the disk. If it can, then just reformat the disk with a 3rd party rescue disk, and reinstall 13-RELEASE. If your 'P' machine cannot 'see' the disk, try plugging it into a different SATA connector on the motherboard. I think NUC's have 2 or 3 SATA connectors that you can try.
 

mer

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I've been using an older i3 NUC for a while, works fine. Only issue is the BIOS does not use the disk device automatically as the boot device. It tries to PXE boot. If I stop and F10 and select the mSata device it boots fine.
 

dkline201

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Thanks for the prompt reply! I have two 'known good bootable' FBSD 13.0 SSDs. One is formatted BIOS BOOT, and the other is formatted UEFI BOOT. BOTH of these drives boot up fine on the NUC7i3DNH (the 'D' machine you mentioned above.) (And YES, I AM changing the system BIOS boot setting for BIOS or UEFI BOOT between tests.) If I take those same drives to the NUC8i3PNH ('P' machine) the UEFI drive boots OK, but the BIOS gets stuck. So I'm pretty sure it is not a drive issue. But if there is something in the NUC8 system BIOS so that it does not 'see' the BIOS BOOT disk in the system BIOS, or if there is some kind of 'pointer' in the boot process, that would be something to try to track down. I am going back to Intel to see if there might be a system BIOS update, or anyone else with the same problem (and hopefully an answer...) I need to see if I can find something that explains the boot process better and how one machine is fine and the other fails during the BIOS BOOT sequence. BTW, the NUC11 systems do not even have the ability to use BIOS BOOT. UEFI BOOT is enabled all the time. and also, the NUC systems all have only ONE SATA port. But now they are including 1 or more M.2 slots for extra drives. Drop a 256GB NVMe into a NUC7. It boots Windows 10 in under 15 seconds! But NVMe 'requires' UEFI, so there is no choice there.
 
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Phishfry

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It tries to PXE boot. If I stop and F10 and select the mSata device it boots fine.
I wish I lived closer to you. 5 min job. This is a minor problem that probably can be cured via a BIOS setting.

Problem is these NUC's use a graphical bios screen that makes me want to barf.
Everything is still there it's just harder to find.
The other place you might need to mess with is there is an initial screen for Network PXE settings.
Intel you normally have to punch <ctl>p to access this menu. There you may have to disable PXE.

Whats wild is newer EFI BIOS have this initial setup screen in the BIOS under EFI payload. Not all boards have this.
For instance LSI Disk Controller has a boot screen that flashes up during POST. On EFI machines you can access this via BIOS screen. Using Legacy BIOS settings this initial screen is the PCI cards OptionROM.
 

mer

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Phishfry I'll poke around some more and look for this. If not, well that's why I have an UPS on everything :)
 

dkline201

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I've been using an older i3 NUC for a while, works fine. Only issue is the BIOS does not use the disk device automatically as the boot device. It tries to PXE boot. If I stop and F10 and select the mSata device it boots fine.
PXE should be a configurable option. We turn that OFF in all of our systems. But, as you said, maybe the NUC8 breaks the boot path. I know it is reading the MBR (or GPT) since the screen shows a few lines before hanging. Good point to try to track down.
 

dkline201

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We use the NUC as a video Encoder. As I worked with them, I fell in love with it and bought NUC7i5BEH for my Windows 10 home system. The NUC11 has an m.2 slot for an NVMe, a second short m.2 slot for an mSATA board (or other options), and a SATA port for whatever size SSD you can afford (or need). TWO HDMI ports, and many USB 3 ports. ALL in that little 4.5 x 4.5 x 2.2 inch chassis!
 
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