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Serener & ARTiGO

Cases for the Pico-ITX motherboard.
Serener GS-L08


The first of the specialized Pico-ITX cases comes from the Chinese company Shenzhen Championsail Technologies, and is sold under the name Serener GS-L08.

The case is designed so that its top is all heat sink, with a solid pipe to draw heat off the processor and into the sink. The inside has a bracket for the hard disk, with a ribbon cable to plug 2½" hard disks to the motherboard. The case also comes with an interface daughterboard that hooks up with the motherboard's USB and multimedia ports. The adapter connects with a slender ribbon cable to the board servicing the front panel. The case also has its own power supply, fitted into the side from which it can plug into the motherboard.

The front panel has the power switch, tiny holes for hard-disk and power indicator lights, speaker and microphone jacks, four USB ports and a pink Sony/Philips digital input port, all serviced by the daughterboard behind the panel. The back panel has openings for the network and VGA ports, the power supply outlet and an optional serial port.


I bought the VIA EPIA Pico-ITX board first, as well as a pico-P/S power supply, a memory card, and a SATA 2½" hard disk to go with it. I tested all these inside a cheap computer case that I used for its power switch. I installed Ubuntu on the hard drive. The board and drive ran the operating system without a hitch.

Then I bought the Serener GS-L08 case (Serener hereafter) to go with the motherboard and other components from a company called iDOTpc International. When I got the case, I examined it and marveled that most of the components were tiny.

A cautionary paragraph on the Web site at Logic Supply, which also sells the Serener, says it all.

This case requires previous experience in assembling computer systems. Not recommended for novice users.

The Serener is just a case. You need a pico-ITX board, hard drive, memory and power cord/adapter to make a computer out of it. Since all these components range from the small to the tiny, you need good finger dexterity and good eyesight (or a magnifying glass) to see and handle your work.


I learned in the course of assembling the Serener the following facts.

The Serener cannot hold any SATA cable that I know about. That means I could not use the SATA drive or the SATA port on the motherboard. I had to buy a PATA hard drive and hook that up with the ribbon cable that came with the Serener.
The interface ribbon cable is fragile. So are the clasps that connect the cable to the interface and front-panel daughterboards on each end. I discovered this the hard way when I opened the clasp on the interface board too hard and broke it. I am grateful to iDOTpc for generously sending me a replacement interface board, even though the damage was not under warranty.
The power supply that comes with the Serener can power the motherboard, and can power the hard drive — but not both! I turn on the Serener and got nothing. I know that problem is not with the motherboard or hard drive, because I plug in the other power supply into the Serener and can power it up fine. Nor is there anything really wrong with the native power supply, as I learned from the technician at iDOTpc.

There were other problems with the Serener, but the causes were more from the Linux installed on the Serener than with the Serener itself. This Dysmey Blog entry goes into detail on them.

setting aside

After many weeks of effort on the Serener to get it to work without the umbilical cord to the more potent power supply, I decided to give up the effort and set the Serener aside for later.

Obviously I have no intention of throwing the Serener away. I sent too much money and effort in building the thing. And it does work, provided I use the power supply that does not come with it.

I have revived the Serener, as you can read in the Isis page.



I still wanted a server based on the Pico-ITX. And, evidently, so did a lot of hardware geeks would eagerly wanted to try out the Pico-ITX board but have been having the same problems with the Serener and other (few) existing cases as I did. News of their difficulties had reached the collective ears of VIA. As a result, VIA introduced the ARTiGO kit.

As mentioned on the Pico-ITX page, ARTiGO kits are available at Fry's. I lucked out one day when I visited my local Fry's (by local I mean the closest one to my home being sixty miles away) because they had ARTiGO kits available at the store in their motherboard department. I bought the kit, the memory and the PATA hard drive for less than the cost of an Apple Mac Mini.

The ARTiGO kit comes with a VIA EPIA Pico-ITX motherboard and the hardware you need to assemble the kit. All you need to buy separately are the hard disk and the memory. The kit's assembly instructions are easy to follow for both IDE and SATA drives. And if I had known beforehand that it is possible to put together the kit with a SATA drive, I would not have bought another PATA drive for the kit.

The ARTiGO is not fanless. The kit comes with a fan for the processor, and plenty of vent holes on the side, as well as four square intake holes in the back. Its panels are simpler than those on the Serener: Just the power button, audio and USB ports in front, the VGA and network ports and power jack in back.

a server is born

After putting the ARTiGO together, I hooked it up to my monitor and keyboard. I booted up the system to its BIOS screen. After making sure the time and date on the system is correct, I set the value of the first boot drive to CDROM-USB. Being the small case that it is, any optical drives will be external; and it is an external CD/DVD drive, from which I will install Linux, on what has become the new Janovac server.

Written by Andy West on 25 February 2009.