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This is a really helpful series of videos called
" for the Hobbyist "

youtube.com/playlist?list=PLaa

The first few videos deal with explaining what is "CNC" and some background on downloading and installing Linux. I'd still watch the one on requirements (video 6)

Of course, buying parts now isn't in my budget, but I keep this as a reference for when I get ideas

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If you're buying a computer to use as a dedicated system, I'd strongly recommend using a Mini-ITX system with decent RAM and a CPU

I recommend an ASRock J3455B which comes with a parallel port (handy for using breakeout boards or a Mesa card) or an ASRock J4105, if you intend to use an Ethernet based Mesa card. I'd still recommend the parallel port version and maxing out the RAM

both of these boards come with a CPU and are fanless so you'll have fewer dust issues

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If you use a decent 12V power supply(ies) for all your stepper motors, controllers etc.. , you may be able to use something called a "Pico PSU" which takes 12V input and provides enough juice to run your Mini-ITX board

Get one with a decently high wattage to keep your CPU happy

This cuts amount and complexity of the wiring needed to power your CNC/laser cutter system

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@cypnk i know a guy that does a lot of parallel port step/direction stuff so that's a very useful tip! thx.

@bootjack Let him know that if he’s willing to invest a bit more, there are ready-made industrial PCs that also fit the bill. I still prefer building my own because I can choose the components and be sure they’re Linux compatible

@cypnk heheh. i am aware of such things, but as a general rule, in life, investing a bit more is against his principles.

(guess whose job it is to pay down his technical debt...)

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