IT administrators who need to deploy and manage very small desktop or kiosk-style PCs may want to keep an eye on the development of Linutop.
Phil Hochmuth is a Network World Senior Editor and a former systems integrator. You can reach him at email@example.com.
The gadget, about the size of a portable CD player, is an embedded Linux PC without a hard disk. It has four USB2 ports, for connecting a mouse, PC, keyboard and other devices (such as a USB Wi-Fi adapter, storage stick, etc.), and an integrated 100Mbps Ethernet port and VGA video output. Microphone and headphone jacks are also built in. The box itself runs AMD’s embedded Geode processor, with 256MB of memory, and 512MB of ROM, for storing the operating system image and applications.
As for software, Linutop offers more than a bare-bones terminal or Web kiosk. The Firefox Web browser, AbiWord word processor, Gaim instant messenger client, as well as PDF reader and media player applications are bundled with the hardware. According to reports, the device uses the IceWM windows manager — a compact Linux graphical user environment targeted at kiosk-style and embedded applications.
The biggest selling point for the Linutop is its size: around 6 inches long, an inch tall and 3 inches deep. What hurts the device’s chances for success is the cost: at around $360 (or 280 Euros), Linux administrators might be better off finding some old laptops on an auction Web site and loading a package such as Linux Terminal Server Project, for stripped-down diskless desktop computing.
Linutop, developed by a small company in France, says production of the gadget will begin this month, with availability expected in the second quarter of 2007.