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Lindows unveils HDD-less $169 Linux appliance

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Consumer Linux company Lindows.com is getting into the information appliance business, the company said today.

It has begun offering the WebStation, a small office/home office-oriented PC, for a mere $169.

Of course, that doesn't buy you a top-spec. system. You don't even get a monitor. The WebStation is based on a VIA C3 733MHz processor and comes with 256MB of PC133 memory (which Lindows mistakenly describes as "DDR"), a 24x CD-ROM drive, keyboard, mouse and a pair of speakers. Each unit sports a couple of USB ports.

Clever readers will have noted the lack of a hard drive specification in that list. The WebStation doesn't have one - it boots off the bundled LindowsOS 4.0 CD. Lindows boasts that this makes the system "virtually indestructible" because "system settings are not subject to long-term damage when settings are changed. Simply restarting the WebStation instantly restores it to its original settings".

We'd note that that will make start-up and application loading times rather long. It also limits Linux's virtual memory facilities somewhat, so we dread to think what the performance of this thing is like.

Then again, what can you expect for a sub-$200 machine? Users concerned such about performance issues might be more interested in the $299 system offered by Tigerdirect.com, one of Lindows.com's two online WebStation retailers, which includes a 20GB hard drive, a 56x CD-ROM, a 1.2GHz Celeron CPU and a built-in modem. WebStation is available with higher specs. for a higher price - you can add a 20GB hard drive for $67, for example.

Lindows' WebStation spec. doesn't list a modem or Ethernet port, so we wonder whether the base model can even connect to the Net - something of a failing for a machine branded WebStation. A closer look at retailer idotpc.com's listing for the WebStation reveals an integrated 10/100 Ethernet connector is included. Phew.

To tempt punters who might be worried about Windows compatibility, Lindows is bundling "a robust Microsoft-compatible office suite" - OpenOffice, in other words. Web browsing, instant messaging and digital content playback apps are included too.

Lindows sees the WebStation as an ideal second PC for the kids, and for more vertical uses, such as kiosks and library terminals. ®

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