If the Linutop were a quarter of the price, then it might have a role as an entry-level computer for those unable to afford a full-power PC. Indeed, there are devices available at that sort of price-point, but they're horribly limited – a 200MHz processor and just 128MB of RAM. That's a mid-1990s level spec, and even Linux struggles to run effectively on something so dramatically constrained.
Good companions: tea and a penguin
But for the price of the Linutop 2, you could build a basic dual-core 64-bit desktop PC with a hard disk, offering something like ten times the performance and vastly more potential. It will require about 50 times the electricity, though. If getting power is a real problem, you'd be better off with a netbook.
As a general-purpose computer, forget it. If you need a standalone machine to drive an interactive display, a digital noticeboard or some other non-performance critical role, then the Linutop 2 is ideal, and about half the price of a Windows XP Embedded thin client. It's simple, tough and uses only a trickle of power. Set Firefox to load at bootup with a custom homepage and all it would take is some HTML for a customised display – with little or no Linux knowledge needed and no need for a server to boot off. Alternatively, rewrite or replace the OS and embed the whole box into your product to top things off. ®
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Good luck to them
I can see a few uses for these, shame its a bit lacking in ports though. I work with control systems and something like this with parallel and serial ports would be ideal for either new systems or retrofitting older setups, great for prototyping too.
If they could offer options on port configs, like the second network for a firewall mentioned above or a couple of serial ports for some point of sale kit then this could well be a winner.
As to the price, yes it is a bit steep but they are not a high volume manufacturer so they aren't getting hardware at anything like asus or dell's discounts. Considering what I've seen companies pay for similar kit, 250 euro is very reasonable.
Useless? Methinks not...
On the contrary, this is an excellent piece of kit that has a definite market. Take for instance Point Of Sale terminals... screw one of these on the back of an LCD monitor and you have a nice low cost small footprint retail sales machine. I have already done this with a Eee PC, it' s nice to see more coming on the market.
There are loads of uses, from in-vehicle computing to thin-client terminals. Office PCs could be replaced with this as well, what, you need more than 500MHz for your word-processor? It certainly would reduce the amount of support to the desktops that are deployed in most offices.
1. Home automation PC including pulling files off a server for playback on a TV or audio system. Give it a bit of web presence and the right interfaces and it can set the mood and temperature for you getting home.
2. In-car non-essential systems controller. With the right software this little thing could handle satnav, entertainment, phonecalls etc. A GPS could be a lot more if it was broken out of the little grey plastic box with the stern sounding lady inside.
3. Vulnerable people. Again with the right software this thing could act as the inexpensive hub for things like sheltered accommodation to monitor alarms and sensors detecting people moving around.
4. Animal husbandry. Say you have a hatchery or a breeding project. I'm sure this could be used to monitor various sensors and regulate various outputs accordingly.
If it were cheaper, hams would snap these up by the bucketfull!
Would make a nifty battery powered box to run digital modes like PK31, RTTY, etc. Just use a low power LCD display that can run off an inverter and you're all set for EMCOMM or Field Day...
As Apple don't seem to want to add HDMI onto their MacMini there has to be a market for machines of this size that can be turned into media hubs.
Shame this isn't one of them.