The Coolest Gadgets and Widgets for November 2005

Move your “Office” to the web, a terabyte in a toaster, and a friendly Black Dog.

Online Office Goes Live

The lack of a solid office suite hampered desktop Linux adoption for years, but offerings such as OpenOffice have rapidly closed the gap, providing a viable alternative to expensive commercial software.
ThinkFree (http://www.thinkfree.com) has provided a relatively inexpensive ($49.95) Linux productivity suite for some time and is now taking the office suite out of the office. ThinkFree Online is a 100 percent online, Java- based productivity suite that offers word processing, presentation authoring, and spreadsheet calculations.
While probably not the answer for those buried in documents, tables, and slides, ThinkFree Online is a great option if you occasionally dabble with various documents or are constantly switching machines. ThinkFree Online keeps its files online, and the software works on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X,
ThinkFree Online takes a little while to start, but once it’s running, performance is not an issue. It’s a bit odd to work on a document in a browser window; nonetheless, the applications are quite impressive.
ThinkFree is currently offering free trials of the software — definitely worth a look for the casual office user.

Terabyte Toasters

Remember back in the day when you were the first on your block with a “gig” of storage? Nowadays, you need to have at least a terabyte (TB) before anyone takes notice. Or, how about two terabytes?
Newisys’s (http://www.newisys.com) eight-pound NA-1400 drive packs a whole lot of bits in a tidy package that fits on any desktop. Configured in 640 MB, 1.0 TB, 1.6 TB, and 2.0 TB capacities, the network-attached storage device supports a good number of popular file systems (SMB, XFS, FTP, among others), and is surprisingly affordable, starting at just under $1,000 for one terabyte.
The NA-1400 uses a low-power, 600 Mhz Xscale chip, includes 256 MB of RAM, dual-gigabit ethernet ports, and four hot swappable drives, and supports RAID 0, 1, or 5, Administration is performed via a web interface and the NA-1400 is based on the 2.6 kernel.

The storage wars are back and it’s time to reclaim your throne with the NA-1400. Your majesty’s terabyte awaits…

Black Dogs and Penguins

Realm Systems (http://www.realmsys.com) has announced a very cool product with an even cooler name. The Black Dog is a tiny (it weights under two ounces) Linux desktop that runs on a PC via the USB port, using only the host’s keyboard, video, and mouse.
Employing a PowerPC 405 Delta processor and 64 MB of RAM, the device also uses a biometric fingerprint scanner for authentication. Once plugged in, the Black Dog launches a script that installs an X server on the host PC. From there, the device runs a small Debian distribution offering Firefox, Abiword, and more, essentially turning the host PC into a temporary Linux oasis.

In a nifty attempt to jumpstart development, Realm Systems is sponsoring a coding contest with $75,000 in prizes (see http://www.projectblackdog.com). Orders are now being taken for 256 MB and 512 MB flash versions starting at $200.

Manage your Penguins

Everyone remembers LinuxCare, one of the first Linux startups. What you might not know is that LinuxCare is now Levanta (http://www.levanta.com) and the company is offering an intriguing new product designed specifically for Linux system management.
The Intrepid M, a rackmount appliance, aims to assist with the administration and management of several different types of devices. It can deploy specific software on groups of servers and workstations, manage patches and updates, record system snapshots for rollbacks, and assist in disaster recovery. Phew! That’s one busy machine!

The Pentium 4- powered device has 1 GB of RAM, dual-gigabit ethernet ports, and 1.4 TB of storage via two RAID controllers. One controller manages the machine’s software, while the other handles storage for the managed devices.
Priced at $7,500 for ten managed devices, the Intrepid M isn’t cheap, but it’s an intriguing device, backed by a proven company and is surely interesting to any company with a large Linux deployment.

Seen or have a cool new product? Send email to Matt Tanase at class="emailaddress">tanase@qaddisin.com.

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