Monday, April 14, 2008

Ubuntu on Shuttle's New US$199 Computer

Shuttle has put out a new, small form-factor computer for just $99 barebones and $199 complete. While computers like the Everex have been available at 199 for a while, getting a small one used to set you back a lot more. The complete review is available at Tom's, linked above and spanning nine pages. I'll try to condense the information into something less time consuming.

The hardware is not super-powerful, of course:

  • Intel® 945GC Express Chipset
  • Intel® Celeron® 430 CPU
  • Built-in Intel® GMA950 graphics
  • 800/533MHz FSB
  • Intel® Flex Memory Technology
  • Dual channel DDR2 533/400
  • Intel® HD Audio 5.1 channel
  • Four USB ports on rear I/O
  • 10/100 LAN using Intel® 82562G Ethernet Controller
  • One PCI slot
  • Two SATA at 3Gbps
  • One PATA for up to two devices
(Tom's Hardware)

Unlike the Everex computer, which is based on Via's chip, there are kernel and Xorg drivers for everything on the Shuttle, meaning that wiping the supplied (and new) Foresight off the drive and installing any flavor of Ubuntu should be easy. Making the bootable USB will be the most difficult part. For the record, I wouldn't even do that. Instead, I'd get a netboot image and the kernel/initrd, put them on the Foresight drive, and use the already installed Grub to do a net install. If anyone actually wants to do this, please ask me, and I'll write up a how-to for you.

The GMA950 is not going to run current games in Wine for you, but it will do all the fancy compiz effect with only minor tearing. A lot of the 3D games native to Linux work, too, but I can't get Savage2 to start up. That may be related to the graphics or it may be a 64-bit bug. I haven't tried to track it down yet.

The 80GB is, of course, 79GB more than you need for a basic install, so there's no problem with space, and the 512MB RAM is enough to run 2-3 apps at a time. Installing the Hardy beta release will give you Firefox 3.0, which uses close to half the memory of the previous version. Bumping the RAM up to 1-2GB will give you a machine that will never fall over one you (physically, the center of gravity is probably too low ;) ).

You can also order an external power supply for completely silent operation, USB wireless (though any RaLink rt73 USB from your local hardware storee will work fine, too), and a bluetooth adaptor.

Quite a deal for a small form-factor computer. You may not want it for your first computer, but it's pretty close to what I run as mine.



I really like the box; it's almost Apple like in appearance. Very sharp!

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