August 17, 2005 09:11 AM PST
Some time ago, I realized that a form of PCs will eventually be as small as the iPod. The Mac Mini is strikingly small for a full PC, and it doesn't seem too far off that it could eventually be in iPod form factor.
So here we have an iPod sized linux machine - the Realm Systems Black Dog
, powered and interfaced via USB2. Initially, I was pretty excited. Maybe it's a promising solution to Web cafe security issues. Or maybe it could cause some security risks as a keylogger connected to an internal USB port, revealing its contents only with the proper fingerprint. Maybe its monitoring ability could be used for good with the right software as an external high availability monitor of your server, sending a ctrl-alt-delete to deliver a cleansing reboot. If it had ethernet and could draw power off it, it might make a great sniffer or intrustion detector.
It's a lot like the Intel Personal Server
circa 2003. The personal server seemed like a cool idea, but I wonder how this machine is better than a PDA? No screen, bluetooth, Wi-Fi, long term battery. PDAs are instant-on, and this thing has to boot. It has a fingerprint reader, but so do some PDAs now. It doesn't have cellular or a camera like smartphones. No hard drive like an iPod. The cost of $200-$250 seems reasonable, although many PDAs are in this range today. The primary advantage is, I guess, that it runs Linux, and therefore is easy to extend and modify. This is reasonable, although the PocketPC tools and emulator are free and very well documented from Microsoft (and complete with Compact .Net framework).
So what do you guys think of this thing? There has to be some interesting use for it while being tethered to a host PC. At a minimum, it's an alternative to installing Linux on your laptop or PC for development, and to be able to plug this in at any time, and resume into the same line of my vi session months later is interesting. Of course, as Paul will note - Mac OS X provides you with a Unix shell and better than Windows UI...