We’re all geeks. We all have a spare keyboard and mouse lying around. We probably have a spare monitor that we haven’t had the time to take down to the e-waste collection center, gathering dust in the garage. And it’s also possible we have an old, slightly-broken computer lying around that we’ve been meaning to fix, and load some flavor of Linux onto, so we can give it to our kids as their first machine.
Well, for a hundred bucks, that last part of the equation is solved.
I’ve seen these little Linux boxes floating around the internet for a few months now. The first one I read about was the Linutop, which seemed very promising:
Just a bare-bones little box, pre-loaded with Linux, and ready to plug in, power up, and go. Sort of like a simple internet-terminal, but more useful considering all the powerful new web-based applications being developed. But the price-point came in a little high when it was released (in Europe-only, to start), so I moved on.
Now comes the Zonbu, and boy does it feel right. It’s a robust little box, with a unique hook towards keeping the price point low: subscription online data storage. It has on-board flash-based memory for running the OS, but uses a subscription to an online data-storage site where you keep your files. So, not unlike subsidized cell phones, they knock down the up-front cost by getting you to sign a contract.
It has usb for local storage and attaching other hardware, ethernet, an upgrade to wireless networking, and it’s a green machine (the company supposedly buys carbon-offsets to make the operation carbon-neutral). I really think this may be the perfect solution for setting up a pretty indestructible computer for my kids. Because the OS and all the apps are in ROM (sort of), they can’t break anything (sort of), the data is continuously backed-up, and available anywhere from the internet, even from other computers – hey, I could check their homework from the office! Updates to the OS and apps are pushed to the machine, and there’s a full replacement warranty.
I’m thinking, come Christmas, I may pick up one of these for the kids, and then one as a kitchen internet station. And I wonder how long it’ll be until someone hacks it, loads MythTV, and turns it into an Apple TV alternative? Also, check out this post on Gizmodo for a full hands-on review of the machine.