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Foresight Linux And Internet Software

Shuttle's New $99 KPC Review
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With three of Shuttle’s goals covered, we move on to put the last of Shuttle’s promises to the test: user friendliness.

The KPC includes a little known Linux distribution called Foresight Linux. This version features the Gnome desktop, Conary Package Manager, OpenOffice.org office suite, Firefox web browser, Evolution eMail, Pidgin IM, Banshee music player, Totem movie player, and F-Spot photo organizer. Foresight is a relatively new player in Linux distributions, as an rPath based distribution featuring Gnome desktop 2.22. It also includes the new Syslinux boot loader that replaces GRUB. PackageKit is a package installer meant to help update and install system features and applications.

Foresight booting

The Gnome desktop is organized differently than Windows or OS X: it has a task bar at the top of the screen and organizes it so that you pick one of several drop down menus.

Gnome desktop

While Gnome provides a fairly clean interface for users, it is different enough from Windows or OS X that new users will have a bit of a learning curve. Shuttle plans to have a mini-site up to explain where everything is located and how to use it, which should help people new to Linux and Gnome.

OpenOffice.org is the office suite included with the system, and allows users to use the most common office document types in Linux, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents created in Microsoft Office. This program is very mature, and should provide users with their most needed applications. Many users will want to change the default save type to be compatible with Microsoft Office, allowing users to create documents and give them to others who use the common format.

The second major reason to use a PC like the KPC is, of course, the Internet. Firefox, Evolution and Pidgen IM provide the software to use the most common ’net applications.

Most people are familiar with Firefox, as it is the major competitor to Internet Explorer, and provides an excellent browsing experience for its users. Firefox does lack some support for Microsoft specific features, though, and will often display a page in a slightly different way.

Evolution is an email program that is very powerful, and offers plug-ins for connecting to Exchange servers. For home users it will provide an excellent experience, and I have used it for some time to access corporate email from a Linux system.

Pidgen instant messaging (IM) is the next generation of the GTK + AOL instant messenger, or GAIM. It supports a large variety of messaging protocols such as AIM, Bonjour, Gadu-Gadu, Google Talk, Groupwise, ICQ, IRC, MSN, MySpaceIM, QQ, SILC, SIMPLE, Sametime, XMPP, Yahoo! and Zephyr. With such an exhaustive support list, Pidgeon should fit anyone’s needs for IM. Using it proved to be easy and effective, and while it’s possible that power users of one of the other brands of IM might find it lacking in some features, it worked well in our testing.

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