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Foresight Linux: Testing And Usability

Shuttle's New $99 KPC Review
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To test the user-friendliness of the KPC, we asked a few people to try out common tasks on the machine. While the Linux OS proved to be a little confusing to users at first, we helped remedy this by making shortcuts to some common programs and labeling them in a simpler fashion; for example, we labeled the Firefox shortcut as "Internet". This solved many of the early issues, and for the rest of the day users were satisfied with the performance of the KPC running Linux.

We had several users play music off a flash drive using a headset for listening, while one played a DVD movie. Several downloaded their pictures from the same Kodak C533 camera to be emailed to friends. Everyone used web-based mail, but we did have a few try out OpenOffice.org. While it was obviously not Microsoft Office, users were not unhappy with the results, and admitted that they could live with it and even get used to it. These results were pretty compelling.

The one feature that we found very lacking was USB printer support. It was quite difficult to get a USB printer from HP to work; this functionality was beyond everyone but a true UNIX guru, as several packages were not found by Conary. Overall, however, the experience was better than expected.

In the final analysis, was the KPC "user-friendly" as Shuttle promised? This is difficult to answer, as user-friendliness is in the eye of the beholder. Someone born and raised on a Windows operating system will probably have to re-learn how to find their way around the OS, as well as the right program for the job; once this has been done, though, the KPC is quite user-friendly. In this context, of course, a Windows based machine would of course be much more so. However, the Gnome desktop is similar enough to Windows and OSX that the learning curve shouldn’t be a show-stopper.

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  • 0 Hide
    BaconCache , April 15, 2008 7:56 PM
    Grandma build!
  • 0 Hide
    imatt , April 16, 2008 6:52 PM
    Great for a public computer for internet access in a family room. Small footprint, low heat, low price. Will be interesting to see what the masses can mod these things into.
  • 0 Hide
    styln , April 25, 2008 11:29 PM
    Regarding Linux's readiness for prime time...

    Six months ago I installed Ubuntu 7.10 on a compact barebones for my wife, a computer novice. I reconfigured Gnome to look a lot like XP with only one toolbar at the bottom and created desktop icons for common programs: browser, word processor, spreadsheet, media viewers/players, etc. I automounted our NAS and created an icon for that, too. Used CUPS to easily connect two networked printers (yeah, my house is fully networked with a GB backbone :) 

    She's as happy as can be and uses it everyday for routine "mommy", tasks including classroom rosters, art class schedules, saving/viewing picture and videos, etc.

    Bottom line is she loves it. As the home IT admin I like it too because it's rock solid and gives me less to do than maintaining the kids and my XP machines. So except for playing games, I see no reason to buy Windows in the future.... and I won't.
  • 0 Hide
    quicsilver , April 29, 2008 1:34 PM
    Pros: Tried and true chipset, linux, windows, windows server compatible. Small, low wattage, QUIET, stylish. Slot under faceplate for a laptop sized cd/dvd-rom

    Cons: barebone comes with no processor fan, no case fan, no cd-rom. Room for only 2 hard drives. NO CASE FAN

    Rumor has it that they will offer the ICE Genie as an optional separate purchase, which is nice for the processor but I don't know if it's sufficient enough to cool the HDD's. I built one with a celeron 420 and a stock core 2 duo proc fan. (the stock proc fan that came with the celeron was DOA) The fan size on the back is 92mm, I bought an antec 92mm case fan and it's very quiet, the loudest fan on the system is the small power supply fan. It has the slot under the faceplate for a slim dvd/cd-rom. You would have to dremel mod the front clear plastic to make it look right, but it's easily doable. AT LEAST it has the option.

    I built it for a Windows Home Server and it works perfect.
  • 0 Hide
    Luxcrete , August 7, 2008 4:59 AM
    ** DO NOT BUY THE PC62 PSU FOR THE KPC! **

    ...in spite of what this article would have you believe, it doesn't physically fit. I just wasted $100, and I'm pretty angry that the reviewer didn't do his research.

    If you're thinking of getting the KPC for a home server, bewarned that it's not that quiet. Probably fine if you can lock it away in a cupboard, but too irritating to be left out in the open, if you're anything like me.
  • 0 Hide
    sloto , August 19, 2008 3:54 PM
    There is a cutout for a front USB, but you have to hack and do your own mod. Same conditions for an optical drive. It's doable.
    Mint is my preferred linux and works just fine on KCP
  • 0 Hide
    uafon , April 1, 2011 4:03 PM
    I have tried many many wifi adapters.....and I can say one thing for sure...
    ..I don't know about you guys, but for me UAWIFI UA3 usb adapter is the BEST.
    No other adapter can compare to this baby, it is VERY powerful.
    There are few people sell them on ebay, but I got mine directly from mft. website www.uawifi.com price is same.
    I also know that it is Made in USA, so at least by buying it I am supporting US workers.
  • 0 Hide
    uafon , April 1, 2011 4:05 PM
    In other words, you do not have to power it up, as this adapter. It uses 5V from the USB plug.