Shuttle's New $99 KPC Review

Foresight Linux And Internet Software

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, 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. 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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  • BaconCache
    Grandma build!
  • imatt
    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.
  • styln
    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.
  • quicsilver
    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.
  • Luxcrete
    ** DO NOT BUY THE PC62 PSU FOR THE KPC! ** 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.
  • sloto
    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
  • uafon
    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 price is same.
    I also know that it is Made in USA, so at least by buying it I am supporting US workers.
  • uafon
    In other words, you do not have to power it up, as this adapter. It uses 5V from the USB plug.