Kitchen computer gets a new internet stick


— 1:17 AM on November 1, 2007

Back in March I built a system intended to be the new family PC. The goal was to make it small, quiet and attractive enough that my wife would be okay with it living someplace other than the my office. About half the components I bought specifically for this system; the rest were "borrowed" from the Damage Labs. I decided on a Shuttle box, the SN25P. It ended up with an Athlon 64 4000+ processor, 1 GB of Crucial Ballistix RAM, a Sapphire Radeon X800 256MB, Seagate's Barracuda 7200.10 320GB, a LITE-ON DVD R/W, Logitech's EX110 cordless keyboard & mouse and an AOC 17" LCD monitor. Before drawing conclusions about the hardware, keep in mind that I was on a strict budget and that the main tasks of this PC would be general office apps, web surfing, limited media downloading/storage/playback and lengthy sessions of Lego Star Wars for my wife and daughter.

After enabling Cool'n'Quiet on the 4000+, I had a small and fairly quiet system purring on our kitchen counter - goal achieved. My wife even thinks it's kinda cute; she named it "the breadbox." It's not exactly silent, and the vent holes on the side of the case exhaust warmer air than I'd prefer; but it's living up to it's duties quite admirably. The Logitech Z-540 speakers sound surprisingly good playing Pandora, Lego Star Wars or whatever media occasionally gets watched there.

The only fly in the ointment was internet connectivity. I'd initially decided to make do with a SiS USB wireless adapter that came from who-knows-where. It was entirely contained in a package the size of a thumb drive - "the internet stick," my wife called it (she gets along with technology better when she can establish her own lingo to address it; sort of like Adam naming the animals in Eden). I initially thought the occasionally weak and dropped signal wouldn't matter because it always reconnected within seconds; man was I ever wrong. It was just annoying enough that I rarely used the system to surf since my own rock-solid umbilical-ethernet-connected PC was right upstairs.

Keep in mind that I'm the business and sales guy for The Tech Report, not a hardware reviewer. My PC techie endeavors have been limited to speccing and assembling the hardware, installing and upgrading operating systems (always Windows), and a bit of troubleshooting and swapping hardware when I've encountered problems. The only overclocking of a PC that has ever been accomplished in my home was done by Scott on an AMD Duron 750 several years ago.

So when my 8-year-old daughter couldn't stay connected to research Thomas Edison's inventions for a report she'd been assigned (yes, that was a homework assignment from her 2nd-grade teacher) and my wife was checking her email on my PC instead of the breadbox, I hopped on Newegg to find a new wireless adapter. My naive techie instincts told me to avoid compatibility problems by matching the brand of either my Linksys WRT 54G router or the Shuttle. So I went with the Shuttle PN18G wireless kit, primarily because it was cheaper than the Linksys options.

The breadbox, fully connected via the new internet stick poking out the back of the case.


Although the adapter's bundled software wasn't exactly straightforward and initially seemed to do battle with Windows' wireless networking client, I managed to get them to play nice, quite by accident, after fiddling with the settings for a while. And then... it just worked. Man was that sweet. It was like having a whole new toy there in the kitchen. Now I regularly remote desktop to my PC upstairs because those 15 steps up to my office seem like such a long climb. And I guess that's the sign that the Shuttle... er, breadbox... is a success. It does what I wanted, and then some.

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