The laptop was a big hit well before business travel began, because there's nothing quite like computing from the couch or the kitchen counter. I could work on it and keep one watchful eye on the kids, or just have a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, so could my wife, and it wasn't long before she'd virtually taken possession of the laptop. It became a fixture on our kitchen counter, where either one of us could check mail, surf the web, pay bills, or the like. She'd even use the computer to send instant messages into the belly of Damage Labs, communicating vital info without cracking open the door and letting the kids spill downstairs into the testing area carrying static charges like midget agents of electronic death.
Trouble is, we both wanted to use the laptop at the same time. After a long day of making smart remarks in news posts, there's nothing like stretching out on the couch to make smart remarks in more news posts. But she'd want to pay the bills or some such irresponsible nonsense, and we'd be deadlocked. I was afraid she'd start getting the shakes as my next business trip approached.
So I decided: my laptop had to be reclaimed, and the Kitchen PC concept was born.
The plan was simple: create a PC to replace the laptop on the kitchen counter, and the laptop could be mine again. The execution, however, was a little more complicated. Laptop PCs are very good citizens in nearly any room, and the desktop PCs I normally build are not: they're too loud, too ugly, have too many cables, and leave much too large a footprint. If I did this wrong, I could look forward to both the scorn of my family and ridicule from my friends, with a side of embarrassment whenever anyone visited. Or, more likely, it just wouldn't work. The Kitchen PC would fail, and my laptop would never be mine again.
So I had to come up with a quiet PC with minimal noise, minimal footprint, and minimal mess. And it had to look good, too.
The recipe for success?
I drew on my extensive knowledge of stuff I have laying around, stuff we've reviewed, and stuff on the shelves at the local Best Buy to come up with an ingredients list for this little project PC. Let me outline the basic components for you.
Those of you who haven't tried Windows Terminal Services or Remote Desktop Connection are really missing out. It's much faster than other graphical remote control programs like VNC or PCAnywhere, because it hooks into the Windows GDI. You'll need WinXP Pro or a Windows Server OS on the host machine, but virtually any modern OS can act as a client one way or another.
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