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Spotlight Gadget – EMTEC Gdium Liberty Netbook

on January 7, 2009 11:07 am

Gdium Liberty Netbook from EMTEC

It’s another new netbook, but with a twist: this one isn’t based on the PC architecture, but on a 900 MHz 64-bit MIPS CPU (that means no Windows XP or Vista, ever) and Linux. It also has no internal storage, using form-fitting USB keys preloaded with the operating system instead. It could be ideal for Linux hackers, but does it have a shot at the mass market? Only time will tell. Check out its product page for more specs.

Comments

  1. 1
    Harold says:

    No offense, but why would you buy this thing? I love gadgets, but at this point I have come to the point to where I do not want to experiment with every almost copied product that is released. It was fun in the PDA days, but now seems almost pointless.

  2. 2
    Cliff Tuttle says:

    Did the author actually try using this machine? How does it earn the designation “netbook”? Is it because, due to lack of internal storage, you can’t use it for much but surfing? “Not Windows” is a start, but Linnux is an unknown quantity to me. What can and can’t I do with this thing? Perhaps the author expected me to click over to the speck sheet to find out the price. But after reading the review, I wouldn’t accept this machine for free. I don’t care if it finds a niche in the market somewhere or not. I want to know if it fits into MY niche.

    CLT

  3. 3
    Carly says:

    My issue with this is the oddball processor and storage setup. If you want to screw around with linux on a netbook, for that price you could buy an Aspire One and load 3 or 4 distros on your computer…

    Plus many of the current distros have some major issues when it comes to flash memory. I know from my research into what to load onto my EEE that the basic distro installation can ruin flash memory quickly from too many write cycles. Puppy and Damn Small Linux are best suited for flash memory, but from what I’ve read about this computer, the specs are just weird enough that someone would have to compile special drivers to accomodate it. Not worth it when just about every netbook has the same general specs (Atom processor, Atheros wifi module, certain resolutions, etc) that a lot of the open source community has already worked hard to support.

  4. 4

    Spotlight Gadgets aren’t reviews — although we don’t usually post “gadget news” per se, we do often come across products which we think are interesting, unusual, and/or a potential discussion topic for our readers, even though they aren’t on our review schedule. (In our old content management system, these were in the sidebar, and there was no comment support and only room for one line of description. But we’ve had them for years.)

    In this case, the Gdium Liberty was just announced yesterday at CES, and doesn’t even have a price yet. It’s called a netbook because that’s what the manufacturer calls it, and that’s the product category it’s clearly trying to fit into. In terms of storage, with the swappable USB keys it will have storage comparable to SSD-based netbooks (4-16GB or so).

    As for what you can do with it, I would guess it will be similar to the other Linux netbooks out there. I don’t think we’ve reviewed any of those yet, but stay tuned — I’ll probably be talking about Linux on netbooks as part of our upcoming team review of the HP Mini 1000.

  5. 5

    @Carly: I agree completely. I’m not sure what the real benefit of the differences will be — regular x86 netbooks run Linux well enough that I don’t see much need for a different architecture. Reading between the lines a little, it seems that they might be going for battery life, based not only on the CPU choice but also the video chip, which is an “ultra low power” part with no 3D capability. It’s like they’re approaching netbooks in the opposite direction from the mainstream — instead of a shrunken laptop, it’s an enlarged embedded system.

  6. 6
    Geoff says:

    Linux running on ultra-low power MIPS hardware sounds fun for tinkering … but not when you can pick up an x86 netbook with an internal SSD for less.

    Interesting, but I’m not sure I understand their target market.

  7. 7
    Hai Vu says:

    Although I am not going to buy a netbook, this netbook’s design is intriguing. Consider the following scenario: a family vacation where we cary one netbook, but each family member has his or her own USB key, complete with their own settings. Dad plugged his key in, check email, get directions, … Then mom plugged her in to chat with her sister. Finally, the kids would want to do their own things.

  8. 8
    Carly says:

    @Hai Vu: that’s intriguing, but what’s the benefit of that instead of having multiple users with their own usernames and passwords? I can set up a user on my macbook (in fact, I did when my GF borrowed it) and the new user has their own settings, desktop, etc. And I don’t have to worry about everyone wandering around with USB keys.

    What would be more interesting would be someone marketing a linux distro entirely on a USB key, with the distro optimized for use on multiple computers, and set up to be persistent. It can be done now, but it’s time consuming and generally requires a decent command line knowledge. There are some distros that already have easy setups on usb key (Ubuntu 8.10 has the utility right on the liveCD), so it would be a matter of building in the support for wifi drivers, etc. But being able to literally carry your desktop in your pocket, and have immediate plug and boot access to your “computer” on any hardware, would be really, really cool. Sort of taking portable apps to the hulk level.

  9. 9
    Chris says:

    @Carly

    If you want a distro on a USB key, check the Mandriva Flash product on http://www.mandriva.com ! It’s there for about two years now.

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