Realm Systems certainly has an innovative concept on hand with its BlackDog product. In fact, they have so much faith in the longevity of this product that they presently are in the midst of a competition entitled "Project BlackDog", which is a contest for developing the best application to run on the BlackDog Linux server. These prizes are simply no dog treats as the grand prize is $50,000 USD and a round-trip flight to the Open Source Business Conference this year. In addition, there are thousands of dollars in cash and other prizes to be awarded in the program categories of security, communications/networking, entertainment, productivity, and Dogpile (a.k.a miscellaneous). The Project BlackDog contest is coincidently ending today, and it will be interesting to see what the winning program will be. In addition to the BlackDog project, which is designed for just about anyone seeking to run a small portable Linux server through a host machine, Realm Systems is presently engineering an enterprise version of this product and it expected to premiere in Q1'2006. When it came to our experience with the Realm Systems BlackDog 512MB, we very much enjoyed the time spent thoroughly testing the unit. The product is certainly unique with its MMC expansion slot and biometric scanner, but is almost certain to spark additional mini Linux servers to come. Some of the practical uses for the device could include storing your e-mail or portable Firefox on the device and safe-guard it using your own fingerprint, or to simply run a tiny Apache or Samba server in order to show files to a client and not needing to worry about any compatibility issues with the host machine. Of course, applications that are more practical are likely to be released upon the commencement of the Project BlackDog contest. When it comes to the downside of the device, the only area that could be improved is to offer easier setup under Linux. Popping the device into a Microsoft Windows XP computer yields almost instant operation while Linux users are forced to possibly install some kernel patches and manually re-configuring the network setup, among other things, in order to properly use the device. As mentioned previously, the device runs purely off open-source software under Linux thus making the possibilities limitless and it certainly performed as advertised in our tests. The cost for a Realm Systems BlackDog unit at this time is $199 for the 256MB unit while the 512MB model sells for $239; only $40 more for twice the storage capacity.
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Phoronix Product Rating: 8 / 10