Shuttling Along: A Second Look at the SB62G2

By Timothy R. Butler | Posted at 11:36 PM

As promised in part 1 of this review, this time around we will consider the software side of the Shuttle XPC SB62G2, a system we named our product of the year for 2003. The Shuttle is an excellent little machine, as we noted last time, but there is still that one important detail that needs to be considered: how well does it work with GNU/Linux? That is what I will attempt to overview below.

In our tests, we tried two different distributions - Mandrake Linux and a variant of Debian GNU/Linux. Both systems successfully installed on the system without any issues and worked well with all of the included hardware.

Mandrake Linux, as we stated in the first article, is included with the SB62G2. The version included appears to be essentially the same as the retail Discovery Edition of Mandrake Linux 9.2. It worked very well in our tests and, like the Discovery Edition, provided a streamlined installer, task-oriented menu structure and pre-installed Macromedia Flash. You can find a full review of Mandrake Linux 9.2 Discovery Edition, here.

While it appeared that the Shuttle edition's only change was the placement of Shuttle's logo on the LILO boot screen and on the default wallpaper, we decided to test a generic copy of Mandrake Linux 9.2 to insure that no special modifications had been necessary to get the system up and running. For this second test, we used Mandrake Linux 9.2 ProSuite edition's workstation DVD installer. Everything installed very smoothly once again, and we were left with everything configured as it was with the bundled version of Mandrake. Our only complaint with Mandrake Linux on the Shuttle XPC was the fact that power management did not seem to be configured right, and thus the system did not turn itself off when we halted GNU/Linux (that is, selected the “power off” option from the logout menu in KDE or GNOME). This is a minor issue, however, that can be solved by simply pressing the power button after shutting down.

Mandrake Linux 9.2 Discovery Edition is an excellent choice for the bundled distribution, since it provides everything you need for a good, functional desktop, with minimal interaction required during installation. It should be added that the Free Software nature of GNU/Linux is certainly nice on the budget as well and we applaud Shuttle for including it in the box to encourage people to try it rather than spending more money for a copy of Windows XP that would still lack productivity software and would certainly be less robust and secure. In our opinion, as I have stated before, Discovery Edition really brings true ease of use to GNU/Linux, with features such as task based menus (so that new users do not have to worry about odd names of some applications), preinstalled browser plug-ins, and other niceties.

Shuttle could have chosen Lycoris or Lindows and perhaps gained a similar amount of usability, but it is an added plus that the bundled distribution is Free Software rather than the Free/proprietary mix that make up Lycoris and LindowsOS. An elegant, easy to use distribution under a license that provides freedom seems like a good match for an elegant, easy to use computer that offers lots of freedom to expand and customize itself to your needs.

Still, there was another important question to consider: did the Shuttle XPC work with any distribution other than Mandrake? While we assumed so, we wanted to make sure. Thus, we also tested the system with Knoppix, the live-CD Debian-based distribution that is also an extremely simple way to install Debian GNU/Linux on a system. Knoppix had absolutely no trouble with the hardware on the Shuttle XPC and booted up very quickly. Another nice thing we noticed with Knoppix was that the system did turn itself off properly when the OS was halted, thus meaning that we can safely assume future versions of Mandrake Linux and other distributions ought to be able to do this as well.

Using either distribution, we could feel a definite speed increase over our similarly configured Dell-built Pentium 4 2.6 GHz system, thanks to the XPC's included support for Hyper-Threading, Serial ATA and faster PC3200 ram. The integrated Intel graphics chip, on the other hand, is most certainly a modest GPU, but it did perform decently enough for most users' needs and did not require proprietary drivers, unlike modern ATI and nVidia cards (other cards can be installed using the system's unused 8x AGP slot) In summary, it is worth reiterating that this system offers a stunning amount of high-end features for its low-end price and those added performance boosters mentioned above really made using the system a pleasure.

In our last article, we expressed our view that the XPC is one amazing piece of hardware that is well worth deploying from a hardware standpoint (in fact, it is hard to recall a PC system that just seems so perfect). As this article makes clear, we can put our full endorsement behind it for GNU/Linux friendliness as well. The XPC is definitely a serious solution for those who require a fast, affordable GNU/Linux box.

With the well thought-out location of hardware internally (for easy access), convenient port locations on the front and back, and a whisper quiet cooling system, we are left to wonder what the fine folks at Shuttle will do to top this system. All I can say is that I am looking forward to it.

Summary of Shuttle XPC SB62G2

Functionality:</ td>
GNU/Linux Compatibility:
Total Cost of Ownership:

UPSIDE: Shuttle's XPC offers a great blend of price, performance and compactness that makes it an ideal workhorse, whatever your needs may be ($329,

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Timothy R. Butler is Editor-in-Chief of Open for Business. You can reach him at tbutler@uninetsolutions. com.