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Tale of a Black Dog

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During last August's LinuxWorld Expo, there was one bit of technology which managed to captivate me: a small innocuous box called a Black Dog. I thought to myself, "I've got to get a chance to play with one of these." Now, you might think that a house with four dogs, six cats, and five ferrets would have no room for another dog, but adding the Black Dog to the mix is a small affair. Unlike its four-footed counterparts, this Black Dog takes very little room and very little care.

What is a Black Dog? It's a complete USB-powered Linux server which fits easily in the palm of your hand (see Figure 1). Powered by a 400-MHz PowerPC processor, 64 MB of RAM, and either 256 MB or 512 MB of flash, this pint-sized pet packs quite a bite (or is that "byte"?). Add to that the built-in biometric scanner, MMC expansion slot, and USB V2.0 interface that acts as both its power source and conduit to the network, and you have quite a set of teeth on this little computing animal. And, perhaps most surprising of all, the device's price tag comes close to its size: just US$199 for the 256-MB unit or US$239 for the 512-MB version.

The concept is very different than what is most in use today: the Black Dog is a parasitic server that draws power and networking connectivity from the system to which it is attached, while using its host to provide access into the device.

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