Dave's GCT Army

So - I'm a believer in low-cost, small footprint computing.

This is possible thanks to the joy of Linux, which can run at lightning speeds on old, crappy hardware.

My house has a load of computers, something like 15 or so, but most of which were free or found on the sidewalk. I calculate that the average cost of my computers comes out to about $70, with the most expensive being my Libretto server which I shelled out $400 for because it was so damn cute.

Anyways, I was going to install laptops around my house that were all networked, because that's the kind of geek I am, but then I discovered the plight of the Gateway Connected Touchpad (GCT).

The touchpad looks like someone cut off the keyboard half of a laptop and put the LCD on a stand. It's got a wireless keyboard if you do feel like typing, although it also has a touchscreen which you can type on. It's a "computer appliance" as the tech press likes to call it.

Unfortunately, it doesn't have a hard drive, and it was made by AOL to *only* run AOL, so you could put it on your kitchen counter and hook up to AOL. They were going to sell it at a loss at $700, I think, and make the money back in subscription fees.

Nobody, sadly, really wanted this neat little computer, because nobody, happily, wanted to be chained to AOL.

So the GCT is discontinued and starts popping up on ebay for $75. And it turns out that you can open these up and get them to boot off of a hard drive if you like, and since it's a full computer otherwise, it can run real operating systems like Linux.

So I bought a bunch of these, and I'm putting Linux on them right now, and I'm going to put them in my house. The idea is this:

I walk up to my stereo cabinet and, using the touchscreen, select a few artists from my entire song collection, and they start playing on my stereo. I walk into the kitchen to make some food, and tap the touchpad in there to start playing the same music as in the living room. My roommate gets annoyed with my choice of Billy Joel's music, so he taps a touchpad in his room to start playing Steely Dan. The touchpad tells me that I have an email from one of my friends asking me if I have a 7/16" drill bit he can borrow, so I go downstairs to check my tools. The phone rings, and I answer it in my bedroom, and it's the president, looking for advice on the current situation in the Middle East. I ask him to hold on a moment, and I tap on the touchscreen mounted on the wall in my bedroom and ask it to turn off the music in the living room and kitchen, and then I start helping the president calm down, while sending an email on the touchscreen to my friend telling him that he can come get the drill bit. When I'm done talking to the president, I have to drive to my movie shoot. I realize that I'm going to be filming while Car Talk is on, so I have my touchpad record NPR so I can listen to it later. I jump in my 1979 Chevy Van and pull out of the garage, and I flip the GCT up from the console and I have it start playing Ministry to get me fired up for my kung fu action sequence we're shooting today.


So, that's the plan, except that I don't want the president to bug me with his petty problems, because as it turns out, I was late for my shoot and the director had a hissy fit.

Good stuff: