A month with VIA's Artigo A2000, a beefy barebone NAS
VIA's Artigo A2000 is network attached storage for those who roll their own.
An attractive black box about 5 inches square and a foot deep, it comes with the motherboard, gigabit ethernet and a 1.5GHz C7-D CPU, but requires the user to supply up to 2 SATA drives and the memory. There's also a compact flash card slot built in to the mobo: a good place to stash an operating system to keep the hard drives free for storage.
As befits its DIY style, the included Mini-ITX motherboard also has VGA out, USB ports and audio I/O for everyday use. Though the $300 price tag makes it a poor choice for a basic desktop machine, it's O.K. for a good-looking and robust NAS with benefits.
So my two drives could be used in a RAID configuration, I installed FreeNAS
on a standard CF card and let it configure the box for me: as a result, I've got an idiotproof machine that runs not just files but a web server, bittorrent, iTunes and much else besides. Given the crankiness of some companies' NAS software, it's nice to have some versatility, even if you do have to build and install it all yourself.
Another good option is Windows Home Server, though you have to pay for it. Windows XP and other cuts of Linux are also compatible with the hardware. If you don't install the operating system on a CF card, you'll be best off doing it the standard way with an external USB optical drive.
There are shortcomings. With only VGA output and VIA's integrated video, it's not particularly tempting to hook it up to a TV set for use as a home theater. WiFi adds another $50 to the price tag. The power brick is also pretty big: they could have integrated power into the box itself, given the empty space left even when both drive bays are occupied.
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