Free software is so easy…you don’t even need a keyboard!
For some time now, I’ve been using a LinkSys NSLU2 as a file server for my home network. It’s very small, has no moving parts, and uses relatively little electricity. Combined with a large USB-attached hard disk, it has worked very nicely overall. My only issue has been that it is somewhat underpowered: with a 266MHz CPU and only 32M of RAM, it just wasn’t as responsive as I would like.
This weekend, I finally got around to replacing it with a newer unit based on the Babbage 2 design, with an 800MHz CPU and 512M of RAM. This should be much faster, and let me run more services than just Samba and rsync.
The only trouble was, the console interface on the new system is VGA and USB. I have a VGA monitor at home, but I don’t have a keyboard. I used to be the sort of person who had cabinets full of spare computer parts at home. Before my transatlantic relocation, I lightened my load substantially, and have only one small box now. This box did not contain a USB keyboard, and our only computers at home are laptops and netbooks.
Fortunately, the unit had a build of Ubuntu installed on its internal flash, configured to log in automatically to a graphical desktop. Using a dust-covered USB mouse I found in the bottom of the parts box, I copied and pasted letters from the gnome-terminal help files to install openssh-server, so that I could login over the network and finish setting it up.
It has now replaced the NSLU2 and is much snappier.