endot

eschew obfuscation (and espouse elucidation)

Kitchen Computer: Concept and Primary Hardware

For while now I’ve wanted to put a computer in the kitchen. Here begins the process of actually realizing that goal.

Why would I want a PC in the kitchen? Here are a few reasons why such a computer would be convenient:

  • Recipes: Use the Internet to find new recipes and manage favorites digitally.
  • Videos: Watch cooking podcasts and follow along where there’s plenty of counter space.
  • Internet: Check email, do a quick search on Google, or log into IM.
  • Monitoring: When working in the kitchen, view video feeds of the kids room or see who’s at the front door.

What components are needed for a PC in the kitchen?

First off, the box. Ideally, the computer would sit inside one of the cabinets, and so therefore would need to be as small and low heat as possible. It would also need to have enough horsepower to show full-screen video and run more than one application at once. It needs to support a touch screen as well as a USB keyboard and mouse. Since I don’t want to run a network cable across my condo, wireless networking is also a requirement.

Here are some possible candidates:

  • Apple Mini ($600): A good top end box. I’ve used a Mini before, so I know it would be more than adequate for the tasks I envision, even at the base configuration. An added bonus would be the Front Row interface and the accompanying remote. They do run a little warm, so ventilation might be a problem.
  • FitPC ($285) (also here): A solid contender.
  • Linutop (about $380): Nice and small, but might be underpowered.
  • E-Way ($99): Another nice small box.
  • Zonbox ($100 if you go for the online storage, $250 for the standalone) (also here): This one’s been getting good reviews and press. Just read an article in Linux Journal.
  • Koolu ($200-$300 depending on specs): Definitely interesting, if for no other reason than that it’s supported by a guy named Maddog.

Now on to the screen. Only touch screens are being considered for this project, because several of the applications would depend on the keyboard playing second fiddle to the finger stylus. The screen must be small, but able to afford a decent resolution (1024 x something). Here are the candidates:

  • Lilliput 8” Widescreen ($260): I’ve heard good things about the Lilliputs in addition to seeing them used in several tutorials online. They work especially well with the Mini.
  • Mp3Car’s Monitor section: There might be something else there that’d work better.

I’ll definitely need to do more research before I select anything, but I wanted to get something out there first.

Next time, it’s peripherals and operating systems.