Tip of the Trade: SplashTop
January 28, 2008
A typical Windows PC or server takes anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds to boot up. But that's just the beginning of the startup process: All the nagware, automatic updates, malware scans, hardware scans, indexing, connecting to network shares, and whatever applications want to start up after boot have to run through their paces. This can consume as much as another 30 minutes if you're unlucky, although around five to six minutes is more typical. If you're in a hurry, there's not much you can do except find something else to do unless you have a DeviceVM's SplashTop-enabled computer.
SplashTop is an ingenious Linux adaptation that runs on a Flash storage module. Five seconds after hitting the power button you get a splash screen with options for Web, DVD, music, photo, chat, Skype and video. So you can play soothing music, check Webmail, make Skype calls, or catch up on your instant messaging. If you're having problems with your system, and it doesn't want to boot, use SplashTop to go online and find answers. Or simply access CD or DVD manuals without needing a second computer.
SplashTop is still a baby, but its development is fast and furious, and it doesn't take much imagination to think of a world of useful possibilities. It would make a great built-in rescue tool, especially since Linux now has reliable, safe NTFS read and write support. Currently, SplashTop finds and automatically mounts NTFS and FAT filesystems, but it doesn't allow writing to NTFS yet. However, you can copy NTFS-formatted files to another drive or computer to rescue a failing hard drive. When you're waiting for a long server reboot, you could post an helpful message for users. Having a built-in rescue module on servers would go a long way toward making the hardworking admin's job a little easier.