A brief history
When originally launched, the K1 and M1 featured a USB port on the card, which featured a 333 MHz CPU. The card was really a Linux computer which communicated with host Windows machine via the PCI-Express slot and some custom drivers. Users could run applications on the card—FNApps, they were called. A full SDK was available to developers, and Bigfoot held a contest to convince developers to make FNApps. Some example FNApps were FTP clients and servers, Telnet/SSH clients, and even BitTorrent clients. Users could have BitTorrent running on the card while gaming and never see lag.
However, as with any embedded system which allows just anything to run on it, as folks added more apps, the system slowed down.
In 2009, Bigfoot introduced the Xeno Pro. Xeno Pro shedded the ability to develop and use FNApps, but gained audio ports for the offload of VoIP onto the card. It also cut the price in half, a very much needed change to put this once extravagant device into the hands of enthusiasts.
However, the promise of audio offloading never really materialized. Xeno Chat, an application which used a fantastic (IMHO) open source VoIP client called Mumble, was ineffective and support for it eventually crumbled. It’s no longer offered on Bigfoot’s web site and doesn’t actually connect to the built-in server when found and launched.
Also, Bigfoot found that folks didn’t really tweak the onboard firewall on the K1, M1, or Xeno Pro. It wasn’t as easily to configure as existing firewall softwares (even Windows Firewall), so Bigfoot decided to drop it in version 6 of the firmware and in the Killer 2100. Bigfoot also found that users didn’t care for the separate applications used to manage the bandwidth controls, firewall, and such, and those were merged into a single tool—Network Manager—for the v6 firmware.
Hardware-wise, the Xeno Pro and Killer 2100 are very similar. The underlying architecture is most the same, but there are faster parts and other changes which make the Killer 2100 technologically superior to the Xeno Pro. Here they are side by side.
So, why did the Killer 2100 lose all of the extra stuff? Bigfoot must have taken the words of 20th century French pilot and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery to heart.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Bigfoot found that in removing little-used features, it could focus its development on its core mission: reduce lag in on-line gaming.
Am I sad to see these features go? Yes. Should these features existed before now? Arguable, as removing features is rarely a popular move. However, Bigfoot is on the right track. The Killer NIC was bling at first, now it’s time to get practical.
Colin Dean has been a writer for ThinkComputers since 2006.