Installing the hardware-two WD 80GB hard drives I have in my stocks-was quite easy. Removing the front panel was a little tricky because it feels like the retaining tabs might break off, but inserting the drives was effortless. Installing the RAM beforehand is a necessity, and the installer must certainly have some patience while doing so.
For as easy as installing the hardware was, the OS installation was far more difficult. The lack of a CD drive makes installing Windows, well, virtually impossible and certainly not straightforward. The only way to install Windows is from USB, something which Vista and Windows Home Server can apparently do pretty well, that is, if you yourself are running Vista and can use the diskpart tool available in Vista (the XP one cannot see USB drives!). This tremendous process is not for the feint of heart or technological ability. I would hope that VIA would deliver some kind of officially-sanctioned process or perhaps sell Windows Home Server on a USB drive to ease the installation for the home user.
This is where I would normally plug Linux. However, I could not load the desktop version of Ubuntu Linux 8.10. Presumably, Xorg could not use the VIA video card. Hopefully this will be fixed in the next release. Alternatively, a savvy user could use the server installation of Ubuntu without a problem. The FreeBSD-based FreeNAS is also certainly a candidate OS for this unit.
Colin Dean has been a writer for ThinkComputers since 2006.