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Linux on a Gigapro 733

As of late January 2002, Fry's offers a turn key linux box called a GigaPro 733. This item came with a sticker price of $350 and has been offered at $400 with Earthlink $200 rebate, at $300 no-rebate, and at a higher price with Windoze XP, generally with rebates as well. Recently advertised for $249.99, and available at outpost.com (follow link above because outpost search fails to show it) if you don't live in a Fry's town. This is a turn-key Linux box -- you supply monitor and probably modem and that is about all!

As of August 2002, this box has not been available for several months as it is obsolete and replaced with faster offerings. Fry's has not sent me one of those to test. A quick look in the store showed a much improved installation "Thiz Linux" that might actually be usable. The Gigapro 733 reviewed here lives on in production running Debian 24x7.

Gigapro 733

The keyboard is smallish but functional with lots of keys, including a full set of "internet" keys. The last assembled box I bought other than laptops was a 386SX, many years ago. It would be difficult to even buy the pieces to assemble this box for anywhere near 300 bucks. While certainly not bleeding edge, this box provides respectable power and resources. It should be fine as well for windoze 98 or ME or NT. For windoze 2000 or XP you will need to add memory and at least the cost of the hardware for the "operating system". Here you have a box approaching what Raymond says will be the undoing of Microsoft.

Linux on the GigaPro

Kicking the tires

Plug in power, monitor, mouse, keyboard, speakers. Power it up and the system boots and runs something called Fast Window Linux. All works -- comes up in GUI mode and presents the various apps that have been provided by the vendor including Netscape, Corel WordPerfect 8 for Linux, Kmail, file system browser, and media player. All appears to work, but it only lasted about 30 minutes here. After all, we did not buy it for a no-name Linux but for the hardware! I did not test any ports with this operating system.

Fast Window Linux then appears to be a very dumbed-down Linux. It sports no text consoles, only 640x480 resolution, and apparently not even the ability to open an X terminal and look around. The apps work, but you can basicly do only one thing at a time. Very crude. Possibly suitable for a beginning computer user but does not hold a candle to any major Linux distribution.

Re-install a few times

Next we tried some different Linux distros. The vendor suggests RedHat, Mandrake, and SuSE. I presume these will all do well, but our preference is for Debian. Therefore I tried Corel 1.2, Progeny, and Libranet. Of these, Libranet (1.9.1) was the easiest to get running quickly. I also used the supplied Fast Window CD to image the box at one point. With that re-image, the sample sound files originally supplied were absent. If you get the box, I would suggest using the supplied fancy keyboard and trying some of the extra keys to see if any work. It could be that there is more to FW Linux than I saw, but I doubt it.

Now for one that works...

I used Libranet Linux. 1.9.1 ISO After installation, I fixed up /etc/apt/sources.list to point to current unstable and proceeded to upgrade (apt-get update ; apt-get upgrade) in order to convert to regular Debian distro.


Configuring this box is easy with Libranet: configure X by selecting the Trident X server. X windows works in 1024x768 resolution with 16-bit depth. Here is my XF86Config file. I am using XFree86 xserver-xfree86 version 4.1.0-14 from Debian unstable.

Advanced Power Management

This is a desktop, so why APM? Well, it is also an ATX case and will shut the box down on command. I built the 2.4.17 kernel with APM as a module, then added "Enable PM at boot time" and "Use real mode APM BIOS call to power off" for good measure. I also use "Magic SysRq key" in the Kernel Hacking section. This gets you Alt+SysRq+{key} to Sync the file system, Unmount file systems, Boot, or turn Off the system. Using halt command also resulted in a power off. apm -s works to put it to sleep too, and it wakens with a key on keyboard.


All drives operable -- CD, Hard drive, and floppy.


With Libranet use alsaconf to select the VIA686 and you have sound.


Modprobe 8139too to run.


Arrgh! I think this device fits in the category of pctel. There is a pctel-0.8.6.tar.gz as well as an 0.9 version out there. Both compile nicely and and load properly when told this is via686a. The 0.8.6 version results in a segfault when accessing the modem with Kermit. The 0.9 version boots the box! Conclude this is not worth messing with -- get yourself a nice external modem and use it. If you get this one working, please write.

External ports

The external ports are


This box seems like a very decent deal for Feb 2002. The only thing not yet working here is the pctel modem which I think fits in the category of "winmodem", meaning it really is not a modem. Presumably the vendor has built support into his Fast Window linux because his system would not be usable without it. Even if it should not be usable, one can easily plug an external modem in to the single serial port, or put a real modem in the box. One of the big plusses with this box is that since Linux is supplied with it, you have reasonable assurance that the hardware is supported. The modem is a mild disappointment. Want of an AGP slot is also disappointing, but the supplied Trident chip is not shabby unless you are a gamer.

Last modified 28 Aug 2002 by
D. W. Wieboldt, dwiebold@cactus.org