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Basic Features

The Mirra appliance is attractively packaged in a charcoal grey and silver plastic enclosure that's considerably larger than your average consumer networking device. (Think tall, slim toaster and you'll have the proper mental image.) Though it can be laid on its side, you can tell the Mirra is intended to stand vertically.

Despite the many connectors in its front and rear panels (more later), the only connectors that you'll need to deal with are the power connector and 10/100 Ethernet jack. The Mirra communicates status via unmarked amber and green front panel LEDs - which flank the single Power button - and a built in speaker that's used to play a startup tone when it's ready for business.

Technical Details

Mirra's product is really a networked application with client, server and web service components. The server portion is the Mirra appliance, which is based on a VIA mini-ITX computer, running a customized Debian Linux-based disto. The client is an application built on Microsoft's .NET 1.1 (now there's an interesting combination of technologies!), which is foisted upon (uh...make that automatically installed) every WinXP or 2000 computer that wants to partake of Mirra's file serving magic. No details are available on the web service part of Mirra's magic, other than it seems to work well through normal NAT-based router firewalls.

Inside the Mirra appliance

Figure 1: Inside the Mirra appliance

The computer uses a VIA EPIA mainboard based on a VIA Eden ESP 5000 processor, which sports a 100/133MHz Front Side bus. The computer has a full complement of ports (including audio, TV out, video and four USB), but all are considered off-limits to users. Some are blocked by (removable) plastic caps, while others are hidden behind a thin plastic sheet glued onto the rear connector panel. Actually, the USB ports at some point may become active, but Mirra has no definite plans for them just yet.

The box comes in 80 and 120GB flavors, with my review unit being the former and using a Western Digital Caviar WD800BB 80GB 7200RPM drive. Since the only noise sources are the hard drive and power supply fan, the Mirra is actually pretty quiet in operation and didn't add appreciably to the fan drone from the other stuff in my office.

Tip TIP: Adventurous souls who don't mind voiding their warranty can pry off the cap on the rear panel video connector and peel down the plastic sheet over the keyboard and mouse connectors and get right to the Debian login prompt. But you'll first need to get past the login, which didn't yield to any of the obvious combinations I threw at it!

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