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The Virgin Connect Webplayer was a web appliance for free service provided by Virgin Connect. By signing up, they would send you a free Acer-built 200MHz Geode CPU computer with a DSTN laptop-type screen, a Disk-on-Chip module, a modem, USB ports and 64 megs of RAM.

All you had to do was agree to surf for 10 hours per month on their free dial-up service. They'd track what you did and spam you with advertising. I picked mine up, but I never did get it out of the box. It sat on a shelf for quite a while, until I received a letter saying that the service was going to be discontinued in November 2000. They sent along a postage-paid label to mail the device back. They also said that since the device would only work with their dead service, you didn't have to send it in if you didn't want to. I thought I'd have some nifty parts to hack on.

Well, some hardware geeks cracked the web appliance so you could do one of two things: use your ISP or turn it into a stand-alone computer. Sitting in front of me is a Virgin Connect Webplayer without the case. I've connected a hard drive and it's running Windows ME. Since it has two built-in USB ports, I am buying a USB ethernet device today through EBay. Besides WinME, it has the Opera browser, Signal9's killer firewall and an MP3 player. It's playing Paul Oakenfold right this very minute.

A free computer with a wireless keyboard/mouse that will soon sit next to my bigscreen TV. What more could you ask for? (OK, Linux, but I need to locate device drivers for some of the items. What else besides that could you ask for?)

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