The Linux Gadget Hall of Fame: One geek's picks

Some of the most fascinating, fun and influential tech devices of all time are based on Linux. Our gadget geek names 10 of the best.

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Sansa Connect portable media player

SanDisk's Sansa Connect media player had a short, commercially unsuccessful life after it was introduced in the spring of 2007, but as a proof-of-concept device, it was an important success.

The Connect was the first media player to make intelligent use of Wi-Fi to provide seamless access to online media. Microsoft had already released Zune with built-in Wi-Fi, but the wireless applications for Zune were, and still are, relatively lame.

By contrast, the Sansa Connect hooked into the now-defunct Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription service, from which you could listen to, purchase and buy new music or listen to any of 150 Internet radio stations. It also connected seamlessly to Yahoo's Flickr photo service, providing mobile access to all your digital images. But best of all, it sported one of the clearest, easiest-to-use interfaces ever for a mobile media device.

Sansa Connect

The Sansa Connect

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Unfortunately, the Sansa Connect was inextricably tied to Yahoo's subscription music service, and such services still haven't found traction in the marketplace. But its easy-yet-powerful access to media and its delightful interface were clearly superior to the iPods that were then available.

These days, Apple's highly connective iPhone and iPod Touch are, quite possibly, the most compelling mobile media devices ever made. But the Sansa Connect paved the way, which lands it in the Linux Gadget Hall of Fame.

Archos mobile video players

Archos initially tried making a name for itself as a MP3 player vendor but found its primary competitor -- Apple's iPod -- too much to handle. So the company started specializing in Linux-based mobile media players that are particularly tuned to acquiring and playing video.

Archos 705 WiFi media player

The Archos 705 WiFi

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Videos play beautifully on Archos' devices, which have bright screens as large as 7 inches. Acquiring video is easy using built-in Wi-Fi. (One version, the Archos 5G, is even 3G-equipped.) That connectivity also makes these devices excellent tools for mobile Internet access. And, of course, they also play music.

The Archos players are like Amazon's Kindle and the Sansa Connect in that they make it easy to obtain content from the Internet, not just play it after being transferred from your computer. Content acquisition is so important to Archos that it even offers an optional DVR docking station for its players, a wonderful touch for mobile video enthusiasts.

While some of our Gadget Hall of Fame inductees deserve recognition for their uniqueness or first-to-market status, the Archos media players earn their place in the Hall by being best of breed. If you can't travel without your favorite TV shows and movies, Archos' mobile video devices are for you.

HTC T-Mobile G1 smart phone

Sports fans would scoff at the notion of a rookie being selected to the Hall of Fame, no matter how much potential the rookie has. But the gadget world moves much, much faster, and it seems like a safe bet to induct the G1 smart phone, built by Taiwan-based HTC Corp. and offered in the U.S. by T-Mobile, into the Linux Gadget Hall of Fame.

HTC T-Mobile G1 smart phone

The HTC T-Mobile G1

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Truth be told, the G1's hardware is just the container for the real star: Google's Android mobile platform, based on the Linux kernel. The G1 is the first publicly available device to use that platform. Early reviews have tended to focus more on what the platform can do -- its seamless access to Google services, for example -- than on the virtues of the hardware.

Not that HTC did a poor job with the hardware. Those reviews indicate a crisp display, a reasonably usable keyboard and even a bar code scanner, which can help you find reviews or low prices for specific products you scan.

But the Android Linux platform, developed by the Google-led Open Handset Alliance, and the applications available for it, are clearly the stars. The HTC G1, more than any other smart phone before it, shows the world that Linux is a rich platform for smart phones, which makes this rookie a shoo-in for the Linux Gadget Hall of Fame.

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