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You can set up any cheap Mac as a file and intranet server, but for really robust serving over TCP/IP you normally have to spend thousands on a high-end server and associated software. Cobalt Networks' Qube 2 gives you big-server capabilities on the cheap: you get Mac and Windows file sharing; Web, FTP, and e-mail serving; and Web-publishing tools for user pages and public files. And Web-based administration makes setup and maintenance a snapjust the thing for harried workgroup administrators.
The Qube 2's cobalt-blue box houses two 10/100 Ethernet jacks, a small LCD control panel, a serial port, and a PCI slot. Initial setup takes only a few minutes: you enter an IP address and other basic IP settings through the LCD panel and then switch to a Web browser for the remaining configuration steps. A quick-start guide explains the process, and a concise user's guide provides more-detailed information. Once the Qube is up and running, the LCD display lets you quickly verify that the server is operating normally. The built-in Web server automatically sets up a home page for each user, an intranet Web site for shared information, and a public site. You update the HTML for any site by simply copying the appropriate files, using Apple file sharing.
The Qube 2 comes in three configurations, ranging from 16MB of RAM and a 3.2GB hard drive to 64MB of RAM and a 10.2GB hard drive. The two memory slots support up to 256MB, and an available PCI slot provides for future expansion. A 250MHz RISC CPU runs Linux, but the Qube's elegant Web interface insulates you from Unix's complexities.
New with this model is a firewall function, network-address translation, dynamic IP addressing, SNMP remote management, dial-on-demand PPP Internet routing, anonymous FTP, and AppleShare file sharing over IP. The Web server now supports Microsoft FrontPage extensions, and the mail server includes antispam protection.
Live network tests showed the Qube 2 to be a sprightly and reliable server; it never crashed and was very responsive, even with 30 simultaneous users. Cobalt Networks has addressed nearly all the problems of the Qube 2's predecessor, the Qube 2700: occasionally sluggish performance, missing AppleShare IP support, and MIME mapping. The user's manual is still too brief, however, lacking detailed illustrations and user-interface screen shots.
Macworld's Buying Advice If you're setting up intranet or Internet services for a small or medium-size workgroup but can't afford a dedicated Mac server, the Qube 2 is for you. Quick setup, reliable operation, and a comprehensive suite of servicesready to run right out of the box, at a very reasonable pricemake it an easy choice.
RATING: PROS: Web-based administration; Apple and Windows file sharing; full Internet server suite; dynamic IP addressing. CONS: Incomplete documentation. COMPANY: Cobalt Networks (888/702-6225, http://www.cobaltmicro.com ). LIST PRICE: 16MB/3.2GB, $999; 32MB/7.6GB, $1,499; 64MB/10.2GB, $1,799.
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