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Bubba Two WiFi review

The revamped software and a wireless interface makes Excito's latest product the best Linux home and small-business server on the market. As Dmitri Popov discovers, literally everyone should have a Buba 2 WiFi...

This article originally appeared in issue 88 of Linux User & Developer magazine. Subscribe and save more than 30% and receive our exclusive money back guarantee – click here to find out more.

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Price: From £268
Operating system: Debian Etch-based, 6.32.6 kernel
CPU: 333MHz PowerPC
Network: 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports, 802.11a/b/g WiFi
Ports: 2x USB2.0,  2x eSATA
Power usage: 7-12W depending on HDD capacity
Bubba 2 homepage

Pros: Excellent build, fan-less design, low power consumption, wireless interface, user-friendly web-based front end
Cons: The current lack of 802.11 n wireless networking is a shame (though will arrive as a free download  at some point soon).

Bubba Two is not a new product, but the latest revision of this nifty little Linux-based home server sports two significant upgrades that warrant a closer look. At first sight, the updated Bubba Two model is similar to the original in almost every respect. It sports a minimalistic design, a solid aluminium case that can withstand harsh treatment, and a slew of ports on the back. However, a closer examination reveals two antennae on the back, which leads to the logical conclusion that the new model of Bubba Two now features a wireless network interface in addition to the wired Ethernet connector. This means, among other things, that you can now use the server to replace a wireless router on your network. This not only simplifies the network setup, but also lets you use Bubba Two’s own firewall to manage and control the internet traffic. Currently, Bubba Two supports only 802.11 a, b and g protocols. According to Excito, the company behind Bubba Two, the n driver from Atheros is not stable enough for production use, so the developers decided to play it safe and go with the tried-and-tested a/b/g bundle. This is a wise decision, indeed: you really wouldn’t want to jeopardise the stability of your server with a wonky driver. The good news is that as soon as the driver is deemed stable, it will be available as a free software update.

Bubba 2 Back
The non-WiFi Buba 2 features the same rear-panel layout

The new model also ships with a brand new version of the front-end software. Bubba Two’s web-based front end has been thoroughly reworked to make it easier for the end user to manage and use the server. A redesigned front page now provides instant access to Bubba Two’s core features, such as webmail, downloads, photos and music. Speaking of music, Bubba Two now has an embedded web-based music player in addition to the Firefly streaming server. This means that you can access and stream your music via a browser on any machine. The built-in file manager has also been redesigned from the ground up. Its streamlined interface sprinkled with AJAX makes it significantly easier to work with files stored on the server. All administrative functions have been regrouped and made more user-friendly, making server administration less intimidating for uninitiated users. In addition to that, the new interface sports a built-in context-sensitive help option.

Streaming music, downloading files and sharing photos are just a few of Bubba Two’s talents. Like its predecessor, the new version of Bubba Two ships with the Horde-based personal information manager and an assortment of servers, including Samba (which can now be managed via the web-based interface), Apache, MySQL and ProFTPD. You can also use Bubba Two as an email and print server. In other words, you can easily use Linux as a small business server that can handle pretty much any task you throw at it.

All in all, the latest version of Bubba Two is a worthy successor to the already excellent server. If you already have an original Bubba Two server, you don’t have to rush to buy the new version, though. You can upgrade to the latest version of the front-end software free of charge, while the Wi-Fi card is available as an upgrade option at the Excito store (you need to send an email to Excito to get the direct link).

Verdict: 5/5

Servers are not the sexiest hardware category, but the Bubba Two is truly exciting. It’s everything a home/small-business server should be: simple to use, easy to maintain and chock-full of genuinely useful features. If you are looking for a server for your home or business network, get Bubba Two.

Click here to see what else featured in issue 88 of Linux User & Developer magazine…