Technology Product Review: IBM PC 300PL a real cost-saver

Desktop management is the black hole of every corporate IT department, swallowing horrendous amounts of time and energy with its irresistible pulling force.

The time your staff spends on what are often menial tasks wastes their talents and diverts their attention from more important work. Although you'll never be able to control the actions of your users, you can free up valuable time by installing systems that were built with the IT department, and not the gamer, in mind. One system well-suited to this ideal is the IBM PC 300PL. I looked at one of these systems based on the brand-new 800MHz Pentium III processor from Intel.

In addition to having top-of-the-line subsystems that deliver blistering performance, the 300PL is loaded with features that improve security - both physical and electronic - and that make deployment and updating nearly automatic.

Security was the primary concern for this model, which provides protection from both physical and electronic attacks. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the new 256-bit security chip.

The chip can be used as, among other things, a tool for digitally signing e-mail so others can't send messages in your name and as a key exchange for encrypting and decrypting data signed with a certified RSA key.

The PC 300PL's physical security is also quite strong. For example, even when powered off, the LAN card is always on. If the machine were to be unplugged, an alert would be sent to the administrator's server.

Further, each machine comes with an RF (radio frequency) tag that will not only report when the box starts to walk away, but can actually say from which door and at what time. The tag can also be configured to hold customised information, such as what disk image the machine is supposed to be deployed with, what department owns it, and so on.

IBM has also extended its Universal Manageability services. New to this system is Alert on LAN, which notifies the administrator when an OS has crashed or the system is in trouble, giving administrators the ability to respond from a remote location. Update Connector provides an easy means of updating the latest drivers and BIOS software on all your machines without you ever having to touch one.

The only problem I found with the machine was in the video subsystem. Before choosing the Elsa Erazor X graphics card, IBM shipped the system with an inferior card. Unfortunately, the software for the old card was installed along with the software for the new card. Worse yet, it is very difficult to uninstall the old software, as it requires the presence of the old card. There were also some problems in the way the correct card was configured. These difficulties required some troubleshooting and were present in two machines IBM sent me; perhaps IBM will eventually shake out these annoyances.

IBM PC 300PL

Business case: IBM's PC 300PL comes loaded with hardware and software features that increase security, while greatly reducing the time required to deploy and manage them.

Technology case: The 300PL combines a great mix of performance, security, and manageability. A 256-bit security chip, RF label, intrusion alerts, Alert on LAN, a host of management tools, and top-quality components help make this a system that everyone will like.

Pros:

+ Overlapping physical security features+ Built-in, 256-bit security chip+ Quality subsystems+ Great management featuresCons:

- Video subsystem configured incorrectlyPlatform(s): Supports most major operating systems

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