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Tux Droid - Talking Linux Penguin
No matter how many strange products we get through the doors here at TrustedReviews there's always something stranger ready to pop up and baffle us some more. I think, though, that for pure surrealism the Tux Droid is going to be pretty hard to beat. Now it's hard to deny that some Linux fans can be pretty evangelistic about their operating system of choice but I wouldn't have thought that that religious dedication would extend so far at to want an idol of the Linux mascot, Tux the penguin, sitting on one's desk.
Apparently, though, I am mistaken because that's exactly what is sitting in front of me right now, and it's not just an effigy of the much-loved penguin, but a wirelessly connected moving speaking robot of sorts. More curiously, unlike most every piece of hardware on the planet, rather than having to hunt for hours on end to find a Linux driver, you'll discover that that only Linux users can use the Tux Droid as Windows drivers aren't available.
This may not seem like a huge issue (what Windows user wants a figure of the Linux mascot on their desk?) but it is a pain when you don't have a Linux machine to hand in order to properly test the dratted thing. It was therefore necessary to go through the fun business of setting up a system with Debian - not a task for the faint hearted. Still, mere days later I had my PC dual booting with Vista and Linux and it was time to have a play with Tux.
Installing the droid is a pleasantly simple affair if you are already a Linux user. If you're running on Debian or Ubuntu (a Debian derivative), you can simply download the .deb installer and run it to get the main drivers and program set up. If you're running any other flavour of Linux you'll need to jump into the terminal and do things the old-fashioned make install way. Whichever, the process is hardly complicated and once finished you simply need to plug in the included fish-shaped wireless transmitter dongle, turn on Tux, set your system to output sound over USB and hey presto you've got yourself a penguin shaped wireless speaker.
Of course that isn't particularly impressive, but luckily for Tux he's got a few more tricks up his sleeve. Being built on a Linux platform means that a whole host of open source applications are available to be assimilated into the Tux Droid software suite and I don't know about you, but when I think "wireless penguin shaped speaker" I also think "text to speech" and the developers of Tux are similarly minded - as evidenced by the inclusion of the Acapela TTS codec. To get started using this feature you'll first have to download your chosen voice from the Tux Droid website; at the moment there's a reasonable selection of languages and more are being added all the time.
Having installed these voices, the quickest and simplest way to get going with some TTS fun is to fire up the tuxgi test application (from the Terminal - so you'll probably want to make a shortcut) and simply type in your text to have Tux read it out. As well as this you can also test out the various moving appendages of Tux, making him spin left or right, flap his wings, flash his eyes and move his mouth. The latter is best used in conjunction with the TTS functionality and may even fool the casual observer into thinking you have a real talking penguin. Or perhaps not. Still, once you've tested your new toy you'll want to move onto the real purpose of Tux, namely the software packages supplied for use with it.