Well, you could buy a Linksys NSLU2 (ca. $80) and a USB hard drive, and put Linux on that... There are a couple of flavors of Linux available for the Slug, including Debian. (I'd suggest cracking open the case and pulling off the resistor which cuts its clock speed in half.) It's not blindingly fast, it doesn't have huge amounts of memory, but it's got enough juice to run Apache and PHP.To which I say: interesting!
After some research, I found the Linux of which he spoke. It does indeed look keen. But a web-server is out of the question, since Comcast blocks the HTTP ports, AFAIK. So whatever I created would be just for the local internets, and who wants to make a web page that only you & the wife & the kids can see? A cool sandbox, sure, but heck, I can run a local web-server directly in Mac OS X, since it has Apache built in (and just needs a couple switches thrown to enable PHP).
So, nice idea, nice toy, but I thought I couldn't justify it. Until...
Like a bolt from the blue, it hit me last night: I could run a Subversion server on it! Subversion (or SVN) is a version-control system (like CVS), used mostly in software development so multiple developers can work on the same project without stepping on each others' toes. However, it's also been adopted by Animation:Master for use when multiple animators/modelers/etc. are working on the same project. Because it saves revisions, it's the perfect backup system even if you're the only person working on a project. So I'd do my work, backup to SVN, and never worry about a corrupted file or dead HD again!
And of course, if I ever decide to do another big collaboration, I can open the appropriate ports on the ol' router, and bang, we gots us a world-wide server, with no need to leave any computers on 24/7! Yowza!
And that doesn't even include the simple fact that K & I need a way to backup all our 'puters, which is what the NSLU2 was actually, y'know, designed for.
Now if I had only had this revelation when there was actually money in our checking account.