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back to article Wal-Mart stores drop cheap-as-chips Linux PC

Wal-Mart has stopped selling cheap PCs pre-loaded with Linux at its stores because consumer just weren't interested enough, the retail colossus said yesterday. "This really wasn't what our customers were looking for," a company spokeswoman told the Associated Press newsagency. Wal-Mart's experiment started in October 2007. The …

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The question

"The move highlights one of the key challenges for Linux: can it become relevant to ordinary users?"

I disagree - I think most people who know Linux know it is relevant for ordinary users.

The challenge for Linux is whether ordinary users can be persuaded to give it a go.

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Anonymous Coward

Who funds the advertising push?

That's the problem with open source systems; there's no advertising budget to educate the masses, washed or otherwise. If I hear that annoying da-DA-da-DING on my TV one more time, I'll scream.

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Low Spec

I glanced at the spec and decided I'd want something more powerful and with more memory (and therefore at a higher price), but that's probably just based on what I do with my current Linux box. It might make a good router to replace my ancient P2-200MHz, that doesn't need power, just space for three ethernet cards.

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Linux

3 Strike rule...

The gPC - now out as the gPC2 - has a 1.5GHz VIA C7-D processor, 512MB of DDR 2 memory, an 80GB hard drive and a DVD-ROM/CD-RW optical unit.

Personally I think ~that's your problem right there!~

Yes I know Linux doesn't need much "Juice" to run, but;

A VIA C7?? (Strike One)

Only 512 [I'm hopeing it's at least DDR2] (Strike Two)

80Gib HDD (Strike Three)

...It's out!

Now had they bundled Ubuntu (or my personaly fav. *Mythbuntu), and had given it say a low-end Core2 Duo part @ 1.5Ghz, and Two Gig's of DDR2 RAM and a 500Gib HDD, they'd like have had a Winner!

And you'd have a rig that would kill bot XP MCE and Vista MCE, if only tn the DVB-x(2) (Minus T), Markets of Europe.

Thanks Micorsoft your lack of DVB-x(2) support has made me go out and find something a ~Hell of a lot better!!~

* Yeah I know they also have to chuck in a Tuner Card aswell it's not like they cost a fourtune anyway!

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@M Habel

Yeah I'm sure sticking $70 in more ram, $50 in processor and $80 in Hard drive (total $200) in upgrades on a $200 PC specifically designed to be as cheap as possible would be a hit.

The specs of that PC make for a perfectly capable machine for use viewing emails, using the internet, printing, uploading images from digital cameras, low spec 'games' (puzzle games, card games etc), watching standard def TV downloads, storing a normal users (not bit torrent alholics) music collection and finally an auto-updating WINE installation.

The only important aspect is how easy the OS makes doing these things, if it has mastered this it has a fighting chance.

When my relatives (none of which are gamers) buy computers, without exception the only thing stopping them getting a cheap linux machine is the fear of a new interface, and the fact that some windows program (grand master chess or such rubbish) that they virtually never use (and certainly don't need) might not work.

This means my Grandfather who would of been 100% fine on the above machine, ends up spending 7x as much on a Dell.

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Happy

Price isn't THAT attractive

For $600 Cdn (clearance), I recently brought home a Dell Inspiron 530 (1.6GHz dual core, 2GB DD2 ram, 320GB HDD, DVD burner, 3-yr warranty) including a nice 22-inch LCD monitor worth $300 by itself. That makes the 530 tower effectively a $300 item. So, $200 for a cut-down PC isn't so attractive.

YMMV.

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@Mike Habel

What on Earth would they put 2GB of RAM into this box for? Setting aside for a second the fact that this is unashamedly a budget box, how would you ever use that much RAM? I've run Linux for years on 512MB and have almost never started swapping, not even when using the Gimp.

You're not the target market for this box. It's a low-power system that will do the web, email and word processing perfectly well, plus the occasional casual game. (OK, the Via processor's a bit weak but, still, a desktop system for £99? Not bad!)

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Ed
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'Most users'

No, 'most users' are not even aware Linux exists. Many aren't even aware Apple have an OS and make computers. Even if they are, they aren't aware of the benefits and most of the time they aren't aware that Windows costs them money.

Until someone (like Ubuntu) starts doing massive advertising campaigns you won't see your average 'I just get my email and browse the net a bit' users using linux. At the same time, I don't think Ubuntu is there yet, or will be for another few years.

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Low spec??

I'm not a marketing expert (won't let that stop me) but who is/was the target audience? If it's the letter typer/e-mailer/web browser then the spec is more than adequate. Even for printing/editing/backup of digital pics it prop wouldn't be pushed. If you're loking for more then maybe you wouldn't be pc shopping in Walmart

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Flame

Target Market

All well and good saying 'not powerful enough, lacking memory' etc, but you have to consider the target market. This was aimed solely at people who just want a cheap pc to do internet browsing, email and word processing. For £100, you get that so you can't grumble. It's being dropped as with so many linux boxes that have been launched and failed, your average Joe punter doesn't want it. They want something they are familiar with and lets face it, to the average punter, Windows IS the desktop.

It's no good spouting all the FUD that goes with linux 'it's ready for the desktop', 'so easy my grandma can use it' 'MS giving people no choice'. People have got a choice. Every year without fail a couple of companies launch a linux box with the claim 'this year is the year linux goes mainstream' and have done for at least 10 years. With the exception of the eeepc, every one of these attempts have failed.

Linux is fantastic once it has been set up to do specific tasks but when it goes wrong you have to be VERY confident with a command line. Something like the xorg.conf file is beyond most users ability to understand, and the directory structure? How does a beginner make sense of etc, bin, usr, opt, lib etc compared with windows (oh that is where windows is) program files (my programs must be in there) and documents and settings (thats where I keep my files). If something goes wrong, they end up having to call in somebody who knows what they are doing and that rules out all the cheap people they see in the local paper (I fix your computer £10 - no fix no fee) as their advice nearly always ends up being 'you'll need to re-install everything'.

Worst case Windows scenario for most users would see them having to put the restore disk in and it is put back to how it left the factory - nice and easy and doesn't cost them any money. Same could be said for a factory supplied linux PC, but what about the hardware that wasn't included in the original configuration?

Try and explain to do something simple like how to install their printer in linux and it goes right over their head. Tarball example:

Open a terminal

Log in as root

# cd home/download-location

# tar -xzvf myprinter-5.08.01-f001.tar.gz

# cd myprinter-5.08.01-f001

# ./configure user-options

# make

# make install

Even RPM files are not much better.

Open terminal

Log in as root

# cd home/download-location

# rpm -i myprinter-5.08.01-f001.rpm

Where did it go? did it install? now what?

Compare that with Windows:

Download driver (Assuming Windows doesn't already have a driver)

Double click downloaded file

click Next

Your printer is now installed

Trying to explain to someone like this over the phone how to change windows settings can be difficult. Trying to spell out obscure syntax for the command line fixes in linux is damn near impossible. It needs to be made a LOT more user friendly before it will make it big, but there are way too many different distros for this to happen as they all try and outdo each other instead of focusing on producing just a couple of easy to use ones. It's no good trying to explain to Joe that this distro is better for xyz, that distro focuses on abc - they just want something that works without having to look into a hundred different OS types that all say they are linux (what's ubuntu, fedora, mandriva, puppy, xandros, debian, suse, gentoo, turbo, knoppix, morphix - stuff it give me Windows)

This list just proves the point

http://www.frozentech.com/content/livecd.php

Then try and explain to them that a package written for debian won't work on fedora (but it's all linux right?)

Flame away, it doesn't make me any less right

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Gold badge

US doesn't do cheap?

Normal machines are so cheap, I don't see why anyone would buy such a low end machine?

Maybe for a present for an elderly relative.

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AF
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@ AC: Target Market epic

Bang on, couldn't have said it better.

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Bronze badge

Don't want to start a fight.

To the guy who said that Linux needs to be more friendly:

Perhaps you've got a point but I've got a dual boot Mandriva/Windows system where I mostly use Windows.

I had to replace some parts due to a hardware failure. It took ages with Windows. The first problem was that it wanted the license key again, then it didn't like it and I had to go to Microsoft. To cut a long story short I had to re-install and re-download 1001 patches which took most of my day.

I then booted up Mandiva, expecting the worst. It said to me "I see you've changed the hardware, do you want me to sort it out?", I said "Yes" and in five minutes it was done.

Perhaps I was lucky, but if this is what Linux is like, I'll have some more!

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Stop

Linux still not ready

I've been hearing how Linux is almost ready for the desktop since I started using it over a decade ago. It's not. The AC above made a good point about installing drivers and the occasional need to drop to the terminal to make changes and it's a good one, even if there are GUI wrappers to Yum, YaST, up2date, apt, etc., it's still not quite there. Apparently, it's still almost ready.

I gave up waiting and switched to OSX.

Sure, it's still the best server option (maybe behind FreeBSD, but hey, that's another pot calling a fish in a barrel a kettle or something) available, but it's not ready for the desktop. A friend has an EeEeEeEePC, but he spends a lot of time facing a command prompt.

Let's face it, people may think they only want email and a browser, but they then realise their music player, camera, printer all enjoy having a computer around and that someone emailed them a powerpoint full of fluffy kittens reminding them to listen again to the Archers on the BBC website.

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Gates Horns

They sold every box

Nobody noticed that they actually

SOLD EVERY BOX

they put on the shelves.

How does this translate

"Users don't want it"?????????

Will be interesting to see the next filling to the SEC for check from known antitrust violators.

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Linux

GNU/Linux is ready

I use GNU/Linux in schools. Kids and teachers use it all the time with no problems. What is not ready? The end-user does not install drivers. The end-user uses drives, printers, the monitor, mouse and keyboard. Every driver for many common devices is included with the kernel. How cool is that? CUPS supports a massive number of printers. Check compatibility before you buy hardware and you will have no problems that way.

GNU/Linux has been ready for about a decade. People who resist change are all that is holding it up, and M$'s anti-competitive practices. Did you ever see Walmart advertising the GNU/Linux boxes on TV or in print? I thought not. I guess they did not want to offend M$. One of M$'s pet tactics is to require exclusivity. Walmart is tough with suppliers. They should be tough with OEMs and M$. The same goes for Dell. Try buying a GNU/Linux box from them if you just visit the site and finding a box. They do not give GNU/Linux as a radio button on the choice of OS, ever... How strange is that? Could it be that M$ forbids head-to-head competition?

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Tom
Silver badge

Sold out but no demand????

That'll be the 'we tried but no-one was interested' ploy of the monopolies somewhere in the background.

As for not high enuf spec - I havent seen a machine that will run Vista as responsively as Ubuntu on a 512MB 1Ghz machine... I wont say yet because it breaks my heart to see a supercomputer reduced to dribbling so I'm not looking anymore...

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Heart

EEE seems like a breakout success to me.

I've only got anecdotal evidence, but the EEE seems like a breakout success to me.

A friend of mine bought one, and I've personally seen two other people go straight out and buy one for themselves, just on the strength of playing with his for a few minutes. My friend knows of another two people who also bought one after they saw his.

These are all non-techies. They get really excited by the EEE, and immediately want one. When they find out how cheap it is, they just go and buy it there and then.

It that kind of viral success is widespread, then in a few months everyone will have one...

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Printers

It's funny you should mention printers, I know the bloke working on the gutten print driver who deals with canon Pixma drivers. nice bloke. When I got my Canon iP5000 I had a Mac (Powerbook G4 17") Alas when I gave the powerbook away (no use for mac any more) the printer was a worry because I know Canon are complete tits at supporting linux.

I plugged it in, I went to File > Print and low and behold if the damn thing wasn't there ready to print from.

It's not even that easy on Mac OSX.

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Jobs Horns

Robert

As was posted above 'Linux is fantastic once it has been set up to do specific tasks'

So you saying

'I use GNU/Linux in schools. Kids and teachers use it all the time with no problems.' does not make the issue about making it mainstream and getting into peoples homes valid.

I assume that at school, somebody who knows what they are doing set it up and maintains it so that end-users CAN just get on with things. At home, you don't have that technical support on tap so the above points ARE valid.

And enough with the anti-competitive crap about MS. It isn't just MS who engage in anti-competitive practices. It's every corporation on the planet. The idea is to stay a step ahead of your rivals by any means necessary, not shake them by the hand and pretend to be please they are doing well. That's business. You can just as easily say the exact same thing about Apple, Sony, Intel, Wal-Mart (list goes on and on)

@They sold every box

Just the fact that they sold every box does not mean the mass market wants it. No figures are released to say how many sold, it could easily just have been 5 that were shipped to every store and no market research was done to see WHO was buying them. I would bet that nearly if not all of them went to people who are confident with computers and had no intention of using it as their desktop. More likely they were bought to configure as a router/firewall/media server or for some other task that doesn't require masses of computing power. What would be interesting is to see if any were returned and what reason was given for doing so.

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IT Angle

@ Anonymous Coward - Re: printer install

Last time I installed a printer in Linux, I plugged it in and was greeted with a message saying that 'an HP LaserJet blah blah' had been configured and would I like to print a test page.

Took 15 secs, required no disks and all I had to do was plug it in and click on 'OK'.

Must admit, I was quite impressed!

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PERFECT for Router.

This is the perfect machine for a router.

This VIA CPU does line rate crypto so you can use OpenVPN w/ no impact.

You can also do file system encryption w/ almost no impact on the system.

As an added perc, they use very little power.

I have 6 of the machines acting as VPN routers and love them.

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Linux

Re: Taget Market claptrap

Your example for installing a printer is *completely wrong*. I've never had to resort to installing a printer that way.

Generally, you use the "Install Printer Wizard"; select your printer model and a few clicks later it's ready to use. The commandline is not necessary...

Plus, you don't need to worry about what packages your Linux distribution uses as the (GUI) package manager that comes with it does everything seamlessly in the background from it's own software repository. Job done :)

The problem with installing printers in Windows is all the guff that comes with the 'driver'. Have look at the HP C5180 driver, it comes in at 159MB, FFS! The HP package with drivers for *all* their printers is a measly 13.5Mb.

Give me Linux over Windows any day...

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Bronze badge
Gates Halo

Games

It's a computer you can use for E-mail and web surfing. But none of the games they sell in the same store will run on it. This could lead to unhappy customers who were confused when they bought it complaining: they expect, if they buy a VCR at Wal-Mart, any VHS movie sold there will play on it, after all.

So I'm not surprised a retail outlet of that general type feels itself not to be the proper outlet to sell something as exotic as a Linux-based PC. If they could still sell them with a red skull-and-crossbones sticker that says "DANGER: Will not run software for Microsoft Windows" on them, they might have reconsidered.

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Bronze badge

not enough profit per box to justify the shelf space in the stores

pure and simple...

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W
Linux

"Target Market Epic": Return of the penguin wannabe.

Linux is great in theory, but...

1)

Learn from the supermarkets' Basics/Normal/Finest theory and streamline the Linux distros to;

a)"Fisher Price"

b)"Normal", and

c)"Geek Toy"

versions, supporting a wide range of specs (but allowing for low specs up to a point). Do what you want with the "Geek Toy" version, including support for all the "running it on a toaster options. But for the "Fisher Price" and "Normal" versions, relegate GUIs to the status of media player or browser style skins. Keep it basic from the off and let the user add the bells and whistles.

2)

Sort out the directory structure. Only when the "Fisher Price" customers understand it, will it be good enough for 'the market'. Computers are, after all, logic machines. So lets structure them logically.

3)

Ditch the command line completely in "Fisher Price" and "Normal" editions. DOS commandline effectively evaporated 12 years ago, if not before. Nuff said.

4)

Overcome the drivers issue so that "drivers issue" becomes an oxymoron and "just works" becomes the truth. Again, whatever needs to be done must be done before "it's ready".

5)

Stop asking questions about partitions or filesystems. Just make migration and interoperation with Windows a seamless experience. If you do, make it simple enough for a nine year old to answer. Make it an option, but don't bang on about dual booting. If I got in a car, you wouldn't ask if I wanted to use petrol or diesel when I turned the key.

-I'm a bit geeky, but I'm not a sysadmin. I've tried a few Linux versions on my XPS M1330 (Kubuntu, Xubuntu, Fluxbuntu, Puppy, DSL). They worked splendidly, but I didn't install from the LiveCD as I honestly couldn't see the benefit over Vista and wouldn't be able to use or AutoCAD or the wonderful Paint.NET (shush about The Gimp - you know why) etc etc etc.

-Tried 'em on an acquired old Compaq Armada P166 with 128MB RAM instead of Windows 98 with the intention of using it as the fabled "email+internet+letters". Worked fine. Until I wanted it to recognise the Buffalo WiFi card. No internet, no Penguin. And a reluctant waddle back to 98 until the Penguin gets friendly with the Buffalo.

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J
Alien

@Michael

It might be my poor command of English but...

"I used linux, for 10 years before Tovalds wrote it. But even so during that decade wait, I never thought "when torvalds has finished, I really want a crappy underspecced PC that's useless for anything to run it on""

Do I misunderstand this or are you a time traveler!? You used Linux 10 years *before* Torvalds wrote it? Like 1981 or something?

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IT Angle

Re: EEE seems like a breakout success to me.

>"When they find out how cheap it is, they just go and buy it there and then."

-Where from?

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J
Pirate

Back to the story

Yep, first thing I thought: customers don't want? It sold out!

Then I saw in my mind's eye what most probably happened:

Customer sees sweet deal at Wal-Mart, some computer thing that's dirt cheap. Takes it home, turns it on it looks different. That's fine, somewhere in the fine print it said it wasn't Windows, so let's see.

But why doesn't this thing want to install the copy of Office and/or <insert DirectX-requiring game of preference>, etc. that customer "borrowed" from work/friend? Computer must be broken. Customer goes back to Wal-Mart to complain...

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Ru
Silver badge

Printers, continued...

On the same subject, I've recently had the pleasure of having to install a printer onto my Windows XP laptop. HP thoughtfully provided an enormous amount of useless (genuinely so, not just in comparison to other software of similar purpose), bloated software to help me print, manage and edit photos even after I demanded that it install the absolute bare minimum.

The software added all sorts of extra unnecessary services, update systems and little nagging popup messages. The moment I'd done my printing, it all got removed.

Now to be sure printer support is not as good under *nix as under windows, but if that is the price I have to pay for lean software that does the job I want it to do without the presence of a whole bunch of useless resource-devouring crapplets, I'll gladly do so. Especially as printer support is pretty reasonable, on the whole.

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Dead Vulture

@ Robert Pogson - "GNU/Linux is ready"

<--- Haemorrhaging Heron

"The end-user does not install drivers"

Really? Tell that to the PC I've been trying to get Ubuntu to run on for the last week. It runs XP fine, 'right out of the box'.

"M$" ... "M$"... "M$"... "M$"... "M$"

F**k. Right. Off.

Idiot.

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It's a Conspiracy!

Or maybe people just don't want a PC that runs ersatz software...

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To Anonymous Coward

You have an apt name. Your message gives the impression that you're part of the Microsoft publicity machine.

Your method of installing a printer is way out of date. On the distributions I currently use it's done by GUI (rather than the command line) and it's as easy as Microsoft's. I'm not going to go into the many superiorities of Linux over Windows.

I use Linux at home and have very few problems with it. I use Windows at work and am frequently suffering with it. Anyone with an open mind soon realises the superiority of a modern Linux distribution over Windows + Office etc.

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@EEE

yeah but the eee is a success because of the hardware not the operating system.

What I really want is that f----ing £650 vye mini-v 37 to have xp on it instead of Vista home - utter jokers. The far more powerful £800 version has xp on it but that's too much...

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Anonymous Coward

@They sold every box

RE: "How does this translate Users don't want it"?????????"

It doesn't. It translates as users weren't buying at the rate we expect. Every square foot of retail space is expected to produce MONEY at a certain rate. If it doesn't then the space is losing money.

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Linux

Its the swarm!

After 10 years of using Linux, I've come to the following conclusions on why it hasn't made mainstream desktop success:

- Games. Besides ID Software and some FPS (Half-Life, Unreal Tournament), most game devs drank the Kool-Aid and use DirectX instead of OpenGL. So few Linux games.

- Too many distros, too many weird names. Face it: the average Joe isn't going to install something with a weird name; while "Ubuntu" might fare well in Africa, the name just sounds freakish to the rest of us. (Try "gentoo", "mepis", "xandros" as well.) They might make it, but it requires...

- Marketing. Thats how Apple and M$ made it.

- Geeky appliances: Ever tried to set up a webcam? One of those god-awful winmodems? Fakeraids? Scanner? HID's? Most of them have windows-only drivers, and those that *do* have linux reverse-engineered drivers usually are tarballs, which go beyond the scope of the average user. This is a MAJOR issue, and I haven't seen a fix; in fact, the number of "close encounters of the ugly kind" experiences have increased on this field. Though most "normal" equipment works w/o any trouble though...

- Video Drivers: Ok, nVidia generally works, but the installer's command-line, even if it is easy, it isn't appealing to common users. Including them in standard distros would be good (and just stop being so uptight about closed-source drivers!!!)

- Tech Support: The biggie. Mainstream outlets have Windows-only support dudes, so it usually goes down to "that dude that knows how to run Linux" or public support forums... where the average Joe would be exposed to the continuous wankfest of "my distro's better than your distro" and god forbid he falls into a *BSD worship cult forum. Mostly, he'd be told to RTFM or to be called a luser because of his n00bness. And the "dude who runs Linux" may not be always available for help...

Still with all that, an out-of-the-box PC shouldn't be a problem with a pre-installed Linux and a recovery CD. Its the weird peripherals that would turn the user's experience into a nightmare ...

Me? I still dual-boot. My webcam ain't working in Linux :(

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Silver badge

@John Rose

"Anyone with an open mind soon realises the superiority of a modern Linux distribution..."

When Linux will run Premiere Photoshop, Renoise, and any modern games at all, it may be viable for me to use. And when the most user-friendly "for human beings" installer doesn't make me decide how to partition the disk (how the f*ck am I supposed to know how big to make a swap partition? WTF is this other stuff?). And when the linux 'faithful' stop being faithful and get on with their bloody jobs - because the OS is a means to and end, and not an end in itself.

The fact that years and years of sanctimonious, self-righteous pounding, and decades of work by the ever-so-efficient OSS community have utterly and completely failed to make any inroads for linux on the average users' desktop says something - and it's not that Microsoft is somehow sabotaging the whole deal with their black helicopters.

Linux is not ready because its proponents would HATE what linux would become were it ever to BE ready.

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Go

Maybe GNU/Linux *is* ready...?

I bought an Eee for Christmas. Plugged in my Vodafone 3G USB dongle. It auto-detected, popped up a dialog, and in a couple of clicks I was surfing away without any proprietary dialer. Simple, clean, seamless user experience, on GNU/Linux.

On my XP laptops, I have to browse to the virtual USB drive (autorun disabled to keep out malware), run the install package, reboot, and then every time I want to use it I have to use the crappy Vodafone Connect programme (maybe there is another way but that's what is encouraged by default).

Yes, I've had bad experiences try to set up printer and scanner sharing on Linux in the past, but I wouldn't automatically assume that XP is better any more. As for Vista, that's the sort of "software" airgaps were invented to keep out.

Also, these GNU/Linux distros seem to actually *improve* over time. I have no real axe to grind, but Microsoft seems to produce worse software every year.

If only I could buy top-of-the-range Thinkpads with my choice of pre-installed GNU/Linux distro and dual boot XP for "emergencies" I'd be a full-time convert.

John

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Silver badge

Price does matter

The price does matter. Normal people do not care about the operating system that is on their boxes.

They just want to have a system that works. Microsoft has not yet been able to deliver anything close to that. Ubuntu Linux, especially in the Kubuntu version just seems to well better for that reason.

With Ubuntu you do not need to go to the console for a normal installation with not extremely exotic hardware.

People often forget one important problem with Windows. Users get trained to click "OK" or "Accept" or "Yes" every time a dialog box pops up. Even when they read it, they have to face texts like

"c:\windows\system\slkjsdgkj.dll wants to connect to server 143.135.23.23 port 2323. Do you want to want to not block this."

Then just think about software installation. Under most Linux distributions you have a point "install or upgrade software" where you can simply search for the kind of programm you want to have. Under Windows there is no save way of getting software. Some users resort to typing "something free download" into a search engine and click on the first non-sponsored link installing everything they get. Even if they don't get any malware that way, the lack of a standard installer allong with the often extremely bad quality of those "free downloads" will eventually cause the system to fail.

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Happy

to all my bashers

Using a printer may have been a poor example, but it was just that AN EXAMPLE. I am well aware that many printers are supported directly these days, and can be installed by GUI however there are still far too many things for which you do have to use the methods I showed above, especially if you want something that isn't part of the authorised repository.

@John Rose

No I am not part of MS, and I happen to like linux. 10 of my 12 servers run linux, each doing different jobs. Yes the other 2 run Windows 2003. I am merely pointing out the facts as they apply to bog standard 'don't know anything but point and click' users. And whether you are willing to admit it or not, as other people have stated (thanks for backing me up guys!) linux still has a long way to go to meet these peoples requirements and unfortunately that type of person is in the majority.

As for publishing as an AC, I have my reasons. Namely that I am one of those increasingly rare people who give credit where it is due. If MS do something right (and yes they do every now and again), I say so automatically making me a target for people like yourself whose instant reaction is 'MS fanboy - kill kill kill, boo hiss evil MS'

When a linux distro do something well, I praise them, same when Apple do something right (which is getting rarer with Jobs at the helm).

But I also look objectively and criticise all 3 where necessary. When I do it always draws flames from people who are stuck in 1 mindset (linux is the best thing in the world, Apple can do no wrong, MS are the best)

This way, I can criticise something without an idiot jumping in claiming I was an Apple/Linux/MS fanboy last week and my comments contradict each other, without actually putting what I said in context. Also as AC, it is interesting to see just what flames I will get today - some of them just show themselves up as knowing nothing whatsoever about the topic, and some are downright hilarious.

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Silver badge
Alert

There was only one reason I didn't buy one

I couldn't find one!

There's half a dozen Wal Marts within 35 miles of me, and not one of them carried it! Even the online outlet said "local stores only", so that wasn't any help either.

This computer, like the Eee PC, seems to have been a mythical animal, much talked about, but never actually seen in the wild.

Shame too, I was looking, still am, for a low spec, off the shelf system just to use as an internet only machine. Oh well...

(Seriously, El Reg needs a WTF? icon!)

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@Christian Berger

"Normal people do not care about the operating system that is on their boxes.

They just want to have a system that works. Microsoft has not yet been able to deliver anything close to that."

This explains why nobody uses Windows, then. And, oddly, even though windows does not and has never, apparently, "worked", I can run my entire business on Windows. And plenty of other people do, too.

Maybe it's like Wile E. Coyote and gravity - now that I've read your post all my windows machines will suddenly stop working. I'll let you know.

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Jobs Horns

@ David Wiernicki

"when the most user-friendly "for human beings" installer doesn't make me decide how to partition the disk..."

What part of "guided partitioning" is too complex? The part where you click "OK" (or whatever it is, I haven't done a partitioning in a couple of months)?

I run Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows XP Pro, Windows Server 2000 and 2003, Ubuntu and Kubuntu, and Debian Linux. I manage about two dozen servers, 75 desktops, and 40 notebooks, including my own personal systems. The only problems I've ever had with the Linux systems were caused by me, personally, doing things quite esoteric and generally recommended against (like trying to use APT to update VHCS2).

I have pretty constant problems with Vista, and some problems with XP and Server 2K and 2K3, all of which can be laid directly at the feet of the Microsoft programmers' idea that "we should hide the controls for this function, so that end users who need to use it will call Tech Support at US$235 per incident." Things like "Data Execution Prevention" which consistently tells me that Windows Explorer is trying to execute a data buffer, and Vista telling me that the program I just closed has "stopped working" and offering to transmit some random data back to Redmond while it pretends to "search for a solution."

Oh, and my printers (Canon, Brother, HP, Xerox, Konica/Minolta and Epson) "just work" when I connect them to a Linux machine. I have to locate the driver CD for Windows - and not just *any* driver CD, but the one for Vista, or XP, or 2000. And then I have to run Windows Update to get the latest version, and reboot, possibly several times.

My wife, a serious Luddite, has express an interest in trying Linux on her desktop. As soon as I can break away from house renovation, I'm going to give her a dual-boot machine and see how much hand-holding she really needs.

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Gates Horns

Re: Three strikes

Ok I wrote that comment in a rush, (had to head off for work)-

So let me take a moment to clarify my point(s)...

Lame OS Wars aside ~and let's fas it it's 2008 and *if* you were incined to do so you could run anything off a "Beige Box", yes even Leopard! The only hindrance being on the hardware side.

Now it's kind of funny now that I come to think about it, it has been a long while since I've seen an Intel Commercial, then again I don't tend to watch to much Commercial TV either. I 'd guess the last one would've been for the intelMac about a Year or so now.

The point is (or was throughout the '90s), we were told that bigger numbers were better! It's like I said before I *know* that Linux doen't actually need a lot of horsepower (One does wonder about Compiz though), to run it. Sadly for the People marking this PC I think that message stuck. Perhaps I to much of a nerd (or indeed not nerdey enough!), but those "Specs" are a joke, and I think enven "Granny" would have no problems suspecting this.

While a 2Ghz CD2 + 2GiB DDR2 & 500Gib HDD, might be considered overkill for a baseline System, it is in my opinion where the "market is at". please keep in mind that I thinking of a 945 Chipset and some of the very lowest of the low-end C2D's here, we can argue about the amout of RAM and or HDD space, as these can be changed simply enough at a latter time.

The question here is: Was Wal-Mart trying to sell us a PC ~on an internet appliance??~ One assumes something bordering that mythical level of "Vista Ready", while the other implies what your all moaning on about, as such it's no wonder it failed.

If some one really wants a PC then there going to go with the most recognizable names in the industry first Dell, HP, Acer, Toshiba or S0NY. Sadly if Linux is going to "breakthrough" it'll have to come from these guys, and well I sure Redmond will have something to say about that.

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@ Morely Dotes

How about letting your wife do it herself and reporting back.

Let your wife choose a distro and the partition settings etc. with only internet forums and Wiki pages for guidance.

Then we'll have the opinion of a normal person rather than an "I run xyz servers..." tech-head.

I don't run servers. I "run" a vista laptop in the living room and an xp desktop in the study. They're on a WLAN. They can functionally connect to each other, but for the life of me I can't get 'em to share all the folders I want to. Net searches reveal similarly non-dumb folk coming across similar hurdles. That's around about the top end of normal by my reckoning. Failed attempts to fully connect an old P166 128MB laptop to this WLAN running Linux and a Win98 internet connection but no folder sharing was where my attempts at geekery hit my own personal 'wall'.

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Some points

I wholeheartedly agree with Morely Dotes points.

I don't expect my wife to install an OS. I install Ubuntu Linux only because it has been difficult to buy a PC pre-installed with a Linux distro. I wouldn't expect my wife to install any variant of Windows. However, when I've previously bought PCs with Windows pre-installed, I've always had to clear the HD & install again, due to the bloatware & poor configuration done by the PC 'manufacturer'. I don't know if the same applies to Dells pre-installed with Ubuntu.

I don't run servers. My wife uses a desktop with Ubuntu Gutsy and there have been very few problems with it. She also has a laptop with Windows XP (because I haven't got round to putting Ubuntu on it) and there are frequent problems with it. The latest was that it suddenly refused to print to a networked printer. I ended up 'removing' the printer & installing it. The Microsft knowledgebase was of no help.

Often, people make valid criticisms of the documentation in Linux distributions. However, the distribution companies need to make money. As the software is normally free, the usual way to do this is via selling training & manuals. However, people are often unwilling to buy these.

Users often say that a particular Windows application (e.g. Photoshop) is not available in Linux. However, they seem to be unwilling to learn a free of charge application (e.g. GIMP) or criticise it as not having some of the facilities of the Windows application.

Both the above characteristics really stem from many people wanting to have something for nothing without being willing to put in some extra effort themselves. I suspect that this is one of the main reasons why Linux distros will never wrest the mass market from Microsoft.

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@Morely Dotes

'I run Windows Vista Ultimate, Windows XP Pro, Windows Server 2000 and 2003, Ubuntu and Kubuntu, and Debian Linux. I manage about two dozen servers, 75 desktops, and 40 notebooks,' along with 'Canon, Brother, HP, Xerox, Konica/Minolta and Epson'

I think that is your problem right there - you really don't know what you are doing. In any corporate enviroment the key to being successful is to keep it simple. Standarise where possible and have as few different configurations as you can.

I would love to know just what you are doing that requires 2 dozen servers to run 115 machines - seriously I would.

As I stated above, I run a dozen servers and work for quite a large 6th form college. As such, I need to provide pretty much every kind of service you can imagine, from simple word processing to the ability to produce full HD multimedia works. Far more is required to support all departments than in a standard office setup. From these 12 servers, myself and one other manage to provide services to 560 desktop PCs, 40 Macs, around 40 laptops and 20 thin clients.

My servers manage to provide firewall and web filtering, User authentication, file sharing, a web server, printer management, multimedia streaming, pxe boot the thin clients to a small linux package that just provides a web browser, we have our own internet radio station, a large database with all the info on our 1600+ students, email for all staff and students, a workstation imaging solution, network managment tools, backup facilities, DHCP, DNS, policy enforcement, roaming profiles, VPN facilities to allow the staff to work from home and more.

All of our desktops and laptops run XP pro, the thin clients run 1 version of linux and we have OSX. All of 60 of our printers are kyocera. We have 1 Vista PC which runs the business edition, which is my desktop as I evaluated it 12 months ago and have been quite happy with it so I kept it. Cannot recommend we buy it though as it provides nothing for us over XP.

The only problems we ever face on a day to day basis tend to be hardware related. A blue screen immediately makes us test the memory and hard disk as the culprit as 9.5 times out of ten it is one of these 2 things - NOT the OS. We manage to have so few problems by keeping everything as simple as possible. Our desktop image is rigorously tested before we deploy it, to ensure that everything works without any issues. We restrict our users to only being able to run software that has been verified by us as not causing problems with anything else and they only get what they need. The programmers get access to the compilers and the command line while the English students just get office and a browser. We have SNMP traps warn us when something is about to fail which allows us to sort it before it does. We VLAN everything off to reduce unnecessary network traffic and allow us to provide QoS guarantees for services like streaming media. In short, we try as much as possible to know absolutely everything that goes on in our network - the result as far as the end users are concerned 'Everything just works'

So, Over 600 clients, 1600 users and with just 2 of us to look after it, (we do also have a web developer and a database designer/administrator but they have nothing to do with the running of the network) with half the number of servers you have and I still have plenty of time to read El reg and post because everything works most of the time. So if you are having problems with XP,2000,2003 I would suggest it's because

a) too many different types of OS

and

b) you don't know enough about MS systems to make them work properly, but of course that's MS fault

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Why?

No, really: why? Why buy a machine with a Linux OS? Before you mount your Torvalds horse, think about it: what in the world does Linux offer? Lower price? Hardly. This article shows exactly what $200 *doesn't* buy. Stability? Again, hardly. Linux machines crash, oh, just about as often as XP or Vista machines do; oh, and over-priced Apples machines, too. Ease of use? Get real.

Again: why Linux? No knee-jerk responses. Think and write clearly. What does Linux offer that Windows/Mac OSs don't?

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