back to article Intel Classmate PC lands in UK for £239

Intel's kid-friendly cut-price computer concept has come to the UK courtesy of local supplier Actronix. Dubbed the JumPC, the Small, Cheap Computer is based on a 900MHz Intel Celeron Mobile processor and the chip giant's 915GMS chipset. It has 512MB of DDR 2 memory on board and 2GB of Flash storage - though you can select a 30GB …

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wtf?

i just got a laptop for a guy at work - almost double the spec and has a decent screen (1280x800) - all for £250... comes with vista/xp business on...

seriously wtf is the point of these shitty little laptops when you can get an almost decent one for the same price?

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Windows XP?

Windows XP? What for? I don't think it's a good idea to give children an operating system which is far easier to break unintenionally than to actually learn from.

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Using the Atom CPU

Just wondering with the Atom CPU being the new doberman doobries, is it right that the chipset you must use is a power hog? If so, what's the point of using a low power CPU when it is tied to a hog of a northbridge?

(brought up because this one uses 915)

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Unhappy

How are these any good in a classroom?

My girlfriend who is a teacher is fighting a losing battle against her headteacher who is convinced that it's a good idea to scrap the ICT suite and buy a bunch of Asus EEE laptops and a trolley. Can anyone convince me why this is a good idea?

If not, can you think of any reasons why this is a bad idea? Currently I've got:

- Small screen make it impractical for students to share. There will not be enough for every child to have one each so sharing is a given.

- Low screen resolution makes everything a little bit fiddlier

- Small screen makes it much harder for the teacher to monitor what the students are doing

- Small keyboard - harder for sharing

- Fragile (although these Intel ones look more robust)

- Support / Maintenance potentially tricky and expensive

- Dedicated ICT suite is an asset to the teaching of IT in the school

The governer's insistence that "the children can use it as a dictionary" sounded a bit weak when my missus argued that she'd rather buy 20-30 paper dictionaries for the class than ONE laptop.

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Why?

Why does everything marketed at 'kids' always look so bloody awful? I can't see any self-respecting child (including mine) wanting to be seen dead with one of those...

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Eugh

I don't care about the specs or performance, but that is one ugly piece of kit!

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Linux

re: wtf?

Well although I'd agree that the classmate spec is shitty in almost all regards, the point of these "small" laptops is exactly that they are small, lightweight and very robust.

I too recently bought a sub £300 laptop with great spec, 1280x800 res, 15.4" screen etc for a relative and I have my own 15.4" that I'm typing on right now. The problem is that they just aren't as portable as a lot of people would like, try hauling one around on a train journey etc. Considering that most people only need their laptop for the most basic of tasks when away from the home or office these 'Notebook' or sub-laptops are ideal. They don't need the fastest CPU, or even a middle of the range CPU because office applications, email, web browsing, ssh, playing music and SD videos doesn't require it (I could do all these things on my computer ten years ago and it was plenty fast enough).

The 13"+ laptops costing under £400 are slightly more portable replacements for your old desktop PC. You might be willing to carry them back and forth between the home and office, but you won't find yourself using it much elsewhere. The Eee and similar notebooks are the devices you use everywhere else, you have your office/home desktop/laptop and then you have your notebook for all other occasions.

Notebooks like the Eee with a SSD are light and rugged. When you realise that you are late for your train you can pick it up, without even bothering to turn it off and literally throw it into a rucksack, swing it onto your shoulder and run to the station. Should you find when you get there that the train is delayed you can pull it out again and continuing working for 5 minutes on the platform, or in the coffee shop. Then toss it back into the bag, jump on the train, where it gets pulled out again so you can finish that memo to finance, or write that code which is due by Friday or just to pass the time by browsing the net.

Compare these sub-laptops to a tiny mobile which sends texts and makes calls, versus the 80s style brick which does everything. If they both cost £20 and you want to move around a lot which one are you going to buy?

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Paris Hilton

An extremely useful feature not mentioned in the review...

If you carefully open up the casing and scoop out all the nasty electronic thingies, wash away all the Microsoft XP Home buggy goop, and dry it off in a warm dry place (an airing cupboard is ideal), it makes a superb and very elegant executive sandwich carry-case for socially-upwardly-mobile children.

Be sure to remove the ubiquitous add-on "WinXP Home" metallised sticker before use, as this is incompatible with every known food hygiene statute in this quadrant of the Galaxy.

Paris, because she is referred to by other types of hygiene statute in pretty well most of the known Galaxy...

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One word

Fugly

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Jobs Horns

ZX80 anyone

I think Sir Clive Sinclair should sue over the design. It's white, so no doubt Apple will be claiming rights on it too!

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title indeed...

why use XP??

several reasons spring to mind...

place the average class teacher infront of a Linux PC and ask him/her to deliver a lesson...

network security and application deplyment

software compatability issues

hardware compatability issues

driver issues

continuity for the kids :) if all the desktop PC's run XP and all thier home PC's run XP its a bit of a culture shock to be confronted with another OS

there are many more, but thats all i can be bothered to type at the moment!

they are useful, but... not in this capacity! and the screens!! a lot of my software wont run on less than 1024x768

oh I currently have itro 300 curriculum laptops and about 2000 desktop PC's, the SMC craze is much like the tablet PC fad whic was touted a few years back as the ultimate teaching aid :)

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@ Windows XP?

"Windows XP?

Christian Berger • Thursday 17th July 2008 11:32 GMT

Windows XP? What for? I don't think it's a good idea to give children an operating system which is far easier to break unintenionally than to actually learn from"

ffs they are kids - they dont want linux installed - let kids be kids before they become destined to be virgins and social rejects obsessed with star trek :) (just kidding i know there might be one or 2 linux guys who dont fit this lovely stereotype :))

seriously tho - linux might be cheaper and more stable - see how uselful linux experience will be for anyone not wanting an IT career when they grow up.

its an odd one, as we have the potential for moving away from MS to Open Source, BUT in the mean time people will have skills they cannot 'bank'. also the massively none-uniform releases of linux make it hard as someone who knows one distro may be very confused with another... at least these days anyone brought up on an MS product is likely to be able to use anything MS produce - no matter how buggy/ropey they are.

arghh im confused

@ re: wtf?

i know what you are saying but to be honest i would buy my kid a 250 laptop over these crappy resolutioned things. wtf use is such a low resolution? imagine web browsing? rules out almost any graphical work and means you probably cant even get a decent sentence on a wordprocessing screen...

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RE:How are these any good in a classroom?

The real question is, would the EEE (or any alternative) run the software needed for the curriculum?

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Stop

The Picture

Did anyone else think there was a problem with their monitor when they saw the ring mark to the right of the monitor in the article picture?!

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Linux

Why?

More expensive than an eee, similar specs, but bigger heavier and uglier...

And to the AC who was talking about getting a stack of laptops for use at a school - theft and dropping them, kids will drop laptops and break them, or try to steal them...

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Anonymous Coward

@AC

They will get stolen, broken, everything. Mainly because they are nice and fun, and if its nice, kills will break it.

Administration nightmare.

Desktop PCs are just as cheap, more flexible and better to maintain.

Imagine if a software package comes out for schools that is brilliant, and it wants 800x600 minimum resolution? and 2gb hdd space? etc

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Re: title indeed...

I hope you were joking, 'cos most of those reasons "why XP" are reasons for "not XP".

"Deliver a lesson": Easy. It's the app. If there isn't an app, then there's a problem, but that's one for the app designer (mostly flash/dreamweaver anyway). And when the new version only runs on Vista?

"Network security", yeah, if you want a botnet. "Application deployment", uh, you copy the program. It doesn't hook into the registry, etc. It's a damn sight easier. Try copying a game or app into a windows machine when you've added a new hard drive!

software compatability issues: they aren't going down PCWorld and buying Crysis. They are getting bespoke apps, or whatever is needed (e.g. programming exercises).

Hardware compatability issues: Hello McFly! IT'S A LAPTOP. It all works!

driver issues: Uh? I can't even see what you meant!

Continuity: Like how when they had XP at home, the school had 98? Or now they have Vista at home, the school has XP?

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@ Matt

continuity for the kids :) if all the desktop PC's run XP and all thier home PC's run XP its a bit of a culture shock to be confronted with another OS

Utter Bollocks.

My kids use Macs at school. The family PC at home uses XP and I just picked up a laptop that runs Ubuntu. The kids just log onto a computer and figure it out, no matter what the O/S. (Given the choice at home, they'll use the Ubuntu laptop. Tux Paint is miles better than MS Paint.)

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b

YEUCH!

nasty!

...check out the baby laptop thread ;)

http://www.eupeople.net/forum

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@matt

You obviously have never watched an effective teacher teach a class using computers, even if you appear to be in education.

It starts up with instructions about how to start the app read from a crib sheet (or often the teacher or teaching assistant setting the programs up before the class starts), and then continues with using the app, which is probably OS agnostic. What use is detailed Windows knowlege in this type of class?

In the UNIX/Linux world, it is possble to set up specific user accounts that just launch the required application. So the instructions become "At the login prompt, type the name of the application, and watch it launch". No specific user ID's per child, you can lock the ID down so that even if the kids find a way to break out, they can do no damage, and the teachers DO NOT NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SPECIFICS OF THE COMPUTER.

Your points about supportabillity only count if your support staff are only trained in Windows. Why should they not learn about Linux. It's not like your average teacher who uses Windows XP Home or Vista Basic at home is likely to be able to support a network of Windows systems without additional training. And unlike your average IT professional, they don't CARE about whether it is Windows or not, just that it works like the manual and procedures say it should. They are TEACHERS for goodness sake!

It is possible to lock Linux down so that it will never change until some deliberate action changes it. Try doing that on XP, or even Vista where some programs or other will require Admin rights, and this is likely to open vectors for system corruption in the classroom. If you are really that concerned, you can effectivly make your Linux PC a thin client, or even both thin and fat, determined by what user you login as.

And as for applications, UNIX/Linux programs work from network shares much better than Windows ones, and have done since Sun said that "The network IS the system" in the 1980's. There are LOTS of people who understand how to write applications for UNIX-like OS's that can pick up all of their code and configs from relative or non-specific paths, making the way that the shares and mounts are accessed less important. This means that the apps DO NOT EVEN HAVE TO BE INSTALLED ON THE PC's. Just mount the share or remote filesystem read-only during system boot, and go.

And the best teaching software is bespoke, or at least written specifically to support the subject. The BBC micro, rest it's silicone chips, had huge amounts of subject led programs available, often written by the very people who used it. When schools started installing IBM compatibles, many, many teachers found that there were too few subject lead programs available, and the PC was too complex and had too few development tools available to allow the teachers themselves to write the simple but specific programs they needed. This may have changed now, but there was a generation of teachers who cut their teeth on BEEBs but felt that the new computers in their school were in-accessible or of limited use for their subjects.

I've seen too much "Computer" teaching ending up being teaching particular packages, often Windows ones. Computers SHOULD be used as a tool to support other subjects, not as an end to themselves, except in ICT classes. And these should teach more about HOW computers work, rather than just how to use them.

I've now left the education field, but I have three children in various levels of education, and nothing much seems to have changed since I was there. I have heard of schools who have embraced Open Systems very sucessfully, and only use Windows for a few packages that there are no representative alternatives available, but in most schools, the Windows momentum is difficult to deflect.

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Linux

@Matt

If you stick a linux machine running Mandriva, Ubuntu, Slackware etc in front of 95% of teachers, tell them it's the latest version of Windows they'll not even question it, they'll find their way around just fine.

The kids more than anyone wouldn't have a single problem with it. When I was a kid we had PCs running Windows at home but Amigas, Macs and BBCs at school. We had no problems adapting to the different operating systems and hardware we were given to use.

The argument against deploying linux in schools because teachers will struggle with drivers etc is just stupid. For a start school computers are setup ready for teachers and pupils to use, they don't have to install anything, then they are deliberately locked down precisely so you can't change their configuration or add hardware. Linux excels in network security and application development, it was made for this environment. The relative security and lack of malware for the platform makes it ideal for schools, plus because it doesn't have to run a bunch of middleware to keep it secure you can get a second wind from your existing hardware saving money for books.

The argument is also flawed because you are describing a linux that fewer and fewer people would recognise today. I've deployed linux on dozens of systems without hitting a driver issues or unsupported hardware.

Application support is the only valid point you made, but even then it's a minor issue. Linux has equivalents for all the commonly used school applications (drawing, word processing, spreadsheets, internet) and there are several groups/companies making free and low cost educational software purely for linux.

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Gates Horns

@Mark Dempster

You mean there's a requirement to learn particular pieces of software for the curriculum? That's bad, and encourages lock-in. I'm sure I could guess which bits of software and the vendor.

It should be possible to use a wide range of software and the curriculum requirements structured so that no proprietary features are required in order to submit any coursework or do any exam question.

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Gates Horns

@Dave

Dave - most Key Stage 4 and 5 courses (GCSE/A Level) require students to complete coursework using specific types of software e.g. Spreadsheets/Databases - the exam board spec will normally 'suggest' some packages which will be acceptable. But of course, most schools are running MS Office, so its a done deal.

Personally, I am trying to loosen the evil hold of Gates over my own establishment by phasing in Open Office over the next 12 months.

As for eeepc's - I bought one for myself and love it but its not sturdy enough to stand up to 6 hours minimum use everyday. Our classroom PC's will typically last 2-3 years. We don't purchase laptops for student use because, like many schools, we don't yet have a wireless network. The screens on the eee's and similar minibooks are too small for extended use, IMO.

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@classroom AC

Well, I doubt she'll have to put up with them for long, I expect they will all slowly disappear within a few months.

Yep, the biggest minus to a portable computer when you put it in a class full of thieving kids is that it will vanish.

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Now spell 'abomination'

Is this some 'Speak and spell' reincarnation? Go back to school designers!

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dek

mark houghton beat me to it, but...

it's worth repeating: FUGLY. I wouldn't inflict it on your kids let alone mine. Oh er, I don't have any :-)

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title

I support specifically primary schools, many parts of the curriculum can be delivered using open source software this is true, but just as much cant, support/lesson planning software again isnt availiable... a couple of examples - self leveling, maths software - there are only a couple of titles available on the windows platform that are any good and none in an open source flavour - this would be where these scc would excel - individualised personal learning.

The curriculum calls for video editing and animation - we have (crappy but very easy to use) usb video cameras and editing software (with ready to use samples) designed for children - not seen any support in that way in open source.

Control and modeling - again, usb connected programable roamers and a lego mindstorms - no linux support - oh unless you expect a 7yearold to use a command line based editor! (although that would be a nice thing to be able to do!)

in not knocking open source or linux at all - I have an eeepc myself, my main desktop PC runs IRIX, back in 2000 I was in a partnership to explore opensource and thin client technologies to support schools, we use audacity, paint.net, sebran, and a few other titles, but there just isnt the maturity yet, things are getting better and the applications are slowly coming along, but we are still a little way off.

finally - at the end of the day the majority of pc's at home and in the workplace are Microsoft windows based - until that changes it makes sense to teach kids what is mainstream.

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There is an alternative to learning ICT based on MS Windows

To all of you that think the world is taught computing on MS Windows, take a look at www.theingots.org - technology neutral ICT learning taking place in our schools today.

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