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back to article Carphone Warehouse denies mass Linux Webbook recall

Carphone Warehouse (CW) has denied rumours that it has recalled its entire in-store stock of own-brand Linux netbooks so it can replace the open source OS with Windows. A spokesman for the company told Register Hardware today that it began phasing out the Linux-based Webbooks in late September. “All the machines in-store are …

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Boffin

Aye

"This laptop is broken - it doesn't have a 'Start' button!"

Sounds about right.

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Linux isn't perfect you know..

Screen corruption, failed to return from sleep, low sound output, flash player didn't work...

And Elonex couldn't fix it.

Linux isn't perfect, you know. The drivers were crap, with no simple fix on Elonex's radar (they suggest a full reinstall, everytime...) it is a nightmare.

XP drivers? Work perfectly.. Funny that.

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Gates Halo

Denial?

How come every time a Linux based device has astronomical return rates it's always because 'it's not Window', yet OSX based devices which are even further from Windows that Linux (UI wise) generally do not have these problems?

There are very realy usability problems with Linux, and the biggest problem it has is not unfamiliarity with the UI, it is the almost total denial in the community that the UI has problems, and the addressing of anyone who dares point out such problems as a troll.

The end result is an emperors new clothes style situation where anyone who doesn't think that Linux based devices are an amazing example of UI perfection is branded a troll, the 'community' all agree that it is perfect (as they have driven out all the critics) and blame all of their problems on MS.

Meanwhile Apple has no problems selling UNIX based devices (without start buttons!) for an incredible markup by the bucketload.

Maybe before you brand the next person who has criticisms as a troll and run them out of town you should perhaps listen to what they have to say, then maybe this problem will magically solve itself.

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Flame

Another opportunity lost, sadly.

<sigh>

The one thing we (that's the Royal, El Reg reading, we) want the average "Free" laptop buyer _not_ to have is a bloody Microsoft operating system.

So, we have to look forward to a couple of hundred thousand new, fully compromised, machines being connected to that new-fangled interweb.

</sigh>

My daily spam:valid email ratio is now at around 90:1, guess that will increase as a result. :-(

We have to rise up & request, nay demand, that Microsoft operating systems, GUI's & Orofice be banned from all educational establishments. Then there's the chance that the next generation of users could put right what's wrong.

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Boffin

@James S

Or...

"This laptop hasn't crashed once on me. It must be broken!"

Sounds equally plausible.

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point and click...

> the retailer issued a recall of its own-brand mini laptop from stores because customers found the open source OS “unfamiliar” and “confusing”.

Official: Carphone Warehouse customers "thick as" and "shit".

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Linux

Not a huge suprise

Penguin care and maintenance isn't the world's easiest task, and there are a large number of people who know enough about windows to install a program but also refuse to learn anything new. Even when they get the entire laptop for free, it would appear.

"it won't run X, I like X"

"the linux version of X has different menu entries and that makes me both scared and confused"

Windows has a huge advantage in its familiarity.

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Gold badge

Wouldn't be a problem normally...

Except they have been giving these laptops away with mobile broadband contracts. Pushing the deal when it's probably not the ideal device for most people. Most people will want familiarity or a mass market OS, Linux would be ok if there wasn't so many distributions.

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Thumb Up

It's getting better

I tried Gutsy..... binned it. (wireless)

Hardy... binned it. (fglrx / ATI issues)

Intrepid? It actually works pretty damn well first time.

It's gone from hobby-os to straight replacement in a couple of years. The only thing I wish for is Wine to be less of a hassle but I reckon it will get there soon.

I only boot back into Windows for TF2.

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Shame

but I can understand why, I bought my webbook with Ubuntu and I have to say it wasn't the best setup I have ever seen. When you plug in the headphones the speakers would continue to play music, to get any kind of 3D rendering you need to hunt down the drivers.

Yes sure you could take the attitude "Well hunt for them and fix the problems" but you have to remember not everyone has an interest in computers they just use them because they have become pretty much a fact of life and if they forked out £240 for the laptop they want it to JUST WORK! (tm)

I think alot of people lose sight of this fact and just expect everyone else to know or want to know as much as they do.

If they were properly setup from the word go, with flashy compiz stuff(because lets be honest everyone loves eyecandy and if its on the webbook then WOW!). Then I bet there would be little returns

Well I love my Elonex Webbook but then I am just lucky I have a good network of friends who are gurus :P

and also this website: http://webbookblog.com/

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Return rate...

So the return rate of Linux based netbooks is 20%.. what is not being said here is what the return rate is for XP based net books.. but there is another article around here somewhere.... Ah yes.. here it is....

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/10/22/asus_ceo_shen_speaks_out/

Where we do have some info on the XP netbook return rate..

"Speaking in an interview with Laptop Magazine, Shen said return rates were the same for both operating systems."

So a return rate of 20% applies to both... not just to Linux.

A good reporter would have done some digging and found the missing information rather than regurgitating the spin.

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@Skyraker

Completely agree. I'm not even running WINE at the moment. Evolution is working with our exchange server, OOo is fine for all other office stuff, and I'm able to continue my perl web app development fine on Linux. Previously I was using OSX with Windows in a VM (for Outlook, office integration and some Windows only development).

Ubuntu's interface really is very good. It's probably easier to use than windows when you can just use a package manager to install and keep your applications updated. I have setup compiz 3D effects and the Avant Window Navigator to mimic the dock functionality I had in OSX. All in all it's very nice to use. Some problems with ATi's proprietary driver, but I can live with that for now. Next machine will definitely be back to nVidia (my MBP is the first PC I've owned that doesn't use nVidia graphics).

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Anonymous Coward

Wake up

I use Windows and Linux regularly and even get to play with the odd mac.

Windows does have many problems but useability isn't one of them which is why it is so widely used.

Linux is a more secure/stable OS but is not as intuitive for non techies which is why they don't use it.

Mac's use a unix system just like Linux, but have very good useablilty (and marketing) so they are gaining in popularity.

It seems to me that the problem isn't with users picking Windows, but with the Linux developers who are creating unintuitive interfaces.

Calling a program Gimp instead of Paint is a prime example, we all know it's graphics progam but non techies imagine a guy with a leather hood over his head and a ball in his mouth.

Wake up and smell the cofee, Linux will never replace Windows as a desktop OS until developers understand these simple facts. Most people don't know anything about the tech side of computers, they will always pick the one that is easiest to use, and many Linux advocates have the delusion that Linux is as easy to use as Windows and anyone who can't use it is a moron.

Unfortunately it's that attitude that drives newbies away from Linux. When they ask a question and get shot down in flames for asking why it doesn't work the way their Windows PC did, does anybody really think that will encourage them to keep on using it?

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I Can Kinda Agree...

I love Linux on the server-side. I work as a Photographer and a lot of the work I do relies on Linux doing what it does best: Running services reliably for months on end.

On the desktop side, however, I find it to be a massive pain in the bum. It's driver support is terrible, and while it's all well and good saying "you can download a tarball from this ukrainian site and then compile it", that's not the way things should be.

The inherent problem with free software is that you, the developer, aren't the one who's pushing the software out there, making people use it because it's easy. This means that 99% of people can't be bothered with it, me being one of them.

Maybe that's why I use a Mac... It's got a wicked GUI and It Just Works. Is that so hard to understand?

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Linux

Two things that I want to address...

@Kerberos;

Keep in mind that Asus is still selling approximately 30% of their eees with Linux. They've said repeatedly that they are not seeing a disproportionate number of returns. That's what happens when you craft a distro to fit the hardware, not just throw code at it without testing. Funny, that. Sounds like the Apple model that you're so fond of. ;)

@Skyraker;

I'm playing all my Valve games using wine, including TF2. Plays pretty smooth with the last several releases of wine. Give it a shot!

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Linux

Recall???

Yes, these were all recalled back to the main warehouse last month. Now they come with the windows version. We've also started doing Asus EeePC 701s, but the XP version. Not great on a 7" screen.

I think we should have kept Hardy versions, along with XP versions, people like XP for good reason. Personally i like my Hardy Heron version just fine.

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@ ... no simple fix on Elonex's radar (they suggest a full reinstall, everytime...)

[irony]So completely different to the vendor of my windows box when I had what I still suspect was was a mouseport hardware problem[/irony]

I had to change to a USB mouse in the end...

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Anonymous Coward

@Lawrence Dudley

Not sure which distro your running, But with Ubuntu I have little or no issues (unlike OpenSuse [didnt boot], Fedora [installer threw a strop partway through]) even with el cheapo peripherals.

Also have a cousin who bought a second hand dell laptop (around 2 years old) took me over 2 hours to find drivers for XP on dells site and still had issues with things not working properly (Cheers dell for a total bombsite of a website and using a pile of different components on one model of laptop [even after entering the serial number it still gave me a pile of possibilities for what sound card, wireless card, graphics chipset was inside]...grrr )

Yet installing Ubuntu Hardy....25 minutes from disc in to ready to use, and no issues as yet (10 months later) (apart from no Nokia PC suite - which is a useless hunk of bloatware anyway...210MB to manage a phone??? ) plus no spyware, viruses etc. She isnt technical at all, and took to it like a duck to water. :)

Only issue I have is Epson printers.....mostly due to Gutenprint claiming to support things it doesn't support at all :(

Additionally peripherals which I no longer can get windows drivers for....just work on the whole in Ubuntu

Also my wifes near new laptop (just over a year old) has a memory card reader which doesn't read SDHC in windows at all, yet under Ubuntu reads SDHC cards without any issues.

Wife has commented that scanner renders colours more accurately by default in Ubuntu than it does in XP (even with proper colour profile installed for scanner and monitor), plus laptop is more responsive to use, especially when manipulating large images (she works as an artist)

If WINE's game support improves....I'm saying bye bye to XP totally, only reason I still use XP really is for games that WINE doesn't get on with

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Love my Aspire One - but...

...the distributors of subnotebooks have got to get better at supporting the 'average' user. My Aspire One is brand new, but it has old versions of Firefox and Open Office pre-installed with no easy way of updating them to the newer releases.

So I've been on a steep learning curve to bring my machine up-to-date and make sure it is secure; I wouldn't like to see how my parents would cope. I've been using UNIX for [ahem] years now and it's still much fiddlier on the Aspire than it is on a Windows machine.

But it is kind of nice to be sudo ing again. ;)

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Alert

Their loss...

Opting for linux rather than windows is like choosing a car with manual transmission rather than automatic. If you've been used to an automatic, you can't expect to change without some effort.

Windows is straightforward and familiar to most people, but if you're willing to do the necessary training to use linux, you'll have a significantly more capable operating system and get far more personal satisfaction from its robustness, stability & cost. The incentive is there.

To coin a phrase, "those who can, do". If you can't be bothered to learn or haven't got the time, stick with windows. But don't then wonder why its limited compared to the alternatives.

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Boffin

can't wake up.

> failed to return from sleep

Eh, I had that exact same problem with a trial copy of Vi$ta and my NForce560 Mobo with GeForce 8400GS video card. Downgraded to XP, problem went away mostly (because the shutdown button in XP actually does what it's supposed to do- Shut down the system. I accidentally picked Sleep once in XP and the problem came back. The shutdown button in Vi$ta causes the stupid thing to go to sleep instead of shutting down, and after it went to sleep it won't wake up on M$ OSes, too). So, whose fault is it? Nividia's (I went straight to NV's website for them reasoning that the drivers on the CD that came with the mobo will surely be outdated when the board arrived) or M$'s (s#!tty ACPI implementation)?

Likewise, I never had a sleep issue with Linux. Because halt -p does what it's supposed to do, too (I don't boot directly into X).

> low sound output

Better than no sound output from my beloved SBLive! 5.1 in Vi$ta (because there's no ^#%^@#$%TW drivers for it!).

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When will the penny drop?

Linux will never be ready for the desktop so long as people like the posters above continue to stick their heads in the sand and pretend everythings allright. And even when efforts are made by the likes of Sun and Red Hat to improve the linux desktop with proposals such as the Gnome Human Interface Guidelines, the Linux Standards Base and unifying themes such as the Blue Curve theme amongst others, its the very same commentators that are dismissive.

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(Written by Reg staff)

@Mike Richards

Look here for a guide to updating the Aspire One's Firefox:

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/09/05/ten_aspire_one_tips/page5.html

The linked site, IIRC, tells you how to update OpenOffice.

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Gold badge
Linux

Too true.

I worked out the other day how to disable all the silly tapping features on a Synaptics trackpad under SuSe 10.3 the other day (such an obscure piece of hardware, no wonder its features are so poorly supported).

GUI tool? Nope, on or off is all you get here. Command line utility? Nope, only works with the previous driver release.

A quick trip down to the command line with vi to edit a config file, headed with dire warnings of everything from computer failure to a plague of frogs being the lot of anyone even thinking of editing it manually, turned out to do the trick.

I find this amusing, but I can see Joe Average not getting the joke.

Oh and no, <whiney voice> "it works well in Ubuntu" </whiney voice> is *not* the answer......

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@Kerberos

I tried that, I got told to consider that the problem was probably with me, not Linux or the FOSS community.

Case proven, I thought.

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Linux still not really ready for the desktop

I use Linux out of conviction that supporting M$ is an immoral act. I run an EeePC 1000 because I am on the road a lot and I've got Ubuntu Hardy Heron installed and mobile Internet access is through a Vodaphone's USB stick.

I installed my first Linux distro back in 1995 (Slackware) and have played around with SuSE and Debian on and off for many years since. With all that said, I don't believe Linux is ready for the desktop mass market. Any company adopting it would have to retrain their personnel to use it. How many are willing to do so?

Then there's the security model. I tried to add a plugin to SeaMonkey the other day only to be told I didn't have root access. This is just getting in my way.

Although I am comfortable using a console for commands, I prefer a visual display of storage. And what do we get? Nautilus! A more idiotic piece of software is unimaginable. There is no way a Windoze user will be comfortable with this irritating piece of crap. It is buggy, clunky and unintuitive. I've no doubt the people who designed this software considered themselves good designers. I disagree. Why not just copy Windows Explorer rather than inventing something with poor usability?

The only way to conquer the desktop is to offer users an interface they are familiar with. Most users are not techies like us and having to wrestle with the interface merely gets in the way of their real jobs. As far as I'm concerned, if it means nicking ideas from Windoze then so be it. There is no other way of wrestling the desktop off the evil empire.

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Stu
Coat

@Alf

My eldest son isn't exactly tech savvy, and yet I gave him an Ubuntu machine the other day and he had worked out how to use Firefox and Open Office within 10 minutes.

I do wonder though if the Carphone Whorehouse's Balk-balk IT staff would even support it.

I can imagine the conversation.....

"Hello. My Broadband doesn't work"

"OK, have you got anti-virus installed?"

"Er, No. It's running Linux. I didn't feel the need for anti-virus"

"Er, OK. You've got a virus. That's why your broadband doesn't work"

"Oh, OK. Any other ideas?"

"Well, yes, have you got the latest service pack for Windows?"

Ad Infinitum

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the way it works in currys/pc world

buy a netbook with XP, then they flog you an anti-virus at the same time.

this way, they increase the profit margin on a particular item. they can't do this with linux , hence less profit at point of sale.

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Silver badge
Linux

@Alf

Had a similar encounter with BT Broadband 'support'. I had already determined my HomeHub was dead. All I wanted was a replacement. The muppet went through his 'crib-sheet' insisting that he test my phone line, etc, etc. Carried asking the prescribed questions even though most didn't apply to Linux or my fault situation, where anyone with half a brain would have stopped as soon as I said I wasn't running Windows.

With regard to the suitability of Linux on the desktop:

I run Debian (sid), all of the family have accounts and have no trouble using it. Kids love to show off Compiz to their mates, my 6 year-old loves Gcompris, 11 year old uses Open Office and Gimp and plays BZFlag, Amagedtron, etc. Wife is quite at home with IceWeasel and Kmail.

The *big* problem is maintaining it. That is what I do. *I* don't find this a problem, but I can fully appreciate that an average Windows bred user would be like a fish out of water.

And that is the real issue with Linux. *Using* it is simple. Maintaining it is still a task that requires a fair degree of skill and knowledge.

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@vegister

When I bought my linux AA1 from DSG they tried very hard to sell me Windows anti-virus software.

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Silver badge

If you do not like the user interface ...

... fix it, or hire someone else to fix it.

If you whine on the mailing lists and demand that volunteers spend all their free time make changes to suit you, you can get an abrupt response because other people have made different demands before. Programmers are not going to spend their own time switching between different variations each time a new user turns up on the mailing list.

Even when you are completely right, and a small change will make life easier for XP refugees, it still may not be a priority for the coders. If the problem is that you have not read the friendly manual because you are lazy then at best you will be ignored. If you have read the friendly manual, made some effort to solve a problem yourself and are still not making progress, then by all means contact the mailing lists and clearly explain what you are trying to do. If no-one is interested in helping you for free then buy some support from Red Hat or SUSE.

http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html

If Linux is not ready for the desktop, please explain why PHB's had no problem with DOS.

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Finely, for me, Intrepid is it.

I think I have been testing Linux distros since the first RedHat release. Around 2000, I had a pair of Linux server buzzing quietly around. By 2005 I relied firmly on a Debian distro to provide web services and Ipcop to do the routing but the Desktop battle was far for being won at the time. I kept testing from time to time, Mandrake, then Mandriva, then several flavors of Ubuntu, often on fairly low speed unused machines. Each time, some roadblock made the switch away from Windows just a bit too much of a trouble. By the time I tested Hardy Heron I felt I was getting close. When Intrepid Ibix became available I decided to do a real - make or break - test but I had a mighty incentive to do the switch: the Windows XP MCE edition on my Toshiba P20 notebook had finally managed to screw itself up with no hope of repair: this "OEM only" piece of cr... from MS cannot be repaired, the "reformat the disk, then reinstall-OS-from-provided-CD" option is the only one permitted. Of course I could install a standard XP version but I would have to PAY again for a valid XP (by now you can hear the grinding of my teeth...) and still I would have to reformat the disk anyway.

I installed Intrepid on the P20 and within 30 minutes it was usable. I installed the same Opera that I was using before (9.6) and was able to recover contacts quickly with no fuss. I did spend some time to get the wireless interface working (Atheros) (hint: don't forget to do a lot of restarts every time you change something in the drivers) and that would certainly be beyond the average user capability to get this working but it is not in itself worse than trying to get some drivers to work with Vista. It is part of what a pro is supposed to provide as service when selling a PC+OS kit. After all, not many people install their own OS, Windows or otherwise, so the "difficulties" related to installing an OS should be the province of the provider.

Apart from this episode, the rest of the applications I needed where all supported via the Ubuntu installer except the additional language/thesaurus/hyphen dictionaries. For that I had to use the command line apt-get, something which is not very difficult to use if you see an example and know exactly the package name. Still, it should be done reliably via a graphic interface: 60% of the inhabitants of this planet need to use more than one language to get by (yes, the unilingual countries/regions are a minority) thus such a multi-language functions must be part of the "standard" graphic package installation but I trust it will come soon.

I have been using dual screen Intrepid now for about two weeks and I do like it. I have no regret of Windows Explorer and its sometimes abysmal response time. I think once you get all your mandatory apps up and running, the rest is pretty smooth sailing. Contrary to some opinions expressed on this forum, I do believe that, from now on, Linux on the Desktop is a practical proposition and we should see an increase in use of Linux in 2009 albeit nothing to threaten yet Microsoft OSs. Linux on the Desktop will likely show up in several expended market niches and some new ones. I will continue to have Windows XPs (and 2000!) for some time in my shop, but the replacement of aging equipment will not likely go the Vista route. By 2005, it had become a second nature for us to check that any new app to be installed here had either a Linux version or a Linux based equivalent. The era of Windows-only apps roaming unchallenged is over, not only because of Linux but because several types of services can be provided as well via a browser, rendering the OS irrelevant for the user experience. Of course, we will keep one or two Window machines, along the DOS machine so we can read 5" floppies and QIC tapes ...

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@Gerry

You may claim to have been using Linux for 13 years but you don't appear to have understand its primary advantage over other OS's - if you don't like the default configuration, you have the freedom to CHANGE IT. If you don't like Nautilus, then use the Windows File Explorer XFE (http://roland65.free.fr/xfe/), or Konqueror or Dolphin. There are many others. BTW there's no rule that says Linux software has to look like or work like Windows.

Regarding installing Seamonkey plugins as root - thats a feature to prevent virus damage. Its not a limitation.

I'd agree with a previous poster that Linux is easy to use but harder to maintain - significantly so, if you're not prepared to do the necessary training. Maybe Linux machines should come with a warning - "Not to be maintained by idiots". Not elitism, just a fact. Which is why many of the Linux experts are Computer Science graduates.

For an illustration of some modern linux desktops, have a look at the screenshots shown here: http://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=58159

Never forget, you have a choice.

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