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While Microsoft posted solid numbers for Windows 8, anyone paying attention to Intel's quarterly report can see that the writing is on the wall for desktop computing. Perhaps surprisingly, this is also true of the enterprise, generally not an early mover on technology trends. According to a new Appcelerator survey of enterprise …

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"the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

Verily 'tis the shit of the horse.

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Most "desktops" are mobile

All these kinds of predictions are meaningless anyway, when the terms are so ill-defined anyway. I mean, "mobile" includes a 10" or more huge tablet, whilst using a 7" netbook is "desktop". For several years, laptops have outsold actual desktops, so people saying desktops will decline is obvious, but including laptops as "desktops" makes no sense. Especially as the trend now seems to be that "mobile" tablets are more likely to be used on a flat surface (since the stand/top-heavy form doesn't work so well on a lap).

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Meh

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

The decline in desktop sales is only down to the fact that the software isn't there to take advantage of any CPU tech since 2007. I'm not including games in this though that sector is still lagging.

Take any old dual core enterprise PC off the IT Stores shelf and slap a new build on it and its good to go

Folks still want and need desktops just not in the sheer numbers we needed 10 years ago. We can just sweat the assets far longer.

As for needing more CPU power, other than video transcoding software, anything in the basic business software remit that would make a CPU spin up to 100% for more than 5 seconds would be viewed with suspicion.

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Re: Most "desktops" are mobile

I think you've hit the nail on the head. It's not about the hardware.

What is actually dead is outdated desktop user interfaces because people have now had a taste of the vastly streamlined and simplistic interfaces of mobile apps.For consumers there's only one way forward now.

To be fair, Microsoft seem to understand this and have brought a new mobile-style UI with touch support to the desktop, the trouble is nobody likes it because there's no apps for it and it's a nasty hybrid of old and new Windows. They tried to go too far too fast. Meanwhile OS X is slowly incorporating iOS features with each new release, which is a bit less of a shock to their users.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

Exactly.

The only reason we were buying computers ten years ago was that then a 5 year old computer had a AMD K-6 processor in it running at a tiny percentage of the speed of the cheapest new equipment available.

My slowest computers from like 7 years ago have AMD64 3200+ processors in them, which are still sold as a entry grade processor in maplins IIRC. These machines are perfectly adequate for running office 2003 + our one peice of software, the users don't want or need any of the functionality that has come out since and as far as I am concerned the existing computers can continue to run until something burns out, at which point the user can have another one from stores. (spares from downsizing)

If i'm spending money on anything, then it's on infrastructure not on desktops. The constant desktop upgrade treadmill is dead, and most businesses also have a supply of spare desktops so there is not going to be much spending on more desktops in the immediate future.

However, saying that the lack of sales for the reasons above means desktop computing is dead is stupidly absurd. When all of the existing equipment is dead what do you think we'll do, replace a secrateries computer with an ipad? Never going to work, you need desktops for producing things- tablets are just a means of consuming media not for creating it.

No longer a huge cash cow does not mean dead.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

I had to check the date, sure I heard that in 1998.....

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WTF?

You're joking, right?

People keep saying this as if repeating it endlessly will make it true. Whether they realize it or not, a touch interface is the LAST thing that most people want on a desktop. Desktops and laptops require a different interface that is tuned to keyboard and mouse input because it's a different working model. It's about content creation on a desktop, not consumption.

And before you point to the built-in soft keyboards on tablets, I have yet to see anyone typing with anywhere near the speed that I know that they're capable of on a full keyboard. From what I've personally witnessed, most lose about 75-90% of their typing efficiency. That may be OK for banging out a quick tweet or Facebook post, but it's FAR from adequate for anyone trying to write anything more complex than a couple of paragraphs. I can't imagine that attempting to write even a short 3-5 page paper using a touch UI, let alone something even a few tens of pages long.

Then there's attempting to use touch and gestures to do a mouse's job. Ever try to draw with one? Or work on a complex technical diagram that requires precise positioning for selection? I thought not.

Don't get me wrong. I think a touch driven interface is great for tablets and phones. It's just that it's a lousy UI model for desktops and laptops. Eventually this fad will fade and we'll see a return to a more logical split in UIs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Most "desktops" are mobile

Rubbish. Mobile interfaces are useful at accessing simple information on the move.

I'd love to see you run 3D Studio Max on a phone and do anything productive on it.

Yes, for people just pratting about on the 'net a phone will do. But the keyboard and mouse interface (or puck/wacom) are highly efficient for creative endeavours.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

IF Notebooks (I presume you actually mean netbooks) were that popular with Linux - and my netbook runs CentOS - why were MS in a position to say to manufacturers that they can't install Linux? If it was that popular they wouldn't be able to use not supplying discounted Windows as a threat.

I think that this is all conspiracy nonsense anyway, it appears that people like Windows and MacOS, they don't like Linux as a desktop. However Linux is very popular as a server, as it Windows, MacOS is nowhere.

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Thumb Down

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

These "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing" articles are all just a bunch of analysts trying to justify their jobs and explain the slowdown in desktop sales, when it's obvious to people in the IT business that it's just because you don't need a new machine every year, because it's basically the same machine as last year's. (run-on sentence alert!)

As for IT managers saying they're going to be developing more mobile apps than desktop apps this year, why is that surprising? They probably already have all of the desktop apps they need in their business, because they've been developing them over the last decade or two, whereas the mobile apps are probably pretty lacking and need more work.

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Re: If it was that popular ...

It was very popular on netbooks, dominated the market for a while, but that was a small market compared to desktop and laptop, and most netbook manufacturers were quite heavily invested in the laptop market.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

"As for needing more CPU power, other than video transcoding software, anything in the basic business software remit that would make a CPU spin up to 100% for more than 5 seconds would be viewed with suspicion."

Presumably you're ignoring anything game development related as well, such as compiling, or 3D modelling or ray-tracing/rendering, or (in the case of my first software release) loading and merging/comparing XML files tens or hundreds of megabytes in size. (Although I'll admit in the latest, not yet out, version performance is many many times better than the current version that's out there, and fully multi-threaded to boot.)

As for wanting to move off the desktop, I find laptop keyboards annoying beyond belief to use for anything but the most mundane of tasks. Ditto for touch screen devices - whenever I have to type more than a few words on my iPad I'll more often than not pop into the office and type at my desk on a real keyboard that has cursor keys (really Apple, what were you thinking) and the like.

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FAIL

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

Hey Eadon!

We're still waiting for the independent citation for this "fact" you keep banding about.

"forbidding OEM's to continue with Linux....."

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

There was no forbidding. Just a review of your OEM licensing arrangements and then the signing of an NDA.

You don't really think they'd let us have access to the paper trail?

You cant even get that information for public bodies under the FOI act.

In fact MS wont even tell you how they can make it cheaper for you to run MS instead of Linux (see the Munich report - or don't) so you can imaging how quiet they might like to keep a few agreements that might, together, amount to illegal activity.

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Go

Win8 looks flippin sweet on my 6-core machine

> "nobody likes it because there's no apps for it and it's a nasty hybrid of old and new Windows"

Installed the upgrade last night for $24.99. Better grab those cheap upgrades while you can boys - just a couple days left on the $39 special. With NVIDIA graphics and Classic Start Menu (Win7 themed), this is one seriously fast, good looking system. All my old XP and Vista software works fine. I spend most of my time in a KDE desktop on various Linux distros like Mint and openSUSE, but this Win8 with the Win7 theme is one I'm going to have to muck around in a bit. The slideshow backgrounds and themes are a real nice touch.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

"Presumably you're ignoring anything game development related as well, such as compiling, or 3D modelling or ray-tracing/rendering..."

CPU-intensive development applications never meant volume sales on the desktop -- or anywhere, for that matter (just look at Silicon Graphics). The bulk of desktop/laptop sales are related to office and generic domestic use, where web browsing, e-mail and office productivity apps are probably more than 90% of the software running per unit of time. And for those types of apps, 5-10 year-old hardware is still adequate.

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Headmaster

Re: "Notebooks were incredibly popular when they came with Linux."

Really Eadon? Please do give us a credible link to those sales figures - please, share this with us. Note, that I said a credible link to an independent source regarding your evidence for that assertion.

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Coffee/keyboard

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing." (def @16:03)

I agree about laptop keyboards. I have a Lenovo L430, and the keyboard layout is terrible. I have $25 logitech wireless usb keyboard that sits comfortably on the open laptop, or wherever is convenient. I also use a wireless mouse to save me from the "Damn, I didn't mean to do that!" touchpad.

Yep, that's an escape key, and it's the right size and shape, and in the right place.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

> If it was that popular they wouldn't be able to use not supplying discounted Windows as a threat.

"Contracts are the weapons you use against your friends". MS offers 'loyalty discounts' to OEMs who install Windows on all applicable devices. Netbooks were unable to run Vista and XP was unavailable so MS could not cancel the discounts. These discounts were on _all_ copies of Windows for all devices and would cost the OEM $millions if removed. By reviving XP they were able to re-establish the threat.

In a similar way WOA (Windows On ARM) is there to prevent OEMs making ARM devices that run other OSes, such as WebOS and Android. MS will probably bring out a WOA Server edition to try to kill off ARM servers too. Though paying a per CPU licence fee for ARM servers doesn't seem viable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Notebooks were incredibly popular when they came with Linux.

So how much do they go for on eBay these days?

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Boffin

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

When did the ElReg comment section become MS shill central? I know ya guys don't like Eadon, but that part isn't bullshit. MS did strongarm OEMs to stick XP on netbooks, which were running Linux and doing pretty well. Real analysts even say that Palm's downfall was partly because they axed the Foleo, their own Linux-based netbook that some dumbass in management decided to kill before its release date.

The one market that didn't get killed by MS would be the smartbook one, as that was Apple's to kill with the iPad.

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Stop

Re: Most "desktops" are mobile

". . .people have now had a taste of the vastly streamlined and simplistic interfaces of mobile apps."

Let me fix that for you: "people have now had a taste of the featureless, unfinished, barely functional, unfit for purpose interfaces of mobile apps."

I recently attempted an experiment on my Nexus 7 tablet to see if it would be suitable for corporate email. Having pecked out 4-5 sentences, a single mis-swype of my palm resulted in the entire text buffer being selected and replaced with a space. At which point I discovered Android has no undo function, to add to the long list of missing text-processing concepts that have been with us for decades. Such as cursor keys or "Home", "End", or "Delete".

While searching for the location of the non-existent undo function on Android, I came across a post by one brilliant gentleman who suggested that Android doesn't need one. That's because it's really not that difficult to just retype things. An opinion he no doubt cultivated because he's never assembled more than 140 characters at a time, or actually expressed anything in words that was of any importance whatsoever. But his attitude was one of righteous indignation for why someone would question why Google continues to refuse to include "undo."

I fear the future of computing will be a race to "streamline" interfaces not to make them easier to use, but simply to strip out feature after feature to avoid confusing the least capable users among us. But, hey, that makes it easier to call the code finished, right?

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Mushroom

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

It seems that plenty of people are willing to pay bucket loads for a mobile OS. Otherwise how come Apple sell anything?

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Mushroom

Re: "Notebooks were incredibly popular when they came with Linux."

Laptops were mildly popular with Linux - but only because people didn't have to pay for a Windows license - No one actually wanted Linux - the vast majority of users would format the laptop as soon as they got it and install a warez version of Windows.

But that was back in the days when Windows could be properly pirated. Windows 8 still hasn't been fully cracked....Even the Media Centre key exploit was shut down....

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Go

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

I just looked at my office PC. A Dell Precision 390. 4GB, NVidia graphics to support multiple screens - bog standard from the catalogue. I think its a P4D CPU, dual core from before Dual-Core was a trademark. This machine has got to be more than 6 years old, because I have been using it that long and I didn't get it new.

OK, it has been upgraded with an SSD system disk - this really, really improved the snappiness. I am not expecting to get a machine upgrade any time soon, simply because there is no office or other Win application that requires more performance than I have.

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Devil

Re: "Notebooks were incredibly popular when they came with Linux."

Beyond a review I once read on a tech site, maybe it was here, I have never seen or even heard of a Chromebook in the wild. I mean, they have less than zero visibility in the real world.

This is not to say the idea is bad and/or doomed or whatever - having never seen one, I am hardly likely to have a useful opinion on the efficacy of the Chromebook for any business use.

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Re: "Notebooks were incredibly popular when they came with Linux."

Eadon, you're hurting yourself with the use of the word "force". I know what you mean, but the apologists will hold you to the literal definitions of the words you use.

You're right though, Microsoft does indeed coerce OEMs. It's still a "choice"... you can do what Microsoft says and get the nice price for Windows (in this case, Windows XP brought out of retirement), or defy them by continuing to offer other configurations and pay more than your competitors. With low profit margins, that's basically death.

It's an American style choice. (as in, you "chose" the consequences)

That's right, netbooks were coming out with Linux. Microsoft then decided that they would sell Windows XP again after all, because they can't lose any ground to Linux, even if they weren't interested in that niche in the first place.

Those netbooks that came with Vista Home Basic and Windows 7 Starter were rubbish. Arbitrarily crippling features doesn't make the OS any more light weight. Terrible operating systems for a low powered netbook. I have revived many a netbook by installing a light weight Linux environment. (e.g. XFCE instead of flagship desktop bloat). I even compile them a kernel optimized for Atom.

But Microsoft doesn't care what they pollute. (just about everything they touch)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You're joking, right?

Typing on a tablet is the fast track to RSI, Carpal Tunnel and tennis elbow.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

"no office or other Win application that requires more performance than I have."

I think you mean - that YOU use. There are plenty of applications that can use huge amounts of memory/cpu -the most general obvious being video, esp. rendering or transcoding 1080p/50

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

@Eadon: "@Lost all faith - google for the confidential Microsoft Halloween Documents, whereby MS details strategies of its dirty tactics fights against open source - therewithin is the evidence thee seeks."

Which predate the existence of netbooks. And the DoJ had been overseeing Microsoft to make sure they couldn't do any such thing for years before and throughout the entire netbook phase. They failed because returns on them obliterated the razor thin profits and the returns were so high because Linux wasn't, and for as long as the uber-geeks remain in control of it, isn't a suitable OS for Joe Public.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

@Daniel B. Um, just no. If anything the OEMs strong-armed Microsoft into extending the availability of XP licenses so they could put it on netbooks, which were never going to run Vista, by threating to up their Linux ranges.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You're joking, right?

^Using Linux^ is the fast track to RSI, Carpal Tunnel and tennis elbow.

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Happy

Re: "Notebooks were incredibly popular when they came with Linux."

I recently suggested a Chromebook to a friend who has always had problems managing a regular computer of any sort. Managing software in particular. Strangely enough given their reputation for ease of use, he'd also had enormous problems making his iPhone do what he wanted, but he's been a very happy bunny since switching to an Android 'phone.

He wanted something lightweight but with reasonable power, mainly for web browsing and related activities and one of the Samsung-branded Chromebooks caught his eye once I'd mentioned the term. He bought that and proudly brought it round to show me a few days later. Happy? Certainly. It does everything he wants and even he can understand how to make it do what he needs. He even had a suitable cloud-based printer already, so found setting that up a doddle.

So there you go. I've 'seen one in the wild' and it works very well indeed. It won't suit 'power users' but Google seems to have understood ChromeOS target market perfectly.

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Childcatcher

why were MS in a position to say to manufacturers that they can't install Linux

It's quit simple, really. MS owns 100% of the desktop. All Windows. Along comes an inexpensive Netbook that does NOT include Windows. 6 months later....MS owns 90% of the desktop. Alarm bells ring. MS decided to threaten manufacturers to no longer install anything except Windows XP. Manufacturers relent since, while popular, said manufacturers still make over 60% of their profit from systems with Windows installed. Would you say it's a smart business decision to risk paying 25% more for the OS?

Seriously. Get out of lala land ACoward. I would like to know why Microsoft did not get into further trouble because of this. I mean, the consent decree between MS and USDOJ expires and they can go back to the threats? Crazy. Microsoft needs to go belly up and all their warez become public domain. EOS.

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Unhappy

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

@eadon.

No, retailers demanded Windows on Netbooks because of the high rates of customer returns on Linux netbooks. It's a great shame - I have a few eeePC701's, and the default Xandros build is really nicely done (my kids love them). But most people didn't like the inability to install stuff from the internet, and to play silly web games, print to their printer, use their scanner. So they took it back, as it was "broken".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

How about YOU post up this evidence then Eadon?

In fact, if you do not, we will take it as read that the reason Linux failed on Netbooks was because everyone who used it hated it and returned the Netbook to the retailer they purchased it from. I believe the Carphone Warehouse rate of return was greater than 90% of all units sold.

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Re: Most "desktops" are mobile

"to add to the long list of missing text-processing concepts that have been with us for decades. Such as cursor keys or "Home", "End", or "Delete".

Try the Hacker's Keyboard - a full 5 row keyboard with all those lovely buttons present

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

You miss the point. Consumers buy a mobile os every time they buy a device, wrap up in the purchase price.

OEMs on the other hand don't have to. Their OS is either a strategic option (IOS) or Free (android or various Linuxen).

I wonder if MS licensing has let them down? Logically you'd expect them to be able to enforce win 7 on mobile manufacturers who also make desktops, but it doesn't seem to be happening.

Perhaps they sawed up the contractuals or perhaps it's the relevant values of the mobile and desktop markets that mean their big stick has gone rotten and the OEM's are playing it hardball?

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

There is another factor.

Ever since I can remember a basic PC has cots about the same, but its performance would double or treble every few years. 8088->8086>80286-80386SX->80486->pentium->whatever...

Last week I popped into ,my PC vendor, to cost out a replacement for this machine. For the first time ever, he admitted that what I had from 3 years ago was not much worse than what an entry level system would be now.

And would cost the same.

To get the 4x speed increase and the 2xRAM would cost DOUBLE.

And use twice the power. And electricity is expensive enough to make a difference. a 50W unit on 24x7 clocks up a hefty 400 units of electricity over a year. That £40 .

I reluctantly decided not to upgrade.

And I've already ditched windows apart from an ageing XP VM to run legacy windows programs.

All markets start with innovation, where lots of different approaches are tried, followed by standardisation where development along predetermined routes makes for rapid cost reduction, and spread of the technology, and performance increases as the low hanging fruit are plucked, before settling into a period of maturity, zero overall growth - just 'replacement' and finally decline as a new technology takes over.

I believe that desktop computing has in fact reached that point. home users neither wanted nor needed workstations, but they got them anyway. Now they have tablets, and the bottom has dropped out of domestic workstations.

And there ain't the volume in corporate workstations to justify the development of better ones.

Apple has jumped ship for I-devices - but the chances are that they will have a tough time beating android.

Microsoft has stuck with the corporate desktop. But here Linux already can do nearly everything needed for standard applications.

And even quite specialised ones. One may predict with SOME confidence that the big players in specialised apps - graphical scientific and page layout, that actually need desktop computing power - will increasingly be looking at ways to sell their apps on a Linux platform. Meanwhile the average office wonk will be using a tablet or smart phone.

And the database will present an HTML5 interface so any bloody device will work.

The long and the short of all that is that there is little justification for most people to buy a desktop AT ALL. And of those that do, most can stretch the life of existing kit with no performance hit for more years than hitherto. And also, that there is as the years roll by, less and less reason to install an expensive buggy and frankly overflashy face on it, to do basic desktop workstation jobs on.

Given the rise in network bandwidth, all most users need, is a basic - and usually web based - access to it.

Servers do the grunt work.

Desktop computers will become what they really are suited for - 'work stations' as opposed to 'play stations' or 'database servers'..and if some reasonably efficient platform independent language comes along, then what hardware and OS is running becomes rather irrelevant.

If I were Apple, Id be afraid. Too much cash needed. If I were Microsoft I would be very afraid. They missed the net, they missed the mobile boom, and no one wants 'em any more, and their core profit centre - home PCs and the corporate desktop, is in decline.

If I were Intel, I'd be worried too. Unable to deliver more MIPS per watt on a steadily rising basis, and lacking the constant market for their desktop products, and having failed to really come to grips with mobile devices where ARM based technology starts from a better place, they have nowhere to go but servers.

And servers tend to run platform independent LINUX. If some other chip designer comes up with a chip that offers more MIPS per dollar-watt than Intel..perhaps a GPU manufacturer - and ports a stable Linux to it, bye bye Intel.

No: I think we are in a period of profound transition. he desktop wont disappear. But it will be a niche player.

And there is too much free software for anyone to ever think of paying for the standard offerings in future.

And there is, so to speak, in tough economic times, a disinclination to pay through the nose for offerings which are, frankly, a triumph of style over content.

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Happy

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

"Last year, Microsoft was reported to be licensing Windows Phone 8 to ZTE for $23 to $30 per device. For tablets it's worse: $85 per device.

It's cute and quaint that Microsoft is still trying to sell a mobile OS in a market where no one pays for a mobile OS. It's also stupid."

The question isn't "stupid" - it's, "Jjust how fucking stupid?"

AFAIAC - they can stick their "customer surveillance" DRM naziware up their arse.

Smiley - Laughing at another one of Microsofts "Epic Fails".

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Coat

An observation.

@Eadon... It seems to me that the validity of your cause is hampered by the extremeness of your arguments. Perhaps a more temperate stance would win more support.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

> Ever since I can remember a basic PC has cots about the same,

I have prices here from 1983 for IBM PC (not XT).

Computer 48Kb 2235.00

Memory board 64K 540.00

Floppy controller 220.00

Floppy 2S 320Kb 650.00

" 650.00

Color Graphics card 300.00

Color Monitor (Amdek) 999.00

Total 5594.00

Although this was PC and MS-DOS 1 the list does have a hard disk but it was necessary to use CP/M-86 to support it.

Hard Disk 5" 5MB 1995.00

As a comparison:

"""In 1982, the base price of the Escort 3-door was $5,518"""

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Most "desktops" are mobile

I agree "mobile" can be a silly term, when half of my laptop was made out of desktop parts or was desktop chips soldered to the motherboard (integrated, but the same as the desktop counterpart). Likewise, people want software that does both. So if one day we walk around with a PC because it shrunk, or put a tablet/phone on the desk because we want to sit down, then where is the difference?

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Headmaster

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

Linuxen? Linices surely!

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Pint

Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

mea culpa.

That's what I meant to write, it's what I thought I wrote in fact.

Was it a Friday? Every day seems like Friday at the moment.

Apologies for the obviously incorrect statement.

I do have applications requiring orders of magnitude more processing power, but they don't run on my office desktop Win machine.

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Re: "the writing is on the wall for desktop computing."

The early models of EEEPC came with dumbed down rubbish (horrible custom user interface on a Debian back end) and the units didn't even work properly on most networks. As near as I can figure it was a problem (some incompatible response) with the DHCP client, because it affected ethernet and wireless. I didn't waste time debugging it. It did work in some places though. I wouldn't be surprised if those got returned as defective, because they were as far as people were concerned.

They really gave "Linux" a bad name with the faeces they put on there. One woman was so negative when I was telling her I'd have that fixed up better than ever in an hour or so... she said she wasn't interested in that crap at all. After I got a modern distro installed (the current Mint with XFCE at the time), and set up some panel launchers etc. she was "wowed" at how nicely it worked and the applications she had at her fingertips.

I've fixed a few of those by installing a proper distro using an external optical drive. The 8 Gb models (SSD) anyway... the ones with 4 Gb aren't worth bothering with.

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