Microsoft hi-jacks eeePC; SA education

Leave a comment

To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. Last night Asus launched the new 9- and 10-inch models of its eeePC in Johannesburg. That’s the good news; The bad news is the distributor, Rectron, is only bringing four of the ten models into SA – all of them with Windows.

The Asus eeePC 1000, which ships with Linux and is the model I would want

The Asus eeePC 1000, which ships with Linux and is the model I would want

I was gutted. It means that if I want one I will once again have to pay Microsoft for the privilege of using Linux. That sucks. It’s not the money – I was told that the difference in price is only about R80; it’s the principle. Why should I have to pay Redmond for NOT using its crappy software? Of course, I could always contact a friend in Dubai, have him buy me a Linux model and send it over but Asus tells me the warranty would not be honoured locally.

Nice. So the eeePC, which was launched with Linux because Windows was too fat and expensive is now only available is SA with Windows on it. In effect, Microsoft has hi-jacked the eeePC.

And then there’s the deal: Asus, Rectron and Microsoft have signed a R330 million agreement with SADTU, puportedly to avail teachers of Windows-based eeePCs – as IT Web is reporting here. Nice, so now our teachers will only know Windows; They won’t be able to choose the more affordable, more secure and more robust Linux. Sounds like another hi-jack to me.

But the numbers on the deal don’t add up. SADTU represents 240 000 teachers, which works out to R1 375 per unit. The cheapest eeePC model (7-inch screen) currently retails for around R3 000 so would imply either a massive discount, which wasn’t mentioned, or that fewer than half of SADTU’s members are expected to take advantage of the deal to buy a eeePC – the number mentioned was 80%.

SADTU is also understood to be lobbying government to pick up the tab for teachers’ eeePCs. Indeed, acting president (SADTU recently fired its president for political naivity), Thokile Nthola, did make one good point when he questioned the expectation that teachers, 90% of whom are not IT literate, could produce gradutes who are IT literate.

Advertisements

Linux on the desktop is inevitable

Leave a comment

I’ve long believed that Microsoft’s monopoly of desktop computing is doomed. Sadly, it won’t go away tomorrow or the day after but sometime in the future the majority will live in a desktop computing world not dominated by the rapacious lot in Redmond. And you can bet that Microsoft won’t go away without a fight but the writing is on the wall.

It all boils down to one simple fact: Microsoft has had the power to make and break hardware manufacturers for far too long and they’re tired of it. Even Intel has now admitted this. And while it’s only a small step from there to hardware manufacturers realising that they can get out from under the Microsoft yoke and actually make a decent margin on the operating system while also offering lower prices to the channel, the reality is they’re still too locked in to Microsoft’s sliding scale rebate system.

Despite the success of the Linux-based ASUS Eee PC, other vendors are still only dabbling in Linux and have been for some time. For example, HP here in South Africa conducted a little experiment a while back: it released a single laptop model with a choice of three operating systems: Free DOS, Linspire (one of the more expensive versions of Linux) and Windows, at three different price points: R4199, R4499 and R4999.

The down side was the HP N1000 was a crappy low-end model, hardly comparable to my T-series ThinkPad. But the beauty of that offer was that I could I have bought a notebook without having to pay Microsoft for crappy software I would never use – which is exactly what I had to do.

I wrote about the HP experiment and others here back in July 2006. Sadly, my conclusion then still applies today: “PC manufacturers say they cannot fund the marketing efforts so if Linux is going to grow, the investment will have to come from the likes of Red Hat, Novell, Mandriva, Linspire, Xandros and possibly even IBM as an agnostic Linux supporter. Is it going to happen? Only time will tell.”

I have a dream (apologies to Martin Luther King, Jr)  that one day we won’t be forced to pay the Microsoft tax.

Indepth review of the OLPC

Leave a comment

The Register is running an excellent and detailed review of the OLPC project‘s XO laptop. By necessity it’s very long but if you have any interest in the topic is well worth the read. Reviewer Brian Hurley concludes:

“There’s a lot to like about the XO laptop. It’s tough, it’s great as an eBook reader, it has a big (for its category), high resolution screen. It runs silent and cool, has good battery life, and the clean design of the Sugar interface is easy to use.”

But he does note that several areas need work, among them the web browser and the file system as well as multimedia performance and support. Read the full review here.

Intel throws toys; leaves OLPC

Leave a comment

It recently emerged that Intel had decided to join the OLPC. Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t last very long but then I doubt anybody really expected it to. Charlie Demerjian has posted interesting comment on the whole saga. Definitely worth a read. Some selected excerpts:

“I have used both the Classmate and the OLPC, and from just about every way I view it, the OLPC is a clear winner.”

and

“OLPC is designed from the ground up to suit its purpose. Classmate is a castrated Windows box that barely gets out of its own way in the best of times.”

Making computing affordable

Leave a comment

Much has been written about the need for affordable PCs – particularly among school children in the developing world. Which is why MIT’s Nicholas Negroponte launched his One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project with the goal of producing a $100 computer. Sadly, that price proved unachievable and the machine currently costs just under $200 – which is still remarkably affordable. But just how capable can such a machine be? Could Intel chairman Craig Barrett have had a point when he called the OLPC a $100 gadget? Or were those merely comments designed to promote Intel’s more expensive – and Windows-based – competitor, the Classmate PC?

Ars Technica has an excellent comparative review of the two machines. Even more interesting is the review by nine year-old Rufus Cellan-Jones after his father took one home to the UK from Nigeria. I wouldn’t mind getting my grubby paws on one of these gadgets to see for myself.

Dumping Vista for XP

Leave a comment

There’s a wonderfully satirical look at upgrading to Windows XP from Vista on the Coding Sanity blog. And while Microsoft would likely not be amused, it is significant that part of the Dot Net developer community appears to e rebelling against Vista. This is how it starts out:

I have finally decided to take the plunge. Last night I upgraded my Vista desktop machine to Windows XP, and this afternoon I will be doing the same to my laptop.

It’s worth a read.

It’s all Windows’ fault

Leave a comment

There’s a great post on exo-blog that shows how the Microsoft upgrade cycle constantly negates the periodic performance improvements made by hardware manufacturers. Go figure. It’s written by a former Intel staffer who posts under the “Research Staff” moniker. I can’t seem to find out any more about him (or her).

Here’s an excerpt:

Such has been the conventional wisdom surrounding the Windows/Intel duopoly since the early days of Windows 95. In practical terms, it means that performance advancements on the hardware side are quickly consumed by the ever-increasing complexity of the Windows/Office code base. Case in point: Microsoft Office 2007 which, when deployed on Windows Vista, consumes over 12x as much memory and nearly 3x as much processing power as the version that graced PCs just 7 short years ago (Office 2000).

It’s a fascinating read: “What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away.”.

Older Entries