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$200 Linux PCs On Sale At Wal-Mart 537

Posted by kdawson
from the testing-the-holiday-waters dept.
Placid sends in a Wired blog entry on Wal-Mart's new sub-$200 Linux-based PC. Wired calls it "a custom distribution of Ubuntu Linux," and the AP identifies the distro as gOS, made by a small company in Los Angeles. Wal-Mart began selling Linux PCs in 2002 but they have been out of stock for a while. From the Wired blog: "It has a 1.5 Ghz VIA C7 CPU embedded in a Mini-ITX motherboard, 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. Normally, this would simply mark it as unacceptably low-end for use with modern software. By using the fast Enlightenment desktop manager (instead of heavier-duty alternatives like Gnome or KDE), the makers say it's more responsive than Vista is, even on more powerful computers."
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$200 Linux PCs On Sale At Wal-Mart

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:41AM (#21196523) Homepage Journal
    I saw this yesterday and was considering if it would as the next pc for my parents. I don't think so - for one reason, powerpoint. But my folks might be a little unusual with that requirement. I also wonder if my dad could sync his palm to it.
     
    Then we'd need to make sure that their printers are going to work all right. And I'd probably need to teach them how to use new software for printing photos. The more I think about it, as much as I hate to say it, the less I think it would work.
    • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Silver Sloth (770927) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:44AM (#21196571)

      Then we'd need to make sure that their printers are going to work all right. And I'd probably need to teach them how to use new software for printing photos. The more I think about it, as much as I hate to say it, the less I think it would work.
      As someone who got Vista with a new PC I can assure you these problems are not limited to *nix.
      • Yeah - I bought my dad a new laptop this year and ordered it with xp.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by BrokenHalo (565198)
          Another interesting thing is that these machines are being loaded with Enlightenment as a default "lightweight" environment. Time was (only 10 years ago) when Enlightenment was regarded as CPU and graphics-heavy and was only used as a window manager under Gnome (default option for RedHat 5.x and 6.x comes to mind). Just goes to show...
          • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Interesting)

            by dintech (998802) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:27PM (#21198291)
            The only thing that worries me here is that this will be a lot of consumers first experiences with Linux. Does this really demonstrate modern Linux in the best possible light? From a visual and usability point of view I can't help but think that the average consumer will be disappointed even in comparison to older MS operating systems. But then what do you want for $200?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Nibbler999 (1101055)
      There's a powerpoint equivalent (Presentation) in Open Office.
    • by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:54AM (#21196743) Journal

      Yeah, I've been thinking about a new machine for my parents for a while now, though this isn't much of an upgrade from what they currently have (though I'm sure it runs faster.) Then I saw this:

      Even at the low end, however, image is everything. The gPC is built using tiny components, but put inside a full-size case because research indicates that Wal-Mart shoppers are so unsophisticated they equate physical size with capability.

      I think it's silly, because I'd rather have desk space, but I have to admit my first thought was, "That's what SHE said!"

      • Even at the low end, however, image is everything. The gPC is built using tiny components, but put inside a full-size case because research indicates that Wal-Mart shoppers are so unsophisticated they equate physical size with capability.

        That comment is actually quite inflammatory. I'd bet hard money that they never used the word "unsophisticated" when discussing why they made it large. However, the thought expressed by these "insophisticates" is generally true: You can generally fit weaker machines in smaller cases than more powerful machines. That's why there's still a market for the freaking huge Lian Li cases for power users... because some powerful gaming machines require freaking huge cases. And it's why the Mac Mini is in a s

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Nullav (1053766)
          Are you kidding? About the only differences in size come from buying a nice video card instead of using onboard video or a low-profile card, and having more hard drives. Regardless, it's nice to have the room to expand and good airflow that come from having a needlessly large case.
    • There are Palm-syncing programs in Ubuntu. One I "gnow" of is gnome-pilot. I'm not sure whether it works in an enlightenment environment, but wouldn't be surprised if it does.

      As for printing, I had to adjust no settings in Ubuntu 7.10 to print. It just worked.
    • by mhall119 (1035984)
      OpenOffice.org Impress can open and save .ppt files, so they will still be able to do that. There are also utilities to sync with palm devices, I hear they work pretty well now. Printers may be an issue, depending on the maker and quality of the printer. Printing photos can be done from the default image viewer (not Gimp), I don't see how that would be very difficult to teach.

      Honestly, get a Ubuntu LiveCD, pop it into their current computer, and test drive it. I'm sure there will be a learning curve, bu
    • by Entropius (188861)
      And I'd probably need to teach them how to use new software for printing photos.

      Why?

      My mom uses GIMP or Picasa on Windows to print photos. How's this all that different from using GIMP or Picasa on Linux to print photos?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:44AM (#21196579)
    What is this "modern" software they speak of? Just how much horsepower do you need to browse the Web, type something in a word processor? Is there some sort of super Solitaire with realtime physics simulation and ray traced graphics that I don't know about?
    • I was wondering that, too. I have a 1.25GHz eMac and a 1.6GHz PowerBook, and the only software I've used that doesn't run acceptably fast is NeoOffice and maybe iMovie. Word, Excel, iWork, Photoshop Elements - they're all fine.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MsGeek (162936)
        I have you beat.

        I'm on an iMac 500MHz G3, running Panther. Performance is slower than, say, my MacBook, but it's acceptable. 750MB RAM helps, of course. Strangely enough, Photoshop Elements 4 runs faster on the iMac than my MacBook...freaking Rosetta...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kent_eh (543303)
      Yeah, really.

      My family computer at home is a 1.2GHz 512MB machine that I threw together about 5 years ago. It dual-boots Ubuntu and XP, and runs everything from desktop publishing, to office apps, to web browsing to home video editing just fine for our needs.

      This box would be a step up, and for half what it cost me building what I already have.
      Too bad this is only WalMart USA (not their Canadian branch) selling this.
  • Storage? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kaellinn18 (707759) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:45AM (#21196595) Homepage Journal
    This seems like a great machine to use for backups and file storage on a home network. Just replace the 80GB hard drive with a bigger one (if necessary), and you have an extremely cheap file server.
  • Oh great! (Score:2, Funny)

    by eneville (745111)
    Great! Now more people want help on the linux forums.
  • I'd love to know how well these will sell -- perhaps we can arrange a follow-up in a few months?

    More seriously, this falls under the "computers as appliances" paradigm. This "home computing appliance" cost less than many "home gaming" appliances, about as much as a cheap all-in-one sound system. It delivers basic internet functionality. The users shouldn't care what OS it runs anymore than they care what OS their printer runs. This is not to say that there can be a potential snag: users trying to inst

    • by timeOday (582209)

      More seriously, this falls under the "computers as appliances" paradigm. This "home computing appliance" cost less than many "home gaming" appliances, about as much as a cheap all-in-one sound system. It delivers basic internet functionality.

      Actually it has a lot of capabilities missing in any version of Windows short of Server, such as unrestricted number of clients for fileserving. And it comes preinstalled with a lot more than just the OS, including a full-featured office suite.

      there can be a potentia

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Nullav (1053766)
        "I miss my Garfield cursor. This thing can't even run Bonzai Buddy. And what am I going to do without Weather Bug? Worst machine ever. I'm going back to Windows."
  • I wanted to know, how many slots (likely 1) and of what type. Which embedded GPU it has. What kind of RAM it used and how many free memory slots.

    I'd buy something like this for the little one (or an OLPC or an EEE PC or the like) but I'd need to know how far it will grow first.
  • by bagofcrap (260283) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:51AM (#21196671) Journal
    These computers are in cases that would fit a full-size ATX motherboard. Supposedly Wallmart did a survey, and found that most of their customers believe "Bigger is Better", even when it isn't. It is not a terrible deal given that it's a mini-ATX motherboard, but using that big a case for it is just wasting space.

    Even better than that, the computers being sold as 'green PC' meaning thats the mfr's product name, and has nothing to do with being enviromentally conscious.
    • by timeOday (582209) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:57AM (#21197849)

      It is not a terrible deal given that it's a mini-ATX motherboard, but using that big a case for it is just wasting space.
      It provides more room for expandability. I can certainly see wanting to at least add a second hard drive for backups.

      has nothing to do with being enviromentally conscious.
      From the Via website: " Developed from the ground up for low power operation, the VIA C7 processor is based on the advanced VIA CoolStream(TM) Architecture and manufactured using IBM's state-of-the-art 90nm Silicon-on-Insulator (SOI) process, and delivers the greatest performance per watt in the business.

      Capable of running up to 2.0GHz with ultra low power consumption of around 20 watts peak power and operating at an average power of less than 1 watt, the VIA C7 processor is the embodiment of cool processing and sets the standards for next generation of desktop, mobile and personal electronics systems."

    • by jeblucas (560748) <jeblucas.gmail@com> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:50PM (#21198591) Homepage Journal

      Even better than that, the computers being sold as 'green PC' meaning thats the mfr's product name, and has nothing to do with being enviromentally conscious.
      Not only that, I heard that Alienware PC's [alienware.com] are in fact, not made by aliens at all.
      • Even better than that, the computers being sold as 'green PC' meaning thats the mfr's product name, and has nothing to do with being enviromentally conscious.
        Not only that, I heard that Alienware PC's are in fact, not made by aliens at all.
        Oh my god. Please don't tell me anything about the Keebler Elves, I don't think I could take it.
  • by DamonHD (794830) <d@hd.org> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:51AM (#21196681) Homepage
    Probably quite power-efficient with that chipset so long as they have a recent (tickless) kernel in it, such as with Gutsy, though I would like a little more memory for one of my apps:

    http://www.earth.org.uk/low-power-laptop.html [earth.org.uk]

    Might also do nicely as an off-the-shelf monitoring device for networks, HVAC, etc...

    If they sell one at a similar price here I might buy one to play with.

    Rgds

    Damon
  • The C7 processor doesn't use much power, so unless they put in an extra-noisy fan, this should be both a low-power and quiet system.
  • More .... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:52AM (#21196697)
    • More responsive than Vista!
    • More responsible than Congress!
    • A better parent than Britney!
    • More reliable than IE 1.0!
    • More secure than walking down an alley in the South Bronx at 2 AM!
    • More fun than a root-canal at the Albanian Dental School!
  • I have a Mac Classic maxed out to 4 MB of RAM that is "more responsive" than vista. It's also got a ~8" black and white built in monitor, so it has some restrictions, but talk about smooth response! Not everything can be solved with RAM and CPU. Some problems must be solved with good system design.
  • by coyote-san (38515) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @10:57AM (#21196795)
    Unacceptably low-end for modern software? Huh? I do some development at home, but other than that nearly all of my time is spent either reading email or surfing the web. Neither is particularly heavy.

    And I'm happy with my bottom-end MicroCenter PCs that cost under $300, even with the development work. I did double the memory to 1GB, but that was the only change for two years. (Last week I decided to add a low-end NVIDIA card.)

    I'll grant you that it's not a great choice for playing movies, and would undoubtably suck as a game platform, but for a lot of people that system would easily satisfy their needs and is far more affordable than the crap I've seen pushed at the same market -- get a 'name brand' pc for only $19.99/week for a year!

    So is it for everyone? No. Is it a good choice for a lot of people? Yes.
    • by KWTm (808824) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:21AM (#21197217) Journal
      I ordered a Wal-Mart Linux PC. I'm using it for a backup server at home right now.

      This was back in 2002 or 2003. It was $200, only available by mail-order, and came with a CD-ROM drive and single hard disk (20GB?). I picked up a crummy CRT at the local second-hand computer store and started exploring Linux. I replaced the hard drive with a removable hard drive bracket.

      It took me a while to figure out that the CD reader had subtle errors (after 3 different distributions of Linux failed to install) and replaced that too. The thing was, the smaller box (is that called mini-ITX?) would only fit the very smallest CD drives, and both my new CD RW and the removable hard drive bracket protruded out the front in a rather ugly way.

      The thing came with Lindows (as it was called at the time). I tried it for 10 minutes and then replaced it with "Pink Tie" Linux, then Mandrake 8.1, then LibraNet Linux. (I tried Debian, too, but that "dselect" thing is way too cryptic.)

      Looks like Wal-Mart is back with more PC's for the people. That's great. It will bring more visibility to Ubuntu, and Linux in general. And that's the point of the whole thing: to let Linux have more visibility so that manufacturers, and people in general, won't say, "Hey, we don't have to make our video player compatible with Linux because nobody uses Linux."
  • The bottom of the screenshot shows some type of application launcher or something. Does anyone know what that is exactly? I'm still looking for something stable to work as my "RKLauncher" for my Ubuntu setup.
  • did anyone else find this part curious:

    The variant of Linux on the gPC is called gOS and is derived from the popular Ubuntu variant. It's heavily oriented toward Google's Web sites and online applications, like YouTube, Gmail and the company's word processing program, all of which can be used only when the computer is connected to a broadband line. The PC comes with a dialup modem, but gOS doesn't support it. So most users likely will get online other ways.

    true, more and more people are using broadband

  • In my situation, I can only be interested in these systems if I can watch CSPAN online and out of the box. Question is: Can I watch CSPAN on these boxes without much configuration? Hope so.
  • The gPC is built using tiny components, but put inside a full-size case because research indicates that Wal-Mart shoppers are so unsophisticated they equate physical size with capability.
    What would a tiny case cost, and does this thing need loud fans? Might be a good deal for a small-footprint device if you can get a smaller case for cheap.
  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:04AM (#21196909)
    Will the hardware makers do what they have to to make sure the project fails by installing the worst software Linux has to offer and a broken configuration like they usually do?
  • It has a 1.5 Ghz VIA C7 CPU embedded in a Mini-ITX motherboard, 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. Normally, this would simply mark it as unacceptably low-end for use with modern software.

    Anyone that things that the above specs are unacceptably low-end had better specify exactly what software they're considering running: weather simulations? 3-d compositing of movies? factoring Mersenne primes?

    There is no problem running Firefox on a 500MHz CPU with 256Mb of RAM. You can even run a full-featured offi

  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:06AM (#21196981) Homepage

    the makers say it's more responsive than Vista is, even on more powerful computers

    Not to go off on a rant but my #1 pet peeve with software, especially anything from Microsoft, is all the hardware gains of the past 20 years are lost of bad software. Whether due to bad design (feature bloat) or bad execution, Vista and MS Office on current consumer hardware aren't any more responsive than Win 3 and Word or AmiPRO or whatever was running back in the day.

    There was a /. story recently linking to a web log article about security analysis. The author, an employee of Microsoft, made a ridiculously inane comment about developers responding to users' requests. Really made me want to kick the guy in the nads. Does he really think users want to upgrade to faster CPUs and larger hard drives to benefit developers rather than themselves?

    When MS Office 2k7 was in beta and the PR push was on for the new menu system, I read an analysis by MS of MS Office apps and their menus over the years. The space taken up by menu bars was listed as number of pixels and as a percentage of the typical screen size. The message was, although menus had grown in absolute size, the percentage of the typical screen had stayed the same. Like that was a good thing.

    For the obligatory automotive analogy, would people take advantage of the improvements in engine design, lighter materials, etc. by buying large trucks rather than getting improved fuel efficiency with cars of the same size?

    Nevermind.

    • by sqrt(2) (786011)
      Something I'd like to point out. This is true at least for the limited number of computers I work with at home, Office 2007 loads faster on XP than Office 2003 does. Word and excel open almost instantly, it amazes me every time. On vista it's about the same however. I think the new menus make it easier to find things, but that's just personal preference. I hear a lot about people wanting to get the old styled ones back. I'd say the change hasn't been well received.
    • by Ours (596171)
      Your automotive analogy is actually quite correct. Engines are getting better and better. The problem is cars are getting more and more equipment and therefore weight more.
      Top gear compared a VW Golf R32. Weight went double so power also had to double to compensate the equipment weight (heated seats and all that crap). So, more bloat, more power. I the end the energy consumption is maintained while the engines become more efficient.
    • Not to go off on a rant but my #1 pet peeve with software, especially anything from Microsoft, is all the hardware gains of the past 20 years are lost of bad software. Whether due to bad design (feature bloat) or bad execution, Vista and MS Office on current consumer hardware aren't any more responsive than Win 3 and Word or AmiPRO or whatever was running back in the day.

      Case in point: there is little fundamentally different that I would be doing on a 2007 Vista business computer that I could not just as easily accomplish on a K62 350mhz machine from 1998. (or was it 99? Anyway, it's old.) I had that very machine, came with Win98. I upgraded it to Win2k and that sucker ran like a raped ape. Responsive, dependable, would get you on the net, word process, all the shit you'd expect of a computer. It could run the games of the day just fine. In an office environment, games and

  • A $200 Linux PC at Walmart, I can't tell whether to be happy that it actually being sold? or to be sad that it is being sold by the biggest corporation in the world. :(
  • by _14k4 (5085)
    I wonder how well it would fare with Gutsy? How often is gOS updated?

    I think this is good for say, Grandma, who will only want to get online and read her email and send a million forwards. Throw edubuntu on it and maybe it will be a good platform for children, as well.

    • by nolife (233813)
      How often is gOS updated?

      Well, apparently their web site is not even up yet
      http://www.thinkgos.com/index.html [thinkgos.com]

      Right now, it states "Website coming 9am, November 1, 2007" but none of the links work.
      I did find this though:

      gOS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
      I am not familiar with that license but it does have a really long name.
  • by kurtis25 (909650)
    I want one.... I want to see if it is actually usable. Does my thumb drive work, my printer, my camera, my mouse and keyboard. Or do I have to drop another couple hundred dollars buying all new components. If everything I own works and the software is good, I don't mind Google docs and use it more than Word. I would guess the big hurdle is the Ipod. My folks would be fine with this PC but the Ipod obstacle stands in the way. I think it's a good idea I may consider but it may be in front of it's time. If the
  • Marketing Madness (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rueger (210566) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:20AM (#21197207) Homepage
    Normally, this would simply mark it as unacceptably low-end for use with modern software. By using the fast Enlightenment desktop manager (instead of heavier-duty alternatives like Gnome or KDE), the makers say it's more responsive than Vista is, even on more powerful computers.

    You're taking an underpowered machine, with a non-standard desktop, OS and software, and selling it to what is likely the least tech knowledgeable market that you can find.

    a) Sell crappy Linux box to unsupecting mark.
    b) Mark can't figure out why it isn't like every other computer
    c) Mark can't make $9.99 computer game install
    d) Mark can't make MS Word document open.
    e) Profit?

    Ever consider that there was a reason why Wal-Mart's last cheapo Linux PC has been "out of stock" for so long? It's because they can't sell them without having them returned.
    • by the_womble (580291) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:24PM (#21198251) Homepage Journal

      a) Sell crappy Linux box to unsupecting mark.
      Yes,because the buyers are really going to be expecting the best hardware avaiable for $200. They will expect something that works reasonably and is good value for a bottom end price.

      b) Mark can't figure out why it isn't like every other computer
      Given how pretty Enlightenment looks, and given the public's liking for eye-candy, most buyers are going to think"hey, this is cool". Screenshot of this PC's default theme here [desktoplinux.com].

      c) Mark can't make $9.99 computer game install
      $200 hardware is obviously aimed at gamers

      d) Mark can't make MS Word document open.
      Why not? I have never had a problem opening and MS Word document on any Linux distro I have tried, click on it in the file manager. You do not even have to install any additional software, what you need is in the default install [desktoplinux.com] - unlike a good many cheap Windows PCs.

      e) Profit?
      At that price, very likely. Margins will be very low given the volumes Wal-Mart could potentially shift they do not need to be high.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:24AM (#21197283)
    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16883114030 [newegg.com]
    Here is one of your cheapest alternatives on the market

    Brand eMachines
    Model W3609
    Recommended Usage Home / Home Office
    Processor Intel Celeron D 356(3.33GHz)
    Processor Main Features 64 bit Processor
    Cache Per Processor 512KB L2 Cache
    Memory 512MB DDR2 533
    Hard Drive 120GB SATA 7200rpm
    Optical Drive 1 DVD±RW 16x Multiformat Dual-Layer Optical Drive
    Graphics Intel GMA 950 Up to 224MB Shared Video Memory
    Audio 6-channel (5.1) high-definition audio
    Ethernet Intel 10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN
    Speaker Amplified Stereo Speakers (USB-Powered)
    Keyboard Standard multifunction keyboard
    Mouse 2-button wheel mouse
    Operating System Windows Vista Home Basic
    • by sootman (158191) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @01:00PM (#21198777) Homepage Journal
      Recommended Usage Home / Home Office
      Processor Intel Celeron D 356(3.33GHz)
      Processor Main Features 64 bit Processor
      Cache Per Processor 512KB L2 Cache
      Memory 512MB DDR2 533
      Hard Drive 120GB SATA 7200rpm


      It always kills me to read the specs on a site like Dell.com and see all these machines described as "suitable for web browsing, email..." When I went to Siggraph in 1998, PII/400s were the new hotness and all the kickass machines that ran all the 3D apps had MAYBE 16 MB video cards. Today, they make it sound like a 3 GHz machine is usable only if you're a complete simpleton and will never have more than 2 apps open at once. Unbelievable.
  • By using the fast Enlightenment desktop manager (instead of heavier-duty alternatives

    I remember when Enlightment was taking heat for being a resource hog, compared to normal window managers such as WindowMaker.
    But Gnome and (to a lesser degree) KDE managed to make it look lean. Not only they are bloated, but the feature set, flexbility and graphics quality is complete crap. They're rapidly approaching locked-down, dumbed-down level of XP or Vista as far as window manager functionality is concerned. Way to c
  • by Danathar (267989) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:44AM (#21197591) Journal
    Jack Tramail of Atari and Commodore used to say that $200 is a sweet spot for consumers

    "Computers for the Masses, not the classes"
  • what?!? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Deadplant (212273) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:16PM (#21198137)
    "It has a 1.5 Ghz VIA C7 CPU embedded in a Mini-ITX motherboard, 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard drive. Normally, this would simply mark it as unacceptably low-end for use with modern software."

    You've got to be f-ing kidding me.
    That is nonsense. the author has been talking to sales people and/or the microsoft vista team.
    That is double the spec you need for XP with office-like software and broadband Internet multimedia stuff.

    The latest games and vista are the only "modern software" for which those specs are inadequate.
    And that is only because games can always use more power and are thus coded for the latest and greatest equipment.
    (I can't explain vista)
  • by pappy97 (784268) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @03:22PM (#21200811)
    The real story is that five years after Wal-mart started selling linux PC's online...they are still selling them online, not in-store. That's the real story, and it still shows that linux isn't ready for general idiot consumer use, because well, wal-mart employees still don't know what linux is and hilarity would insue at most wal-marts when their employees try to explain that the computer doesn't have windows, but that the employee doesn't know if x game that specifically says it's for windows only will run on the $200 pc.

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