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United Kingdom Portables Linux Hardware Technology

New Linux-Based Laptop For Computer Newbies 198

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the bad-software-knows-no-bounds dept.
Smivs writes "The BBC is carrying a report on how people confused and frustrated by computers can now turn to a laptop called Alex built just for them. Based on Linux, the laptop comes with simplified e-mail, web browsing, image editing and office software. Those who sign up for Alex pay £39.95 a month for telephone support, software updates and broadband access. The Newcastle-Based Broadband Computer Company who developed Alex has been working on this project for three years, and didn't immediately adopt a Linux solution — in fact, the first big trial was based on Windows. The company's Chief Technology Officer Barney Morrison-Lyons says that was never going to be the right route: 'The biggest problem with Microsoft is badly-written software — the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux.' Mr. Hudson, one of the company's founders, said the company also intends to launch an application store for Alex for customers who want to add more features and functions to their computer. 'People who love Linux will be keen to develop for this,' he said."
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New Linux-Based Laptop For Computer Newbies

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  • by jomegat (706411) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:07PM (#31200960)
    Software can be badly written on any platform, and in any language.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Ben4jammin (1233084)
      As an infrastructure guy who manages many Windows servers, I always wondered about this as I am not a programmer. Is the problem the OS, or the programs that run on it? I guess there is a 3rd option: The OS allows for crappy software to run. I would be interested in a discussion (with people knowledgeable of such things) that compares the different OSes in that regard: How good are they at forcing good programming habits and standards?
      • I would be interested in a discussion (with people knowledgeable of such things)

        On Slashdot? I think you took the wrong turn at Albuquerque.

      • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudsonNO@SPAMbarbara-hudson.com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:24PM (#31201212) Journal

        the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux." Mr Hudson,

        Ms. Hudson disagrees with Mr. Hudson.

        The operating system doesn't "allow you to write software", bad or good. Garbage software can be written for any platform. And the "PC" is really a netbook that uses their servers to store your data, so you're locked in.

        Subscribers to Alex receive a USB stick which contains user-encrypted data and enables them to log on to their desktop from any Alex computer.

        For their monthly fee, customers also get anti-virus software and 10GB of storage space on the Broadband Computer Company's servers.

        The USB stick contains your log-n credentials, encrypted. Your data is sitting on their box. Vendor lock-in and over-priced.

        They're not doing their users any favours.

        • "Your data is sitting on their box. Vendor lock-in and over-priced. "

          I don't live in the UK, so I can't comment on their pricing (although it does seem steep), but I have no problem with them keeping users' data on their servers. You think Gramma is backing up all her photos and MP3s on her Windows box? I can guaranty you that she'll be one unhappy camper when her hard drive goes south.

          I'm assuming that it's possible for users to download their data to a local disk, of course. And that if the comp
          • by jedidiah (1196)

            > You think Gramma is backing up all her photos and MP3s on her Windows box?

            If not then you need to tell Grandma that all she needs to do is buy a USB drive
            and "drag things to it". You might even be a nice grandson and buy her the drive
            to start out with.

            The idea that backups should be a drag held more water back in the days of floppies.

            External drives are now plentiful and cheap. Nearly every machine has a means to burn CDs or DVDs.

            Even total n00bs burn CDs in order to escape the limitations of iPhoto.

            • by Bert64 (520050)

              Backups on windows (and earlier linux versions, not tried the latest ubuntu etc) are a hassle for end users, who end up either manually copying files (and often forget to do so)...
              My grandparents have a mac, and i got them an external drive and have time machine configured for automatic backups.

              • by jedidiah (1196)

                When you have 500G bus powered hard drives, why should backups be anything more than just copying things?

                The overkill and over-complication also means that the backup files aren't standard or portable.

                There is also the question of ensuring that there are enough distinct copies of the back media to ensure
                against media failures and just plain snafus during the backup. You're trying to pretend that Time Machine
                is something that it really isn't and your willful ignorance may eventually cause you to lose data.

                H*

          • ...And that if the company goes under they'll give users enough notice for them to get their data off the server.

            Why would you assume that? Unless UK law requires it (and IANAL, nor English, so it might for all I know) I wouldn't assume any such thing as it would be rather extraordinary in my experience.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Nursie (632944)

        As a software engineer with a very pronounced UNIX bias let me just say I don't like the way windows hides stuff.

        Sure, sure, most people hate command lines and config files. I know this and I'm not arguing that everyone else is wrong and I am right, or that your grandmother should learn to love bash and xorg.conf or anmything else. I'm just putting across my perspective.

        I don't like it when the computer does stuff automatically and gets it wrong, and provides no way to correct it. Example - Dual monitor set

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ephemeriis (315124)

          As a software engineer with a very pronounced UNIX bias let me just say I don't like the way windows hides stuff.

          I'm not a software engineer, and I use a Windows machine approximately 80% of the time... And I don't like the way Windows hides stuff.

          Install a piece of software under Windows, and there's really no telling where it goes. Sure, most of the code will live somewhere in the Program Files directory... But you'll wind up with some DLLs scattered all over the drive, and all sorts of registry entries. Un-install the software and it'll likely leave bits behind. Try to re-install again and you may find yoursel

          • by Nursie (632944)

            Ah yes, that is nice.

            When you fscked the system so badly it won't even boot, the ability to plug the drive in elsewhere, read the logs and tinker with everything from the kernel upwards has been a godsend. It's a long time since I've managed to screw up a windows box that badly, sure, but still..

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by aztracker1 (702135)

            Properly behaving windows software will use a handful of locations for different items. The application and all required libraries, not registered by a separate installer or sub-installer will exist in C:\Program File\s or C:\Program Files (x86)\, your individual preferences should be in C:\Users\username\AppData\(local|roaming|local low)\appname\ and system wide preferences will be in the common profile directory. (note the paths changed slightly from NT4 to 2000/XP to Vista/7, but it's much more unix-

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by Ephemeriis (315124)

              but it's much more unix-like today.

              Yes it is.

              Though to be honest, there's just as much fragmentation on the *nix side. System 7 style vs. BSD style structures. /usr/local/ vs /opt/

              True, but generally speaking things are stored in human-readable text files. So I could do a fulltext search for a string and be reasonably sure of finding what I'm looking for. Under Windows things are frequently stored in some odd binary file with a bizarre name that can be much harder to locate.

              In terms of backing up your settings, you should be able to copy/backup your user folder.

              This is true... But I'm not necessarily worried about my personal settings.

              Under Linux pretty much everything, including driver settings and whatnot, is stored in a text config file somewhere. I can

              • What pinheaded, Win-centric neandermod marked this Troll? This guy and Nursie have had good, insightful posts modded down for no reason.
              • by Bert64 (520050)

                I don't see why there's even any argument, it's obvious that text files are a vastly superior method of storing configuration...

                They're human readable, easily searchable, trivially editable from recovery environments (ie dont require any specialised tools), trivially editable over a serial console, trivially parsed or generated with simple scripts, can be easily backed up in revision control systems and diffed etc, you can easily put examples online and textfiles will usually allow you to put comments in th

            • by Bert64 (520050)

              A lot (pretty much most) of unix programs, especially open source ones, will generally let you configure where they install at compiletime... It's typically only closed source stuff that makes strange decisions about where it wants to install.

        • by 0ld_d0g (923931)

          This is my experience on Windows (vista and 7).

          1. Plug monitor into 2nd DVI connector on my GeForce 9800 GX2 card.
          2. Done, start working. (lcd monitor is automatically set at native resolution).

          You could have a monitor with broken EDID, issue with monitor drivers, display drivers or ofcource you could have encountered a Windows bug. I haven't seen any evidence that something as basic as what you're describing is broken for all the millions of people using windows (as it would be, if it was a flaw in the OS

          • by Nursie (632944)

            OK, so it's just my experience, and it was frustrating.

            What I'm trying to put across is that command lines and config files suit some people, and where things go wrong (it's disingenuous to say they never do) I like the level of access I get to the internals on UNIXy systems.

            "UNIX" the philosophy helped me there, not "UNIX" the opengroup specification.

            This was windows 7 by the way. It could well be bad monitor info, but xrandr manged to pick up the correct mode list and preferred resolution/refresh info. I'

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            In windows if EDID is broken in the monitor good luck if you can even select the right resolution, in linux xorg.conf editing will solve this issue.

            Hiding stuff from users is bad.

            • by Bert64 (520050)

              And macos has similar problems...
              I have a TV here which is 1080p capable, but it incorrectly reports its capabilities... I can't get windows or macos to do more than 1080i, but linux can be forced to 1080p quite easily.

        • Seriously, why am I modded troll?

          I went out of my way to answer the parent's question in a level headed way and stress that I was putting forward my (minority) opinions/experiences and not wide-reaching value judgements. WTF?

      • by Tim C (15259)

        Windows suffers from two main problems:

        1) The old Windows 9x lack of security, which lead an awful lot of programmers to assume that their software would have full access to the filesystem, OS, etc - this is so ingrained that it's taking a long time to be beaten out of some programmers

        2) Having by far the largest desktop market share, it attracts the most programmers; the law of averages dictates that a lot of them are going to be pretty bad at it.

        There is no silver bullet; while some languages, technologie

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by ClosedSource (238333)

          Actually, the law of averages would apply just as much to *nix as it would to Windows. Windows would have more bad programmers by raw numbers but Linux would have the same percentage.

        • by Bert64 (520050)

          The windows 9x legacy goes much further than that... A lot of the security problems in windows as a result of code that was ported over from 9x or needed to be compatible with the 9x way of doing things... The NT kernel security model was pretty good, but a lot of the cruft microsoft brought over from the 9x series renders much of it useless.

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)

        >The OS allows for crappy software to run

        All I can really say about that is I'm a big fan of consistency in design, a bad but consistent design is going to be nicer than a system with half a dozen different designs.
        I use Chrome but I get annoyed by the lack of a "Title Bar," keyboard short cuts need to be the same, and so help me God I will kill the person who though it would be a good idea to change the order of options that pop-up when you right-click on a minimized window, their death will be slow a

      • by ais523 (1172701) <ais523(524\)(525)x)@bham.ac.uk> on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:50PM (#31201578)
        Part of the reason is because Windows is backwards-compatible to Windows 3.1 and 95, which were build without reasonable security models. Since then, Windows' security model has improved a lot; but it still needs to be compatible with old programs, which tended to be written quite badly back then. (I'd say older versions of Windows encouraged sloppy coding because it was just so easy, unlike the UNIX variants around at the time which would generally complain if you tried to do things that broke security too badly). Windows also used to be more homogenous than UNIX systems (even nowadays, you can see Linux manpages talking about the difference between BSD-style and X/Open-style, such as this one [die.net] which summarises the mess). As a result, old Windows programs tended to work even if written badly because they only had one sort of system to run on, which let them get away with dubious things, whereas old UNIX programs tended to need to be written well to work at all. (Classic Mac OS can be pretty-much disregarded here, because nobody uses it nowadays and Mac OS X is based on UNIX.)

        Since then, all the operating systems involved have become more modern. In UNIX land, people were used to porting programs anyway, to get them to run on new variants, so when newcomers like Linux turned up (and later Mac OS X, which is less different from traditional UNIX than Linux is with respect to how traditional UNIX applications behave, although it's a lot more different with respect to newly-written applications designed to run on it specifically), it was generally the responsibility of people to modify applications to get them running on Linux in particular, or whatever. As a result, Linux can do its job quite well without needing to tolerate badly-written insecure legacy applications. On the other hand, Windows would lose one of its major selling points (its compatibility), if it did that. So Windows is written to be very good at running legacy badly-written applications; as a side-effect, though, this means that it's rather good at running badly-written applications, even new ones.

        The end conclusion is that if you want to write well, you can do it on any platform; but lazy programmers who want to write badly will have fewer issues doing so on Windows.

        (There's another force at play, too; the cultures of obtaining software in Windows and Linux are rather different, and as a result, well-written Linux software tends to become much easier to find than badly-written Linux software. I imagine there's lots of bad software out there for both Windows and Linux despite the above effects, but you'll find bad Windows software preinstalled on a newly bought computer alongside the OS itself (people debate the merits of various OSes, but everyone I know hates "shovelware"), and on driver disks with hardware you buy. This doesn't happen so much with Linux, because there's no, or not as much, money in it; people on Linux are so used to (legally) getting software for free, that they're unlikely to pay unless people are offering something of good quality.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by natehoy (1608657)

        All operating systems allow bad software to run, but the difference is how those applications have been developed for that platform over the years.

        Back in the earlier days of DOS/Windows, the concept of limiting what a user (or their account) could do was pretty much at odds with the whole concept of having a "Personal Computer". The whole idea of a PC was that the person sitting behind the keyboard was in control of what happened on that computer, and the operating system should deny them nothing.

        As the D

      • My opinion?

        I don't think it's the OS at all, to be perfectly honest. It's the philosophy behind the methods of development.

        Proprietary software written for *nix is oftentimes little, if any, better than proprietary software written for Windows. How have those binary-only drivers treated you, in the past? Yes, EVERYONE says that driver x works a charm - but it screws up YOUR display, and you have to drop back to CLI to fix it.

        The entire problem can be more accurately described as open-source vs closed-sou

    • by ErroneousBee (611028) <neil:neil[ ]cock.co.uk ['han' in gap]> on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:24PM (#31201216) Homepage

      Software can be badly written on any platform, and in any language.

      You are quite wrong. On several occasions Linux has intercepted my code typos, SQL injunctions and XSS vilneravilities.

      Once it even prevented me from accidentally biting into a Marmite sandwich.

    • by svtdragon (917476)
      I agree in principle, but if this was developed with XP in mind, he may be getting at the "applications assume they have administrative rights" issue that prompted UAC. In Linux, the default use case of sudo + restricted accounts does make software developers stick to user-level rights whenever possible.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      For their monthly fee, customers also get anti-virus software and 10GB of storage space on the Broadband Computer Company's servers

      And full of what looks like fud. "anti-virus"... really.... What anti-virus software do that run that looks for Linux Viruses? ClamAV looks for windows viruses only. so unless it's scanning their incoming junk for windows viruses just to keep them from passing it along they are giving out fake stuff.

      • by Bert64 (520050)

        People think they need antivirus, and that it is an essential part of running a computer...
        Give such people a mac or linux box and they will ask for antivirus for it...

    • Wish I could give you an extra +1 there. It's simply ignorant FUD to state that any platform can't have badly written software. I've seen badly written software running on multi-million dollar systems before. It happens.

    • Sigh. Technically true, this old saw, but that's not the damn point. Don't get me wrong, the CTO's quote IS bullshit, and you're correct that nothing about Linux prevents programmers from writing bad software for it.

      But there is a kernel of truth in what the CTO meant. So before you go congratulating yourself on that +5 (Insightful) for your smug insistence on literalism (and thereby missing the real point, entirely), why not consider what you're missing?

      Almost everybody on Linux uses a distro, right? And t

    • by bill_kress (99356)

      Some systems allow you to be more sloppy than others--

      For instance, in windows XP it's pretty easy to write code that assumes it is "admin" (possibly not even intentionally) and have it pass all your testing and be delivered--when you go into admin on a mac, Linux or windows 7, you are more likely to be aware that you are going into admin mode--on a linux system you are even going to be forced to seriously consider NOT going into root when you start getting reports from users that don't install as root on t

    • by DeadboltX (751907)

      I don't know what you're talking about. It's impossible to write bad software for a Mac, OS X doesn't allow it. Macs also can't get viruses or malware, they never crash, and they make me popular at my local Starbucks while I write my screenplay.

    • Exactly. He lost me right there and I've no further interest in this particular slashvertisement.

      My guess is the statement was aimed at the Linux geek crowd so they would get good press in places like /.

    • Wonder how many hits they got for that one.

  • £39.95 a month? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phormalitize (1748504) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:07PM (#31200966) Journal
    For a slightly higher fee, can I just get someone who will use the computer for me whenever I need to do something on it?
    • by chrb (1083577)

      The price is comparable with similar home broadband+laptop deals. [broadbandf...ptop.co.uk]

      • by abigsmurf (919188)
        That isn't really like for like as they're mobile internet deals (ie 3g) and come with netbooks with 3G modems.
        • by Bert64 (520050)

          You get broadband, subsidised laptop and support... You're not just paying for the laptop, you're actually paying for a managed service... That's actually a good thing, many people simply lack the required knowledge to manage a full featured OS connected to the internet.

    • Re:£39.95 a month? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:18PM (#31201122) Homepage

      For a slightly higher fee, can I just get someone who will use the computer for me whenever I need to do something on it?

      That's expensive. IBM used to have that for their top executives, in the 1970s. The executives got a 3270 display with a phone handset. When they picked up the phone handset, they were connected to an operator who could bring up IBM internal financial and sales data. Really.

      • Yes but now that can be outsourced to India.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Nerdfest (867930)
        That's still way better than using Lotus Notes.
      • £39.95 sounds a lot for sure - I wouldn't pay it - but then to put it into context, iPhone monthly contracts are 30-40 a month so I guess they are positioning themselves there. If people will pay out 40/month to have a handheld computer, why not the same for a laptop with tech support?

  • Can't be serious (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymusing (1450747) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:07PM (#31200976)

    "The biggest problem with Microsoft is badly-written software -- the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux."

    It's very easy to write bad software on all three platforms. I've done it! Many of you probably have, too!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I can't say have - all my software is perfectly written. If only there weren't such a disconcerting amount of bad users out there!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by negRo_slim (636783)
      I'd wouldn't say the problem is badly written software. Especially in the context given, the fact that I can create software for the Windows operating system is one of the main reasons I continue to use it. My code may be what some consider bad, but a part of me still gets giddy with every successful compile.

      The root of the issue is people not understanding computers in general. They are machines with their own strengths and weaknesses and that must be understood to avoid being confused and frustrated at e
  • um... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cool_story_bro (1522525) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:08PM (#31200990)

    the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux.

    Yeah. No operating system known to man prevents you from "writing software badly".

    • Yeah. No operating system known to man prevents you from "writing software badly".

      That may be, but a good OS will limit the damage that the bad software can cause. For example, denying PEEK and POKE commands (or their equivalents), doing memory management, enforcing security features, etc.
  • I'm happy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jorl17 (1716772)
    If it trully helps less technical people, then I think it can contribute as living proof that Linux (or GNU/Linux, you decide) can be user friendly.

    Rock on!
    • by hitmark (640295)

      just dont expect any terminal or interface tweak options.

      basically its what asus tried with the first netbook, and where apple have been going since the iphone.

    • I was just thinking this could be an interesting concept for the Tandy brand in the US. I know it's been a while, but they would have a brand from the past that they could leverage for something similar.

    • If it trully helps less technical people, then I think it can contribute as living proof that Linux (or GNU/Linux, you decide) can be user friendly.

      Rock on!

      I agree!
      Nothing proves the power of free software more than spending $61 a month to keep it working!
      -Taylor

  • no training wheels (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tim4444 (1122173) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:10PM (#31201010)

    the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux

    Linux has a lot of good features but I don't know that that it would prevent you from writing bad code...

    • True, but software of a very poor or insecure nature is usually unlikely to make it into most Linux distributions. Well-maintained repositories and package managers pretty much ensure users don't install buggy pieces of crap (for most purposes, any way). People install badly-written software for Windows by combing the web for dodgy-looking downloads; that just doesn't happen in Linux. Well, except for new users who have difficulty reconciling themselves with the limitations of repositories, any way.

      Then aga

  • Linux Alex (Score:4, Funny)

    by CopaceticOpus (965603) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:11PM (#31201020)

    Finally, a FOSS response to Microsoft Bob!

  • Linux... For the inexperienced?

    And its not even Ubuntu?

    Believe me, I've seen people so inept with computers that both the mouse and the keyboard seem like tools of frustration. And I daresay voice recognition, while getting close, is still not quite at the level for full operability.

    And also - you CAN write badly written software for Linux. I once wrote an encryption tool that used random number generation, and not actually a key or passphrase supplied by the user. Needless to say, they were a little disapp

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)

      You don't by chance happen to work on the Debian project do you?

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      Ah, so it was YOU I went to college with. You should have known when we all warned you about it, but the failing grade on your final really should have clued you in.

      Seriously, I went to college with a kid who proposed an encryption method that involved taking the ASCII value of each letter in the string to be encrypted, and multiplying each one by a unique randomly-generated 8-digit number. When asked how you decrypted it, he stated that all you needed to do was DIVIDE each character of the encrypted stri

      • by jimicus (737525)

        Ah, so it was YOU I went to college with. You should have known when we all warned you about it, but the failing grade on your final really should have clued you in.

        Seriously, I went to college with a kid who proposed an encryption method that involved taking the ASCII value of each letter in the string to be encrypted, and multiplying each one by a unique randomly-generated 8-digit number. When asked how you decrypted it, he stated that all you needed to do was DIVIDE each character of the encrypted string by a series of freshly-generated 8-digit pseudorandom numbers.

        Needless to say, though the code was well-written in and of itself, he never did get it running for finals, and about a dozen of us spent several hours each attempting to explain to him why.

        PS: He also bought lottery tickets. :)

        A variant on that (use XOR rather than multiply/divide) does actually work if you seed the RNG with the same value both times and use a password provided by the user as a seed. It's not exactly going to give professionals a headache but it'll keep your younger brother out of your files.

        The only bijou issuette is the encrypted files are not necessarily portable because unless you provide your own RNG you can't be sure that the algorithm used by rand() is the same on different platforms - or indeed the same

        • by natehoy (1608657)

          Right, agreed. But he wasn't talking about using a known seed (in fact, it's no longer a "random" number sequence if you can reproduce it using a known seed, it's a deterministic number set, with the seed as the true encryption key).

    • Believe me, I've seen people so inept with computers that both the mouse and the keyboard seem like tools of frustration. And I daresay voice recognition, while getting close, is still not quite at the level for full operability.

      If you've ever seen the results of a usability test you'll know problems with mice are the rule, not the exception. Pretty much every usability test I've done with the general public includes at least a few instances of users clicking the wrong mouse button. I've even seen it happen in testing with expert users, in one case all users were security architects or administrators for major ISPs and we still saw mistakes with which mouse button to click. It is almost certainly the most common usability flaw in m

  • This will be helpful to the geeks BBC, whom have been trying to get and keep support for non-microsoft browsers alive.

    Unfortunately, this probably won't be alive long enough to make a difference.

  • by Duradin (1261418) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:15PM (#31201070)
    The real Alex is off fighting the Ko-Dan armada.
  • Looked at the website. They're charging £400 for a minimum specced Celeron laptop. I can't even find a laptop worse than their one but you can get much better ones for £300 (less if you want a net top). Other than that, the broadband and tech support is largely priced the same as similar services.
  • by asdf7890 (1518587) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:26PM (#31201248)

    "People who love Linux will be keen to develop for this," he said

    No they won't. People who love Linux/community/whatever will develop for Linux/community/whatever. People who would love the chance to make a quick quid/dollar by packaging up a FOSS app for the app store will love it, but that won't create a marketplace full of will supported apps. And the general public see the "free!" part of Linux and the "free!" part of FOSS apps and won't be wanting to pay for apps from an app store, especially while paying that much a month for a support contract.

    39.95 a month

    You can get a free netbook or lowish spec laptop for that, which will come with Windows and will run Ubuntu quite happily, with many mobile phone contracts over here. This comes with mobile Internet access and a phone you can make/take calls and send texts with. I don't see the market - people will not want to get a free computer then pay that much for support when they can get a free netbook just by agreeing to a mobile phone contract and moan about the lack of support they aren't paying for later (and/or get their mate to support them because Dave knows about these things).

    The biggest problem with Microsoft is badly-written software — the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux.

    This is wrong on a level or two. While I'm no fan of Windows and the terrible that definitely exists for it, I've also seen terrible apps and scripts for Linux too. No OS can protect the world from slap-dash design/programming with not mind for security.

    • by asdf7890 (1518587)
      In fact, I've just bothered to scan the article and related links, and they want you to pay a fair chunk for the laptop then pay for the support contract. That is not going to happen. It reminds me of a cartoon of a computer market stall advertising "computers for people who know nothing about computers, PentiumIIs for only $5,000"!
    • 39.95 a month

      You can get a free netbook or lowish spec laptop for that, which will come with Windows and will run Ubuntu quite happily, with many mobile phone contracts over here.

      Note, the article quotes 39.95 british pounds per month for this service, but that version includes the high speed data service plan. The laptop and support plan are 9.99 british pounds, or about $20. I'd further note, the actual service quotes 24.99 british pounds with the broadband, not 39.95. So $50 per month including the high speed data plan a wireless router and free setup in your home is not all that expensive compared to prices in the US.

    • by westlake (615356)

      You can get a free netbook or lowish spec laptop for that, which will come with Windows and will run Ubuntu quite happily

      The problem is that the Windows laptop will happily run pretty much every FOSS app that is out there is well. The GIMP is there. Inkscape and the rest. But so are Photoshop, Paint Shop and Paint.NET.

      That freedom of choice makes Windows a very appealing platform.

  • It's the applications, stupid.

    The first time Joe Newbie tries to open a Shockwave web page, send an OpenOffice document to his buddy (who uses MS) that opens with crapped-up formatting, or tries to connect to an Exchange server (and no, OWA light is not a good alternative), he's going to have a bad taste in his mouth.

    Badly written or no, the majority of the desktop/laptop world is using closed source products that are largely designed not to play well with anything else. Add to that teams of developers on

    • by hitmark (640295)

      i think you just overshot the target market for this by several miles...

    • The first time Joe Newbie tries to open a Shockwave web page, send an OpenOffice document to his buddy (who uses MS) that opens with crapped-up formatting, or tries to connect to an Exchange server (and no, OWA light is not a good alternative), he's going to have a bad taste in his mouth.

      If the machine is being targeted at newbie users, then I take that to be retired old folks or home users - in which case it's highly unlikely they're going to be connecting to an Exchange server for email; more likely IMAP,

  • I'm assuming that he's referring to the fact that lots of old Windows software and even some new ones require the user to have admin rights in order to run properly. That and the fact that Windows' handling of user data has been a moving target from version to version makes for some real support nightmares that (to the best of my knowledge) you just don't see in the Mac and Linux world.

    To put it in a nutshell, Mac and Linux are much more structured and consistent about separating user, system, and appli
  • The biggest problem with Microsoft is badly-written software — the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux

    Please, I've written crappy software on all sorts of OSes...quit being a fanboy.

  • company's Chief Technology Officer Barney Morrison-Lyons says that was never going to be the right route: 'The biggest problem with Microsoft is badly-written software — the operating system allows you to write software badly unlike Mac or Linux.'

    That kind of makes me question their level of competency. It is possible to write software badly for any platform, device, or language. Saying otherwise means only that you're mis-parroting something one of your underlings has said.

  • There was a BBC news page last year about another British project, simplicITy [bbc.co.uk], which used the Italian ELDY Linux project to get elderly people acquainted with computers.
    Here's the link: http://www.eldy.org/ [eldy.org] (in italian), http://www.eldy.eu/ [www.eldy.eu] (in english).
    Some more links: http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eldy [wikipedia.org], http://www.webnews.it/news/leggi/4217/eldy-linformatica-per-la-terza-eta/ [webnews.it] (in italian) (I wonder if this isn't refered to more often because the primary sources are in italian?)
    Apparently the idea is

Real Programmers don't write in FORTRAN. FORTRAN is for pipe stress freaks and crystallography weenies. FORTRAN is for wimp engineers who wear white socks.

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