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Element Computer: ION Linux on Linux Hardware 274

JigSaw writes "Well known Lycoris person Jason Spisak left the company to join Element Computer, a new hardware company which now strives to offer the Apple experience on PCs: they sell Linux-certified modern hardware with their own flavor of Debian, ION Linux. ION is a desktop distro and it is developed specifically to work perfectly with the accompanied hardware. Other highlights include usage support (as opposed to installation-only support other distros provide) and system upgrades specific to the exact hardware the user runs. The KDE-based distro will only sell with their hardware as Mike Hjorleifsson says in his interview." (The company was previously mentioned on Slashdot.)
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Element Computer: ION Linux on Linux Hardware

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  • ...2004 is the year of Linux!!!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The cheapness of Apple hardware with the expense of a Linux distribution license!
    • Re:What a match! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by useosx ( 693652 )
      I don't understand why people are comparing this to Apple.

      I mean, isn't this what Dell, HP, etc do? Each machine that these companies sell have their slightly modified version of Windows (mostly drivers and stuff) so that you don't need configure Windows to run on the machine.

      So, yeah, you could run vanilla windows on an HP machine, but you'd have to install some drivers. Similarly, you could install Debian on a Element Computer box, but you'd have to install some drivers.
      • Well, it sounds like Element does it a little bit more than what HP does to Windows.
      • What makes it like apple is that their software doesn't work on other people's hardware.
        The Windows version you get from Dell also works(at least, the serial number would) on an HP.
        • ...at least, you can't guarantee it. a lot of OEM copies are tied to hardware as part of the licencing deal. this is because joe public doesn't want to pay extra for a retail copy of his OS.
      • Understand? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by essreenim ( 647659 )
        Its for the obvious reason.
        Mac OSX is specifically targetted for the MAC.
        So: When MAC OSX installs, it's binaries are optimized for the G4 architecture.

        This is a bit more awkward for the PC. Although Intel and AMD share the same core instruction set, there are of course differences. Others like Transmeta are completely different.
        This presents a problem for M$ as they like to keep things i386 borg'd!

        And therin lies the power of Linux and Open source in general. If you compile source code for the specific t
  • by christopher240240 ( 633932 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:56PM (#8856453)
    If they follow apple's lead on hw/sw integration and keep the prices reasonable, this could be a very nice way to show Linux as a user-friendly option.
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:56PM (#8856457)
    which now strives to offer the Apple experience on PCs

    They sell PCs with single-button mice, without floppy drives, at 3 times the price?
    • You're almost definitely going to be modded "flamebait" or "troll," but if I had mod points today, you'd get a big fat "+1 Funny" from me.

      • Yeah, this will be just like apple. I am not even an apple FAN and I have to come to apple's defense here.

        #1. Apple's hardware is actually unique, it isn't whitebox PC's trying to be unique. Apple produces the unique units and charges for them.

        #2. Apple's OS (in this case OS is defined as complete default install, not BSD underpinnings) is actually unique, it isn't linux with a couple bolt on additions trying to be unique. Apple produces the unique OS and charges for it.

        -- I can see them getting awa
    • by ljavelin ( 41345 )
      I still don't get the floppy drive complaints.

      Floppys suck - obsolete capacity, obsolete reliability.

      I've thrown all of my floppy disks away. None of my home-built machines have a floppy drive. I haven't bought software on floppy in about 8 years.

      If I need to boot from another device, I'll boot via CD-ROM. If I need to move a small file: email. If I need to store a lot of files: CD-RW.

      Next thing you'll be telling me is that you want dual floppy drives, one 3.5" and one 5.25".
      • I use them. They're great for moving small files around where email is not an option. easily rewriteable, and I can use them almost anyplace...except your house.

        Ever try to email a document to Kinkos? Since I am looking for work, I keep a floppy with my resume on it where ever I go.

        I also use them as boot disks when working on older computers.

        There also more durable then CD's. I can frop a floppy, and not worry about scratches.

        The floppy will go away, just need a few more years.
        • What about USB keychains?

          I never go anywhere without them. They are faster, more reliable, and have higher storage capacity.

          They aren't expensive either..

          Their life expectancies are also waay higher than floppies. Oh, and lets not forget that they don't get corrupted every time your two year old puts a fridge magnet close to it.

          And it's also dead easy to boot from them on today's machines..

          Really, floppies should've died a long time ago.

          Thanks apple!

          • Floppies are great!!

            How many ironclad excuses are there for missing homework assignments???

            Student: "Um... sorry. My floppy disintegrated."

            Teacher: "That's okay. It happens to all of us."

            I will mourn the passing of this vital source of excuses. Soon I'm going to have to buy a dog. (or a Windows box!)
          • And it's also dead easy to boot from them on today's machines.

            I guess my nine month old computer is just too damned old. I need to get with the program and buy new hardware much more often that that.

            I really wish it would though. It's a great replacement for floppy once you get the manufacturers agreed on a mass storage standard (some still don't). But how soon until USB 2.0 is obsolete? On my "old" system I still have to specifically enable "legacy" USB, otherwise known as 1.1. That's just silly.

      • The three main usage of a PC is:

        1) Type an invoice.

        2) Type a receipt.

        3) Count all the money you have.
        They all fit comfortably in a floppy. The rest goes to the entertainment department which requires a CD. But that's not too important.
      • Floppies do suck! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MarcQuadra ( 129430 ) *
        Agreed fully, and remember, on a Mac you've got OpenFirmware, so you can EASILY do a one-time boot off a USB or FireWire drive.

        Apple made considerations to eliminate the floppy, PC makers have not. PCs still don't have standardized boot protocols for stuff like USB or FireWire, so they NEED floppies to make stuff like BIOS flashes easy to use.

        The best thing about adminning on a platform with no floppy? Never having to tell anyone that their disk ate their work.
    • I know you're trying to be funny, but I have a hard time picturing any Linux distribution as being similar to "the Apple experience". Modern Linux Desktops are getting close [slashdot.org] to a Windows/Unix fusion experience, but they seem to be completely lacking in the areas of:

      * Ease of software installation
      * Ease of dependency management
      * Information consolidation (e.g. iTunes, Sherlock)
      * Advanced rendering APIs (Quartz PDF renderer)
      * Filesystem integration (double click on a DMG or ISO and it's automatical
      • For the purpose of my own enlightenment, can you develop this 2 points (i cant afford a mac to find by myself what are the difference with apt or urpmi):
        * Ease of software installation
        * Ease of dependency management

        As for this point, it wouldnt take long to implement it through kde, i could easily add it to my right click contectual menu and without putting mount in the users right (i would ask for an admin password). How is it done on the mac? Is the mounting of isos separated from the regular mount
  • Any ideas? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by metalhed77 ( 250273 ) <andrewvc@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:57PM (#8856463) Homepage
    The distribution is Debian based, and built on top of another outstanding distribution which we are not a liberty to name just yet.

    Anyone have any i deas what distro this is most likely based on?
    • Lindows. It has a special apt-repository and everything.
      • Actually Lindows had some kind of sticker for Lindows accredited hardware... much like the "Designed for Windows XP" stickers you see on most OEM computers.

        I went to a trade show where Lindows made an appearance. In their display PC line up, amongst the hand-built beige boxes, they had a laptop there which was obviously designed with Windows in mind (It had two Windows keys), but they went and stickered over the Windows sticker with the Lindows one!

        "I can't believe it's not Windows!"

        On another note, I ju
    • Lindows
  • by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:57PM (#8856464) Homepage Journal
    We don't publicly state who and where our developers are for obvious reasons.

    Ummm... you don't have any?

  • by rdsmith4 ( 767227 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:57PM (#8856466)
    And it ships on hardware?!? A novel concept! This will be THE breakthrough! 2004 is indeed the Year of the Penguin!

    Oh wait, you have to pay for it.


  • Great (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JoeShmoe950 ( 605274 ) <CrazyNorman@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:57PM (#8856469) Homepage
    This is perfect. Linux does have other problems, I must admit. But, hardware was a huge one. For example, the first time I installed debian, it took me forever to figure out how to get X how to use anything but VGA. Once I figured out my way around linux, it became easy, but it still took my a while to figure out how to install my graphic's card driver and such. Having default hardware, where they know what drivers to use, etc. will take a lot of scare and hastle away from the user. For example, if Debian new that every user used an NVidia GeForce, they'd probably bundle the GeForce driver as default. Standard hardware will solve many headaches. All the power to them!
  • by women ( 768472 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:59PM (#8856483)
    I'm glad that Element Computer decided to name their distro ION as opposed to the more logical but lawsuit prone Macinux.
  • But ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Snoopy77 ( 229731 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:00PM (#8856491) Homepage
    the problem with Macs was that while they performed better on the whole, they were more expensive.

    ION Linux may guarentee that the software and hardware will play together nicely but you've gotta pay for it. I've never had a problem getting Linux (RedHat, Debian, Gentoo) to work well on standard Dell machines or on machines I've built from various parts.

    Nice idea but prebuilt Linux machines don't have a big market and I don't see that ION Linux is going to change this.
      1. Nice idea but prebuilt Linux machines don't have a big market and I don't see that ION Linux is going to change this.

      I've built all of my desktop x86 systems, and tweak just about everything. I have installed a few different distributions on my Dell lattitude CPx.

      As the Dell laptop is getting long in the tooth, I've considered getting a new laptop, and to be honest my ranking is currently;

        1. Blank laptop (but based on the same hardware as one of the current Dell models)
        2. A name-brand laptop, likely n
  • Kind of Pricey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hng_rval ( 631871 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:03PM (#8856516)
    Is it just me, or do these computers cost more than an equivalent Dell model?

    Why not buy a Dell, format with Linux, good to go.

    I guess they install Linux for free, and provide you with some sort of support, but if you really need that why not just use Windows?

    Or, install Debian - it's getting easier every day.
    • Re:Kind of Pricey (Score:4, Insightful)

      by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:26PM (#8856681) Homepage Journal
      "Why not buy a Dell, format with Linux, good to go."

      Well if you want to download several install CDs, try to hunt down drivers, and edit a bunch of .CONF files, yeah you could do that.
      • Re:Kind of Pricey (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Takara ( 711260 ) *
        Well if you want to download several install CDs, try to hunt down drivers, and edit a bunch of .CONF files, yeah you could do that.

        You mean like everyone else does? Interesting concept.

        • "You mean like everyone else does? Interesting concept."

          You'll notice that 'everyone' isn't a whole hell of a lot of people.
          • I think he included Windows users in that "everyone" as well.

            Dell and all the other mass market PC manufacturers still ship with proprietary hardware. That means without the OEM's software on CD, you're screwed trying to install even Windows. It's more problematic on laptops, but I've run into issues on Dell desktops as well.

            That's why I still prefer building my own systems. Of course, installing Windows on that homebuild still involves "several install CDs". One for Windows, one for the motherboard, one
    • Re:Kind of Pricey (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tarwn ( 458323 )
      Ah, but pretend your not you. Pretend in fact that your a slightly smarter than average computer user who has heard of Linux but would get lost on the step "Download this ISO and burn it to disk".

      What Element is doing is making Linux machines targeted at people that aren't alrady more than halfway to IT people. You know, one of those things that is supposedly holding Linuc back from being adopted by mainstream arguments.

      In everything I have read that started out "Linux would be great for the desktop marke
  • I-Dash? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ponds ( 728911 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:05PM (#8856527)
    With Mandrake and Lindow's recent troubles, you'd think they would check that the name isn't already taken.

    I just hope the distro ends up changing its name and not My favorite Window Manager [modeemi.fi]
  • ...for those that want to try out something besides Windows, but are otherwise afraid of getting their hands dirty with the technical details of Linux. If they pull this off, their products could be the Linux solution for the every-day person who just 'wants it to work' out of the box.
    • Except that they can't just "try out something besides Windows" without buying the hardware. This distro is not sold separately. It's not designed for people just to try out.

      This is the primary reason why not too many people have switched to the Mac. You can't just try it out.
  • by MicroBerto ( 91055 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:17PM (#8856617)
    Wow. I was just thinking to myself, "You know what, Mike? We need MORE LINUX DISTRIBUTIONS!"

    Not only that, but we need distributions that only work_on/come_with certain hardware. So now I go from 2% market share to 0.0002% marketshare!

    Have these guys ever taken Marketing 101, or ANY type of business course? What kind of business plan is this, and who honestly expects it to sell?

    Let me give you one obvious hint - steal business ideas that are GOOD, not those that have been holding Apple back for the past 15+ years.

    • by xtal ( 49134 )
      not those that have been holding Apple back for the past 15+ years.

      No, I think that should be read as business plans that do not make you (You) a customer. Apple has carved out a very profitable niche doing what other people won't. I wasn't part of apple's audience for a long time - didn't have the money for it to be an option. Now that I have the money I don't have the time to deal with linux. I'll gladly fork out (aparently a lot, too) so that my computer just works when I turn it on.

      I think this is wh
      • Apple thrives on an extremely loyal customer base that took years to build. Where is that customer base going to come from for ION?

        I personally have no problem running too much hardware on linux anyway. I think the open-source community is taking quite a nice chunk out of that, and things improve with each new kernel release.

        I just don't see a need for this distribution, especially when Mandrake is running fine on my hardware (which isn't all mainstream either) and I can just throw Mandrake 5 bones when I

        • Where is that customer base going to come from for ION?

          They make a fancy slick looking appliance PC, and I'd be tempted to replace my current linux box with one.
      • Nobody has!? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by autechre ( 121980 )
        You're posting on Slashdot, remember? Slashdot is part of OSDN, and the parent company of OSDN is...well, VA Software. But if you think back a few years, they used to be VA Linux. They thoroughly tested hardware to make sure it was reliable under Linux, then sold machines with Linux pre-installed.

        Now, I don't know if VA sold workstations, but I know that Penguin did (and does), because I've used them. Penguin has some nice-looking Opteron servers as well.

        You might argue that these two companies are ta
    • Wow. (Score:3, Funny)

      by juuri ( 7678 )
      Wow. I was just thinking to myself, "You know what, Mike? We need MORE LINUX DISTRIBUTIONS!"

      I know most sports stars refer to themselves in the third person, but you actually think to yourself in the third person? Do you also answer your own rhetorical questions?
    • by misleb ( 129952 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:41AM (#8857144)
      Let me give you one obvious hint - steal business ideas that are GOOD, not those that have been holding Apple back for the past 15+ years.

      Holding Apple back? What do you think has differentiated Apple them from beige-box-wintel-mediocrity? All Element needs is a successful brandname and they are on their way to success. Even if it is Apple-like success, it wouldn't be bad.


    • Actually..... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by retendo ( 321086 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:21AM (#8857352) Homepage
      I think that you've missed on this one.

      If ION can put together a slick looking and feeling desktop system with linux nicely tuned on it then I will be *glad* to give them my money. And I have been setting up linux on laptops and workstations for a number of years now.

      Why would I pay them money when I can just buy a Dell and do the same?

      Two reasons.

      Because I'm not always satisfied with the hardware that Dell chooses and I'll be very happy if I don't have to download another $%*# experimental winmodem driver, get the right hardware acceleration components loaded into my X server or figure out why the cd/rw only appears as a cd.

      I love linux and love the control I have over the entire system but I hate having to wrestle with configuration issues all the time. If by default my laptop came well tuned and looking pretty I would pay the ION folks some $$$$.

      And so would my company.

      And so would my friend's companies.

      Cool. I hope they get their prices and the the look of their distro right.

      Oh, and add a few we more servers to the cluster......

      Dan Glauser
      J2EE Architect
    • Hmmm.... you do know that Apple makes more money on their 2-4% of the market than 99% of the companies out there who have 20% or more market share. Also remember that individual companies really don't get as much market share as you think. Intel based PCs may have a huge amount of the market and Intel based PCs running Windows have a huge amount of the Desktop PC market but HP or Dell or Gateway or IBM individually only have a fraction of that market.... the more players the less each gets.

      I think they are
    • It makes excelent sense.

      If the underlying system is Debian, then who cares if it's a "different distro". All debian file systems adhere to a common standard, so fork it all you like, as long as they are all intercompatible.

      Don't you recall the Browser Wars? System vendors made a huge deal over wanting to have control over their users interaction with the desktop. Customizing it to their own specifications (both DELL and Compaq were big into this). Then MS made them sign contracts preventing them from
    • Wow. I was just thinking to myself, "You know what, Mike? We need MORE LINUX DISTRIBUTIONS!"

      You refer to yourself in the third person? Uhhh, OK. Anyway, this distribution is not for you. It is for the people who buy their systems. Not only that, but we need distributions that only work_on/come_with certain hardware. So now I go from 2% market share to 0.0002% marketshare!

      The world does not revolve around marketing. Do you think BMW cares that they don't have the marketshare of Ford? Do you think A

  • by spoonboy42 ( 146048 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:26PM (#8856680)
    This is all well and good, except for the tablet model (Helium). Doesn't he know that it's extremely difficult to IONize Helium?
  • Server meltdown..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gnuman99 ( 746007 )
    Indeed, they do appear to be running a desktop only version of a web server,

    While trying to retrieve the URL: http://elementcomputer.com/

    The following error was encountered:

    * Connection Failed

    The system returned:

    (111) Connection refused
  • by pararox ( 706523 ) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:58PM (#8856867)
    It appears that Element's servers have been reduced to mere elements, which is a shame as I think this is a worthy idea, and I'd love to get a glimpse at their site.

    I see it's been said (derisively) that this is no new idea. While no one will content the accuracy of that statement, this is a new approach to offering a cohesive and well planned Linux box.

    And that's a GOOD thing. How many times have we read the trolls complaining to the heavens how Linux would surely find better success if only it didn't take those extra few minutes to research your new hardware; if only it was better integrated, on both the hardware and the software level.

    It appears we're all going to see if those complaints were truly the thing holding Linux back. As a former Mac user, who has been converted to Linux on account of my ability to pick it apart at the deepest or most shallow levels, the only thing I do truly miss was the slick unity Apple provided for it's consumers. Let's see if these guys can do the same.

    I certainly won't wait with baited breath, but this is a cool and worthy idea. Good luck guys/gals.
  • by isaac ( 2852 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:06AM (#8856913)
    I think the general idea of shipping machines with an operating system and, indeed, applications that are tuned to the specific hardware of the machine is a sound one.

    I've installed more operating systems in the last 20 years than I can count. My main home system is a Fujitsu P2040 laptop that currently dual-boots Win2k and Mandrake 9.2, and I've probably spent 60-80 hours installing and tweaking and tuning both of these operating systems just to get everything working to my liking in both operating systems - all the hardware buttons (even the "email" button and notification light), cd-burning, region-free DVD playback, trackpoint sensitivity & z-axis support, 3d acceleration (albeit pathetic on this Mach64-based Rage Mobility) under linux, cygwin in win2k, Crusoe-tuned power management and monitoring, remapped keyboard (caps=ctrl, winkeys useful), separate partitions for my data and OS (and a swap partition used by both operating systems). I can recover this clean, custom load of either OS with bootable CD sets I made. I replaced the fujitsu logo on the top of the lid with a metal plate I screen printed with tiny C version of DeCSS (efdtt.c, props to Charles Hannum and Phil Carmody). It's a great little computer and works a treat - but I'll probably sell it soon because I've come to prefer my girlfriend's G3 ibook. It's got that UNIX-fresh flavor I crave right out of the box, and doesn't come loaded from the factory with bullshit like a PC, and it took all of 5 minutes to configure to my liking when I installed Panther on it.

    A company that can deliver a no-bullshit PC running linux with Apple-grade hardware/software integration might get my business. I'm not convinced that Element is that company, but we'll see.


  • Really Cool (Score:4, Insightful)

    by misleb ( 129952 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:09AM (#8856929)
    Usually my first criteria when choosing new hardware is "How well does it run Linux?" This may sound like a loss of freedom/choice, but when you get down to it, PC hardware doesn't vary THAT MUCH in features and speed. It is a comodity. There is enough hardware out there that finding good hardware that also happens to be well supported in Linux isn't very difficult. But you still need to look. Not only do they pick well supported hardware for you, but they support it and tailor the the OS to work with it... and it is based on Debian! Go Element! Not that I would personally buy the systems, but I would definitly recommend it to anyone thinking about getting a new computer and running Linux.

    It is good to see a company doing the work for people who want to run Linux... without worries of hardware support. Not only is it good for users, but it is good for general hardware support in Linux. The more vendors see people (or resellers) making their purchasing decisions based on how good the Linux drivers are for their hardware, the better the drivers will get.


  • The only real difference is that apple.com doesn't get slashdotted ;)
  • I assumed this was a distro based on Ion, the best window manager (next to ratpoison) of all time! But no, it's just another lamefest.
  • Apple clones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by giminy ( 94188 ) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:15AM (#8857329) Homepage Journal
    This probably won't work, and history tells us why: Apple suffered terribly when it started licensing mac clones. ION "clones" already exist in the form of x86 boxen everywhere.

    Had Power Computing and all those mac clone companies existed before Apple, I doubt even Apple would have gotten off the ground...by extension...

Reactor error - core dumped!