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Falling Hardware Prices Favor Linux 459

An anonymous reader sends us to a blog posting arguing that, as hardware prices fall below $250 for laptops and desktops, Linux should gain as the Microsoft tax stands out in sharper relief. "In previous years, if you were spending US$1500 and up on a laptop, the Microsoft tax you were paying didn't seem like such a big deal. XP or Vista was pre-installed, fairly convenient... But as the price of hardware for small basic machines comes down, (think under US$250 by the end of next year), then software price starts to become a big issue. Why would you pay the price of your new laptop again just for the software, when all you want to do is really basic things?"
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Falling Hardware Prices Favor Linux

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  • by shanen ( 462549 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @03:51PM (#20795405) Homepage Journal
    Linux will never 'take off' until the Linux people stop answering almost every question with the equivalent of "Go in the kitchen and cook it yourself." Most people just want to at a tasty Linux sandwich, and they have no aspirations to be master chefs.

    As far as I know, Ubuntu is the only distro that mostly understands this. Just a coincidence that it's the most popular desktop?
  • Re:Frist! (Score:1, Informative)

    by the_leander ( 759904 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @03:58PM (#20795481) Journal
    As someone seriously considering buying Asus's eeepc (awful name), I have to agree with the main point of this article with regard to costs. At these sorts of prices you're not going to get a machine, especially a laptop that'll play much by way of games, so immediately one of the biggest stumbling blocks for many computer users is gone. The compatibility of means that, with few exceptions, these systems will work fine with existing microsoft based home computers, web and email by Firefox and Thunderbird respectively again mean you aren't going to be left with a second class way of accessing the internet. (For business desktop users this may well be different, but most businesses who would have their own access servers etc, aren't going to be buying "cheep" hardware).

    If presented in the right way, as a low cost, fully featured alternative on these lower power platforms, Linux could potentially make quite a bit of headway.
  • by Knuckles ( 8964 ) <knuckles@d a n t i> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @04:01PM (#20795503)
    If my mother were to walk into best buy and buy a Pavilion dv9000 with Ubuntu preinstalled, she's going to have to go through what would have to be hell for her and back to get it running: boot options like "nokvm noapic noacpi", blacklisting bcm43xx, installing ndiswrapper over a wired connection, manually installing flash for their 64-bit system.

    What are you talking about? You would of course buy Ubuntu preinstalled precisely because you would have to do none of these thing. The OEM has installed and configured Ubuntu with the hardware working. (If not you would rightfully complain just as you would about a broken Windows installation.)
  • Re:MS Tax? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hadlock ( 143607 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @04:28PM (#20795681) Homepage Journal
    Walmart sells them, for starters. You can find walmarts in many more cities than you can find apple stores.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 29, 2007 @04:32PM (#20795711)
    Heh, I used to think Linux people were bad with answering questions, until I got a job revolving around Windows CE. Every Microsoft "expert" out there tells you URRR LOOK IN DUH PLATFURM BULDER MANUAL LOL when the manual is so disjointed and nonlinear you'd swear it was done by the author of the House of Leaves. Or a particular article in the manual never got updated to pertain to the newest version of Windows CE you're using such that you're wasting your time messing with registry keys that Windows CE stopped recognizing years ago.

    At least when Linux people answer you, it's "okay do this, then this, then this, in that order -- and watch out for x, y, and z". Microsoft people are "okay look in the manual" and then the manual of the product you're trying to use just has clues scattered about in many tiny articles that you have to piece together.

    Fuck no. Linux's world these days, in terms of how-tos, is leaps and bounds ahead of Microsoft culture. The only reason Windows has any edge over Linux these days is "IT HAS GAEMS", and even that's only because of a self-feeding cycle among game company marketing weenies where game developers won't make Linux games because WINDOWS HAS GAEMS AND LINUX DOESNT SO LETS MAKE MOAR WINDOZE GAEMS.
  • Re:Mods: I suggest (Score:3, Informative)

    by the_leander ( 759904 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @04:44PM (#20795779) Journal
    When I posted the above that was the only comment on this article. I didn't do it to annoy or offend or "riding the top post just to get their post seen", just clicked on the first bit of the page that caught my eye when looking for "reply".

    I think I've posted maybe 20 comments ever on this site, this is I think the first one I've posted with the new system in place. I hope that you'll be able to overlook this small omission.

    Sorry you feel so strongly about it - next time I will look that little bit longer so as not to offend.
  • by tepples ( 727027 ) <tepples@gmail.BOHRcom minus physicist> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @05:13PM (#20795965) Homepage Journal

    How do the other platforms do it?
    They have the sales volume to include in the price of their operating system. Some licensors have minimum annual licensing fees that a smaller distribution just can't afford. And the problem that the article describes still happens as you get to the point where the patent royalties become a significant part of the price of the product to the end user; DVD Video players are already well past that point.
  • by edunbar93 ( 141167 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @06:17PM (#20796381)
    *I* predict that by 2020, cement will be free! That cold fusion will destroy every energy company in existance, and that everyone will be using iPhones.

    Or, we can toss these stupidly speculative articles and actually cover something that's happened, or currently happening? I thought this was *news* for nerds.

    Oh, and by the way, you'll never see a laptop or a desktop for $250, because at that price point there's no point in selling them at all unless your shop is selling thousands of them a month. The same thing has happened to PDAs. You can now only get a Palm Tungsten E in a bundle with a wireless keyboard because the technology has been on the shelf so long that it's not worth $300 by itself anymore. In 6 months, you won't be able to get them at all, replaced with something else at that price point.
  • by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @07:01PM (#20796747)
    Just for time comparisons, I'll let you take a brand new HP Vista laptop, Power it up, make a set of recovery disks, connect wireless, and create a couple user accounts.

    You are either making up a good story are just full of crap.

    1) HP Vista laptops ship with recovery DVDs, there is no reason to create one.

    2) Connecting to wireless is as easy as clicking on the freaking ballon that says, networks are available, click to connect to one, and even if it is WPA or WEP, you type in the freaking number or insert the USB drive with the key.

    3) Setting up accounts is hard on Vista? Wow, then you better run from any *nix. Control Panel -> User accounts -> Create new account (Type Name and Password, select security level) Done...

    4) Product activation is automatic if you tell it to just activate when you are online, or one click in the control panel.

    5) AV Software? Wow, that is tough, download AVG, and you are done.

    So again tell us how this took you ALL DAY?

    I'll call you out on this, as I just delivered several new HP laptops to family and friends that don't even understand the difference between the left and right mouse buttons, and they ALL completed the tasks you describe by themselves in under 5 minutes...

    So which is it, are you really that stupid or lying to get positive SlashDot points?
  • by falconwolf ( 725481 ) <> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:07PM (#20797231)

    If my mother were to walk into best buy and buy a Pavilion dv9000 with Ubuntu preinstalled, she's going to have to go through what would have to be hell for her and back to get it running: boot options like "nokvm noapic noacpi", blacklisting bcm43xx, installing ndiswrapper over a wired connection, manually installing flash for their 64-bit system.. These are not things that your average non-geek is capable of doing. Until they don't need to do those things to go on facebook, download music and watch movies on youtube, Linux on the laptop is simply not going to happen.

    I walked into a store and bought a PC with Linux preinstalled. When I got home I was able to plug it in and use it just as you describe. I didn't have to fiddle with and settings, boot options, or install additional software. Heck it was several months before I did install more software. Heck, I plugged an Ethernet cable in from my router into the net card on the PC and immediately was able to surf the net. On the other hand when I plugged the router into my Windows PC I had to go through and setup the settings for the PC to use the router.

  • by poliopteragriseoapte ( 973295 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @08:55PM (#20797599)
    I really cannot think that using linux on the desktop is a good idea. I used to be a linux fanatic up to about 3 months ago, running it on all my PCs and laptops, installing it for family, etc etc. But three months ago I really had enough, something clicked in my mind, I got a Mac laptop and -- there is NO going back. Some of the reasons:
    • The install process. In linux, if you need an application that you can get via apt-get, good. Otherwise? Compile your own. Which means that as the libraries get replaced due to security or other issues, you have to recompile those third party applications. Also, you have to figure out by yourself which development packages you need. And so on and so forth. Are we kidding? On a Mac, I drag these things in the application folder and that's it! Also on linux, once something breaks in the dependencies, good luck fixing it.
    • Video. I like 24 inch and 30 inch flat panels. Getting them to work under linux is a pain. If the card is too old, Ubuntu does not support it well. If it is too new, neither. Also, 1920x1200 is not a standard resolution. Oh, and once you get it running, try to have your laptop automatically adapt to the native resolution of the LCD you happen to connect it. You need at the very least to restart X. And don't dream of dealing with the fact that, at work, my laptop is on the left of the flat panel (and I like to use them both), and at home, on the right. On a Mac? You plug the LCD in and you are done. Nothing to tinker with. Rearranging the logical position of the screens? Just drag them around.
    • Configuration files. In linux, everybody assumes you love the command line. I needed recently to have a file containing an encrypted partition to store there my email. In linux, the instruction began thus: "It is very simple. Create a file /etc/idontknowwhat containing the list of partitio...." are we kidding? And if the partition is on a USB stick I have to do it on every PC on which I want to read my email?? On the Mac, I just create an encrypted partition with the disk and that's it, no tinkering with configuration files.
    • Wireless. In linux, after a few times I suspend/wake up my laptop, and change networks, always something goes wrong, and I have to reboot to see the network again (on a Thinkpad X40). Never had issues on my Mac.
    • I can get frequency scaling, disk spinoff, and all that to work on linux, but just because I am (or used to be) a hacker. On a Mac? No issues, it just works.
    And the list goes on and on... I have come to the conclusion that linux is fine if you (a) like tinkering with computers per se, or (b) install it on a server. Otherwise, it's essentially a way to waste your time.
  • This may be true for DVD and other standard-definition video formats. But high-definition formats such as HD DVD and especially Blu-ray Disc generally have tighter compliance and robustness [] requirements. I don't see how a Free kernel on commodity hardware can conform to these.

    While the kernel is open source drivers and software don't have to be. For instance Nero Linux [], which supports both Blu-ray and HD DVDs, isn't. Other software capable:

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @09:48PM (#20797871)
    Brick and mortar, or online only?


    OEM Linux disappeared from in late January.'s cheapest Compaq Presario [] has an Athlon Dual Core CPU, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB HDD, DVD burner, GeForce 6150 SE graphics and runs Vista Basic. $348.

    Top of the line at $1900:

    The HP Elite with Intel Core 2 Quad CPU, 3 GB RAM, 2 500 GB HDDs, ATSC tuner, etc., running Vista Ultimate

    And where are Wal-Mart's national advertisements for this product line?

    Where they have always been: In Limbo. Non-existent.

  • by witherstaff ( 713820 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:33PM (#20798119) Homepage
    1) HP Vista laptops ship with recovery DVDs, there is no reason to create one.

    This is incorrect. My HP vista laptop (HP Pavilion dv6258se) didn't come with recovery DVDs. I had to go through the annoying 'let us make you a recovery dvd. PS this is a one time process, don't mess it up' and of course... it failed to burn the 2nd one. At least it let me restart the process completely including remaking the images before burning again, total time of well over an hour. I'd guess different models have different recovery disc methods.

    Having had to fix a bootloader issue, I can clearly say that these home brewed recovery DVDs are not a real vista DVD set. They have no recovery capabilities, they are the standard proprietary reformat the HD and start from scratch sort. I had to use a 'real' vista DVD.

    On an entirely different matter - I'd suggest staying away from HP if you want to switch wifi cards. They vendor lock specific cards requiring a BIOS hack to get something like the latest atheros cards to work. A totally unnecessary annoyance.
  • by chuckymonkey ( 1059244 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (notrub.d.selrahc)> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @10:49PM (#20798203) Journal
    I'm here to help. There are plenty of good wifi cards out there that linux supports out of the box. Here's one [] that works flawlessly out of the box. Also, if you don't mind telling me which card you have I may be able to help you out. Email me at chuckyb21 at hotmail dot com if you would like a hand.
  • by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @11:52PM (#20798571) Journal
    1) HP Vista laptops ship with recovery DVDs, there is no reason to create one.

    Not true. I actually bought one last week, i am typing from it, pavilion dv6568, and it doesn't come with a recovery dvd. Even if you do burn one, you get vista with all of the preloaded crap on it. I removed all the crap and turned off some services and now vista is speedy.
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:09AM (#20798991)
    DirectX 10 is just a thin wrapper over the WDM driver model.

    So if you run a DirectX 10 game on Vista and it calls DrawPrimitive with a bunch of polygons, Windows can switch to kernel mode and make an call into a function in the graphics driver which knows how to set the hardware up to do the work. The key thing here is that all this stuff is highly integrated. There's competition between ATI and NVidia and so both have an incentive to make this as efficient as possible. Since Windows has an enormous market share it makes sense to optimize the hardware so that the device driver doesn't need to do anything time consuming. So the hardware is designed to be able to read DirectX datastructures.

    Now consider on Wine. The game makes the call to DrawPrimitive. So far so good. But Linux doesn't have WDM. As far as I can tell Wine needs to emulate the function using OpenGL. All the DirectX datastructures need to be converted to OpenGL ones. Then the OpenGL driver needs to do another conversion back to the hardware format which was designed to be compatible with DirectX. And unless you have the closed source drive which is not included in most Linux distributions it won't even attempt to use hardware acceleration. And from what I can tell the ATI closed source driver isn't particularly good.

    Now on Windows Halo 2 is somewhat scandalously tied to Vista or XBox 360 since Microsoft want to sell one of either to people that want to play Halo 2. But most games aren't going to be like that - they'll work on either DirectX 9 or 10.

    And actually, I've got Vista here and DirectX 10 works very well, even on a laptop GPU. Looking at really high end benchmarks it's not as optimized as DirectX9 on XP yet, and it will take another six months to do so. Similarly on the Linux side ATI will document the hardware and allow people to write an optimized open source driver. But the Windows side has massive advantages here - market share for sure but also the technical one that in Windows the hardware was designed to be able to do what the game asks for directly. If the graphics companies know that they're doing they can make the driver a very thin layer that just passes a pointer from the user mode application to hardware and sets it going. Wine can't do that.
  • by Technician ( 215283 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @01:32AM (#20799081)
    You are either making up a good story are just full of crap.

    Costco.. model dv6604cl Purchased this week.

    The slip in the box states;

    Restore your system without discs

    Your computer includes a new system recovery feature that does not require CDs or DVDs.

    If you need to repair your system, you can do it from the hard drive or from your own set of recovery discs.

    To burn your own set of recovery discs, select Start> Recovery Manager > click Advanced Options > Recovery disc creation.

    Having personally broken the HP security tape on the box and completing the inventory of the contents, I can assure you there are no recovery discs in the box. At the bottom of the page it states,

    Important: HP recommends that you create recovery discs to be sure that you can restore your system to its original factory state if you experience serious system failure or instability.

    If you want to order recovery media instead of creating your own discs, contact HP at:

    Copyright 2007
    Hewlett-Packard Development Company I.P

  • Re:MS Tax? (Score:3, Informative)

    by NitroWolf ( 72977 ) on Sunday September 30, 2007 @03:05AM (#20799455)
    Apparently you had a little trouble reading my last sentence. I said a LAPTOP. I can build my own desktops, thanks. I can't build a laptop.

    As for those of you talking about Dell: []

    A Dell laptop, as of at least a few months ago, costs more with Linux and/or no OS than it does with Windows. That's a tax.

    I love how my original post is modded as a troll. It's anything but a troll, it's pointing out the fact that trying to buy a laptop without Windows and/or loaded with Linux is almost impossible without either a) Paying an extra fee or b) Getting an inferior product.

A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson