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Enlightenment Linux Business

A Review of the $200 Wal-Mart Linux PC 235

bcrowell writes "Wal-Mart's new $200 Linux PC has generated a lot of buzz in geek circles. Although they're sold out of stores, I bought one for my daughter via mail order, and have written up a review of the system. The hardware seems fine for anyone but a hardcore gamer, but the pre-installed gOS flavor of Ubuntu has a lot of rough edges."
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A Review of the $200 Wal-Mart Linux PC

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  • Hardcore gamer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Poromenos1 ( 830658 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:08AM (#21470493) Homepage
    It would appear that there are two kinds of PC users, hardcore gamers and normal people. Not so, there are also people who enjoy an occasional game of HL2 or people who work with huge amounts of data or who run extensive calculations on their PCs (or hell, even Photoshop). Lumping PCs into two categories, "Bleeding edge, $2000 PC" and "Everything else" isn't that informative. Maybe he should have said "very good for the average user (web browsing, flash games, office suites)", which I don't doubt it is (average users require fewer resources than even today's cheapest PCs have).
  • by ozmanjusri ( 601766 ) <aussie_bob@@@hotmail...com> on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:19AM (#21470537) Journal
    Reading that, you begin to understand why professionals get paid to review products.

    It's full of inconsistencies;

    • The guy claims to be experienced with Ubuntu, but didn't know to type his user password at the sudo prompt.
    • He manually installs the Flash plugin and calls it unintuitive, when all you need to do is go to a website with Flash content, and it'll automatically install for you.
    • He can't find the "log out" menu item...
    • He thought installing Gnome would fix a network problem.
    And so it goes on. There's almost no real review of what's installed, how easy it is to use, or even how to solve the problems he encounters.

    About the only thing you learn from him is that a little knowledge is dangerous.

  • Re:Hardcore gamer? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wfberg ( 24378 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:19AM (#21470539)
    average users require fewer resources than even today's cheapest PCs have

    If I had a dime for everytime someone complained about their lowend PC being "too slow!" and then finding out it only has 512MB of RAM, I'd.. well, I would've earned a couple of bucks anyway..

    Selling a PC with less than a gig (or 2, if it comes with Vista preinstalled) is downright criminal.

    Sure, average moes won't stress the CPU or play high end video games, but visiting a few Jpop-video rich myspace pages, while skype'ing and IM'ing at the same time does kinda require RAM.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:24AM (#21470559)
    If the reviewer didn't know and couldn't work it out, how is anybody buying it expected to know?
  • Re:Hardcore gamer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malsdavis ( 542216 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:31AM (#21470597)
    He's referring to the home consumer market, you are talking about the business/professional market. For the home market, there are really only 2 categories: normal and gamer. Those running "extensive calculations" on their PC, are almost always using the computer professionally (although the use of home computers for digital video watching & conversion is maybe changing this a little).

    Photoshop is a bad example, home users might dabble with a photo or two in Photoshop SE or Paint Shop Pro which will happily perform such tasks on an average cheap home PC. This is completely different to the sort of professional graphic design activities for which a high-spec business PC is required.
  • by realdodgeman ( 1113225 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:38AM (#21470617) Homepage
    That is because Microsoft has bought ads on sites with the keyword "Linux" as a part of their FUD campaign also known as Compare. For more FUD, visit Microsoft.com/compare.
  • 512M of ram? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:39AM (#21470625) Homepage
    It is cheap to add another 1GB of ram. Most users want to be able to run a word processor, look at pictures, and surf the internet.

    Most of the stores just keep pushing faster and faster machines on people, more than what they need. Vista helps with that being such a pig.

  • Re:Hardcore gamer? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:40AM (#21470629)
    If I had a dime for everytime someone complained about their lowend PC being "too slow!" and then finding out it only has 512MB of RAM, I'd.. well, I would've earned a couple of bucks anyway.

    My PC only has 512MB of RAM; built it in about February 2003. Runs Gutsy for most things, has a Windows disk in there for games too. The only RAM issue I've ever really had is that when a Civ 4 game on a big world gets into the modern era, everything slows down horribly - so very many cities and units around the place. I haven't tried to run Portal on this thing yet, though :-)

    I might build a new one this year, but... really, this PC's just a net terminal most of the time, or a movie player. Neither task strains it at all. Yes, I'd like to play newer games, but I already have stacks of games I haven't finished that I've accumulated over the years, and if I do decide that I absolutely have to play Bioshock, a 360 is a hell of a lot cheaper than building the gaming box o' doom.

  • by tkid ( 821402 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:59AM (#21470731)
    Yeah, I like ZaReason's description from their site, specifically this one: "Preloaded with: OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox, gMail, Meebo, Skype, Wikipedia, GIMP, Blogger, YouTube, Xing Movie Player, Rhythmbox, Faqly, Facebook, all for ease of use on start-up." WTF, you mean they preloaded gMail, Blogger, YouTube and Facebook.. I know most have the internet but listing these as preloaded seems a little out of place. Should say internet subscription required.
  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @09:59AM (#21470733) Journal

    It shows that a 'random' person couldn't get the system/OS to work according to his wishes. To be really fair, you really should ask yourselve wether a 'random' person could get other system/OS combo's to work. This includes asking yourselve how well the average random person would deal with installing windows. If you ever had to deal with tech support you would know that most users stumble just as hard with MS software as with OSX and other unixes. Hell, people stumble with their toasters.

    To be specific, the SUDO bit had me wondering too, but as I am neither familiar with Ubuntu or sudo (don't use either on my own linux systems) I really can't comment. If Ubuntu does use sudo a lot then it is odd, but does the box say you need to be an experienced Linux user? Couldn't they have provided a help function? Please type in your password?

    As for flash, it would have been better if it had worked out of the box, but yes, recently installing it from your browser when prompted has been known to work. This however was not always the case, especially for Opera users.

    Enlightenment is a WM that does things a bit differently and the screenshots make it clear it is NOT a straight windows layout copy like KDE and Gnome use (By default). Perhaps he really just didn't know how to get it. Under E17 (The sequel) it is left mouse click on the desktop -> system Might be confusing to a person who normally would NEVER left-click anywhere on the desktop.

    He didn't think it would fix a network problem, he just couldn't get the tool too work. That is different. If you know how to setup your network in Windows XP and not in Vista then installing XP again 'fixes' your problem. Granted it does sound like "oh they are not doing everything 100% like I am used too, it sucks" but that is how most users are.

    So is it a good review? No, but it does tell us something and that is that Joe Average is a moron who doesn't like change and that it is very hard to develop an OS for that guy. See it not as a review but one of those usability reports usability experts so love to go one about. It might help you to develop an OS for average user.

    And no windows ain't that OS either and NEITHER is OSX (before the Apple fanboys pipe up), if ANY OS out there was the perfect OS for the clueless I wouldn't constantly be asked by the clueless to help with their machine.

    Recently I had to help people setup their network under Vista and OSX, and none of the users seemed to know how to do it. None of them make it very clear or easy. (Why does Vista break with DHCP run on linux anyway?)

    I do agree with your end conclusion, give me a clueless user who knows he/she is clueless anyday, they ask, you answer, they listen, problem fixed. The ones who think they know a little ARGUE with you over the solution. ARGH! If you know it better, why ask? But the horrors of support is another rant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:01AM (#21470751)
    You'll have to excuse me if I don't waste my time thinking that a review on linux.com is going to be fairer than a review from an independant observer.

    I just find it funny that you say "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" and then expect people with that amount of knowledge to jump onto a Linux system and fix their network issues. Oh sorry, fixing network issues was in the pamphlet, right?

    Judging from that and your earlier pathetic "installing Vista is criminal" jab, it's pretty plain that you're just another one of the zealots. It's kind of sad to see people who advocate software with such terminal intensity that they can't handle some constructive criticism.
  • by lakin ( 702310 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:20AM (#21470837)

    He manually installs the Flash plugin and calls it unintuitive, when all you need to do is go to a website with Flash content, and it'll automatically install for you.
    Well, he doesnt say its unintuitive, he just doesnt try any way other than installing it in the terminal. It was when he said that I knew this review was completely useless. And then again in his summary he says

    On the other hand, I was also being repeatedly frustrated with my attempts to get things done by the standard methods I'd use on a normal Ubuntu system.
    Im pretty sure Walmart are not aiming this pc at the average ubuntu user. I would have been much more interested in how usable this machine is by people with limited computer knowledge. Can they find the major apps, do any errors crop up, etc.
  • by mcarp ( 409487 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:24AM (#21470863)
    Except that he SAID HE WAS AN UBUNTU EXPERIENCED PERSON. I was aghast when the reviewer said he couldnt figure out how to shutdown the machine from the ui especially since he's experienced with ubuntu! While I admit that not a lot of computer illiterates would make it very far, the reviewer cant both claim experience of ubuntu and unable to find that shutting down the system from the ui includes a trip to the logout thingy.

    OTOH, I find the jab 'intalling Vista is criminal' to be pretty funny and a good comment on the state of the industry. Shame on you m$. Now of course you'll be looking for zealots, linux ones I suppose. Sorry my 2 main machines are win xp pro sp2 as are my wife's and 2 kids machines. I just happen to have an ubuntu box and 2 freebsd ones. fbsd ftw! for the last decade server wise but frankly, I still prefer the windows desktop in user land. PC hosted unix-a-like has become much better but guys, please drag in the game makers and user friendly designers or it'll be m$ forever
  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @10:46AM (#21470983)
    Calling somebody "clueless" lends nothing to the credibility of your post. If anything, this review shows that, a) Wal-mart is missing the target audience, and b) Linux isn't ready for Joe Consumer. Just because you think the reviewer is dumb really change anything.
  • by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 ) on Sunday November 25, 2007 @12:25PM (#21471611) Homepage
    I couldn't get the wifi working by clicking around in Exalt's GUI; it recognized our home network, but wouldn't connect to it via DHCP. I decided that since my previous successful experience had been with Gnome, I would install Gnome and see if I could get the card working with Gnome Network Manager.

    Then later

    To be fair, I ended up finding out that there had been a regression in wifi support for RT2500 in recent versions of Ubuntu, so it wasn't exactly smooth sailing on the new system.

    Why do people insist on thinking that changing the desktop environment will change anything about the experience. I've run in to endless wifi problems with my old ubuntus, and it's nothing to do with the desktop environment. Yet, I would still sometimes get people writing back saying "kubuntu sucks, go install ubuntu, everything just works!".

    Linux is basically Linux, and if hardware doesn't work under KDE it's not going to work under GNOME, or IceWM or anything else. Why do people insist on this sort of thinking? Can someone point me to a situation where *hardware* recognition or functionality didn't work under Gnome but worked under KDE (or the reverse, or anything similar)? Especially something like a wifi card?
  • by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @01:13AM (#21475527) Homepage
    I built the packages from the thinkgos repo's and found the following on a Fiesty install.

    For those that don't follow enlightenment, it's e17. All the gee-whiz graphics without the overhead. Errr, except:

    1. The thinkgos.com package builds are buggy as hell. These don't even qualify as Ubuntu quality. I certainly get better builds out of Debian unstable.
    2. udev wierdness. It's an odd situation where udev does the right thing according to dmesg, but the desktop environment (DE) doesn't work right in common situations.
    3. No system tray or task bar. Stalonetray works far better than trayer, but you still have to work at it a bit and it's a nasty hack that hangs off the end of the bottom panel no matter what. The head-honcho at e17 does not feel whatever standard exists for system trays is sufficient.
    3. I can't tell if the desktop environment is supposed to have sound effects, but I got pulseaudio working (finally) and it plays stuff, just no desktop environment sounds.
    4. No transparency. For whatever reason, there's no Xorg transparency support. Someone please point out how to do it. I'd love to be wrong.
  • It's only $200! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Crasp ( 564882 ) on Monday November 26, 2007 @09:38AM (#21478101) Homepage
    I'm sorry but this review is extremely biased by a (more or less) experienced Ubuntu user. Some criticism is spot on (like the PSU efficiency remark) but some criticism is a bit far fetched. It lacks in documentation, sure but to cover the last 20% it probably requires 80% more time which would make the PC easily $300 instead of $200, not to mention that the writer apparently thinks that all PC's should be capable of understanding any piece of hardware you push into it. This PC just does what it's supposed to do, it runs with the preinstalled hardware and that's it. Want to customise it? Fine, you pay the extra price for it. I think $200 for a complete PC (excluding monitor) is actually pretty cheap. Don't forget that $200 is a price you could easily spend on a half-decent CPU alone and now you get a complete working PC for it. Sure it might lack a bit on this and that's but if you consider that a problem you probably bought the wrong PC.

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