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ASUS’s $200 “Eee PC”

July 31st, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Hot Hardware reviews ASUS’s $199 Eee PC.

“Not only have we had the chance to actually use the ASUS Eee PC, we can also confirm some important new specifications of the notebook. The Eee PC is running a version of Intel’s 910 mobile chipset, it uses a 900MHz Intel Dothan based Pentium M CPU, it has 512MB of DDR2 memory, full 802.11g wireless capability, and a flash-based hard drive. There will be at least two different models of the Eee PC, with the $199 version using a 4GB flash hard drive and the $299 version using a 8GB drive.”

To keep costs low, the Eee PC runs Linux (I cannot tell which distro it’s based on, but it is running KDE). Complete with a wide selection of preinstalled open source applications, and built on top of a respectable hardware platform, this little device brings a lot of computing utility in a very small and inexpensive package. It could be the perfect tool for low-tech folks who need email, web access and other basic functions, and it might fit in well as a small, highly portable machine for geeks too.

Hot Hardware is very bullish on this laptop’s chances: “The ASUS Eee PC is expected to be available, worldwide, in full production quantities by this fall. It is rumored to have a street date of mid-August, and will likely be one of the hottest selling computers in recent history, come the holiday shopping season.”

(Go Linux markeshare!)

ODF Alliance Newsletter 20 July 2007

July 30th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Open Malaysia Blog mirrors July’s ODF Alliance newsletter, which covers most of the current major ODF-related action around the world.

This month focuses on ODF vs. MSOOXML, the struggling attempt by Microsoft to have its MSOOXML ratified as a standard by the ISO, new members of the ODF Alliance, upcoming conferences, and a selection of highlighted news links regarding ODF.

BBC Overview of OLPC XO

July 27th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The BBC summarizes the OLPC project and its now-finalized XO hardware.

Very unique constraints have led to unprecedented design ideas. However, I think many of these ideas will be proven by the XO and then adopted by more mainstream computing devices.

Among those ideas: “To ensure the laptop is robust and can be maintained as easily as possible it omits all moving parts. It has no hard drive, CD or DVD drive. As it also packs a low power processor it has no cooling fans… Instead of a large hard drive the laptop has 1GB of flash memory, similar to that used in some digital cameras.”

For energy efficiency, components can be shut off while other parts of the computer remain active: “The off-the-shelf processor is designed to be energy efficient. Unlike a standard chip, which remains active even when nothing changes on screen, the AMD processor is able to shut itself down, only waking when it is needed… To conserve as much battery power as possible the wi-fi adapter can operate even when the main processor is switched off or asleep.”

Other clever features include its custom Linux-based OS, screen that can switch to black-and-white mode for readability in daylight, human-generated power options, and replaceable keyboard to accommodate many language layouts.

Also take a look at some of the stress testing currently underway to ensure the XOs can withstand real-world conditions.

Dell’s Linux Commitment Grows

July 26th, 2007 Benjamin Horst writes Dell’s Linux desktop line keeps expanding.

“When Dell first announced that it would be releasing Ubuntu Linux-powered consumer desktops and laptops, some people saw it as more of a stunt than a serious business move. They were wrong. Dell has already expanded its consumer Linux line, and now it has announced that it will soon be offering Ubuntu Linux systems outside of the United States and for new businesses.”

That’s great news. And it’s not due to altruism; it’s because Linux makes business sense for Dell. People and companies want to use it: “While Dell has declined to announce any sales figures for its new Linux laptops and desktops, sources indicate that the sales have exceeded expectations.”

There is no doubt that Ubuntu will handle the jobs that most users and companies need done. And it costs less than Windows (especially including the time and money savings that accrue because of its freedom from viruses, spyware, and random Windows crashes). We are sure to see Ubuntu steadily increase its marketshare in the coming years, and Dell was smart to get involved now.

Chandler Project High Level Vision

July 25th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

OSAF has outlined the high level vision of its Chandler PIM on the new project website. (Built using TWiki, incidentally.)

One particular goal that stands out to me is described as “Peeling the Onion: Process information iteratively. Define what an item is over time.” This would work very well for me, so I am looking forward to the Preview Release scheduled for August. And that’s just one of a long list of new workflow ideas that OSAF has built into Chandler.

The deep thinking behind Chandler’s development has revealed a number of problems with the way things are done today. Among the most intractable, “There is a basic assumption that information management tasks are binary. Are you Done or Not Done? Most productivity software fail to accommodate the iterative way people work with information and provide poor support for keeping track of everything in between TO-DO and DONE.”

And the overarching goal of OSAF is to redefine the way PIM-like software is used in today’s multi-project, multi-team working environments. “Our hope is that by modeling the user experience around how people work today and the substance of that work, we can be more than just another software tool and instead aspire to be a system for information management: A smarter way to work. A better environment for collaboration. And an addictive habit that’s hard to break.”

Improvements Coming in 2.3 Writer

July 24th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Mathias Bauer writes a summary of Highlights of 2.3 Writer for the GullFOSS blog.

Lots of good changes are coming this September. Among them are UI improvements, support for the updated ODF 1.1 standard, and a filter to save files in MediaWiki markup, to easily upload and add to a MediaWiki based site like Wikipedia or Wikipages. Many small fixes too, so be sure to check it out!

OOo and Firefox News Roundup

July 23rd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

The Dutch city of Heerenveen is migrating to for its 350-computer infrastructure, and will save 135,000 euros as a result. One day of training was sufficient to ready their workers for the change.

Chennai Corporation of India is migrating 220 computers to OOo. “Senior officials said the move was made after a proprietary software representative approached the civic headquarters to notify them about the license fee for using their software.” As we are seeing, cost-conscious markets are among the first to break through with desktop FOSS adoption. What makes me confident, though, is that everyone is cost conscious when pressed enough. And after many competitors have made this cost savings move, the rest will be forced to do so in order to compete.

Yahoo News picks up on the recent reports of Firefox’s marketshare growth with Firefox Nipping at IE’s Heels in Europe: “Mendel suggested that some European users might be avoiding Microsoft’s products due to its ongoing conflict with the European Union over antitrust issues. “I think the other really interesting development here in Europe is that the younger people have always used Linux and other forms of open-source software,” Mendel explained. “And in the universities across Europe, students are strongly encouraged to use open-source tools.”

When universities teach open source, we can expect years or decades of positive returns on the effort invested. Desktop FOSS growth in Europe is therefore poised for explosive growth!

Solveig’s OpenOffice Migration Case Studies

July 22nd, 2007 Benjamin Horst

For SearchEnterpriseLinux, Solveig writes a case study on Migrating a Corporation to OpenOffice.

Janet Neu is a training director for a large corporation. The corporation is working through its pilot program and, assuming success with the pilot program, will be rolling out to thousands of desktops.”

The reason for this company’s switch came down to the cost of Microsoft Office licenses. While the per-seat licenses are far from cheap, that’s not even the entire story:

Neu notes that one reason Microsoft Office had such a high cost is that they were required to have licenses for every user that might conceivably use it. “As many as 30% of those who had licenses for Microsoft Office don’t even use an office suite for their job,” she stated. Those users now have, just in case, but it doesn’t cost anything to have it there.”

There has been resistance from users to adopting a new work tool, but perseverance on the part of the company has overcome those groundless complaints.

Neu has observed a slow improvement in the transition over the last several months, in part because more people have been using it at home prior to being switched over. Other employees might be upset at the transition at first, but then talk to a friend or family member, such as an open source enthusiast son or daughter, and might then be more receptive to the switch to”

Everex PC Bundles OpenOffice for Walmart

July 20th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

PR Newswire runs a release announcing Everex Launches $298 Back-to-School PC with Productivity Software.

Everex is the 7th largest retail PC brand in the US and has broken ground in two areas with this product: it’s probably the least-expensive mass market new PC I’ve ever seen, and it proudly bundles, with significant fanfare and marketing support for it. (It is also being sold at Walmart, but I don’t think that is particularly unusual–though there are no Walmarts in New York City, so I’m not too familiar with them.)

The release states “For the first time, Everex has also included 2.2, the critically acclaimed open-source office suite for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more. “For years now, industry restrictions and tightening profit margins have forced PC manufacturers to shy away from offering productivity software on their new PCs,” states Eugene Chang, Product Manager for Everex. “In creating the eco-friendly GC3502, our main focus was to build a no-compromise, back-to-school PC with all the software applications a typical student would require, without resorting to bundling frivolous trial versions or increasing prices 30%.”

Bask in the presence of this new machine, model name GC3502!

And yes, you should expect and prepare to receive ODF files more and more frequently in the coming months. Download OpenOffice now so you aren’t rushing to get it installed later!

Miro Arrives

July 19th, 2007 Benjamin Horst

Miro is the paradigm-changing, web, Bittorrent, and RSS-enabled video player application for all three major platforms, formerly known as “Democracy Player.”

As the primary project of the Participatory Culture Foundation, its goal is very lofty: to ensure that when television migrates to the internet, it is available in an open format, open source, open access form. This notion could fundamentally change web television in ways that make it far more egalitarian and far more democratic and far more interesting than the corporate product delivered today.

Accompanying its recent name change and version update (just shy of 1.0, they are being cautious in using that moniker), I’ve started a Facebook group on behalf of the project to help in its marketing efforts. It’s an open group, so please join in and contribute there!

Get Miro