“Good enough” computing – will the recession kill off Microsoft?

Paul Raven @ 24-04-2009

laptop and netbookThis speculative futurism thing is starting to spread! Keir Thomas, Linux columnist for PC World, has posted a future retrospective piece that looks back from 2025 to the present day as the dawn of “good enough” computing… and the beginning of the end for Microsoft.

The lack of desire to relinquish XP by users was part of what became known as the “Good Enough” revolution in both software and hardware. At the beginning of the 21st century, computing hardware had evolved sufficiently to reach a level of performance that allowed for speedy execution of virtually all common computing tasks. Prior to this, the only way to guarantee good performance was to buy expensive cutting-edge hardware. But now chips costing just a few dollars offered more performance than most people would ever need.

Upgrading became less a matter of getting a better PC than about simply replacing old and broken computers with newer models. Ever resourceful during the Great Recession that struck in the early 21st century, PC manufacturers responded with ultra-cheap but “good enough” computers (both laptops and desktops) that were designed to be simple slot-in replacements for existing computers. PC manufacturers had already carved this route with netbook computers, where the goal was to be cheap and usable, with little if any frills.

Obviously there’s an element of fun-poking to Thomas’s piece (alongside the enduring positivity of the committed Linux evangelist) but as a piece of speculative futurism it’s a solid and plausible job. The details may well work out differently – and I’d be surprised to see even the recently-beleaguered Microsoft drop out of the game quite that easily – but the idea of computing as commodity was raised by Charlie Stross a year and a half ago, and many others since. As the line between mobile devices and ‘proper’ computers continues to blur (and convergence with phone handsets accelerates), Thomas’s future doesn’t look too fictional at all. [via the spiritual home of the Linux-takes-all story, SlashDot; image by Matthew Verso]


Bay of Pigs to Bay of Penguins – the Cuban Linux fork

Paul Raven @ 14-02-2009

LOLcastroRemember we mentioned late last year that Cuba was talking about going open-source to guarantee their technological independence from the United States (and presumably everyone else as well)?

Well, it seems that Cuba has not only adopted Linux but started developing its own independent distribution:

Nova is Cuba’s own configuration of Linux and bundles various applications of the operating system.

Rodriguez said several government ministries and the Cuban university system have made the switch to Linux but there has been resistance from government companies concerned about its compatibility with their specialized applications.

“I would like to think that in five years our country will have more than 50 percent migrated (to Linux),” he said.

Unlike Microsoft, Linux is free and has open access that allows users to modify its code to fit their needs.

“Private software can have black holes and malicious codes that one doesn’t know about,” Rodriguez said. “That doesn’t happen with free software.”

As TechDirt points out, that last comment isn’t really true at all; whether it was included out of ignorance or for propaganda purposes will presumably remain a mystery.

I wonder if they’ll open up the repositories to non-Cuban users? It’s another great propaganda angle – stuffing the man pages with little homilies on object-orientated Communism from Castro and Guevara… [via SlashDot image by factor_]


Cuba chooses Linux

Paul Raven @ 13-11-2008

LOLcastroGodless communists pick the penguin and use Linux “to guarantee technological independence”. Remember folks – only the continued purchasing of bloated proprietary operating systems can keep the pinkos at bay. [via Ken MacLeod, image by factor_]


Bug Labs creates “open source hardware”

Stephen Years @ 02-11-2007

bug_logo.jpgBug Labs is a start-up company in New York that is creating what they call “open source hardware.” The company is creating a Lego-like hardware platform that tinkerers and engineers can use to create their own digital devices. The idea is to take advantage of “long-tail economics” that will allow the creation of very specific, niche hardware devices for limited markets. The platform can also be used for rapid prototyping.

It starts with a BUGBase, which is a general-purpose Linux computer about the size of a PlayStation Portable, encased in white plastic. This has four connectors that plug right into the motherboard. The company will also make a variety of modules that can plug into the computer—like an LCD screen, a digital camera, a GPS unit, a motion sensor, a keyboard, an EVDO modem, and a 3G GSM modem. (There are also places to add USB, Ethernet, WiFi, and serial ports). Bug Labs is planning on making 80 modules over time, and hopes outside companies and developers will create their own.


Virgin America’s Entertainment Tech

Jeremy Lyon @ 03-08-2007

796174803 Ebfd404Bb4 MOn Virgin America’s new planes you can build a private playlist from the 3,000 on-board MP3s, play Doom, watch satellite TV, chat with other passengers or order lunch, all from the seat back in front of you. The computers that make this possible run Linux, booted over the network from one of the three servers at the back of the plane. Artur Bergman of O’Reilly Radar has a more detailed description of the experience, and a Flickr photoset with a bunch of cool pics.