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Ballmer Asked For a $100 PC and Here It Is: Running GNU/Linux
Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 01:04 PM EST

This is nice. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer asked the industry last month to make a $100 PC for emerging markets, and they did. Except it runs GNU/Linux. Oops. Grin:

" . . .Thousand Oaks, California-based SolarPC has managed it with the Linux-based SolarLite. Due for launch in December, SolarLite is a rugged book-sized PC with a Compact Flash drive loaded with software.

"The SolarLite will be based on VIA Technologies Inc long-life chipset technologies and is designed to run on 12-volt power via solar panels, car batteries, or even human-powered generators. The software for the SolarLite is provided by the DSL . . . project, a bootable Live CD Linux distribution.

"SolarPC also announced plans to give away a million SolarLite computers to schools in emerging countries around the world via the Global Education Link project.

You don't have to live in emerging markets countries to drop Microsoft software, of course. The Bristol City Council in the UK is following what I think is a good strategy for easing into it, switching most of their desktops to StarOffice, but keeping Microsoft Office on some:

"Bristol City Council has dumped Microsoft Office, Corel Word Perfect and Lotus 1-2-3 from 5,000 user desktops as part of a migration to the open source StarOffice 7.

"The local authority estimates that the move will save it some £1.4m over the next five years."

Wait until they discover OpenOffice.

Most departments will switch, but some "1,800 desktops in the city's education service, including schools, will remain on Microsoft Office for the time being." That's because Microsoft offers deals to educational facilities it won't offer to other public sector users. I'm thinking they will soon. They are also keeping a few computers with Windows for those who "need to manage the few documents with specific technical features not yet fully supported in StarOffice."

I think this is a fine plan, because it eases the transition greatly to have your familiar old software handy for when you are in a rush and haven't figured out all the ins and outs of the new software yet. It's also how most of us tranfer to GNU/Linux systems, bit by bit. A spokesman for the Bristol City Council says they studied the the technical, financial and cultural issues for three years before deciding to switch to StarOffice. If the world keeps this up, it won't matter what the EU Commission decides or how little the Justice Department does or who sells out for a pile of bills, will it?


Ballmer Asked For a $100 PC and Here It Is: Running GNU/Linux | 88 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections that Oo.o didn't find go here.
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 01:33 PM EST


[ Reply to This | # ]

Small correction...
Authored by: Reven on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 01:33 PM EST
A small correction, though it is in the quoted text, not PJ's article. That is,
StarOffice isn't open source. OpenOffice.Org suite is - StarOffice is the
commercial, closed-source version of OpenOffice.Org.

Ex Turbo Modestum

[ Reply to This | # ]

O/T here
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 01:33 PM EST
Aha, aha.

I shoot out the lip.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT thread
Authored by: PolR on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 01:34 PM EST
You know the drill

[ Reply to This | # ]

A link?
Authored by: archonix on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 01:36 PM EST
I'm normally very lazy and appreciate links to things. Since there are more people like me out tghere, here's a link to SolarPCe.

And here's one to the Solar Lite.

Interesting little machine by the look of things.

disclaimer: I'm human. I make mistakes too, but I try to fix them if you ask nice.
Graham Dawson - Gentoo Masochist

[ Reply to This | # ]

Official SCO Group postings here please.....
Authored by: tiger99 on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 01:42 PM EST
Come on now, it is 39 days since PJ extended the invitation..... Still nothing! Surely one of you wants to say something?

Main posts in this thread may only be made by senior managers or attorneys for "The SCO Group". Main posts must use the name and position of the poster at "The SCO Group". Main posters must post in their official capacity at "The SCO Group". Sub-posts will also be allowed from non-"The SCO Group" employees or attorneys. Sub-posts from persons not connected with "The SCO Group" must be very polite, address other posters and the main poster with the honorific "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Ms.", as appropriate, use correct surnames, not call names or suggest or imply unethical or illegal conduct by "The SCO Group" or its employees or attorneys. This thread requires an extremely high standard of conduct and even slightly marginal posts will be deleted. PJ says you must be on your very best behavior. If you want to comment on this thread, please post under "OT"

[ Reply to This | # ]

Another low-cost Linux platform...
Authored by: CnocNaGortini on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 02:08 PM EST

There's also the Indian-designed Simputer, running a Linux based system -- on an Open Hardware design.

[ Reply to This | # ] vs StarOffice
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 02:37 PM EST

Wait until they discover OpenOffice.

Even though can be downloaded for free and StarOffice costs money, there may still be good reasons to buy StarOffice licenses from Sun. Sun can provide additional technical support. Sun's pricing is probably reasonable and certainly much less costly than Microsoft Office. Also, going with StarOffice now should not preclude Bristol City Council from switching to in the future.

"Bristol City Council has dumped Microsoft Office, Corel Word Perfect and Lotus 1-2-3 from 5,000 user desktops as part of a migration to the open source StarOffice 7. also does not (or not yet?) have the ability to read and write WordPerfect files, and StarOffice does. Bristol City Council would probably have a large number of files in WordPerfect format to which they need continued access. Also, any large organization is likely to receive WordPerfect files from outside sources from time to time, and it is useful to be able to read these.

[ Reply to This | # ]

OT: Happy Thanksgiving
Authored by: Woad_Warrior on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 02:55 PM EST
You've been doing the community a great service and favor with your site. So
please step away from your comp, and enjoy the holiday. :-)
We will of course expect you to be back bright and early friday to amaze and
amuse us, and confound SCO and other corporate leeches. ;-)
Thanks for all the hard work by you and the others who have contributed
significant time and resources towards providing the FOSS community upto date
info on the goings on. We'd never get the amount of information from the press
that we get from visiting your site.

[ Reply to This | # ]

My experience of DSL
Authored by: gdeinsta on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 03:02 PM EST

I ordered the business-card sized CD with DSL ("Damn Small Linux"). It arrived a week ago. I put it in the CD drive and... it booted up perfectly. It's very impressive to watch it go through all the hardware, poking and prodding to find out what is out there. (It's based on Knoppix.) The only thing it got wrong was that it didn't adjust to my two-button mouse, so I have no way of making a "third button" click. But it got everything else right. Not bad for a 0.8 release!

I was impressed how much I could run in 64Meg of RAM, with no hard disk mounted. FluxBox is a perfectly fine desktop manager, and it supports both KDE and Gnome applications. Dillo is a useable browser but it doesn't include an ftp client so when you click on an ftp link it does nothing. You have to manually fire up the command-line ftp client.

As distributed DSL does not include Firefox or OpenOffice. So for your average user it is probably not a good choice. But if you have a small/old machine it is great. On my 466MHz Celeron it can decode and display video with about 60% CPU usage. When playing music (without video) the CPU usage barely registers at 1%. According to the DSL website it runs even on a 486 with acceptable performance and it is useable in GUI mode with as little as 32Meg of RAM.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Star-office is free as in beer for some.
Authored by: skip on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 03:17 PM EST
Students are allowed to download StarOffice free on stating that they are indeed
students. The student version _is_ the commercial version, but comes without

I got it last year, and while to the level I use it there is little noticable
difference between that and OpenOffice, it is noteable that M$ have no such

In my case, having Star-office is great, because my supervisor uses M$Office,
and I couldn't afford that. The university could supply it, but my precious lab
budget is for other things.
I'd probably have settled for OpenOffice, but the student deal was too good to

The above post is released under the Creative Commons license
Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0.
P.J. has permission for commercial use

[ Reply to This | # ]

Bristol will still use Windows?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 03:39 PM EST
Sorry to put a bit of a damper on this, but :

Bristol are certainly going to dump MS Office and use Star Office on most of their desktops. However, I believe that they will run Star Office on Windows. There is no mention of Linux in the Press Release

Even The Register has got confused and equates "Star Office with "Linux", here, in the 2nd paragraph.

Perhaps the confusion is because, in the Windows world, MS Office is now regarded as "part of the operating system".

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ballmer Asked For a $100 PC and Here It Is: Running GNU/Linux
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 04:53 PM EST
Don't tar the whole of the European Commission with the
same brush. Some parts are enthusiastically supporting
FLOSS and trying to get the rest to follow.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm thinking they will soon
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 05:18 PM EST
Offering huge discounts to everyone who might switch doesn't sound like a sound long-term business strategy to me. I think they should try it :)

[ Reply to This | # ]

The most expensive part
Authored by: Boundless on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 06:10 PM EST
> Ballmer asked the industry last month to make a $100 PC

The problem, of course, is that in this price range,
the Windows operating system is both the most
expensive single component, and the least reliable.

[ Reply to This | # ]

The Ballmer Bullet here in California
Authored by: jim Reiter on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 08:40 PM EST

Hey Steve,

The $100.00 computer showed up at Fry’s Electronics (one day only) on November
25, 2004

It is a

AMD Sempron
Internet Ready
Multimedia PC

AMD Sempron XP 2200+
128 MB DDR Memory
40 GB Hard Drive
52x CD-ROM
Motherboard Integrated Graphics
High Speed 10/100 Networking
56 K Modem – USB Ports
Lindows/Linspire 4.5

Limited Quantities on Hand

And Steve it comes with Linux.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Here's another $100 PC running Linux
Authored by: billwww on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 08:54 PM EST
Fry's (Houston) just had a one-day sale featuring their in-house low end
computer for $99.99. It uses an AMD Sempron 2200+ processor and includes a 40GB
hard drive, 128MB DRAM, CDROM, and on-board video, sound, LAN, modem, and USB
2.0. It comes preloaded with Lindows. No rebates are involved.

Too bad the sale was only for today.

billwww (formerly addicted to high prices)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ballmer Asked For a $100 PC and Here It Is: Running GNU/Linux
Authored by: blacklight on Thursday, November 25 2004 @ 10:05 PM EST
"Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer asked the industry last month to make a $100
PC for emerging markets" PJ

This little piece of news tells me that Steve Ballmer does not think that the
problem lies with the pricing of the Microsoft software.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A possible problem waiting to happen
Authored by: davcefai on Friday, November 26 2004 @ 01:02 AM EST
From personal experience: switching most of their desktops to StarOffice, but keeping Microsoft Office on some

1. Some people consider themselves too important to "downgrade" to StarOffice.

2. Others are self styled "power users" and could not possibly operate with Staroffice.

In reality most of the above cannot be bothered to spend a few minutes familiarising themselves with a new menu structure.

If SO and MSO coexist then there will be problems because although SO can read MSO docs there will always be formatting issues which will cause friction. Personally I prefer to work with Staroffice. It has never bluescreened or "performed an illegal operation and will be shut down".

From a cost viewpoint SO costs "pocket money" and you do get good service from Sun.

[ Reply to This | # ]

No Open Office In DSL
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 26 2004 @ 09:34 AM EST
DSL uses SIAG Office as the defualt but DSL has a Click and Load type thing
going on that allows users to add Open Office with one click and an Internet

It also runs Links Hacked (In Graphics Mode) and Dillo as its defualt Browsers.

With that said DSL (Damn Small Linux) is actually a very good ultra lite distro
complete with 2 Web browsers, WP (Pathetic Writer), Spreedsheet (SIAG), XMMS
(Linux version of WInAMP 2), Paint Program (XPaint), and a few more apps by
defualt-It's all rather impresive as it only weighs in at 49 MB!!..It is very
usable as is but is more usable after Firefox (Or Opera) and Xine (MPlayer or
Real Player 10 if you prefer that over Xine) are installed. .

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ask Jonathan Swartz about this
Authored by: rweiler on Friday, November 26 2004 @ 04:48 PM EST
I've suggested to Jonathan (or maybe Scott) that Sun should buy this company,
but maybe that isn't necessary. However, if Sun/StarOffice/Java desktop are to
have any future, Sun needs to get this product, or one exactly like it, on the
price book ASAP. Heck, there is already excellent synergy with the company
names. :-) The reality is that SolarPC's running Linux and StarOffice powered
from a Solaris (Or Linux) 4 or 8 way Opteron server box would completely gut the
desktop PC market. No viruses, no flaky disks, no fans, no noise, less power
consumption, virtually zero desktop maintanence; if the network is the computer,
than the solarPC is the network endpoint. It sure as heck isn't the SunRay.
Anyway, it would be interesting to know if Jonathan even understands that Sun
needs to have a product like the SolarPC on the price book for JDS to succeed.

Sometimes the measured use of force is the only thing that keeps the world from
being ruled by force. -- G. W. Bush

[ Reply to This | # ]

$100 Linspire Box at Fry's today
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, November 26 2004 @ 06:30 PM EST
Day After Thanksgiving Sale at Fry's:

"AMD Sempron Processer Internet Ready Multimedia PC
*AMD Sempron XP 2200+
*40GB Hard Drive
*52x CD-ROM
*Motherboard Itnegrated Graphics
*High Speed 10/100 Networking
*56K Modem
*USB Ports
*Lindows/Linspire 4.5
Limited to quantities on hand. No substitutions and no rainchecks on this
Limit 1 per customer."

If you need a cheap Windows license, a local vendor has a minimalist ancient
Pentium-based system for $65 configured with your choice of MS-Windows 98 or
2000. A bit "pricy" but perfect for very-low-end users. Mr. Balmer,
if you want a Windows box for under $100, that's what you get - a piece of
mid-1990s technogy fresh off the scrap heap. On the other hand, you can get
2001 technology running Linux for $100.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A real $100.00 PC.........
Authored by: jim Reiter on Saturday, November 27 2004 @ 04:20 PM EST
........will be designed from the ground up, not assembled
from off the shelve. It might look like the Sinclar or a
small Apple II of years ago, have a mini HD and mini
CD-ROM. It will have a half screen LCD (not necessarily
color) and run off a 12V wall Transformer.

A PDA 600 - 800 Mhz Cpu

A SD slot - floppies are too big.

No multimedia or Doom 3

The promise of large volumes will drive down the prices of
mini HD's and CDROM's.

In America,UK, etc. it will be a child's first computer.
In the 3rd world it will be in the schools and even small

It could run gameboy type games and might even come from a
Nitendo type company.

And, sorry microsucks, it will run Linux.

And they will sell millions and millions of them.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Ballmer Asked For a $100 PC and Here It Is: Running GNU/Linux
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, November 29 2004 @ 11:21 PM EST
SolarPC promises a demo of that $100 PC at the 2005 Southern California Linux Expo, also known nas SCALE 3x If you're interested in attending SCALE use the promo code GROK for a discounted registration rate.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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