People still running a Windows system in the home will probably be able to appreciate the almost full time job of securing it against the latest malware, fixing nonsensical bugs which suddenly appear for no reasons and creating their own imaginative workarounds just to get the desktop functioning. For the home user this may be seen as run-of-the-mill home computing, but put the same issues into government systems where your tax money goes and the problem becomes less of an annoyance and more a costly exercise – at your expense.
There’s an interesting article over on V3 which highlights that government computing bills on a per machine basis are around £6000 per year. And keep in mind this apparently isn’t for state of the art systems, this is for Windows XP.
Aside from the huge waste in productivity outlined by Kelly, the government seems to be throwing huge amounts down the drain maintaining this outdated kit. The COO said he thought the cost of a single desktop PC was around £6,000 per year – for which he could go and buy 10 Apple iPads.
Now user’s of Windows can appreciate that boot up (and shut down) can take a long time. Here’s your Government (in the UK)
“I came into the office and I pressed my PC and it took me seven minutes to boot up,” he told attendees. “That’s government in the old world, that’s three days of the year I waste of my time booting up.”
So as well as pouring money down the drain keeping these Windows systems functioning, we also find out that its taking time away from workers.
I could be sarcastic here and make reference to our government and it’s slow-time productivity, but that an wait for another day because it detracts from a series issue of tax payers money – Tax payers money in a time when vital public services are being cut to save money.
It’s little wonder that home users are looking for change, I wonder when the government and industry will do the same?
Around June 2009 I purchased a Linux Acer Aspire One (Linpus Linux) and a pay as you go broadband dongle. The idea was, whilst I was away on holiday I could keep my net presence, conduct a little blogging and have something to do on the quiet evenings.
It was lucky that I tested the machine before going away as the dongle and Linux did not play nicely together (despite claims to the contrary by store staff). To cut a long story short, I ended up returning the machine and exchanging it for a Windows XP version.
To be fair to Microsoft, the dongle worked fine. That would be expected though since it came pre-loaded with Windows software which monitored your usage (to enable you to pay-as-you-go). I have to say though, from first boot, performance was appalling and I thought at first I may have a defective unit. After speaking with other Acer Aspire owners it transpired that the performance I was achieving was perfectly “normal” and apparently acceptable.
My Linux use told me that this wasn’t normal or acceptable, however it worked and I was leaving for holiday the following day.
After the holiday, that netbook pretty much sat in a drawer. Later I would get an Android Smart Phone which was more than acceptable for surfing on the go (albeit on a small screen) and in fact when I was away this year, I published articles & chatted in IRC with no problems.
For Xmas this year we will be staying with relatives, since my Android phone is quite happy to tether (note to the few WP7 users out there) or make itself a wi-fi hotspot, I would like to continue my net presence with a screen of a more comfortable size and a real keyboard. The purpose of this article is to take a look at a few Aspire One “friendly” distro’s and then make a decision as to the best one for my Xmas break and the netbook itself. It is wholly unacceptable to me to wait around 4 minutes for Windows XP to finish booting and loading ….whatever it is loading, I also refuse to wait nearly 2 minutes for Windows XP to shut down and it’s certainly unacceptable having to spend time worrying about securing, scanning, monitoring Windows XP because unlike Linux, Windows is the target (and victim) of so many malicious attacks/pieces of software.
So where to begin? I’ll briefly list the specs for the Aspire One (which in my view from previous experience is not suitable for XP) : Intel Atom N270 1.6 GHz, 1gb DDR2 RAM, 16 GB HD (SSD), Intel GMA 954GSE Graphics.
During this review, Ive looked at Kuki 2.8 (399mb download) , Jolicloud 1.1 (696mb download), #!CBL 10 (644mb download), Puppy 5.11 (129mb download), Salix 13.1 (670mb download), Peppermint Ice (latest Spin 429mb download). But the first question I had was – I wonder who’s idea it was to think that this machine loaded with XP is viable? If we believe Microsoft hype, Windows 7 is shipping on everything today and allegedly its suitable for “everything” but if XP (which was released around 2001) strains the specs of a piece of hardware released about 6 years later, then I shudder to consider the performance Windows 7 will give on even more recent netbooks.
What am I looking for?
For the purposes of this “experiment” I’m looking for the distro to offer me the following:
1. Fast boot time / shut down
2. Punchy performance (although compared to XP, a ZX81 would perform like a high-end machine)
3. Quick, out of the box set-up.
4. Completely stable.
5. A varied and relevant selection of software defaultly packaged.
So which distro will meet these requirements? Which distro will I settle on? Read on to find out!
Installing Linux on an SSD device?
This is simple stuff, so many of you can skip this part.
Installing Linux distro on an SSD device (with no DVD/CD drive) is rather simple. For the purposes of this article I used UnetBootin, which is available for both the Linux and Windows platforms. If you are a Linux user then you should find it in your repo’s, but if not then following the link above will take you to the homepage and the latest version.
Firstly you need to ensure your USB stick in plugged in and mounted (for Linux users). Once that is done, it’s merely a case of downloading the liveCD .iso of your choice or using Unetbootin’s built in feature of allowing you to choose a Linux distro from its list (a net connection is obviously required) In the case of this article we have the .iso so its merely a matter of clicking the box “disk image”, then selecting your .iso file of choice. Once you click ok, after a short while your USB stick will be a fully functioning “liveUSB”.
The Acer Aspire One allows you to choose your boot preference when powering up by pressing F12 then simply selecting your USB stick.
Your Linux distro will now boot and give you the option to play around with it in a live environment or install onto your SSD.
It really is that easy and using the USB stick in this way allows you to try numerous distro’s without risk of hosing your system.
Conclusions – Who wins and why?
I’ll start with Salix 13.1.2, I’ve used this previously (and deployed it to others) finding it to be a speedy, solid distro. Xfce is the desktop environment and has certainly been one receiving my praise time and time again. Unfortunately for the Acer Aspire One, Salix doesn’t work, freezing up the keyboard and mouse on boot. This may well be a fixable issue, but since this article is based on the premise that I need something “out of the box” and quickly, then Salix had to be left behind. It’s a shame since Salix is a distro I’ve been impressed with on many occasions. It should be worth noting though that it may very well perform superbly with another netbook, but as far as my Acer is concerned, lets move on.
Jolicloud 1.1 has been met with much praise. There have been references to the ChromeOS and how Google should be worried, there are many people saying great things about Jolicloud. Lets look past the worries and implications of some about trusting your data to the cloud and merely concentrate on what Jolicloud delivers: A desktop environment based mainly in the cloud.
Jolicloud installed and ran out of the box perfectly. I cannot fault anything here. For me, it has a very Ubuntu/Android feel to it and performance wise its up there with best of them. Cloud based services are integrated well within this distro and there’s the option to install a plethora of locally based apps if you like. I did love the web-based Invaders game which I count as the highpoint to this distro, because I didn’t like it.
So why in the midst of all the praise Jolicloud recieves did it not suit me? Why when it performs well and installs perfectly did I not instantly fall in love with it?
The first thing that annoyed me with Jolicloud was I was forced to register. I could use a Facebook login if I wished, but since I don’t use Facebook I had to create an account and give away my email address just to try the thing.
Once logged on, the desktop displays the apps with large icons, nicely arranged and ready to use. Chrome booted quickly but then this is where I started to find more things which I disliked. It appears (and please someone correct me if I’m wrong) that Chrome in JoliCloud does not allow me to have my bookmarks bar at the top of its screen like I have on my desktop. It appears I have to go into the bookmark manager separately. Now I did try to confirm this by booting the liveUSB again whilst writing this article and I still can’t find a way to do it. I would ask anyone who does use Jolicloud to enlighten me here, but since its not the main issue I have with Jolicloud, I’ll move on for the moment. NOTE: This has now been resolved. The option (which I obviously haven’t needed to enable for a while) was not obvious in the Chromium menus.
The main issue I have with Jolicloud comes out of a matter of personal preference. When surfing or working online with my Android I am very happy with the UI. I don’t expect a desktop experience on a phone with a screen the size of a packet of cigarettes. On the netbook though, I intend that to be a “computer home” away from home. I like it to not only vaguely resemble my desktop, but also give me the flexibility and control too. I did not get that feeling with Jolicloud, apps defaultly maximize and appear as an icon in the top left corner of the screen. There does not seem an obvious way to resize windows and maybe have the option of having a few apps on the same screen. I did not attempt to look at usage of system resources since it was obvious to me that I wouldn’t be considering it.
I’m sure there is a massive market for the Ubuntu derived Jolicloud, for me though it was far too much smart-phone and no feeling of real control – Maybe that’s my hangup though. I’d love to hear your views and I should say I did like the way Jolicloud presents different desktop wallpaper to you, a sort of scrollable slide show towards the bottom of the screen, it was a nice touch. There are quite a few “nice touches” with Jolicloud that probably make it very appealing to some users. Unfortunately, Im not one of them. Had I spent more time with Jolicloud, I may have grown to like it (and resolve some of my irritations with it).
Puppy 5.11 was always on the cards to be tested. I have always been impressed with both Puppy and Puppy Arcade on the desktop, covering this issue many times on OpenBytes. As was expected Puppy had excellent boot times and in answer to a question posed to me on the TechBytes show – Yes it does bark! Everything was detected pretty much out of the box, although with Puppy it does seem to take a more “around the houses” approach to setting up my WIFI with various options, install scripts for doing it. Maybe that’s just me though and it has to be said Puppy has no issues with any of the hardware involved. Packaged with Midori as default is a “no-no” for me. I don’t find page rendering as quick as other packages on the same hardware and comparing like for like I found Chromium (unscientifically) flies past Midori.
After playing with the Puppy for a while, this would certainly be a contender for the distro of choice and I found with a browser, an IRC client and a few other utils running, only 16% of the CPU was being used and about 1/3 of the memory.
Next up was Crunchbang Linux, which uses Openbox DE. Great stuff here. It flew, as much as Puppy did and whilst I’ve made no attempts at exact timing, they would both blow XP out of the water on boot times. A plethora of applications available on install and performance being very fast, #!CBL detected my hardware without issue and was ready to operate. I can’t really fault #!CBL on the Aspire at all.
Kuki 2.8 was next on the list. An Ubuntu based distro which in the developers words aims to be a replacement for Linpus. Sadly it doesn’t seem to have received much of an update since around February 2010. As was stated by the site it was pretty much ready to go out of the box and being yet another Ubuntu derived distro, you can almost guarantee success. Being packaged with Midori as default, again this was something I would seek to replace quickly and certainly any claimed advantages are not obvious to this Aspire user in the face of Chromium.
Finally, I took a look at Peppermint ICE (September 2010 spin). Regular readers to this site may recall I’ve covered Peppermint quite heavily, with this being the Chromium based outing complete with Openbox 188.8.131.52 DE. Peppermint receives high praise on Openbytes not only for its punchy performance (and a trusted Ubuntu basis) but because of its subtle cloud integration which allows users to experience as much or as little of it, without “throwing all your eggs into one basket”. The result of this is a solid platform with the scope to be anything you want it to be. Whats unique about Peppermint ICE is the SSB written to integrate cloud based services and apps into your desktop. We experienced Peppermint One’s uniqueness with Prism and here Kendall Weaver has developed a SSB with Chromium. Boot and shut down times are good (around the 40 second mark for boot up and 3 seconds for shut-down), everything was detected without fault and there is of course the knowledge that its derived from the solid Ubuntu.
I think its obvious that I am going to choose Peppermint ICE as my recommendation for the Acer Aspire One. For me it was a combination of performance, cloud integration (in a non-committal way) and also aesthetically pleasing. It is also rather festive that the distro I settle on during the Xmas break is one with ICE in the title!
During the course of this article I had many suggestions – thank you to everyone who contacted me, I wish I had the time time to try them all.
You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.
A short snippet of a rumor….
For anyone who thought that their Windows 7 investment would not be “upgraded” for some time may have to think again.
It is being alleged that the Dutch Microsoft site released a statement which Winrumors has translated to read:
Furthermore, Microsoft is on course for the next version of Windows. But it will take about two years before Windows 8 ‘on the market..
Its further reported that the statement was taken down rather quickly. So 2012 could possibly be the date that Windows 8 makes an appearance? What do users think of this? Lets have a look at some of the comments on PCWorld:
No one will ever need a damn OS that requires huge amount of ram and graphic capability to browse, view files and manage media content. The recent release cycle has been hilarious to say the least. Vista flopped making way for 7 with some reduced crap. Now follows windows 8. This is pretty unsettling for windows users. Just give us a ‘working’ version of an OS rather than a flashy, resource intensive piece of junk. its time to ditch windows totally……
or how about:
Windows operating systems are crap switch to mac and you;ll never go back I did wish I’d done it earlier
Who cares. Just another version of the famous malware/virus magnet.
or (In respect of Windows 7)
There’s no wonder it’s the fastest selling OS in history. It’s because so many people are wanting to dump Vista.
All these comments (and more) can be read over on an article at PCWorld.
The Mayans predicted that the world would end in 2012. Maybe they were right and Windows 8 will mark the end for Microsoft? Certainly Microsoft has some unhappy people, maybe that’s why people are now seeing other platforms as desirable? – I’ll let you decide.
You can also contact me on Skype: tim.openbytes
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.
Before we start this is the followup to my previous article (here).
Lets begin by reminding ourselves of two comments made by Bill Gates – you might have heard of him, he is/was? quite influential at Microsoft. ;)
It’s easier for our software to compete with Linux when there’s piracy than when there’s not.
As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.
Read those sentences a few times, take a deep breath and then consider the companies mentioned in the last article. hypocrisy? or maybe underhanded tactics to allow the spread of Microsoft wares until such time as they decide to collect? – I hope everyone can forgive me for thinking this sounds very much like the drug dealer who gives the first few “hits” for free, safe in the knowledge that an addict will keep coming back.
I digress (as is my want) and this article is about the contact I have had from some of the companies/individuals who were named on the Microsoft hit list. It certainly makes interesting reading and certainly (in the cases Ive seen) not a case of selling cracked copies of Windows 7, its more a licensing agreement issue when selling refurbed PC’s as a business. Lets make something clear here, the hit list that has been published (although some sources would suggest otherwise) is not a list of people caught selling copies of Windows 7. As the links that follow will show, this is Microsoft cashing in on alleged licensing issues, in particular (in the example) a business selling on a refurbished PC. This is no “Knock off Nigel”.
There was one company in particular who contacted me from the hit list linked in the previous article. For arguments sake we will call them Company X, as you will see, from theirs (and other supporting comments from others) there is a genuine fear of retaliation for speaking out against the “Mighty Microsoft”. I however have no such fear in regards to my comments and if Microsoft feel the need to ever take legal action over my words, I would welcome it.
So lets start with some questions I put to Company X who kindly got into contact with me to tell me the following 
I have just read your blog about this and thanks for ‘defending’ the small guy. About the only article that has done.
As you probably guessed I am on that list.
Now I need to be careful about the details I give. This person has a genuine concern about Microsoft retaliation should they speak out and I don’t want details exposing them to Microsoft. In summary they sold a PC with Windows on it (which must have been to a Microsoft test purchaser) and subsequently received a warning letter and a fine. I won’t disclose the exact sum, but lets just say it was more than £1000.
I have also seen a copy of letter which this particular individual received. If anyone from Microsoft (who has had knowledge of the letter) disbelieves I have read it, I can give proof merely by telling you that one of the titles in your letter was: “Our Evidence: Test Purchase” and followed by: “Basis of Microsoft’s Claim against you” – I think that those two will confirm that I have in fact seen the letter in question. How about “One time opportunity to settle“? The reason why I am not printing the letter is that I am not sure how “unique” it is to the company in question, I would expect the headings are pretty standard but the detail is not.
Moving on, Company X also said in reference to the machine which was bought by the test purchaser:
I thought all was as it should be
And whilst to be fair I am only going off the information provided to me, I can say that it does appear in the case I read to be more of a simple mistake or misunderstanding on behalf of the supplier and a OTT reaction by Microsoft. As I say though I cannot expect to make judgement myself and as I always say, there are always two sides to every argument. What I can say is that Company X is not some sort of Jolly Roger Pirate. Company X is not someone selling pirate disks out of bags at a train station. I’ll leave it there and simply quote some of the other points Company X make:
….ruined with the possibility of having my business crushed by MS I “settled”, the terms of which I am not allowed to say of course.
and also says (when I ask for more information)
Yes I am happy to give more info but a little reticent about being quoted as basically I don’t truct MS not to come after me in some way for daring to speak against them.
In the newsgroup uk.legal (which you can see here) we have another recipient talking about the Microsoft warning letters and it seems this letter incident has started at the end of last year, with some receiving letters in December. Here are some quotes which I think show how yet again Microsoft actions are being interpreted:
Sounds like scare tactics. Don’t cave to these crooks.
…..nobody has the bankroll to withstand Micro$oft’s corporate/legal steamroller.
and in respect of the fee to settle mentioned on uk.legal, another user comments:
the disproportionate amount could be seen as blackmail and should be reported.
Another user comments about the Microsoft letter and says:
he’s a sole trader during a global recession. I imagine his primary concern is with the survival of his business at the least possible cost and inconvenience.
Please read the link and see these comments in context, we are not talking some forum on a “scene” torrent site full of teenagers, some of these people are traders and people who come across as trying to make a living.
So it appears that Microsoft reputation, certainly with some small vendors has sunk lower. What
We’ve seen allegations of copyright infringement/settlement claims handled in the past with companies like ACS:Law. In Microsoft’s case though, there is no third-party involved in collecting monies. The spoils are all theirs!
I wonder, will Microsoft count the test purchase as a sale of a Windows platform? – I would expect so, but this revenue collecting exercise (and the one described on uk.legal) suggest it could be a very profitable route for Microsoft to take especially in light of allegations of layoffs, disgruntled customers and discontinued products.
Whilst Openbytes won’t recommend a supplier, why not start supporting those companies on the list? Check out their products and consider giving them your custom, in addition, if anyone on the list would like to email their full company details to me, I will quite happily print them in an article so readers can visit them.
Whilst I would not give legal advice here, on the letter I saw there was only a small window of time for you to pay the sum demanded after which legal action was implied. What I would suggest (to anyone else getting a letter) consider contacting BBC Watchdog, they have chased up and run stories before on IPR infringement allegations and may well take an interest (if your case is anything like the one I’ve read)
In the meantime, if Microsoft wants a right of reply, they are more than welcome either in the comments here or by email for me to publish. I wouldn’t expect one, I think times are hard for Microsoft:
Thanks for your interest in reporting piracy. We will investigate any leads you give us.
Im sure they will, they are after all the pennies they can grab.
“Im a PC and Windows settlement letters were my id…….DOH” ;)
And after the comments Bill Gates made though, I don’t think he will be invited to the Anti-Piracy divisions Xmas dinner any time soon.
After speaking with many people regarding Microsoft’s latest tactics, this video to me represents Microsoft perfectly. Enjoy.
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.
and a look at a new distro which aims to appeal to the Windows XP market with consideration of a recent ruling that has an XP “pirate” hit with a fine and jail.
Its a question Ive asked time and time again on this blog. There are many sites reporting the new Ubuntu derived distro which aims to appeal to the Windows XP user. I will cover that more towards the end of the article but for me, this poses other questions in regards to the view Microsoft seemed to have in respect of XP, the future of Microsoft with it’s recent products and the question – what is Microsoft most frightened of?
Lets rewind to August 2008 when the people responsible for China’s most popular “cracked” version of Windows XP were arrested….
For those that don’t know, the version of XP in question was called Tomato Garden Windows XP and contained other full versions of software (cracked if you will) which could be downloaded for free. And downloaded it was. Reports state that approximately 10 million people took the opportunity to get their hands on this unofficial, unauthorised Microsoft product.
Skip nearer to present day and on August 20th 2009 a judgment was reached by the Suzhou Huqiu District Court which saw the maker of Tomato Garden XP hit with a $147,000 fine and a three and a half year term of imprisonment.
Before we look at this further, let’s remind ourselves of what Bill Gates had to say about “piracy” in China. The following quote comes from Bill Gates in 2007, you can read an article on that here.
Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, people don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though……And as long as they’re going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.
It appears he has been true to his word. Its nearly 2010, 10 million people are seemingly “addicted” to Tomato Garden and sure enough Microsoft seems to be collecting. Whilst I cannot and will not condone the “sharing” of material without the IP holders consent, does anyone see anything wrong with the way Microsoft have apparently been happy to let people “become addicted”? Microsoft cannot be holier than thou (IMO) in regards to “theft” of code since its alleged that (albeit by a 3rd party contracted by Microsoft) they have done the same thing and it seemed a year before Bill Gates was more than happy for people to “steal ours” (his words). Is this not at best entrapment?
I think we are all agreed you can’t “steal” code in the traditional sense, but for want of a better word, lets look for a minute at theft as defined in Section 1 of the Theft Act 1968 (UK Law)
A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it; and “thief” and “steal” shall be construed accordingly.
So by listening to Bill Gates in 2007, one could be forgiven for thinking that the “dishonest appropriation” element is absent from the “stealing” afterall Bill Gates said “we want them to steal ours” ergo no dishonesty, Bill Gates want’s you to steal it. Taking this to a rather OTT extreme, one could also consider that the creator of Tomato Garden had a defense (of sorts) there. This is, as I say, OTT, but for me highlights the hypocrisy of Microsoft.
Of course all this to me is really a moot point when you consider that Microsoft have already given XP a stay of execution and even in light of the fact its two versions behind the current product, people still want to keep using it. Is this what Microsoft is most frightened of? People’s reluctance to move to what MS is offering today? Maybe for many Windows users it’s nice to run an MS OS where your hardware exceeds the requirements of the OS itself and not find themselves in the middle of a performance battle which traditionally (IMO) was a combination of compromise and hardware upgrade.
Here comes Ylmf OS!
With a name that rolls off the tongue? ;) Ylmf OS appears to the casual user as XP. Currently the Ubuntu based distro has no English translation. What does this mean for Microsoft? Well if it becomes the “protest choice” of China then quite alot, its got a 10 million strong user base to attract. You can visit the website of this distro here and I would ask if anyone knows of either a translation for the distro itself and/or the homepage, please let me know!
A threat to Microsoft?
I have a some questions in regards to XP, firstly why on the eve of the Windows 7 beta did the arrests occur of the Tomato Garden creator? Why when XP is such old software (two versions behind 7 which Microsoft seem to tout as the second coming of operating systems) did Microsoft want to actively persue this XP clone? What does Windows 7 offer which is not already offered by a smaller (and less hardware demanding XP) but most important of all, if people are being pursued now for products as old as XP, what does that say about Microsoft’s latest products and their confidence in them?
These are questions which only XP users reluctant to upgrade can answer. In the meantime, I don’t think it will be long before a translation of Ylmf is available and you can bet Microsoft will be looking very closely at its options in regards to the GUI having an almost identical look to XP, even if it is Ubuntu derived.
If I had not “upgraded” to Vista from XP, I would probably not be writing a Linux blog. It was my utter dissatisfaction with Vista that caused me to look elsewhere, which now in hindsight was the best thing I ever did. As I come to the end of a long testing/review of Windows 7, I am left none the wiser as to what Windows can now offer me (that review will be here in the new year)
Maybe 2010 will be the year of the Linux desktop? Starting in China albeit with a clone of XP? – The mind boggles! What a wacky digital world we live in!
Goblin – email@example.com
Well not exactly, but those nice people over at Phoronix have comparison benchmarks between Ubuntu and other Linux distros (something which Ive always been too lazy to get around to) I would go into the results here, but it hardly seems fair when Phoronix have made interesting and detailed reports, so Ill recommend you visit their site!
The one I was most interested in was Ubuntu V Fedora, and the results showed on average pretty much the same performance. Other interesting benchmarks were Ubuntu 7.10 + Wine V Windows XP.
Without further ado, Ill link to the reports below and you can see for yourself:
There are others, but these were the ones that I found most interesting to me. Check em out! Maybe this will be the start of other direct comparisons?