Open source heresy, Splashtop and Windows
Published 09:43, 10 December 08
The dispersal of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is the stated role of this blog and most of the time this author attempts to do so through plain, simple, out and out advocacy of Free, Open Source software.
Today, though, I am going to attempt a balanced approach and do something tantamount to heresy. I am going to say that sometimes it's ok to use Windows.
Yes I know it's just this condescending attitude of 'penguinistas' that really gets up people's noses but I have been playing with various ASUStek products recently and have discovered Linux Splashtop and The Eee Box desktop PC. The reason for the 'Windows' statement will become clear as we go on.
The Eee Box was delivered with Windows XP pre-installed on its 160gb hard drive but still cost only £169 + vat and delivery (is XP being given away these days?). But my mistake of leaving the sound on during boot up whilst working in the office is part of the reason that I am writing this post whilst in hiding: thank goodness for 3G and Google Docs.
My Windows boot-up jingle-crime was compounded with subsequent actions but before I go into these a brief word about SplashTop....cooool. Splashtop is a cut-down Linux that is increasingly being shipped embedded into motherboards. Asus are first to do this with their ExpressGate boards and now offers Splashtop on most everything from humblest Atom CPU-hosting boards to mighty QuadCore jobs.
Splashtop may be the truly revolutionary super-fast micro-Linux that I singularly failed to mention in a recent roundup of speedy Linux distros. The first useful software every computer user will encounter after switching on will be Linux. They then can choose to boot into their chosen full operating system be it Windows, Mac or Linux..or of course not bother at all.
The whole point of Splashtop is that you can be 'web-apping' (as I am on Google Docs now) or Skyping 28 secs from a cold boot even on a small Atom powered 20 watt PC; ten seconds is possible with beefier boards! Linux on every motherboard is now a real probability... as is turning off your computer when not using it. Given just how much power computers use on standby this is a real plus.
Booting the Asus Eee Box into its installed Windows XP OS was a much slower process but I had a cunning plan for my school customers. Unfortunately I now compounded my jingle-crime with all out heresy.
Free, Open Source Software (FOSS) on Windows
It took only minutes to strip off most of the pre-installed proprietary software, MS Works (? God help us) for example had to go but I left Notepad and Mediaplayer.
On went: Open office 3.0 (office productivity suite); The Gimp 2.6 (graphics manipulation); Inkscape (vector drawing); Scribus (DTP); Audacity (music editing); Firefox (web browsers); Thunderbird (e-mail client), Pidgin (Instant Messsenger), ClamAV (anti-virus: which you need because it's Windows) together with a pretty wallpaper.
What more could anyone want? All the applications of note are Free, Open Source Software.
I then went into the field to test my FOSS-Win box on school techies and teachers.
It went down a storm! The techs relaxed because they could do their networky things like MSCE told them, the teachers relaxed because they could install their most obscure Windows-only software and even run SIMs.net. They (especially the tree huggers) loved the eco friendly 20 watts and Splashtop's fast boot by the way. This may be a runner. Linux fastboot, all FOSS apps.. but running on Windows..how bad could this be?
Meanwhile I still wasn't allowed back in the office.
A Cunning Plan
Maybe if I came up with a business plan to finish off the competition in the schools market I would be forgiven? So I did. Here it is.
Thanks to Becta, in 2009 Microsoft will only demand payment for computers actually running their software rather than the present situation where if you have MS Office on one computer, out of the several hundred (say) that are running Open Office instead, you would have to pay MS licence fees for the lot. This makes a big difference.
If a school were to switch from 500 watt work stations (as most are now) to 40 watt stations (eg Eee Box + Monitor) they would save (for a secondary-sized school) tens of thousands per year on electricity consumption and, given the apps they run, would not notice the difference in performance.
However, savings in the future don't provide cash now... but switching to FOSS does.
The licence-related money saved immediately (according to figures from a couple of large secondarys schools) would buy about 40-50 of those 20 watt PCs right away which is about 30,000 kilowatt hours of electricity saved each year. It would only take a couple of years to replace the entire stock.
So you get massive self-financing upfront cost savings: save now, save more later. Ooops, this business model has just killed the ICT product-orientated market. No more COTS (commercial off the shelf software) profits, only wafer-thin hardware margins etc.
Hey guys..let me in now, it's freezing..how bad can Windows be?