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11.05.07

Xandros and Asus Eee — to Be or Not to Buy?

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft, OLPC, Windows, Xandros at 8:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

We have already mentioned the ASUS Eee a while back. We talked about its uncomfortable technical assocation with Xandros. Ars Technica, among other high-profile publications, characterise Asustek’s choice of Xandros Linux as a loss to Microsoft. It’s not entirely the case however. Here’s what one of the most recent articles says:

Intel wins, and Microsoft loses

Thanks to its combination of Intel hardware and a non-bloated Linux install, reviewers found that Asus’s little laptop performs just as well as much larger and more expensive Windows notebooks. And the company spent enough time tweaking the unit’s default Linux distro that Windows users will supposedly feel right at home.

If you look closely, you’ll find that parts of the interface in this variant of Xandros were significantly changed. They almost perfectly mirror the looks of Windows XP. The artwork’s similarity makes the resemblance uncanny (see this video and judge for yourself). This makes the software used sensitive not only to software patents — however negligible they may be — but to other types of ‘violations’. What were they thinking?

Here is why Linux was chosen:

Asustek decided that the Windows operating system was out of the question. The licensing costs would have been the most expensive part of the computer. So it decided to use Linux and build its own user interface, and that became the most time-consuming part of the project.

It is clear, based on another product from Asus, that the company can handle other distributions of Linux or even roll its own. Just consider this recently-unveiled product for example. It doesn’t use Xandros. I know this because I’ve inquired with sources that are close to the company.

”Asustek ought to re-consider its selection process and choice of this KDE-based distribution.“Sadly enough for the Eee, Asustek chose Xandros Linux to work with. Xandros is among those that send Microsoft royalties for the use of Linux (probably per units that is sold, which contradicts the ideology of Free software). Xandros was virtually ‘bribed’ by Microsoft to play along with the ‘mythical patent plot’. Xandros betrayed the very same people that gave it 20+ years of work (GNU and Linux code).

Asustek ought to re-consider its selection process and choice of this KDE-based distribution. The next models of the Eee will be out early next year. There’s time to accommodate underlying changes. There are many other (and better) options if the company insists on using Linux. These options are likely to be less expensive, too. Microsoft has already given discounts to ‘fight’ this Linux threat, but that’s not surprising. Just look what happened in Nigeria last week.

Whether the Eee is worth buying or not, that’s up to the average consumers, who probably don’t know (and could not care less) about the behavior of Xandros. The least one can do is making all this information public and educating/advising buyers. There are several other low-cost laptops that come with Linux preinstalled. None of them (with the exception of SUSE in Dell China and SUSE in Lenovo) is plagued by the ‘Microsoft Windows/patent tax’. Definitely not OLPC, which serves a charitable cause.

OOXML patent issue prompt

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4 Comments

  1. Maged Mokhtar said,

    December 24, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Gravatar

    I think the main target users are non geeks, we should all celebrate that such people will start using Linux and that some of them may even realize this fact. The device is not targeted for geeks debating whether KDE or Gnome is better or if Slackware is more genuine than Xandros. In my opinion Asus were correct in choosing a commercially supported, user friendly distribution like Xandros, the fact that they pay loyalties to MS may not fair well with the Linux Liberation Front, but avoiding any potential legal issues thay MS may raise (whether justified or not, MS is likely to stir trouble to halt any Linux success story) is a positive thing. Last, i personally think that KDE is the best desktop when it comes to user friendliness, this is why Mandrake, PCLinuxOS, Corel Linux, Lindows, RedFlag and Xandros ( just to name a few ) have chosen it fot this reason.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    December 24, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Gravatar

    Maged,

    I agree with you. It is wonderful that GNU/Linux has been making its way to the ‘masses’. The only risk and the only barrier, however, is a case where Linux loses its advantage. Imagine yourself a Linux that is expensive by design or has some key features of it castrated due to software patents.

    Based on Novell’s distribution of Linux wealth with Microsoft, it is natural to assume that Xandros will periodically pass on money to Microsoft, for PCs that never ever ran any Microsoft products. What if that revenue (‘tax’) became so hefty that it made Windows less expensive than Linux?

    For the record, I enthusiastically promote the Eee PC. I just wish the interface and application layer used by Asus was put on top of a different stack — one that does not acknowledge mythical software patents. It is by accepting something which is wrong that we make something wrong the ‘norm’.

  3. Jason said,

    March 13, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Gravatar

    Can anyone help me ?
    I am wanting to download and install the Linux Xandros o/s that is used on the Asus Eee PC and use it on my older laptop.
    Can it be done and if so where can I get it and how do I install it on my older laptop. I am not a knowlegeable Linux user but am very impress with the simplicity of the Tab based Windows like o/s.
    Thanks to anyone that can help !
    Jason

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    March 13, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Gravatar

    Jason,

    I sort of doubt this exists (unlike gOS for example) although all the source code for this customized Xandros is available from the ASUS Web site. Have you considered Linpus Linux?. It offers similar simplicity.

    See this article from last week:

    http://www.linuxdevices.com/news/NS7223327753.html

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