[Beowulf] who is buying those $200 PCs from wal-mart?

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Thu Nov 15 07:35:27 PST 2007

On Thu, 15 Nov 2007, Mark Hahn wrote:

> http://www.eetimes.com/news/latest/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=203100228&printable=true
> http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=7754614#Specifications
> I'm a little surprised by this - personally, I think there's a large,
> under-developed market for minimal-function PCs.  haven't we all met people 
> who think that the web browser _is_ not only the internet, but also the 
> computer?  but I wonder whether there aren't some of you
> out there buying up these boxes to make clusters.

Damn, I jumped Universes again.  No wonder I have a headache -- it
always happens when I pass through one of the wandering
eight-dimensional singularities and wake up in a different quantum
timeline.  In my old one we just had a really long discussion on this
last week, and now it, and the list archives from that manifold -- all

It is really interesting to see that they've sold out.  I do agree that
there IS a vast potential linux desktop market out there -- never moreso
than today, when Vista of Evil is "mandatory" on all new computers, is
expensive, and truly, truly sucks.  Dissatisfaction with Windows has
probably never been higher, and I observe cover stories on computing
magazines that have traditionally loved advertisement-buying Microsoft
over decades trumpeting the fact that Mac OS's Cat of the Month
(Leopard?) is banging Vista in the marketplace as a consequence.

Margins in the PC business are under eternal and enormous pressure, both
on the consumer end and in the workplace.  Don't underestimate the value
of these systems in either venue.  If the systems come with remote
desktop (or it can be easily installed) I can think of LOTS of places
they'd work as thin, secure clients in even a Win-based business.  At
home I predict that their biggest drawback will be the usual --
printers, cameras, other consumer peripherals that require device
specific drivers, and the lack of media codecs.  We're rapidly
approaching a time when the latter is a show-stopper.  MP3 and DVD may
be encumbered, Linux may be allergic to encumberance and have excellent
reasons for being so, but without a pre-installed, fully functional
music player that can manage the encumbered formats and without a
perfectly smooth and functional DVD player preinstalled and ready to
roll, a lot of people will end up unhappy with them.

But I've done this rant many times, back in my former Universe, and am
trying to figure out the covariance matrices formed by overlapping
permutations (which is just about as Evil as Evil can be..;-) so I'll
stop without lamenting the fact that RH doesn't sell "consumer linux"
for $25 with licensed commercial closed source products included to
cover these essential functions.  First you get the camel's -- I mean
"penguin's" -- nose into the tent, THEN you worry about weaning the
world of mp3s...


Robert G. Brown
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
Lulu Bookstore: http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=877977

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