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Portables Linux Business Hardware

Linux Desktop to Appear On Every Asus Motherboard 471

Posted by timothy
from the positive-move dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We first heard about Splashtop back in October, when the instant-on Linux desktop was announced. At the time it was a really exciting concept but Asus only rolled out the technology on high-end motherboards. Splashtop just announced that Asus will be expanding the desktop to the P5Q motherboard family and later on to all Asus motherboards. That's embedded Linux shipping over a million motherboards a month! The release also mentioned that the technology will be appearing on notebooks this year as well."
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Linux Desktop to Appear On Every Asus Motherboard

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  • Out of curiosity... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by neokushan (932374) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:07PM (#23405590)
    How many people "switch" to Linux every month? I mean, if anyone has such a statistic, I'd be interested in seeing just how much this figure could potentially impact that (I know, chances are 99% of the people using these motherboards will still boot windows, but satisfy my curiosity =P).
  • Huh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:09PM (#23405626) Journal
    I always bought Asus anyway; they make good boards, and the few times I've had problems they've replaced them...Once I even got a free upgrade because they'd discontinued the board I had.

    So it's not going to change my purchasing, but it's still nice.
  • by neokushan (932374) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:22PM (#23405890)
    Interesting. So 300million linux devices per year, 1% of those are servers/desktops, that makes 3million a year, right?
    That's not as much as I thought it would be, these motherboards should certainly boost that figure.
    I wonder how long before Microsoft start shipping an embedded Windows version....
  • by neokushan (932374) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:25PM (#23405928)
    I would imagine the main purpose is to fix any broken OS you install afterwards, instead of digging out that old copy of Knoppix you have lying around or whatever.
    True, there's a bit of a security risk, but as you said it's burned to a ROM, meaning you can't install any applications, so what IS the risk, really?
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:27PM (#23405978) Homepage Journal
    This is only useful if I can make my own splashtop image. Then it's useful for ALL KINDS of things, including media centers and most especially THIN CLIENTS. Also if you have... uhh, kexec I think? That lets you load a linux kernel from a linux kernel? Then you could jump from this right into your real distribution without having to re-POST.
  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:28PM (#23406000)
    Since all packages have been signed off by someone we'd know exactly who had done it. It's not exactly like all packages and code can't be traced every step of the way.
  • Re:Great timing! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gat0r30y (957941) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:28PM (#23406002) Homepage Journal

    booting faster.
    Instant on desktop is hard to beat in boot times! Which raises a question - How are we going to compare boot times with 0 boot time? How long does this splashtop actually take to load? Is it really instant on or just really fast? What can we expect coming down the pipeline? I would like to see a hybrid where most of what you need for an OS is stored in flash but if you need access to a program on the disk, you can get it.
  • wireless (Score:2, Interesting)

    by phrostie (121428) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:29PM (#23406040)
    if wireless works out of the box, i'm there
  • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Znork (31774) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:30PM (#23406066)
    they make good boards

    I have to agree. I've made some forays into MSI (a relationship that was abruptly and permanently terminated when I discovered I had to have XP to upgrade the BIOS), EPoX and AOpen.

    But after that MSI foray I'll be sticking to ASUS for the foreseeable future; I have yet to purchase an ASUS board that I haven't been perfectly happy with throughout its lifecycle (well, I had one or two die of the bad capacitor issue a few years ago, but that was only 30% of my ASUS boards while 100% of the other branded boards died from it).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:30PM (#23406070)
    I have one of the ASUS P35E Deluxe motherboards at home, and one of the reasons I picked it was for Splashtop. It wasn't the main reason, but I figured it was a neat addition. But honestly, Splashtop isn't all that useful.

    For one thing, for all that it's "instant on", it still doesn't load all that much faster than XP. Now maybe it's just because I have a hot processor, or a really lean XP installation, but honestly the difference isn't that noticable. Splashtop does load faster, but it's hardly "instant on"; you still need for the OS to boot.

    Then, there's the fact that all my info -passwords, bookmarks, etc.- are on my hard-drive and thus not accessible (at least, not by default) to Splashtop. So I'd have to punch all that info into a second OS (and there's no security on Splashtop, so I'd recommend against leaving any passwords in the browser).

    I suppose for laptop users Splashtop may be marginally more useful, although even they may prefer to load up the main OS, since it doesn't take that much longer to run and then they get access to all their information.

    I do like having a security blanket of having a way to check the web for help just in case XP hoses itself. Boot to Splashtop, surf the web for an answer, and then use that information to fix Windows. But in the end, Splashtop is more of a toy than a genuinely useful feature.

  • by Ageing Metalhead (586837) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:33PM (#23406116)
    You got to realise that almost all TV STBs are now using Linux, the only exceptions are the one's running MS Mediaroom (al la U-Verse). So I would suggest that it would be more than 300 million per year. AM
  • Bad Precedent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by geekmansworld (950281) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:34PM (#23406154) Homepage
    This seems like a really bad idea. Microsoft is immediately going to feel the need to compete with this (irrational as that may be). Soon enough we'll have Windows APIs embedded in the ROMS of major motherboards, and we'll pay more for these "Microsoft certified" motherboards because the added loading speed is a "feature".

    Hardware should never be tied to an operating system. I'm a Mac user, and even I believe in that sacred tenet. The consumer needs to be able to choose whatever components they want, and tose components should work together to the best of their ability.

    Because it's free, Linux on Asus boards may not impede my consumer choice at the moment. But it sets a precedent which could greatly damage the environment of choice we currently enjoy.
  • Bundling? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Aziabel (809983) <aziabel@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:37PM (#23406206)
    Don't get me wrong, I'm a Linux-ite through and through, but this automatic bundling business is one of the huge anti-competitive issues with Microsoft. And again, don't get me wrong, I would LOVE to see Linux (in any flavour) being adopted more widely throughout the world, but isn't one of the basic principles of GNU/Linux/FOSS/etc freedom and choice? What if you don't want this feature on your motherboard? What if you want a different flavour of Linux? Yes, you're right, ASUStek is NOT a GNU company/organization. Yes, you're right, you CAN choose not to buy an ASUS board (just like you can choose not to buy a HP or Dell preloaded with Windows). But if bundling is wrong for one, how can it be right for another? Just because you don't have the majority of the consumer market, doesn't make the practice any more justifiable.
  • by ReverendLoki (663861) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:37PM (#23406210)

    I'm wondering if this figure of 3 million includes all of the small IT shops putting out Linux boxes for their clients, or the in-house IT departments picking up some bare hardware and putting Linux on them. Or even the old "obsolete"* MS Windows boxes that are being repurposed as Linux installs.

    * Obsolete in this case meaning that it doesn't have the muscle to adequately run Microsoft's latest and greatest, but still has enough oomph to run an OS that isn't a resource hog.

  • by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@nOsPAm.beau.org> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:41PM (#23406320)
    > And, even if you like Linux (which I do), would you want to keep
    > the version supplied with your m/b?

    You would probably keep Splashtop because it is in flash, probably in a larger BIOS chip. It isn't intended to be your primary OS. ASUS fully expects 99% of these motherboards to end up with Vista on a normal hard drive before it is delivered to the end user.

    The right question is how many of those end users will try Splashtop and find it handy for quick excursions into the net. If that number is large Splashtop will prosper and begin to add more and more features. Five years from now will be interesting if that happens.
  • by abolitiontheory (1138999) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:43PM (#23406340)
    This would be interesting to know in terms of other statistics, such as how many new computer users are there every month. If people are "switching" to Linux but that number is outweighed by the number of uninformed new users just picking up a Windows machine, then its just noise.

    The fact is it still takes a very informed choice to switch to Linux. This type of thing could go a long way towards solving that ("what, an operating system already onboard?!"), but at the same time this is only one manufacturer and its the kind of thing only people building their own PCs are going to see, anyway.

    The general market still has so much to learn about other options besides Windows. Mac is gaining popularity because of cool-factor and crossover conversions, none of which Linux has. Honestly, it won't be until you can fool someone into using Linux before they figure out its not Windows that you will see a change in general market trends. Either that or some unforeseen landmark change in the computer landscape is going to have to take place.

    In this regard, the comparison between open source solutions and alternative energy options makes sense here, except that the open source industry has had _superior_, WORKING solutions for the past decade, and the alternative energies industry hasn't. Its kind of like people choosing to stick with their internal combustion engine technology and refusing to try out a hydrogen car because "no body else does." But really, its because there's been no mass awakening to it, and unlike the energy crisis, there isn't likely to be unless someone brings it about.

    Still, this is the extreme value of Linux to me: it's portability. Not *mobility*--we'll have to wait for Andriod for that--but its ability to fit on almost any system in any way. Scaleability and flexibility also apply here. I'd love to have a trusted operating system living at the hardware level of my comptuter. It seems to make sense in a way, even: the logical extension of CMOS in a way. Honestly, you're telling me motherboard hardware has improved for the past 10-15 years but we still have no better built in soft/firmware?

    I'm doing more brainstoming than actual technical analysis here, but these are the kinds of things that get me excited like that: speculating, hypothesizing, dreaming about a more open and inherently good future.

    Technorant, out.

  • Big target. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:45PM (#23406394) Journal
    Microsoft and their sympathizers have claimed that the main reason it's the big victim of malware is that it is the big target, and that if other OSes were as widely deployed they'd be as riddled. Linux, BSD, Firefox, Apache, and other FOSS projects claim that it mainly Microsoft's poor security, not just the monoculture providing a big target.

    Now we have million motherboards a month shipping with an identical OS - including a network stack and a browser - in the BIOS. Heavily used in this mode by the purchasers. If this is successfully suborned by malware it can romp all over the hard drive, even if the main system install isn't booted.

    Seems to me this is a showdown between the Microsoft and FOSS sides' claims. B-)
  • by edbob (960004) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:50PM (#23406496)
    Actually, I don't think it is so much that people are "switching" to Linux as much as additional people are using it. For example, these mobos will probably be sold to people who will then add hard drives, optical drives, etc. and then install some form of Windows. These people would be using Linux without exactly switching to Linux. At home, I have both Windows and Linux boxes for different things. Using Linux does not mean that I've abandoned Windows. As much as I would like to go all-Linux, there are practical considerations that prevent such a move at this time.
  • Re:Huh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by atrus (73476) <atrus@nOspAM.atrustrivalie.org> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @01:58PM (#23406664) Homepage
    I've learned to buy Asus and SuperMicro boards only as well. You can't beat the SuperMicro boards when you need a solid but still affordable Dual-Xeon setup with 16GB of RAM :)
  • Re:This is not Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bberens (965711) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:06PM (#23406814)
    I think it would be really interesting to boot my computer into "energy conservation mode" which doesn't even power up the hard disks but allows me to browse the web and send e-mail with near-instant on capability. Then, if I needed more 'stuff', I could switch to "normal" mode and get to all the rest of my stuff if need be. Having spent some time using things like feather linux, the responsiveness of using a RAM disk would make almost ANY average user wet themselves with glee.
  • Re:This is not Linux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shatrat (855151) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:07PM (#23406830)

    No one is going to "switch to linux" because their motherboard has a linux based diagnostic included
    I expect a lot of people will try linux for precisely that reason. There is a pretty large community of hardware tinkerers and overclockers that know lots and lots about cache sizes and bus widths but fairly little about software. I have met lots of these types who convince themselves that linux is "free as in crap" so that they won't have to learn anything more powerful that windows XP.

    Now if ASUS which is a darling of the hardware enthusiast community says that linux is a powerful tool I expect some of those perceptions will be changed.
  • Re:*Fwooosh!* (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Blakey Rat (99501) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:17PM (#23406994)
    Please explain to me how this change from ASUS could possibly affect the number of Windows licenses sold. I'm savvy with the chair-throwing "joke", but it has to at least slightly make sense in context.
  • Finally? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ma1wrbu5tr (1066262) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:38PM (#23407368) Journal
    I may be confusing this with something else... but, does this mean I will FINALLY get my "5 seconds to KDE" boot time?

    Bundling?
    rs232 makes a very good point above...

    Because Asus doesn't hold a virtual monopoly on the OS, the Applications and the server protocols. And it isn't as if they are forcing you to use it.

    rs232 is quite correct.
    Go back 10 years... You simply could not buy a piece of (retail) hardware without getting a bunch of "goodies" on the driver and utility disks. Many major vendors that no one had ever heard of, got to be well known using this kind of marketing. Give it away for free, or include a trial version, as name recognition, even without monetization, can only be good for a company.
    Unfortunately, some of the goodies were crap. Second rate antivirus software, CD virtualization tools, and "backup" software were very common. Even so, you weren't FORCED into installing them. They were optional. That is VERY different than overtly or covertly installing a piece of sub-standard, or insecure software WITH the OS. (To me, the quality of the software isn't the big issue with bundling, though it plays a big part in how happy or unhappy I am when falling victim to the "bundling" problem.)

    Personally, I am very excited about this, and cannot wait to get one of my own....me and about a million other geeks, nerds, and ./ers/
  • by Belial6 (794905) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @02:43PM (#23407464)
    The place where this will likely cause the biggest problem for MS is when Joe Sixpack has problems with their Windows install. Whether it is from a virus, malware, or just the natural degradation of Windows, eventually most people end up with some kind of problem on their Windows System. Right now, most of them take the system to someone to fix the problem, just live with what they know is a problem, or chuck the whole computer and buy a new one. With a Linux desktop installed in the BIOS, many will learn the key combination that lets them boot to Linux. They don't care what OS they are using. They just want to access their MySpace page. Once they have spent a year using Linux because it worked well enough to keep them from spending the money on repairs or replacement, the idea of using Linux will not seem so strange.
  • Re:Huh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by multipartmixed (163409) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:01PM (#23407774) Homepage
    He said "a few years ago"

    I'm assuming it was those specific few years ago when a Taiwanese capacitor company was selling bad caps. These caps had electrolyte in them made with a formula stolen from a Japanese company. Said Japanese company, though, was wise to the industry pirates and slipped them a time bomb.

    Those caps made it in *everywhere* -- or so it seemed. And is actually probably why it's so much easier to find Slot 1 and Socket 370 CPUs than it is to find boards to put 'em in.

    Oh, look, here's a nice wikipedia article about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacitor_plague [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:06PM (#23407864)
    I've recently switched to Linux, and there's a steep learning curve at first, but once you overcome that it's much easier. My advice is to install linux on a second machine, which lets you practice on a linux machine but still able to do what you normally do on Windows. Also, try and befriend someone who knows how to use linux so you can bother them for hours on end with silly questions ;). Most of the difficulty is learning all the tools and the console commands..
  • doesn't matter (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Xtifr (1323) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:06PM (#23407866) Homepage
    Actually, I think it is bundling. But that doesn't matter, because, despite what the original post claimed, there's nothing wrong with bundling per-se. Bundling happened to be one of the mechanism MS used to illegally maintain and leverage their monopoly, but that doesn't mean that bundling is inherently wrong. Kicking a ball into a goal may win you praise; kicking an infant into a goal is likely to get you arrested. The problem is not the kicking, it's the circumstances and the target.
  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:17PM (#23408048) Journal
    This splashtop stuff looks like a cute toy, and more linux is always nice; but I'm a bit nervous about the tivoization potential. The software image being used is mostly FOSS(skype and flash excepted, as usual) and they seem to have released the relevant source; but I've not been able to find anything about how open the environment is, can you replace the image, install your own stuff on it, etc.

    If the system is an open one, it could be quite useful, and great fun to play with, I'd want several. If this is just another tivo, then it is pretty unexciting and disappointing.
  • by Ageing Metalhead (586837) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:21PM (#23408126)
    Only in the US.

    Majority of all STBs coming out of the far east run linux exclusively.

  • by ahfoo (223186) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:38PM (#23408428) Journal
    Yeah, but see this is where it's getting fun because they can play that game but they're not holding all of the cards any more. In the low-end of the market, it's a bit of a toss up already. If an OEM decides to go with these boards in a low-end machine they can just do Linux. Wal Mart and Dell are both selling Linux machines nowadays.

    This is the same problem with MS reversing themselves on XP in the sub-notebook category. They came to Taiwan's OEMs and said OK, now you can still get XP licenses on these lightweight notebooks but you have to follow these restrictions like small screens and limited RAM. But they're playing a tricky game there because they no longer run the only game in town. What the OEMs are faced with is using XP on the crappy ones with small screens and less RAM and Linux on the sweet next generation ones with the full sized screens and 2Gigs of RAM. This is a situation being created by Microsoft's ham handed attempts to pretend they remain in control when they no longer have the control. Playing the restrictions game no longer puts them in the drivers seat. Quite to the contrary, they're insisting on being left out of the action completely.
  • by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @03:41PM (#23408476) Homepage
    I think you're looking into this from the wrong perspective. The thing is, thinking about Linux as if it were one operating system is simply wrong. If you think on that "Linux" thing as being just some inner piece of software used by operating systems (plural), then things become much easier to understand:

    You have an OS called Windows XP. You have another OS called Ubuntu. Then another OS called MacOS X. Then another called Fedora. Then another called FreeBSD. And so on and so forth. All of them different OSes.

    So, if your OS is, say, Ubuntu, and you want to run some piece of software, say, Firefox, you shouldn't ask whether it has a version that runs "in Linux", but whether it has a version that runs in Ubuntu. Because your OS isn't "Linux", it's Ubuntu.

    And then it becomes easy. If it supports Ubuntu, you'll find in the manufacturer's website a file you can download, double click, and it'll be installed. Just like its Windows XP package. Or its MacOS X package.

    If you think this is crazy, think again. MacOS X is also, roughly speaking, a distribution of NextStep. Many of the core components are the same, or very similar ones. But you won't find people complaining because a software available for MacOS X doesn't run unmodified in NextStep, or vice-versa. If it's available for both OSes, you just download the correct installer for the one you're using, and install it. If it is available only for one of them, you might get it working on the other, but it won't be a trivial thing to do.

    And yes, the same goes for Windows. Suppose I'm still running Windows 95. A lot of software installer with those beautiful ".exe" extensions won't run. If the manufacturer doesn't provide a Windows 95 compatible version, I'm screwed. Is this something I should blame on Windows 95? No. So, why should I complain if I find a software that is labeled "for Slackware" when I'm not running Slackware? No reason at all.

    Search for softwares compatible with your OS, and they'll be easy to install. Double-click easy in fact. Try to install something that wasn't designed for you, and it's anyone's guess whether you'll succeed or not. In any case, it's not the fault of either the software you downloaded, or of the OS you're running. It's you who are trying to do things you're not supposed to.
  • by StarkRG (888216) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .grkrats.> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:02PM (#23408802)
    You're right, there's an awful lot to be said about designing your OS to work perfectly on a limited hardware set over designing your OS to usually work somewhat well on most hardware.
  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@ g m a i l.com> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @04:52PM (#23409546) Journal
    I don't know if it includes it,but I have found that "refurbing" old Windows boxes makes a great way to get reliable computers into the hands of those that don't have them. I often find working with SOHO shops that they have a couple of old machines they are getting ready to toss. Most are happy to donate them to me when i tell them I'll wipe the drive and put a free Linux on them and give them away to single mothers so their children have a way to work at home.


    I found that Puppy seems to be the best mix of size and usefulness,especially on former Win9X machines. I just think it is a shame how many functioning machines end up in the dumpster when they could be given a good home. Hell,my first gaming rig,which was a Pentium 100Mhz with a whopping 32Mb of RAM is still in use at a local lumbar company running DOS 3 as a ISA controller for an ancient lathe they have making custom columns. So the thought that folks will throw out a good running computer still just strikes me a wasteful to the extreme. But that is my 02c,YMMV.


    Oh,and as a disclaimer-I have actually thrown out a running machine in the past. I had a girl bring in her old computer to see if I could upgrade it for her in class. This poor girl had actually been doing her schoolwork on a 30Mhz with 12Mb of Simm RAM running Win 3.11. I took one look at that ancient thing and told her to leave it and I'd see what I could do. When the girl left the teacher asked "you aren't actually going to try to UPGRADE that thing,are you?" I told him HELL no! And when she showed up the next day I presented her with a 550Mhz that one of my SOHO clients had donated. Last I heard her kid was still doing his reports on his "new" machine,just as happy as a clam. I tried for a week to find a use for that 30Mhz,but damned if I could find a use for it.

  • Re:Huh. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Znork (31774) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:10PM (#23409792)
    Yep, exactly right. They really were everywhere; it went so far I even got a bunch of replacement caps and recapped a couple of boards and some PSU's. Really annoying failure modes also; mostly the affected equipment would just develop tendencies to lock up or crash when spiking in power usage (games, number crunching, etc), until one day it would fail to start (usually after 18-36 months, at which point warranty returns might be more trouble than it's worth).

    Apart from geeks actually tearing the equipment apart and noticing the suave way the capacitors were slobbering I expect most people ended up retiring the equipment early. I can barely imagine how much frustration and lost work the problem has caused worldwide.
  • by ozbird (127571) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:40PM (#23411096)

    I wonder how long before Microsoft start shipping an embedded Windows version....
    Probably as soon as they can get vista to fit in 1gb of flash memory, make it boot instantly, be cheap, and not be a POS...

    They'd probably push Embedded XP. They've already backflipped on XP availability for the Asus EeePC etc., which does nothing to improve the image of Vista. ("Look, our soon-to-be discontinued 2001 OS can compete with Linux in the 'ultra-low cost' computer market!")

    However, I think they've painted themselves into a corner. If they bully Asus into providing an embedded XP version of the motherboards, the customer is bound to ask: "I don't want Vista; why can't I run XP as the OS on the same motherboard?" The more features that can be crammed into the embedded Linux version, the sillier Microsoft's inevitable justifications will seem ("It's not really XP", "you can't do real work in an embedded environment" etc.)
  • by demallien2 (991621) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @07:16AM (#23415850)
    What a load of rubbish. I write libs explicitly to be deployed on STBs as a day job. Although the high end boxes that are starting to hit the market certainly are running linux, it's far from the majority. I see a lot running things like OS21- mostly because ST seems to supply a huge percentage of CPUs for the STB market. To date I have integrated the libs on linux exactly twice, and one of those was for a product that never came to market.

    That said, I'm sure that in the years to come, Linux is going to take an evergrowing slice of the pie. But I wouldn't expect it to have a majority for at least another 3-4 years. And with the advent of Media Server PCs, XBox360/Playstation, AppleTV, I rather expect the traditional STB to disappear before Linux ever becomes dominant.

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