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The Almighty Buck Hardware Technology

How Cheap Can A PC Be? 1152

geoff lane writes "Ballmer wants a $100 computer. OK, can we build a reasonable PC for just $100 and a copy of Linux? The rules are: It's assumed that a monitor, keyboard and mouse are already available. Ethernet connectivity must be provided. All components must already have Linux support. All components must be new and currently available. The result must be electrically safe for the home. Is it possible?"
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How Cheap Can A PC Be?

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  • No (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lightdarkness ( 791960 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:19PM (#10626843) Homepage Journal
    No, it cannot be done at todays day in age, unless you want a really bad computer. I mean, what do you want to do with the computer, just be able to turn it on? Cause thats all you will be able to do with 100 dollars. Even for word processing, you will need a decent size ram, hard drive, motherboard, ethernet port, case. That alone is already at 200 dollars.
  • This is easy. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Power Everywhere ( 778645 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:19PM (#10626845) Homepage
    If we got a major manufacturer behind this, we could have a 400 MHz Pentium M on a 400 MHz bus (1:1), 256 MB RAM, 40 GB hard drive, and Linux on there for $99.

    If we didn't have a major manufacturer behind it, we're talking old stuff which. Not quite as fast, not as efficient, and more liable to breakage.
  • Re:the Xbox (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MadBiologist ( 657155 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:20PM (#10626850)
    Didn't somebody hack a Gamecube to run Linux? I forget who hacked what to whom... I do remember that the Dreamcast could run Apache on Linux, and that's probably the cheapest console to get to run something like that.... if you can find one.
  • Reasonable Computer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by r2q2 ( 50527 ) <zitterbewegung@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:20PM (#10626853) Homepage
    Sure with a free operating system you could probally pull of a computer with reasonable specs. I bought a 35 dollar computer that is a pentum 2 at 333 mhz. Then I upgraded the memory for about another 35. Then you upgrade the processor to a 733 for about 10-20 bucks. Well under a hundred dollars and still reasonable.
  • i doubt it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gyratedotorg ( 545872 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:20PM (#10626859) Homepage
    i think if it were possible, walmart would already be doing it.
  • Re:Xbox Linux (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:26PM (#10626914)
    What about the mod chip? And the USB adapters so you can plug something other than a game controller into it. And if you want anything better than composite video on a TV, you'll need adapters and cables for that too.

    Not so cheap when you consider all the crap you'd need to make it usable as a PC.
  • Newegg shopping (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rincebrain ( 776480 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:26PM (#10626919) Homepage
    $26 - PCChips "M811LU" KT266A Chipset Motherboard for AMD Socket A
    $41 - AMD Athlon 1.33 GHz, 266MHz FSB, 256K Cache Processor - OEM
    $10.75 - POWMAX 320W Power Supply for Intel and AMD systems Model "VP-320ATX"
    $14.50 - Artec Black 56X CDROM, Model CHM-56, Retail

    = $102.25, ignoring hard drive or anything else.

    So no, probably not.
  • Re:This is easy. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bhtooefr ( 649901 ) <bhtooefr@bhtooefrPERIOD.org minus punct> on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:28PM (#10626944) Homepage Journal
    We have a major manufacturer making a cacheless 1GHz/400MHz Pentium M with mobo for (estimated from insider sources) ~$100. However, no RAM, no HDD, no optical.
  • Re:i doubt it (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MoonBuggy ( 611105 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:28PM (#10626949) Journal
    Purely from looking on newegg.com I've just priced up an Athlon 1.3, 128MB, 40GB machine for ~$150. I only chose those components because they were the cheapest in stock; a Duron 800 and a 20GB drive would be quite adequate - do a bit of shopping around and work in bulk discounts and I'm sure it's possible.
  • by Digital_Quartz ( 75366 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:29PM (#10626963) Homepage
    I used to do word processing on a 4.77 MHz 8086, with a monochrome screen. It wasn't WYSIWYG, but it got the job done, and WordStar was quite quick and spritely. WordPerfect 5.1 ran just fine on all the machines in my highschool's lab, and they were, IIRC, 16 Mhz? (Possibly 8? It was a long time ago. They were IBM PS/2s, with MCGA graphics adapters.)

    Kids these days...
  • Not for under $200 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lothar97 ( 768215 ) * <[owen] [at] [smigelski.org]> on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:33PM (#10626991) Homepage Journal
    I'm going to be really bold, and say that right now, no this cannot be done for under $200. You specified that all components must be new. That means you'll need:

    power supply motherboard
    CPU fan
    CD drive
    hard drive

    You can get cheap motherboards with attached video/sound/LAN. You can technically build the PC without a floppy drive or CD/DVD burner to save more money. Looking for the lowest prices around (via Froogle), for new parts, you'll find:

    motherboard-- Asus A7V8X-X, $48
    CPU-- AMD Sempron 2200, $45
    CPU fan-- Anything, $5
    CD drive-- $15
    RAM-- DDR-266 256 MB PC-2100, $40
    hard drive-- Samsung 40GB HDD, $45
    case-- $29, includes 300W power supply

    Grand total: $227 (not including tax/shipping/hassle of ordering from a bunch of places)

    Some stores, depending upon where you live, have some really decent deals on packaged systems. I'm in San Diego, and my favorite Chips and Memory [chipsandmemory.com] (yes, I hate their frames too), has a nice package for $239. [chipsandmemory.com]

    AMD Sempron 2200
    256MB RAM
    80GB Hard Drive(7200RPM)
    52X CD-RW
    Onboard AGP (Up to 32 MB) and Sound & Game Adapter
    Built-in LAN and Fax/Modem Module
    52X CDRW (Yes CDRW Included)
    1.44MB Floppy Disk Drive
    Med Tower ATX Case, 300W UL/CE approved ATX power supply
    1 Year Parts and Labor Warranty

    To get the price lower, you'll need a used hard drive, CPU, memory, or motherboard. Then you might squeeze in closer to $150.

  • Re:Cheap PC? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ibullard ( 312377 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:36PM (#10627022)
    Unfortunately, the total cost of an Xbox for use as a Linux desktop is:

    Xbox port to USB converter - $8 x 2 = $16
    Xbox off Ebay - $120 (seems to be average going price)
    Xbox VGA box - $65
    Renting MechAssault - $7 ? haven't rented in a while so I could be wrong here.

    That makes it $208 and it assumes that the Xbox can be modded to boot Linux without buying a chip and you can find the right version of MechAssault.

    Mind you, that's a hell of a lot closer than you'll get with almost anything else.
  • by EnderWiggnz ( 39214 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:40PM (#10627063)
    it can be done.

    the problem, is you're talking about a 300MHZ Geode, and a 8GB HD, with 64MB RAM, and an integrated video/sound/ethernet.

    but, it can be done, and it can be done "profitably"
  • by t1nman33 ( 248342 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:40PM (#10627064) Homepage
    ...unless a computer manufacturer is willing to market a $99 PC as a loss-leader. "Buy this PC for $99 if you sign up for $20 a month internet access, or tech support, or the Foo Computer Corp. fan newsletter, or whatever."

    DIY computers got more expensive than bargain-basement Dell boxen about 2 years ago...I bought the Dell that I'm typing this on for about $300 shipped with a monitor and a copy of XP. I did it through a deal on Ben's Bargains [bensbargains.net] when I realized I couldn't build my own system for less than the price of the Dell. Now, my gaming system is homebrew, and I have plenty of homebrew systems around, but those are mostly application-specific (a music jukebox machine, a server, a game emulation machine) and a labor of love rather than practical "do-it-all" cheapie boxen.

    If you want a PC for less than $100, your only option right now is really to head on over to Craig's List [craigslist.org] and find somebody who needs to get rid of their old Compaq for $50. In that sense, the sub-100-dollar PC is possible, but it's still a loss-leader for the guy who's selling his $2000 system for a fraction of the cost when new.

    Now, could it BE done? Is it POSSIBLE? Of course. But, again, only by a company like Dell or IBM or whoever can afford to buy old Duron chips by the truckload and stick 'em into bargain-basement mobos for inclusion into home computing applicances. It will happen at some point. It just hasn't happened quite yet.
  • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cromac ( 610264 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:41PM (#10627072)
    Frys [outpost.com] sells PC's for as little as $179 (no monitor) that is more than enough for word processing and enough for the vast majority of games. From memory, that PC was a 2.x ghz Celeron, 128 meg ram, integrated sound, video, NIC, 40 gig HD, CD-ROM. Not a bad system at all except for some games.

    You may not be able to find a decent PC for $100 today but it won't be long until it will go for $100.

  • Re:Dump... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nate nice ( 672391 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:41PM (#10627077) Journal
    My friend and I actually do this. You would be amazed by the hardware we find. Usually we will grab things (clean things, they are sorted so all computer things are together, in a neat area) and bring them back to test and examine what we want to keep. Generally we find P2's and many floppy drives as well as some great CD drives and the occasional great find like a P3 that was dumped for some reason. We've gotten a few decent hardrives larger than 10 gigs. Not to mention many good cases and monitors and SD-RAM chips.

    With this you can throw together a linux router on the cheap, like you said: $0.00. With the free software and hardware we put together Cisco 2600 comparable routers for free, MP3 servers and have created various other uses.

    We even got a Mac G3 once.

    We plan on moving our operation over to a ricer part of towns dumps to see what we can find.
  • by randalware ( 720317 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:44PM (#10627096) Journal
    I have always planned spending a lot more on software than hardware.

    With the steep discounting of hardware, the cost savings is in software.

    A $100 dollar machine will just make software vendors than do NOT reduce prices even richer.

    An information appliance with reliable software that doesn't need patching every week would be the cheap option I think is likely.

    Something like a Apple 2 with os & sw in a small package with an monchrome lcd ,floppy,std usb keyboard, pcmia card slots, 802.11 & ethernet port.

    Put the os software on rom & rom cards and data on the memory cards & floppy.

    O wait this sounds like an X-BOX , never mind.

    Train everyone to use & program Linux in high school, then we can all use the cheap
    hardware that is being surplused.
    Like 486's & Pentium 1,2,& 3 systems.

  • Re:This is easy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paladin128 ( 203968 ) <aaron@[ ]as.org ['tra' in gap]> on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:48PM (#10627145) Homepage
    We could do this today with no problem. The key is economy of scale. The Via EPIA platforms would be ideal, but they are too damn expensive.

    Honestly, if some inexpensive Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer wanted to, they could do a 1ghz C3 EPIA platform, and really cut it down. One IDE channel. No floppy, serial, parallel, or PS/2 ports. Kill IrDA support. Basically, give it only the following:

    1x VGA
    1x IDE
    4x USB
    1x audio line out

    The CPU and RAM chips could be soldered onto the board. Bundle it with a cheap mass-market OEM hard drive, a case with a 40W power brick, and you've got a PC.

    Rather than VIA, one could use Transmeta Crusoe or AMD Geode. This could be done for $100, but the margins would be razor-thin. Hell, I'd pay $100 for one of these sans hard drive with a smaller power supply -- I'm a big fan of LTSP.
  • Re:Case? What Case? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by L0stm4n ( 322418 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @08:50PM (#10627161) Homepage
    I dont need no stinking case [liquidcode.org]

    I was bored one day....
  • Re:the Xbox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Yolegoman ( 762615 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:00PM (#10627260) Homepage
    Yes, but recently they have had brand new Xboxes on Half.com [half.com], Ebay's child company, for $105 with shipping. I'm currently saving my meager allowance up to turn one of those thing's into a Linux Server; I don't even need a monitor / keyboard / mouse, as I'm going to SSH into the thing with my Windows Laptop.

    - Yolego
  • Computers are FREE (Score:1, Interesting)

    by DoraLives ( 622001 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:03PM (#10627283)
    Ok, I'm gonna take a karma hit on this one for tooting my own horn, astroturfing, or whatever the hell you might want to call it, but goddammit, computers are FREE! I posted this link a couple of days ago and somebody groused because the fucking book costs $15. So ok, go to the library and check the damned thing out. Keep the fifteen, ok?

    Link to Free Computers [paladin-press.com]

    The second half of the book describes very basic assembly proceedures for building a computer from scrounged parts and should be of no use to the hardware-savvy /. crowd. But the first half describes the business of getting parts and whole computers for NOTHING. Like it says in the blurb, I bought my first computer back in '90 and I've never bought one since. No lie.

    These words are being typed on a P4 1.5ghz, 256megs memory, 60gig hd. Cost NOTHING. Maybe you won't do that good, but ANYBODY can get a free machine that will do just fine for writing, posting rubbish on /., or any other simple task.

    The book also assumes you're gonna be running Windows. (Your free machine will invariably come preloaded with Windows. 98 is free and XP is rapidly getting that way.) Don't like Windows? Fine. Run Linux. THAT'S FREE TOO.

  • Canadian Prices... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Qybix ( 103935 ) <qybix@shaw.ca> on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:08PM (#10627322) Homepage
    A new do-it-yourself kit here in sk.ca is $209.00cd or less for a 2.0ghz amd... I'm sure I could get better if I didn't get the case.
  • by ZenFu ( 692407 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:12PM (#10627352)
    Many of us receive free magazines. Why not a free PC?

    Perhaps streaming banners, perhaps AOL like marketing, perhaps whatever we'll find useful and that can be profitably provided for free. How about giving away a PC that is designed to automate your personal finances; That knows what sort of mutual funds you might want; That prompts you through financial planning?

    Yeah, there's privacy. But then there's convenience too. And if it comes from a trusted source then perhaps you won't care. That trusted source could be Google. But, it's more likely that a new company will be born that will follow a consistent series of messages, actions, and product lines that will garner your trust. Such a company could knock Google from the roost.

    There's certainly room for a company that you'll trust more than you'll trust the typical mortgage company, the typical bank or (oh my) the typical credit card company.
  • Re:the Xbox (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:14PM (#10627374)
    You can run UNIX on a GBA.

    They be £8 at the second hand shop.
  • sure its possible... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 3seas ( 184403 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:18PM (#10627396) Homepage Journal
    plenty of tossed out systems running plenty fast enough to run something like AROS - Amiga Research Operating System [aros.org]

    Its all about a small and efficient OS to bring life back to old hardware. Neither of which linux or windows is.

    And it even has standardized user friendly level IPC, of which neither windows or linux yet has.

    But AROS is currently lacking developers contributing to it.... and it is FOSS...
  • by Dragoon412 ( 648209 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:27PM (#10627454)
    I would think that the success of Dell, Gateway and the like prove that a large number of people are that stupid.

    A small-time shop, or independant builder, can pay retail and warehouse parts on components (read: NewEgg, GameVE, etc.) build the same PC that one of the major OEMs are selling for $2000 for about $800, add WinXP Home ($70, OEM) and Works Suite 2003 ($50), throw a 50% markup on top of that, and make a very nice profit for myself, as well as make the buyer quite happy with the $500+ savings.

    I can only imagine how cheaply I could do this if I had Dell's volume discounts on parts, I'd be making a killing.
  • by blastedtokyo ( 540215 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:29PM (#10627469)
    The most common MS Office sku (Students & Teachers and you could be a student of the school of hard knocks for all they care) at Costco and elsewhere in the US for the home is

    And it includes a pretty good spell checker.

  • Re:cheap harddrive (Score:3, Interesting)

    by afxgrin ( 208686 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:30PM (#10627478)
    That's why you subscribe to a speedy internet provider so you can store all your files via some gmail/ms passport type service online. Screw the harddrive, that's whats driving up the costs. For basic document storage and information processing a harddrive is not necessary.

    Have a very optimized Linux distro booted via Flash ROM. It automatically mounts your internet storage space on boot up. Let's say the data is stored remotely using an encrypted file system to satisfy the requirements of all those crypto geeks.

    Here's some flash memory prices at TigerDirect [tigerdirect.com].

    Note: 256MB CompactFlash memory by Kingston, $23.99 before rebate ($10 mail in rebate).

    Install the 50MB Damn Small Linux distro? 200MB for basic file storage. All your music could be listened to streaming...

    Yeah - I'm just giving out some ideas ....
  • I did it. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mustang Matt ( 133426 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:42PM (#10627566)
    A while back a vendor (tiger direct I think) had a 850 MHz cyrix chip soldered on a motherboard. Free after rebate. I added a 256 mb kingston chip which was free after rebate. I bought a $29 delivered case/ps off of ebay. No floppy and I initially plugged in an IDE cdrom drive to load knoppix. Had it been preloaded I wouldn't have needed to. So really the only thing left is the cost of a hd. I think I've seen decent hard drives for $60 after rebate. (I used an old drive)

    I think it can be done. This machine isn't fast though.
  • Hey, it met all of the feature requirements ;-)

    It didn't have to last, it just had to be electrically safe ;-)
  • by arkanes ( 521690 ) <arkanes@@@gmail...com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:54PM (#10627631) Homepage
    And all their customers and clients use Office because.....

    Microsoft has really managed to sell this concept. They subtly play it up in marketing literature (despite the fact that Office is not backwards compatible, and it's forward compatability isn't any better than, say, OpenOffice). Any singly major supplier (especially, say, the US Government) that puts it's foot down and insists that all documents be available in some format that isn't Office (honestly, rtf is more than sufficent for pretty much everything these people ship back and forth. The main reason it's in .doc is because people can't be bothered to save it as something else) will change the landscape. This is why Microsoft will get down on it's knees if anyone important looks seriously at ditching Office.

  • by Allen Zadr ( 767458 ) * <Allen.ZadrNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday October 25, 2004 @09:54PM (#10627636) Journal
    As an IT director, I buy Dell and Gateway because of component compatability testing. I know, out of the box, that everything will work together properly. There won't be an off-brand network card that has problems with the off-brand (or Intel Embedded) video card. Or a sound card that doesn't work when Direct3D is initialized.

    Yes, I do have the ability to do it myself, but too many times I've ended up re-buying parts trying to figure out some silly incompatability.

    Obviously, this is less of an issue now than 5 years ago, but it is still a concern of mine. I guess, to me, it's worth the price.

  • Re:Dump... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aldoman ( 670791 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:03PM (#10627675) Homepage
    Apart from the fact you will be paying a good $$$ in power costs.

    Assuming $1/W/yr (which seems pretty reasonable), and assuming it uses 75W, 24/7, that's $75/year. Or you could get a $15 linksys router which would do it all nearly, and pay $10/yr in power...
  • by ScrewMaster ( 602015 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:05PM (#10627694)
    Well, people, as in "the buying public" are more than stupid enough to fit Ballmer's bill (hell, they've been buying Microsoft's not-quite-operating-systems for a quarter of a century now), however hardware vendors are not. If you remember, a lot of interesting things came out at the Microsoft antitrust trial. One of those was how displeased the big boys are at the fact that Windows is becoming a bigger and bigger percentage of a system's cost the more OEM hardware prices fall. Microsoft won't acknowledge that fact and insists on maintaining the same price structure. The only reason that market pressure didn't force them to change their pricing long ago is that, well ... as an illegal monopoly they apparently weren't subject to market pressure.

    Back in, say, 1982, when what passed for a decent PC went for $5,000, paying Microsoft's juice money for what passed for an operating system wasn't such a big deal, but times have changed. Linux certainly has a lot of appeal to the Dells, HPs and Gateways of the world, and in anything resembling a free market Linux would already be a mainstream desktop OS, but Microsoft really really really doesn't want them to go down that road.
  • by BobWeiner ( 83404 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:10PM (#10627727) Homepage Journal
    The Student /Teacher Office suite ($150) is a great deal - it includes 3 licenses. $50 per license is more than fair.
  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AnonymousKev ( 754127 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:11PM (#10627732)
    Thanks for pointing this out. I have two of those Fry's specials (both have Athelon CPUs). They both use 19" monitors I got for $20 each when my previous employer went belly-up. (I would recommend paying more and keeping your job, if that is an option :)

    The firewall (GQ 50042) was purchased in March 2003 for $179. It is 800MHz, 128Meg RAM, with a 40Gig HD. It's currently running RedHat 7.3 with a boatload of patches. I had to spend $20 for an extra NIC

    The boys' computer (GQ #escapes me right now) was purchased in July 2004 for $179. It is a 1.2GHz, 128Meg RAM, with a 40Gig HD. It's running a legal copy of Win98SE because, well, because our school system pretty much requires Microsoft products to do homework. I also bought one of those cheeeep $20 (after rebate) CD burners so they can take their PowerPoint homework to school.

    They're not bad computers. My ultra-nerdy friends give me grief about having a "Great Quality" brand computer, but I didn't spend a ton of money (or a ton of time to build it), and they are both great workhorses.

  • Re:This is easy. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paladin128 ( 203968 ) <aaron@[ ]as.org ['tra' in gap]> on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:22PM (#10627792) Homepage
    Via already puts the CPU package on the mobo; it saves PCB space and power leakage. We're not going for a powerful system; just a cheap one.

    Fair enough about your statement with the RAM chips, although if bought in big enough batches, stuff like PC2100 DDR is already absurdly cheap and isn't fluctuating too much.

    And yes, you do save on the connectors. If the volume is high enough, you can design a southbridge that doesn't have the legacy support. Or, you could go the route that nVidia went with the nForce3 -- no southbridge. Just one chipset with everything integrated. With no legacy stuff, that just means you need an ethernet MAC, and audio CODEC, IDE (or better, SATA -- fewer traces), video, memory controller, USB and FSB. That's it -- it can be a pretty small and cheap chip. Use PCI express for everything -- you only need like 16 rails -- 8 for the video, 2 for the SATA and 6 for the gigabit NIC. Or better yet -- no PCI type bus -- just have everything tightly integrated with local like nVidia does thier ethernet, and offer open-source drivers.

    The board could also be small with no legacy stuff -- smaller than ITX form factor.
  • by EnderWiggnz ( 39214 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:26PM (#10627844)
    i can run firefox successfully with 32MB flash, and 64MB Ram. This includes baseOS, X, ICA Client, Terminal Client, RDP, and network and printing funcitonality.

    it runs slow as molasses on a Geode, and firefox is exceedingly slow to start up on the Geode, but runs "ok" once its up and running. If you give me an 800MHZ VIA, things work much more gooder.

    OpenOffice? its a bloated piece of crap. work needs to be done on that front. I dont think that i can get it going in less than 256MB.
  • Why x86? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:31PM (#10627866)
    The only reason to use x86 is Windows. If you're going to use WinCE or Linux then you may as well use some other smaller/faster/cheaper/lower wattage CPU like an ARM, MIPS or SH4 or something.

    Considering that the weight (if one could call it that) of WinCE is behind ARM, the use of WinCE for this product is pretty dopey.

    These Geode tablets have been promoted since Nat Semi owned Geode (a few years back). Geode has pretty much gone nowhere and does not look like it will change. I'm quite suprised that AMD didn't rather put their effort into their MIPS device or license ARM and make an ARM device.

    It is interesting to note that AMD is one of very few major CPU vendors that does not use ARM for their mobile/low-power 32-bit stuff.

  • by Razzak ( 253908 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:33PM (#10627873)
    I assume the chip in the router isn't the same as a cpu for desktops, but someone else can respond to that.

    The consoles are sold below-cost (many), and make up for it on licensing fees. That's like saying cell phones are now free.

    I suggest a "kiosk" type system to be more affordable. all you need is the mobo/processor/usb card/IDE hub/ram/ps and a cdrom. Boot off a linux cd-rom and use USB memory sticks for different users. I think in this low-end of a system with low-end parts, a cd-rom boot might be more reliable than a HD. In all of my computers, the HD is always the first thing to go.

    Of course, this solution doesn't provide $$$ to MSFT, so it's not the solution ballmer is looking for. However, it would be the perfect solution for small communities that can't afford computers. Everyone buys a $20 USB card and can use the local community computers as if they are their own.

    There's no substitute for having your own computer to learn on, but this isn't a bad solution until everyone has one.
  • Re:$112 Or bust. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Maul ( 83993 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:33PM (#10627879) Journal
    Close, but this system will also need a hard drive and CD drive.

    Quick glancing at Pricewatch, You can probably get a 20GB hard drive for under $30 and a really generic CD-ROM Drive for under $20.

    On the upside, we could probably get away with 256 MB of RAM. That will work for most people just browsing the web, sending email, or using a text document once in a while. So we're still probably looking at something around the $150 mark.

    Now, this takes care of the hardware. What about the wonderful (*cough*) Microsoft software?

    Windows XP Home: $199
    Microsoft Word 2003: $199 ($499 if you want full office suite)

    Nearly $400 for software on an PC that costs around $150! This is, unless MS really is going to start offering crippleware versions of Windows and Word in the US market.
  • by _Hellfire_ ( 170113 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:37PM (#10627906)
    My first PC was also a 2-floppy Herc Mono XT. I had a 4.77MHz version with a turbo switch to get it to 7MHz. I remember running First Choice for word processing and Dr Halo for graphics. DOS 3.3 with NDos for long file names and other cool stuff. Ahhh the days.

    I also remember getting my first hard drive fitted to that thing. Connor Peripherals 30Mb and I thought that was all the space in the world. I thought it was way cool that I could boot off the drive and install all my favourite games - F15 Strike Eagle II, Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF), and Zeliard. (Not to mention all the other small games like spacewar, elevator, frogger, yahtzee and boulder dash). I also coded in Turbo Pascal 6.

    Like you I was in love with that machine, and that machine taught me most of the basics of computing.
    It worries me somewhat that the technicians who are coming through the ranks now are not even aware of the heritage of computing, and have no inkling of anything past a GUI and a mouse pointer. Obviously the older readers will point out that before the XT there were things like TRS-80 and CP/M (neither of which I've had the privilege of using (although I would dearly of loved to have had that experience)) but all I'm saying is that computing around that time in the early to mid eighties (and before that of course) was raw and unfettered by the masses of clueless gumbies and spyware and spam.

    I for one feel very privileged to have seen that era of computing and I can only hope that some of todays young geeks may stumble across an old dinosaur and decide to play with it to further their knowledge.

  • by wyrmBait ( 19085 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:45PM (#10627943) Homepage
    My own desktop is circa 1998: a 600Mhz Classic Athlon, 128MB of RAM. It runs kernel 2.4 compiled for K7, and nVidia drivers for the TNT2.

    Firefox, Mozilla, OO.org all run just dandy on it, though OO takes way too long to load. I can even run Firefox and OO.org at the same time, but task-switching between them thrashes the swap partition for a few long seconds.

    As I write this I'm running Firefox, Gaim, a system monitor, XMMS, a Gnome Terminal (bloated!) with three terminals, and two BitTornado windows, all on Gnome 2.4. It's using a modest 70MB RAM and 131 of swap. That's running stock Debian i386 binaries: just imagine if I was running Gentoo and all those apps were compiled for k7.

    So the answer to your question is, yes, it'll run fine even without stripping anything down, and even better than you'd expect if they have the sense to recompile the key apps for that specific hardware.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @10:56PM (#10628000)
    Economics is an academic occupation that does not reflect the real world.

    The simple truth of low income countries is that when they are faced with unaffordable medical systems (including medicines and medical procedures etc) they simply die.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:13PM (#10628097)
    The universe will weep the day BPL is widely deployed. It has to be one of the most poorly thought out technologies I've ever seen.
  • by arbi ( 704462 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:21PM (#10628134)
    In the Ballmer article it states:
    > But lower prices have become part of Microsoft's strategy for gaining market share in developing nations.

    For over a decade, in the early years of Microsoft, they have been making piracy of their OS and Office software easy. This was a vital and intended strategy for them in order to firmly establish a marketshare dominance.

    When the average user gets accustomed to (pirated) Microsoft products, this encourages businesses to use Microsoft products since most employees already have the skills in using Microsoft products. Microsoft then proceeds to enforce BUSINESSES to have legal copies of their software while still encouraging private users to pirate their products.

    As you can see, their strategy worked. They are basically doing the same thing now with developing nations. And they will be successful unless the respective governments intervene.
  • by ikewillis ( 586793 ) on Monday October 25, 2004 @11:35PM (#10628189) Homepage
    For $100, I really doubt you're going to be able to get Longhorn-caliber hardware for quite some time, considering Longhorn's system requirements [microsoft-watch.com] call for:

    • A dual-core CPU running at 4 to 6GHz
    • A minimum of 2 gigs of RAM
    • A terabyte of storage
    • A graphics processor that runs three times faster than those on the market today

    Try getting that for $100

  • by hhawk ( 26580 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @12:47AM (#10628476) Homepage Journal
    > Ballmer must be nuts! A low cost computer will kill MS.

    Some day there will be a low cost computer, based on Commodity chips, software, etc. So it's better to make $5 a year from the billion people who will have that computer, than to make nothing.. and an extra dollar per computer is an extra Billion...

    Why A Billion? About Billion have computers now.. and until it gets to that low price level ($100), most could never afford it. But my theory is that @ $100 only about 1 Billion more can, leave 3+ billion people on the Planet without.. Of course if you count by FAMILY rather than by person and you factor out some of the older population you do get a deeper world wide penetration.
  • by defective ( 151654 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @01:12AM (#10628568) Homepage
    I've been thinking about this for some time. You can get a Palm for $99, a color one for $149, and those come with a screen! Surely if they didn't have to be so small they could be sold at a lower price. If you take out the screen, buttons and slot and replace them with an ethernet port (you already have a usb port), you could probably get below $99. There's been plenty of times I wished I could just plug an ethernet cable into my Zire. I've already got all the apps I need to use the Internet on it.
  • Re:Agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zuzulo ( 136299 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @02:12AM (#10628777) Homepage
    1) Go to budget barebone PC manufacturer like

    www.ikonpc.com [ikonpc.com]


    www.tigerdirect.com [tigerdirect.com]

    among many others

    2) price lowest barebones case that comes *with* mobo, power supply, CPU

    3) add hdd and one memory stick (as well as CD player if needed), do not add MS operating system, aftermarket software, video card, sound card, or other overpriced extras

    4) pay between $120 and $150 with free shipping

    5) recieve components and assemble your ultra low price computer (~2 year out of date)

    6) ????

    7) profit or something similar

    Not quite at that $100 price point, but pretty close these days, and even closer if you are willing to pick slightly less recent CPU, mobo, and memory. And no, i am not an employee or in any way affiliated with these or other barebone PC manufacturers. ;-)
  • by Zachary Kessin ( 1372 ) <zkessin@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @02:29AM (#10628834) Homepage Journal
    You would have to make it simple to manufacture. I was thinking what you would want is a motherboard with "everything" on it. Ethernet, sound, USB, video card, IDE, Modem. To go from board to computer you add some ram, a hard drive and put it in a case. You probably would want a somewhat custom case for easy access as well. If I was trying to make a $100-150 computer I would also make it a motherboard with no slots, just what was on the motherboard. I figure many many users just want the real basics and thats it. I might even put 128mb of ram on the mother board.

    The idea here is that by putting everything on the motherboard you reduce your cost to put the whole computer together.

    Now many of the slashdot crowd would not want such a fixed computer for their main workstation, but it would be an ideal system to give your kids etc. Or for a massive install.
  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jawtheshark ( 198669 ) * <slashdot@j a w t h e s h ark.com> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @02:38AM (#10628862) Homepage Journal
    Look around for people that bought a new PC. If you're lucky they still have their old one. If you're really lucky, they think it is a piece of crap because it runs so slow.

    Case in point, my girlfriend (there goes my /. credibility) bought a P-IV 2.4HT with huge flat-planel screen, DVD burner, 512Meg RAM and I'm surely skipping things. Her brother bought something similar (but slightly lower-spec) at the same time. Now, well, they bought this before she knew me.
    So, I find out they didn't throw away the old machine. I ask her to show it to me, expecting a later P-I or even a P-II (it was running slow after all). My eyeballs nearly fell out! The fucking this was a P-III 500MHz, 10Gig harddisk, CD-Burner, 64Meg RAM. You can already guess why this felt slow...

    Anyways, a 256Meg RAM stick later (which I always have lying around somewhere) and a 10Euro 10/100NIC later, I have it back up on full-speed. Nice little machine, really...

    Oh, and you want to know what she does with her über-PCs? Surf the web, write letters in Word and ehm, burn the occasinal CD. That P-III would have done for the years to come.

    So, in the end: look out for people that have bought new PC's and check out what they have in store. Anything from a P-II on is worth collecting. I have made P-II desktops for people without money from spare parts (which I collected from people thowing away "crap machines").

  • by spworley ( 121031 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @02:45AM (#10628886)
    Actually this was kind of fun. http://www.pricewatch.com/ [pricewatch.com] gives all the necessary links.

    These are all-new, retail prices. Shipping + taxes not included.

    CPU: 700 Mhz Celeron $18
    MB: Intel 810 MB, with sound/video/USB/ethernet $10 (!)
    RAM: 128MB PC2100 $15
    DVD: $12
    Case+300Watt PS: $24
    HD: 3.5GB EIDE $17
    Heatsink/Fan $1
    2 IDE cables: $1
    Total: $98

    This even includes a DVD, not CD.
    The hard drive was the surprisingly expensive part. The motherboard was the surprisingly cheap part.
  • by Gldm ( 600518 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:33AM (#10629018)
    Seriously. Have you seen the specs on the Advance series? They sell for what, $80? With a screen?

    Dump the LCD, it's too small for reasonable work. Replace it with TV out. Yes TV is sucky but most can (barely) manage readable text in 640x480 for simple wordprocessing and browsing. I'm betting someone in the next 10 years *cough*china*cough* will develop a digital TV cheap enough to penetrate the 3rd world markets, which should improve things dramaticly. But for now, TV out would suffice, and removing the LCD would probably save at least 20% on the price per unit.

    Add a USB port. Just has to be at least one. You can always daisy chain a keyboard and mouse like apple was often fond of. GBA's already have a link system, and wasn't firewire co-developed by apple and nintendo?

    Add ethernet. I doubt you could do wireless in the price range, but eventually it'll happen. Generic 100M cards go in 99 cent bins these days. You can even find gigabit cards on sale for under $20. 802.11 cards will follow, though it's not necessary either way, just convenient.

    Now someone out there is saying "Wait, what about the disk?" Ok now, repeat after me "There is no disk." Wait, what? You heard me, no disk. How? We centralize the disk on a NAS, and use a bootstrap flash rom similar to a GBA cartridge. This way, you can distribute disk cost among many clients, which is FAR more efficient per GB. Consider a 160GB disk costs barely more than a 20GB disk these days. It's not even twice as much! (seriously, pricewatch has cheapest 20GB @ $33, 160GB 7200rpm @ $66!) By using ROMs with individual user keys, they boot up and request a specific user directory on the NAS, so data can be private, even encrypted. Also, assuming 802.16 really delivers on its promise, consider how many clients even a modest disk and router could serve in the 3rd world. Assuming we use a very light distro (possibly fitting everything but the apps on the boot flash!), what's the average user disk use in the real world? Exclude multimedia files. Hmm gee, those business documents and emails aren't all that big are they? A 160GB disk could probably serve at least 100 users if you restrict the kind of content they can store (just restrict the apps they can use), and that's being pessimistic. Plus disks will continue to grow, so adding more capacity is easy. Ok fine, you don't want to be draconian about file storage. So give each user a reasonable space, say 16GB. Figure it formats down to about 13GB. That's still enough for 3GB of apps and 10GB of files. Say that again, 10GB of files. Can you imagine telling someone from 1994 "You can only store 10GB of files"? Because that's the kind of data storage we're looking at here.

    Don't like gameboys? Too much modding work? How bout a DVD player? Ever seen one of those under $100? Umm yeah. Does it have TV out? Yeah. Could it have USB? I don't see why not. Networking? Oh come on, ethernet cards are almost literally a dime a dozen. Processing power? It can decode mpeg2. My pentium 2 300 could barely manage that. And that's minimum spec. I'm betting modern DVD players have all sorts of fancy stuff that takes more CPU anyway.

    Yeah I bet you don't like my distributed disk idea either huh? Ok then, how's this work for ya: My old DSS reciever died last week. I went around pricing a new one. Turns out Circuit City is having a sale. They've got an RCA DSS reciever WITH AN 80GB TIVO BUILT IN for $99.95! What ISN'T this machine? Does it have display? Yes, to TV, often to multiple formats. Does it have storage? Hello! 80GB! Does it take media? Hooking a DVD reader to it would probably be trivial, considering it has an IDE disk inside. Networking? It already recieves digital video over a coax cable! It's a cablemodem for all effective purposes! Keyboard/mouse etc? Most of them already have USB or firewire anyway, again trivial.

    The HUGE advantage linux has over windows in the 3rd world is PORTABILITY. When you can run the OS on virtually ANY hardware with a recompile, it means you're not constrained to an expensive platform designed for high performance. The only way MS will threaten this is with ports of the CLR virtual machine that .NET runs on, and I'm betting it'll be a while before appliances are running that.
  • by j.leidner ( 642936 ) <leidner&acm,org> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @03:53AM (#10629098) Homepage Journal
    If they sold a $100 computer, I'd like to suggest warming up some great old ideas:
    • Why _load_ Firefox/OOffice when you can run it in the ROM? It might run a bit slower, but the perceived responsiveness is often determined by application startup time.
    • Why _boot_ a machine at all? I'm ok with developers' machines being booted, since they stay up 27/7 anyway. But a consumer who wants to check something on the Net or write a quick letter can't be bothered to go through a 3-minute boot cycle.
    • Also, it can't hurt to modify the hardware slightly so that a LED indicates there are new emails even if the whole box is switched off, to save energy.
    I hope I will live to see a real consumer computer that is as much an appliance as a microwave oven.

    The only idea that goes a little bit in this direction is modern BIOSes that have a built-in Web browser that doesn't need an OS.

    Try Nuggets [mynuggets.net], our SMS search engine. We answer your questions via SMS, across the UK.

  • Re:In Asia, maybe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ya8282 ( 731399 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:14AM (#10629152)
    Memory made in Korea (e.g. Samsung or LG) is purchased in Korea for 2x the price of memory sold in the US. If the import tax into the US were lowered, the companies would naturally raise their prices to try and reduce their losses (or increase profits). Thus supply and demand will not change due to this, so you will pay the same price. Power-supply prices are about the same as US in Korea, if you don't include the hefty 19% import tax and an additional sale profit margin tacked on. CPU's are more expensive here, storage is more expensive here, case is probably similar to US prices... CD/DVD recordable media might be cheaper!
  • 400MHz is fine (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nurgled ( 63197 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @04:41AM (#10629224)

    I still use a machine with a 350MHz Pentium II chip for almost everything I do, and I do a much wider variety of things than your average user would do.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a word processor installed so I can't do what I wanted to do and load an "average user"'s set of software and see how fast it runs, but suffice it to say that currently I have a bunch of text editors, my web browser, a VoIP client, an IM client, my email client, an IRC client, a whole tonne of terminals running application-wise, and in the background Apache and mySQL running, occasionally serving requests from other users of my network.

    The thing all of these pieces of software have in common is that they are interactive: they don't do anything unless the user is actively using them. The ones I'm not currently looking at are using a minimal amount of CPU perhaps processing the occasional packet, or whatever. The foreground application might occasionally have quite an intensive task to perform, but it's usually over within 30 seconds tops, and the scheduler ensures that the other apps get a chance to run anyway.

    It's applications like games, video playback and so on that beat the CPU constantly that become a problem. Having said that, I regularly play back video files from over the network fullscreen in mplayer and with the use of some cache and the hardframedrop option there's no discernable degredation apart from the occasional sound stutter or decompression artifact where a key frame gets skipped. Realistically no action game since Quake III Arena would run on this machine, which is its only real downfall. I don't generally play computer action games, though, so it works well enough for me.

    The hard part, of course, is finding a 400MHz CPU to buy new. Second hand could work (and that's how I got my CPU three years ago), but new you'd probably be looking at a lot more than something a thousand MHz faster just because there are no economies of scale attached to such a CPU anymore. If people became interested in a low-cost PC to the point where there was a demand for such CPUs, I'd assume that today with the lessons learned from the faster CPUs companies could make a much leaner, meaner "slow" CPU that runs a lot cooler and with much less power consumption than the Pentium 2 family did. The CPUs on the fanless EPIA Mini-ITX motherboards are a good example of this, but you can't buy those separately of course.

  • Re:No (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timmyf2371 ( 586051 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @06:34AM (#10629473)
    I think this is a more common thing than you might expect. As people ("geeks" in particular) replace computers with new boxen, older machines will be pushed into other roles - even those with a relatively high specification.

    I use a 900 mhz Athlon, 512 MB RAM, 20 GB HDD as my main machine at the moment, but come the end of the year I'll be laid off from my current job and intend to invest in an ex-business laptop as a replacement since my current box is dying - the monitor is on the blink, sound card doesn't work, and I don't have the time nor resources to put into a 4-year-old computer anymore - yet, if it boots (which it does) and is connected to my network (which it is) then it'll be a perfect solution as a firewall/router/file server - despite its "high" spec.

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @06:37AM (#10629480) Journal
    Can you buy a board with a ton of interfaces, voltage regulators, 128 MB RAM, etc, for less than 100$ today. Well, yes. It's called a graphics card.

    No, I'm not going for "Funny" mod points. Bear with me. I'm trying to make a point.

    The point is that you want to minimize the number of chips and the PCB complexity to the maximum.

    It's not even a new idea. Back in the day, ZX Spectrum computers were very cheap because of the "ULA" chip. Basically Sir Clive Sinclair had invented the north-bridge. With integrated graphics, no less. No, again, it's not a joke.

    Instead of having a ton of smaller chips, the ZX Spectrum basically had one custom designed chip with all the needed functions. It cut the price a lot.

    For a more modern point for it, look at the PS2 vs XBox. The PS2 went and integrated pretty much everything it could into the CPU. The XBox went with a traditional PC design. The PS2 is a lot cheaper to produce. And the XBox loses money hand over fist because it's expensive to produce.

    So basically that's the way I'd go. Take an idea from the AMD K8: it already integrates the memory controller on the CPU. Aside from saving traces on the mobo, it also gives it awesome latency on memory access.

    So I'd take that idea and run amok with it all the way: integrate _everything_ possible on the CPU. Including ATA controller, a simple 2D graphics core, etc.

    Of course, I'd probably not base it on the K8, which uses too much power and is large anyway. I'd want something like a P3 made in 90nm (yes, it's called a Dothan) and with a minimal cache. Say, 256K will do just fine.

    That leaves lots of space to pack the other goodies around it. Again, the idea is to pack both "north bridge" and "south bridge" and sound card too on the same chip as the CPU.

    I'd probably go for a Kyro 1 graphics core. Yes, it's old, but it does just fine even in simple 3D games, on very little memory bandwidth. And since it's gonna be an integrated graphics solution, bandwidth is what it won't have.

    So basically at the end you'd have a motherboard which is the size of a graphics card, and looks much like a graphics card. A central chip, some 8 RAM chips soldered around it, a big cooler and a couple of connectors.
  • by DLR ( 18892 ) <dlrosenthal.gmail@com> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @06:56AM (#10629524) Journal
    Note that the Xbox 2 is going to be built around a PPC chip and no hard drive. Is there a version of Windows for PPC? I don't believe so, but I could be mistaken.
  • by leonbrooks ( 8043 ) <SentByMSBlast-No ... .brooks.fdns.net> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @07:14AM (#10629570) Homepage
    (cue sound of k1dd13z winding mental age estmates up)

    ...when I worked in a computer store in West Perth called Computer Choice, for a chappie by the name of Ed O'Connor-Smith. After watching him sell a computer, one friend of mine took to calling him Ed O'Conman-Smith which was a tad unfair even though he could indeed sell ice to eskimos or charm a starving baby away from the breast. He once sold a million-dollar mainframe on someone's petty cash.

    Ed sold an Osborne 1 to a lady called Pauline Winter (no relation to the actress AFAIK) of Maritana Typing Services, of which I can find no trace on the Web. Pauline had a top-of-the-wozzer Olivetti electric typewriter which would do a steady 75 WPM and had a 16,000 keystroke typeahead buffer. She beat it. Easily.

    The Osborne 1 scanned the keyboard in software in its spare time, using its (at the time) grunty 4MHz 8-bit Z80, with pretty much inevitable results. So Pauline brought it back.

    Instead of refunding her, Ed upsold her to a KayPro II, which was built like a lab instrument and had a separate microcontroller in the keyboard and guaranteed 3-and-a-half-key rollover. And 400kB 5.25" floppies in place of the shiny new recently-doubled-in-size 192kB floppies in the Osborne, and a full 64kB of RAM in place of the Osborne's 48kB. Your keyboard probably has considerably more storage than everything in the Osborne added together. (-:

    Pauline sat in the shop for a few days, using the Kaypro to make sure everything went well. Her typing was like rain on a tin roof, there was no way you could hear individual keystrokes, but the funniest part was watching WordStar.

    WordStar is a little priority-driven time-sharing little universe of its own. It had an event loop decades before Bill knackered the one in OS/2. If it has time, it prints stuff. If it doesn't, it at least updates the display decorations. If it has no time for that, it keeps the current text looking good; and if not all of the current text, then the current line, followed by the lines above and below outwards towards the top and bottom of the display. And if not even the current line, it echoes the characters as you type them, and the last-ditch response is to just store the characters and echo nothing.

    With Pauline at the keyboard, WordStar was able to echo two characters out of 3 if it was lucky. Printing happened for a few minutes some time after the start of coffee break, and for maybe 25 minutes of a half-hour lunch break, and for many hours after she'd finished for the day. She was typing at least as fast as a top-shelf Ricoh daisywheel could, and that's fast. She started with a blank data floppy every day (two drives, one for programs and one for data), and usually filled about 3/4 of a 400kB floppy by close of trade, so I'd guess that was a sustained 110-120 WPM.

  • by stanmann ( 602645 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @08:01AM (#10629707) Journal
    There was an NT 4 core on PPC, I'm sure the code is still sitting around in a CVS somewhere.
  • by CrazyWingman ( 683127 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @08:24AM (#10629771) Journal

    It's interesting the way a lot of these threads are going here. A lot of what I'm seeing is, "Well, if you just need a word processor, then..." This makes me wonder if we should be focusing some effort in a slightly different place.

    Maybe what we need is an operating system that "just does" word processing, web surfing, and e-mail. It would be a bit of a throwback to the old days of typewriters and workstations, but was that era really wrong?

    Sun seems to be trying to encourage one mode of doing this - the blade terminal. But, I think there are a lot of companies who are very worried about taking such a big step toward this setup. Not only do you have to spend a bit of time getting the networking for that system right, but if you don't like it later, you suddenly have all of this hardware that is completely useless to you.

    I think that if you could get the same setup running on the x86 machines that are already in place in most companies, and also show them how they could buy cheaper versions, that would still work perfectly if they ever chose to go back to their Windoze platform, then you would really have something killer.

    I'm sure that there are now a few zealots screaming, "This is exactly what XYZ linux does!" I'd argue, though, that even linux in its current state is a bit more than what is needed. I'm really talking about a very non-general purpose machine that literally only does word-processing, web browsing, and e-mail. And, of course, the qualifier here is that it does these three exceptionally well and extremely intuitively. I think there are ways to start with a linux distro and write some extra application code to make this system happen, but it's not there yet.

    Sigh, back to my current Windoze business life. Counting the hours until I can get home to my nice, debian-loaded UltraSPARC. :)

  • by famazza ( 398147 ) <fabio.mazzarino@ ... com minus author> on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @09:34AM (#10630192) Homepage Journal

    I've just sold my old K6-II 500 for R$ 100. I used to run Slackware 9.1 with no problems. My wife used to run WinXP + OfficeXP, and also some games like Half-life (ok, I used to play HalfLife).

    It's a good machine:

    • K6-II 500

    • Soyo Motherboard
      RAM: 256 MB SDRAM PC133
      Diamond Stealth III S540
      SoundBlaster AWE32

    It's a good option for those who only wants to use office suites.

  • Re:Why x86? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Uzik2 ( 679490 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @09:43AM (#10630242)

    The reason for x86 is economy of scale makes
    it cheap. I've priced out others and they aren't
    nearly as inexpensive.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @10:34AM (#10630670) Homepage
    Standard parts are cheap. I suspect that putting 128MB ram on the motherboard would cost more than a standard RAM slot and stick. Everything-in-one solution has been tried before and not really gotten anywhere. The cost savings are neglible. Even game consoles (which are really computers in drag, and often subsidized or sold at razor-thin margins) can't do that as of today.

    What is needed is relocation. There's lots of people in the rich world throwing/giving away $100 computers. That is for individuals. If I were a major institution in the third world, I'd make a deal to purchase the outdated computers of a rich world insitution/firm for a symbolic price + shipping.

    Besides, computers are still moving too fast for such a "platform" to standardize. CPU, GPU, memory, interconnects (PCI express, SATA, DDR2, CPU sockets, USB2, GbLAN etc.) What you're looking for then is most bang for the buck, not standardization.

    What you're asking for has actually happened a bit with the SFF market. But those are mostly high-end, because people see they can get lots of power in a small box (I have an Athlon 3500+, DVD burner, 2x160GB HDD in mine), not low-end. Low-end is driven by volume, and then you have a mid-sized beige box that offends noone and can be expanded to do most everything.

  • Re:the Xbox (Score:3, Interesting)

    by maitas ( 98290 ) on Tuesday October 26, 2004 @02:08PM (#10632920) Homepage
    There's already a U$S:100 computer with display!! http://www.palmone.com/us/products/handhelds/zire2 1/

Mr. Cole's Axiom: The sum of the intelligence on the planet is a constant; the population is growing.