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Walmart Expands Low-End Linux Notebook Offerings 384

startleman writes "A story on Tom's Hardware reports that Walmart apparently will offer a Linare-equipped notebook below the $500 mark. Manufacturer Linare said that it will bring a Linux-based device to the retailer 'within the next few days.' Specs include an AMD Athlon 1800+, a 40 GByte harddrive, 128 MByte memory, a CD-ROM drive, an Ethernet port and the firm's Linare OS as well as Open Office."
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Walmart Expands Low-End Linux Notebook Offerings

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  • run linux?

    (it's a joke :) )

    • by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:36PM (#11579935)
      After I saw "Linare", I asked myself the same thing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:31PM (#11579900)
    Balance 14.1" Laptop, 1.1 GHz AMD Athlon 4 []

    Remove windows and you got your self a sub $500.
  • they are still bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:31PM (#11579904)
    It still doesn't make them the good guys. I shudder to think what part of the world they are monopolizing for cheap labor...
  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:31PM (#11579906) Homepage
    It's Wal-Mart -- desecrator of burial grounds, disturber of ancient ruins, discriminator of women employees, and destroyer of small-town America... ...but it's Linux!

    Oh, how to feel?
  • fp? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    That's better specs than my laptop. Maybe it's time for an upgrade.
    • Re:fp? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HermanAB ( 661181 )
      Exactly - till some @$$h0le broke into my office and stole my beloved Stinkpad, 650MHz and 128MB RAM with a 10GB HDD worked just fine for me - though I must add that I mostly ran IceWM, not KDE, though KDE worked OK too.

      Most people who complain about speed, complains about start-up times, which isn't a problem on Linux, since you can start all the applications you need and leave them running forever. There is no need to quit an application - just switch desktops.

      If you use Linux, then you should think

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:33PM (#11579920)
    Run Windows ?
  • Even on their own website, Linare says it comes with 128MB of memory, but 256MB is recommended. Would it KILL them to add another 128MB? What a turnoff.
  • But... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Frohan ( 736729 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:34PM (#11579923)
    can it copy and paste Miami Vice images?
  • Typical user? (Score:2, Interesting)

    If you want a laptop, you usually want to use it for work, you know, to have a mobile computer away from your main desktop.

    Now, most people use Windows or Mac for their primary desktop. Hardly any users that buy their computers at Walmart are running Linux on their main machine. So what are they going to do with this laptop? It's not really compatible with their standard machine.

    My best guess is that the hardware is basic enough that they can probably install Win98 on it with very little trouble. This
    • Re:Typical user? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shumacher ( 199043 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:39PM (#11579950)
      I had a friend that worked in the rent-to-own business. He was in collections, but the place was small enough that he could also find himself on the floor from time to time.

      It didn't matter what the specs were. All the customers cared about was web (pr0n and music) and email, with a minority interested in chat.

      These machines, running linux satisfy all the needs of this customer, provided they can come up with $500 all at once.
    • Re:Typical user? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by astrashe ( 7452 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:45PM (#11579991) Journal
      But this is being sold through the web site, not at the stores. Most of the people who buy them probably read about them here at slashdot. I doubt that they sell very many.

      I tend to see this as one giant corporate bully giving another giant corporate bully notice. Walmart pushes everyone they buy from to lower their prices. This is just their way of trying to muscle MS.

      Before Christmas, I saw a complete HP system at Wal-Mart for $468. It was a WinXP box with 256MB of RAM and a monitor. It even came with a CD burner.

      Wal-Mart's just trying to break through that price level. It probably ain't going to happen unless MS takes a smaller cut.

    • If a notebook can do what a desktop can do why have a desktop?

      And who marked this troll as Interesting I would have given it a Score: Late 1999 era mindset barely preserved, a better troll would have been careful with such exquisite prejudices.
    • Re:Typical user? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tough Love ( 215404 )
      My best guess is that the hardware is basic enough that they can probably install Win98 on it with very little trouble. This is a computer for software license violaters, in that case.

      Why would you do that if it's working perfectly well with Linux? Let alone not being a spyware magnet.
    • I'm going to buy one for my g/f. She wants a laptop to simply type papers on, so this is perfect for her. This isn't a computer for "software license violaters", it's a computer for those who want to do simple tasks on their laptop (web/email/chatting/writing), but don't want to pay the M$ tax.
  • Put it in the store! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by shumacher ( 199043 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:36PM (#11579933)
    Seriously Bentonville, put these super-cheap machines in the stores. Not because they will fail to create a train wreck. I've been in your stores - talked to you people - I know it will be a train wreck. Bring these items to your stores for me. Bring them to the store so I can see Linux move into mainstream big box retail. Bring them into the store because that will drive some interesting competition.

    Thank you.
  • Warranty? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PornMaster ( 749461 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:36PM (#11579939) Homepage
    Absolutely no mention of warranty for the boxes at the Linare website. I'd be a little worried about buying a low-end unit from a foreign company, through Wal-Mart, without some kind of assurance I could get it serviced somewhere reasonably.

    I worry that the money saved might be done so foolishly.
  • by astrashe ( 7452 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:38PM (#11579946) Journal
    Are the drivers for these things freely available?

    Sometimes when you buy a linux machine, it comes with binary drivers that make it hard to run with a mainstream distro.

  • Why? (Score:5, Funny)

    by labratuk ( 204918 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:42PM (#11579971)
    Why did they choose linaire, the world's most hideous [] linux distribution?
    • It looks like a frooty cross between Windows XP and OS X Public Beta.
    • my favorite []

      "For NT logon!"
    • One of the reasons why I use KDE on Linux on my notebook (and for that matter, all computers that I regularly use) is the configurability of the desktop environment. Almost every aspect of KDE can be tuned to my exact specification (I'm sure that this is true for gnome, fluxbox, etc. etc. etc. as well), but this is not true for Windows or OSX.

      I initially thought that it didn't look so bad, but then it became painfully obvious it was just trying to be like Windows, down to the logoff/shutdown/restart scree

    • Yowza but those are awful. Those screenshots look like a bad acid trip inspired by
  • by fishlet ( 93611 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:43PM (#11579974)
    I don't think Walmart is doing this for any other reason then they don't want to pay the sticker price for windows. They are not really advocating Linux, more so than just providing something so they can say it has an operating system. Sadly, for any of you who thinks this is a win for Linux... I feel most certain that most of they buyers of these machines will buy it not because of Linux but because of it's fairly low price... wipe the hard drive... and install the pirated copy of Windows they got from the kid next door.
    • Certainly the market for the headliner 128meg model.
    • Perhaps, but that's OK with me. If even just a few "Joe Six-Packs" buy these things and keep Linux on and notice they don't have virus problems and such like their Windows friends, that's fine with me. Spread the word a little from someone who doesn't have an agenda (real or imagined).

      Will some get pirate copies of Windows? Undoubtatly. But I'll take a risk and say that less than half will do that. They may go and BUY a copy of Windows later, but less than half (I feel less than 10% but I'm netting a safty

    • I agree with the parent. I think your average WalMart consumer isnt that in tune to Linux, and this really is just a cost cutting measure.

      However, on the positive side, before Joe Redneck wipes his drive and installs his pirated copy of windows, he might think twice and just try that "new fangled linux thing", and maby, just maby, he wont install windows.

      At the very least, he'll likely see that it's a decent operating system, and such a move could gain Linux some recognition and respect among the non com
    • by Jason Earl ( 1894 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @12:19AM (#11580189) Homepage Journal

      Of course Wal-Mart is doing it because they don't want to pay the Microsoft tax. Wal-Mart has a long history of not going into a business until they can offer the lowest price, and Wal-Mart simply can't compete with Dell as long as Windows is part of the bargain. Remove Windows from the bargain, however, and all of a sudden Wal-Mart is a serious contender.

      Heck, I know that I am interested. A low end Linux-compatible laptop is exactly what I want. Now I won't have to buy something that's been used. Personally I am glad to see Wal-Mart stepping up to the plate to make me the offer.

      Lots of people want to be able to buy hardware without paying for software. Many of them already have a Windows license. Purchasing a computer with Linux pre-installed is about the only way there is to get a new computer without paying the Microsoft tax.

      Sure, these laptops will almost certainly promote software piracy, but that's hardly Wal-Mart's problem.

    • What happened to the "people use windows because it came with their computer" rationale for Windows' dominance in the desktop OS market?
    • by Webmonger ( 24302 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @01:18AM (#11580437) Homepage
      I don't think Walmart is doing this for any other reason then they don't want to pay the sticker price for windows. They are not really advocating Linux...

      I think that's cool. If big, evil corporations are using Linux because it fills a need, not from an advocacy position, Linux is really gaining momentum.

      Not many people buy Windows because of advocacy.
  • Low End Trend? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ian Action ( 836876 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:45PM (#11579993)
    My only worry is that the average, everday consumer will see Linux only on low end machines and equate the operating system with cheapness. And I don't mean "cheap" as in cost, but in terms of quality.
    • I didn't think of that, but it's a very valid point.

      That said, as a Linux lover I'm willing to "take that risk", for two reasons. First, I think it will be much easier to bring Linux UP from being cheap than to just move in at the medium/high end and expect people to buy. If I'm going to spend $1500/$2000 on a new computer, I'm going to be very unlikely to spend it on a PC that has an OS I've never heard of. If I can buy a PC for $500 (that would otherwise cost me $600/$700 with Windows), I'd be more willi

  • MegaB GByte (Score:5, Funny)

    by davez0r ( 717539 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:53PM (#11580040)
    what's the point of typing out byte? isn't a capital B assumed to be byte whereas a lowercase b is assumed to be bit?

    if you're going to write out Byte, you might as well write out Mega as well. but mixing and matching like this? i find the flagrant lack of consistency to be unsettling.

    • Re:MegaB GByte (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cheeze ( 12756 )
      " B assumed to b byte..."

      assume = ass + u + me

      You wouldn't believe how hard it is for some people to realize that the capitalization changes it by a factor of 8.

      What would happen if they advertised it to have 128Mb of ram, and it actually had 128Mbits. They wouldn't be lying, but they'd be in trouble.
  • No USB ports? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Doppler00 ( 534739 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:53PM (#11580041) Homepage Journal
    1 x IEEE 1394 port, 1 x PCMCIA Slot (TypeII) , 1 x LAN Jack (RJ-45) , 1 x Headphone /Speaker-out, 1 x MIC-in
    1 x External VGA port, 1 x Modem Jack (RJ-11), 1 x Built-in MIC

    Did they forget to list it, or do they really think a notebook without a USB port would actually sell?
    • by KarmaBlackballed ( 222917 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @12:06AM (#11580116) Homepage Journal
      USB is pretty fundamental, I hope it was just a typo. I would consider buying one of these as long as it includes at least one USB port.

      Something else that looked strange: Linare said it will ship "more than 1000 notebooks" to Walmart stores in the US.

      We are talking about all of the USA. Doesn't 1000 seem like a rather small number? That is NOT a real Walmart level shipment of product. What is that all about? (Considering the margins are small on this thing, the total profit on that volume would probably not even buy a street legal used car here in the USA.) They might as well have said they will ship more than a dozen notebooks.
    • Re:No USB ports? (Score:3, Informative)

      by MBCook ( 132727 )
      That would be my guess. I don't think there have been any chipsets made in the last 5 or 6 years that DIDN'T have at least USB1. If it's on the chipset, it's on the notebook (why bother not to add the ports?). I think there is one in the picture on their site, but it's too low res to tell.

      Also, look at what you get. They give you ethernet, FIREWIRE, and no USB? That makes NO sense. You basically HAVE to have USB on a computer to sell it today.

    • Did they forget to list it, or do they really think a notebook without a USB port would actually sell?

      You can get USB for cardbus with ease. In fact they tend to be dirt cheap because any just about any system with cardbus is going to have usb. I don't know if linux would support it but hey.

    • Re:No USB ports? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BrookHarty ( 9119 )
      Did they forget to list it, or do they really think a notebook without a USB port would actually sell?

      The photo has 4 USB's ports, but I dont show the Firewire, wonder if its the same model...
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:56PM (#11580054)
    I dig on Linux and all (got Slack 10 running right now), but I figured out early on that the Microsoft tax isn't that big a deal to the OEMs. Plus, and OEM has the luxury of punting their problems customers to Microsoft tech support (which is by far the biggest reason you're not gonna see Dell pushing Linux on the desktop for the masses anytime soon). The problem here is I can get a much better (numbers wise, I won't argue reality) notebook from Dell for ~$200 more. Call me when it's $300, maybe $350.
  • by aztektum ( 170569 ) on Friday February 04, 2005 @11:58PM (#11580064)
    If it's Linare and Wal*Mart then what's this [] about??
  • Why use these closed source linux type things, with the standard kernel and such, but with a custom, nonfree window manager? Wouldn't one of the traditional distros be cheaper? This is supposed to be a price saving move, and what's cheaper than a GPL operating system without the nonfree window manager?
  • Power!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nick Wilson ( 153000 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @12:09AM (#11580133) Homepage
    Some say it's not powerful enough for today's standards, and aside from the RAM, I agree. Boost it to 256, and it's plenty. I'm typing this on a Sotec (now Averatec) 3120X laptop, purchased from a Wal-Mart (employee discount... I know, I suck, but it was $720 instead of $998), Celeron 1.2Ghz, 256M, 20G HD, and a DVD/CDRW. No legacy ports, just 3 USB, a winmodem (I'm told there are drivers, but never needed them), ethernet and 1 PCMCIA slot. Operating system is Gentoo, 100% MS Free. The only thing that is slow is compiling from source...
    Now for gaming, my laptop and these machines are not good, but for a student who needs OpenOffice and net, or someone who wants mobility away from their gaming desktop... why not?
    • Wal-Mart's employee discount is but a mere 10%. How did you manage to knock another $180 off the price? Was it a display model? Did you switch the UPC with something else?
  • It looks like they sell direct to consumer on their website, so if you want the cheap laptop without WalMart, go for it :)
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @12:29AM (#11580233) Homepage Journal
    I wonder about a notebook priced for students that many universities wouldn't permit on their networks - not being XPpro. Now I'm sure many of you will say I'm crazy but I know for example that the UNC will not, with rare exceptions, permit a non XPpro machine in. They sniff you and if they find noncompliance they shut off the port.

    Moreover does it have at least wireless drivers built in? Retrofitting Linux drivers into a notebook machine for a PCCard NIC is not a pretty sight even for well known distros that support it. And if I can't at least use wireless at home then a notebook is largely useless to me.

    It's really $600 for a 256MB RAM unit.

    Last but not least how does this compare with a more mainstream refurbished notebook machine? This unit is a little on the low end side and compares with maybe a 2-3 year old maintstream unit.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      That's funny, my uni won't let any students plug in a windows machine in to the network (xp = dangerous).

      In answer to your question, the $600 version has "wireless support".

      Also, I don't think this is really all that low-end, it's a 1.8ghz processor, the 256 ram is "nice" but upgrade that to 512 and you've got a very nice laptop on your hands (for cheap).
    • My university exploit scans new machines on the network and won't let you on unless you've installed patches (focused at windows). I and many many others have used linux with much sucess on a variety of platforms supported by linux.
    • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @01:01AM (#11580369) Journal
      Yeah, but Universities usually allow you to download a student edition for free.

      For instance, my school (GTech) allows us to download XP Pro if you are enrolled as a student in some of the departments.
    • You can't be serious about UNC only allowing one type of OS on the school's network: if so that is a retarded decision.
    • colleges... (Score:4, Informative)

      by MadAnthony02 ( 626886 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @10:12AM (#11582154) Homepage

      I work for a college's tech services department. We require Windows users to run a CD that includes Symantec AV and Checkpoint VPN software to log into the network.

      Right now, for Mac and Linux users (as well as people with networked XBoxes, Playstations, ect), they just give us their IP and MAC addreses and we unblock their MAC address.

      Our network security guys are for the most part unix geeks. They work pretty closely with the Linux community here, speaking at LUG's, ect. I would think many other schools would be the same way

  • Old news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Legion303 ( 97901 )
    They've been selling these on for a long time now. Reviews say the laptops are flimsy and cheaply-built, and there was a problem with advertising at first because the supplier lied to Wal-Mart about the specs and allegedly hacked the BIOS to report a higher CPU speed than what was actually installed.

    These things also don't have a PCMCIA slot, so if all you need is a cheap wireless laptop that runs sluggishly, this might be a good deal for you. I should note that linux runs fine on my $350 Ebaye
    • Mod parent down. -1: RTFA

      So this isn't the Balance notebook I was thinking of and it does come with a cardbus slot, but I'm still willing to bet reviewers will find it flimsy.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In economic theory a commodity is something which has many producers and many buyers. The other defining characteristic is that one producer's goods are not much different than any other producer's. Commodities usually have quite low margins because it doesn't matter who you buy them from so you can shop for the lowest price.

    The things that make laptops expensive are no longer as special as they were a short while ago. 15" LCDs are now a couple of hundred bucks. Run of the mill hard drives are becoming
  • by r.jimenezz ( 737542 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (hzenemijr)> on Saturday February 05, 2005 @12:42AM (#11580294)
    This can probably be done better with a used laptop from Ebay/relatives/oneself, but...

    Imagine someone having several computers in their home. Maybe one of these laptops could be used as a relatively cheap file/backup/mail server. Throw in a PCMCIA card and you may even use it as a gateway or firewall.

    The reason I say it's cheap, by the way, is the form factor. Naturally a desktop system with similar or better specs would be even cheaper. But this seems to me it's cheaper than other alternatives with comparable form factors. You could configure this laptop to run with the lid closed and that gives you a relatively sleek box which also draws little power.

  • by Mike626 ( 70084 ) <injoke AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 05, 2005 @12:44AM (#11580300) Homepage
    I recognize the foolishness of "Buy-American" viewpoints, and protectionist economies clearly stagnate over time, but the evidence suggests that Walmart does not strengthen enconomies large or small in the long term.

    What they do seem to do rather effectively, is fuel price races to the bottom in every field they enter. This can't be good for any community. I would rather pay a few dollars more to buy a product from a local business, or a local geek to provide the same product or service. art_piece []

  • No wireless. Less space than a Nomad []. Lame.
  • Returns, returns (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NineNine ( 235196 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @01:18AM (#11580445)
    By looking at this thing, I'm guessing that 75% of the people buying this will return it once they use it and realize that it isn't Windows. It looks very much like Windows, plus most people who shop at Wal-Mart wouldn't know the difference.
  • still expensive (2) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by delirium of disorder ( 701392 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @01:32AM (#11580500) Homepage Journal
    Over two years ago I bought a Toshiba laptop at Best Buy:

    14 inch LCD
    DVD drive
    56k modem
    10/100 ethernet
    2 pcmcia slots
    ATI radeon (works fine with linux opengl drivers) 256 megs ram (I upgraded to 512)
    1.5ghz PIV
    Windows XP Home (formated it and installed Debian
    3 usb (version 1 not 2 unfortunatly) ports.

    The only thing that sucked was the soundcard/speakers and the Microsoft tax. It only cost $600. Acording to moore's law (I know technecally it's about density, not price or performance) that kind of computer should be down to $300 by now (half price at the 18 month mark, and I give it a little extra leway.) Other machines have gone WAY down in price. I just bought a sun machine:
    2 gig ram
    4 way SMP (450mhz each)
    4 redundant power supplies
    It cost me $200 and runs solaris 10 great. It would have cost me at least $2,000 two years ago. Why is PC hardware, particularly laptops, still so expensive? On the high end the specs are going up so the price/performance ratio is higher, but at the low end, things have stagnated or even gotten more expensive. Cheap laptops cost more now then they did years ago. New SD-RAM is more expensive then it used to be and often more expensive then faster DDR RAM. CPU performance has also grown slowly in the low end dispite the constant clockspeed increeses. It took the desktop over a decade since the technology was available (the mips R4000 came out in 1991) to go 64 bit.

    Intel is certainly part of the problem in spite of their recent 180 on the mhz myth and adoption of AMD64 for the Xeon. I have a pentium II 450mhz system with 512k L2 cache, and a PA-RISC system with 1.5meg L1 cache. I even have an ancient sgi Indy with a 200mhz mips processor with 1meg cache. Why do new Celerons still only have 256k L2 cache and PIVs only have 1meg L2 cache? Up to about 2 megs you will still get significant performance increeses by adding more cache. I understand the Itanium2 has a 9meg on chip L3 cache, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons its price/performance ratio stucks ass. However, there is a happy medium between the PIV and Itanium when it commed to cache. AMD is in the same boat with a 1meg L2 on the Athlon64.

    Microsoft is part of the problem, but this certainly isn't the case for this walmart computer. It might be a step in the right direction, but the industry can produce better desktops and laptops cheaper.
  • by oldosadmin ( 759103 ) on Saturday February 05, 2005 @02:04AM (#11580639) Homepage
    Just to clarify, Open Office(tm) is a trademark of some company somewhere in commercial land. The software most of you use is Please refer to it as such.

From Sharp minds come... pointed heads. -- Bryan Sparrowhawk