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CherryPal's $99 "Odd Lots" Netbook 234

Robotech_Master writes "CherryPal, which Slashdot last covered back in 2008, has released a $99 netbook, the Africa, aimed at the developing world but (unlike the OLPC) available for sale to the consumer. But unlike most netbooks, the Africa is not actually made to a set design. Instead, it uses a hacker-like approach similar to the way home PC builders build their cheap beige boxes. CherryPal purchases odd lots of whatever components are available most inexpensively, builds netbooks out of them, and calls them Africas. The resulting machines will at least meet and may exceed the minimum specs given on CherryPal's website, and may be built around an ARM, MIPS, or X86-based CPU depending on what parts CherryPal has on hand at the time. The device ships with 'at least' Windows CE or CherryPal's custom 'Green Maraschino' Debian-based Linux distro."
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CherryPal's $99 "Odd Lots" Netbook

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  • Interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) * <bittercode@gmail> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @10:50AM (#30523588) Homepage Journal

    I first heard about these via the white African [whiteafrican.com] (a tech guy in Nairobi). There is some interesting discussion there that revolved around capabilities, how realistic the $99 price point is outside the developed world and durability.
    Getting these in the U.S. at $99 is pretty easy, but could one get them into an African country at that price? Max Seybold says yes, but I'd like to see it first. Then the question is how well it will sell, even at that price point when up against used hardware with better specs.
    I'm all for more choices at the lower end of things. And I think this product is great even if for nothing more than the conversations it can generate that will bring more awareness about the needs in developing countries. But ultimately I wonder if this kind of thing is just a stop gap anyway until cheap smart phones and reliable data access are global.

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @10:54AM (#30523616) Homepage Journal

    I wonder, if I'm willing to wait or pay extra, can I specify parts, like "any x86" or "anything but x86"?

  • Re:In other words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @11:26AM (#30523978) Journal

    Dell has NOTHING on Packard Bell. I'm not sure what happened to them, but their equipment was shit and totally random. There are a few differences with CherryPal, though.

    Since CP has their own Debian distro, people won't have to wonder if their are Linux drivers for the hardware found in the system. If it ships, it works and has drivers. Packard Bell was a challenge. "Oh. They shipped one of THOSE parts this time!"

    PB wasn't guaranteeing minimum specs, they were saying exact specs on CPU, RAM and HD. CP's "at least this" is an interesting idea.

  • by tyroneking ( 258793 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @11:46AM (#30524228)

    It's what the OLPC should have been.
    Commodity hardware, whatever's cheapest.
    And a Linux-based OS to boot (no pun intended).
    For f***s sake - how easy they do it - and OLPC had to make things so freaking difficult.
    Obama - please give your spare bank-bailout cash to these guys and get less developed nations on-line before we all go to hell...

  • Re:In other words (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @11:47AM (#30524252)

    As a former Packard Bell owner, I must agree. My Packard Bell (originally a 486 SX 20Mhz with 2MB of RAM and an 80MB hard drive) was the most non-standard thing I'd ever seen.

    Motherboard form factor? Completely made up by them. It had 2 PS/2 ports in the back, a serial port, and a parallel port. It had 4 ISA slots but they were on a riser card. Not reusing this case for anything else.

    Power supply? It was reminiscent of the standard AT power supply in that it was hard on/off, but that too was custom. Instead of cables attached to a switch which completed the circuit (or a switch actually on the box), this thing had a giant plastic arm that ran the length of the case from front to back and into the power supply to toggle on and off.

    The memory expansion slots? It had 4 empty ones - the base 2MB of memory was soldered straight onto the board. To upgrade the thing you had to fill all 4 slots - all or nothing.

    Processor upgrade? They made it an option in the stupidest way. The CPU was soldered straight into the board much like the memory was. If you wanted to upgrade the processor, they provided a SECOND CPU socket that shipped empty. You want to upgrade you had to plug a new CPU into the replacement socket and then use a jumper to tell the board to use that socket instead of the built in CPU.

    I did eventually do some upgrades on it. The 80MB hard drive got moved to 800MB. I bumped the RAM from 2MB to 6MB. Put in a sound card and CD-ROM drive. I also eventually got an Intel Overdrive chip for that extra socket and moved from the 486 SX 20Mhz to a 486 DX 75Mhz (strange that a 55Mhz increase in clock speed made such a difference - back then the machine was several times faster - these days 55Mhz isn't even noticeable :)).

    Still, upgrading that system always was a hassle to find things that worked. Aside from laptops, that was the last mass produced system I ever owned. I just like having the freedom to mix and match parts as I see fit.

  • by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:04PM (#30524452)

    It doesn't matter that everyone will get at least the minimum configuration. What will happen is that people will find out what the other guy got (posting their configs on the net), and then anyone who didn't get as good of a configuration will return it and get another until they get one with similar spec as the best one out.

  • How do i get one (Score:2, Interesting)

    by robinstar1574 ( 1472559 ) <robinstar1574@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:09PM (#30524534) Journal
    I can't find out how to get one of these, but I have made a habit of buying one of each major computer posted on slashdot. How do i get one of these?
  • by RMH101 ( 636144 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:10PM (#30524554)
    Seriously? You have nothing better to do than repeatedly install an OS on different hardware? I'd rather play with my arduino...
  • by AusIV ( 950840 ) on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @12:42PM (#30524994)

    I always thought the reason it was cheaper to build a system from parts than buy a pre-built box was just a matter of scale. It's not hard to find a handful of parts that are on sale because they're beginning to be antiquated and retailers are trying to get rid of them, but I always assumed the price I paid for the parts was still above the normal wholesale price.

    I can imagine that in bulk and with the right connections, you might be able to get these parts a bit below the normal wholesale price. The thing I have trouble with, is the idea that you can get enough of a discount to offset the cost of supporting random hardware configurations and software for several different CPU architectures.

    Is this really cost effective?

  • by sowth ( 748135 ) * on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @01:38PM (#30525652) Journal

    So? If you get laid off, it isn't as if you will have to starve to death. Even if you didn't save any money, you probably have some charity nearby which will give you food (and shelter, if needed). Even if you were laid off and you came down with a serious illness after your health insurance had expired (assuming your country doesn't have socialized medicine), they would still let you in the hospital, treat you, and if you

    Then again, maybe you live in a stingy asshole country who won't do any of those things for the less fortunate, but I doubt it since even the US does such things, more or less.

    In "less developed" nations, assuming they don't have family which can take care of them (and it would be a real hardship to the family), a person would probably die of starvation if they couldn't find a job after a few months or became disabled from an illness (much more likely without access to good healthcare). They die of illnesses we take for granted. You may think getting laid off is a great setback, but it is nothing like what you'd experience in those countries.

  • Re:In other words (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Schnapple ( 262314 ) <tomkidd@[ ]texas.com ['via' in gap]> on Tuesday December 22, 2009 @02:33PM (#30526412) Homepage

    The 486DX has a built-in co-pro, but the 486SX lines "didn't". Well they did, but it was disabled.

    Boards would have 486SX (soldered on usually, but not always) and a co-pro sockets which was actually just a normal 486 socket. When you bought a 487 math co-pro unit it was actually a full 486DX - it didn't just take on the extra job like the 387 and 287 chips did, it actually took over from the 486SX chip completely. Overdrive sockets and chips were the same thing: just a standard socket and 486DX with a different label - plug it in and the motherboard turns the other processor off.

    I had this exact computer he's referring to and I remember all this. I had always heard conflicting stories - either they just went through and intentionally disabled the coprocessor so they could sell this for less money to a different market, or these were 486DX chips where the math coprocessor was broken (similar to how these days AMD will sell a "tri core" processor which is a quad core processor where one of the four cores is defective)

    Either way it was asinine and brilliant - they sold less expensive processors to those who wanted them and then if they wanted an upgrade they sold them a second processor.

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