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Amazon's top selling laptop doesn't run Windows or Mac OS, it runs Linux (zdnet.com)
205 points by iProject on Jan 7, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 161 comments

I have the first CR-48 Chromebook that Google sent out a few years ago. The first iterations of Chrome OS were a disaster. It was basically a full-screen version of Chrome browser behind a login window. Ugh.

However, for kicks and grins I pulled out the CR-48 a little while ago and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to update to the latest version and - gasp - it was actually quite usable!

I have been using it on and off ever since (it sits in our conference room as a general note-taking and projector device) and I must say - there's absolutely something to this thing. The battery life is great (like 9 hours), screen is OK, keyboard is nice. Trackpad is still miserable.

For the most part my non-professional-work-life lives in a Chrome window anyway (gmail, google docs). If it had a decent text editor (I guess there's a SSH app you can get) I could see it working pretty well as a web development machine.

But for the proverbial "Aunt Tillie", this would be not a terrible device if the iPad was a little too simple. Auto-updates, Chrome syncing, Google docs? Pretty compelling.

I recently installed lubuntu on mine and was pleasantly surprised with the performance, although its probably not what Google had in mind. At least I'm still running chromium.

> gasp - it was actually quite usable!

It was the opposite for me. I've been using it for some time and stopped due to the constant crashing.

Each new update I had hoped the stability would improve, but it seems they're for new features only the new models could flawlessly run. Alas, I gave up a month ago. It's sitting in my pile of netbooks.

I have a CR-48 and I don't recall ever seeing it crash. Are you referring to a kernel panic or something that crashes the whole machine or just a browser tab crashing?

My CR-48 is my 7 year old daughter's machine to play flash games and such. Unfortunately, the CPU/GPU is a but underpowered for full screen Adobe Flash content.

Ah, let's remember one thing real quick. When people talk about macbooks being the best selling laptop line by a large margin, someone else always points out that that is because it represents the entire access to that ecosystem (i.e. the total sales are not split between brands).

In this case, you're also looking at a very cheap laptop in an OS where there are only two MODELS even on sale, one of which is older. It does not necessarily, or even probably, signal a sea change in the way people think about OSes.

> It does not necessarily, or even probably, signal a sea change in the way people think about OSes.

I think this is a true statement and I agree completely, but only because Joe Averageuser doesn't think about OS's _at all_.

I think this very much does signal a sea change in the way people use their computers.

There will always be folks like you and me who want to get down to the nuts and bolts of things and start tweaking, but most people just want to check their email/facebook and work on that spreadsheet/document for the boss.

For years we have all been talking about what moving 'to the cloud' would mean for computing as a whole and now it's happening. Your data goes with you wherever you go and your computer is a super cheap and nigh-disposable way to access it.

The writing is definitely on the wall. In fact, at this point, it's been there long enough that it's starting to fade a little.

Microsoft may not last as long as we (I) have always assumed — on the PC front at least it seems to be bad news and more bad news. Mobile sales already dwarf desktop, and installed base will soon follow. Even if MS is successful in mobile, there's far less fat to play with — it can't sustain licensing costs (netbooks already dinged it) either for OS or applications, and its network effect lockin is pretty much broken.

Interesting times.

The Titanic took two hours and forty minutes to sink. Long enough for someone to make a motion picture about it.

Microsoft is a lot larger than is readily apparent. That's because in the enterprise they're about as entrenched as can be.

Take away excel and the impact would be about as bad as taking away google would be (or maybe even worse).

MS will be around in some form or another for a long time. The question is more whether or not they'll be able to leverage the remains of the old into something new. My guess is not as long as Ballmer is still around.

>Take away excel and the impact would be about as bad as taking away google would be (or maybe even worse).

I work for one of the largest companies in the world and this is absolutely true. If Google went offline it would be a minor inconvenience. Taking away Excel would grind the company to a halt. I tried converting a few of our hefty xls files to Google Spreadsheets but its not yet robust enough for the task. And thats just the worksheets themselves - VBA and macros are another level entirely.

That said, I cant help but see trouble on the horizon for Microsoft's enterprise offerings. We recently transitioned to a MS hosted Sharepoint 2010 and its absolutely woeful. Office 365 is ok but not a killer app.

MS can afford to make some fuckups in this area but if they lose traction in the enterprise then I think its the beginning of the end. I guess the xbox division can keep them alive for a while.

Insofar as Excel is needed my question is how badly are new copies of Excel needed? Excel isn't rented out — you can keep using it as long as you need to and it won't do MS a lick of good.

A very good point. And currently Office 365 isnt a value proposition for upgrade. It wont even load most of our department's important spreadsheets.

But dont the big corps work on volume licensing that is renewed regularly? In any case there clearly isnt a rush of new customers.

And MS could see itself in the position of Apple circa 1995, when desktop publishing departments had a few aging macs running pagemaker or quark.

Heh, I can see that. We already have some legacy IE6 internal webapps running on Citrix.

Their enterprise division is huge, and Office is still a cash cow. They may have to trim some fat at some point, but they aren't even close to hurting.

And beyond Office, if you're a non-technical business with employees in the low dozens, pretty much no one is even interested in selling you a full stack of software + support besides Microsoft and its approved partners. Pretty much any office with like 25 people that's not in design or tech is top to bottom Microsoft, not just Windows and office but inventory, HR software, whatever else all running on MS and sold by either a Microsoft subsidiary or might-as-well-be-a-subsidiary channel partners.

That's the vast majority of offices. And the lower number that are large/savvy enough to be pickier on backend systems still buy Windows and Office licenses anyway.

On the flipside, it's hard not to see mobile platforms eventually cannibalizing Windows from below, the way PC platforms (like Windows and GNU/Linux) eventually cannibalized minicomputer platforms, which in turn had cannibalized mainframe platforms.

The most interesting thing about ChromeOS (to me) is the way that it updates. My understanding is the ChromeOS has two root partitions and when it updates, it updates the one it is not currently booted from. After updating, it then boots from the newly updated root.

I haven't heard of this technique being used in any other Linux distribution and I think it is quite novel. Sure, it wastes some disk space, but that if fairly cheap these days.

"Do you spend 90% of your time working on the Web? Using software-as-a-service or Web apps most of the time?"

No and No. I guess chromebooks aren't for me.

Even if you do I'd be careful in assuming a Chromebook is the answer. I bought one to use with C9 (IDE) but found Chrome OS very poor in terms of basic functionality and C9 ran unusably slowly on it.

Do you like hacking full linux distros onto devices which don't come with them pre-installed? Do you have a large hadron for ARM devices?

Chromebooks might just be for you...

As the Windows Phone get the top selling smart phone in Amazon, I do not trust any list from Amazon anymore. I think they make these lists for some reasons.

WP isn't even in the top 20 of best selling phones on Amazon.


Except it's in stock right now: http://www.amazon.com/Nokia-Lumia-920-Windows-Phone/dp/B00A2...

And the Chromebook in question has been out of stock from Amazon and only available through resalers at a significant markup.

That seems misleading.

Sure, the ChromeBook is the best selling SKU, but wouldn't it make more sense to combine numbers for the 500GB MacBook Pro and the 750GB MacBook Pro?

"it runs Linux".....a specialized version of Gentoo to be exact.

And what is Gentoo?

I know what Gentoo is. My point is we don't say Ubuntu "a specialized version of Debian", yes it is derived from it but still basically its Linux.

Most likely it is the 'not very tech savvy' crowd which is buying these laptops for themselves or others without realizing that it's not a fully functional Desktop OS.

I can imagine a loving grandparent buying this affordable "Laptop" for their grand kids thinking this suits my budget. Or someone thinking sure this thing is like the one I have back at home.

I imagine if the returns start getting out of hand that Amazon will put "Does not have Windows" prominently somewhere. Also, at least as of right now, the second review clearly mentions that this does not have Windows.

Not sure that would help that many grandparents. Not even sure my mother would understand. In fact, I'm pretty sure some of my kids wouldn't understand either. A lot of people see "laptop", or what ever, and expect it to do "laptop".

Again, a geek assumption about what non-geeks know.

I don't know about your parents, but mine don't browse Amazon looking for gifts for my kids. They go to BestBuy or Walmart and pick something up.

Additionally in an office full of software developrs there are multiple people who are looking to pick one up or have already done so ( Myself included ). I think the "not very tech savvy" crowd would be buying the name brand laptops with Intel processors and Windows since that's what we have trained them to do for 20 years.

I think return rate would be a very useful statistic for Amazon to give out. I love the Chrome OS but my guess is that many who buy these Chromebooks expect a full blown laptop and return them or sell them as soon as they realize it isn't. My local Best Buy has stopped carrying them for this reason.

I'd prefer to see more high end laptops with normal Linux to be sold.

The Thinkpads I buy run Linux. Except of course I pay the Microsoft tax and Lenovo never knows that they actually sold a Linux laptop not a Windows laptop. I use the Windows for configuring BIOS fingerprint access and in the olden days playing the occasional game.

Did you ever succeed in getting your Windows tax back in case when you don't need Windows? Lenovo's refusal to provide such option is actually illegal. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_refund

The legality varies by country. In general they just say that they are selling the system and software as a whole so you can return everything for a refund. In any event it is too late now.

I think it's surely illegal in EU, but it also must be illegal in US, at least in theory, based on the Clayton Act: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/14

However I'm interested if anyone actually succeeded in proving it in some small claims court. There are legal precedents of victories against tying policies of Lenovo and the like in Europe, but I didn't find any similar examples in US.

It is a lot harder in the US and too late for me anyway. They'll offer to take the whole system back, not just parts. (In the same way you can't get a refund for the headrests in a car if you don't want them.)

But the same computer can be used with other OS, and denying such option is anti-competitive product tying which falls under antitrust regulations. I agree however that it'll require a precedent to have a solid base for this.

For Mac OS sales in-store will always trump sales out-of-store; the Mac buying experience is quintessential for the average consumer. This comparing Linux Chromebook purchases on Amazon with Mac OS is irrelevant to me.

I will say the comparison to Windows-based computers is a bit surprising however. Still, the type of person who buys a computer on Amazon is more tech-savvy anyway and would prefer a Linux-based OS as compared to the other two.

This is sort of like when netbooks took over a significant marketshare for a brief period. It's new, it's novel, more importantly it's cheap and that's a big motivator. When netbooks were selling like hotcakes a lot of them came with Linux distros pre-installed, so it's not like Linux doesn't get its moment in the sun every now and again.

The chromebook is not a general purpose computer, it is a google appliance. Like an iPod is not a computer, it's a music-playing appliance. Chromebook is not a computer, it's a gmail/google-docs/google-calendar appliance.

It's misleading to make it sound like this is somehow a victory for Linux.

This is a win for web apps. This is proof that traditional desktop apps are dying.

Skype. The only missing thing is skype.

it has google hangout, though, right?

IM/VOIP software isn't like email where you just need an option, unless your only use for it is for making out-of-network calls (e.g. Skype-to-phone).

If all my friends, all my colleagues, and all my clients are on Skype, then having an alternative doesn't help at all.

Yes. But only if it would matter to current skype-users.

I think Facebook would be able to replace skype quickly (since everybody have Facebook), but not Google.

If they have a Chromebook, it's a good bet they have a Google account. Hangouts are one of the "apps" installed.

I'm getting crazy on this. Just quick recap:

1. I did a statement that people who need skype won't buy it. 2. Someone told me that "these things have hangout instead". 3. I pointed that it doesn't matter since all your contacts are still in skype (and their contacts too), so you'll have to switch them all to hangout too. 4. Now you're saying "If they have a Chromebook, it's a good bet they have a Google account".

How is it related at all???

And the second top runs FreeDOS? I don't think that's relevant in the scope this article emphasizes.

Apple sells Macbook via Apple Store. The title is misleading.

How is the title misleading? It's #1 sold on Amazon, not #1 of all laptops sold.

> Amazon's top selling laptop doesn't run Windows or Mac OS, it runs Linux

It's like saying "Windows phone is the only smartphone on market that support Live Tiles".

Actually, it's not. Apple does sell Macbooks through Amazon. No iPhones or iPads but Amazon has been selling Macs forever - http://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=2423178011

I didn't see many people order Macbook from Amazon while they can do it directly from Apple Store.

You may not see it but until the Samsung ARM Chromebook was released it was the top selling laptop on Amazon.

I do. It's a lot faster and in a lot of places there is no sales tax so it's a lot cheaper. The only reason not to is if you need a build to order option.

Are the prices the same? When I wanted a new iPod a month ago, Amazon's prices were significantly lower than Apple Store's, even for the newly released generation of Nanos.

they are usually slightly cheaper and till very recently in California, significantly cheaper because of the no sales tax advantage they had. The final price was >10% lower just because of that but Amazon doesn't have that advantage anymore.

In the UK there is no tax difference (both Apple and Amazon have to include 20% VAT here), but still a big price difference. Here's an example, the iPod Nano 16GB latest generation is £103.99 on Amazon [1] compared to £129 direct from Apple [2], which is a saving of £25.01, which is 19%.

[1] http://www.amazon.co.uk/Apple-iPod-nano-16GB-Generation/dp/B...

[2] http://store.apple.com/uk/browse/home/shop_ipod/family/ipod_...

(That Amazon link doesn't include shipping but that's only an extra £3.99, so still considerably cheaper, and I'm sure when I bought mine it had free shipping... could be wrong, though.)

Really? Amazon order fulfillment is a lot more efficient than Apple's.

Well actually Android widgets are not too different, and in fact richer in at least some ways. Bad analogies are like bad analogies :)

And even it doesn't matter if they are making a point that is too narrow to be interesting to you as they are not making false points as it is interesting to others and that is probably why it got upvoted.

I only think it's misleading in the fact that Chromebook is distinctive enough that it should say "top selling laptop runs ChromeOS". It's like if they said the top smart selling OS was Linux. Technically it is, but we all know what Android is.

Funny to see something even more locked down than Windows being cheered by the Linux crowd. There are no native apps,you need a Google account to access it(don't know what happens if your Google account happens to get disabled for whatever reason). Google neither releases the source for it's online offerings, not is it very useful even if they do.

The kicker is that the 100GB free storage on Google's cloud is only free for 2 years, after which you have to pay for it.

How is any of this better for consumer freedom than just Windows 7? The answer is not "because it has a developer switch on the back to install Ubuntu"; you can do that on a Windows PC as well. And an overwhelming percentage of normal consumers buying it won't be installing Ubuntu on it. In fact, I suspect that this kind of device that is absolutely at the mercy of a corporation is much closer to RMS dystopian vision than any Windows PC.

Would it make any difference to the user or even developers if it ran GoOS as the kernel instead of Linux? This is pretty much like a Tivo or a router.

Even funnier to see the contrast between the title: "Amazon's top selling laptop doesn't run Windows or Mac OS, it runs Linux"

...and the claim in the body text: "True, there is Linux under the hood but you have to go out of your way to find it."

So, huzzah for another great victory for Linux (like TiVo, Android...) made possible by hiding Linux as much as possible.

The big promise of linux was that it would commoditize the OS market, and this is exactly what happened. It is indeed a victory for linux that everybody who wants to build their own OS starts with the linux kernel. The OS can move out of the way, because it should have never been in the spotlight in the first place (this was a larval phase of the personal computing market.)

The upside should be that everybody contributes back into the global pool of source code, and that even people who would never buy a chromebook benefit by google's source contributions. I don't know how that works out in practice though.

Google contributed 2620 changes to the Linux kernel in 2012 according to http://go.linuxfoundation.org/who-writes-linux-2012 (PDF) - and presumably many others to user-space projects.

Not to mention ChromeOS is open source (http://www.chromium.org/chromium-os), happily accepts patches, and the chromebook has a built-in developer switch on it that you can flip and install what you want on it.

Reflecting on this a bit more, the popular OS's that are not linux-based predate linux:

- Windows 8 (RT/Phone): NT kernel development started in 1989.

- BB OS 10: QNX 4.0 released in 1990.

- OS X 10.8 / iOS 6: NextStep first shipped in 1989.

What is strange to me is how little-used BSD is, given its more permissive license.

Pedantry: BBX hasn't shipped yet outside the PlayBook, and I'd hardly call that popular. The phones are still running the original since-1999 BlackBerry OS.

And why not BSD? I'd mainly say mindshare, and portability to a degree. You don't have to release your source every time you port BSD to a shiny new platform. BSD code is out there (networking stacks, a handful of the base *nix utils in OSX), but the permissive license cuts both ways.

Joeri was referring to QNX which is the core of BBX (or BB10, not sure what it is being called).

Apparently, many of your home electronics likey run QNX, and you wouldn't know it.

BSD is used in a lot of places, it is generally hidden though. For example Juniper used it for their OS, FreeBSD is currently in use by NetFlix for their appliances (the ones that sit on the ISP's network to lower costs). Cisco has in the past used code from BSD, I've seen OpenBSD in various different commercial projects, including an audit logging machine.

Every so often I get surprised as to where BSD is when I come across it.

I'd say that the choice of Linux over BSD on those cases has to do with hardware support. Writing drivers and supporting a wide range of devices would increase up a lot the development time for Chrome OS, for instance.

Industry settled on Linux in the 90s when a) there was lingering FUD from the AT&T lawsuit, b) everyone was afraid of "embrace and extend" which the BSD license arguably makes easier.

>How is any of this better for consumer freedom than just Windows 7?

Ecosystem. This is a limited function device, which is bad, but anything you can do on it you can also do on a full Linux distribution. Which means that anyone who can get by with such a device will have no barrier to switching if they are ever inclined to do so.

That is the difference from a Windows machine. Because if you have Windows then you start accumulating Windows apps and you become accustomed to their interfaces and your files are in those formats, etc. etc. Windows locks you into Windows. ChromeOS doesn't lock you into ChromeOS; you can switch to a full desktop Linux distribution whenever you want and everything still works.

Actually I think the limitations on this device are a good thing, AS LONG AS there is the 'developer switch'.

I don't want the normal user to have any kind of root access to their machine - and actually most users don't want it either! With power comes responsibility, and non-tech people don't want responsibility with their laptop - they just want it to work.

As long as there's a switch on the back to drop me to a proper bash prompt, and as long as I can tell whomever I support/recommend this laptop for "don't ever touch this" and it will continue to work for them, this is only a good thing. If you know that the user will never be doing rooty things like installing software, you can put a lot of extra security on a device without compromising the user experience, and the Chromebook does exactly this.

Better security, easier user experience, and as-in-speech freedom is one switch away if you want the responsibility. Honestly, I don't see the down side.

But I could also use just Google Apps on a Windows or Apple machine. Because I use Windows I don't have to buy Windows apps.

Your argument seems to be that "it is better as it doesn't allow me to buy OS-specific apps so I can't get tied in"? I might be misunderstanding.

>Your argument seems to be that "it is better as it doesn't allow me to buy OS-specific apps so I can't get tied in"?

No, that's pretty much it. The problem with Windows is that when the typical user goes to install a piece of software, there is nothing there to make them think "this will cause me great consternation if I ever want to switch operating systems" -- so they don't think that, and they install it, and soon they're thoroughly locked in before they even realize it.

Or to extract out the general principle: It would be best for user freedom if all operating systems used standardized cross-platform APIs and all applications ran on all operating systems.

Which also means that they can switch to a Macbook or a Windows PC whenever they want instead of a Linux machine. How does that help Linux?

First of all, your original question was, "How is any of this better for consumer freedom than just Windows 7?" Being able to easily switch to any OS is obviously better for consumer freedom.

So now you are asking a different question. But are you serious? One of the main barriers to Linux adoption has been the difficulty of switching as a result of lock in. Are you seriously asking how the elimination of that barrier could be good for Linux just because it also eliminates the same barrier for other operating systems?

OK, the default alternative to ChromeOS is that people use Windows. Using ChromeOS does not decrease the switching barrier to using Windows as compared with having used Windows in the first place, it only decreases the switching barrier to using Linux or MacOS. Moreover, MacOS can't be installed on a Chromebook, so there remains the substantial barrier to switching to MacOS of buying a different, much more expensive computer instead of just installing a desktop Linux distribution on the Chromebook.

By this logic most free people are people who don't use computers at all, they have no switching barriers.

>By this logic most free people are people who don't use computers at all, they have no switching barriers.

Is there some reason you expect that conclusion to be an absurdity? Fact: People who have never used a computer are the ones with the most freedom to choose between operating systems, because they have nothing invested in any of them yet.

You seem to be implying that this is somehow not the case. Please elaborate.

Anyone with a computer can switch to no computer at all. But yes, anyone who can't live without their computer is not free. I guess you could say we've sacrifice some freedom for power.

It's the same reason I like having a macbook - I can currently also boot into windows natively or several flavors of unix via virtualization - every os has strengths and weaknesses, why not have them all?

If people can run linux, it helps linux. Even if they only "know" they can run linux. It's mindshare at that level.

People are more likely to try something out if they know they can easily go back to what they're used to.

> The answer is not "because it has a developer switch on the back to install Ubuntu"; you can do that on a Windows PC as well.

That's not necessarily true with UEFI secure boot.

For any x86 system it is.

I really don't see why so many people expect this to be comforting.

In one thread everyone will be so sure that ARM devices are the future, and in the next nobody needs to worry about secure boot because nobody will ever want to use ARM.

The near term threat is that they would change the terms of a sticker program. The longer term threat, that hardware becomes locked to Windows, is disturbing but I don't see how it would be anything other than annoying without extensive user-hostile legislation (because we are already at the point where a very useful computer on a stick costs ~$100 and there are lots of players that will continue to want capable open boards for servers).

Are you talking about the x86 sticker terms? I am concerned about ARM.

I don't think x86 is going to change dramatically, I just think it is going to continue to be marginalized. I, like many other consumers it seems, want a small thin fanless ARM computer.

Only if the device is manufactured under heavy partnership with Microsoft. Something tells me we'll see much like we have now, a handful of devices which are locked (much like anything running iOS) and the great majority not.

There's also no prohibition from Microsoft on having two different SKUs for the same hardware.

The sky is not falling, people.

The sky isn't falling because OEMs are going to care about minority OS users? Wonderful, that puts me totally at ease.

The google/samsung xe303 chromebook isn't an x86 device...

Which the Surface RT and this Chromebook aren't.

I can only give you my perspective:

* Linux gains from having many people using it, what is effectively happening when a lot of people are buying Chrome Books. So ARM support is likely to become even better, and hardware manufacturers are going to build something more "linux"-friendly

* You can do whatever you want with it if you turn on the developer switch, so that's a plus

* You don't actually pay for a license for windows 7 if you buy this chromebook, so you are not supporting "closed source software" with money

* Google as a company has done considerably more for open source software than Microsoft (or so I think)

These would be my points, why I think of the chromebook in better regards as Microsoft Surface. However, it would be kind of awesome if you'd have an open, touch-enabled platform (like the surface) and could use it however you want i.e. installing Ubuntu on it. In that case I'd probably be really tempted to even buy one, though it'd come from Micro$oft.


You made some great points, but had to end it with that juvenile jab which adds nothing to the conversation and which I believe has no place on HN.

Because it's THIN, CHEAP and has a developer switch on the back to install Ubuntu. The ones doing that are also likely to run a webserver on their Android smartphones to have access to more storage and services via something like EyeOs, so goodbye Google cloud.

I actually had not seen EyeOS. Thanks, looks interesting.

They went back to a purely commercial model though. The only other open source downloadable alternative crashes on its demo web site: http://simonser.fr.nf/symbiose/

Edit: it works fine if you give it some time. I kinda like it already...

So you mean SJVN, HN etc. would cheer on a Windows RT laptop if it were THIN and CHEAP and allowed the user to install Ubuntu?

Somehow I SERIOUSLY doubt that.

Actually, I would be all over the Microsoft Surface if it was thin, cheap and--most importantly--allowed me to run Linux without a hassle. In fact, I was seriously considering getting a Surface until I found out that the ARM version was crippled and the x86 version would have some compromises (like being louder, heavier, thicker and having worse battery life).

And I don't think my sentiment is at all unique--I've certainly seen the same idea repeated on HN.

Windows RT devices won't allow people to install their own Operating Systems dude :) They won't be cheap either.

>So you mean SJVN, HN etc. would cheer on a Windows RT laptop if it were THIN and CHEAP and allowed the user to install Ubuntu?

Uh, hell yes. I'm waiting to place the order button as soon as this http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5018096 makes more progress (though it's likely this will be confined to running Windows albeit less restricted). It's also why I'm evaluating grabbing one of these Exynos Chromebooks to install Ubuntu on (possibly in a chroot).

It's a cheap laptop that comes with Chrome OS installed. Versus the current market where I buy a cheap laptop and it has Windows installed. (And in this case I get to choose ARM if I want since Linux properly supports it)

You would, but it's a safe bet than even the announcement of such a device would be flagged off the front page of HN.

In fact, lots of devices with that capability are coming to market: they are all those Allwinner-based netbooks and tablets that can also run some form of pure, multi-tasking Linux. They'll run web servers, interpreters and compilers. They'll run Java SE. They'll run the GAMBAS IDE.

Some Arm chipsets like the Allwinner can now be considered as the true spiritual successor to the PC. Although some aspects are closed source, workarounds will be found and even some closed source drivers can't hurt. It's just like the PC era when people were trying to reverse-engineer the PC BIOS.

Based on the vote count of my comment, I really don't think that's true.

Web apps are supposed to be the native apps, that was kind of the point of Chrome OS. Email, docs, calendar... all those are rich HTML5 apps, its not really a matter of google locking you out of their native OS app api. It's no more restrictive then the web is, honestly.

The part about logging into your Google account is definitely questionable, but it's a cloud device and that's what you're buying in the end... the fact it has a developer switch is what makes it more like a PC in terms of control and not like a tablet or phone where installing your own OS has a few hurdles.

It's a matter of perspective, really.

This is the answer. Chromebooks are a buy-in to the web platform. That's why it's good for the consumer. It de-emphasizes the OS; users can seamlessly switch between Windows, Mac, another Linux distro, iOS, Android, etc. and stick to the web platform. Chromebooks are an optimization for the web and in some ways a "less is more" prospect for consumers.

From the HN "it's my hardware, let me do what I want" perspective (and count me among you), it's a bit of a paradigm shift. Sure there are some restriction but it's not as if we are completely shut out. We have Native Client to get at a lower level and the usual tools like SSH. If this isn't good enough, you aren't restricted to a single piece of hardware or just install Ubuntu.

My thoughts exactly. Back in the day I thought MS was evil. Now, the things happening in the "consumer computing" almost make me see those Windows times as a paradise of openness.

Microsoft is still evil (see all the patent trolling, legal maneuvering, running of astroturf campaigns, locking down of non-x86 "windows" hardware, etc).

Why would it matter to users what kernel is being run?

The great thing about Chromebook running Linux is that more work is put into Linux kernel, Linux harware supporting and Linux software support.

Linux is not GNU. Locked down devices were explicitly allowed when kernel devs opted to keep GPLv2 instead of moving to v3. They don't care about openness of devices but about the source code.

Exactly what I thought. If, for example, Netflix would create a plugin for ChromeOS, it would be easier (or less dificult) to port that to a "regular" Linux desktop as well.

> Funny to see something even more locked down than Windows being cheered by the Linux crowd.

Just to set the record straight, I was at the last Linux Crowd™ meeting and nobody was cheering over some inaccurate link-bait title of an article in zdnet.

The need for a Google account is definitely the biggest concern of mine. In terms of supporting and promoting OSS though I think it is a better direction that Windows ever took. The major pieces, Linux and Chrome are both open, if the user is curious. True they probably have to be curious on another device, or after flipping the switch, but at least it is possible, unlike Windows. The second part is that, if the web is the new user-space, then that is tremendously open. Chrome's dev tools are amazing, and still prominent on the right click menu for any site. Unfortunately JS obfuscation is pretty much defacto for most large sites, but at least HTML and CSS are still navigable.

How is any of this better for consumer freedom than just Windows 7?

Windows has been Public Enemy #1 for so long they've got tunnel vision, that's how.

"How is any of this better for consumer freedom than just Windows 7?"

Perhaps not for consumer freedom, but think about it in this way: You're getting a laptop largely subsidized by a corporation which is somewhat more guaranteed to successfully run your own brand of Linux. If you buy a PC with Windows and use only Linux, you are paying a lot for something that isn't even tangentially useful for you.

"Even more locked than windows"

Do you mean Win RT? In which case that's much more locked and you can't run your own binaries or alternate OS's on it, or did you mean Win 8, which isn't really locked at all?

I agree it's not that 'open' for the average consumer, but the very existence of a developer switch makes this substantially more open than RT devices.

Linux crowd is just happy because of no more "I need %s windows-only software". But in everything else -- you're absolutely right, it's horrible that this type of vendor-locked systems even exist.

Yes, it's truly horrible that a secure system that you can flip a switch to install what you want on it exists.

Isn't this exactly what folks have been asking for?

Want the secure version, great, that's what you get. Want to put your own stuff, just flip this switch on the back, and it's no longer secure, and you can do what you want to it.

One more time. It's horrible and wrong that this kind of vendor-lockness and insecurity of personal data "by default" exist and considered OK. And that fact that they added switch to make you able to install your own OS doesn't change this fact.

> Want the secure version, great, that's what you get. Want to put your own stuff, just flip this switch on the back, and it's no longer secure, and you can do what you want to it.

This _is_ your own stuff, you're paying money for it, and it _should_ be "secure version" of it, and why do you need to flip anything to get this at all?

Your concrete suggestion then is what, exactly?

Concrete suggestion to you?

> There are no native apps [..]

Google's NativeClient gives you native apps.

SJVN and the like are more about bashing Microsoft and Windows down rather than championing for user or developer freedom. SJVN knows what kind of articles bring the most hits and looking at his previous articles,seems to writing precisely such kind of articles.

Stallman, on the other hand, is remarkably consistent and sticks to his principles. I doubt he'd be happy with the Chromebook

> The answer is not "because it has a developer switch on the back to install Ubuntu"; you can do that on a Windows PC as well.

Not for $249 and not on ARM.

Funny that Linux is everywhere in the form of Android and Chrome OS, but for all the efforts of Linux on the Desktop, it just isn't terribly successful. Is it a marketing thing? By all measures, Ubuntu (preinstalled) on a laptop is more functional than Chrome OS, or is the continuation of the dumbification of computing interfaces?

I think the problem with Linux was that it has no argument for it.

Everything is just "it's just like Windows and Mac OS, except it's not" and not always equates to "free, open source, no cost, no licence fees, customizable, faster, etc..." but never anything that was a true blue selling point.

To the users that have the know how to switch to Linux, all it sounds like is a slight upgrade over their existing setup with less software support.

I think Chrome OS is slowly getting attention because it gets out of your way completely. No setup, no worries about losing files, extremely low risk of viruses or malware, you already understand it, and it's the easiest to leave in case you don't like it.

This. I have more than one friend who says that what they have works, plus they want to play games.

EDIT: I have trouble explaining to them that the "slight upgrade" is probably an unbelievable improvement in many aspects. (But a significant downgrade in many others.)

IMO, X-windows is the culprit.

The lack of a real winner takes all windowing solution on Linux means everyone has their different flavor of desktop, all of which are slightly different everywhere. And not like Android different, far worse as far as fragmentation goes, especially sound (if you feel like pointing out sound isn't part of the user interface, I'm going to point out you're not the person who feels undeserved by Linux as is).

I predict Android on the desktop before Linux on the desktop, and if Linux comes to the desktop, it will come mostly from the work of VALVe saying "This is in" and "This is out" and pick the winners and merge them together into a cohesive whole.

The existence of X has nothing to do with the multitude of desktop environments. At all. In fact they are almost all working or working to port over to Wayland/Weston already anyway.

Why on God's earth would someone want Android on a desktop machine?

Why does there need to be one dominant DE anyway? The day that happens is the day the core base of Linux users ditches Linux. It flatly will never happen. You think KDE is going to one day just say "okay GNOME, we quit"?

>Why does there need to be one dominant DE anyway?

Because, if a company is going to write software to run on lots of machines and be closed sourced like most commercial software, it is going to require a pretty stable target to run on.

When there are 25 different popular Linux configurations, it is prohibitively expensive to test them all for the number of individual users for each configurations.

> You think KDE is going to one day just say "okay GNOME, we quit"?

No, I think game/software vendors are going to ignore one or the other, following the lead of someone like valve. Then that one will become very niche, like the BSDs

The problem is the GUI. X with multiple widget toolkits laid over it and a desktop environment laid over that is a lot of moving parts that can go wrong.

Android and ChromeOS and TiVo and your embedded-Linux toaster don't have this problem. They don't need to run legacy X applications and have monolithic GUI's built from the ground up.

So, the dumbification of the computer. That's fine, I guess. I'll be the old foagie at the age of 25 who actually owns a real computer that can do more than one thing at one time.

Funny that people applaud these "simple" interfaces but whine and moan about gnome-shell embracing a simple, full-screen app, full-screen launcher model...

I'm talking about simplicity of implementation, not interface.

The fact that you use a windowing system that was designed for remoting but not displaying wigets for not-remoting but displaying widgets does not make you (or me) smarter.

I don't understand what X's network transparency has to do with any of this...

It makes testing software damn hard. You can't justify testing 25 configurations of Linux. There just aren't enough dollars there to justify it.

Chromebook and android each present relatively fewer targets to shoot at.

It has a lot to do with diversity: Android and Chromebook are (mostly) the same thing. With desktop Linux, you're supporting every different distribution, hardware, driver, and custom configuration.

>Android and Chromebook are (mostly) the same thing

What do you mean?

Probably in regards to how they're licensed and sold. A chromebook is approved by Google and Chrome OS is developed to run on it. Android is compiled per device so that nothing will break, done by the manufacturer.

The only way to get this popular is to have nice devices sold with the OS installed. Too few people install their own to matter.

It's probably been said over and over again, but the problem is that Linux (or I guess Ubuntu) isn't really easy to use for the non-tech type. It's an OS that gives you an interface to your computer, not an OS that will get out of the way and just help you do what you need to do. However, after switching to Mac, I've realized Windows is not really easy to use either, but that's been kind of shoved down people's throats since they were young, so people kind of know their way around it.

Dumbification does imply simplification though so I think it's generally a right direction and may be one factor that makes ChromeOS appealing (the problem there though is that it lacks a few fundamental features right now, but that's more easily fixable).

>not an OS that will get out of the way and just help you do what you need to do

Huh? Unity, especially with auto-hide is literally more out-of-your-way than any other Desktop Environment in any Operating System I can think of. (And I don't even like Unity, I like Cinnamon and Elementary which are very similar to the Windows XP/7 and OS X style desktop environments.)

I'm just really exhausted of non-specific "it's hard to use". (Keep in mind I was specifically talking about pre-installed, though the Windows/Ubuntu installers are nearly the same). If I asked someone to install iTunes in Windows versus install Rhythmbox in Ubuntu, I know which would be easier for someone who had never used either before. Go to a website, download an EXE, bypass the scary security prompt, walk through a six step installer asking about location, menu entries and more. Or open Software Center, type "music player", pick one and click "Install".

If "it's hard to use" because people are used to Windows, I throw my hands up, there's no way to reply to that.

>If "it's hard to use" because people are used to Windows, I throw my hands up, there's no way to reply to that.

That's basically the answer. That and it's hard to use because most of the software in a windows power users toolkit is windows only. So using Linux for them is like using windows and wishing for bash.

>So using Linux for them is like using windows and wishing for bash.

A very eye-opening analogy and one that I can obviously more than sympathize with. (Although Git kindly installs Git Bash now which is appreciated.)

Yes, I think Unity is slightly better, but another problem with most Linux distros is that when things break, it's way harder to fix that on Windows, and in my experience they seem to break all that time after even just a month of use.

Yea, I did make the point above that Windows is not easy to use either (heck imo it's worse that Linux now), but people are just used to it, so it's perceived to be easier to use. For your example on Mac though, you simply just drag and drop which is by far the simplest.

>Yes, I think Unity is slightly better, but another problem with most Linux distros is that when things break, it's way harder to fix that on Windows, and in my experience they seem to break all that time after even just a month of use.

More hand-waving. Don't know what to tell you, I've been using Ubuntu for years and I've never had anything break, certainly not magically on it's own as you seem to be implying. This stinks of FUD.

>For your example on Mac though, you simplyt just drag and drop which is by far the simplest.

Oh come on. The newest version of OS X requires that you ignore a huge security prompt, manually disable GateKeeper!!!, download a DMG, double click the DMG, know that you need to drag that App.app to your /Applications/ folder and then run it... clicking through yet another a security prompt telling you that you downloaded it from the Internet.

The "app store" model that Ubuntu deployed years ago via USC is so popular that it's the model that iOS, Android, WP7, Windows 8, and now even OS X push as their primary app distribution and installation route...

I can't count the number of times I've had to boot to graphics failsafe mode to fix graphics drivers after a kernel update. I've never managed to get my motherboard to output sound correctly in Ubuntu, no how many different variations of installing, purging, and reinstalling packages I do.

Windows in failsafe is a lot more user friendly (safe mode, startup repair, etc.) than Linux's "dump you into a terminal" approach.

The problem with Windows's safe mode is that when something is really broken it tends to not boot. So while Linux safe mode is less user friendly it at least works when you really need it.

This is based on my anecdotal experience so can be specific to my software/hardware setups.

You open your comment with acknowledging that X will fallback to VESA and then end it with the FUD that linux "dumps you into a terminal".

DKMS should prevent kernel updates from borking anything, and so far I've handled all kernel updates from 10.04->now with no issues and that includes several custom built and installed kernels too.

Also, I'll even grant that getting the initial setup is hard, (but then again, so is the nightmare of downloading drivers for a laptop that has no ethernet port in Windows).

> the initial setup is hard

Do you see what you're saying here? It means that the proven setup you describe here needs to be attained by the user. This is not something an average user will be able to do and even the tech crowd has many difficulties with it as shown in the other postz here.

And I disagree that it's the same as a clean windows install. See, for a clean install in windows I have a relatively well working to do list: the device manager. Yes I have to download the drivers manually, but IMO the package approach has one fatal flaw when it comes to built-in devices: which one will work for my hardware? If I just try, will removal still work afterwards? Usually it comes down to finding a community tutorial (which are often quite good, I admit). Of course, this difference comes from the fact, that most hardware vendors don't fully support linux. Ubuntu has made lots of progress here in that it tries to install the correct packages itself, but for bleeding edge hardware you're often out of luck.

Here's an idea: How about a webfrontend for that hardware auto configuration, Ubuntu uses? It would map some kind of hardware signature to package name, has some community mode built in as well as the vendor approved configurations (e.g. if distro+vendor mode fails, activate community. which configuration is pulled is being determined by 'votes' (does your sound work now? yes/no).

That already exists.

For Ubuntu?

The first time I used Ubuntu I loved it, except to fix my desktop resolution I had to google around and edit xorg.conf with a text editor.

You've never had anything in the same Linux distro break after years of use? Seriously? Somehow I find that hard to believe. Even the most skilled Linux users have had things break on them. Just to name a few, PulseAudio used to (maybe still does) have tons of issues such as sound simply not working anymore after a reboot (I had to just uninstall it, so it just used Alsa all the time), package managers get messed up after version upgrades (apt-get vs aptitude) and give you unresolvable dependencies (happens often when libc is upgraded), X window servers get busted all the time too (even just using tmux will mess up your DISPLAY variable sometimes). Google any of these issues, and you'll see tons of people having the same problems. Maybe you're a genius and can fix these problems right away, but not everybody is like you.

You also talked about OSX's new security features. You don't need to do any of that if the App is signed, it's just double click install (though most are drag and drop). For Apps that are less popular, yes you'd have to disable gatekeeper, but that's not much worse than having to add custom PPA's on Linux (those cause a lot of issues too oftentimes).

I'm all for Ubuntu becoming an awesome viable desktop replacement, and it's come a long way, but (for me) there's far too many annoyances for now so I'm sticking to OSX for my main machine. I do think it's probably better than Windows now though.

"Even the most skilled Linux users have had things break on them"

I had Windows giving me more breaking problems than Linux, by far. All my windows machines broke after months of intense work and had to re install them, even win7. The most stable has been my macs through.

"Maybe you're a genius and can fix these problems right away, but not everybody is like you."

Well, I'm not a genius but I have a secret. When I buy a machine I look for good compatibility with Linux inside. It works great. You save lots of work in the future with such simple things. Now it is even simpler to choose hardware that works great with Linux.

I've had these problems with PulseAudio. When I ran Ubuntu 7.04. It was a known bug, that I believe was fixed before 8.04, but perhaps I'm wrong.

Either way, Linux installations don't rot in the same way that Windows installations do - mostly because the Gnome people did not manage to infect the Linux crowd with the "registry" mentality. And partly because NTFS is so much worse than ext3.

Quite true. The problem is that non-tech type is not a young market anymore. Young are savvier than ever on both hardware and software and it is quite cool among college goers to say "I am on linux man".

Interesting times indeed. Gonna get harder for MS/Apple to make money off this turf it seems.

"it is quite cool among college goers to say "I am on linux man". [...] Gonna get harder for MS/Apple to make money off this turf it seems."

The same college goers tend to buy MacBooks, so I think Apple will be just fine.

I have seen a couple of kids rave about how much "love Apple has poured into its interfaces..." (yes, that is actual statement) and yet with Steve gone, there seems lack of right leadership or a visionary up there. So "linux for me!", even though at the back of the mind it was still about saving those dollars.

This is the picture I have seen so far. En masse? Well only time would tell.

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