Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The C64 Has Returned

I was reading through some news on Google and came across this article on The Commodore 64 is due to be rereleased with an Intel Core 2 Quad, 4GB RAM, a 500GB HDD, Intel chipset, and a bunch of other features. A peek at the Commodore website shows Ubuntu, Windows, OSX, Chrome, AROS, and Comodo OSs under the "OS" link at the top of the page. While OSX is not officially supported, you could install it with the aid of community developed kernel extensions (the graphics chipset and the NIC would not be supported OOB on 10.6) and the purchase of an EFI module or the use of Chameleon. The hardware is compatible. I am not certain how compatible the machine would be with AROS. Ubuntu and Chrome would run beautifully, I am sure. Windows is ... well... Windows. It doesn't run well on anything, but seeing as the C64 was primarily viewed as a gaming computer, it would be reasonable to use Windows on the thing.

I like that Commodore USA chose to keep the form factor and logo the same. I also like that the machine was not merely updated to current hardware, but that a lot of consideration was given to potential uses of the machine. Choosing common Intel hardware gives the public a lot of freedom with software. Even Solaris supports Intel chipsets these days. Amazing isn't it? I hope that this machine will push Linux forward in the public mind. It would help if Commodore made the Linux based machines cheaper than their Windows counterparts, considering the Linux costs them nothing financially (except the CD and electrical costs... which are still a price point with Windows, and with Windows you add license costs).

You'll be able to purchase one of these nostalgic machines on June 1st of this year. No word yet on the pricing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thoughts on Mainstream Linux Acceptance

As my readers have seen, my posts tend to focus more on market trends and such than they do on technical topics (though I have made posts regarding the latter a few times). Working in computer repair I meet a variety of people every day, and while I am ritualisticly astounded by the daftness of many, I do try to help those people figure out how to do what it is they wish to do. Often, this means that I simply remove viruses and the like from Microsoft systems. With Macintosh machines, it sometimes means simply installing packages that will add more functionality, and occasionally installing MacPorts and "port install"ing a few packages from the FOSS world. Sometimes I may have to replace hardware, but not frequently.

The thing that gets me in a bind here is that Linux would work for most of these people. The things that these people do on a daily basis would easily be handled by an install of Mandriva, PCLinuxOS, Ubuntu, or even Slackware (mmmm... Slackware, how I love thee). What halts me are two very simple things. First, I am forbidden by the owners of the company for which I work, to install Linux. Doing so would ensure that the customer never really needed to return. Second, people wouldn't understand something quite simple. With Linux, you cannot go to a store and buy boxed software, take it home and install it. While that doesn't seem hard to understand, most people really wouldn't get it. I am not saying that people are dumb, but most people simply do not care to learn about computers. They have other things to worry about, and that is why I have a job.

What I do see being good for Linux is the growing size of the Linux community. Eventually, a software vendor will decide to start releasing its software for the Linux platform as well as x86-64 Mac and Win32. A company such as Adobe or Microsoft would then be dictating which distribution became dominant, but you would see other vendors follow that lead, and Linux would come screaming into the mainstream rather quickly, and I would talk to my boss, and I would start recommending Linux machines. I have a feeling that others in my position would do the same. The money to be made would be in keeping these commercial applications running. As an update broke the app, I would be called upon to fix things so that the application would once again run. I can see that being very lucrative indeed. How often is that cry of distress heard by Ubuntu users?

Having machines sold with Linux pre-installed is important but it is not the key. Having applications ported to Linux, and having Linux applications on store shelves ready for customers who recently bought a Linux machine, now that is key. As Macintosh continues to become more and more popular, more and more people are beginning to understand that alternatives to Microsoft Windows platforms exist. They are also starting to understand the implications of leaving the Windows world. We can only hope that Linux begins being the default second platform instead of Macintosh.