posted by Massimo Sandal on Thu 7th Jul 2005 20:14 UTC

"TuxMini, 3/3"

So, how could we push the TuxMini? We should emphasize:

  • Low cost. Ideally a TuxMini should cost no more than $400. It can be of course somehow bigger and noisier than a Mac Mini, but it should have a very slick and good design anyway.
  • Application availability. A TuxMini would come with preinstalled everything you need for your work, and more. That's what most GNU/Linux distributions usually do. Gaim, OpenOffice, K3b, Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird, XMMS, amaroK etc. are an obvious must, but we shouldn't forget for example P2P apps (aMule, Nicotine, Lopster), vector graphics (Inkscape), scientific packages that can attract technological students (Octave, R, LaTeX, Kile, MayaVI), HTML editors and FTP clients for bloggers and owners of home pages (NVU, gFTP). The majority of open source software is not "bloat" and it would not be confusing for our skilled "Firefox target". It would be wonderful added value, for free. A good network-enabled GUI wrapper to a package manager is a must, of course.
  • Internet safety. This is a common claim to encourage migration to GNU/Linux, and it's true and valuable (at least when dealing with viruses and spyware).
  • Coolness. GNU/Linux is cool. It's new (well, for new users it is), it has a nice logo, and it can have a good and beautiful desktop. Remember the "Think different" Apple slogan and push something analogous. Many Windows users I know just envy my KDE 3 desktop -and that's almost not customized. Preinstall nice SuperKaramba applets, to add coolness to the desktop experience. Let people see how beautiful the GNU/Linux desktop is now.
  • Customization. Install many different skins. Show to users that they can choose the desktop environment they prefer, if they like. Give them good defaults, but let them know they can control the machine.
  • Plug-and-play hardware upgrades. The TuxMini producer could also re-sell hardware -from webcams to printers to scanners to DVD-writers to TV cards- that are certified 100% GNU/Linux-friendly. This hardware should not be seriously more expensive than mainstream, as it happens with Apple upgrades. Remember we're targeting students and young workers mostly. One of the best and most overlooked values of GNU/Linux is that when GNU/Linux supports a piece of hardware, it just works. No driver installation needed. Things are painful if there's no full support, but by putting a large officially supported hardware suite along the TuxMini the problem should be erased.
  • Ideally the TuxMini should also feature hardware usable by almost every major GNU/Linux distribution without pain. This would allow advanced users to easily upgrade their machine with a new GNU/Linux OS without having to do complex configuration, or to use Knoppix as a rescue disk. The distribution installed should be probably a mainstream desktop oriented distribution -Mandriva probably, or Xandros, or Ubuntu- with a large software repository, good free documentation and an active, established community where to look for advice and help. In this way TuxMini users can feel at home in already populated forums and find coherent advice. The producers could also encourage the formation of a TuxMini community, anyway. The shiny example to look for this should be the Gentoo community.

    The final thing the TuxMini would need is: advertisement. Microsoft does advertising, Apple does advertising. I don't see advertising for GNU/Linux on the desktop. This must somehow change. While it is hard for it to change now, while the distribution market is owned by tiny companies with limited budgets and bigger corporations that have little interest in the young userís desktop, it would be a necessity for the TuxMini hardware vendor. The world should become suddenly aware that a brand new cool alternative exists, for cheap. It should be aware of a cool design and a cool marketing campaign that promotes GNU/Linux.

    What I want to stress in conclusion is that GNU/Linux is ready for this. Now. It just can need some minor polishing, but nothing a smart GNU/Linux distributor cannot easily achieve. We struggled for years, but now we have a functional GNU/Linux desktop. Hardware makers, please listen to me: it's true. We have it. There is a market that is not fully satisfied with Windows, and not fully satisfied by Apple. We have the alternative. This is a big opportunity for us all. Don't waste it.

    About the author:
    Massimo Sandal, a.k.a. dev/urandom, is a Ph.D. student in Molecular Biology in Italy. He is a GNU/Linux desktop user with an interest in free software promotion and operating systems development and future (Yes, he is practically the plain, classic OSNews geek). GNU/Linux really put back the fun into computing for him, and he will never be grateful enough.

    If you would like to see your thoughts or experiences with technology published, please consider writing an article for OSNews.
    Table of contents
    1. "TuxMini, 1/3"
    2. "TuxMini, 2/3"
    3. "TuxMini, 3/3"
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