|FROM ||Ruben I Safir
|SUBJECT ||Subject: [hangout] Consumer Reports on Walmart Systems
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Date: Sun, 15 Jun 2003 12:59:24 -0400
From: Ruben I Safir
Subject: [hangout] Consumer Reports on Walmart Systems
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List: New Yorker GNU Linux Scene
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I looked forward to your review of the sub $200 Walmart Computers running GNU/Linux as an operating system and was deeply disapointed in the depth of your review, less than 8 short paragraphs, and the lack of invistigation of the usability of the system. In fact, I was shocked that Consumer Reports published such a poorly written evaluation of the Walmart product.
Both the content of the critique and the level of inquiry was badly lacking, leaving me scratching my head wondering exactly what it was that you guys tested. The individual who wrote this mini-artcle report should be let go from your staff. This report gave nothing of the depth I'm used to looking at when reading Consumer Report artciles on stereo equiptment or automobiles. Where are all those neat little graphs you usually make?
More to the point, in terms of the content of the report, that which there might have been, you reaction to the systems seem to be nothing more than, 'Well, it's not like Windows' and for sure, these little $200 computers are indeed nothing like Microsoft products.
For one thing, your article says that the these computers have not been easy to use. I have no criteria on which to judge this on, and you provide no support for this statement in your article. We have used these computers both in our home with our children, and in our schools. Everyone finds them easier to use than either Machintoch OS X or Windows. My kids use the computers to death for homework, art, music, and games. The greatest thing about the computers is that each of my children get their own account on the machine and password. This prevents the kids from fighting. We have 3 of them in the house for less than the cost of a single Dell Computer. Each computer was purchased with the Mandrake version of the operating system. The computers were all plug and play into the home DSL network. Our children have learned how to use different machines, and still use their own desktops, no matter where they work.
We all learned how to use the computers very quickly, and setting up our email took only a few moments. In addition, we found a little more than 500 preinstalled programs and downloaded dozens of others in seconds, as we needed them. I've been nothing but amazed at the variety of useful programs that we have.
Your article said that the 'Lindows directory and file naming conventions are very different'. It would have been nice if you had explained what you mean by this because as far as we can tell, there is no file naming convonsion in the Walmart box. We can name files anything. However, the convensions, such as they are, are the same as they are on every other computer. Our graphics are called .gif, or .jpg, and our music files are called .mp3. So without a specific example, we have no idea what naming conventions Microsoft uses which is meaningfuly different.
As for a directory structure, I could never tell you what the directory structure was on our MS Windows based computers, or on our Macs. Files just seem to be tossed around everywhere and anywhere. I've often had to spend hours looking for files for Microsoft Word, especially label and form letters. We chould never find them when we wanted to share them and I always ended up having to mail them in Microsoft Word to my wife in the same house, just so that she could find a copy.
With the Wallmart GNU/Linux computers, I no longer loose any files at all. Everything is right were I put it, in my home direcotry. Easy, simple, and practicle to use. In fact, this letter is exactly /home/ruben/docs/consumer_reports.swx. It says so exactly right in my word processor. For anyone who spends as much time as I do behind a keyboard, I'm without understanding how the rest of the world survives.
Your comments about hardware is interesting, but we haven't had this problem. We only buy hardware that we know works with the computer, and we've never been disapointed. We have a nice TV card which works, 2 HP scanners, a USB mouse, and 3 printers. We were also able to set up a fax system in a few minutes and hooked up the Sony Hi8 video camera without any trouble. My firend, however, purchased without asking Dell first, for his Dell Dimension, a HP all in one Officejet fax scanner and printer. It's never worked right for him. When we called Dell, they blamed HP. HP blamed Microsoft, and Microsoft wouldn't respond to our inquiry without charging us $40 for phone support.
Another thing we've found which makes the computer simpler to use is that we don't need and virus software. As far as we can tell, the computers have no need. I used to have to struggle every day with this stupid mail virus proble. Since we switched to the Wallmart machines, we've not suffered this problem at all. Occationally we need to update our computer through the internet. I do it every Saturday night with 3 clicks of my mouse. It's easy and simply. We've even found a great group of people on the internet to help us when we have questions. We chat with people real time, and get quick basic answers. I've been amazed how helpful the community has been. This is how our children learned to use their files over the network around the house. They use an AT&T program called 'tightvnc'. I've been told people pay large somes of money for this same feature which we got for free.
>From the point of view of a consumer, we've had a great value for our money. We'll got a computer for $239 including delivery. We saved $200 on the operating system. We saved nearly $400 on Microsoft Office with Open Office.org. We saved $200 on Quickbooks with gnucash. We also set up PHPGroupware for a great calendering program, and got a world class graphics program which seems to be better than PhotoShop in the GIMP. In fact, I estimated that the software we use every day would have cost us over $5000 including programs which are as good as or better than alternatives Quicken, Excel, Office, Word, Outlook, Citrix, Outlook, PhotoShop, Internet Explorer, Media Player, Real Player, AIM, Act, Powerpoint, Visio, Publisher and more.
I believe that part of the problem with you evaluation of these systems is that you worried about what these computers aren't. And this is the falt of Lindow, which originally made unsubstantiated claims about the interoperability of Microsoft applications in the GNU desktops. In fact, Lindows has been taken to task on this matter several times, which is why we chose to use the Mandrake preinstalled versions. Lindows has tried to sell the public that the typical Windows user wouldn't notice any difference between a Windows system over a good GNU/Linux system. Certainly there is a sizable difference between the two systems, but nothing which would prevent a normal user from using the GNU/Linx systems productively.
To then print, however, as you did, that one would be better to purchase a sizably more expensive Microsoft system, you have to do a much better job of documenting yourself. All those Microsoft programs cost a lot of money, and this is before virus problems and forced upgrades. I can see no way that you would be able to justify a recommendation of buying a Windows computer over these great Wallmart GNU/Linux computers. After all, even reading mail and writing letters make up a great bulk of the common software use. These give you a lot. In fact, they give you a lot more for less.Linux gives you more for your money in almost every respect.
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