Linux Desktops

Amy Wohl writes about the market for Linux desktops: “Wed say the desktop Linux race is just getting started and whether its about devices or mainly about delivering function to existing desktops is yet to be determined. As to whether existing vendors the Dells, Gateways, and HPs will be the main desktop providers in a Linux desktop era or whether a new set of providers might arise its simply too soon to tell. In fact, its too soon to tell how important the Linux desktop is going to be, although many vendors and analysts are already predicting that outside of the highly penetrated North American and western European market, its likely to be an important player.”

The newsletter also has a letter by John McCreesh: “The most effective use of computing power is to put an absolute minimal hardware on a diskless terminal on the desktop, and do all the ‘real’ computing on shared central servers. Virtually all the PCs currently being thrown out by corporates could be used indefinitely as diskless terminals. Comparatively small servers can support surprisingly large numbers of users- simply because the available horsepower is being used efficiently. Holding all the user data and software centrally provides for an extremely cost-effective support model.”

This is exactly what Emergic Freedom does.

Adds McCreesh: “As all the software required to try out Linux terminal/server is available under open-source licenses, it’s very easy to try out. Pretty well any networked PC can be converted instantly into a dumb terminal simply by booting it from a suitable floppy. Load Linux onto a spare server – or even a good desktop PC, add the package of ‘glue’ from the LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project), and you can be up and running on a sustainable computing proof of concept without spending a cent. It’s an interesting exercise to try and see what the users think of the sustainable computing alternative. Reverting to Microsoft Windows is as easy as removing the boot floppies – but the chances are, you won’t want to do it. ”

Inherent in what John says is an interesting, incremental idea for targeting existing Windows users. Here’s a staged approach to get them to first try out Linux on the desktop and then even shift:

  • first, target email. Get email on Linux through Evolution, by booting through the floppy. No Windows, No Outlook, No Viruses. And that’s a big deal. Viruses are the biggest bane in a corporate network, most viruses come in via email, and using Linux eliminates that risk.

  • next, put OpenOffice and Mozilla under Windows. Both (the Windows versions) can run from the Linux Thick Server. Users can get familiar with them. This way, three key applications (email, office and browser) are now not dependent on Windows.

  • finally, switch Windows to Linux, using the thin client-thick server architecture. No need for the local hard disk or CDROM drive, no need to ever upgrade the hardware on the desktop.

  • Wireless Chips

    Writes SJ Mercury News on the various startups working to get new chips ready for the coming future:

    In the not-too-distant future, a single box in your home will be able to send different cable channels and Web sites to multiple screens over a wireless network. Your car will eventually be able to download maps, MP3 music files and detailed traffic reports as you drive by specified “info-fueling” stations.

    These advanced wireless applications, powered by a communications standard known as 802.11a, are in development now, with many chip makers working on cramming combinations of radio technology and digital signal processing onto pieces of silicon small enough and cheap enough to be used in all kinds of devices.

    US Tech Lagging Behind?

    Writes CNN: “What has top executives of arguably the world’s two most important tech companies saying that the U.S. may soon cede its tech leadership? Three fundamental concerns: what both see as a disastrous diminution in national commitment to IT research and development, a dearth of engineering graduates, and the low penetration of broadband compared with other countries.” Look East.

    TECH TALK: Technology’s Next Markets: Why WiFi

    Tech Talk: What are the alternatives for connectivity? Why are you recommending WiFi?

    Deviant Entrepreneur: Of course, there are many options for the last-mile connectivity cable modems, ADSL, leased lines, even dial-up. The first three options require wires/cables to be laid, and that may not always be easy. In todays world, wireless is the way to go that is where innovation is happening at a rapid base, and we want to ride the wave. The backbones, connecting various wireless hubs across neighbourhoods, will have optical fibre. But WiFi remains the best possible option keeping the future in mind.

    There are two other reasons for using WiFi. Firstly, it uses open spectrum, so there are no licence fees applicable. In India, the government has still not permitted the use of 2.4 Ghz outside of a local setting, but hopefully, that is likely to happen soon. The 3G-type wireless alternatives require a huge infrastructure and expensive spectrum, which will lead to costly solutions. 3G can be useful for mobility (when the end points are moving), but in our case, that is not a requirement.

    This brings us to the second advantage. WiFi enables the build-out of grassroots, bottom-up networks. That was the way the Internet was constructed. Individual entrepreneurs can set up the wireless hubs in their neighbourhoods. That is the way a whole country can be connected up rapidly.

    In a white paper on Open Spectrum, Kevin Werbach explodes a number of myths:

    Wireless spectrum is scarce: If multiple users were allowed to dynamically share frequency bands, and to employ cooperative techniques to improve efficiency, spectrum could be as abundant as the air in the sky or the water in the ocean.

    Massive capital investment is needed to exploit the spectrum: Licensed service providers such as cellular telephone operators and television broadcasters must build out expensive distribution networks before they can deliver services to customers. Often, they must also pay to obtain the spectrum itself in auctions. These huge capital expenditures must be recovered through service fees. In an unlicensed environment, by contrast, access to the airwaves is free and the most significant expensethe intelligent radiosare purchased directly by end-users.

    The future of wireless lies in third-generation (3G) systems: 3G represents a useful advance in cellular technology, but it is hardly a panacea. Spectrum and build-out costs for 3G will be enormous. Many of the wireless data services identified with 3G could be more efficiently delivered through short-range and meshed unlicensed technologies, with wide-area 3G service reserved for situations where those alternatives arent available.

    Wireless technologies are not viable solutions to the last-mile bottleneck: The last mile does pose special challenges for wireless systems. However, these challenges may be overcome through unlicensed systems that use long-range communications, wideband underlay or meshed architectures. With cable and telephone wires into the home controlled by dominant incumbents, and enormous capital required to extend fiber to every home, open spectrum represents the best hope for a facilities-based broadband alternative.

    Emerging markets are years behind on cost-effective, last-mile connectivity solutions need to catch up fast, and WiFi bridges the gap very well, positioning these markets as technology leaders. In fact, it helps them leapfrog to build out a ubiquitous, always-on, broadband wireless network.

    Next: The Software Edge