Dude, where’s my Zonbu?

July 25, 2007

I ordered my Zonbu a while ago.

A few days ago I received a notice saying it would be shipping shortly. So I waited. I can pretend to be patient.

Strangely, I haven’t seen any sign of a tracking number which is really e-commerce 101.

Ah, they just sent me an e-mail saying that the units are expected to ship later in the week? Hmm, so they started their PR campaign and either weren’t ready to ship (pessimistic me) or have completely sold out their stock already and are waiting for more (optimistic me)?

Either way, a bit of a snafu in this age of immediate gratification.

Back to waiting…

-Mr. Zonbu


Momentum matters, does Zonbu’s Linux choice?

July 25, 2007

When I started this blog I said I wasn’t going to get to delve too deeply in to the Linux distribution that underpins the overall Zonbu service…

I am going to take some time and explore the decision they made, other major choices in the market and the impact their choice may have on marketability, flexibility and user perception.

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Computer Shopper builds a $250 Linux PC

July 24, 2007

Well, considering my recent ruminations on the low-end PC market (and the still high expense of an LCD monitor), it was timely to discover that over at Computer Shopper they’ve put together a complete PC, less monitor, for $250. Coincidentally the cost of the Zonbu unit when you don’t sign on for their subscription storage service.

Interestingly, their OS of choice is Ubuntu. More on this tomorrow…

-Mr. Zonbu

Zonbu LiveCD & Business Model Questions

July 24, 2007

I’ve been thinking more today about the Zonbu business model.

I’m not sure that I can tell you what business they are in. The hardware is OEM’ed, the data storage is outsourced to Amazon S3 and the software is based on Gentoo Linux with broad community support. Sure its customized and optimized, but the core software suite is from Linux-land, not Zonbu.

So they don’t make hardware, they don’t make software and they don’t run a data center that provides storage. Either it’s the ultimate web 2.0 business model, or they lack what the VC’s like to call “barriers to entry”.

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How much power does your desktop PC use?

July 23, 2007

The Zonbu team make a big deal out of the low power consumption of the hardware they sell.

Not only does low power consumption have financial and ecological benefits, but it conveniently lets them chase the Toyota Prius (and amazingly Lexus LS hybrid) “I want to be ecological because its fashionable” crowd. Now I’ve got nothing against being eco-friendly, but I’ll be honest, I’m taking a serious look at this because, like many of you out there, I am alarmed by rising energy costs.

Presumably, the idea of fashion conscious buyers wasn’t lost on them either as they separately sell various “skins” to make your Zonbu all pretty or at least to make it match your handbag and your lap dog.

Where were we? Ah yes, power consumption…

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Hardware Observations and Alternate Sources

July 22, 2007

I don’t think the Zonbu team originate their hardware.

I’ve been playing with small form factor PCs and embedded systems for some projects I’m working on and in the process have run across many different options that appear very similar. In fact, while a lower processor spec, this appears to be very similar, including the case, to the Zonbu branded product:

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Ordering a Zonbu

July 22, 2007

Ordering a Zonbu appears to be relatively straight-forward. Typical e-commerce stuff via their website.

The one frustrating thing is that they don’t list a phone number anywhere on the site. At least not anywhere I could find. I actually had a question that wasn’t answered and I couldn’t ask it. I spent about 20 minutes looking and gave up. For a company that is aiming to be “plug and play” it would be helpful to allow at least some kind of pre-sales communication with real live people versus the ubiquitious web form and wait for a response model. Even an interactive IM session with someone would have solved my issue.

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What do we really use our PCs for day-to-day?

July 22, 2007

I originally ordered my Zonbu ostensibly to test-drive it for work.

Was it a viable replacement for PCs for our broadband users? Was it something we could either recommend for people with constant PC issues, or to new users who weren’t sure what to buy?

Better yet, could we somehow do a cell-phone style bundle and get more PCs in circulation and therefore more broadband accounts? These are the questions an evil broadband genius turns over in his mind…

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Mr. Zonbu makes his entrance

July 22, 2007

Hello everyone,

I recently read an article about a new silicon valley company called “Zonbu” who is selling a low cost/low power PC that they are positioning as an environmentally friendly desktop PC replacement. You can find their website here: http://zonbu.com/

Zonbu Mini-PC

I was intrigued. I think the green thing is seriously overplayed, but saving power always helps. In my neck of the woods I pay almost $.40 per kilowatt/hour so I’m probably a bit more motivated than most…

I watched a few YouTube videos, read a few reviews, listened to Chris Prillo prattle on excitedly about it as he unboxed and set up his trial unit (you can watch the video here) and decided to order one to see what all the hype is about.

Now, to be fair, I should mention I work in the broadband business and have exposure to a very wide variety of end users on a daily basis so I probably have a better idea than most about what the average broadband home user does and what hurdles they run in to. In fact, over the past few years I’ve been involved in a number of initiatives that have resulted in a significant reduction in our call volumes by introducing various solutions to help limit the impact of spyware and viruses on the network. Needless to say, a semi “locked down” but fully functioning Internet ready PC has its appeal.

Like many of you reading this, I also have various family members whose PCs I get called on to support. I was amused to read that Zonbu’s founder was motivated to pursue this particular project because he found it difficult to support his father’s windows PC (back in France) remotely from the US. It got me thinking, I should try this thing out and see if it really is a viable option. Which then got me thinking… What do I really use my home PC for? But more on that later..

Since this is 2007 and we live in a 24/7 reality TV, blog about it, nothing is private, “google is indexing the contents of your underwear drawer as you read this” world, I thought I might as well throw my hat in the ring and tell you if it really is suitable to replace a low end desktop PC used primarily for Internet access. Besides, if this lady can draw an audience and make a name for herself by being attractive and unpacking electronics at her kitchen table then I can probably at least elicit a few snickers…

What follows in this blog is my experience with the Zonbu, from ordering it, to musings while I await delivery, to installing it and attempting to use it for virtually all my daily computing tasks for at least a month. I’m not going to dissect the hardware (which isn’t really unique to Zonbu anyway – more on that later), or analyze the various apps, or get religious about the flavour of linux it runs or the apps available on it natively. I’m going to plug it in, hook it up, and tell you what happens.

Oh, and don’t be alarmed if you do come home from a movie Tuesday night and find two college kids in a Google Beetle are rifling through your underwear drawer with a flashlight and a digital camera. I wasn’t kidding…

-Mr. Zonbu