The Zonbu needs to carve out a niche in the open source community.
While there are already a number of distributions focused on older/lower powered hardware, there is no distribution that has claimed the “Via C7 optimized” space.
The Zonbu, and many mini-itx form factor PCs, run an Intel-compatible processor from Via Technologies. This processor and the related chipset (providing sound, video, USB, networking etc), are not that well supported in the mainstream kernels and currently benefit from a number of patches and tweaks.
Patching the kernel is not something most people want to spend time on or have the technical chops to do.
I think Zonbu has a unique opportunity to position it’s OS stack as the optimal choice for anyone running on any flavor of the C7 hardware…
Carving out a niche
In the open source world, where Linux distributions abound, it is important to carve out a niche.
By taking all the Via C7 processor optimization expertise that they have developed internally (patching the kernel, tweaking parameters and so forth) and using that as the basis for a general release, Zonbu can demonstrate not only community involvement but also technical and thought leadership.
By sticking their flag in the ground and becoming the “source” for C7 optimized distributions (an Ubuntu version in addition to the stock Gentoo version), could go a long way in helping win mind-share with the tech-savvy early adopters who often use the C7 platform for things like media centers, MythTV, automobile PCs and so on.
Zonbu needs to show leadership and sponsorship of the driver for the embedded video controller in their box.
While it is great that the www.openchrome.org project is working on advancing the driver, however I think Zonbu needs to take a more proactive role.
The driver needs to be rapidly advanced so that it is more stable and reliable and so that it can take full advantage of the advanced graphical features of 3D desktop packages like Compiz Fusion. Zonbu needs to put up some serious bounties (in the thousands), to help make that happen.
I think a material contribution and sponsorship of the project, helping it mature and become part of the mainstream, would go a long way to improving the Zonbu’s flexibility and Zonbu’s mindshare in the space.
It looks like the audio chipset is well supported in the newest kernel & ALSA driver package so I don’t think there is much to do here, which is great All the major releases going forward should have default audio support.
I need to do more research on this one, but I’ve noticed one of the USB keys is wickedly fast when connected to the front of the unit, and another seems to run at 1.1 speeds.
They both run at full 2.0 speeds on my XP desktop. Something funny is going on there, so I’m not sure if it is a driver bug or what but I suspect optimization is needed here.
The Zonbu Desktop
The Zonbu desktop experience is a good one.
It is aimed at the mainstream, “average” user who wants to surf the web, do light office work, listen to music and manage digital photos. In short, what most of us spend 80% of our PC time doing.
By sticking their flag in the ground and taking the position that they are the C7 optimized platform, I think the Zonbu team can immediately start to see their product/service proliferate on to other, similar machines.
This will help expand the total audience and move the business forward.
The Zonbu Server
A final thought.
While not on target with becoming the ultimate ‘light’ home desktop, I think Zonbu should do a C7 optimized version of the Ubuntu Server Edition.
Power consumption in data centers is becoming a larger and larger issue. In fact, I’m actively replacing a number of machines in our facility with C7 based boxes. The machines in question are very low disk I/O machines but heavy network I/O.
By providing a server optimized C7 platform, Zonbu can further cement it’s position as the leader in optimizing Linux for lightweight platforms at a professional quality level.
That would make me a lot more comfortable deploying their desktop stack across my organization.
If Zonbu doesn’t “take this hill” soon, someone else will and a major opportunity for thought leadership will be lost.
Conversely, done right, Zonbu could own the Via C7 optimized Linux space, applying their expertise not only with the processor but with CF card data management, network storage and desktop optimization.
And that would be good for everyone.