gOS is a problem for Zonbu, but not because gOS is good right now…

gOS logoI only have time for a brief update, but I did spend an hour or so last night playing with the gOS that is shipping on the $189 Ever machines available at Walmart and other places.

It represents a major problem for Zonbu. And not because its good right now, it’s not ready for prime time. Virtually every edge of it is rough and I would say it is six to twelve months behind where the Zonbu OS stack is (although it does have a few “eye candy” things that make it look polished at first glance).

Because the low cost desktop Linux space is at a critical inflection point, if the gOS team (who have secured the holy grail of retail distribution with Walmart et al.) don’t execute well, they could give the entire market space a back eye.

While I can’t comment on the Everex hardware (other than to say I’d enjoy more processing power in the Zonbu, and the Everex is higher spec), the software just isn’t ready for “regular” end users. Especially not in the way the Zonbu OS is. This means that a lot of people could rapidly get turned off after spending a few hundred dollars to bring a PC in to their daily lives – leaving them with a negative impression that Linux isn’t ready for the desktop of that its too hard to use/too unstable/not intuitive etc. Not good…

A few items that I had problems with (and note I was running this on my AMD 3800+ desktop with an ATI X1950Pro graphics card):

    Despite being a Via centric distribution, it wouldn’t boot on the Zonbu properly. Or rather it did, but the graphics chipset in the Zonbu is the CX700 versus the CN700 in the Everex machine. One letter difference, but a big problem. I couldn’t get a working X desktop.This is an Ubuntu problem, but USB keyboards don’t work at the initial CD menu. Regardless, I was able to boot it on my full PC desktop.A Flash player was not installed by default (kind of silly for a web centric OS at this point), however it was literally only two clicks, after auto-prompting me, before it was installed.I really liked the Launch bar across the bottom of the screen, it had some intelligent sideways scrolling and it was attractive to use, however it lacked any textual descriptions – so if you don’t know what the icons are you’ll find it difficult to navigate. Also, unlike Vista, which shows you thumbnails (on hover) or description of a minimized window, on gOS if you have multiple windows like Firefox minimized you have to maximize each one to find what you’re looking for. Not useful.

    For some reason they decided to use MacOS style minimize, maximize and close buttons for all windows. Worse, they put them in the upper left hand corner instead of upper right (maybe thats a Mac thing?). Either way, bad idea. If 95% of the world is used to the windows layout with those buttons in the URHC, don’t mess with it. Zonbu has this down pat, the gOS guys need to seriously reconsider this change.

    The wheel on my wheel mouse did not work. It is almost 2008, I mean c’mon.

    WMV files played but they were green and unwatchable. Definitely a codec problem. I also have problems playing back mpeg movie files which repeatedly crashed Firefox. If you’re a web OS you have to have media down pat. Especially since every man and his dog is adding media to their site today.

    X did crash on multiple occasions but did recover gracefully to the login screen.

    And one thing I did like, using the Synaptic package manager I was easily able to add the Putty SSH client with only a few clicks. The ability to install software was nice to have, and worked as you would expect under Ubuntu.

Overall I’d give it a 5/10. In its current state, I would say gOS is part of the family of “classic” linux distributions where huge assumptions are made (not necessarily conciously) about the knowledge level and experience of the end user. It starts off looking nice and within a few minutes you’re confused and can’t do what you want.

It is definitely not ready for low-end retail or volume distribution. On the up side, it has potential and is visually appealing. With a lot of work and a step back to ask questions about what the typical users will need, it has potential. However, a lot of the “nuts and bolts” polish that you find in the Gnome based Ubuntu has vanished in this release.

Is there a chance for the visual punch of gOS to be introduced in the Zonbu. I think the “Enlightenment E17 Desktop” might be a nice addition to the Zonbu, or at least a nice alternate desktop and should be explored. I’ve talked about the need to add a nice launcher bar or other widgets in past posts.

Perhaps the two teams should try and work together, as I’ve suggested before, to create the ultimate Via C7 distribution. Back in August I wrote that Zonbu should stick its flag in the ground and take that position. That has remained one of our most read posts. Now that possibility is under siege from a distro that, in its current form, could hurt all the players in the Via space.

Zonbu needs to conside this and make some strategic moves. And fast. Arguably the Zonbu is a much more suitable product for Walmart but we’ve yet to see any retail strategy emerge from Zonbu world HQ. Hopefully this will change soon.

-Mr. Zonbu

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7 Responses to gOS is a problem for Zonbu, but not because gOS is good right now…

  1. greggish says:

    Very good review of gOS. I was going to download and burn CD myself until I saw it required a DVD by a few MBs and I didn’t have any DVR’s around. That was particualarly interesting to me about not being able to get x up and running on the Zonbu…

    “Despite being a Via centric distribution, it wouldn’t boot on the Zonbu properly. Or rather it did, but the graphics chipset in the Zonbu is the CX700 versus the CN700 in the Everex machine. One letter difference, but a big problem. I couldn’t get a working X desktop.”

    I had suspected that there would be a serious difference between what would be needed to support the cx700 vs.the common cn700 chipsets…

    https://mrzonbu.wordpress.com/2007/08/17/zonbu-the-via-c7-distro/#comment-471

    In order for Zonbu to follow your suggestion and plant their flag in the ground as THE VIA C7 distro it seems would require them now to build and maintain 2 distros, one for the rare CX700 of the Zonbu and another for everybody else’s CN700 boxes. A giant inefficient duplication of resources.

  2. C Litka says:

    RE: “For some reason they decided to use MacOS style minimize, maximize and close buttons for all windows. Worse, they put them in the upper left hand corner instead of upper right (maybe thats a Mac thing?). Either way, bad idea. If 95% of the world is used to the windows layout with those buttons in the URHC, don’t mess with it. Zonbu has this down pat, the gOS guys need to seriously reconsider this change.”

    I read an interesting article here: http://www2.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/news/2007/11/02/linux-innovation-missing

    on why it might be a very good idea to have a linux desktop look different than a windows desktop. It may save a company a lot of lawyers’ fees down the road.

  3. Bob says:

    Have you had a play with Fluxbuntu, as previously mentioned? The reviews you write are extremely digestible, and it seems (to me) that it’s the really lite ubuntu-derived distro that might be challenging the ZonOS?

  4. greggish says:

    Here’s another review of the gPC and gOS…

    http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2007/11/hands-on-with-e.html

    Checkout the size of the tower they put that little motherboard in in the bottom pic…

    “It is immediately apparent how oversized the gPC’s solidly-constructed Midi tower is. Selected because Wal-Mart shoppers equate bigness with power, the enclosure is much larger than its contents.”

    I guess if Zonbu ever looked to get a distribution deal with Wal-Mart the first thing they would have to do is make the Zonbu 10x bigger lol

  5. greggish says:

    Curiosity got the better of me. I just ordered the gPC motherboard with CPU for $60 here

    http://www.clubit.com/product_detail.cfm?itemno=A4842001#

    I have an old case with PS, HD, CDRW, mouses and keyboards laying around, so I figured why not. I did have to also splurge $19 for a 512MB stick of DDR2 memory. So, for $79 I’m putting together my own gPC. Now I’ll have 2 low power devices to play with. I also want to compare the performance between this and the Zonbu.

  6. Bob says:

    Let us know how you get on with it! (Will you be trying to get it to mimic the S3 storage of the Zonbu too?)

  7. […] I think gOS is a victim of Ready, Fire, Aim! marketing. For gOS I think the equation was: Channel partner (Walmart) + Christmas buying season + pressure from Asus 3e PC and Zonbu = rush it to market and hurt everyone. As I said before, gOS is a problem for Zonbu, but not because it’s good right now… […]

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