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A Replacement for the i-Opener? 98

Posted by Cliff
from the a-no-hassle-internet-appliance dept.
kenh writes "For years my father has gotten along the Information Superhighway with just an i-Opener and an Earthlink account. However, the internet has moved too far ahead for his burned-in-ROM browser to be useful to him anymore, and dial-up is a bit slow these days. While investigating various options (Apple Macintosh, Knoppix Linux/Ubuntu Linux with USB key file storage, WebTV) I didn't find any that were very appealing, for a variety of reasons. Right now, I'm looking for something that has: dial-up support, no update/anti-virus/etc pop-ups, and no software 'update' downloads, support for PDFs, Flash, Javascript, and other features necessary to accommodate more modern websites. The i-Opener was 'foolproof', and if things went wrong, you could just shut it off and try again, Everything I see today lacks that ability (to varying extents)." What decent i-Opener replacements, if any, exist today?
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A Replacement for the i-Opener?

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  • Why buy a new one? (Score:3, Informative)

    by WebCrapper (667046) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @05:28AM (#16075026)
    Why not hack the i-opener? Linux-Hacker [linux-hacker.net] is the first link on Google for hacking i-openers.

    There are generally a few on eBay that are sold as hacked if you don't want to go through it yourself. Buy a hacked one, sell the old one for someone else to hack.

    I use to support these things while working for Earthlink/MindSpring. They're not that bad after you put Linux on them. I've thought of buying one myself just to throw in the corner for a stats setup for my network, computers and hosting servers - just don't have the time.
  • VMWare (Score:5, Informative)

    by Laurentiu (830504) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @07:20AM (#16075175)
    How about the Browser Appliance [vmware.com] from VMWare? It sounds like everything you need; you can have it started automatically when the machine is started, and everything should be good. You can have anything you want underneath; set it once and never touch it again.
  • iMac G3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @07:57AM (#16075257) Homepage
    The "internet appliance" market has been a bust. Many have tried it but WebTV was the only one to have any success. It's because full-featured computers (even running Windows) aren't that much harder to use than the single-function machines. There's probably also some stigma to using an appliance because it implies that you're too stupid to use a "real" computer. And ultimately, because all the appliances have crashed and burned in the market, you have to give up on them get "real".

    At the college where I do tech support we have a number of instructors (especially the older ones) who are not technologically inclined, but they need to do their grading on our web site, so they need a device that runs a modern web browser supported by our portal software. We're an art school, so we have a bunch of old G3-powered iMacs sitting around, and that's what we give them. Install OS X on them (they'll all run Panther; the oldest ones can install Tiger using a utility called XPostFacto), set it to auto-run Safari or Firefox when the machine starts, and voila: a generally trouble-free web browsing system in a friendly-looking package. Even a leisurely 233MHz G3 is fast enough and 128-256MB RAM should be plenty for web browsing. (Bump it to 320 or more if you want to also install NeoOffice.)

    You didn't say why you'd eliminated a Mac as an option, and this pretty much meets your requirements. Yes, OS X does have a Software Update app that periodically prompts the user to install the latest security fixes and requires him to click some license agreements for them, but if you have to disable that to avoid confusing/annoying Dad or because he's on a slow dial-up line, it'll probably be OK (certainly moreso than an un-updated Windows machine). Firefox's updates might be annoying but they're quick and easy. An iMac isn't instant-on (especially not a G3), but if you let it Sleep instead of shutting it down it will be.
  • Pepper Pad (Score:5, Informative)

    by smagoun (546733) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @09:05AM (#16075426) Homepage
    Have you looked at the Pepper Pad [pepper.com]? Unlike the i-Opener it's portable (2.2lbs, built-in Wi-Fi so you can use it on your couch). Our third version, the Pepper Pad 3, has an x86 chip + runs a variant of Fedora Core. The software is based on Firefox 1.5. It includes Flash and Acrobat plugins, and has a popup blocker. It starts shipping this month.

    We've designed the Pad and its software to be an appliance. The user never needs to interact with the underlying OS, although it is an option for those who want to. While we do provide software updates on a regular basis, the Pad can be configured not to get them.

    Disclaimer: I work for Pepper.
  • Re:Quick fix (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheZorch (925979) <thezorch.gmail@com> on Sunday September 10, 2006 @09:20AM (#16075485) Homepage
    Get a Mac Mini or iMac. With a small dongle attachment the Mac Mini can be attached to any television with S-Video. You'd get one hell of a Internet Browsing computer along with a top quality Media Center at the same time by using Front Row (comes with every Mac). The iMac has its onw built-in screne.

    Appliances for browsing the web like i-Opener and MSN-TV (formerly WebTV) are basically dead.
  • Re:replacement? (Score:3, Informative)

    by michrech (468134) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @09:39AM (#16075552)
    I happen to think what the submitter wants is a Windows PC (if he's familiar with Windows, that is) with Deep Freeze [faronics.com]. This way, the submitter could set the PC up the "way it should be" for pop, pop can play around on 'teh intartubes', and upon reboot, the machine is back "to normal", no matter what pop does to it.

    You can even set up what DF calls a "thawed space", where pop could store the .PDF's he needs access to, any documents he creates, etc.

    When the PC needs updates, son can come over, thaw the machine, update the software, and freeze the PC again.

    We use it in my place of work for several laptops that get checked out to students. They complain about losing doucments they create, but if they'd read the freakin' desktop background (which warns them to use a USB key, a CD-R, or the thawed space), they wouldn't have that problem.

    I don't know how much this software would cost for an individual (heck, I don't even know how much my employer paid for it), but it would do what he is wanting. There should even be a demo available at the linked page so the submitter (or anyone else, for that matter) can test it out before they buy.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 10, 2006 @10:03AM (#16075659)
    Seems to fit all your requirements.

    http://www.amd.com/us-en/ConnectivitySolutions/Pro ductInformation/0,,50_2330_12264_12262,00.html [amd.com]

    There's at least one on ebay for $150.

  • Re:2 solutions (Score:2, Informative)

    by empaler (130732) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @10:13AM (#16075717) Journal
    Damn Small Linux (wonderful distro) has a small shop selling ready-built diskless Mini-ITX systems - just add a USB key with DSL on it and you're good to go. Of course, at $281 for systems like this [damnsmalllinux.org] you could go buy the parts yourself and have a surplus amount of cash for Wasabi nuts, but meh, if you don't have the time...
    They even have a completely fanless computer [damnsmalllinux.org].

    (I am in no way affiliated with the DSL team unless you count recurring donations)
  • by couchslug (175151) on Monday September 11, 2006 @02:38AM (#16079356)
    A natural hack would be to add an IDE/CF adapter and run a "frugal install" (see the Damn Small Linux forums for how to do those) of a modern distro like Kanotix from a Compact Flash card. You get the benefits of a live CD without the live CD, and persistent storage (if you want that) on a second partition, USB key, or any other media.

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