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AOL/Gateway/Transmeta Team for Internet Appliance 118

OK, so now it seems almost official. According to this story in the New York Times (free registration required) - AOL/Gateway will announce their Transmeta/Linux based Web appliances today. The article is particularly interesting since it details the motive behind AOLs going counter Wintel, And Transmeta's Ditzel says it best: "The truth is that the phrase Internet appliance has become a code word in the industry meaning 'no Windows.'" And dare I say: no Intel too... But only time can tell if this is going to be as big as AOL/Transmeta hope. Thanks Eitan for the Link.
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AOL to show their Internet Appliance

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  • Use this...

    username: ihurt
    password: ihurt
  • by theonetruekeebler ( 60888 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @03:26AM (#1038530) Homepage Journal
    Now we see the downside of OSS--all us geeks doing cool things to impress each other has produced an open source WebTV.

  • yeah. Didn't they know the whole point of OSS is that it should be too complicated for WebTV users to use
  • I want a nice transmeta based laptop. I'm not sure that I want to learn how to write on one of those touch screens with some sort of palm like language... (cant recall what its called). I mean, there's a big market for cheap laptops - thats what I want. Nothing fancy, just a cheap laptop with a long battery life and cheap sound and not too bad a display (800x600 or something). That's all I want. It's hard to get, so far.

    I'm not sure I want a webpad, altho they are cute.
  • He said Transmeta turned out to be an excellent choice. "Their chip offered a unique combination of low power and low cost," he said.

    Can someone tell me why low power is important in an internet appliance?

    I realize that this is just pr-speak, but still, it should make some sense.

  • by Skinka ( 15767 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @03:30AM (#1038534)
    Or you could just use the partner link [].
  • Its a pretty dreadful state of afairs that people think that a computer needs a Windows OS, and so anything else has to be given a name.

    Of course, by that argument, my C64 is an IA too.
  • "Since it is an appliance [...] there is no need for Windows". How true. However, no need for Linux, either. Could'a use QNX. Could have used AmigaOS. I guess the idea is that they want something solid and stable on the back end, but don't want all the Microsoft-isms that would make their way into the appliance. I guess the only question is if they're going to just slap the AOL 'desktop' on the device or have a simplified/different interface?

    My two cents...


  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @03:34AM (#1038537)
    1) Low-power == low-temp == smaller box
    2) If the "appliance" is supposed to be portable (or "wireless"), then low-power == longer uptime.
    3) A good internet appliance is "always on"--so low-power == lower cost
    4) Low-power == tree-hugger happiness
    Have Exchange users? Want to run Linux? Can't afford OpenMail?
  • by Tsk ( 2863 )
    The way things are going :
    * the desktop being killed by IA and connectde devices
    * the way AOL gets into controlling Information and means to access such info

    My guess is that in 10 years from now will have a AOL case very similar to the actual microsoft case. (Microsoft killed passive terminal by controlling the os, and then killed competition).

  • NO! No! Say it isn't so!

    This on the surface looks good from a couple of different perspectives, but in short I am quite worried about any relationship with AOL regardless of how innocent it appears on the surface. AOL is just too powerful and although there are hints of a "mutually beneficial realationship" there is always profit margin from the AOL perspective and AOL is out for one thing and one thing only, that's to make money for their shareholders and nothing will get in the way of that. This said, I beleive that the greed factor will taint any positive spin AOL could put on this.

  • At last! A Transmeta powered device goes mainstream. And not before time, too - I've been waiting to see an actual piece of hardware ever since they released their processors back in January.

    I'm not a fan of AOL, so I was thinking of writing something like "it's a shame they've teamed up with a company like AOL", but the more I think about it, the less I can find to complain about this - this really is a break into the mainstream, not just for Transmeta, but for Linux too. We're talking about a device that people expect to use with zero brain-power required (and you thought Transmeta's power management was only for electricity!), so if it's successful, no-one will be able to say "Linux is hard to use" any more. And this being AOL, you can only imagine the number of units they're planning to ship... all running Linux on Transmeta. Lovely.

    This is good news. There's no other way to say it.
  • At last an opportunity to get rid of that annoying Connie woman AOL use on their UK adverts.

    Let's replace her with one of the cows Gateway modelled their boxes after - it's talk just as much sense.

  • by FascDot Killed My Pr ( 24021 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @03:39AM (#1038542)
    "...AOL is out for one thing and one thing only, that's to make money for their shareholders..."

    Unlike RedHat and Transmeta who have a policy of stealing from shareholders and giving to hungry orphans?
    Have Exchange users? Want to run Linux? Can't afford OpenMail?
  • Is this Transmeta's first alliance?
    Would this be the first practical application of Crusoe?
    I thought that the code-morphing software only translated x86 instructions.
  • He is speaking of low power in terms of low electrical power consumption, not low computing power output, which is most definitely a good thing for webpads and other "appliances" which rely on batteries.. low wattage == high battery life. On a side note, why has internet appliance become such a buzzword? Appliance makes me think of a toaster over, not a computing device.. pretty soon they'll probably be calling them e-pliances.. oh no. I hope no marketing people see that...

  • by Jacques Chester ( 151652 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @03:42AM (#1038545)
    It will come as no surprise to me if the whole concept of an "internet appliance" is picked to bits here. And why not? They're annoying little buggers - underpowered and not useful for anything really. Except internet access. Oops! We already have that.

    The case "for" is simple enough: make it cheap and idiot-proof. If anyone has a background in working on making the internet cheap and idiot-proof, it's AOL. You may not like their style, but you must concede their relentless drive to AOLize the internet. A foray in hardware is about diminishing returns to scale in software.

    Consider, you are AOL. Your program right now is fairly simple for first-time users. But it still sits atop a legacy system that is in itself not so intuitive. Solution? Ditch the legacy.

    AOL is actually big enough to somewhat pull this off. Especially now: the Wintel establishment has been wounded on two fronts. AMD has challenged the Intel hegemony, and the DOJ and Linux have undermined Microsoft's aura of unassailability. Suddenly, all the other sharks can smell blood, and are circling for some action.

    Let us also note that minicomputer makers - and there were dozens, in their heyday - scoffed at the underpowered clunkers made by IBM. "Peecee". As if there should be a computer *per person*. Puh-lease!

    Evolutionary pressure is an amazing thing. PCs evolved out of pretty much nothing into the bedrock of an entire industry. They did not wholly supplant what came before (mainframes and minis), rather, they marginalised them and extended their range of usefulness. A mainframe is no longer a standalone giant in a pen; it is a viable "force extender" for a corporate network of PCs. Mainframes are marginalised by PCs, but also sustained by synergistic adaptation to the new reality.

    It may be this way with the general-purpose PC and function-oriented computers. This Brave New World has been the source of much speculation by futurists over the years, so I shall skip past it.

    My own outlook is that IAs will eventually evolve to become PCs as we understand them now. People will want to write letters on their IA, and won't really understand why they need to buy a seperate machine to do that. So IAs will emerge with the power to do so. Before long they will have HDDs and user-fsckable GUIs. That is, they will be PCs by another name.

    This market is seething and will continue to seethe. Expect either a big player (like AOL) to "make it happen", or for something much more interesting to emerge from nowhere and sweep the whole thing away.

    be well;


    "Don't declare a revolution unless you are prepared to be guillotined." - Anon.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's all vapor until they ship it.
  • Programming is like sex: one mistake and you have to support it for the rest of ITS life...
  • I think this will be interesting to see how AOL is involved in this product.. I can see it going one of two ways.. one being that AOL is pushing this product to try and push netscape 6 onto the handheld/appliance (shudder) market so that this can be a totally wintel-free market.. the other being as a way to make AOL the only way to get the internet on these devices.. I wonder if they will tie this specifically to AOL's ISP service.. I certainly hope not. I don't want AOL to be fighting microsoft's monopoly just so it can replace it with one of their own..

    As long as this box.. (can I call it a box anymore? maybe not.. which means these aren't 80xx3n.. and p4d is just no fun at all.. trolls.. ruminate on 1337-5p33k|ng w38p4d for me and report back in a day or so) is ISP-independant, it could be a great thing for transmeta, linux, etcetcetc.. otherwise I won't buy one.

  • If it's running AOL, what about the possibility of using your local or preferred ISP on it, or would we have to wait for an I-Opener type hack to be able to use an alternative?
    I can't say I like where this is going, AOL is not the internet, a huge BBS perhaps, but not the be all and end all of the internet. Perhaps Glorified BBS appliance would be more suitable?
  • Versions of AOL that run on *nix? As scary as that could be (supporting the AOL installation.... ./configure what?!?! make huh!!), maybe preconfigured AOL on somewhat secured distro could lead to a wider spectrum of peoples who would be willing to try something new/better/different. Furthermore, the AOL user could be the ultimate typical enduser to get into the feedback loop while we build a Linux for 'the rest of them'.
  • by radja ( 58949 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @03:53AM (#1038551) Homepage
    Someone who puts his dog, hamster or cat on the net is not collecting information on me, and I can just choose not to go there. The real danger is companies. The net should be for humans (with some pics of cats, and maybe the occasional talking chimp)

  • So let me get this straight:

    The world's most closed public access network service(AOL) is planning to use one of the most open infrastructure operating systems(Linux) to combat the most self-doubting software company we've ever seen(Microsoft) by teaming up with ambitious but still waiting to break through firm(Gateway) and an inordinately secretive skunkworks shop(Transmeta) that happens to employ the creator of that aforementioned extremely open operating system(Linus).

    Essentially, AOL trumpets an age of freedom(No MS, No Intel) by ushering in products that will likely be a long-studied model of consumer entrapment(cheap devices that only connect to AOL). Of course, such tactics wouldn't have worked that well back when AOL had teams of lobbyists seeking to make sure nobody could monopolize the net access market(the "Open Access" push) but that push has mysteriously disappeared now that AOL would be in the position of having to open its access(thinks it'll merge with Time Warner.) Meanwhile, AOL deserves superlative credit for crafting an Online Experience positive enough to drive an unacknowledged portion of the Net economy(Excellent UI design), but they've included enough code in their new revision to prevent customers from exploring other services(Roach Motel 5.0).

    Guh. It's corporate never know who's playing what side of the court, you just see your head going back...and forth...and back...and forth...

    "Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun."
    --(Best attribution for this quote, besides Ash, gets a cookie.)

    Yours Exhaustedly,

    Dan "I Can't Believe It's Not Justice" Kaminsky
    DoxPara Research
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Linus is just an employee at Transmeta. One would suspect he has as much say in the big business decisions as any geek back in the lab.

    He does have the option, of course, to quit, lose his green card, and ride that bus to the INS deportation center. And no, he won't get the Elian Gonzales red carpet treatment.
  • Of course, according to the business reporter on the radio, this deal involves "LIN-icks" and "trans-MAY-tah." Unless this actually is how they are pronounced. I don't usually hear the terms spoken aloud...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Sorry. I'm afraid you will have to leave. Your surly attitude is soiling 'the web' and you are not welcome here any longer.

    If you had just tried to fit in, things would be different. But since we see no pictures of your goldfish, cat, dog, or bird on your home page, we have to assume you're one of those shareware advocates always ranting and raving about 'linusx' or BDS.

    Ummm, on a more serious note- your comment about people who view the net as their 'personal playground.' Hmmmm. Seems that you're the one who missed that day in kindergarten when the lesson was all about sharing. Or is the 'net just for those with true grits []??

  • We've got a rather large AOL/TW/Netscape....and now Transmeta?! alliance. And there are a bunch of other companies in on this, all of which I forget now. This is a massive alliance, probably one that makes Bill Gates seethe; after all, he's facing all sorts of endless legal crap from the eternal DOJ proceedings, isn't he, and his empire is being threatened.

    Say Bill suddenly decides to concede. "Yes, I'll help fragment Microsoft. You want it when, Miss Reno? Certainly." He pays off Netscape and the other companies that have been wronged by Microsoft. Bill Gates is Mister Good Guy: does what the legal system tells him to.

    Now he's got a clean slate. He strikes a deal with the AOL alliance. He keeps his friends close, and his enemies closer. All one big happy family, right?

    He buys them all and rules the world. End of story.

    Well, it might not happen, but how good an idea is it to align smaller, more useful companies with giants like AOL? Sure, there are some benefits, but they're all Another Big Company. It surprises me to hear Transmeta is allied with AOL.

    On another note: Some posters wondered about how "dumbed-down" the software on these machines will be. Well, it might be Linux. It might not. But if it is, I'm thinking it will be mostly functional, but set up for the average idiot.

    A similar scenario is probably installing Linux on my iMac through VirtualPC. (Don't laugh; it was all I had available.) The disk image installed itself with no questions asked, and when I booted I found the configuration was for the average newbie: init was set to 5, the X resolution/color depth sucked, and so on. Still functional, but some configurations had to be changed to get to what I'm used to.

    Oh well. I'm sure I'm rambling, but I'm just a bit disgusted with big companies.

  • It is still tethered. It requires cables running to it.
    Don't see the point of a web pad that is tied to something.
    I'll wait until there's one with at least wireless ethernet support so I can walk around the apartment with it or take it outside. Of course I'll never buy one if it means signing up with the Devil, I mean signing up with AOL.

    My Webcam []
  • Ok, so the web gets bought out, usenet descends into screaming anarchy, irc is full of weenies. We despair.

    The "plebs" aren't going to go away, as they own the internet now. (Scary, isn't it?) So what do the technically and socially intelligent do? Adapt.

    Create some artificial barriers to entry. Create virtual communities. Enforce social contracts (e.g. the Debian one, but the GPL is also a form of social contract) to create the societies we want. Let the commercial outfits fund and support us - they pay for our bandwidth and space so we see their ads, but we don't buy their products.

    Freenet is an interesting example: not many people are freenet nodes at the moment, and not many people are putting stuff in it, because it's not finished.

    Let's have some more unfinished, uncomfortable, hard to use, elitist and exclusive user communities .. that's always going to be where the clueful will outnumber the clueless!
  • I'm thinking more along the lines of super cheap super thin/light laptop type computers more than IAs - I dont want a web pad at all. I dont want to say goodbye to my keyboard - I can type faster than I can write. I think that the webpad things are more of a novelty than a really useful device. I mean, to do any productive work requires a lota typing usually - cant do it on a webpad. I mean, who wants to own a device just to surf the web? Sure they're cute but are they going to last? I see laptop devices winning in the end but not until they get cheap and sexy (thin and really light, like a cm thick at 1 lb or less.)
  • I noticed a line in the article about the appliance running linux and a version of the Netscape browser tailored for each companies ISP.

    This probably means Mozilla right? Meaning really, eventually, you will be able to run a lot more than the internet on these things.


  • It will come as no surprise to me if the whole concept of an "internet appliance" is picked to bits here. And why not? They're annoying little buggers - underpowered and not useful for anything really. Except internet access. Oops! We already have that.

    _We_ have that, since we already bought or built PC's on which to practice the stuff we do to earn our living. My grandma, however, doesn't. She should not have to buy 600 quid's worth of equipment just to surf the web, when that equipment will be horrendously over-spec'd for the job. Why should she have a giant beige box when she could have a small flat portable thing for much cheaper? Why should she have to learn to navigate an OS (any OS) designed for ultimate flexibility when she doesn't need all that stuff, just an internet connection, email, the web and so forth?

    I am looking forward to the day when only programmers have big beige boxes, anyone who doesn't need to program gets a variety of specialised appliances.

    To some extent, this already happened: You probably have a watch, an alarm clock and maybe a calculator. Your computer can tell the time, sound alarms and add up. Why did you buy those things then? Probably for one or more of these reasons:

    1. They are more portable
    2. They use less power: you accept having your watch running all day but you might not want to have your computer running all day.
    3. Less clicks to the result.

    It would save me a lot of trips to fix my parents' computer if they had a web pad, a play station and a letter writing gizmo. The web pad could do the letter writing without too much hassle. This is all they use their computer for. Why on earth should they care about desktops and icons and shortcuts and start menus and double clicking and control panels and file systems in tree structures? This whole infrastructure is there to support stuff they will never use.

  • And probably way better. AFAIK, IBM AS/400, and its direct ancestor possess the only proven HAL ever devised. That's how IBM delivers stunning performance on the AS/400 without changing a line of code. It's not a lame dynamic translator with cache.. Guys from the big blue come, change your hardware, but your software continues to work. Yeah, so they can use custom CPU design to tackle certain application bottlenecks.

    Seriously though, I never understand how someone can get a patent for such a silly thing. It's just so evident; there's no invention here. So, if you manufacture a laser device when nobody has an idea of what laser is, I could probably appreciate it... But isn't this something that every system programmer knows by heart? So wtf?

  • by ptbrown ( 79745 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @04:32AM (#1038563)
    I have to admit, this is a bit difficult for me to swallow the way it's presented. Come on, AOL running in Linux? It sounds like either a horrible nightmare (to linux geeks and AOL lusers alike), or maybe too good to be true (Linux is being accepted as a mainstream alternative).

    Okay, the article doesn't specifically mention that the AOL client will be available for Linux, it only mentions Netscape. So maybe AOL is only making a non-AOL-based box. But then I read where they're offering it to current AOL subscribers. Well, they'd have to offer AOL services then.

    So how will AOL port their software to Linux. They can barely manage to keep the Mac version in sync with Windows. So a complete version for Linux being developed in a few months sounds near impossible. They could take a cue from Corel and try using WINE, but then their software is buggy enough to begin with.

    A while back I read about AOL trying to move their specialized content away from proprietary formats and using more standardized methods. That was a while ago, and enough time for them to develop a slimmed-down version of the software that access AOL content using standard internet protocols.

    But what if they have managed to port the entire AOL codebase to linux, complete with AOL dialer. Then it would be in their best interest to offer the software for download, giving plenty of Linux users who use (or have family members who use) AOL a good reason to abandon dual-booting. I can believe that there are at least a few people who have left AOL specifically because they wanted to migrate to Linux.

    But then the part of me that equates "AOL" with "ignorance" steps in. (DISCLAIMER: It's a stereotype, not entirely unjustified, but still far from reality. I'm well aware of the generalization, so there's no need to point out any "examples" of why it's wrong.) So let's argue the Pros and Cons.

    CON: I still like to think that Linux has a "clue-shield" about it that prevents people from being able to use it without having to learn a thing or two. AOL is the antithesis of Linux in this respect; it is designed to remove all barriers to the clueless, and specifically panders to them. PRO: Plenty of intelligent people use AOL for various reasons. No need to shut them out.

    CON: Following their design philosophy, AOL would want to prevent their users from having to deal with the "complexities" of Linux. They may disguise, take over, or outright cripple Linux in ways that prevent the user from messing with anything that AOL doesn't want them to. PRO: Linux is flexible. Those who want to use it will find a way to turn off the AOL-izations.

    CON: Tons of linux-neophytes will now be using, and misusing Linux. IRC channels and newsgroups will be inundated with idiots who don't know what a HOWTO is asking pointless questions. PRO: (and this is different how?) This is the result of continually promoting Linux as a better solution that Windows. You can't have it being both popular and restricted to only those who know.

    CON: AOL sucks. PRO: No one's forcing you to use it.
    CON: AOL lusers suck. PRO: Elitist bastard.
    CON: F*** YOU! PRO: Oh, smeg off!

    Okay, my argument has run out of steam. And it's all pure speculation anyway. We don't really know what AOL is doing for this appliance thingy. Maybe it really is going to be web-only and if you want AOL content you'll have to stick with Windows. Until we see an official press release about this, all we can do is blather nonsensically with our thumbs up our butts.

    Not that anyone really cares. I know I don't.

    PS. I just noticed that the article is written by John Markoff. I long ago decided to dismiss anything Markoff says as pure bullshit. But then this is just parrotting from a press release, so...

    PPS. Anyone else notice how much it looks like an iBook? Can you say "Trade dress ifringement"?
  • People don't want another device around. If AOL want to capture more market they should be looking at getting people on the internet through their TVs.

    Here in the UK email and internet through your TV is one of the things that the digital TV companies are pushing to compete. Offered the choice between another device or getting the internet through the TV, I think the people who have not got a PC by now are far more likely to go for the TV option.

    (yeah yeah I know, you get crappy resolution through your TV, and you still have to have an extra box attached to it... but it seems to be one of those things that says 'easy to use' better than any separate device)

  • Can someone tell me why low power is important in an internet appliance?

    Because low power means low power CONSUMPTION which in turn means that the device runs longer on one set of batteries.

  • by Rift ( 3915 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @04:44AM (#1038566)
    My own outlook is that IAs will eventually evolve to become PCs as we understand them now. People will want to write letters on their IA, and won't really understand why they need to buy a seperate machine to do that. So IAs will emerge with the power to do so. Before long they will have HDDs and user-fsckable GUIs. That is, they will be PCs by another name

    This is what scares me. (And excites, too) People want to write a document on the IA. 'Why should I need a new computer?' they say. So, someone fills the need. In my fears, this is Microsoft. They have a web-based (with ActiveX) word processor. You can use it to write great docs, but you have to pay a monthy fee for the service.

    See, At the moment, no company has yet been able to charge using the subscription model for mainstream software. Users won't hear of it. 'What if My subscription runs out when I have a big presentation?', and the companies aren't sure how to go about enforcing. But, with a web-based approach, users must log in. The system verifies the account status (and maybe allowed subnet for that account?), and they go on using WebWord. Stop paying? no problem, you just can't edit your docs, or print them.... And if MSWebWord stores your files 'securely' on the server, you can't even have someone else access them. All for your convenience.

    That's just one scenerio. Hopefully, a free solution would be available, but the problem with that is server bandwitdh.. I'm sure ads would creep in somewhere (not that that's a problem at all).

    Anyway, just some rants and raves. Don't take me too seriously.
  • Is there a legal reason Slashdot can't utilize the Partners link in the Headline Stories? Every story with a reference to NYT gets at least 5 or 6 mentions of, and I was just curious.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @04:50AM (#1038568)
    I work remotely all day long. I have VNC sessions onto servers. I'm planning to change my home network topology so that my main working machine will run vnc sessions too, so I can log in from anywhere I choose to.
    That's where these appliances come in.
    This summer the freepad ( will be released. It runs on linux, uses nano-X for graphics, and a "developer's" version will follow the initial release.
    I plan to get me the developer version, find or port vnc viewer, and have me a presto portable workspot. Wherever i want to work in the house then, all I'd need to do is take it with me. Instant full access to my full-size PC, and yet it only weighs 1.2 kg.
    The power of these devices lies in their combination with servers, not as separate units. And AOL realizes that to it's fullest. Think about it ? Why would they want to trim down the client side ? If they trim it down it can run less, while it's in their interest to let it run more. They intend to get these things out there, and then offer server-based add-on services. If I made bets I'd bet a lot on that one.
    Anyway, I can't wait for it to happen, we've been trapped at our desks way too long.

    And, no, a regular portable PC is still too big to really be portable. I know, I have one, I rarely get the chance to really use it to it's fullest because it's too clunky. I get more work done on my palm than on my portable.
  • In addition to the other replies for this, a low power processor, because it runs on so little power, creates less heat. That leads to the ability to run the processor (overclock) faster while still maintaining stability. -Mr. Macx
    -Mr. Macx

  • Virgin has the VirginConnect 'web device' that is also based on some variant of Linux.

    Yet, no source code for it. And no offer of source code.

    What is the point of the GPL advantage of Linux, if the code is denied?
  • Oh, this is going to be good, it'll be better than Netpliance! Tear the cover off this sucker, load your favorite OS, and press go! Doesn't matter what it is, anything will run!

    How? The Transmeta uses code-morphing! It analyzes the code at runtime and figures out what it needs to do, then does it!

    Hooray for code-morphing! Any waste of a sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from tragic!

  • No, I'm sorry, but I'm sick of people with no clue about a) computers and b) politeness using the net and making it all the worse for all of us. I remember the web back in the early 90s when it was first opened up, and their was *gasp* informative content readily available.

    Although in many respects I'm entitled to agree with you, the internet is an exciting new medium which is being used, and will be used more extensively in the future, for beneficial communication and near-seamless information transfer. Yes, there are a lot of people in "The masses" who will use the Internet for not-so-useful purposes, but you can't sensor their pages just because you don't find them meaningful.

    crappy homepages (who cares what your dog is called? And your picture is so fucking ugly!)

    Perhaps people who are dog lovers, vets, or hold animal-related positions will care about this first peice of information, and as for the second, perhaps the picture is used to convey the person's appearance to someone geographically distant who would otherwise not be able to view the person in question.

    Now, as for the commerical factor, no matter how you slice it, companies have been involved with the Internet's expansion from the time it has been opened up. Certainly, it's conception and implementation was intially handled by scientests, miliatry scientests and university hackers, but the actual expansion - which has led to it becoming the worldwide network it has become, is largely a result of corporate funding.

    And with the newbies have come the script-kiddies, people who think they're 31337 because they can fuck other people's computers up. Now that's progress!

    *Sigh*. I agree with you. To truly be 31337, those kids should start developing for the Java(tm) 2 Platform [], in the impressively well designed Java language. [] Java is an excellent choice for distributed applications, because from the start, the API was designed with networking in mind. It's also become the leading server-side language in use on back-end solutions. And, due to the wide variety of Virtual Machines (JVMs) available for it, WORA (Write Once Run Anywhere) becomes a possibility, eliminating platform dependence. Now THAT is 31337.

    And, of course, with technology like the Transmeta Crusoe CPU []A JVM could be built into the CPU using Transmeta's impressive Code Morphing(tm) technology, creating in effect, a "Java chip". Personally, that's the way I think AOL and Transmeta *should* go here, no eliminating Linux by any means, because Linux is an excellent platform, and I'm impressed with their insightfulness at choosing this operating system - but rather, to run Java and Linux side by side, perhaps implementing a customized JVM on top of the embedded Linux system.

    In any event, it's good to see technologies such as Linux being used in devices such as this. I believe that with robust technologies such as Linux and Java, the embedded market could soar to new heights, and be used to improve human communication by orders of magnitude, part of which would involve humanising technology that would otherwise be frightening to the man in the street.

    - Sun Certified Programmer for the Java Platform

    - Sun Certified System Administrator for Solaris

  • Of course, by that argument, my C64 is an IA too.

    Well, it has a serial RS232 port you can use to connect a modem to. And IIRC there is a HTML-browser for it, so in theory you could call it an IA.

  • Just imagine how handy these things could be, not just as a replacement to the PC, but as a sidekick to the PC. Everything that needs power/bandwith/big screen etc you do on the PC, but everythinig that can be done a bit more relaxed can be done at the screen. Or even nicer. Imagine your PC running like a server and then having it send the data to your luggable screen. With a nice wireless connection that would mean that I would the kick systemtower in a closet somewhere and have that screen lying around the house everywhere.
  • If you ask me, I think this was the so-called Amiga MCC... Want to see the evidence? Just check out this technology brief [] presented by Amiga on July 16th of last year... or this Amiga Music Video [] from July 28th, 1999, in which the Transmeta name is seen. The technology they were talking about then was truly exciting. However, if it has all been wasted on an AOL version of WebTV, it will be boring.

    TheInfoBox []
    Another techie hangout... Please visit and crash my site so I can say I've been slashdotted!!

  • Than you have a legitimate beef if you own one.

    If you don't, Virgin is under no obligation to provide it.

    Of course, that all hinges on the depth and quality of research that led you to believe it was "based on some variant of linux".
  • I want a nice transmeta based laptop.

    I wonder if this will be an "iOpener" situation again where people get the hardware and hack it to hookup to their own ISP or even better, erase the flash and install their own version of Linux on it.

    My bets are that AOL/Gateway/and company has already learned from the mistakes of the other companies and will somehow prevent this.

    We'll see...

  • by RayChuang ( 10181 ) on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @05:57AM (#1038578)
    While the AOL/Gateway device using the Crusoe CPU may be technically a fine idea, there are some issues we need to settle here.

    First, will there be local data storage available for this device, or will it become a glorified "dumb" terminal?

    Second, will this device allow the playback of streaming A/V files in Real G2, Windows Media and Quicktime 4.x formats? Or how about plugins such as Macromedia Shockwave/Flash and Adobe Acrobat Reader?

    Third, what kind of connection beyond the obvious V.90 analog modem will available?

    And finally, will it be AOL-only, or can we set up settings from our own ISP?

    Gateway has the right idea, but unless it can connect to any ISP the customer chooses and can use the standard browser plugin programs, it's not going to be as popular as AOL thinks.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    How much do you want to bet that AOL's idea of a Linux-based Internet Appliance doesn't have anything remotely resembling a normal Unix user space?
  • I am sure they will have crazy ways of making people pay for stuff on these boxes.. Also im not sure if i could deal with a giant AOL logo in my hands. One of my AOLing clients was AMAZED when i told him that his son could send email from his college account, and he could receive it on his AOL account. "Are you sure?! You mean he doesnt need AOL to send mail to me?! Thats Crazy!"

    slashdot > bible
  • And finally, will it be AOL-only, or can we set up settings from our own ISP? There was speculation on The Register [] that the device will be available at a knock down price (possibly even free) to buyers that take a subscription to AOL. So if you can buy it without getting an AOL subscription I would guess that you could hook it up to the provider of your choosing.
  • Err... I for one always assumed that AOL's move to Linux will really just be a move to *Mozilla*, not another OS platform. People have to realize that Mozilla as it stands now is an *application platform*, as able (if not more so) than Java.

    People can write whole Web-based applications in Mozilla. Look at Active State [] and Zope []. AOL is smart enough to use this to their own advantage. Suddenly they got a version of AOL that can be deployed *over the network* to any PC or OS, w/o those pesky CDs. Added bonus: the main OS for testing this platform is (coincidentally, because of Netscape's incompetence) a *free* one, that they can do anything to.

    Welcome back to the future: Mozilla is the VT100 of tomorrow :-)...

    engineers never lie; we just approximate the truth.
  • Mozilla (or Netscape 6 if you prefer) has at least 2 more betas to go through before final release. Beta 2 is a month away and Beta 3 must be several months after that. That means Mozilla is unlikely to hit 1.0 any time before November. So how the hell do AOL/Gateway/Transmeta expect to ship a web pad if the software it runs is not even completed?

    As I see it, it either means AOL/Gateway are being highly optimistic in choosing Mozilla as their embeddable browser or they are not going to use it at all, at least in the 1st generation device.

    Mozilla is not suitable because it leaks like a sieve and is so bloated. It also has a mean time between failure of about an hour. All this will of course change by November when 1.0 comes out, but that's much too late for this device.

  • What we could probably use less of is this elitist bullshit attitude. Guess what? You don't own the internet. No one does. Get over it. Personally I don't long for the days of surfing boring web pages in Mosaic, but I am sure some people do. I think the web is getting more functional all the time, and it's exciting. But if there is one thing I cannot stand above anything else it's this clear the web of newbies/plebs/whatever argument. You were a newbie too once, everyone was. You should be glad there weren't people with your attitude to discourage you to learn. My mom is making a web page, and even if it's recipes or pictures of her garden, I think it's great. If cheap web applicances bring more people in that's good, the web needs more diversity and viewpoints. Attitudes like this will only serve to make things worse.
  • C'mon folks, quit knocking AOL... they send us that endless supply of coasters. As for the folks that access the net through them... when I was 12 I thought the finest thing in the world was an ice cream soda. I hope that Transmeta's chip will run with super power in my old box and save me a pile of money when I upgrade. I don't understand this concern with 'what's good for linux'. I use it. You use it. Them that don't are the losers. Pity the poor folks stuck back there in 'Windows Wasteland'. The rest of us are out there, riding fast, ahead of the curve. Enjoy fer crissake.
  • I just noticed on S3's site that they are pushing a new device (They will email when available) that will stream mp3's from your computer (MS only right now) to it through your phone lines (without affecting service). I remember reading how S3 was one of the earliest Transmetta takers (among manufactures) and that they were developing a Transmetta powered appliance. Does anyone know if this is it? It could be a good thing to hack (write linux interface/connect wirelessly/etc.). I'm just speculating right now. Insert your own wild guessing.

  • well this is it folks, i know i'm not the first and i hope i'm not the last to mention this BUT, this is just another warning sign that AOHell is going to fit into microsofts shoes nicelly. i love the idea of a 'netpliance' written on free OPEN code. but why does it have to take mega-corps (read AOL) to legitimize the concept? i wonder when we'll see aol/time/warner in court doing the bill gates jig?
  • Actually, yeah, it's LINN-ucks, not LINE-ucks. I've got an .au file somewhere of Linus Torvalds saying it. I figure he'd know.


  • As most people know, Intel's StrongARM CPU uses about 1/5 of the power of Transmeta's offerring and is also faster. There is a Linux port to it as well, and it would be perfect for a machine like this. Unfortunately, it appears that AOL/Gateway are not interested in the best technology but in getting away from "Wintel" (this is what all the media are hyping). In this case, Intel does indeed offer the best technology for the job.

    I bet the xbox is a much higher volume device anyways though. This AOL thing is locked into one ISP, one vendor, etc.; no way it can be high volume.
  • I'm just not going to be interested unless it comes with 500 FREE HOURS. [ducking]
  • I remember the web back in the early 90s when it was first opened up, and their was *gasp* informative content readily available.

    Oh yes, the "old days". snicker...

    Everything went to crap after they started selling pre-assembled computers with bundled software. Instead of real men, real women, and small, furry creatures from Alpha Centauri, who could use a soldering iron, wire-wrap gun and write device drivers, we got the nameless hordes of appliance operators whose primary qualification to own a computer was Daddy's credit card.

    Assemblers are for wimps with poor memories.

  • "Good. Bad. I'm the guy with the gun."
    --(Best attribution for this quote, besides Ash, gets a cookie.)

    Besides the "Army of Darkness" quote, this was also used as the intro sound effect in the classic MS-DOS shareware game "Megapede." Think Centipede, with cooler sound effects and cheesy music.

    Megapede -- from Cheezy Software!

    Thank you.
  • Also, if there is no fan AND no disk drive, then the entire thing would have no moving parts (well maybe the keys on the keyboard and the pointing device).

    No moving parts means two things:
    - low maintenance costs
    - Possibly moving the whole thing to a single chip (heck, I think that the transmeta chip will eventually be made to emulate a whole PC just by itself, but you might want to put the memory on a seperate chip/card/stick)

  • I've always thougth it was rather funny that there is an AOL Europe. I mean, it makes good business sense (be ubiquitous) and I know they have a name for themselves and all..but shouldn't it be EOL or something? (Err. I wonder how many Spaniards would want to buy the new SOL ISP? Probably as many as would want to buy a Nova :) (note: the Nova was a car that failed to sell in Spain as "no va" means "no go" in spanish :) ) ).

  • To some extent, this already happened: You probably have a watch, an alarm clock and maybe a calculator. Your computer can tell the time, sound alarms and add up. Why did you buy those things then?

    Because I didn't have my Palm Pilot yet...

    - Richie

  • All valid PROs and CONs, but there seems to be a presumption in there. AOLinux, no matter how badly lobotomized, will not be force fed to anyone who does not want it.

    If AOL needs to rip the brain out of Linux, and sink it's hooks into the kernel to make the AOL client fit, then so be it - who cares?

    It will be one more step away from M$ - so people will realize that M$ != Internet != Computer. This 'revelation' might actually interest people in their other alternatives, such as the 'one true Linux' - which ever distro that happens to be that week.

    It will bring a flexible and open platform into the internet market place - even if AOL doesn't share it's modification (though the GPL folks will have something to say about THAT) there will not be as big a chance for ILOVEYOU as there is with an M$ front-end.

    The only concern is that AOL will require you to use their Linux flavor in order to use their service. No biggie right now, but the AOL/Time Warner merger may make it impossible to not go through that company in one way or another.
  • No. In Spanish, "Spain" starts with an E.
  • by jabber ( 13196 )
    I don't recall Robinson Crusoe having anything to do with Robin Hood, except maybe for a similar first name. :)

    When did Transmeta go public?? Where do I buy?
    This is going to be a HELL of an IPO when it happens. The last of the great tech investments, pre-biotech...
  • This is Gateway, the company which, confronted with allegations of spam, said "our legal team is pretty sure that what we're doing is not illegal".

    Doesn't that fill you with confidence in how they'll handle privacy issues?

    (Anyway, given that Gateway was the only company whose sales reps outright laughed at me, and made fun of me for asking about non-Windows systems, when I was last looking for a laptop, I have trouble believing they're serious.)
  • CON: I still like to think that Linux has a "clue-shield" about it that prevents people from being able to use it without having to learn a thing or two. AOL is the antithesis of Linux in this respect; it is designed to remove all barriers to the clueless, and specifically panders to them.

    If you buy one of these things from CompUSA or wherever, without reading anything about it, then I'd be money that you could use it for years without realizing that Linux is on it. Because it's not going to have the whole Linux OS - it's likely going to have the linux kernel, AOL, and Netscape. The Linux kernel, probably with a few extensions, will be there to replace an OS.

  • I know you're trying to be funny, but: you wanna explain exactly why that's a downside?


  • Check out this article []. Looks like AOL really is writing a version for Linux. Rumor has it it'll be based on the Gecko (Mozilla layout component) rendering engine.

    Zardoz has spoken!
  • Last I heard, TM isn't building a fab facility. So this begs the question- who are they contracting with to actually make the chips?

    This same story is in today's print edition of the Wall Streen Journal (the bastards charge for their online edition, so I don't know if it's there too), but the WSJ claims that Transmeta has not released the name of the manufacturer of the chips in question. Could it be a foreign company, as this Yahoo! page [] seems to suggest?

    I haven't seen the information about the TM & Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company [] anywhere else. Can anyone confirm this from an independant source? Oddly, it doesn't look like TSMC has posted the TM press release on their press page at the website above. If this is true, I'd be interested in hearing of any good reasons to suppress the information - IBM/Intel threats to firebomb Linus' house, etc.
  • Before AOL came to Europe, there was an ISP called Europe Online (EOL) which has long since gone under.

    So, that name wasn't available then.

  • Hey, if they can make these things cheap enough, maybe AOL will just start sending Matchbox computers to everyone in the mail just like they used to send CD's. Just think, in a month, you'd have enough for a Beowulf cluster.

  • If anyone watches CNN during the day, you might get a laugh at Myron Kandel's pronuciation of "Transmeta" as "trans-meet-uh". Funny as it is, it's not quite as good as his repeated pronunciation of Rambus as "ram-bis". Can you imagine how much more rich these guys'd be if they knew just a little bit about the companies they invested in? :-)
  • you wanna explain exactly why that's a downside?
    It's a problem for the same reason that we're having this conversation on Slashdot instead of Usenet. Not to restart that flamewar...

    The September That Never Ended rolls on.


  • Without the "plebs", you have no net, so deal it.

    By the way, when the time comes for the trash to step off the web, don't be too far away from the front of the line yourself - your assumption that a network's worth increases as the number of users decreases shows clearly what an idiot you are.

  • "own" is relative. People have them 'leased' to them.

    file:// lets you look at the basic file layout. Things like lilo.conf, the same file system structure, and [] shows a picture of the Virgin box. I belive my 'research' is correct.

    And, to date, my letter to Virgin is unanswered.
  • Actually, Al Gore invented the internet. Didn't you know?
  • >the same reason that we're having this conversation on Slashdot instead of Usenet

    That would be because of spammers, trolls and flamers? I'm sorry, I don't get your point either. Easy to use IA's are gonna ruin the Internet for us Geeks?
  • However, no need for Linux, either. It's quite simple why AOL used Linux. Their browser, Netscape 6, is already compatible on Linux with no tweaking necessary. They don't need to recompile it as they would with QNX, AmigaOS, etc. As it looks now, Netscape 6 will be coming out the door pretty close to Christmas time (AFAIK, the current non-beta release is planned for October). Taking more time to modify it, even as little as Mozilla promised to deliver in cross-platformability, would be cutting at Christmas profits.
  • []

    System Requirements:

    - Pentium Class PC running Linux.
    - RedHat 6.1 or higher is the recommended baseline (read-tested) other distributions should work provided they support the following:
    - RPM package management
    - glibc 2.1.2 or higher
    - X Server running at 16bit or better, with a minimum resolution of 800x600.
    - An X Font Server that supports TrueType fonts.
    - At least 35 Megs of disk space (in /usr/local to be exact).
    - GTK 1.2.6, but if you don't have it, our install process will try to install it for you.

  • Seems to me AOL is not going to want to get involved unless the machines are constructed so as to restrict users to that ISP.

    So what might be likely is that they contract with Gateway for a certain number of them, then Gateway contracts with the Taiwan suppliers to come up with the main assemblies such as LCD panels, motherboards, Gateway puts them together, and so on.

    The Netpliance iOpener used a similar model. But they made the mistake of assuming hardware obscurity could prevent hacking and using another ISP. Virgin with its Netconnect IA was smart enough to require a long-term contract that made the machine too expensive to hack--even though it runs Linux already. We will have to assume that AOL will not release any without the same sort of long service contract for ISP.

    The next question is pricing. It makes no sense to charge a large amount of money upfront for the hardware and at the same time something like $20 or $30 a month for the ISP, since it would be cheaper for anyone just to use a cheap PC and free ISP. So the hardware has to be cheap, perhaps like the iOpener's $99 (the result of months of price experimentation) or Virgin's $50 for each of the last two of three years.

    The reason I think they will have to have strict terms of service, and emulate Virgin's $499 cost of ending service, is that it is very likely there is no economical way to prevent hacking of the IA. Netpliance has gone through about four ways to try to stop hackers, and each time their attempts have been overcome.

    As soon as you can put a hard disk on one of these IAs you can make it boot into a different system and hack it, use it with a free ISP, or anything you can do with a PC or Linux box.

    The remaining question is, whether the Taiwan manufacturers will want to put some of these together at a reasonable price for us Linux hackers. No doubt the design work on the aolOpener will help them. But LCD panels are still expensive, and it is not known if the Transmeta CPU will be any cheaper than the alternatives--Intel could probably match it with strongARM.

    Without a hard disk drive, the IAs will just be like television sets--you can "watch" AOL just like any other channel as a consumer--you just can't produce or publish anything freely of your own. Using a Transmeta chip is really quite irrelevant in this picture--an IA that is plugged into the grid doesn't need to use less power, as there are no batteries--and the "code morphing" is not necessarily an advantage. Consider that the iOpener uses an old Winchip that probably was bought as surplus--they aren't produced any longer--what could be cheaper, and they are fast enough for what they do.

    I believe AOL will target schools for these IAs, try to put them on every desk. It has already started the back end with the AOL School project online. It will be able to sell the whole package of IA hardware and service to whole school districts. The low frontend price will be subsidized by longterm contracts.

    As other posters have noted, the result of such a plan would be to turn the Internet into something quite undesirable to those of us who prize freedom. I don't want my children watching AOL at school any more than have them turn on the Disney channel for education at home. We need to have some public space, some environment free from commercials and "product placement" and brand names and "non-offensive" interpretations of the truth. At my site I try to present free content to students. AOL School produces no content of its own--it just parasites off the free web for its portal. And I don't want AOL or Time Warner or Disney to produce the content--I want teachers to be able to do it for their own classes.

    I had hoped we could do that voluntarily and freely on the web ourselves. But it seems that not all large corporations have bought into this vision. Instead, they see the web as a place to make bucks.

    We will have to wait and see--I don't expect any of these IAs to become available before the Christmas buying season. The more interesting portable webpads using Transmeta won't be out until next year.

  • That'd be nice, but the expensive/Energy draining part of a laptop is the SCREEN :).. so Transmeta just isn't going to help
  • by DJerman ( 12424 ) <> on Tuesday May 30, 2000 @11:24AM (#1038616)
    CNN (the talking head, sorry no link) just told me it would be a Gecko-based browser, which leads me to believe that you won't be running XTerms on this pad. They're probably using a custom browser based application built on Gecko (that part of Mozilla works pretty well) with Linux as the stable operating system.
  • So, will we be able to choose our own ISP on this box? Is the Linux IP stack left in place? Or has it been replaced by AOL's closed source propriteory stack?

    It seems to me that we get caught up in the Evil Empire of the moment that we fail to see the next Evil Empire sweeping in on its tale. Anyone remember IBM? Remember all of the fear and loathing everybody had for them? Anyone see comming before it was too late?

    I mean, ok, this uses Transmeta's chip, which is really cool, but not amazing. The amazing thing for the Slashdot croud is the Linux base. Yeah, that's cool, it runs on Linux, so it's free, right? The kernel and some of the tools might be, but that dosen't mean that AOL can't lock them into their service with it. Does that seem free? "You can have this box, and it has a free kernel, but, oh, sorry, you have to use AOL for it to be useful."

    I'm going to try to use the past here as a guide, lets see, Micros~1 let people use other than IBM hardware for PC stuff (clones) that drove down price and all was good and well, but then, oh no, look out, now Microsoft has an OS monopoly, and everybody hates it. Now, along comes AOL, who says "hey everybody, free OS", and then, next thing you know, an Internet Service monopoly, owned by not only a link provider, but a content provider too (a la AOL/Time Warner).

    If somebody can explain to me why this dosne't really suck ass, then please correct me, but from where I'm standing, it stinks.

  • Just yesterday I took the time to watch the the video of the Crusoe presentation. One of the key points they stressed is that an internet appliance must have plugin compatibility, and they are able to offer that since you are actually running a PC in disguise.
    You don't need to develop new software, just use plain vanilla netscape and plugins, either for Win32 or Linux.

    You have the videos available either in []
    http://www.z,3685,21191 39,00.html []
  • Linux is already in the position of the Macintosh. There is already a big pile of Windows only software that it won't run. And the only way that we are going to be able to replace Windows as the "You can buy software for it at Walmart" leader is to make sure that there are machines in normal people's hands that run Linux.

    If a Linux-based Internet appliance were in millions of homes, then you can bet your life that applications would magically appear for Linux. AOL would probably even encourage other software companies porting their applications to the AOL appliance (ie Linux).

    More importantly AOL pushing Mozilla will basically guarantee that the web maintains some semblance of standards. After all, AOL has a lot of clout when it comes to the Internet. I imagine that the mere suggestion that AOL might switch to Mozilla is enough to make the IE coders shiver in their boots. AOL could almost single handedly tip the browser war back into Mozilla's court.

  • More like easy-to-use IA's have already ruined the Internet for us Geeks.

    There's no point in preaching or ranting; it's all been said and heard before. The Great Unclued are a mixed blessing. The more of them there are, the cheaper the pipes get, and the more bandwidth I have to myself from 2am to 5am. Or would have, if I didn't have a day job.


  • Well, at least it's not a link for a change.

  • >The Great Unclued are a mixed blessing

    Hey! I am/was one of the Great Unclued! I resent the implication that the internet should be the exclusive province of only those who measure up to someone else's standard of elite-ness. How dare you hang a 'white-folks only' sign on my public internet (school house/drinking fountain/public bus). Who are you or anyone else to decide who is fit to enjoy the benefits of this new "information age"?

    (no, I'm only kidding. I think everyone should be forced to take an internet-competency exam before being allowed to have a dial-up account with AOL. Same with having children. "Sorry, you failed our basic parenting apitude class. You'll have to surrender your reproductive organs at the front desk.")
  • Ok, but given that such things are going to happen, isn't it a cool thing that the underlying technology is open-source?


  • They will probably use Mozilla. My 2 pence...

  • As the proud owner of a Palm Vx, I think it would be cool if they had something that worked as well as Graffiti. I would love to be able to sit anywhere and scribble on a wireless webpad. They just need ssh and they would be perfect.
  • What's so different between a webpad and a laptop then? They have similar screens. Even if it were mostly the screen, lower power usage by the cpu would still help :)
  • Here is the Press Release [] from [].

    *Carlos: Exit Stage Right*

    "Geeks, Where would you be without them?"

  • IEEE's Spectrum Online has an article with schematics of just how the Crusoe chip was developed.

    Excellent detailed article on the chip, its design, and the history of Transmeta. Probably the most extensive and comprehensive article I've seen on the fledgling company. Of course it was wriiten before the AOL/Gateway deal so its now a bit out of date.

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"