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Negroponte says Linux too 'Fat' 839

Cadef writes "According to a story on CNet News.com, Nicholas Negroponte says that Linux has gotten too fat, and will have to be slimmed down before it will be practical for the $100 laptop project. From the article: 'Suddenly it's like a very fat person [who] uses most of the energy to move the fat. And Linux is no exception. Linux has gotten fat, too.'"
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Negroponte says Linux too 'Fat'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 09, 2006 @04:57PM (#15096028)
    If fat people use most of their energy to move the fat, shouldn't the extra effort make them lose weight?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 09, 2006 @05:23PM (#15096148)

    Negroponte is right... but not about the Linux kernel. The kernel is pretty good as far as bloat goes. GUI apps and libraries are the problem.

    Bloat is something that has had serious attention in the GNOME project over the last year. The investigation revealed some staggering wastes of RAM and ridiculous amounts of disk grinding. GTK work in particular showed some, frankly unbelievable, fuck ups by the GTK maintainers. But GNOME bloat pales into insignificance when compared with KDE. Anyone who's looked at KDE seriously can only be disgusted by the waste... not only because of C++, but just the generally poor software engineering that went into the design. It's a bloody mess.

    With v2.14 GNOME has been seriously slimmed down (with more work to be done)... but even so, there are still massive memory wasters hanging around in the Linux desktop regardless of desktop choice: Firefox being the major offender. Anything related to Java (not much to be done about that though... memory wasting is built right into its original design). Compared to these pigs, the Linux kernel is amazingly svelt.

  • by mrraven ( 129238 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @05:29PM (#15096179)
    What's Negoponte complaining about? Linux runs well enough on the ipod nano with an 80 mhz processor to play doom:

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4032841114 584378958&q=ipod+nano+doom&pl=true [google.com]

    Retail price 150 bucks and you can bet BOTH c=Circuit City and Apple are making healthy markups, I'd be genuinely surprised if the nano costs more than 80 bucks to make.
  • by caffeination ( 947825 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @05:45PM (#15096263)
    "them"? Who the fuck is "them"?

    Poverty isn't a boolean variable, and you can't generalise the rest of the world into rural Ethiopia.

    Nor can you just 'take' effort from one project and 'put' it into another. Tech experts can provide cheap hardware for educational purposes. They can't, at the whim of a Slashdot poster, become experts in manipulating the political forces of the world into providing basic infrastructure in other countries.

    And besides, those things are the responsibility of governments. Governments, by the way, cannot design and build a $100 laptop for distribution to children. It takes tech experts to do this, and international support to fund it.

    A programmer would understand this concept of different people sticking to what they are good at - it's called object orientation.

  • by cyclop ( 780354 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:28PM (#15096434) Homepage Journal

    I'm one of these screaming about choice.

    If you feel that one app fits all for a given task (something that is rarely true in my experience), go along and install just one app per task. But leave us the choices 1)to decide WHICH app to install for a given task and 2)to install more than one, if I feel to. I agree with reasonable defaults for newbies, but I don't agree with self castration.

  • System specs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by EdMcMan ( 70171 ) <moo.slashdot2.z.edmcman@xoxy.net> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @06:37PM (#15096468) Homepage Journal
    The system will use a 500MHz processor from Advanced Micro Devices with 128MB of memory. It will use 512MB of flash memory and no hard drive, he said. The biggest remaining cost is the display.

    Before RTFA, I thought they were talking about the kernel. Clearly based on the flash drive size, what they mean is just the size of having so many libraries that often do the same thing!

    I am somewhat skeptical of there being a real problem, though. Knoppix fits many, many things on 700MB using compression. Many of the things that Knoppix includes would probably not be much use for the laptops, such a development tools. The nice thing about "Linux" (being purposely vague as the article) is that you can choose what "Linux" is. If you don't like something, take it out!

    It is interesting to note that they mentioned they are currently working with Microsoft to modify Windows CE to operate on the laptop.
  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @07:11PM (#15096609)
    You specifically mention the kernel, but after reading the article I'm not sure whether Negroponte really meant the kernel, or the user environment. I haven't seen that the kernel itself is fat. Until fairly recently I had a 486 laptop running a 2.6 kernel, and I claim the new kernels run better than the old ones (more responsive). Also, linux is gaining wide acceptance on embedded applications with much less processing power than the $100 laptop. 500 mhz and 128 MB of RAM really isn't bad at all for the kernel and a lightweight windowing environment.

    Multitasking OpenOffice and Firefox with a dozen tabs open, on the other hand, will be problematic.

  • by dtfinch ( 661405 ) * on Sunday April 09, 2006 @07:18PM (#15096643) Journal
    Excerpt from http://www.minix3.org/ [minix3.org]
    MINIX 3 is initially targeted at the following areas:

            * Applications where very high reliability is required
            * Single-chip, small-RAM, low-power, $100 laptops for Third-World children
            * Embedded systems (e.g., cameras, DVD recorders, cell phones)
            * Applications where the GPL is too restrictive (MINIX 3 uses a BSD-type license)
            * Education (e.g., operating systems courses at universities)
  • by panthro ( 552708 ) <mavrinac.gmail@com> on Sunday April 09, 2006 @07:22PM (#15096655) Homepage

    This mentality, while pervasive among supposed computer experts, is entirely untrue. Software is bloated. These days, hardware is getting so big and fast that programmers don't have to optimize their software to cram functionality into something that will run decently (resulting in a better program). We don't need this new hardware; there simply isn't enough human need for functionality to take advantage of it. Instead of cramming functionality, the programmers take up every ounce of system resources they can now by being lazy. Think about it: 20 years ago, computer science taught you to write good programs in relatively low-level languages; now they teach you to program in languages like Java with virtually no regard for efficiency. Programs could be written much, much more efficiently, and most of what we use today could easily be made to run on hardware over ten years old if more effort was put into optimizing it.

    But then they couldn't force you to upgrade your computer every couple years, could they?

  • by metlin ( 258108 ) * on Sunday April 09, 2006 @07:48PM (#15096738) Journal
    Oh no, he does not.

    Didn't you know? For every article on technology, there has to be at least a handful of trolls and idiots who have to come up with the usual, "What a waste of money! Use this on water, food and medicine" reaction.

    Sadly, they never learn and worse yet, they still get modded up.

    Sometimes, I wish Slashdot had a -1, Retard mod. Note to moderators - the grandparent is trolling, for cryin' out loud.

    Money can always be spent on a lot of other things, but teaching a man to fish _does_ work better in the long run.
  • The Problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @08:04PM (#15096795) Homepage
    Here's the problem:

    http://wiki.laptop.org/wiki/One_Laptop_per_Child#T he_software [laptop.org]

    Their software partner is RedHat. I have much respect for RedHat - they have done amazing things for enterprise grade support of our beloved Penguin. But they are not lightweight. RedHat hasn't ever been about lightweight. That's not a condemnation, it's just not their area of expertise. I don't know if it's possible to break that tie to RedHat, or to get RedHat to agree to base the distro on something other than RedHat, but as long as square one is RedHat/Fedora, it is not going to work.
  • Re:Linux is NOT Fat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gumbi west ( 610122 ) on Sunday April 09, 2006 @11:43PM (#15097339) Journal
    this is something that bothers me a lot. How is it that a Mac 512 worked so well with the OS and word processor on the floppy and the data on another flopy, and with 512 kb of memory. Seriously, I want to know. It wasn't all that bad.

    It's amazing that even though we could do all that with a 10 MHz proc. and 2.8 Mb of disk space, now a 1 GHz computer is "pokey" with only 128 Mb.

  • Re:Linux is NOT Fat (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 09, 2006 @11:55PM (#15097360)
    Yes, but a full blown feature rich GUI will never run on a $100 notebook. Using KDE or Gnome as example begs the question of suitable desktops, what's wrong with IceWM for example? As near a Windows equiv as you'll find. Or the PDA world can show the way, there are plenty of GUI's optimized for very low memory usage and simple operation. Check PDAXrom. Typical Linux distro? Doesn't matter. That old canard of '500 megs' is getting tiresome and I suspect usually repeated as a truism by those who've never installed more than RedHat or Suse. There also seems a perception here that this device is meant to offer everything available on full-featured machines for $100. If that were possible full-featured machines would be $100. This is intended to put computing power in the hands of those in which $100 is more than they make in a month.

    Agree completely though about get-it-out-the-door programming. I don't like spending money on geometrically quicker hardare to run geometrically slower software for the sake of a few mindless marketing baubles and questionable features.

  • Stop thinking in terms of x86 though... an ARM or PPC processor costs a fraction of a modern X86 and for the applications these will run is just as competitive [if not more because they often take less power].

    Similarly for memory, there is no reason this has to be CL2 PC3200 memory. I'll bet there is quite a bit of spoilage memory that gets marked down [or written off] because it's not up to speed. Call it CL2.5 PC2100 and be use that, etc, etc.

    There are a lot of things around already that could lend themselves to a cheap PC.

    Take a look at something like the GP32 or NDS. They have more than enough juice to run Linux and they run off small batteries for a dozen hours. Granted the screens are not quite the right size [or number of] and there is no keyboard but for the most part those "toys" show that a relatively cheap computing platform is possible.

    If you could spec out a 250Mhz ARM9 with 128MB of PC-100 memory, a 20G 4300RPM drive, 640x480 VGA display, 802.11b wifi and QWERTY/Dvorak keyboard you'd pretty much have a laptop. Moving to the ARM and PC-100 from x86 and DDR alone probably saves enough money. In the grand scheme of things the 20G drive could be replaced with a 4GiB flash and still be useful as a relatively full desktop Gentoo install takes only 2GiB of disk leaving a full 2GiB for user documents and what not. That would very likely cut costs in secondary fashions as the battery would not have to be as big to accomodate the motors. The form factor could be smaller, etc.

    As another poster said though I doubt these would cost 100$ today but in the future it's possible but more so they could be written off, e.g. if they cost 300$ some generous entity could pay 200$ and the recipient could pay the last 100$ and voila, 100$ laptop that is small, low power [usage] and functional for it's environment.

    The trick is really to apply better use of our current technology.

  • Your post fails to take note that alot of people seemingly do the same with much less. OpenOffice is the same size as Word2003 on its own.

    A full WinXP install is roughly 3/4th the size of a full Gentoo desktop workstation [with build/edit/programming tools + WM + xmms + mplayer + openoffice + tetex + ...] and yet lacks a proper shell, media player, development tools, office suite, TeX suite, etc.

    MSFT "bloat" is on a whole other level of bloat that most OSS doesn't even approach. The only exception that rings a bell is KDE where they are acting very much like MSFT in terms of doing everything in house, etc, etc, etc. [Gnome fan]

    Fact of the matter is getting sub 2MB kernels is not too hard. Getting larger than 3MB kernels is hard. So Linux on it's own is fairly tight. Now if you put KDE [or even to a certain extent Gnome] on a laptop meant to run a slow processor with little ram ... you're stupid. IceWM for instance would run just fine and take a fraction of the resources.

  • Re:Linux is NOT Fat (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @04:24AM (#15097917)
    Uh, this turned from discussion about Linux'es mem-consumption in to "Linux sucks! I rather use Windows XP!". What does that exactly have to do with Linux'es memory-footprint? Is Windows XP better in that area? I doubt it.
  • by bensch128 ( 563853 ) <bensch128@@@yahoo...com> on Monday April 10, 2006 @05:13AM (#15097992)
    You should try qt-embedded/qtopia then.

    It's a hell of a lot smaller because it doesn't rely on X11.
    Thats where a lot of the bloat is coming from.

    It can be stripped down too so you get rid of those large features you don't want.
    Try dumping the ttf font renderer. That'll dump 2Mb (out of 8Mb) immediately


    PS. It possible to strip down the kernel a lot.
    You just have to decide which features you want and Blam! you get a 2Mb kernel.
  • Re:Linux is NOT Fat (Score:2, Interesting)

    by neonmagic ( 532879 ) on Monday April 10, 2006 @06:24AM (#15098089) Homepage
    Yes, it's a crude experiment, based on usability, and not hardcore science. Tell me, Redhat 6.2 has went from 16mb of RAM and 500mb hdd space on a x86 architecture (read: will run on a 486 and above), to Fedora Core 5 (recommended PII 400mhz, 512mb RAM and a LOT more hdd space). That's a huge jump in system requirements. Part of that is due to the increase in size and complexity of the Linux kernel, part of that is due to the increase in memory footprint of X and KDE/Gnome etc. Read some of my other posts, I'm not saying that Linux handles memory worse than Windows (it doesn't, it's a lot better). What I am saying is that a modern Linux distribution has some very heavy system requirements, and they have jumped up an awful lot from previous distributions as little as six years ago. I'd hedge a bet that the system requirements for Linux have now exceeded those gains made from Windows 95 to Windows XP.

    Get over it, get a life. There's more to the world than Linux - it's a tool, nothing more, and nothing less. If you can't take criticism of Linux, then maybe you should wear ear muffins :-)


"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger