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A Replacement for the i-Opener? 98

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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  • go to best buy and buy their cheapest laptop. nowadays they are more than enough for someones Pop who just surfs a few sites and exchanges emails.
    • I think the poster wants something more foolproof than a regular PC. A cheap laptop will still be prone to viruses, adware, etc. Maybe something running Linux or one of the BSDs could be set up to minimize the likelihood of his father getting in trouble.

      • by hey! ( 33014 )
        You probably hit it right on the head.

        However, it shouldn't be hard to configure Ubuntu or some other Linux distro to do everything he needs. Or more to the point, not to do everything he doesn't need it to do. Have it log in automatically and launch SeaMonkey or something like that.
        • by kenh ( 9056 )
          To run a Ubuntu/Linux on a laptop I'd have the following problems:

          My folks like a mouse, not a trackpoint/touchpad, so add a USB mouse
          No built-in modem support, so I have to add an external one
          USB storage key occupies another USB port
          Add a USB Printer, and now I'm out of USB ports - here comes a USB hub

          Whew, compare that to the i-opener - what a desk full of stuff... Kinda defeats the whole point of a laptop IMHO.

          Good idea, but reality gets in the way...


          • If you want similar desktop usage to the i-opener, there's really only one easily available answer - an imac. You can pick up the g4 lampshade imacs for a pretty reasonable price.

            Then again, I have an i-opener sitting right here next to me, and it only has a single USB port - so you still need a USB hub to attach a printer and usb key.
          • by Simon80 ( 874052 )
            What do you mean by no built in modem support? If you already own the hardware you speak of, either you already have an external modem for use with windows, or the laptop has a modem built in, but you have reason to believe that it won't be supported under Linux. And does your i-opener have a mouse and printer built into its small footprint? if not, then it is unfair to say that a laptop isn't a good replacement for the appliance just because it will no longer have a small footprint with a mouse and prin
          • Although most laptops today have builtin winmodems (with what would normally be hardware implemented in the software drivers themselves) that don't usually work with most linux distros out of the box, there is still support for winmodems running as "linmodems" avaliable. Using the "scanmodem" tool ( []read more here) I quickly found out what drivers I required and installing them was a painless process.
      • by kenh ( 9056 )
        Exactly, the laptop I got them has sufferred some horrible update/infection, and now it barely runs (minutes to boot, hard to power-off, and various issues) - I posted this request since I realized by re-installing WinXP I am fated to the same result.

        • Exactly, the laptop I got them has sufferred some horrible update/infection, and now it barely runs (minutes to boot, hard to power-off, and various issues) - I posted this request since I realized by re-installing WinXP I am fated to the same result.

          Don't know how often you will be checking replies here, but see my reply to someone earlier in the thread about Deep Freeze from Faronics. I think it will help you with your current issue. I provided a link to it in my previous post (before I saw your post to
        • by empaler ( 130732 )
          The exact reason I've sent my parents, my sister *and* my girlfriend out to buy Apple computers. I don't have time to be their computer technician, and they feel bad every time I have to help them save their computers from them.
        • I'd go with a 17-in. iMac Core Duo with an Ubuntu Live CD distro and the new USB modem (if Ubuntu can handle that USB Modem, that is).
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            Why pay more for a mac and not run mac osx on it?
            • yeah, realistically OS X is easier to use that Ubuntu. I've been in charge of supporting up to 5500 PCs at a time and after all that tech support I didn't want to have to do that at home so I run Mac OS here. OS X has been the only OS I could just put my grandmother in front of and get her to run.
              You may also want to try and steer your parents towards web based solutions such as gmail so that the next time their computer changes the interfaces that they're used to do change.
            • Because for his requirements, an iMac is the best form factor, and a live cd is the best way to run the software; and because despite all the moaning and groaning about MacBook Pros overheating, MacBooks shutting down and random, etc., Apple still makes the most reliable hardware with the longest average useful life. OS X is not all things to all people (and I'm posting this from a G5 PowerMac under Safari, so I know whereof I speak). In this case, the user wants to be able to reset the whole system to it
        • Have you considered a good 3G cell phone? OS in ROM, more advanced browser, does everything the i-Opener used to do, and most are Bluetooth/EDGE/Wi-Fi compatible.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by michrech ( 468134 )
        I happen to think what the submitter wants is a Windows PC (if he's familiar with Windows, that is) with Deep Freeze []. 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 machin
        • Mod parent up. Deep Freeze has been a life-saver for my company. We routinely suggest it and install it for corporations. It's basically like using Norton/Symantec Ghost to image the PC back to it's original image on every boot (only it happens instantly). We found the thaw space to be too much trouble, so instead we just partition out the primary drive and only freeze the Windows Installation partition. Then we map their "My Document's" folder to the other partition. We have had ZERO problems with any
    • by Sloppy ( 14984 )
      go to best buy and buy their cheapest laptop.

      Did you read what he said? His dad wants to access The Internet.

      Best Buy's cheapest laptop almost certainly comes with Microsoft Windows preloaded. Windows and Internet don't go together, unless the user is a security-expert computer-guru.

      • You don't need to run Windows on it - any popular LiveCD Linux version should do fine, and as other people have commented, you can partition the hard drive and run a read-only version from that to make it faster and more reliable, or even boot from a flash memory stick if the laptop BIOS is new enough (though you'd want to find a flash with a read-only switch, which a number of brands have these days.)
    • ..browzar to the machine so that it will be simple to use and secure.
  • Why buy a new one? (Score:3, Informative)

    by WebCrapper ( 667046 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @06:28AM (#16075026)
    Why not hack the i-opener? Linux-Hacker [] 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.
    • by couchslug ( 175151 ) on Monday September 11, 2006 @03:38AM (#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.
  • municator [] Still, though: An old/cheap laptop + Ubuntu boot CD seems like the best option.
  • Two possible solutions. First, part together a basic system using old/cheap parts, and run a live cd version of linux on it. knoppix comes to mind immediately, but if you're technically inclined you could probably find a customized solution that would fit on a cheapish USB flash drive so you wouldn't even need the cdrom drive. If you pick slower/cooler components, you can go with a small and quiet case that wouldn't even have many (if any) fans to go bad over time.

    Second solution is to bite the bullet an
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by empaler ( 130732 )
      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 [] 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 [].

      (I am in no way affiliated with the DSL team unless you count recurring donations)
      • 1. DSL runs off of a CD or USB key
        2. They have a simple system for customizing and even remastering the DSL package so you can just make the changes and a new CD *easily*.
      • I don't see why the small systems are so expensive. I can go to frys and buy a AMD 64 3200 with a MB for $99, while the 800MHz via CPU and MB are $118. The only thing they have going for them is that they are small and low power. I am looking for a low power solution with gigabit and SATA raid to use as a NAS, but nothing looks good. The low power is important because I don't want to have fans running all the time. Pentium III system have low power, but no gigabit and no SATA.
        • by kenh ( 9056 )
          Small systems are expensive because they are not mass-market items. They cost more per piece to recover development cost.

          Conversely, AMD 3200 CPUs & MB (which I can get for $59 After Rebate at are mass-market items.

          To make a server box full of disks and not have "fans running all the time" will not happen - no matter what the CPU is, a box with four drives will most likely require fans to keep the HDs cool.

      • Damn Small Linux also has the frugal install option which is ideal instead of the hassle of a live CD. damnsmall/current/pdfdocs/FrugalHowto.pdf []
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @06:39AM (#16075045) Homepage Journal
    You can find them on ebay for usually less than $200, they hook up to a tv, and aren't really prone to viruses. You can get Firefox and you should be good. However, I don't know if they support USB modems.
  • Quick fix (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sigma 7 ( 266129 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @06:45AM (#16075057)
    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.

    What you want to get is a minimal PC and install either Firefox, Opera or early versions of Netscape. Then, you configure the browsers to load minimal information (i.e. text only) and retrieves the extras only when required (i.e. clicking on an "Images" button.)

    The greatest reason why modern sites load slowly on Dial-up is because of the large quantity of images - cutting them out (especially the advertisements) significantly speeds up loading time.

    Any updates (other than the initial download of Flash and Java) that are available for your system are not needed to be installed as long as you keep a firewall enabled, and don't blindingly auto-execute any files from the web.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheZorch ( 925979 )
      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.
      • The submitter wants good, fast, cheap. Unfortionately you can only have two of those. The i-Openers really were not cheap. It's just the company that made them footed the bill. The poster is really looking for a free lunch he doesn't have to work for. Of which Macs do NOT fit the cheap respect very well.
  • To get as good help as possible, please post a more detailed account of "various reasons" that the mentioned alternatives wouldn't work for you.

    Might not only be helpful for you but also to others looking for a similar solution.
  • I dunno, I ran Damn Small in a VM to try it out and it's that: small, fast, simple. Might work for what you're doing. It boots from 2 x 1.44 MB floppies, CD, USB pen drive, etc., and it requires no HDD and very little RAM. It includes a web browser (sorry, don't recall which one), supports PPP, and I'd guess you shouldn't have much trouble installing any extra apps you need. Only bad things I can think of are that the version I tried out didn't include mkfs (not too difficult to work around) and I think
    • by hey! ( 33014 )
      DSL has come a long way. However, it does too much on one hand, and not enough on the other.

      Too much in that it is not a newbie operating system. What the guy needs is an appliance that does a few things in a completely consistent way.

      Not enough in that Dillo, while impressive in its resource efficiency, sacrifices standards implementation to achieve it: no ECMAScript, no CSS, no frames. Among other things this means no Google Maps. It means being a second class citizen on many ecommerce sites, as they
      • Puppy Linux [] is a newbie-friendly alternate to DSL. Although (in my opinion) less suitable for hacking, it is a decent mini-desktop solution. Plus it comes in different flavors.
      • Heh, yeah, esp. considering I was talking about a different distro :) I downloaded several "tiny" distros, including a micro distro that was most likely descended from muLinux (which I think I'll probably end up using for my own purposes). Do you think DSL-N is even necessary for the OP's purposes tho? DSL should suffice, maybe even something smaller, as long as it has PPP?
    • Oops, I'm describing one of the many micro distros out there (I forget which one, but I have a feeling it was derived from muLinux []). Damn Small Linux (DSL) is a step above these micro distros - a little more robust and a little heftier (weighing in at a whopping 50 MB and 128 MR RAM I think). For your case, I think just about any stable tiny (or micro) distribution that supports PPP should do. Some more tiny linux distros here [].
  • by nukem996 ( 624036 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @07:10AM (#16075082)
    I put my grandparents on Fedora after they had tons of trouble with Windows 98 and Windows XP and they couldn't be happier. It meets all of your requirments and you could get any cheap or old machine to run it. I had it running on a p3 733mhz with 256megs of RAM. After the install all I did was turn automatic updates on and turned off a few unneeded services(ssh, bluetooth etc) It took about an hour or so to do. As for modem support just make sure that the modem is supported under Linux before you buy it. In our area its actually cheaper to get DSL(only $20 a month) then dail-up, if you do that pretty much any ethernet card works.
    • You can actually get dialup for much less than $20 per month. 650 dialup, for instance, sells unlimited nation-wide dial-up for $6.50 per month (hence the name). There are several other services reselling access to UUnet's nation-wide dial-up network for prices around that range. The fact that some people are still paying $20+ for dial-up just means that they have not bothered to shop around. That said, I would certainly agree that DSL for $20 per month is worth buying.

  • by moonbender ( 547943 ) <> on Sunday September 10, 2006 @08:19AM (#16075172)
    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).

    You can do just that with any Live CD Linux. Something not working as it should? Reboot. The only downside is the longer boot time. Install to a HD to make it faster (mounted as RO to keep it tamper-proof). I'm sure there are special live CD distributions that come with a fool proof GUI, ie. a big friendly button labeled "INTARWEB".
    • DSL linux boots screaminly fast on old hardware. While it loses some of it's advantage on faster hardware, it really can extend the useful life of older hardware. I put it on my wife's old P2 233mhz 196MB laptop and it boots faster than my new Xeon on Fedora running off the disk. (DSL boot time is 90 seconds). And the lightweight tools like the browser Dillo launch literally in a second, again much faster than firefox on my Xeon. (It does run firefox too )

      I've tried a lot of Live CDs and I really like
  • VMWare (Score:5, Informative)

    by Laurentiu ( 830504 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @08:20AM (#16075175)
    How about the Browser Appliance [] 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.
    • by kenh ( 9056 )
      The Browser appliance is a good idea, but the problem becomes the underlying OS (Win, Linux, etc.) - Others have mentioned live CDs (and Ubuntu Live supports a USB filesystem for settings, files), but I would prefer a less "geeky" solution (personal preference).

      • I don't reall understand what the problem with the underlying OS is. You could put it on top of a lightweight linux. If you are really worried, keep a ghost image of the underlying OS available, set it up as an auto-restore cd, and if they ever have problems with the system, they just restore from cd.
      • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
        Well first this is slashdot so you will only get "geeky" answers
        second is there isn't any iOpener like solutions available because it really wasn't a great solution for most people. Notice that they are no longer around. MSNTV is probably the closest you will get off the shelf.
        A mac is probably the next closest off the shelf solution.
        I would recommend the live cd or a properly installed or configured full Linux box.
        Unbuntu is easy to use and you can configure it however you want.
        Another good solution is a m
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1) Build a machine from Newegg or buy one from eBay. I build to full computer (including 17" LCD monitor) for under $500.

    2) Install Kubuntu and set KDE into kiosk mode.
  • iMac G3 (Score:5, Informative)

    by tverbeek ( 457094 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @08:57AM (#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.
    • by thelost ( 808451 )
      I would recommend this too, my experience has been the same as tverbeek. I have some old friends who are not at all technologically inclined but they feel entirely comfortable on their old imacs (running system 9 actually!) and there is absolutely no reason for them to upgrade. I always find the simplest solution introduces the least possible problematic outcomes.
      • The main problem with OS 9 as a web appliance is the same one his i-Opener has: the software's getting out of date. The only web browser for OS 9 that's been updated in recent memory is iCab, and the Flash and Acrobat plug-ins for OS 9 are stalled a couple versions back.
        • by thelost ( 808451 )
          that's true, but I wasn't actually suggesting that he use system 9 just that people still used it because they were so comfortable with it. OS X would be better, as you suggest it has better support.
    • Why a G3? Unless your budget is really tight, it's better to avoid that. Flash and high quality videos CRAWL on a G3/500. An eMac, or a G4 or G5 iMac, would be much better. Or even a brand-new high-end Mac mini, $799 is not that much. But most importantly, a Mac is the way to go, because a Windows machine gives headaches even to the pros!

      Other than that, I agree with you that the submitter should consider a full computer. But not because it can be made as simple as a web appliance; instead, because it is mo
      • Why a G3?

        Because they're adequate, and they're dirt cheap. I thought it was self-evident that something faster and newer might work also.

        ...There's so much you can do with a computer, why stick to the basic "use this to get on teh internets"?

        Because that's what he asked for? Just because you get all hot and moist about all the great things you can do with a computer doesn't mean everyone does, and this kind of unable-to-listen gadget shoving is really obnoxious. The poster asked for something for a

      • by kenh ( 9056 )
        I'm leaning towards a Mac (based mainlyon others advice - my conern was more generic about the state of current PC O/Ss and their frailty). My dad only wants to go on the internet, access financial information from stocks he either owns or is considering/researching (which may be a PDF), and get off. He has been happy with his broker's phone system for real-time stock quotes for YEARS, but now he has gotten used to the in-depth info in these PDFs).

        I can occasionally find a G4 Mac at a local university surpl
        • by schon ( 31600 )
          My dad only wants to go on the internet, access financial information from stocks he either owns or is considering/researching, and get off.

          And this didn't make you go "EEEEWWWWWW"?!?!?
    • You can turn off the update checks in OS X and Firefox, so the user doesn't have to deal with that.

      Personally, I would choose the iMac G4. i-Opener is a flat panel unit and I think the G4 version would be a better successor, not only will it take more memory, run faster, it's more compact and I think looks a lot nicer than the G3.
  • It'll cost you.. but a nice upgrade would be an iMac. The form factor will be similar for him, and it will be a hell of a lot more powserful, while remaining simple to use.

    I'm sure a larger screen with better resolution will be a welcome change, and he may even get into some of the new features, like digital picture management or music with iTunes, etc.

    The older G4 iMac, which looks a bit like a lamp, would be okay and not too expensive. A newer G5 iMac is a lot like the iOpener (all in one monitor unit)
  • by rjamestaylor ( 117847 ) <> on Sunday September 10, 2006 @09:49AM (#16075369) Journal
    and no software 'update' downloads
    Right there I realized that you're out of luck in 2006. That requirement nixes Windows (any), Linux (any), Mac OS X, Qnx, (any)BSD, or any other modern OS. The advances in OS vulnerability mitigation has been to
    1. lock down the OS as much as possible and
    2. provide for an easy, painless-as-possible method for downloading and installing updates/fixes/patches.

    Instead of "and no software 'update' downloads" I suggest aiming for "fast, effective, automatic, unobtrusive-to-simple-usage software update downloads."

    Look to well-supported OSes for meeting this revised requirement. I like Apple, personally, and have regard for several Linux distributions' efforts in this area. I even appreciate Microsoft's work in regard to software updates, although the quickest fixes are related to protecting Hollywood and not their OS users (however, my biggest gripe with Winodws is the fact that #1 above has not occured w/r/t Windows).

    People find innovative ways to cause havoc everyday. Therefore a system designed for common users without built-in automated patching must be rejected. ROM-based systems are fine, unless, as you have found out, that new stuff is needed for features required to surf the modern web. Once you open that 'hole' you are in need of patching.

    • Therefore a system designed for common users without built-in automated patching must be rejected.

      Linux, then. You want to be able to patch not only the OS and core apps, but any app you have to install. Neither Windows nor OS X has anything like this that is at all easy to use or up-to-date.

    • Hmm sorry but there are many many people running 2 year old OS X on their Macs... nothing about OS X requires and update unless you're running newer hardware or need to connect to a newer peripheral. With ebay there is an easy way to find older peripherals for cheap.

      OS X is update neutral for many many situations. Linux is actually fairly similar but really only the newer distros are suitable for average users anyways so that's a strike against... and Windows, well you hit it on the mark there, required upd
  • Pepper Pad (Score:5, Informative)

    by smagoun ( 546733 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @10:05AM (#16075426) Homepage
    Have you looked at the Pepper Pad []? 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Your kidding right? The price v. funcionality of that thing is abysmal. It's appeal is more for people that really should use a full featured laptop & early adopters that are about one-upsmanship. I like what they are doing, but it'll likely be version 6 or 7 before they finally get a product thats worth it. This is at least if they are still around by some great miracle.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Zzootnik ( 179922 )
        Actually, Even though I've been waiting to blow my hard earned cash on one of these, I have to admit-- you can buy a brand new laptop for a cheaper price, so I'm a bit torn...I suppose you just pay for the convenient small size and all the engineering that went into building the darn thing. From what I've read, it is a very nice little package. You can still hook up external displays and keyboard/mouse if you really want to, but its still dinky enough to be really really portable.
        --Just stop pushing back
      • Should do the trick... Small factor, linux based, luggable, has internet acces and can connect with WiFi or RJ45...

        369Eu, should be cheaper in the US...

        Deal ?
  • by Sloppy ( 14984 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @10:22AM (#16075491) Homepage Journal
    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.

    You list requirements, and then list some computers that meet those requirements. If they're not good enough, then either say why a Mac or flash-Linux box isn't good enough, or else list the secret requirements that ruled them out.

    Is fast booting from ROM one of the requirements? Is it the simplicity and efficiency of QNX?

    Several years ago, many Amiga refugees were looking for somewhere to go, and QNX Neutrino was a very appealing candidate, because it matched AmigaOS' speed/efficiency/elegance. Alas, I ended up not going that way (didn't want to risk getting burned again by depending on proprietary software), and didn't keep up with what happened to that group. I wonder how well things went for them. A cheap x86 box that boots Neutrino and runs Firefox on top of that, might be what you're asking for.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Seems to fit all your requirements. ductInformation/0,,50_2330_12264_12262,00.html []

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

  • Really, just use a simple computer with a lot of RAM, no hard drive, an optical drive, and any of the live cd distros out there. That's as close and as cheap and functional and secure as you can get without a lot of hoop jumping. The mini distros are perfect, they run entirely in the RAM and get ejected after booting, freeing up the drive to put other disks in if you want to. You could also just skip the optical drive and use a USB flash drive and keep it locked to read only if you wanted to.
  • If you want to get a new one the $1,199 one is a good one as the $999 has half the ram, no SuperDrive, and shared ram.

    Also most dsl, or cable internet is as cheap as dial up and most isp are shipping modems with build in nat some even have firewalls.
  • Actually, if you rebuilt the i-Opener software in QNX with QNX 6.3, the current version, you'd get a new browser that supports more modern web sites. You just have to build a distro with the pieces you need, use "mkifs" to build a ROMable image with the components needed, and burn a new ROM.

    It would cost about $8000 to buy a QNX development seat, but you could distribute the resulting software. You can get a free 30 day trial version [], and after 30 days, the Eclipse IDE turns off, as does "QCC", the fr

  • The closest thing I can think of is a MSN TV device. Apparently, they still make them(!). []
  • Nobody was really interested in that sort of thing. The prices were too close
    to a real PC to make it compelling except with people looking for a locked down
    appliance type configuration- and I know for a fact there weren't any takers
    because I'd not have experienced the downturn from the dot-bomb and 9/11 quite
    so severely otherwise.

    The closest thing would be to snag something like DSL (DamnSmallLinux), Knoppix,
    or similar, add a smallish USB or IDE flash disk to the CHEAPEST computer you
    can find.
  • Get an iMac or a Mac Mini and set it up to run in Kiosk mode.
    Cheap, Zero fuss, available anywhere and it's cool.
  • by nuggetman ( 242645 ) on Sunday September 10, 2006 @05:04PM (#16077345) Homepage
    Why is everyone telling him to buy his dad a Mac and put Linux on it? that makes no sense at all.

    Buy a mac mini and cheap LCD or an iMac.
    Get OS X updated and ready to go.
    Create a new account with "Simple Finder" enabled. Give your dad access to Safari, Mail, Text Edit, QuickTime, and maybe Chess. Plus any other apps you feel would be useful.
    Keep the administrator account on there, and when it needs updating come over and do it.
    • by Ster ( 556540 )
      Keep the administrator account on there, and when it needs updating come over and do it.

      Better still, update it remotely. /usr/sbin/softwareupdate is your friend. man softwareupdate for more info.


  • Maybe you could tell us what else you're looking for? If you set Linux so a user can't write to the HD then it's pretty close. Maybe add a script to run on boot-up to dial up and then launch firefox? Yes, you're theoretically vulnerable to a small number of hacks that gain super-user access, but unless you want to re-image or modify a live CD you're going to be in for a hard time.

In English, every word can be verbed. Would that it were so in our programming languages.