How not to sell computers running linux (part 2).

2009 Sept 28 at 10:24 » Tagged as :lame, guar,

Having successfully persuaded one of my friends to buy an Ezy SlimTop, which is an Intel Atom based computer that runs with Linux, I recommended it to another friend. When she tried to buy one they were out of stock. This was less than a week after the product was launched so we can safely assume that it has been selling like hot cakes. A couple of days later my friend did get hold of one.

After successfully copying her old files the first thing she tried was to start Thunderbird to check mail. Where the heck is Thunderbird on this thing? Well it's not there. Ezy Slim Top ships with a customized version of Ubuntu. I have never been a fan of Ubuntu but surely the Thunderbird package is included in the Ubuntu DVD? why couldn't those Moron's install it? I told my friend all she needed to do was to download the tarball, expand it, look for a file called thunderbird or mozilla-thunderbird or something similar and just click on it, it will run. No dice. She says nothing happens! She was adamant that she did everything right. I was getting rather irritated with her but finally asked her to send it over for me to have a look. What happens when I click on the thunderbird binary? nothing!

Thunderbired fails silently but when your run it from the command line a set of errors about missing stdc++ libraries show up. The obvious thing to do is to install Thunderbird with apt-get. That will result in all the dependencies being installed. But for that you need the root password. Or do you? Well on Ubuntu you can do without the root password. They encourage using sudo instead of a root login. Sudo will prompt you for a password but what you need to enter is your own password. Right so what is the default user's password? no one knows!

This Slim Top is configured to login automatically with the default user account (named ezy) and that default user's password is not included anywhere you cannot look it up from the website cause they don't have a website. The day the product was launched, their site just said 'coming soon...' and that's all you can still find on the it more than a month later.

Any password can be reset by booting up in single user mode. When I tried it, I was sent a weird recovery console with an even weirder keyboard mapping. So rebooted giving bash as the init script (of course you can use any other shell too (append init=/bin/bash in the grub bootup line)). I reset the password for both the accounts and rebooted. Yet, no matter how I try, it refuses to accept the passwords that I just chose!

I rebooted again and reset the passwords again, still sudo and su both refuse my password. I tried for a third time, This time, I checked the /etc/shadow file before and after the reset to make sure that the changes have taken place. They haven't, the hash is exactly the same. It was then that it occurred to me that the file system might be mounted in read only mode. It is. So I remounted in R/W mode and reset the passwords one more time. This time it worked but why didn't the passwd program produce an error when the file system was mounted in read only mode? All this hassle could have been avoided if they had included the password in the booklet (well handbill more likely) that comes with the computer.

The next day, I returned the computer to the owner but only to receive another complaint; the printer doesn't work. Shouldn't they be complaining to the vendor? well the vendor doesn't have a clue. Wearily I asked her to send it back (by this time, I had forgotten the password so had to go through the reset process one more time). The printer is an HP 1020, it has a driver for linux (name foo2zjs). On their site, they say in bold letters: "DON'T USE the foo2zjs package from: Ubuntu, SUSE, Mandrake/Manrivia, Debian, RedHat, ...". Now if easy Slim Top ships with a customized version of Ubuntu, why can't they replace the bad driver from the install DVD and replace it with the direct download from the site?

These are two issues that any ordinary user will not be able to solve on their own. Others encountering these sort of problems probably format the machine and install XP or Vista on it. Vista would crawl and XP wouldn't be much better and it would most likely be a pirate copy of windows as well. So by this half baked approach to linux, Browns is harming both linux and themselves.