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Somewhat longish rant about computing in India - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

Somewhat longish rant about computing in India [Jun. 24th, 2004|07:30 pm]
Arvind Narayanan
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I'll start off with bandwidth. Some of you were astonished when I said I was on a 'broadband' connection at 64 kbps, and were eager to know which part of the world I was from :-) [Unfortunately I can't seem to find that entry. Livejournal's interface could use a lot of improvement. Google didn't help in this instance either.] Anyway, I'm happy to report that it got a little better: 128 kbps. I pay Rs. 1000 (about USD 22) a month, so its not too bad. There's a cap of 750 MB/month, which is obviously way too low, but hey its more than twice what I had earlier. And there's no way I'm going to exceed that cap as long as I'm not downloading music or movies. I can easily download movies at uni, so I don't need to at home, so life is good. And its an ethernet cable modem, so there's no problem at all in using it with linux.

Talking about linux, the last one year has been amazing. The most visible change is that practically every VAR in India now offers a product preloaded with linux. The Windows tax is a thing of the past. Estimates for number of PCs sold with linux preloaded range from 5% to 10%. The trend has extended to laptops too. There was a recent forecast that over the next year 20% of laptops would have linux preloaded. The obvious question is what percentage of users stick with linux rather than wiping the disk and installing a pirated copy of windows. Some say 0%, but that's hard to believe - those who are savvy enough to install an OS -- any OS -- are also likely to have the curiousity to give linux a try. But more tellingly, the explosion of linux usage is corroborated by the number of job ads asking for linux experience, job postings to linux mailing lists, level of linux tech support, and general awareness and enthusiasm among business people as well as man-on-the-street types.

There are some VARs which assume that their customers want to install a pirated copy of windows :-) Acer is one. I once called to learn more about one of their linux offerings, and the guy on the phone explained "linux gives you a choice...". For a split second I was astonished. I mean, I was talking to a sales droid who's supposed to be reading from a script and he's giving me philosophy about choice and freedom and shit??!! Then I realized he handn't completed the sentence. The rest of the sentence was "... between Windows XP Home and Professional". Ah, that made perfect sense. But there are other VARs which look like they're much more serious about linux. LG is apparently selling linux branded PCs exclusively. I saw an LG ad on TV in which a kid was using mozilla on linux. What really intrigues me is LG ads with freebies like "10 game CD pack", an encyclopedia, and lots of other software including something to do with cooking. It sounds slightly incredible that they're offering all that with linux as the platform. Can anyone who's bought one of these or is familiar with them confirm?

Those of you who were astonished about my 64 kbps bandwidth are going to have a shock if I tell you that almost all VARs have their entry level system configurations at 128 MB of memory. This is just ridiculous. I mean, the machine is going to be completely unusable with 128 MB, whether with windows (XP) or (any recent) linux. On the other hand the CPU is typically Intel Celeron 2.8 Ghz. BWAHAHAHAHA. With 128 megs of memory, I don't think the user can tell the difference if you replaced the CPU with a 266 Mhz Pentium II. I just don't understand the rationale at all. Sometimes I wonder why it isn't a crime to dupe your customers like this. But then I realize that the reason they manage to get away with selling these awful systems is that buyers obviously think the CPU is the sole determinant of system performance. Well, if they can't be bothered to do 10 minutes of research, they probably deserve what they get :(
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