I took a look at the site and have a few suggestions/questions:
1. Every large OEM has a "recommends Windows 7" logo (so they can get a discount from Microsfot presumably as they aren't selling any other common operating systems). Why not make a similar logo for Trisquel at least for those that visited via libre.thinkpenguin.com?
2. I found a 720P webcamera. Why not post some screenshots and videos? That's something you rarely find online these days.
3. I found an MP3 and OGG player. Does it run RockBox? Is the firmware free? Does the firmware support non English characters? Could you add screenshots?
4. I found 2 HP printers but couldn't find the models on the site.
Also, aside from free software drivers, it would be nice to buy a printer that can use recycled cartridges for environmental and price reasons (they are much cheaper than original ones).
Another suggestion for Thinkpenguin would be to make more hardware available. Surely there is more than one printer around which supports GNU/Linux well. I have the DeskJet D1560 from HP and it works very well, a lot of HP stuff works well as a rule of thumb.
Also, I don't see any scanners, just one All-in-one device with fax. Better pictures would be neat too. It really amazes me, how webshops which support free software or any distribution in general very often have poor quality pictures or no pictures at all.
According the players, I'm pretty sure Thinkpenguin won't sell anything that uses non-free software at any level. Those players either run some sort of free firmware or can be upgraded with Rockbox. That's my guess though.
> available. Surely there is more than one printer around which supports
> GNU/Linux well. I have the DeskJet D1560 from HP and it works very
> well, a lot of HP stuff works well as a rule of thumb.
I think the availability of supported hardware is not the problem here.
Using a Lexmark printer and a Canon scanner, both work with free
software (found the scanner on h-node.org, bought the printer years
before using free distros; unsure if the scanner buttons are supported
in drivers, found no packaged software to use them in distro I use).
> fax. Better pictures would be neat too. It really amazes me, how
> webshops which support free software or any distribution in general
> very often have poor quality pictures or no pictures at all.
The same observations (except that shops without any indication of free
software support also have not enough pictures).
> anything that uses non-free software at any level. Those players
> either run some sort of free firmware or can be upgraded with
> Rockbox. That's my guess though.
Another reason to show manufacturer model numbers (or, like sysmocom, a
long list of models that any of them might be sold, if it's not a single
model) like the ones listed on free firmware websites.
All computers sold by ThinkPenguin have nonfree BIOS, wouldn't consider
their devices to not include nonfree software "by default" unless
Lack of free printer firmware (running on the device) is a problem with
important privacy issues like yellow dots  (unsure if it would
protect users from vendors preventing the use of cheaper ink of other
manufacturers). I believe it's good that the similar problem of nonfree
BIOS is widely discussed even though it's not solved in most cases, this
probably also needs a bigger awareness.
The computers sold by Thinkpenguin have a nonfree BIOS, because it is near impossible to get a computer that can use a free BIOS, say coreboot and uses a graphicscard that can use 3D acceleration with free drivers. When there is no choice, you just go with best thing available.
Nowadays it should be possible to set up a desktop computer that would be completely free, use a motherboard that supports coreboot and install the GeForce 9500 from Thinkpenguin. But it's only since nouveau has reached it's present development state, afaik 9500s weren't endorsed before the release of Trisquel 5.5.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the yellow-dot-problem only an issue for laserprinters? I recall reading that no yellow dots were spotted on inkjet printed documents.
> near impossible to get a computer that can use a free BIOS, say
> coreboot and uses a graphicscard that can use 3D acceleration with
> free drivers. When there is no choice, you just go with best thing
There is a choice of ignoring the problem or doing some work that might
make fixing it in future more probable. Using machines with nonfree
BIOS and knowing that it's a problem that should be fixed and making it
affect the choice of newer machines is imo better. (I don't consider 3d
acceleration an important feature for me.)
> issue for laserprinters? I recall reading that no yellow dots were
> spotted on inkjet printed documents.
It's known to be an issue of many colour laser printers, I don't know
any other printer with that problem. (The ThinkPenguin ones aren't
called inkjet, although they probably are.)
Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do to help the coreboot project. A small donation would do nothing, imho what they need are capable people hacking on new and completely unsupported hardware. That's way over my head. When it's time for me to upgrade again, I'll certainly look into buying a machine with a free BIOS. I could have got such a machine before actually, it's just I didn't want high CPU loads when moving windows around the desktop and I like playing games on my PC. So I had to choose, either a fully supported graphics card with 3D acceleration, or a free BIOS. When I was buying my current computer parts there was no possibility to have both.
They are all Inkjet currently.
As long as the firmware does not have to be loaded/can't be updated we should be OK. The problem is non-free firmware in the BIOS CAN be updated. Some printers require the uploading of non-free firmware from the PC. We don't sell those printers. If we did they wouldn't be compatible with Trisquel and other free software distributions.
Distributions which include non-free software though might be compatible with some devices (for a while) that aren't compatible with free distributions. There are all sorts of technical issues though related non-free software on distributions which "support" it.
For ethical and technical reasons we avoid dependencies on non-free software. Everything we sell works with Trisquel.
I'm aware of the yellow dot issue. We haven't investigated the yellow dot issue though. It is probably a complex issue as we don't know for sure that yellow dot free printers are privacy safe. It might happen at some point. It's a problem that we would like to solve if at all possible. It is a little difficult to resolve though when the selection of printers that we can offer are so limited. We have to take into account that they are going to sell, are profitable, and are compatible with free software. Right now there are only a handful of printers that we can verify easily that would work in all these respects. If we add yellow dots to the list... there may be zero. If I have time I'll see if we can fix this issue to whatever extent currently possible.
I know EFF had/has a list of yellow dot printers. I don't know if it contains a list of every current HP printer. I doubt it does. Without such a list it makes the job nearly impossible.
As mentioned in other posts the limited selection is a resource issue. We could certainly add a dozen or so other printers. Certain products need to take a priority. For instance USB Wireless Adapters. It's a time consuming process just communicating with the two dozen plus people and companies that are involved in getting proper support for the hardware.
1. You have to have a factory to manufacture
2. You have to have a factory to manufacture in the quantities you need
3. They have to understand you can only utilise a particular chipset
4. There has to be the money to pay for a HUGE quantity of the product to manufacture
5. Huge quantities of a product mean that there has to be some kind of financing (loans)
6. You have to communicate with chipset vendors because there are no free software chipsets available... which then means you need someone on the inside who can move forward on getting a chipset free'd. This is even at chipset vendors which have traditionally had good to decent support for free software. Your inside guy has to go up the chain of command. This takes a LONG LONG LONG time. You end up getting approval from legal, but legal says, approval is needed from marketing/business, so you have to get marketing/business on your side, and then finally you have to get some executive at the top to approve of everything.
7. The company OK'd everything... but they won't release the source code until it is cleaned up. They don't have the resources to do that. Now you have to find someone who can clean the code up- so that it can be released under a free license.
8. Developers in the community have to get involved. The source code/firmware have to be compiled, submitted, and maintained, etc.
9. Now you need some place to store that huge quantity. eee OK. So now you have to start looking for more space.
10... I'm sure there are things I'm leaving out. Now just go and do this for a few products and you see what we are up against.
We don't have a dozens of people working full time for every little thing...
:) Maybe in a year from now there will be more demand which will pay for more people. Until then things move slowly. The fact we have as many products as we do is quite amazing. But every product we add contributes to the improvement and resources. So now you know why things are in the catalog and not quite perfected... despite the "ease" of which it takes to perfect.
Another thing that could easily be added regarding hardware is the exact lspci -nnk/lsusb output and which software the hardware was tested with (e.g. webcamera works with Cheese, printer works with Simple Scan etc) and simple instructions on how to get it to work if it doesn't work out of the box such as a TV card (which incidentally isn't offered by thinkpenguin) which requires configuring channels via software such as tvtime.
> lspci -nnk/lsusb output and which software the hardware was tested with (e.g.
> webcamera works with Cheese, [...]
Wouldn't that duplicate what h-node.org is doing? Isn't it better to
provide a link to a h-node entry if already available?
I'm thinking more along the lines of what a "Windows" user gets when buying hardware: a nice booklet which explains how to set up the software and install the drivers. Some hardware just works under GNU/Linux such as USB wireless adapters (provided you have networkmanager or similar software installed), whereas others require more effort (such as setting up a printer or a TV card).
Also, note that sometimes different chipsets are sold under the same model name (e.g. a laptop model is sold with different wifi chips), so this information is important.
Everything should work out of the box generally speaking. We go through a lot of trouble to ensure there is proper mainline support for hardware and free software support.
1. Before we add a product to the catalog we check that the hardware is supportable (free drivers/firmware) by all distributions.
2. If something doesn't work although is free software compatible and we plan to use it then we go through and figure out how to fix it so that it does work out of the box. Again, this is generally speaking.
There are certain situations where something might not work in a particular situation or with a particular distribution. What matters is it generally going to work and there isn't much fuss comparatively speaking.
We decided to switch dial-up modems for instance. Different modem same chipset. A missing ID meant that the modem didn't work "out of the box" even though the chipset was free software compatible and supported in every distribution. This is a hardware modem. Now there are a number of distributions which don't support dial-up at all. So for us to say it works "out of the box" is a bit misleading. However it does work better than any other dial-up modem and has psudo "out of the box" support (no driver installation, compiling, etc required). What is missing in some distributions is the dialer program. This effects all modems though and not just the modem we sell for a particular distribution that has this issue. The other issue is permissions. We document and submit bug reports where we encounter them and thing things could be fixed/improved. Hopefully Rubén decides for instance to change the permission in Trisquel 6 so users don't have to adjust the permissions. He has already added a dialer to 5.5 (at a minimum, which is better than other distributions).
See some instructions here (other products have similar/better documentation and with pictures!):
Question: Every large OEM has a "recommends Windows 7" logo (so they can get a discount from Microsfot presumably as they aren't selling any other common operating systems). Why not make a similar logo for Trisquel at least for those that visited via libre.thinkpenguin.com?
Answer: I think this is a bad idea. It's not about Trisquel or any particular distribution. It's about the freedom. We decided to start supporting Trisquel because it was free. I contacted Rubén because it was free. Now why Trisquel over another free distribution? Trisquel has a long and prosperous history. It's got a solid base (Ubuntu), it's kept up to date (Trisquel), and it is usable (pretty and functional)! We wanted to support something everybody could use (to the extent possible).
http://libre.thinkpenguin.com/ was setup in response to this. In the future we might list other free distributions here. Currently we haven't made an effort to support other free distributions because of the amount of time in consumes to keep the information up to date. We would rather provide proper support to the extent it is possible than to try and support everything.
That said I like this idea. It just needs a little tweak (and we can actually use it everywhere): "ThinkPenguin recommends Free Software". It probably won't be implemented though. Maybe at some point if I think of it and our new site is designed. Which reminds me... I need to respond to an email in regards to the specifications for a new design...
Question: I found a 720P webcamera. Why not post some screenshots and videos? That's something you rarely find online these days.
Answer: There is no doubt the site needs an overhaul. It was designed in the summer of 2008. Almost nothing has changed except back end upgrades. It had an almost zero dollar budget. Why there aren't more pictures and better pictures of products comes down to appearances. Throwing up pictures isn't going to make it look better. If people want pictures we can send them on request. People have asked for better pictures of our laptops. They got them. They have even posted them on other websites (with consent). The real work on a new web site will probably start in September. The goal will be to design a new site and fix a lot of these little issues.
Question: I found an MP3 and OGG player. Does it run RockBox? Is the firmware free? Does the firmware support non English characters? Could you add screenshots?
Answer: It does not run RockBox. These are VERY basic players. I'm not sure what you mean by add screenshots. If you mean take pictures of the actual product feel free to make a request. Pictures will be sent.
Question: I found 2 HP printers but couldn't find the models on the site.
Answer: It's a time issue. There are actually a few models with the same specifications from HP for each printer. One supports older versions of GNU/Linux out of the box. The other does not. We can't post real pictures because the machines are different in appearance. We should add each printer separately although it is not something that I've had time to do. The reason it's not separate is because each time HP discontinues a model we have to update the site. It just happens too frequently. All the specification information should be posted for the printer though. This was updated at one point. Except this to be fixed within a handful of months (once we have the new site up).
Question: Also, aside from free software drivers, it would be nice to buy a printer that can use recycled cartridges for environmental and price reasons (they are much cheaper than original ones).
Answer: Inkjet printers aren't really good to use recycling wise. We might add a higher end laser printer at some point where the cartridges can be refilled. HP is the way to go when it comes to refilling cartridges. It'll raise the cost of the printer if we ship with a cartridges that can be refilled out of the box. I've been told to do it properly you need to spin the cartridges. Probably would be very messy. However I've heard of people doing black and white laser cartridges without issue for years. The majority of people are just looking for a basic printer so all of this comes down to demand and a lack of resources. More customers, more resources, more printers.
One last thing. The demand is increasing. The problem right now is getting things adjusted so that we can expand and I have more time to work on the details. I'm responding to these posts as a gesture. Although the more of this I do the longer it takes to get these issues resolved. Most of which are being worked on... however slowly.
Chris thanks for your replies.
The thing I liked with Openmoko was that before buying their phone I knew exactly what I was getting as there is a very detailed community driven wiki explaining how to perform common tasks.
Most computer websites seem to make the mistake of giving lots of specs without any interactive content (e.g. demonstration and sample video outputs of a webcamera).
Video demonstrations can always be uploaded to YouTube in WebM format to supplement your website. The demonstrations could save time answering emails and forum posts as they could cover basic usages of the products offered.
Regarding digital audio players: there are quite a few cheap available players that work with Rockbox such as Sansa clip and clip+ that could be offered instead of ones with proprietary firmware.
Regarding printer cartridges: the printer price is usually not really important as the user spends most of the money on cartridges.
Also, now that you offer a 3D capable card supported by nouveau, a coreboot supported desktop computer that works with this card would be a very nice addition to thinkpenguin.
aloniv: Regarding printer cartridges: the printer price is usually not really important as the user spends most of the money on cartridges.
Comment: I know this, you know this, but not everybody prints enough to care. What they do pay attention to is the price and that it'll work with the system they have. That makes offering a better more expensive (up front at least) model difficult. Again... it'll happen in time. Some of this is going to get fixed once we have the new web site done. Until then there are many many other important issues I'll be working on. Like sourcing product. Trying source is actually a big issue. Chipsets get discontinued and you can't get them any more.. then what? Without that how well the site works doesn't really matter.
Coreboot is a project we would like to do. It's not going to happen for a long while. The issue is it is a non-trivial task to port coreboot from one system to another. The amount of time these systems are on the market is too short to pay for the cost of porting coreboot. The demand has to rise before a coreboot port will happen. Working on aspects that will increase demand is a top priority. This is largely a marketing issue and not a product issue. The only product part of this is being able to source the product. Something we have trouble doing in a lot of cases due to discontinued chipsets.
I'm going to make one other comment about the IDs and hardware in general. If we started documenting the details people would go get hardware elsewhere. It's not something we want to encourage. Documentation takes time, development takes time, and we want to encourage people to buy hardware that is explicitly supported rather than hardware which is not. A piece of hardware that is available from multiple sources might not be supported in every version.
When we purchase a few hundred of a particular card we have to verify (beyond just ordering the same model) a random sample to ensure it remains unchanged. A CSR USB bluetooth chipset for instance off ebay may not work even though it explicitly indicates "Linux" is supported. Searching for a product based on the model off h-node doesn't necessarily get you the same product.
I can't tell you how difficult it is to confirm product information half the time. "Manufactures" frequently advertise information for older products or different products. If I went on h-node and found out that P-DAL TL-XXXXXX is a low profile graphics card compatible with Trisquel 5.5. That might be true if I get that exact card. The model does not indicate the exact card though. The chipsets can and do change and the components which come with them can and do differ from one seller to the next. In one case in particular I can think of we had the hardest of times finding a card with a particular bracket. The chipset was always right, but nobody had the card with the right bracket. The manufacturer said they came with it, the web site said they came with it, the distributors said they came with it. Ultimately we found ONE not-terribly reputable company that had it with the bracket we needed. Then it took a while longer to find a distributor. The only thing that indicated it came with the bracket was a sticker on the box. That isn't enough information to actually locate the card though with the bracket as retailers don't advertise it based on the box. They advertise it based on the information they get form the manufacturer and they manufacturer provided the same info for both the version that shipped with the bracket and the one that did not. So ultimately you would have to sample a dozen cards or more maybe before you found a source that had the version which actually came with the bracket. By the way- there were only two companies which had a freedom friendly chipset with this bracket and one was for a VERY high end card. We ended up going to china for it... although now have two cards. One we get from a distributor in the US and one more direct from China. The later one we actually had to go a mold to get the bracket made.... ick. Small investment.
On one hand you say providing IDs will encourage people to buy elsewhere, but then you say that if they do so they will likely get the wrong chip in which case they will probably buy from you in the end anyway :)
Anyway, providing as much info (including chipset IDs) makes comparing products online (e.g. on Ubuntu forums) much easier.
You are right. I'm still leery of it. We do advertise the chipsets already and in many cases this is sufficient to go elsewhere.
We do oblige requests for additional information (lspci etc) when people ask.
I understand the challenges that the company faces, I appreciate what you are doing for the community though and I hope that your company continues to grow and prosper.
Our of curiosity are there any plans for a Netbook ? I hate the 10" netbooks but I would kill for a 11" (Macbook Air size and weight) style netbook running 100% free software.
There are no plans for an 11" netbook at this time. There are plans to replace the 13.3" model we are currently selling with another 13.3" model. The 13.3" models are extremely light and available with minimally spec'd CPUs. The price on them is quite reasonable.
> replace teh 13.3" model we are currently selling with another 134.3"
> model. It is extremely light and available with a minimally spec'd CPU
> to keep the price down.
How much will that 134.3" model sell for? $50, $60K?
Rick C. Hodgin
The current model starts at $499 USD /w a 2Ghz B940 CPU, 1GB DDR3 (unless you get the old LTS release you really need 2GB now), and an 80GB hard drive.
I'm not sure what future models will go for although we shoot to get prices starting at something low (and still more than usable). Then customers can upgrade as desired.
Any word on when the 13" will be back in stock?