WOW! Computer for Seniors

Where Penguins and Daemons chill together in the warmth of the Sun.

Moderators: SecretSquirrel, notfred

WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 11:35 am

http://www.mywowcomputer.com/

Anyone else run across one of these beasties? Posted here because after viewing boot it's clearly Linux-based. Just set one up for the 80-something MiL (bought for her by her 90-something boyfriend) and would like to know a bit more for when she inevitably finds a way to bodge it.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20189
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:10 pm

That is a weird bit of kit. Unless they're unusually against it, I always recommend an iPad. It does all of the functions at 1/2 the price.
Calm seas never made a skilled mariner.
drsauced
Graphmaster Gerbil
 
Posts: 1464
Joined: Mon Apr 21, 2003 1:38 pm
Location: Here!

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:36 pm

I've never seen one of these. A Linux-based web/e-mail/etc. appliance does make a certain amount of sense though.

Potential downsides I see are:
- The price; looks rather expensive for the functionality provided
- The inevitable "Why can't I install X on this?" questions
- Opening documents created in MS Office; I assume they are using OpenOffice/LibreOffice on this thing, so degree of support for MS Office documents will vary depending on the features used in the document and the version of MS Office they were created in
- Printer compatibility ("Most recent HP printers will work with your WOW! Computer"); from this I assume that other brands are not supported
- They claim "free software updates for life"; obviously this is only good as long as the company is still in business
- I sure hope their "Tech Buddy" feature ("A Tech Buddy is a friend or family member that wants to help you use your WOW! Computer. After you give them the User Name and Password you create for them, they can log into our Tech Buddy web site and access your WOW! Computer from their own computer") has some seriously robust security; also, since you need to go through their web site this feature is useless if they stop supporting it
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 12:48 pm

just brew it! wrote:I've never seen one of these. A Linux-based web/e-mail/etc. appliance does make a certain amount of sense though.

Potential downsides I see are:
- The price; looks rather expensive for the functionality provided
- The inevitable "Why can't I install X on this?" questions
- Opening documents created in MS Office; I assume they are using OpenOffice/LibreOffice on this thing, so degree of support for MS Office documents will vary depending on the features used in the document and the version of MS Office they were created in
- Printer compatibility ("Most recent HP printers will work with your WOW! Computer"); from this I assume that other brands are not supported
- They claim "free software updates for life"; obviously this is only good as long as the company is still in business
- I sure hope their "Tech Buddy" feature ("A Tech Buddy is a friend or family member that wants to help you use your WOW! Computer. After you give them the User Name and Password you create for them, they can log into our Tech Buddy web site and access your WOW! Computer from their own computer") has some seriously robust security; also, since you need to go through their web site this feature is useless if they stop supporting it

This is nothing more than an over-expensive route to e-mail, Skype, and Facebook for an 80+ YO grammy, but I didn't pay for it (I'm just the unpaid drain cleaner), At least I got a sweet HP laptop in trade. She'll never want to install anything on it.

On first impressions, this thing is designed to be on 24/7 and can be woken with a finger to the screen. There really isn't a way to shut down any app short of flipping the Big Red Switch. If it keeps her up to date in her Hotmail and Facebook accounts, life is good. Skype with the daughter in LA may take some doing yet the base distro has Skype if not under that name. Did verify that the webcam works.

EDIT:

No Office functionality needed
No printer needed
"Tech Buddy" drives the 20 minutes at least once per month to remind her that the source selector button on her TV remote has both UP and DOWN buttons (she always forgets the UP after she watches a DVD).
She's Mom to SWMBO, so I'm stuck with it until ...
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20189
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 2:21 pm

I'd think a Chromebox would do the same basic web things, with the same advantages of security, but from a company that you know will be around. BUT TOUCHSCREEN! Seems a bit expensive for what it is too given the alternatives.
MadManOriginal
Graphmaster Gerbil
 
Posts: 1412
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: In my head...

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 2:28 pm

Wow! What a piece of crap for $1080! The UX looks utterly disgusting.

As someone already mentioned, an iPad would be far more usable for grandma.

Even a $500 Dell AIO PC with a kiosk Ubuntu installation will do far better.
LASR
Gerbil
 
Posts: 57
Joined: Fri Jan 10, 2014 9:35 pm

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 2:28 pm

I believe that another venture that Michael Larabel (of Phoronix) is part of with his Blue Heron / Reside @ Home business that has been running for quite a while.
Deanjo
Gerbil XP
 
Posts: 394
Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 11:31 am

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:10 pm

Specs page confirms it's Linux of unknown pedigree, also confirms it's a crappy $400 emachines type all-in-one being price gouged. I'd say you should get this boyfriend to return it and give you 700 bucks to put together something just as good, but maybe that's not an option plus it's not your money and not your problem.

I agree that the UI is atrocious but I can see old people going for this. It reminds me of a TV infomercial, which are tailored to old people too.
NovusBogus
Gerbil Elite
 
Posts: 507
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:37 am

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:16 pm

Complaining about the hardware is a lost cause. It's on the MiL's desk and I have to deal with it. If anyone's got tips about the underlying kernel & distro, I'm all ears.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20189
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:19 pm

Captain Ned wrote:Skype with the daughter in LA may take some doing yet the base distro has Skype if not under that name.

I fully expected Skype for Linux to be phased out after Microsoft acquired them back in 2011. However, it appears it is still being actively maintained (latest release for Linux was this past January), and Microsoft provides installation packages for several distros. OTOH, the only current distros on the list appear to be Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and Debian 7; the versions of Fedora and OpenSUSE they support are EOL. It will be interesting to see whether they roll out official support for Ubuntu 14.04 when it is released later this month.

Just for grins, I tried activating Ubuntu's "partner" repository on my 12.04 box, and sure enough, Skype showed up in the list of installable packages. Installation was painless, and the client came up and allowed me to log in without incident. I can't fully test it since I'm not sure where my headset is at the moment (anything not used for a month or more gets buried in the mess), but I was able to place a landline call (after going to Skype's web site to re-activate my dormant Skype credit), and the line rang. I suspect the screwy non-standard audio stack I run (PulseAudio + JACK) may cause problems if I try to use it for an actual call, but that's more my issue than Skype's.

Edit: The version that got pulled from the "partner" repository is 4.2.0.11, which is supposedly not the most recent version for Linux. At least it is supported though.
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:21 pm

Captain Ned wrote:Complaining about the hardware is a lost cause. It's on the MiL's desk and I have to deal with it. If anyone's got tips about the underlying kernel & distro, I'm all ears.

This page has more info on the underlying distro: http://www.mywowcomputer.com/opensource.html

It's apparently a custom UI built on top of something called Tiny Core Linux.
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:23 pm

A quick internet search tells me there's no native way to pull up a terminal (...and they're expecting 'Tech Buddy' to support this thing, lol wut?) so my first thought is to pull the hard drive and try chrooting from another linux system. Or, if you're at least able to do stuff in grub maybe you could get it to boot from a USB stick without removing the HD.
NovusBogus
Gerbil Elite
 
Posts: 507
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:37 am

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:28 pm

NovusBogus wrote:A quick internet search tells me there's no native way to pull up a terminal (...and they're expecting 'Tech Buddy' to support this thing, lol wut?) so my first thought is to pull the hard drive and try chrooting from another linux system. Or, if you're at least able to do stuff in grub maybe you could get it to boot from a USB stick without removing the HD.

I doubt there's a way to access the grub menu, and I'll bet getting at the physical hard drive is a PITA too.
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:31 pm

Specs says its a chunky 3.5" hard drive so it should just be a matter of finding where they put the screws in the back panel. It should be easier than popping open a smartphone. I do agree that it will be a hassle though, so when you to it'd probably be a good idea to have some accessibility changes ready to go.

I do think it's worth finding a way to get it to boot from USB. Perhaps you could contact the company, explain that you're the designated nerd and have physical access to the machine and you want a way to boot a live stick to do repairs and maintenance. If that fails, try mashing the usual suspects during bootup and maybe you'll get lucky--at a minimum the bios should have some options even if they're using a custom splash screen that hides the shortcut.
NovusBogus
Gerbil Elite
 
Posts: 507
Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:37 am

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:39 pm

doG, I love this place. A box that, from my POV after a bit of hands-on, appears to be perfectly geezer-friendly and everyone wants to rip out the existing install. Bloody purists.

Remember that you're dealing with an 80+ something woman who continually calls my daughter asking how to bring up the "typewriter" on her Kindle Fire (another sordid family story). If she can touch-screen her way to e-mail, Skype, and Facebook she'll be ecstatic. She didn't pay for the box, so don't bitch there. I was hoping that someone else had a parent/grandparent in a similar situation and could pre-inform me of potential issues with the ecosystem, yet all I get is people wanting to take it back to a bare-bones CLI.

JBI excepted, have fun when you're the "Tech Buddy" for your older relations.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20189
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:43 pm

Captain Ned wrote:doG, I love this place. A box that, from my POV after a bit of hands-on, appears to be perfectly geezer-friendly and everyone wants to rip out the existing install. Bloody purists.

Well, you did say you "would like to know a bit more for when she inevitably finds a way to bodge it". I think people were interpreting that as "How do I do low-level maintenance on the thing?"

I don't see anyone actually recommended that you replace the existing OS image; booting from a USB stick (and/or pulling up the CLI) is just a way for *you* to look at the contents of the internal drive if she happens to brick it.
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:55 pm

just brew it! wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:doG, I love this place. A box that, from my POV after a bit of hands-on, appears to be perfectly geezer-friendly and everyone wants to rip out the existing install. Bloody purists.
Well, you did say you "would like to know a bit more for when she inevitably finds a way to bodge it". I think people were interpreting that as "How do I do low-level maintenance on the thing?"

I don't see anyone actually recommended that you replace the existing OS image; booting from a USB stick (and/or pulling up the CLI) is just a way for *you* to look at the contents of the internal drive if she happens to brick it.

From the 2 hours I spent with it inputting her e-mail/Skype/Facebook credentials (most of which was her finding the scrap of paper containing same) it appears pretty much un-bodgeable. Boot happened so quickly that I'm not sure I'd ever be given the option to boot from CD/DVD or USB. It was the merest flash of "init.gz" in terminal view at boot that confirmed it was a Linux distro. Never got the "F2" option to enter the BIOS or boot from something else and I booted the thing a good half-dozen times or so.

Well, the closed ecosystem has one good point. When she **** it up, she'll be the one listening to the hold music from the hell desk. Now, off to discover what I have in the HP laptop I got in the "trade".
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20189
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 3:58 pm

Gonna use that laptop as your 14.04 testbed?
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 4:06 pm

just brew it! wrote:Gonna use that laptop as your 14.04 testbed?

Either that one or the Lenovo T60 the better half scored as surplus from work. I'll probably start with the Lenovo because I like the stick.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20189
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 4:09 pm

Just a quick update on the Skype tangent... the version of Skype for Linux available on Skype's web site is (not unexpectedly) quite a bit newer than the one in Ubuntu's "partner" repo. Looks like 32-bit only, but this shouldn't be a problem for 64-bit users as long as the ia32-libs package (32-bit compatibility libraries) is installed. It's not like Skype really *needs* 64-bit capabilities anyway... :lol:
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 4:19 pm

For my money this computer should have come with Chrome OS and an itty bitty SSD, especially since they admit this thing's not too useful without broadband.

I've heard of Tiny Core before; it's developed by some of the people who used to dev Damn Small Linux. It's meant to run on a Pentium II with 128MB of RAM but can run at least some add-on packages.
http://tinycorelinux.net/
http://tinycorelinux.net/faq.html
Think for yourself, schmuck!
i5-2500K@4.3|Asus P8P67-LE|8GB DDR3-1600|Powercolor R7850 2G|1.5TB 7200.11|1988 Model M|Saitek X-45 & P880|Logitech MX 518|Dell 2209WA|Sennheiser PC151|Asus Xonar DX
bthylafh
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
 
Posts: 3150
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2003 11:55 pm
Location: Southwest Missouri, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 4:28 pm

bthylafh wrote:For my money this computer should have come with Chrome OS and an itty bitty SSD, especially since they admit this thing's not too useful without broadband.

I did figure out that the browser is Chrome-based.
It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Captain Ned
Global Moderator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 20189
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Vermont, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 4:46 pm

Captain Ned wrote:Never got the "F2" option to enter the BIOS or boot from something else and I booted the thing a good half-dozen times or so.

You could try holding down shift at boot time and see if that gives you the grub menu. However I agree, just treat it as an appliance from WOW Computer and get them to support it rather than thinking of it as a PC. I might be tempted to pull the drive and image it just in case anything dies as a way to get it back running quicker, but that would be it.
notfred
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
 
Posts: 3726
Joined: Tue Aug 10, 2004 10:10 am
Location: Ottawa, Canada

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:08 pm

Now Ned, you didn't post this thread on an enthusiast site and really not expect to get some semi-negative feedback, did you?
MadManOriginal
Graphmaster Gerbil
 
Posts: 1412
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: In my head...

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 5:14 pm

Captain Ned wrote:
bthylafh wrote:For my money this computer should have come with Chrome OS and an itty bitty SSD, especially since they admit this thing's not too useful without broadband.

I did figure out that the browser is Chrome-based.

Most likely Chromium or a derivative thereof, with the missing stuff added back in. Chromium is essentially Chrome unbundled from the proprietary Google bits like the integrated PDF viewer, and the non-GPL-compatible plugins (Flash & H264).

Edit: And as an aside, I just learned that it is quite easy to add the integrated PDF capability to Chromium. All you need to do is grab the libpdf.so plugin from a copy of Chrome, and stick it in /usr/lib/chromium-browser folder!
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 6:39 pm

Gorilla arm in 3.....2......1........


coal subscriber
MSI X58A-GD65, i7-920@3.8, EVGA 660 GTX SC SLI, Neutron 240 GB,2.75 TB Spindle Storage,ASUS DVD-RW, 6GB Patriot, Win 7 & 8.1 & Kubuntu Triple Boot, ASUS VK278 on DisplayPort.
zenlessyank
Gerbil
 
Posts: 88
Joined: Tue Oct 16, 2012 5:15 pm

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 9:26 pm

I'd be interested in getting my hands on the Linux distro/software seperately; That's where the value is in this thing, if there is any.

As it is, they're charging something like $600 for the software additions because that PC has the same spec as a $500 laptop, and maybe I'm being generous.
<insert large, flashing, epileptic-fit-inducing signature (based on the latest internet-meme) here>
Chrispy_
Gerbil Jedi
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 1830
Joined: Fri Apr 09, 2004 3:49 pm

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 9:33 pm

Chrispy_ wrote:I'd be interested in getting my hands on the Linux distro/software seperately; That's where the value is in this thing, if there is any.

As it is, they're charging something like $600 for the software additions because that PC has the same spec as a $500 laptop, and maybe I'm being generous.

Well, bthylafh posted links to the upstream distro's web site a few posts back. That doesn't include the custom wrapper UI though.
(this space intentionally left blank)
just brew it!
Administrator
Gold subscriber
 
 
Posts: 37639
Joined: Tue Aug 20, 2002 10:51 pm
Location: Somewhere, having a beer

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:12 pm

A page linked earlier to the Open Source part of this states that the UI is closed source, so you're not getting the actual distro without buying one of these overpriced clunkers.
Think for yourself, schmuck!
i5-2500K@4.3|Asus P8P67-LE|8GB DDR3-1600|Powercolor R7850 2G|1.5TB 7200.11|1988 Model M|Saitek X-45 & P880|Logitech MX 518|Dell 2209WA|Sennheiser PC151|Asus Xonar DX
bthylafh
Grand Gerbil Poohbah
 
Posts: 3150
Joined: Mon Dec 29, 2003 11:55 pm
Location: Southwest Missouri, USA

Re: WOW! Computer for Seniors

Postposted on Tue Apr 15, 2014 1:18 pm

bthylafh wrote:For my money this computer should have come with Chrome OS and an itty bitty SSD, especially since they admit this thing's not too useful without broadband.

I've heard of Tiny Core before; it's developed by some of the people who used to dev Damn Small Linux. It's meant to run on a Pentium II with 128MB of RAM but can run at least some add-on packages.


With their own distro they don't have to bother with Google like they would with Chrome OS.

TinyCore is interesting. I have a friend who uses it to build light weight Linux servers to run ASP.NET apps via Mono. This was after he got fedup with maintaining his LFS servers which served the same purpose. :)

I like the idea, but I've found it hard to work with. Of course, I haven't invested a lot of time in it, and I think there are more interesting technologies out there that accomplish the same thing (CoreOS and Docker).
Flatland_Spider
Gerbil Elite
 
Posts: 826
Joined: Mon Sep 13, 2004 8:33 pm
Location: The 918/539


Return to Linux, Unix, and Assorted Madness

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests