Don’t be fooled by the content of this post, read all the way through to see where I’m going with it, Stewart Tansley would understand, this topic has been debated before.
I have respect for these guys and gals at MP3Car.com and other hobbyist sites like MSFN.org. It’s geeks like this that want to tinker with the OS at a level that is difficult to do with Full Windows XP Pro/Home, but much easier with Linux or XP Embedded.
Build your own car audio or navigation system running on either XP Pro that is trimmed to the point it’ll run on a Compact Flash, or build on top of XP Embedded. And before you ask – No, I’m not referring to the AutoPC on CE (er, I guess it’s called Windows Automotive now?).
Since most hobbyists that attempt this don’t want or need to learn the XPe Tools, most resort to hacking out files from Pro to reduce the footprint, experiment, fail, learn from their mistakes, tinkering some more and succeed with lots of time and patience.
But the interesting thing to me here isn’t just that they’re hobbyists and learning about the Windows Internals along the way to hacking the OS to meet their requirements. The interesting part is that they’re leveraging some of the Embedded Enabling Features from XP Embedded within their XP Pro and Home SKUs to accomplish their goals.
For instance they’re leveraging Bootprep, EWF, HORM (hibernate once, resume many) and Minlogon from the XPe-SP1 and SP2 downloads.
Here’s some choice quotes from various hobbyist sites:
From ‘Archaic Binary’ (scroll down the page):
“The EWF filter driver is also working great. I no longer have to shutdown my system, I can just turn off the car and the system will power off instantly, since the data is pretty much ‘read-only’ on the flash”.
“MinLogon, This is an optional component and is not necessary for running XP from a CF card, but it has been shown to improve boot time”.
Now to the whole point of this post.
The point is not that I *just* find it cool that people are using our product in a way we hadn’t intended or targeted. Hobbyists like this are very resourceful and they’re not doing it for money but because it’s a cool hobby. This is the same reason that more geeky teenagers and young adults give for preferring LINUX over Windows:
– because they “can tinker with it”
– because “Microsoft is old and busted, while LINUX is the new hotness”.
I’m referring to hobbyists with interests as varied as a desire for a custom Automotive Navigation system or a personal robot like Jay Beavers’ Cylon project.
The “hobbyist” doesn’t want to be stuck with 500Megs or a gig of features they don’t want nor need for their projects. All those features are perfectly acceptable with probably 99% of the population’s PCs, but it’s the remainder of the population – the hobbyists – that may constitute, in my opinion, the future of the computing industry and the future decision makers like CIO/CTOs or IT professionals. These are the folks that are making the purchasing recommendations within their companies.
It’s the hobbyists (and the college students working on their CS degrees) that we need to cultivate and show that there’s an alternative to LINUX if you just want to tinker with the OS and build your custom system that’s still as powerful and respectful as the Professional SKU and still runs your .NET apps or any off the shelf Win32 app/driver.
So why not get the mindshare today by producing a version of the XPe product that targets the “hobbyist”? If we did, perhaps the hobbyist would be able to purchase the entire XPe product (Tools and all) with a license for a single runtime that doesn’t timebomb. Make the price around a hundred bucks which seems reasonable if you’re just tinkering around in your garage.
There’s an academic program for Windows Embedded, is it time for a Windows Embedded Hobbyist program as well? I’m already aware that there’s logistical issues with something like this, but surfacing an issue and a potential solution is the first step. <grin>
[edit 3/21/05: per comment at mp3car.com, it’s ‘.com’, not ‘.org’ <grin>]