Pre-installed Linux systems
Hardware suppliers and resellers are becoming more savvy to the growing popularity of Linux. Despite this it’s still very much the resellers taking the lead here; few major hardware vendors will sell notebooks that do not come bundled with Windows (or MacOS if you prefer), which means the local computer store has an opportunity to provide a value-added service by adding Linux themselves.
Dell, for instance, have made a single Ubuntu desktop PC available for purchase but are yet to extend this to their laptop line. Toshiba has no Linux offerings, nor do Sharp or Fujitsu, or other significant manufacturers.
Not to worry; Linux-ready laptops are found in slightly more obscure locations: Pioneer Notebooks in Sydney is one such company who offer Linux, and do so across their entire range of custom-built laptops. Selecting a laptop allows you to customise your preferred specs, with Ubuntu Linux being an operating system option at the exact same price as if no operating system was pre-loaded (By contrast, versions of Windows XP and Windows Vista range in price from $126 to $304.)
There’s a catch, though: you have to be confident that Pioneer Notebooks models are right for you, and it will be harder to make such an assessment when it is unlikely you know many – or any – people who have purchased from them before, or when it will be harder to find reviews of their products in magazines or news sites or blogs. Conversely, there’s no end of independent reviews of, for example, HP or Lenovo laptop lines. Be aware, too, that the Pioneer price doesn’t include any shipping. You need to either pick it up or elect a shipping method on the system configuration page.
Look around and you will also find other niche vendors producing their own hardware with Linux as an option – another is System 76 in the U.S. The same risk applies, namely you need to dig harder to find objective testimonials on the product.
We’re not saying this is a bad thing; in fact, kudos to these companies for making Linux laptops available without the customer having to pay for a Windows license if they don’t want it. What we would advocate is you open lines of communications when considering a purchase to ensure you have confidence in the seller and their wares. If they have a shop front, or will permit you to visit their warehouse, see if you can drop in. Check out the feel of the keyboard, the build of the case and any other features that ordinarily influence your choice of laptop.
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David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. Within two years, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Newcastle, as a UNIX systems manager. This was a crucial time for UNIX at the University with the advent of the World-Wide-Web and the decline of VMS. David moved on to a brief stint in consulting, before returning to the University as IT Manager in 1998. In 2001, he joined an international software company as Asia-Pacific troubleshooter, specialising in AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and database systems. Settling down in Newcastle, David then found niche roles delivering hard-core tech to the recruitment industry and presently is the Chief Information Officer for a national resources company where he particularly specialises in mergers and acquisitions and enterprise applications.