And the Rest

Search for the mythical Linux laptop

It is time to get a new laptop for work purposes. The current Dell laptop is now 3 years old, and although it still runs perfectly, it was always a desktop replacement, and never designed to be moved around. And although it originally came pre installed with Windows XP, it has been a Kubuntu machine for most of its time.
So besides being smaller (12-13″ screen), lighter and with much longer battery life, my other requirement was that I do not need Windows installed or pay for the disks. The Kubuntu Linux 8.04 with KDE 3.5 CD was waiting and that would be the operating system.

6 months ago when I purchased a desktop machine as a development server, I was able to specify my exact requirements for RAM, hard drive, processor etc, and also that no OS was required. This was from a local computer store, not a chain or large manufacturer. I went back to the same store for a laptop, but they only distribute laptops, and all came with Windows pre installed.
Now I had heard that outside Australia (where I am), that some of the larger laptop manufacturers would supply them with a Linux install. A web search of the large players like Acer, ASUS, Dell, Lenovo and alike gave me only Vista laptops with the occasional option to roll back to XP. Not a good start. I then sent off emails to all these suppliers asking them if it was possible to get a laptop with Linux or no OS at all. All replied with generic automated messages, but only ASUS gave me a human answer, which was Windows only (except for the eeePC), and all laptops must have an OS {Windows].
Visits to a number of chain stores brought similar responses.

  • The salesman at Harris technology could not understand why I did not want to hand over all my money.
  • Sales lady at Dick Smith seemed to lack any knowledge of what they had for sale.
  • Guy at the Dell kiosk could not understand the question.
  • JB Hi-Fi at least mentioned alternatives, such as a Mac, but other than that, nothing they could do.

And unfortunately the answer was repeated at 3 small independent stores I visited.
There is a company from Melbourne, called VG Computing, who will install different Linux distributions, but this costs extra than the Windows version, so you are paying for something that is not used.
So it seems that the Linux laptop does not exist in Australia. So much for competition. It seems Microsoft has all the manufacturers signed up, and if you want to purchase a laptop in the country, then you must pay the Microsoft tax. Is there any other alternative?

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