Okay, so now that you’ve downloaded the brand-spanking-new version of Ubuntu, what are you going to run it on?
A similar question faced Linux users more than a decade ago. Desktop Linux distributions have always run on commodity hardware, but late in the last century a quartet of computer makers went a little bit further:
HP, IBM, Dell and Compaq formed the principal group of hardware vendors that made high-profile statements of support for GNU/Linux in 1999…
Granted, the support of which they spoke was really about the deployment of Red Hat Linux in business environments — but even this was a huge deal at the time, and gave both Linux and the FLOSS movement in general some much-needed credibility in the wider world.
So how are the FLOSS four doing 11 years on? Let’s find out…
But first, some notes:
- The informal findings below are based on results from the Canadian market. If things are different where you’re reading this please let me know!
- I’m consciously focusing on desktop (and laptop) computers here, since we all know that Apache rules the server-verse.
Oh, and Compaq is out of the running, since they merged with HP in 2001. But you already knew that, right?
Lenovo, who got the rights to IBM’s PC division in 2005, doesn’t seem to sell any desktop products without Windows — which is a real shame, because I think their hardware is both stylish and dependable, from the cheap and cheerful laptop I got in 2006 (okay, that wasn’t stylish at all) to my new all-in-one.
I’m also secretly lusting after a ThinkPad x100e, and my birthday is only 11 and a half months away…
HP also sells a fine netbook in Canada — the Mini 210, which is quite affordable as well. Unfortunately, there’s nary an option for Linux as a default OS on any of the computers they offer, at least in this country.
But HP does at least deserve some brownie points for rescuing beleaguered Palm from an uncertain fate — so long as its reasons for so doing are pure; i.e. to bring that slick webOS to more new products and not just call dibs on a bunch of patents.
A search for “Linux” on Dell.ca yielded a fantastic 501 results, yet the only computers I could find were a pair of netbooks with “Red Hat Ubuntu” (?) 8.04 — the previous LTS (long-term support) release.
Once again, you can download and install Ubuntu (or the distro of your choice) on products from any of these companies, but of the original FLOSS four only Dell is currently selling computers without a Windows license.
Thankfully, there are four new hardware manufactures who have taken up the Linux torch…
IMHO, Asus is largely responsible for kickstarting the netbook revolution, and all the wonderful netbook distros that came with it. They’ve since regressed to a Windows-only shop it would seem, but their contributions to netbooks and FLOSS should not be forgotten.
As a hardware and software company Nokia deserves kudos for making two of their major operating systems open source.
For the world’s number-one manufacturer of mobile devices, this is a pretty big deal.
Bringing computers and Linux to kids in the developing world makes the OLPC project pretty much a no-brainer, doesn’t it… But the thought and care that’s gone into designing a laptop specifically for this market — one that can withstand the elements, operate in bright sunlight and make the most of a battery charge — makes it an especially worthy endeavour.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and proclaim Asus, HTC, Nokia & OLPC as the new FLOSS four, leading the way in software freedom by bringing it to new products and markets.
Unless you think there are better or additional candidates…?