When you think of a new computer you want to buy, odds are that you set your sights on a new Windows or Mac system, but it may be a good time to consider a Linux machine. Recently, I’ve been using two very low-cost systems—one a desktop and one a notebook–that come loaded with Linux and nothing but free, open-source software. I wouldn’t recommend either of them as the sole system for a dedicated web worker, but the notebook in particular (shown below) is worth considering for a number of purposes.
Both of the systems I’ve been using—the Everex gPC (desktop system) and the Asus Eee PC 4G (notebook)—achieve strikingly low price points by removing the costs of expensive operating systems and software applications. The Everex machine is $199 (available at Wal-Mart) without a monitor, and the Asus notebook is $400.
The Everex gPC has made a few waves due to its cost and the fact that people dubbed it “the Google PC” because it comes loaded with lots of free Google applications as well as OpenOffice productivity applications. However, the machine isn’t a Google offering; it’s from Everex. In my experience, this desktop system may have a future, but it’s currently too slow to recommend to a serious web worker.
The Everex has a VIA C7-D processor, 512MB of RAM and, to its credit, comes with an 80GB hard drive—a lot of capacity for an under-$200 system. It runs an operating system called gOS, based on Ubuntu Linux. The free applications you get with it include Skype, Firefox, GMail, Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail, media players and an instant messaging client, and the OpenOffice applications produce documents compatible with Word, Excel and other programs. However, the applications are noticeably slower than they are on Windows and Mac systems that cost just a few hundred dollars more. In my view, the gPC may be more attractive when it has a faster processor and more memory.
On the flip-side, the $400 Asus Eee PC 4G is a nice little notebook to keep around the house for occasional web browsing, e-mail and writing. I saw that Anne on this blog recently bought one for her son. I would agree that this a good starter notebook for a young kid, and I can see using it for other applications. It makes for a nice kitchen system, I could see buying a few of them to keep in various rooms in a large house, and at two pounds with a tiny form factor I would consider toting it around occasionally for work instead of a heavier notebook.
When you get right down to it, if you’re going to stock a Windows notebook with, say, Microsoft applications, or shell out for a Mac notebook, you’re going to pay at least $800. So $400 for the Asus is pretty attractive. The Asus notebook has an operating system based on Xandros Linux, and the list of applications is similar to the Everex’s list—with OpenOffice for productivity apps. You only get 4GB of local storage, but there are three USB ports so you could add an external drive or inexpensive USB thumb drive to the mix.
Best of all, the Asus notebook came completely Wi-Fi ready (802.11g) and I had no problems getting it to recognize my home Wi-Fi network. It has an Intel Celeron processor and 512MB of RAM and is reasonably speedy at browsing and other common tasks. It also has a slick-looking white case. My one chief complaint about it is that the 7-inch screen shows 800×480 resolution, and I’ve found myself getting annoyed when I have to scroll to the right to see certain parts of a web page. Still, at $400, especially if you have a home Wi-Fi network, this notebook is a pretty good value.
Are you currently usin a Linux system, or do you have plans to try one?