Two useful indicators of the increasing viability of Linux on the desktop; one personal, one public. The public one is the imminent announcement of preinstalled Linux on Dell Desktop machines, combined with the news that Vista is foundering enough for OEMs to fall back to XP.
The other, more personal, is what happened when I went into CompUSA last night to buy a new laptop. Because I do Linux product reviews, it had to be able to dual-boot Linux well, and specifically support Beryl. I had resigned myself to the usual buy-and-pray approach, looking at the several dozen laptops on display, since even a quick web search on my PDA didn’t offer much guidance.
Not expecting much help, I lassoed a salesdroid to try to at least get some advice on which one would run Vista Aero best, and mentioned that Linux and Beryl were a major concern. I was surprised to hear that the droid ran Ubuntu at home, and more surprised when he told me he’d grab the ‘Linux Expert’ from the back of their tech support / repair area.
Within a few minutes, they had gone off to do some research on which models would meet my needs best. 30 minutes later (!), they returned to announce that my best bet would be a Core2 Duo HP with an Intel graphics chip. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a go. I took it home, shrunk the Vista partition (nice new feature in Vista…), and installed Feisty Fawn. True to their word, not only did the Wifi work with WPA right off the bat, but the AIXGL support for the Intel graphics processor did as well, and Beryl came right up.
Now, to keep this from being a total love fest, I should mention that the salesperson also tried to convince me that installing Linux would void the HP warranty, something I sincerely doubt. But this was in the context of trying to sell me an extended warranty, which is when all the FUD and half-truths come out. Overall, I was hugely impressed by the degree to which they both knew, and were willing to assist me with, Linux.
Both of these events tell me that, while this might not be THE year of Linux on the Desktop, it’s going to be a major step forward.