Easing desktop Linux buying

There's no mistaking that buying desktop hardware for use with Linux is more difficult than buying Windows PCs. Even if you manage to avoid the "Microsoft tax" and buy a system without Windows preinstalled, you still have the additional hurdle of getting your Linux of choice onto it.

Windows-free PCs ship from Dell preinstalled with a version of DOS. They might as well come with blank hard drives; your first step to getting up and running with a Linux desktop will be wiping the disk and installing the OS manually.

Michael Dell says he might be more likely to back Linux on the desktop if the various distributions would concentrate on achieving a more standardized common core, but that seems unlikely.

But suppose it didn't have to be quite that hard? Suppose the various vendors could all meet in the middle to lend you a hand?

Instead of standardizing each and every Linux distribution on a common core, developers from various distributions could come together to standardize a new, single distribution -- but not some kind of uber-Linux to end all Linuxes. On the contrary, the sole purpose of this lean, stripped-down distribution would be to get a fresh machine up and running with the Linux of your choice. It could come preinstalled on factory hard drives instead of DOS or, alternatively, it would be small enough to fit on a Live CD or even a USB keychain drive.

Most every Linux distribution has some means whereby you can install the OS over the network. So, rather than using CDs, let's make this the standard method of installation. When you boot this distribution I'm imagining, it would configure your network connection and give you a menu of Linux distributions to choose from, with screenshots and descriptions of each, and then automatically pull down your pick.

For enterprise users, this same distribution could include code to locate a Linux installation server on the local network (using the open Bonjour protocol, perhaps). Plug in a brand new machine, connect the network, switch on the power, and installation of your preferred desktop Linux distribution would begin automatically.

Michael Dell seems to be saying that until a single desktop Linux distribution emerges as the clear winner, all distributions have to lose. Maybe somebody ought to work on proving him wrong.

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