Real or fake Linux PC? Everex will know

Sure, it's a Linux box, nudge nudge, wink wink. How many users keep the Linux that vendors sell them?

PC vendors haven't been eager to know how many users run Linux when it's preloaded on their low-end PCs, and how many replace it with an infringing copy of Microsoft Windows. Everex, the latest company to introduce a low-priced desktop Linux system, will have the information, however, thanks to the software update system behind its Linux distribution.

Everex, a PC hardware vendor that is part of First International Corporation, is introducing a mini-tower Linux system called the gPC TC2502, which is priced at US$198 including keyboard, mouse, and speakers.

The system is not sold as "Linux," and includes a distinctive user interface that is closer in look to Apple's Mac OS X. A desktop panel includes icons for popular Google applications, including GMail, Google Documents and Spreadsheets, Google Calendar, and Blogger.

Some local software, including OpenOffice and the Rhythmbox music player, is included, but, "you get the idea that Google provides your computing experience," says David Liu, founder of gOS, the company that provides the gPC's Ubuntu-based Linux distribution.

The gOS distribution can't be redistributed freely because it includes proprietary software to support such patented media formats as MP3 and MPEG-2 files, as well as a licensed player for DVDs. Like other Linux distributions, nonetheless, it will offer an online software-update system, and Liu says that the company will be able to tell how many of the gPCs stay up and running with his company's Linux.

Chris Kenyon, director of business development for Canonical, the company behind the popular Ubuntu distribution, said at the company's press call announcing the Ubuntu 7.10 release that his company doesn't monitor the continued use of preinstalled Ubuntu outside China. There, as part of a crackdown on infringing copies of Microsoft Windows, "regulatory agencies are checking to see that Linux actually works," he said.

Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth added, "We can't tell the difference between an Ubuntu user who installed for themselves or one who used a system from an OEM."

Whether or not a user continues to run Linux on the gPC, the hardware, built around a 1.5GHz Via C7-D processor, has other advantages. When idle, its power consumption is 2W. Comsumption goes up to 20W at peak use, says Paul Kim, Everex director of marketing.

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