Linux has hit the mainstream -- it's official. Dell has started selling selected UK computers with Ubuntu Desktop Edition instead of Windows, just like it's been doing in the US for the last few months. Why is this good? Because you don't have to pay any of the licensing costs for Windows.
Before you celebrate, dancing naked in the streets, be aware that only two models get Linux lovin' -- the Inspiron 6400n laptop and Inspiron 530n desktop. The entry-level 6400n has an Intel Celeron M 520 CPU running at 1.6GHz, 512MB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. We'd stay away from this. For an extra £50 you can get a 1.73GHz T2080 Pentium dual-core CPU and 1GB of RAM. The 530n desktop's good value, though -- prices start from just £329 including VAT and delivery, and you can customise it up to a decent level.
It's all very cheap, sure, but we know what you're thinking: what happens when you switch it on and haven't got the foggiest idea how to use the thing? Fret not, geekling, Dell offers hardware and basic software support, covering installation, network connectivity and configuration over the phone. Once you're online, you can learn more via the Dell Linux Forum, where you can interact with Linux enthusiasts and hopefully not get cussed for being a n00b.
If you'd rather play safe, you can get a service upgrade from Canonical, the company behind Ubuntu. It offers 30-day 'get started', one-year 'basic', and one-year 'standard' software support for £40, £80 and £170 respectively. Failing that, you can buy a cheap copy of Windows XP off the Net and call it a day.
Both Inspirons are available to buy now -- go to the Dell site, hit the notebook or desktop link for 'home' users, and click 'open-source PCs'. (There have been some teething problems with the order system, but Dell assures us it's being fixed.) Better still, wait 'til we get our hands on a review sample for the full lowdown. -Rory Reid