Tuxtops offers portability for Linux crowd

Three models are currently available for purchase via the Tuxtops Website: the Value machine, built around an Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) K6-2 processor, has a base price of $US155; the Standard Tuxtop is powered by an AMD K6-3 and starts at $1899; while the Premium notebook, featuring a Pentium III, will set you back $3850.

None of these prices is set in stone. You can make the price of your Tuxtop move up or down as you choose alternate processors, hard drives, and so forth on the Tuxtops Website.

Historically, running Linux on laptops has been problematic. Linux is not offered (or even supported) on most mainstream laptops, and although you might tackle Linux installation on one as a do-it-yourself project, your results may not be ideal, due to compatibility issues with the hardware inside the machine.

Tuxtops -- named after Tux, Linux's penguin mascot -- gets around those issues by assembling notebooks with 100 per cent Linux-compatible components. Its machines come with Red Hat 6.1 all set up and ready to go. A special setup script runs the first time the machine boots, asking a few questions and letting you set up access passwords.

Future plans include bundling Sun's StarOffice suite on all Tuxtops, offering Debian GNU/Linux as an alternative to the Red Hat distribution, and including an Ultralight model, according to Tuxtops chief technical officer Mark Allen. Depending on user demand, other Linux distributions may be included later.

If you're using Windows and don't want to make a complete shift to Linux, setting up a Tuxtop to dual-boot Windows and Linux is relatively simple, Allen says, although customers have to provide their own copy of Windows. Tuxtops may explore the option of installing both Linux and Windows, although Allen is somewhat dubious that Microsoft would allow such a move.

In the meantime, if you order a Tuxtop before February 14 -- when the machines are slated to begin shipping -- you'll receive 10 per cent off your order. If you need Linux on a PC you can take with you, this may be the easiest solution available.

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Matthew Newton

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