A few months ago in PC Advisor, we ran a feature on buying the cheapest desktop PC possible. We considered the idea of specifying no operating system at all, believing that the truly cash-strapped consumer might be interested in saving a few pennies by sticking on an open source Linux operating system - such as is the case with the Dell Inspiron 530n Ubuntu. In the end we decided that, perhaps, the typical PC user wasn't yet ready to step into the rather fearsome world of Linux. Dell, it would seem, disagrees, and it's now possible to get a Dell Inspiron 530n Ubuntu loaded not with flashy mainstream Windows Vista or XP, but with a Linux operating system.
The idea of open source software is that the code is freely available to the general public, so that anyone with the necessary knowledge can make their own modifications to the original. Over the years, the open source Linux operating system has been passed from programmer to programmer, and many different incarnations have bubbled out of the original code. Fedora and OpenSuse are well-known variants of Linux. But the one creating the biggest waves (particularly for those who want something a little more graphical, something that feels a little more like Windows) is Ubuntu. Now in version 7.04 (subtitled Feisty Fawn), this is the operating system which Dell is packaging with the Linux-flavoured Dell Inspiron 530n Ubuntu.
But before we take our first tentative steps into the world of Ubuntu, let's look at the issue of price. This Dell Inspiron 530n Ubuntu is available for £223. We put together a similarly-specified Vista system and the price came to £320 - almost an extra £100. Now admittedly, the Dell Inspiron 530n Ubuntu came with just 512MB of RAM, whereas the Vista machine was equipped with 1GB (specify Windows Vista, and Dell won't actually allow you to put in less than 1GB of RAM). You could upgrade the Dell Inspiron 530n Ubuntu to 1GB for an extra £18, but this, in reality, is missing the point. The £223 Dell Inspiron 530n Ubuntu, cheap as it may be, will do a very decent job of running its operating system, while its Vista counterpart would be much happier with some fancier technology on board. But, as it happens, this is also missing the point. If you do buy this machine, it shouldn't be simply because you want to save money.