You’re probably like me, in that I’m sick of seeing that headline all over the place. Everybody’s posting it and arguing over it.

I almost didn’t use the title but it truly describes where we might be now.

If you read my Eee PC review (written two days ago but delayed due to blog software failure and using too many computers), I stated that mine came with Linux. In the past two days I’ve had the opportunity to lend it to a few people at work and observe their reactions. It didn’t fully hit me until tonight, while reading the normal blogs, that we may well be at the beginning of interesting times (in a good way for once).

As mentioned in the review, nobody asked me about the OS on the laptop. Everybody just sat right down and started using it. This was the first sign. The second and most confusing sign was my teammate, who would prefer not to use Linux. Or even think about Linux. For his birthday, I got him an idiot’s guide to Linux as a joke. He completely dismissed the Eee PC out of hand without even trying it. Why? Because it doesn’t have an optical drive. When I pointed out that the USB stick he carries has a capacity of sixteen gigs, he was nonplussed. He wanted a damn optical drive and that was it.

Yesterday I asked if he wanted to look it over. As opposed as he is to Linux, it’s still a new toy and new toys have a certain magic about them (as do blinky lights). He looked it over for a while, which is apparently when he discovered the games. By his own admission, he mostly played games after that. The only adjustment was a USB mouse because he hates touchpads.

This morning when I brought it back in, I saw him staring longingly at the pouch (the PCs included pouch, pervert). I asked if he would like to play a few games, which earned an immediate yes. I had a feeling we would have to pry his cold, dead fingers from the Eee PC in order to get it back. He said it wasn’t that bad and he could quit any time he wanted to.

After all of this, he looked up and said that this wasn’t too bad a toy and that all it truly needed was an optical drive or at very least a different OS and he might consider using it. At this point he became truly dangerous and started having a go at the Xandros command line. I knew we were in for trouble when he produced the dummies book I gave him. He kept asking Linux questions and Googling like mad.

I said it would be interesting to check out the Dells because they have Ubuntu, also with a proprietary interface. Or I might just try putting on plain old Ubuntu. My coworker said no – he liked this GUI. It was very simple and really appealed to him. I suggested a quick trip to see a professional was in order.

My point in this meandering chronicle is that this GUI on top of Xandros Linux may be the start of something grand. The departmental joke is that if anybody asks what operating system it is, we’ll tell them it’s the Laptop Operating System and leave it at that. Since everybody has pretty much turned it on and went off to work, I think we have a winner!

There’s no way I’d consider putting Linux on a loaner laptop at work – the people just wouldn’t get it. But after watching people work with the eee pc, I don’t have too much in the way of doubts. I checked out Dell’s page and they also have a custom GUI on top of their Linux nettop. This could be the final link Linux needs to move into the mainstream. Consider it like one of those child’s electronic toys that emulate a cash register or computer. The kids never ask what OS runs their toy – they figure it right out and start playing. It is not a concern, now or ever. Same with these nettops.

My group went over what we’d have to do to the nettops to make them ready for our loaner pool. Things like adding a shortcut to our webmail server. Educating the travelers on TSA-approved procedures. Using a flash drive to transfer their docs to and from the laptop. How to hook up wireless or wired access. And best of all, they’re really hard to screw up because they’re Linux! Go ahead – try to get a virus. Try to make it unstable so you’ll have to reboot it. Good luck, Charlie.

If this type of GUI came with home computers, people wouldn’t complain much anymore (unless they wished to complain about having to hook up all those wires).

Will I use that GUI? To use a technical term, NFW. I’ll wait to see how Dell’s works. If all else fails, I’ll probably wind up with my standard xfce. Why the hell can’t my 15.4″ display laptop be a few pounds lighter?