So, what's it like?
Well, the laptop comes preloaded with Vista Home Basic and a whole host of junk from Acer, including the dreaded Norton anti-virus software. I suppose, although I moan about all the junk, it presumably provides subsidies that help keep prices to this level.
Sadly (although expected) Vista runs like glue! IMHO, manufacturers really shouldn't be releasing computers with Vista that have only 512MB of RAM. Yes, it runs and we all know it looks pretty, but it would be quicker to paint the front room than write a letter. (There is however a good package deal with this computer to upgrade the RAM).
However, my stated intention was to evaluate the feasibility of Linux on a laptop, so with this in mind, the option was clear; get rid of Vista!
Now, even someone like me, who admits to not being a lover of Vista, sometimes has enough common sense to accept I might just need it back.
The laptop DOES NOT come with any form of media backup; no CD, DVD or even hidden partition, BUT, Acer provides some very good software that can not only backup files for you, but can write an image to DVD of the state of the laptop at release from manufacturing; in other words, a recovery disc. So this was the first job to be done. I now have two verified copies, so should I need to put this machine back to "standard", I can.
Once this operation was complete, it was time to look around for a suitable Linux distro to load on to the computer. The original plan was to use Ubuntu or Kubuntu, but when testing, it became apparent these (surprisingly) didn't support WPA-PSK (wireless encryption) out of the box, so I had to look elsewhere. (Vista incidentally, was also very flaky with WPA-PSK).
Recent reports indicated PCLinuxOS was a user friendly distro with excellent hardware support and so I tried it's live CD. Sure enough, it recognized all the hardware and supported my network wireless encryption as well. This is now loaded on this laptop.
Of course, not only is PCLinuxOS a workable alternative to Vista, but as all Linux distros come with a complete suite of programs that makes it an operational sytem from first bootup and of course, it's completely legal (and fee!).
The proof of the pudding is this machine (without any modification) now runs "fast and furious" and indeed, these two Consumer Watch contributions have been written on this laptop, in Linux and transmitted wirelessly to PCA's server.
The challenge was; can Linux be run successfully on a laptop? Clearly it can.
Conclusion. This machine at £299.99p, in this configuration is a winner. If you want to keep Vista loaded, look seriously at upgrading the RAM, but it's still a very good machine for minimal cost and I'm delighted with it.