The Symple PC and its founder Jason Spisak

The Symple PC and its founder, Jason Spisak

It's Real: An $89, Green Ubuntu Linux Desktop PC

The Symple PC, a planet-friendly computer that ships with Canonical's open source Ubuntu Linux OS and costs only $89, is now on sale.

Here's a pipe dream for you Linux fans out there: Imagine a PC that comes with Ubuntu preinstalled. It can also dual-boot Windows. It's responsibly manufactured and environmentally friendly. And it costs a mere $89—of which a portion goes to support community open source projects. Good news: It's real, it's called the Symple PC and it's available now.

We've scoured the Symple PC's website and pinged the project's founder, Jason Spisak, to figure out what the catch is. We squarely failed to find one. This is, plain and simple, an ultra-low cost, planet-friendly desktop PC, well-suited to a variety of applications in homes, schools and businesses, that ships with the most recent longterm support (LTS) version of Ubuntu, 14.04—while also meeting the minimum system requirements for running Windows 7, if that floats your boat.

How is the device so inexpensive and green? Primarily because it's a "remanufactured" computer, which means most of its parts are recycled from other systems, which otherwise would be consigned to an eternity oozing their chemical insides into a landfill somewhere, or melted down in a process that eliminates much of their value.

Of course, the hardware you get—which the organization says it tests carefully to ensure proper function—isn't exactly high-end. Each Symple PC features, at a minimum, 2GB of memory, 80GB of disk space and a Pentium 4. 2.8GHz processor. (The "at a minimum" bit reflects the sourcing of the device's components from recycled PCs; it's possible the particular Symple PC you buy will feature better hardware specifications than those listed.) There's no wireless card, and peripherals are also not included.

But those resources are more than enough to run Ubuntu, especially in the age of the cloud, when all many workers or students need is a device that can connect to the Internet. And that's exactly the audience that Spisak has in mind, describing the device as one that "schools, non-profits and call centers would be interested in." There are plenty of home users, too, who might be interested in a PC that's so incredibly inexpensive.

In case you're wondering whether the organization is able to keep costs low by contracting with puppy mills in Pyongyang for its manufacturing labor, it doesn't: The Symple PC is built in Arizona, according to Spisak.

In several respects, this is a brilliant idea. The Symple PC far outprices other cloud-oriented, Linux-based PCs, such as Google's Chromebooks—which, at any rate, are much less open than something with vanilla Ubuntu installed. It beats out virtually every other electronic device in the planet-friendly category. And it introduces another offering to the slim market of PCs that ship with Linux, something that always pleases the open source community. The big question here is: What's not to love about the Symple PC?

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