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Everex Zonbu Notebook

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Linux
Hardware

The Zonbu PC, a $99 miniature desktop that debuted earlier this year, generated some excitement among those with shallow pockets—at least until they saw the fine print. You have to pay the two-year subscription plan (ranging anywhere from $12.95 to $19.95 per month) up front before you can call the desktop your own. In return, you get around-the-clock technical support, 25GB to 100GB worth of online storage, and the comfort of knowing that you'll never have to update your PC manually again. The services are essentially what you're paying for, and so far, Zonbu hasn't looked back.

The plan worked well enough that Zonbu decided to take its subscription-based services on the road, in the form of a laptop. The Everex Zonbu Notebook, which launched earlier this year, loads Gentoo Linux and runs on green, or energy-efficient, parts furnished by VIA. Like the desktop Zonbu PC, it runs on a subscription-based service. The laptop is yours for $279, plus a $14.95-per-month subscription premium over the course of two years. The Zonbu Notebook targets general-purpose users who want a basic computing experience handed to them on a silver platter. Without these services, however, you'll have to fork over $479 up front.

Let's put things into perspective. By the end of your two-year contract, you will have paid $679 for the laptop. That's not exactly a steal.

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It weighs less than a bottle of Coke, is smaller than an A5 pad and is so cheap the odd one left on a bus wouldn't break the bank. A lightweight laptop, hailed by self-confessed techno-geek Stephen Fry as the future of computing, has found an unexpected market: schools.

The computers, inspired by attempts to design a cheap laptop for the developing world, are being plugged into school networks, then given to pupils to take home in their satchels to do their homework. Ministers have backed a pilot scheme in which the laptops are sold to year groups in eight schools; 1,600 pupils are taking part, with parents contributing to the cost of the computers, and discounts for children who receive free school meals.

Last year the government spent £801m on IT equipment for schools. Microsoft has the lion's share of the market, but the Minibooks circumvent this iron grip by using Linux open source software instead of Microsoft Windows Vista.

Mini-laptop sweeps through schools

And: Sri Lanka to introduce one laptop per child

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