HP's new--kind of, sort of--Linux support

HP has a love/hate relationship with Linux. The company supports several Linux distributions — Red Hat, Novell/SUSE, and community Linux Debian — on its servers, but finding them takes some digging. Still, that's nothing compared to finding HP's desktop Linux support. For example, several new HP laptops and netbooks come with Splashtop instant-on Linux, but you have to dig around the fine print to find out. HP has also offered SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) on some low-end business PCs like the HP Compaq dc5850 from time to time, but that appears to no longer be the case. Now, HP is — kind of, sort of — offering support for several of the more important community Linux distributions.

At the Linux Foundation's LinuxCon, Bdale Garbee, HP's Linux CTO, announced, almost in passing, that it was opening a new Linux support site, Community Linux. Except it's not really a HP site. Instead, while it has HP's support, the Oregon State University's Open Source Lab is actually the organization hosting it. Why? According to a report by Sean Michael Kerner, Garbee explained, "We intentionally set this up as a site outside the HP domain and hierarchy so it can be a focal point for whatever the community would like to do in terms of capturing best practices for making non-commercial Linux distributions work well on everybody's hardware over time."

OK. So, I guess that means HP is offering its best wishes, and a Web portal, to those who'd like to run Asianux, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, openSUSE, and Ubuntu on HP servers. The desktop? That's not the focus here.

I'm conflicted about this site. On the one hand, it's nice to see any business recognize that companies with more Linux expertise than IT dollars often choose to use a community Linux for their servers. On the other, I wish HP would just start making it easier to buy Linux on both its servers and desktops and provide Linux with real support rather than this half-hearted, minimal-budget effort.

Is that too much to ask for? I don't think so.

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