Part 1: Hardware
With only 5 months left till many students join university the race is on to get organised. And where better to start than with hardware. It would be nigh on impossible for you to get though university without going near a computer. So why leave your open source life at home? You home PC is probably running a Linux Distro or at the least some opensource software so why shouldn't your laptop? So what are the best laptops to buy that either come with Linux or are easy to add Linux to.
1st up is the Asus EEE Pc this laptop steals the show on portability and price. Prices start at £219 for the 4G Surf model which features a 4GB SSD (Solid State Disk) and 7 inch screen but no webcam. More expensive models have a webcam, larger SSD and a larger screen. The laptop comes with a modified version of the Xandros distro which has a very simple user interface but a one line command to teminal will give you a full IceWM desktop. All the normal free software is included such as firefox, openoffice and skype along with a number of educational programs and a webcam capture program.
If you don't like the eee pc's small keyboard and screen but don't want to spend a lot more then you might consider Dells offerings on Ubuntu based PCs. For an extra £80 you can have a 15.4" widescreen, full sized keyboard, 80GB hard drive and an 8xDVD+/-RW drive. This set-up comes with Ubuntu 7.10 pre-installed meaning that all the hardware works! You can customise your laptop easily with Dell's "Build your system" erm... system meaning you can add bluetooth, a 2MP webcam more ram etc. really easily.
If you don't like buying something opensource from a giant like Dell or would like to spend a bit more on you laptop then one make has always been synonymous with laptops and Linux is the Thinkpad originally made by IBM the franchise is now owned by Lenovo. Now apparently they sell the Thinkpad T61 with Suse pre-installed but I've just spent the last hour trying to find the option for this but to no avail. In frustration I have now submitted feedback asking whether they still support Suse and if so where the option is. According to Linux format magazine they picked up a thinkpad for £425 with Suse included.
I'll update this post if and when Lenovo get back to me!
Update: Well Lenovo never did get back to me so at this point your best bet for a laptop with Linux pre-installed on it is going to be the Eee PC or Dell.