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Inside Toronto’s pioneering computer outlet

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Trading has started slowly at the world’s first Linux-only computer shop and carwash.

The pioneering retail concept has only been open a week, and is selling “a few systems a day”, says co-founder David Silverman. Plus lots of carwashes.

Sub500.com is the brainchild of Marc (32) and David Silverman (37), carwash owners, computer parts brokers and online retailers.

sub500.com retail outlet frontageThey have opened a small Linux-only computer store in a room at the front of their carwash on Dufferin Street, in the northern suburbs of Toronto, a neighbourhood of large malls and offices cheered only by a few friendly Italian restaurants and cafes.

It has been hailed as the world’s first Linux store, though some posters on Slashdot mentioned a store in Australia and defunct outlets in Georgia and Texas.

The new Toronto shop is a spin-off from their online Linux shops, Canada-focused Sub500.com and Sub300.com, a US-focused site that accounts for 90 per cent of their trade.

At the store, desktop systems start at a very reasonable CAN$299. The store sells two varieties of laptop, a smaller eNote with a 1GHz Via processor for CAN$1111, and a larger system with a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 for CAN$1511.

Though users save the cost of an XP licence, it’s not necessarily the cheapest deal in town. A store round the corner sells a 2.4GHz laptop with Windows XP for CAN$1139.

“It’s not necessarily for Microsoft haters, it’s for Linux lovers,” says Silverman.

“We have all kinds of people come in here. A few geeks who come out of their basements for an hour, and even a few tech savvy older people.”

The store’s biggest seller so far has been a 40 GB hard disk with the Linspire (formerly Lindows) OS, selling for CAN$ 80 – marketed at Windows PC owners looking to switch OSes without buying a new system.

David Silverman inside Sub500.com shopThe store remains focused on the Linspire (formerly Lindows) OS and office suite, says Silverman, with no immediate plans to start selling other distros from the store.

For the regular user, Linspire is the most simple to work with,” says Silverman. “It installs in less than ten minutes.”

The store is still a work in progress. The rotating penguin was only delivered a few days ago, and flashing signs and an LED display are expected later this month.

But Silverman has big hopes for the next few months. “We’re gearing up for the back to school period,” he says.

If the store is a success, the brothers are hoping to repeat it elsewhere. “We could expand to Montreal, and the States as well.” There’s a long way to go yet, though, if it’s not to go the way of Georgia and Texas. ®

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