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A Linux for the rest of us?

Zero config distro tailored for newbies

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Serial entrepreneur Peter Dawe, who helped bring the internet to the UK, is launching a "safe" Linux distro tailored for the technophobe.

The idea behind his BabelLinux distro is to give users a free, go-anywhere bootable OS, which is likely to be attractive to operators of public internet PCs.

BabelLinux is tailored for simplicity, to give users access to the seven most common applications. It boots from the (free) CD, and once booted the OS can't write to the local hard drive or USB media.

Instead, users can store their data online in the "BabelBank" - which is how the venture will get its revenue. BabelBank charges £1 per GB per month, with a £10 upfront fee. The service is already in paid beta.

The Pipex founder told us he'd been using the service as his primary computer since the New Year.

BabelLinux, based on Ubuntu, offers fixed buttons for the main applications: web browsing (FireFox), email (Sylpheed), Open Office, multimedia (F-Spot), IM (GAIM), and a Freeview TV adaptor (Xine). Skype will soon be included in the default distro. Most of the cruft that fills a standard Linux distribution's start menu is hidden, although it's still there if you need to find it.

Dawe said the inspiration came about because he spent a lot of time acting as unofficial technical support to friends and family, yet most of the issues were avoidable. Hence, the zero-configuration approach.

There's an obvious appeal to cyber cafe owners, for example. With PCs set to boot the BabelLinux CD only, they can be sure no settings are being changed or any nasties are being written to disk.

BabelLinux is free and ready to download. More here.

It requires a PC with 128MB of RAM and an x86 compatible 600MHz processor. ®

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