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One of Ubuntu Linux's biggest, and youngest, fans

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Back in the office Wednesday afternoon, I thought it would be interesting to follow up on Dell's choice of Ubuntu as its Linux option on consumer PCs. One of my first steps was to send e-mail inquiries to some of the members of the Pacific Northwest Ubuntu user group, hoping to hear their thoughts.

Paul Bartell, the group's Webmaster, was the first to call in response -- which made sense, since school was over for the day.

Turns out that Paul is 13 years old, an eighth grader. After making sure it was OK with his dad, he talked to me and explained how he came to be such a big Ubuntu user. He said his interest in Linux began when he saw a friend's dad using Red Hat Linux. He tried Suse Linux before going back to Windows for a while and then settling on Ubuntu as his Linux distribution of choice.

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A step up for Microsoft rival

There were surely no parties in the corridors in Redmond when Dell Inc. announced plans this week to offer Ubuntu, an increasingly popular variety of the Linux operating system, as an option on consumer PCs.

But one eighth-grader in Shoreline was pretty happy.

The tech-savvy teenager belongs to a loyal segment of PC users who run variations of Linux on their home computers. But it's a small segment, relatively speaking. Microsoft's Windows operating system dominates the personal computer industry, with upward of 90 percent of the worldwide PC market.

Dell's decision to offer Linux on selected consumer computers, announced in March, won't change that market dynamic by itself, analysts say. But it's a notable step in the open-source community's longstanding effort to boost Linux on consumer PCs.

And the computer maker's choice of Ubuntu, announced Tuesday, promises to give that Linux variety -- or distribution, as they're known -- a higher profile.

"I don't know if it's going to catch on like wildfire right off the bat, but it's definitely a step forward," said Dan Shufelt of Tigard, Ore., founder of the Pacific Northwest Ubuntu user group, known as the "PNWTeam."

Although Shufelt doesn't need a new computer, he said he plans to buy a Dell PC with Ubuntu to support the cause.

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