One-stop solutions for Linux

Distro Walk – Coming of Age

© Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

© Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Article from Issue 272/2023

Linux users can now experience what Windows and macOS users have enjoyed for decades: hardware, software, and services bundled together. We look at six of these one-stop solutions for Linux.

By traditional definition, distributions are software. Yet increasingly, companies are offering distributions as part of a bundle that includes hardware, support, and services – a kind of one-stop solution often called vertical integration in commercial jargon. What these solutions offer, though, can vary considerably.

The advantages of one-stop solutions are obvious. Vendors can offer software tailored to their hardware and win customer loyalty. For buyers, one-stop solutions offer convenience and ease of purchase, an end to the pre-purchase research that until recently has been standard in setting up a Linux computer.

Until recently, attempts at one-stop solutions have floundered. For instance, in 2013, KDE failed to launch the Spark tablet, with its unique variant of the Plasma desktop environment. Ubuntu did release the Touch tablet with its own desktop, but discontinued it in 2017. The reasons for these failures have never been thoroughly analyzed, but likely reasons are a lack of business experience in hardware and a relatively small market for commercial Linux.

Whatever the reason, one-stop solutions have only recently gained recognition. Many are derivatives of Ubuntu Long-Term Support (LTS) releases, with only minor tweaks visible on the desktop. Following the lead of large commercial vendors' Linux products, these one-stop solutions offer detailed options for each basic hardware model. Their distributions are usually distinguished by small administrative utilities, which are designed for bundled hardware and may not work with all distributions. Most offer coreboot [1], the free software BIOS and UEFI replacement, or plan to do so in the near future, which opens up the option of frequent and easy firmware updates. The distribution remains essential, of course, but the differences in one-stop solutions tend to lie in the rest of the bundle. Below are summaries of how six leading one-stop solutions differentiate themselves.

TUXEDO Computers

TUXEDO [2], a rapidly expanding company just starting to become well-known in North America, offers an extensive product line. TUXEDO also does customization on request. One of the most security-conscious of the one-stop solutions, TUXEDO provides disk encryption and the ability to turn off webcams, microphones, radio technology, and the Intel Management Engine. As I write, TUXEDO is exploring the addition of coreboot. Its TUXEDO OS includes some well-designed admin utilities, which may not work on other distributions.


Purism [3] immediately made headlines in 2014 when its distro, PureOS, became one of the few distributions to win the Free Software Foundation's Respects Your Freedom certificate for its security and privacy features. Manufactured in the United States, its computers include kill switches to physically disconnect the camera, microphone, wireless, and Bluetooth. Purism's computers can be run with the Librem key for security. In addition, when shipped to and from the company, unspecified anti-interdiction services are available. Both the hardware and distribution appear not to have been updated for at least a year. Whether this is because security features take longer to implement or because it is focusing on its Librem 5 phone is uncertain. Purism did not reply to a request for information.

MX Linux

MX Linux [4] has had the most page views on DistroWatch since 2019. Its popularity partly may be due to the fact that is a collaboration between two popular distributions, antiX and the discontinued MEPIS. However, more importantly, MX Linux has created a community version of a one-stop solution through partnerships with commercial companies. Cloud services are supplied through Shells and hardware through Star Labs Systems (see below). MX also offers thorough documentation, both embedded in its windows and on a separate web page.

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