Linux and open source software have always cost very little. Now, thanks to the $9 thin-client, ARM-based Chip PC, the hardware you need to run an open source operating system is next to free, too. Read on for more about the device, which began shipping a few days ago.

The Chip PC was crowdfunded through a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $2 million, many times the $50,000 goal that the computer's developers set. On Sept. 24, the developers reported that the first devices had shipped to some of the project's supporters.

Not surprisingly, the Chip PC isn't exactly a full-featured computer. You have to supply your own monitor, peripherals and so on. (Cue moaning.) Still, the device packs a surprisingly large hardware punch for a mere $9, including:

  • A 1 GHz R8 ARM processor
  • 4 GB of internal solid-state storage
  • 512 MB of RAM memory
  • Integrated Wi-Fi
  • Audio input and output
  • Bluetooth
  • A USB port (Yeah, just one)
  • Video output

As a bonus, the Chip PC is an open hardware device, which will make it that much more attractive to Linux and open source fans.

The Chip PC will almost certainly prove popular among hardware tinkerers in the Linux hobbyist crowd, who now have a new advice à la Raspberry Pi with which to play.

However, despite their humble crowdfunded origins, the Chip PC developers have ambitious commercial goals in mind, too. They are already soliciting resellers and partners through their website.

In addition, they are touting not only the extreme cost savings that the hardware can provide, but also its "unparalleled" security features and low power consumption—characteristics that will no doubt help it to succeed in reseller markets where features such as these are important.

So, the next time you need motivation to pack a lunch instead of eating out, remind yourself that, with the money you save by not buying Chipotle, you could purchase an entire Linux PC—although, unless you contributed to the Kickstarter campaign, you'll have to wait to buy it until early next year, when the Chip PC is scheduled to become generally available.