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>Why can't I just buy a, for example, IBM T42 notebook and install Linux on it?
You can always get one. But that doesn't mean that it would even boot Linux. The problem is that hardware manufacturers only test with Windows, and so if something happens to work with Windows, it's good enough for them (even if their BIOS or VIA chipsets might be full of bugs that other OSes happen to stumble upon). So, it's always nice to know that there at least a brand that's more compatible than your average laptops in the market.