Dell spills its Guts over Ubuntu gear
Upgraded and pitchy
Dell has caught up to the Ubuntu release machine, adding the latest version of the operating system as a standard option with Linux-friendly laptop and desktop.
Customers in the US can now purchase select Dell kit with Ubuntu 7.10 - aka Gutsy Gibbon for the Teletubbies fans out there. The OS will make its way to Dell's Inspiron 530 desktop in England, France and Germany later this week. Canonical shoved out Ubuntu 7.10 in October, touting a much more user-friendly version of Linux.
What took Dell so long to jump onto the new OS? Well, testing, testing, testing, of course.
We upgraded our Inspiron 1420 back in October as
Dipse Gutsy went live and lost our GUI. Some of you helped fix the problem by offering tips, while others decided to welcome us to Linux with repeated kicks to the shins and attempts at public humiliation. Thanks, guys.
The biggest gripe we hear about Dell's Ubuntu program is that the company will only offer the OS on relatively crap hardware. Still, as we revealed in an exclusive story, at least 40,000 of you were impressed enough with the crap to shell out for a system.
In order to see Ubuntu on more Dell gear and in more countries, you need to buy, buy, buy, according to, er, Dell. The guys in Round Rock issued their very subtle sales pitch earlier this week.
Dell has refrained from claiming that it invented Ubuntu, but the company is ready to pat itself on the back for making some OS tweaks. You can apparently thank Dell for the pre-installation of Flash and "improved recovery options with a full factory restore from hard drive and the ability to burn the system-specific recovery image to DVD media right from the user's desktop" in 7.10. ®
It really does work - even on laptops. I have become more and more fed up with Windoze but used it, as there was no alternative. Yeah, Debian is great for servers but not for a laptop and Suse is just as bad as Windoze.
And then came Ubuntu 7.10. The install is a breeze and after you've installed it everything works. You have wireless access, hibernate, email that works with Exchange (Evolution), media players that play anything and you don't get a pop-up reminding you that "There are unused icons on your desktop".
I can do everything I want with my laptop and Ubuntu. Watch films, organize my photos, talk to my family with Skype (video now works with Linux), except one thing (sigh).. there is no iTunes. So I have to have a Windows machine just to synchronize my iPod.
Michael Dell, let me summarise the comments for you...
"Blah Blah Blah linux blah blah Microsoft is evil blah blah blah blah my computer is too rubbish to run Vista blah blah blah I have not even tried vista but like to bitch about it because it makes me feel clever blah blah blah linux is ace."
Nice one, Dell, I hope you gamble pays off. I have an eeepc and that is most likely going to be the machine which brings linux to the masses but there is always a chance that the clone buying techie wannabes that make up the linux comunity will put down their cheap taiwanese motherboards and pick up a Dell computer and make all that investment in R&D and staff training worthwhile.
Or they may just bitch about having to pay over the odds for their machine because despite the fact that you are not paying £60 to Microsoft for each PC you still have to stump up a lot of extra 'linux tax' to get hold of the people to either make it work or support it when it doesn't.
Lack of apps
Just to give the penguin's side of the 'lack of apps' argument:
Having been a Linux user on the desktop for a number of years now, I get immensely frustrated when it comes to using Windows. Only a few of my favorite apps are available (Firefox, Thunderbird) and in order to get a workable desktop environment I have to install a bundle of add-ons (virtual desktops, Xmouse, etc). Even then it's a poor imitation.
However, the biggest hassle I find with Windows is getting hold of software - first you have to trawl the web to find a download (which is usually limited to a demo version unless you get hold of an illegal crack) then you have the faff of the bouncing ball installer, half your file types are annexed and the desktop and start menu are littered with shortcuts by default and then - to add insult to injury - the program only does a part of the job of it's Linux equivalent and locks the data in a propriatory file format.
Compare this to Linux: Go to Add/Remove software, search for what you want and it's a one click install for an adaptable and useful program that will behave the way tell it to - not the way company X imposes on you.
I just bought a Dell Laptop
...and I fully intend to install Kubuntu 7.10 on it. Now, when I was pricing up the various options, I looked through and I decided that my best bet would be to buy a Vasta laptop.
Reasons? For the hardware configuration I want, I get it much cheaper. I'm after a machine with the 1.86GHz dual-core processor, 2GB RAM, 160GB HD and a 9-cell battery. If I choose that customisation with the Ubuntu machine, it'll cost me £499.01. If I buy the same configuration with a Vasta machine, it'll cost me £449.00. That's a saving of £50, and more given I'll rip the Vasta licence key off, send it to M$ and get some money back for not using their OS :-)
The big risk..
The big risk Dell will have from selling Ubuntu machines is decrease in sales long-term. I mean, personally, I don't have ANY Windows machines any longer (I don't play many games, and most will in fact work with Wine).
In short term, if my notebook gives it up I will definitely buy a Dell w/ Ubuntu -- I'd be buying some machine and putting Ubuntu on anyway, I'd rather not have Microsoft get any of my money and count my purchase as a Windows sale.
In long term -- hopefully Dell won't be shot in the foot by initial strong Ubuntu sales, followed by a dip from the purchasers never having to upgrade their systems. The requirements of Linux distros and apps has stayed very nearly flat over the years. My first Linux system in 1994, I ran on a 486-33 with 8MB of RAM. OK, that's not flat.. I was running text-only on there though. Once I started using graphical apps (Netscape 0.9 in particular) I ended up with 64MB of RAM and by later 1990's 128MB of RAM (in a K5/75, then a K6-2/450 then a Duron 900.) I could literally take these 10+ year old systems, run Xubuntu as-is, or Ubuntu w/128MB more RAM. Not bad! (I currently have Athlon 2200+ dekstops and a Celeron M notebook, but still 512MB in them; top will typically show 100's of MBs free.)