JP Vossen on 8 Jul 2009 12:20:34 -0700

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Re: [PLUG] Dell really gets Linux - at last

> Date: Tue, 7 Jul 2009 19:04:41 -0400
> From: James Barrett <>
> Considering the lengths at which Dell extends itself in order to
> support Linux [...]

<picking a random digest post to reply to...>

I have to disagree, in part, here.  I find Dell to be very fractured 
with regard to Linux.  Certain (internal) parts of Dell do a *lot* of 
great work to ensure that Dell hardware Just Works with Linux (hi 
Mario!).  In my opinion it would be a fatal error not to do that on the 
server side, and a non-fatal annoyance not to do that on the 
desktop/laptop side.  But aside from using the 
cheap-as-dirt-and-about-as-good Broadcom networking chips all over the 
place, most Dell hardware that I run into has worked really well.

Having said that, other parts of Dell, notably marketing and on-line 
sales, and to a lessor extent tech support, seem to be going out of 
their way to make ordering and using Linux as painful as possible.  This 
impacts and frustrates both the end-users and the part of Dell that 
*are* trying very hard.

Here's why I say all of that.

* I've never, in 10+ years, had a problem buying a server with no OS 
that worked with Linux.  These days it's trivial, it all just works. 
Years ago you had to be a little more careful what parts you bought, but 
otherwise no big deal.

* I'm a member of the mailing list, 
which has a lot of great info and is frequented by a lot of the folks 
from Dell (and Canonical) who do the good work I mention above.  But the 
list is (as far as I can tell), totally unmaintained administratively, 
and somewhat broken and even worse, so is the associated wiki.  The wiki 
is read-only, and completely out-of-date and wrong in many places, yet 
no one (not even from Dell) can get it fixed.

* Go to and try to buy a laptop running Linux.  The Linux stuff 
is so buried you'll probably never find it without Google.  And even if 
you can find it, the selection is extremely limited.  The two Insprion 
1525's with Ubuntu I ordered this January were delayed seven (yes 7) 
times until they unilaterally canceled the order in MARCH.  Meanwhile 
identical units were available with Windows all along.  When I tried to 
find a different laptop, the only one that still had Linux, at the time, 
was the high-end XPS that was overkill and much more expensive than I 
needed.  I looked at System76 but the similar hardware was $200+ more 
per unit, I could have just about bought 3 Dells for the price of the 2 
System76, and I'm just too cheap for that.  I bought 2 Dell "refurb" 
units and saved so much off the original budget that I bought a Mini9 
just for the hell of it.  Yup, the refurbs came with Windows, which I 
didn't even boot, I just nuked them with Ubuntu.

* I had 2 issues with the above order.  First, the power supply for one 
Latitude was bad, second the Mini9 was missing a trivial memory reader 
dust cover.  Dealing with tech support was all over the map for this, 
with different departments, hang-ups, stupid support people, the works. 
  (Yes, Dell support sucks much less for corporate folks, and when I was 
Dell H/W certified 10+ years ago, I never had a problem either.)

* The mini9 is a great example of Dell's half-assed position on Linux. 
It was *designed*, at least in part, to run Linux, right?  Yet it uses 
the hated Broadcom chips for the Wireless, thus requiring crappy non 
F/OSS drives.  The stock install, on an SSD, did *not* have 'noatime' or 
'relatime' in the mount options, and included a lot of cruft that was 
pointless (e.g. CD burning software on a device w/o an optical drive), 
yet was otherwise pretty well done.  I could go on, but see my previous 
Mini9 posts to this list for details.

* I could not care less about graphics and video stuff, as long as the 
display works, so I may be missing nuances on that topic.

I could probably think of so other points, but this is too long already. 
  It's really sad, since many of us on this list can deal with the 
problems one way or another, but for anyone we might want to refer to 
get an inexpensive, well-supported Linux laptop, I am not aware of any 
good options.  Dell is too schizo, and System76 is too expensive (when 
compared to Dell, esp. to the Dell adds for Windows machines that are 

JP Vossen, CISSP            |:::======|
My Account, My Opinions     |=========|
"Microsoft Tax" = the additional hardware & yearly fees for the add-on
software required to protect Windows from its own poorly designed and
implemented self, while the overhead incidentally flattens Moore's Law.
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