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Linux Business Hardware

Dell's New Linux Blog 317

Posted by timothy
from the tentative-steps dept.
comforteagle writes "I've just written up an interesting find: Linux engineers at Dell have started their own Linux site and weblog about Linux at Dell. From the announcement: "Welcome to the Dell Linux Community Web. This site is dedicated to providing any information that may be useful regarding your usage of Linux on your Dell equipment. While Dell primarily works with and officially supports Red Hat Linux, many of our customers choose to run other distributions." And perhaps more importantly it appears that the new site and weblog is run and maintained by the engineers themselves. It certainly has that 'made with vi' look." And kudyadi points to this PC Magazine interview with Michael Dell, in which Dell talks "about Dell's expanding product line, the company's late entrance into the Media Center space, and where the PC giant and the industry go from here." He touches on Linux just a bit, too.
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Dell's New Linux Blog

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  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @07:00AM (#8217485) Journal
    Linux people typically prefer blog-type sites than flash-enabled marketroid zero-content stuff that pointy-eared bosses prefer.

    Given that it uses a comments section, it'll probably turn into a useful technical resource as well... Could do with a decent search though :-(

    Simon
  • by cgranade (702534) <cgranade@gm a i l . c om> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @07:27AM (#8217542) Homepage Journal
    Why not? It's not as if they like MS in particular... because of MS, they have to charge their customers money for Windows, Office, Encarta, etc., when selling with a free system like GNU/Linux+GNOME||KDE would lower the price point and attact more sales. Unfortunately, this is counterbalanced by a stigma (not true, but there nonetheless) that "my apps don't run under Linux," as well as the percieved usability issues. Thus, Dell needs MS and their monopoly to survive in the consumer market. If Linux became a powerful force in the home, as well as for servers, then Dell would most likely love to sell Linux pre-loaded systems.
  • Vi look works (Score:5, Insightful)

    by POds (241854) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @07:33AM (#8217559) Homepage Journal
    I only saw the first page, but thats one of the nicest web pages i've seen done by engineers...

    Plus who says you cant created good webpages with nothing except a text editor of your choice?
  • by fucksl4shd0t (630000) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @07:39AM (#8217572) Homepage Journal

    The blog should last about as long as it takes Michael Dell to take his tongue out of Bill Gate's bunghole.

    From the interview:

    I went over to a friend's house the other day. He was having problems with his computer and he asked me to look at it, and I realized he had Windows Me and it's like, oh no--that's your first problem.

    In other news, I love Texas businessmen. :) Check this out:

    so we're very happy to let the other guys have 100 percent of the 15 percent.

    Not that I love Dell, or Michael Dell specifically, just that I really like the way Texas businessmen talk about their competition from time to time. There isn't any of this "we're gonna rule the world" crap. Usually just "as much as I can get, and I can get a lot". ;) (Only New Mexicans want to rule the world, and then they move to Seattle and find the drones to do it with :( )

  • by maharg (182366) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @08:44AM (#8217694) Homepage Journal
    EDD Disk Signature patch accepted into kernel 2.6.2-rc1-mm1
    Dell engineers have submitted a kernel patch which allows Linux to determine which disk the BIOS believes is the system boot disk. Without this patch, Linux must guess which disk BIOS believes is the boot disk, which is pretty easy in a simple system configuration, but impossible in a system with multiple disks attached to multiple controllers.

    Yep. It's great to see people from companies like Intel,IBM, SGI, HP, Dell all contributing [kernel.org].
    I would imagine that these guys *really* want linux to succeed so they can stopping sucking up to redmond.
    [/zealotry]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @08:58AM (#8217714)
    Michael holds out on AMD in order to get best terms with Intel. He doesn't pay the same for Intel parts that you do and there's no reason to believe AMD parts would be cheaper.

    Michael is THE businessman. You aren't going to outthink him on cost.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neoThoth (125081) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @08:59AM (#8217716) Homepage
    It will still be a long time before you see consumer level machines roll out with Linux on them. The amount of support required to hand hold dell consumers through something like, oh a kernel recompile would be enormous!

    This is really focused on the enterprise effort (e.g. those who have enormous budgets and would like to make servers cost a lot less). The only possible consumer device that will come out of Dell with linux is a media center device. This is because users don't generally need to muck around with the OS in those set top devices. Servers are also immune from constant tinkering or at least should be.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @09:06AM (#8217734)
    For instance I would of bought a Dell laptop in a heartbeat if I knew dell supported it and offered a Windows-less or linux OS pre-installed.

    Well the fact of the matter is that Dell don't support Linux on either their Laptops, nor their Desktops. Only their 'high-end' Servers and Workstations.

    Having just bought a Dell Inspiron 1100 and a competing product (HP nx9010) at the same time I can tell you that Dell support is lacking. I used each of those laptops to 'road-test' the respective support -- I ended up not buying Dell for a medium-sized company (25 stations) only because their Linux support is so poor.

    They will figure it out eventually -- but I suspect HP will have bought them by then.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by passthecrackpipe (598773) * <passthecrackpipe ... om minus painter> on Sunday February 08, 2004 @09:20AM (#8217759)
    Why would a consumer have to go through a kernel recompile? what a ridiculous world view -- linux support for consumers can't happen because of the handholding needed for a kernel recompile. If I buy a supported laptop/PC, with a dell supported OS, there is no need at all for me as a consumer to even know that i could recompile the kernel, let alone do it. Your definition of an enterprise effort is likewise clueless, as is your absolutely nonsensical notion of what dell can and cannot do with Linux. If you would have bothered to visit the site, you would note that dell does indeed ship desktop machines with linux preinstalled. Kernel recompile not required.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by whovian (107062) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @09:53AM (#8217824)
    Places like Dell could roll their own knoppix cd-roms. The customer can try linux and come up to speed before actually installing linux on their machine, which at that point would be at their own risk.

    The only problem is lack of driver support. I wonder if Dell doing this would encourage companies to provide at least binary only drivers.
  • by mr_lithic (563105) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:11AM (#8217873) Homepage Journal
    If your running an enterprise what in the name of are you running Inspiron's for?

    Easy. Unapproved purchases by the marketing department that had to be integrated.

    Inspirons are cheap, nasty and non-standard. They can have up to four different NIC's in them, three different makes of video card and the list goes on. It has made imaging a nightmare and taught the idiots in marketing a lesson. The average turn-around for laptop image is a day - for the boys in marketing it is four days. Now they are looking at getting rid of them despite them being a couple months old. This time they came to me for standard kit specs. At least they are learning.

    That is why I was looking at Suse and YAST2 for deployment. Unfortunately, the video bios problem killed it.

  • by timmyf2371 (586051) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:19AM (#8217918)
    Unfortunately, this is counterbalanced by a stigma (not true, but there nonetheless) that "my apps don't run under Linux," as well as the percieved usability issues.

    Funny you should mention the fact that the notion is untrue - I used a Linux operating system once. The following software I had already invested in didn't work with it:
    Microsoft Office Student Edition
    Dreamweaver
    Fireworks
    Photoshop

    Champi onship Manager worked most of the time after a lot of tweaking, and even then I wouldn't have classed it as reliable.

    I think if you actually look at real world figures and software, you'll see that the opnion of "my apps don't run under Linux" is actually quite true.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:29AM (#8217941)
    Uh. Maybe I'm missing something here but I'm not donating 8 hours of my weekdays to my employer for free - I do it for the cash, too.

    We all work for cash but I know what he is saying. My first job was at a call center answering phones for Sharp Laptop computers. It was an OK job for about a month (actually it was even enjoyable that first month) but it quickly started to *SUCK*. And after about 4-5 months I was dreading going to work like you wouldn't believe. (Granted very few of us actually enjoy or jobs, but the term "going postal" comes to mind about this job.)

    All of the guys I worked with fell into two categories. Those of us that wanted to make a career out of tech, and those who didn't. Those of us who did were doing the job for the experience. A stepping stone to something better. Those who didn't plan on doing tech as a career were just there for the "cushy" job. But not one of us had any intention on sticking around any longer than absolutely necessary.

    And that's why (usually) 1-800's suck so much. The jobs just don't pay enough to keep those of us around who actually know about and care about technology. And the ones who don't care ... well - they don't care. They sit there doing crossword puzzles and reading gaming magazines while "helping" you with your call. And their only objective is to get you off othe phone as quickly as possible regardless if you have been helped or not. Because they know that if you call back your odds of talking to the same person are nill.
  • by miu (626917) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:32AM (#8217952) Homepage Journal
    Non-technical web pages contain much less verifiable information and seem to encourage exaggeration and deception. Non-technical information often masquerades as technical information, as a gee-whiz number in a software product, golly wow trade names for standard capabilities in a hardware product, or meaningless statistics about a golf club.

    So it is not that technical people hate any web page that isn't written in technobabble - it's that we prefer substance over style. Those of us who have been in the industry for more than a couple years have a mistrust of any information that is presented in too slick a manner, because it is often specious, hysterically repeats one or two dubious facts, or is omptimistic conjecture regarding the real world behaviour of the system in question.

  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by blixel (158224) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:39AM (#8217971)
    For instance I would of bought a Dell laptop in a heartbeat if I knew dell supported it and offered a Windows-less or linux OS pre-installed.

    I don't care if they support* Linux or not. Just give me the laptop without the Microsoft tax and I'll do the rest.

    * By support I mean that if I have a problem with Linux I don't care if they have people around to help me with my problem. But if you meant that they actually do a little bit of research to make sure the hardware that goes into the laptop works with Linux, then well yeah ... it would be nice if they supported Linux.

    In the latter case, here are a couple of places I've found that do just that. Unfortunately their prices can't match Dell's, but at least you know that all of your hardware is going to work with Linux. (or so they claim)

    laclinux.com [laclinux.com]

    linuxcertified.com [linuxcertified.com]
  • Re:Zero content? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rainer_d (115765) * on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:43AM (#8217988) Homepage
    When we want feedback from you we want it on a couple of slides. We don't want to know how you tweaked your code to get 1% performance increase. We want to know how we're progressing and if there are any show-stopping problems.

    All true and understood, but the real problem is when websites don't contain anything else than marketing fluff.
    Just imagine the Oracle website without OTN. Or Microsoft without KB and MSDN. I mean, yes, you could make a buying-decision based on the "fluff" of the corporate pages, but that wouldn't help anybody to actually run the product - or give some of your subordinates a chance to look at it and make sure it actually fits your business needs and give you your beloved Go/No-Go answer ;-)

    That's the real problem most people have with websites with "zero content".

    Rainer

  • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:06AM (#8218077) Journal
    You know, at one point I would have felt that your argument was weighty and official-sounding and something that's worth stepping aside for.

    The problem is that I've run into an inordinate number of utterly incompetent corporate IT people who throw out lines that read *exactly* like the ones that you just wrote, and are utterly wrong. That doesn't necessarily reflect on your own abilities, but I've found that it's really amazing how often giving people non-sanitized communications with honest and in-depth information seems to make them much happier.

    At one point, I thought that corporatespeak, the sort of truly zero-content material that appears on the websites of holding companies, groups of companies, and most investment-related firms was professional and respected by people reading it. Then I discovered that no, it's generally made fun of among everyone. Nobody, not even the PHBs, are in the least intrigued by a webpage that says that a company can promote "knowledge management producing synergy" or similar.

    I just read Stephenson's "In the Beginning was the Command Line", and have decided that he has an excellent point. Users are *tired* of being fed sanitized, contentless information telling them that the product they have purchased is working fine and has no problems, that they have an "issue", not a "bug", and that the company is glad to continue to provide valuable and useful services to the customer. They don't want to see more stock business clipart of mindlessly grinning models sitting in front of keyboards wearing a telephone headset.

    Note that Dell is pretty to-the-point for a company, probably because their primary interface to customers is through their website and if they dick around too much, they lose customers.

    Here's a random exerpt [techieindex.com] from one of those content-free pages:

    Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Techieindex

    1. How is Business Objects planning to focus on the Global 2000 companies and other packaged application software vendors who have a proactive strategy to reach customers, prospects, partners, and employees using the Internet especially in a global economy that has not yet shown signs of picking up from the slump it has been in for the past two years?
    Global 2000 leaders understand that they can use information and the Internet to service customers better, drive cost out of the business and improve their business performance and velocity. This is the fundamental value proposition of Business Intelligence software - helping organizations of all sizes to more effectively track, understand and manage their business. Business Objects will continue to add capability to our best-of-breed BI stack, including the next major release of our product later this year, and help our global customer base of more than 17,000, utilize enterprise BI to see rapid business return.


    This sort of crap doesn't actually appeal to *anyone*.
  • by surprise_audit (575743) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:15AM (#8218145)
    So maybe Dell is lining themselves up for a slice of "kick SCO while we can" action? On the list of mailing lists:

    SCO-PowerEdge SCO Unix on Dell PowerEdge Servers discussion
  • Superior Style (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gonoff (88518) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:37AM (#8218268)
    These pages are a much better advertisement for Dell than the complicated nightmares some pages are!

    I can well believe that these have been done by the engineers there and have had little or no input from sales staff, graphic designers, clueless PHBs and other people whose job description boils down to "wears a suit".

    My place of employment (a hospital) used a lot of Dell kit and I hope that the rest of the site learns a lot from this bit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2004 @11:56AM (#8218389)
    Sure, you could do hardware only, but ascertaining what the problem is usually means ruling out the software/drivers first. If you send your laptop back with a faulty video card, how would they test it and get it back to you?

    I work at a computer repair center and I can assure you that it is very easy (and is pretty standard) to NOT test customers **hardware** based on their currently installed O/S.

    We use a custom, in-house bootable CD most of the time as it is much easier to get to the heart of any hardware problems that way. (Memory scanner, hard-disk scanner, test the NIC against our echo server, sound test, ports test, modem test, etc..) And we even make extensive use of Knoppix.

    If it's truly a hardware issue, we'll find out much faster by avoding Joe User's obnoxious WindowBlinds theme, the 30 items in the system startup, the completely incomprehensible start menu with 100 shareware downloads in it, and so on.
  • by IANAAC (692242) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:16PM (#8218531)
    If some distro could figure out a way to correctly include Codeweavers' Crossover Office, they'd probably make a killing (charging a modest price, of course). SUSE includes the libraries, but not the entire package (Why?, I don't know).

    In any case, All the apps you mention run flawlessly in Crossover Office. The retail cost is about $65USD.

  • by labradort (220776) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:45PM (#8218700)
    As someone who has been working with Dell to evaluate Dell notebooks regarding a possible 4000+ unit purchase, I can tell you that Dell has no official support for Linux, Redhat or otherwise on anything other than Servers.

    Our RFQ specified that Linux support on the laptops they provided was required, and yet they provided a model with the Intel 855GM video chip, which is not released as a driver in recent distros such as Suse 9 and Xandros 2. They are following up with a shipment of an alternate model with a Radeon chipset and this should have no problem working. But if Dell were any different than the other guys with regards to Linux support, we would be seeing recognition of the details in our RFQ saying that hardware support under Linux is required. However on quizzing them on which Linux distro they used to verify it worked with Linux, they would not say anything. Dell=HP=Compaq=Gateway, etc., when it comes to their awareness of Linux and hardware support.
    All of the blah blah blah you read about their support for Linux is only on the server line.

    Someone at one of these companies has to get off their ass, call up their hardware vendors and DEMAND that all components provided come with Windows AND Linux driver support. If it doesn't, REJECT the component and switch to another hardware vendor. That is the only way the hardware vendors are going to get the message. It isn't a hard concept. It isn't impossible, it just takes a shift in priorities for the hardware vendor which they will be very happy to do once their bottom line is threatened.

    Personally, I let Intel directly know that they could be out of sales of 4000+ of their Centrino chipset if they don't release supported drivers under Linux for our timeline.

  • by no longer myself (741142) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @12:54PM (#8218778)
    I'd like to reply to this without getting into the technical issues of the OS itself and just offer something that's actually pretty obvious: People readily eat up marketing propaganda BS.

    When Windows 3.x was out, everyone who had a computer was a bit of a computer geek. It was crap, and people said so. Most of us typed in WIN manually only if the toy application we wanted to use required it.

    When Win95 came out, there were a few AOL users out there who knew nothing of computers, but for the most part the average user was a geek. Bloat increased by a significant amount, but still, it was program related.

    Windows 98 was a patch for all the evils of Win95. Computers that shipped with 98 came with some "extras", but it was still pretty clean. Marketers still thought of computers as "geek territory" and not worth panning for gold.

    When Windows ME finally hit the scene, the OS itself was not bad. It was more or less a few extra features, some patches, and a more modern appearance. Sadly some fo the new features did not work as well as hoped. That's not to say the old stuff didn't work, but the new stuff was pretty rough around the edges. Another difficulty it faced was that people never learned from the past that YOU NEVER UPGRADE WINDOWS. You gotta install from scratch to get the best stuff. If you insert an upgrade disk you can count on your system being hopelessly caught in schitzo-limbo land. Also, computers that came pre-installed with WinMe were hopelessly bogged down with crap-ware, spy-ware, mal-ware, bloat-ware, and anything that a marketer could shove onto the 10GB hard drive as the box was headed out the door. It came with enough pre-loaded junk to destablize Debian.

    ME had been set up by greedy marketers, stupid upgraders, and untested feature creep. So naturally the final nail in the coffin came from Redmond itself.

    Believe it or not, the only way Microsoft can actually sell their latest version of crap is to launch a smear campaine against their current crap. People won't change willingly, so they quickly and viciously started bashing their own product by telling consumers who were experiencing any sort of problem that they needed to upgrade to Windows XP. (Now they encourage you to go WinXP Pro.) Guess what? It worked. It got people to buy XP IN SPITE OF ALL THE PROBLEMS IT HAS CAUSED!

    What problems? Let's face it... Those worms have spread through XP faster than a dog hooked on pig shit. Meanwhile, those people still running a modestly firewalled Win98 or Me system have almost nothing to worry about.

    So when you ask why people have such a problem with Windows ME, remember that most people who reply with comments about how unstable it is, are Windows XP users who would probably pay eskimos to spread snow on their lawn in the winter because "those guys know what they're doing", or they are "alternative" OS users who just hate "M$" because it makes them look pensive and "kewl".

    I'm not saying that ME didn't have problems, but the problems it had have been so hyped that even otherwise intelligent and rational people will show signs of severely caustic brainwashing. Naturally, when I outgrew Windows ME, I realized that XP was a seriously expensive and dangerous lock-in technology I couldn't afford, so I'm not suffering from any of those symptoms... uh oh... Then again...

    Well, I'm not really a Linux zealot just yet... I don't tell people to RTFM. :-P

  • Micro$oft is dead. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twitter (104583) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @01:18PM (#8218958) Homepage Journal
    Behold: Intel, IBM, Toshiba, Walmart, Dell.

    Six years ago, if you put your head to the ground, you could hear a rumble.

    The largest seller of corporate desktops openly embracing and encouraging Linux and free software is about as subtle as a passing freight train. So much for the careful dance Dell was supposed to do to avoid the wrath of Microsoft. Do you think for one instant that Dell wants Microsoft's DRM future to happen and leave them even more in Microsoft's grip? No one does and they are all breaking free. Everyone will follow Dells lead and it's going to go everywhere, the desktop, portables the works.

    This leaves Microsoft with very little. With the acceptance of an alternate platform, Microsoft's hardware and software incompatibility extortion is over. As that alternate platform is technically superior, there is little reason to shell out big bucks for legacy software. Why would any company trust it's record keeping to Microsoft formats when free alternatives have widespread comercial support? There is competition in the future and everyone knows it. Standardizing into the upgrade cycle will soon be a thing of the past. Microsoft will compete by improving their code and EULAs or die. Let's see how long it takes them to figure out that their current business model is dead.

  • by 7021 (15479) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @03:00PM (#8219672)
    Careful with the 2650's. The PERC3 has been a sore dissapointment and the aacraid has a bug that is fairly well documented causing undeterministic crasshes.

    We are in the processes or trying to work with dell to send our 2650's back and getting 1750's intead. (Note: we run RHEL 3.x)
  • by RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @05:59PM (#8220713)
    With $40 billion in cash and many extremely successful products, they sure as hell aren't dead yet.

    The Microsoft we see in 10 years may be very different from the Microsoft we see today, but it will still be around.
  • by nutznboltz (473437) on Sunday February 08, 2004 @10:26PM (#8222320) Homepage Journal
    you either have to have open source drivers to build for your kernel release

    Well isn't that the point?
  • by twitter (104583) on Monday February 09, 2004 @12:26AM (#8222912) Homepage Journal
    Free software offers both technical and politicaly superior work. The things you describe are problems in the Windoze world too, despite the limited choice. Let me go through them:

    For example, the kernel interface for drivers is just the pits. I mean, you either have to have open source drivers to build for your kernel release, or your equipment manufacturer has to have a binary for every possible kernel version and build!

    This is true in the windoze world too. Your old 3.1 drivers won't work with NT, might work with 95, won't work with ME or XP. In the free world, drivers get compiled for everything and packaged by the distro maker or by yourself.

    Now that the M$ extortion is over, more hardware makers are going to be releasing free drivers. Those that won't sucked anyway and already left you high and dry. That's not the fault of kernel developers. I've been there with a wireless card that promissed "Linux support" but came with a closed binary that was compiled with a specific Red Hat compiler for a specific kernel. It sucked, but that was the card maker's fault. They should have simply released their code GPL and let everyone mirror it. If they were under restraint from a chipmaker, then the chipmaker sucked. The kernel's system of insmod and rmmod is way better than any Windoze junk that makes you reboot for simply looking at it! Add to that Windoze's mindless need for a specific driver for each and every device, even if they have the same damn chipset and are essentially identical. Free software's drivers that easily handle hardware from donzens of branders shows just how needlessly clumsy the Windoze way is.

    Linux has a very inconsistent UI, so that tech support for "Linux" is very difficult. For example, somebody can't "get online". Are you running Lindows? Mandrake? Red Hat? Suse? Slackware? Gentoo? KDE? Gnome? IceWM? Which version of each? What kernel build do you have installed?

    Once again, the same pain works in the windoze world, despite the seemingly limited choice. Do you know the differences between all the versions of AOL and the hardware requirements with respect to each version of windoze, for example? I know some of them - but each time I have to figure the damn thing out for the user. It's a job each service provider should be doing.

    It is easier to fix free software problems. Besides the fact that there are fewer problems to begin with, the remote tools superior - they work better.

    Try walking somebody through setting up email over the phone sometime. And, sorry, if you disagree with me on this point, it's probably because you haven't done it with a Linux setup you didn't install yourself in the first place.

    Sure, you have to know your set up. I think I pulled out a suitably horrible example of how bad this is in the Windoze world. I'd far rather help someone set up Mozilla, Kmail, Balsa or even evolution than AOL or M$N. The weird settings the weird ISPs themselves have are the source of half of those problems. How those things get translated onto the half dozen Windoze platforms is a true nightmare. When you add the insecurity complication into the equation, 75% of the time, the user has a hosed system that needs to be wiped and reloaded. This is not the case in the free software world where settings are made and stay put.

    Think about how much less trouble you have with that Red Hat system than your clients have with their Windoze boxes. Tech support is broken windows, day in, day out. It is precisely this kind of mindless repeated Microsoft support that convinces me that EVERYONE would be better off with free and open software. A Mac would be better and it's hardly free! A really free system offers quality, reliability, flexiblity and freedom from lock-in.

    In any case, I agree with you when you say that Windoze is doomed.

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