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How One Small Business Switched to Ubuntu 467

Posted by kdawson
from the losing-business-the-old-fashioned-way dept.
firenurse writes to point out a story in The Inquirer about how one small business switched to Ubuntu. It describes a maddening comedy of errors, a series of circular screw-ups among Microsoft, HP, and a RAID vendor. From the article: "You never quite wrap your head around how anti-consumer Microsoft's policies are until they bite you in the bum. Add in the customer antagonistic policies of its patsies, HP in this case, and vendors like Promise, and you have quite a recipe for pain. Guess what I did today?"
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How One Small Business Switched to Ubuntu

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  • by PurifyYourMind (776223) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:12PM (#17424204) Homepage
    I imagine going the Linux route as a smaller business or individual is going to help a lot -- you have tons of free forums and enthusiasts to help you. In working at companies that used MS heavily, I can see a pattern--the bigger you are, the better service you get. For example, a huge computer chips manufacturer I worked at had several of their employees *on site* at Microsoft. A university I worked at - paying about $250,000/year for a site-wide software license - got less help, but still had inside contacts at Microsoft. And then you've got small/new businesses who may get an email a couple weeks later, if they're lucky.
    • by westlake (615356)
      I imagine going the Linux route as a smaller business or individual is going to help a lot -- you have tons of free forums and enthusiasts to help you.

      what you do not have in small business is time. time to spend on the forums. time to trust in the enthusiast's solution which may or may not work.

  • by tetrahedrassface (675645) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:24PM (#17424336) Journal
    Let me preface this by saying I ran almost every testing final release of Fedora. A couple of days ago I was trying to get Slash running on Core 6. A friend of mine said I should really try Ubuntu. We were on IRC, so i couldn't actually hear the tone of his voice, but it seemed to me be a pretty strong emphasis. Like "Try Ubuntu you idiot." :).. Well I did. I went and grabbed the 6.0.6 Dapper Server release. The install was painless. Once I was running there were several things I needed in order build stuff. Namely, build-essential, and things like that. Also Cpan was lets just say, interesting to get right, but it always is. So anyway. It took 3 minutes to get an apache 3.x series server with mod_perl up. Mysql was a breeze. Once the server was up, I decided to build scoop, just to get better. This is the first thing I had ever tried to build as far as a fairly powerful weblog product. The result? It works! If you doubt me, just click on my url. Now, i was just building scoop to learn. Not really gonna use it I don't think. The point is, Ubuntu rocks, and the longer term support from 6.0.6 is what I need if im gonna be doing some development. And the kernel aint half bad either. :P
  • by dtfinch (661405) * on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:26PM (#17424360) Journal
    That would have been disappointing even if you got it working.
    • by nurb432 (527695)
      That was sort of my thought too. " why is he instaling XP on a server ? "
      • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Monday January 01, 2007 @05:02PM (#17425316) Homepage

        'Cause he didn't need a server?

        This was an office with 4 workstations. They needed a place to dump files for access - not a server. He's gonna automate their backup to DVD (although I don't know why he needed the size disks he was using for 4 PCs - maybe he intends to keep a LOT of backups? Maybe it's video stuff?)

        What branch office with 4 PCs is gonna pay God knows what for a Microsoft server license?

        They'd be idiots. Even SBS is overkill.

  • by Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:27PM (#17424364) Homepage
    I get paid by the hour, if you need me.
  • by kerubi (144146) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:28PM (#17424376)
    Big name vendor + non-supported hardware. Any system consultant with a few years of experience should be able to tell you "don't do that".

    Actually the guy in the article didn't know what he was doing and tries to blame Microsoft and HP for the mess that his lack of knowledge created.

    If he had done this for even once in the past, he would have known what would happen. Very nice of him to practice with his clients' systems.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by dballanc (100332)
      Whether he has run into these problems once, or a thousand times doesn't make the nature of the problems any less asinine. As for 'don't do that', I've been doing it for over a decade with great results. I explain the pro/con points with my client and implement. And it works. Any consultant who has to trust vendor support FOR anything is just asking for trouble, because they WILL get screwed eventually.
    • by kebes (861706) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:44PM (#17424574) Journal
      You're quite right: the solution he chose was non-optimal from the start. Why is he using desktop hardware to build a server? What has he used in the past? Why didn't he do more research? Clearly a 'professional' would not have made these mistakes. Obviously it is possible to deploy a properly functioning Windows server to do what the guy wanted to do.

      But that's not exactly the point of the article, I think. This was a rather small-scale installation, and he (with whatever knowledge, skills and money he had available) found it *impossibly frustrating* to get a Windows server running, while it was quite straight-forward to get a Linux server running.

      This 'small-time market' is huge in aggregate. There are thousands of small businesses, home businesses, stores, etc. that have need of some kind of server. They don't have the money/time/expertise to set up a professional Windows server... but amazingly they do have the ability to set up a Linux server! Why? Because FLOSS empowers the user, is community-based, and doesn't impose artificial restrictions.

      I've had similar experiences. Some years ago I was setting up a small server for a lab (file sharing, web-hosting, etc.). We had no need of a 'professional' system so I just set it up myself. First with Windows (didn't work out very well) and then I scrapped the system and used Linux instead. Even with my limited (at the time) knowledge of Linux, I was able to get a powerful, functional, and stable server system (still running, has never crashed). It was certainly as professional as it needed to be for our purposes.

      The point is that FLOSS empowers the 'little guy' to get something working without hassles, whereas proprietary solutions are usually focused on the 'big guys' and create artificial barriers to actually doing what you want to do!
      • by zotz (3951) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:31PM (#17425022) Homepage Journal
        "Clearly a 'professional' would not have made these mistakes."

        This is one of the things I always find so funny.

        Which is it everyone? Is windows easy enough for anyone to set up and administer, or does it take a windows expert to do these things properly?

        If it takes an expert to do it right, why does everyone seem to insist that it has to be done by Grandma when it comes to Linux?

        all the best,

        drew
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ray-auch (454705)
          Windows is (relatively) easy (at least as easy as Linux) to setup and administer.

          Windows is not (always) easy to install, and never has been, unless you happen to be lucky with the hardware - in which case everything just works.

          s/Windows/Linux

          They are about the same in terms of install. Some hardware Linux will be a breeze, and Windoze will be a bitch, other hardware visa-versa. In either case you really need a second net connected machine to get help and download stuff and with a CD burner and (especiall
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by drsmithy (35869)

          Is windows easy enough for anyone to set up and administer, [...]

          Yes.

          [...] or does it take a windows expert to do these things properly?

          Yes.

    • by jimicus (737525)
      It's better than that.

      The box he was shipping to his client originally had a 40GB hard drive in it, which immediately makes it a couple of years old. He's probably recycling an old box he had lying around.

      Nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but if it's going out to the clients site to host important stuff, you probably want nice shiny new hardware rather than some 3 year old PC with an almost burnt-out PSU and zero warranty support (which means that you won't be able to get the parts to turn a dead box
      • by Znork (31774)
        "40GB hard drive in it, which immediately makes it a couple of years"

        You overestimate the shite the bigname vendors put in their entry level systems. A low end HP 'server' can ship with an 80GB drive today, I wouldnt be surprised if 40GB drives were still shipping a few months ago.

        The fact that they're actually selling machines with components that have been rare in retail for quite some time makes one wonder where they're getting the parts. Refurbished junk, perhaps? Guess that would be good for the margin
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jimicus (737525)
          "you won't be able to get the parts to turn a dead box back into a live one"

          Yes, well, another reason to avoid 'brand name' boxes like the plague and buy standard components.

          Where do I buy a standard motherboard (where I can be certain of getting the exact same model on less than 4 hours notice in 2 years time) and standard dual-redundant power supply?
    • by rakslice (90330)
      What, the "system consultant" didn't bend over and take it up the ass from the vendor? He must be ignorant or inexperienced. =)
    • With the money you save by not going on the big name vendor service agreements you can put toward a system consultant who will make the work for you. Because that is their job.
    • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:38PM (#17425094) Homepage

      Big name vendor + non-supported hardware. Any system consultant with a few years of experience should be able to tell you "don't do that".

      Anyone who confuses "support" with proprietary software is not working in their client's best interests. Proprietors drop software maintenance to get users on the upgrade treadmill. Proprietors ostensibly act motivated by profit, but users can find computers that do their job well after the hardware is no longer profitable. Consultants ought to promote the use of free software drivers and firmware (or, preferably, no firmware needed at all) so that their clients can leverage the talents of a free market of developers to improve and maintain the software needed to make all hardware work with any system. Separating users from their freedom is not fiscally sound for users.

  • Joke's on him (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by xrayspx (13127)
    Microsoft lost this chain for sure on the server side. If it doesn't think their brain dead policies are costing them money, I am proof positive that they are

    Unless he somehow wrangled a refund out of HP for the copy of XP he didn't use, then Microsoft still got paid, thus their "braindead policy" isn't costing them a nickel. They're just making money on a copy of Windows they don't need to support.

    On the one hand this guy describes the branch office as "no big deal, done it a thousand times before",
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Microsoft kept the money for that copy of XP, but this guy isn't gonna buy MS or HP for his next computer, or the one after that.
    • Microsoft tax (Score:3, Informative)

      by falconwolf (725481)

      Unless he somehow wrangled a refund out of HP for the copy of XP he didn't use, then Microsoft still got paid, thus their "braindead policy" isn't costing them a nickel. They're just making money on a copy of Windows they don't need to support.

      Two problems with this, the first is that even if they were to get a refund it is HP that would pay for it not MS I'd imagine as I wouldn't be supprised if OEMs that have volume discounts for Windows has to pay for each PC sold. The second issue is once a client

  • So close... (Score:3, Informative)

    by (H)elix1 (231155) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:41PM (#17424542) Homepage Journal
    Looks like the poster had a 'real' Windows CD, but the license key he was trying to use was for the brain dead OEM version. Been there, done that. The trick is to transform a real CD into what HP (and all the other hardware vendors) should be including - a Windows install CD that works with the key on the sticker.

    So look at the 'pre-installed' media, find the c:\i386\setupp.ini file that should be on the HDD. Build yourself a Windows install CD using NLite (because you should also trim th fat as long as you are going to be in there, along with adding drivers, security patches, etc) from some other source. Replace the setupp.ini file and it will use the OEM key. This won't turn an OEM version into an activation free volume version, but you can go the other way.

    Did I mention nlite lets you add drivers to the install media? (grin) A must for those who have SATA drives.
    • by ctid (449118)
      Thank goodness it's all so easy with Windows! Seriously, WTF? Is this sort of crap standard with Windows?
      • by zotz (3951)
        "Thank goodness it's all so easy with Windows! Seriously, WTF? Is this sort of crap standard with Windows?"

        Indeed, remember, windows is so easy, anyone can do it. That's why you see all these articles insisting that Grandma be able to handle everything on the linux side of things.

        all the best,

        drew
  • by cybrthng (22291) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:43PM (#17424560) Journal
    First of all, its called using the right tool for the right job. When you buy an OEM desktop you get OEM windows, you *CAN* buy the CD for an extra 10-20 bucks with most places and if you register as a reseller you can get much more. (If you're a microsoft partner you can just sell another license through your partner advantage program and use your own cd's/media for install) (free to join program). Finding Media is probably the easiest job of any techie.

    Secondly, don't use Windows XP to be a server. It really isn't much more and sometimes cheaper to get a system pre-installed with SBS 2003 R2 and you get Exchange and other features built in not to mention a true comparison against Linux resource/functionality wise.

    Terribly inaccurate and to say the least a very inept technician and company at work here.

    My biggest selling "managed service" for small/medium sized businesses isn't my linux solution but my sbs 2003 r2 solution because for most people it not only saves money but provides tons of features from easy to configure remote access to sharing in sharepoint to cenralized ad administration/logins/access restrictions to built in exchange and with the advanced version sql server access.

    I would never sell someone a desktop as a server solution simply because your selling yourself short. If cost savings was an issue buy a refurb server system and put whatever linux you want on it.
    • by Scutter (18425) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:11PM (#17424850) Journal
      Ah yes. SBS. The lovely "server" from Microsoft that has all "services" rolled together. As in "you can't uninstall and reinstall a broken service without reloading the entire OS". The one where a slight problem with one service affects everything on the box. No thanks. I'll stick with W2K3 STD.
    • by segedunum (883035) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:13PM (#17424866)
      I would never sell someone a desktop as a server solution simply because your selling yourself short.

      Typical lame duck Microsoft 'Gold Partner' response I've heard a thousand times over. I really don't know how the fuck them guys stay in business.

      It really depends on what he's using it for, doesn't it? If it's just to use as a simple file and print server, or as a machine on the network to host a third party application that many small businesses tend to use, then why in hell's name is he going to fork out more money for SBS with a ton of things he'll never use and some things he'll never be able to use properly (Terminal Services springs to mind) and where he can't get more than one on the same network? Yes, you guessed it, that's an artificial Microsoft restriction in SBS *slaps forhead*.
  • by RebornData (25811) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:43PM (#17424562)
    I have been bitten by every single problem mentioned in that article. Bad OEM "revogery disks" and MS licensing restrictions that prevent one from using an alternative install disks are one of the biggest single problems facing those of us that support very small businesses professionally. Say what you want about Dell... at least they include real windows install disks.

    However, I have to question the judgement of the author. First of all, what kind of consultant deploys branch offices "weekly" and didn't know about these problems in advance? Anyone with much experience would know about (a) how difficult it is to move windows from one storage subsystem to another, (b) that HP uses bad recovery disks, and (c) that RAID installs require a floppy.

    In addition, I question the use of Linux in this situation... perhaps it was his only way out of a bad recommendation to a client, but the problem is that there are *very* few Linux-savv consultants servicing businesses this size. For this reason alone I don't deploy Linux solutions... I can't find subcontractors who can back me up when I'm on vacation or sick, and should I stop working with a client, I don't want to leave them high and dry. Most consultants I know replace Linux servers with windows because they simply can't support it.

    Finally, there's a much better way to do what he's trying to do: a NAS appliance. If all you need is some shared storage, printer sharing and the occasional backup, one of the many small business NAS devices out there (Infrant [infrant.com], Snap / Adaptec [snapappliance.com], Buffalo [buffalotech.com], etc...) will do so with greater reliability and less complexity than a PC-based server.

    -R
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by elteck (874753)
      That depends very much on the kind of people working in that company. If they're not too computer illetarate, it shouldn't be a problem. Linux isn't that complicated.You can easily maintain it yourself.
      I've worked in two companies that both switched to Linux. And after some initial setup problems, that was in both cases a succes. It is a steep learning curve, that is true. But the big advantuge of Linux is that it requires much less maintenance then Windows.
  • by Masa (74401) on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:52PM (#17424646) Journal
    The article says that you will not receive neither XP installation disk nor a valid XP Product Key. All HP hardware that I have been using have had a rescue CD set, vanilla XP installation CD (although, the CD has HP label) and a Product Key sticker glued to the machine. The Key works with the installation CD, but the activation process has to be done over the phone.

    This is the situation in Finland. Does HP have different policies in other countries? I'm just curious to know if there just are different policies in different countries or is this some completely new policy that HP started using just recently?
    • by KillerBob (217953)
      My Compaq laptop is similar to yours... the old one (pre-merger) had restore CDs that reinstalled everything, complete with the crap that I never wanted like AOL. The new(er) one came with a vanilla XP CD that installed the OEM version of XP Home. No activation required, doesn't even ask for the CD key, though there is a sticker on the bottom of the lappy.

      All the drivers are included on a 2nd CD, and there's a 3rd CD with the crap I don't want, like AOL, MSN, MS Works, etc. etc. etc.

      I'm in Canada. The previ
  • Well Duh! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shadow99_1 (86250) <theshadow99@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Monday January 01, 2007 @03:55PM (#17424688)
    Ok who else doesn't believe the line: "It started out quite simply, a client needed to set up a small branch office, something I do almost every week.", from the article?

    I have been a consultant (my own business) working exclsuively with small bussiness for quite some time & before I ever started doign that I'd have told him he was a frickin' moron. HP doesn't support other hardware on their _restore_ CD's, well friggin' DUH! Hey moron how can you not know this if you 'a client needed to set up a small branch office, something I do almost every week'. If you had you'd know this already and wouldn't have screwed with the HP disks at all & would know you need a real OS disk.

    After that you blame Promise's CD... Yet lots of vendors do that... Hell lots of motherboard vendors do that! It's why I have a LS120 drive I use that is never installed in systems, but lets me get stuff loaded at that fun part of the install where I have to have a 'floppy type device' to load anything...

    Really two things come to mind that sum up the solution to his whole problem: Either convince HP to customize a machine to your needs (and keep their support which you btw killed when modifying their box anyways and is the only real reason to buy from a OEM vendor anyways) or Build the darn box yourself so you can customize it as you want with a real OS CD! Problem solved.

    It may be nice Linux 'solved' your problem, but your problem was caused by you for not already knowing what you were walking into.
  • The business didn't "switch to Ubuntu". That phrase implies that they suddenly stopped using any Windows systems. In fact, they made the much smaller step of converting their servers to Ubuntu. Linux has always been a much easier sell in serverland, because on servers you don't have all the application lock-in that makes it hard to get end users to give up Windows.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by electronerdz (838825)
      You haven't dealt with a lot of small business then. Quite a few applications need Windows servers, which have given me quite a few troubles in using Linux. QuickBooks and ProSeries (which I have worked around), Sage Business Works (which I haven't worked around yet, but run locally and copies on log off), some program that uses an Access backend (on a server I refuse to support because of the mistakes of the previous IT person), EagleSoft (NO workarounds), etc. I want all my servers to run Linux, unfortuna
  • by segedunum (883035) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:00PM (#17424726)
    At one time, my boss was as wedded to Microsoft as they come, mainly because that was all he knew. Over time, that view changed mainly because of the hoops we had to jump through as a small IT business doing things for SMBs, and the unbelievable expense for pointless things with an all Microsoft approach.

    The licensing bollocks in the article of being squeezed into buying a full copy of XP, or Windows Server, not to mention the excruciating amount of time you spend wading through the treacle, is just the tip of the iceberg, and is not something I see in very many TCO studies ;-).

    The final straw was Terminal Services, which to this day, is the one thing that pisses me off just about the most with Windows and Windows Servers. You actually need to run a separate service, or even a separate Windows Server, just to track Client Access Licenses (which you pay for) so that users can get access to all their applications. Anything that goes wrong with TS is nearly always licensing related, and has nothing to do whatever with the software itself. The sole reason why this is as difficult as it is is because remote applications like this seriously threatens Microsoft's reliance and monopoly over fat clients, so they got in quick and closed what they saw as a loophole. Their approach is to then make the thin client approach just as expensive and more difficult. Well, f*** off. We wanted to spend our money on things that were going to make things better and actually get us ahead of the loser competition.

    I know SBS is held up as this great white hope for IT in small businesses, but I find the whole thing so limiting that we can very rarely give a 'Yes' answer to a client without asking for several thousands of whatever currency you wish before we even start and disappearing for several weeks. I mention these problems we have had calmly to many Microsoft resellers and 'Gold Partner' IT companies and they get very visibly upset, because they just don't know what to say.

    As a business, we then went off into a fantastic world of an Ubuntu server running separate VMware or Xen Virtual Machines, remote desktop applications using Nomachine's fantastic NX Server, and with no ridiculous CAL overhead where we could ditch Windows applications, SQL Ledger, Zimbra, Fedora Directory Server and many others. The whole set up we have internally does so much more than a Windows and Microsoft set up does, it just isn't believable.

    No doubt I'll get some extremely witty and informative reply to this comment about how someone managed to bork their Grub and Ubuntu installation into not booting. Oh, I see we've already had one ;-).
  • I hope Charlie will now demand that HP refund him the pittance they actually give you back when you demand your "I'm not using Windows on this machine" refund, as permitted for in the Windows ToS.
  • Even if he did manage to get the HP XP installed with the Promise RAID drivers, he probably wasn't ready to enable 48-bit LBA to handle ATAPI drives larger than 137GB under XP [microsoft.com].
  • by PPGMD (679725) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:05PM (#17424792) Journal
    Another example of excellent reporting, that is if you like blaming Microsoft for every problem. As far as I am aware there is no Microsoft policy that prohibits the shipping of Windows CDs with the computers. It's just that the companies don't like them because they are a pain to support compared to restore discs.

    All the blame here lies on one company, HP. They didn't ship them a Windows CD which would have fixed it right up. But any good computer tech would have had a Windows XP Pro OEM CD that they could have used to install the OS (Microsoft sends an entire album of current OEM CDs to partners). Sure you would have to call up to activate the OS, but it would have gotten him up and running.

  • The best strategy for a business is to start your small business with an IT department that can handle your IT infrastructure, and then expand it to what you need. Consultants have to hill-climb; they have to say, "There's a problem here, we'll fix it. If you find another problem (possibly exposed by this fix), call us again." Your own IT department should have documentation and experience with your network, so they know if they do X it will break Y but they can do Z to get Y working properly and move a

  • I just gave it a shot a few days ago. All I can say is WOW [blogspot.com].

    If you have not tried Ubuntu, please do. I can't say enough good things about it.
    • by DaveCBio (659840)
      I tried it on 2 PCs recently. One was a piece of crap "all in one" Duron system that worked fine. The other was an Athlon 2400+ on an Asus motherboard. Couldn't get the sound or the NIC working and gave up after about 30 minutes. It's still pretty hit and miss for me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)


        Sound is always an issue, not so much because of Linux, but because if you're not expert in Linux, you can't tell WHICH of the three or four sound servers Linux provides is running as the default, and WHICH of them is being used by the media program you're running. Look at the system setup or the dmesg boot report and the config screens for Xine or whatever media program you're running. Usually, adjusting the programs to use the right sound server solves the problem.

        It's dumb, I know - why they don't marry
  • by Junta (36770) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:42PM (#17425130)
    For the moderately near future, I don't see a linux distribution locking out a person from supporting it themselves like MS does (though getting support from your linux/hw vendor may be complicated by his actions). However, I do think the installers plan and execution was not good for a business install. Actually, it's not that good for home installs either.

    One thing:

    its patsies, HP
    In this case, HP is not just being MS' patsy, they are serving their own interest. MS didn't request them cripple their customization, they crippled it themselves to encourage any upgrades to be HP supplied, not third party.

    The key sentence where everything went to crap:

    Out came the anaemic 40GB drive from one HP, and in when the Promise controller and two WD 200GB SATA drives.
    In the first part, he drank the vendor kool-aid and got their customized XP install. That's a valid choice in and of itself. Then he grabbed a third-party controller card and expected the stuff HP provided to play nice with it. HP didn't want him to do that, they wanted him to buy a presumably much more expensive HP branded controller to do the same thing. HP's install CD not accomodating that is hardly a surprise, and hardly a MS decision. The different keys for retail and OEM reflect the different pricing tiers. .

    If they are a particularly small business, not going with one vendor is a valid choice, but you best put it together via all-third-party parts and get a generic OEM windows disk. If you can get a no-windows discount on the HP system, and use that discount for a different license, you can go with a non-restricted install media set. You do, however, in this way accept a higher degree of risk (problem determination falls squarely on your shoulders, and your vendors may disagree with your conclusion and blame other parts..). If you run on thin margins and time is not uber-critical for systems, this may be the appropriate path

    If you drink the vendor kool-aid and get their hardware and software, you've drunk the kool-aid and as a consequence, you ought buy from HP your upgrades. You can't expect something put together by them to work for hardware configurations they would explicitly not support. This is more expensive if you buy any significant number of upgrades, but that's the course you signed up for by implicitly restricting yourself to their install media. By mixing and matching, you get the negatives of above with respect to support (HP can blame the generic Promise chipped card, and vice-versa), but you pay more for the privilege of support that is compromised by the choice.

    I'm a professional linux guy working for a hardware vendor. We invest a lot of time and money in making sure all our hardware works well for given linux distributions. I occasionally have to work with a customer who ultimately admits to third party options in the systems that usually end up the cause of their problem for reasons more purely technical than artificial CD key barriers. I'm a little defensive of this circumstance because even without artificial key measures introduced, this strategy can screw you over regardless of your software platform.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)



      AGAIN.

      How do we know HE bought the hardware. If the client bought it, he's stuck with it.

      Small business clients do this all the time.

      In fact, since he referred to the "anemic 40GB drive", we can ASSUME he did NOT buy the hardware. He would have ordered the hardware with what he WANTED if he bought it.

      That throws out almost all of the criticism of this guy (other than not being ready with Promise drivers of his own when he reported to the site.)
  • You buy an OEM copy of the OS but then find you can't use it. So you then have to go out and buy a full copy.

    How many Windows licences are there out there compared to PCs? must be nearly two CDs for every PC running Windows. Many corporations buy PCs with XP Home and wipe that and install XP Professional.
  • by Master of Transhuman (597628) on Monday January 01, 2007 @04:53PM (#17425224) Homepage

    I don't go anywhere to do any work without the Ultimate Boot CD for Windows! As long as the system can support XP (older machines can't, so I have to use the older Boot CD which is DOS-based), I can boot XP anywhere and have numerous utilities available. In fact, my UBCDW has so many antivirus and antispyware utilities on it that I'm thinking of making a couple more CDs with different sets of utilities on it to do other things. I'd do a DVD version, but a lot of people still don't have DVD drives in their machines.

    I'm going to add some utilities to several 2GB flash drives and eventually convert one of my older 60GB hard drives into an external USB inclosure and load it up with EVERYTHING - along with a boot CD to access it.

    Then - bring it on! I've got over 1600 utilities that can pretty much handle any issue I'm likely to encounter (knock wood, tomorrow I'll run into one I can't...)

    Gotta admit, though, the guy was screwed when there were no drivers on the Promise disk. And it is a pain that you can't use a vanilla XP install CD to replace system files in a Systems File Check (although I understand the security reasons for it) or do much of anything else except run a Restore Console.
  • by steveha (103154) on Monday January 01, 2007 @06:30PM (#17426216) Homepage
    I was helping a friend get set up with a new computer. It's a sweet, sweet box from HP: Athlon 4200+ X2 processor, 1GB RAM, DVD burner. It's an HP Pavilion a1647c-b [hp.com], and it cost US$900 (which included a nice widescreen LCD display with both analog and DVI inputs!). I upgraded it with a passively-cooled nVidia 7600GS graphics card, so it's now using the DVI input on the LCD display, and the display looks great.

    I wanted to install Ubuntu on it, but I haven't done so yet. Here's why.

    It turns out that the system doesn't come with an XP install CD. No surprise, Microsoft requires OEMs to provide "recovery disks". But it turns out that the system doesn't come with recovery disks either! It comes with a utility for burning a custom set of recovery disks. The manual says you are permitted to burn exactly one set of recovery disks.

    It turns out that you need 18 blank CD-R disks, or 3 blank DVD+/-R disks, to burn your custom set of recovery disks! So I went home without installing Ubuntu.

    The next day he bought a stack of DVD+R disks, and I went back. The recovery disk utility took a long time to burn the first disk, and then it said "verifying" and sat there, indicating 1% progress. So I left again without installing Ubuntu. He left it running and it never did finish.

    So now he has a Windows system that he doesn't dare use, because if it gets messed up, there is no way to restore it. He told me he would call HP tech support but I haven't heard back from him.

    By the way: it would have been easy to install Ubuntu before the first boot-up. I booted an Ubuntu CD and used it as a live CD, and looked over the hard disk without modifying it. Initially there was a 20GB partition and a whole bunch of empty space. On the first boot, the Windows system expanded the NTFS file system to fill the whole bunch of empty space. If I had just created a couple of partitions at the end of the empty space, I'm pretty sure that Windows would have left them alone, and then it would have been trivial to install Ubuntu. (Of course, if I had done that, I would have had a nagging worry that the recovery disk fiasco was somehow my fault. Because I didn't touch the machine before first boot, it's clear that the recovery meltdown has nothing to do with me.)

    I was tempted to just grab a copy of XP and do a full re-install. But this particular system came with XP Media Center Edition, and I have no idea where I can get an install CD of XP MCE (or how much it would cost).

    I'm half-tempted to buy one of these systems, though, because it was a good value for the money, and Ubuntu recognized all the hardware, right down to the flash card reader.

    steveha

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