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Dell Sells Open Source Computers 341

Posted by kdawson
from the ahhhhhh dept.
Lo5 writes with the excellent news that Dell is selling desktop computers without Windows preinstalled. They are called "n Series"; you can choose from Dimension E520, E521, or C521 desktops. The hard drive comes unformatted.
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Dell Sells Open Source Computers

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  • This is not news. (Score:5, Informative)

    by harks (534599) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:53PM (#17732472)
    Dell has been doing this for a long time.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by luge (4808)
      Mine is... hrm, at least two years old now? Still, nice to see it pimped here- more people should put their money where their mouth is with the big vendors and make it clear that they aren't going to use Windows on their boxes.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        ...more people should put their money where their mouth is with the big vendors and make it clear that they aren't going to use Windows on their boxes.


        That's one of the reasons why I bought an Acer laptop. Don't know if they do this anywhere, but in Thailand, it was no problem to get one without Windows. (And yes, they deducted the price of the OS.)

        I also had no problems getting in-warranty repairs on it here in Brisbane from Acer Australia.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by IAmTheDave (746256)
          Yes, it's cool that some companies sell computers sans-OS... but seriously, the subject line is ridiculous. These are not "Open Source Computers" for crying out loud.

          This is just as viable an option as if I had an old computer that lost a mobo to a power surge, and instead of fixing it, I decided to get a new computer. I'm allowed to move my XP license to the new computer, so why pay for a new one through Dell.

          "Open Source Computer" would better imply that the computer came with a mobo that supported and
  • by CaptainTux (658655) <papillion@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:54PM (#17732476) Homepage Journal
    Apparently, the submitter and editor don't truly realize what "open source" is. Selling a PC without anything on it isn't open source; it's selling a computer with nothing on it. This isn't a move to support open source, it's a move to save money by not having to pay the MS tax.
    • by Dorceon (928997) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:56PM (#17732506)
      Well, if your computer has no compiled code on it, then it's vacuously true to say that you have all the source code too.
    • by frakir (760204)
      well, did you ever see closed source nothing?

      which raises a question....
      if I distribute a null file under GPL don't any modification to it have to be also GPL-ed? :)
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by chrylis (262281)
        If you can demonstrate that you wrote a work independently of someone else, that person's copyright doesn't apply to you. I think you could rather easily demonstrate independent creation of an empty file. ;-)
      • by jZnat (793348) *
        I don't think that's long enough to warrant a copyright.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by xiang shui (762964)
      RTFA... it ships with FreeDOS. Sounds like open source to me.
    • by LoudMusic (199347) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:41PM (#17733016)

      Apparently, the submitter and editor don't truly realize what "open source" is. Selling a PC without anything on it isn't open source; it's selling a computer with nothing on it. This isn't a move to support open source, it's a move to save money by not having to pay the MS tax.
      Actually they aren't without anything. They come with FreeDOS. And FreeDOS is open source.

      Are you looking for a desktop on which you can run Linux® or other open-source operating systems? Look no further!

      Dell's new open-source n Series desktop solution provides customers with a DimensionTM E520, E521 or C521 desktop without an installed or included Microsoft® operating system. With the n Series desktop, customers have the flexibility to install an alternative operating system (such as a version of Linux® ), and help reduce the price of this system. In addition, the n Series desktop comes with a non-formatted hard drive ready for your custom installation. Dell's n Series desktop ships with a copy of FreeDosTM , an open-source operating system that is ready to install.
      http://www.freedos.org/ [freedos.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by __NR_kill (1018116)
      Furthermore, Dell is not selling a computer with nothing on it. Customise the configuration and you'll notice several differences with other Dell models. For instance, one needs to sacrifice a goat and pay some 10 to 20 Euro/Dollars more in order to buy a computer from Dell without a floppy. Those computers come with a floppy and if you don't want it they don't lower the price. The same goes for the optical drive. Also you'll need to buy a pretty expensive video card that you'll probably not use at all if y
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Thusi02 (998416)
      That is true. That giving a PC without an OS is not opensource. However, on the positive side if a user buys a machine without an OS on it, he/she is not going to spend the retail value to buy the Windows operating system (hopefully). Instead they will either choose to use one of the free operating systems Or... they will tap into the pirated market and install a pirated version of Windows. This will ofcourse increase the current 22% of North America having pirated copy.

      I feel that dell is a powerful seller
    • by donaldm (919619)
      You are right just because a PC ships without an OS does not mean it is Linux, Free BSD or even MS Windows compatible although I have a sneaking suspicion that if you pay (win win for Microsoft and vendor) for an OEM version of Windows XP it will work. If you are going to put a Linux distro on it you had better do your homework first (you should do it anyway) otherwise it is going to cost you.

      Actually I thought Microsoft had some sort of deal with PC vendors in that they had to ship all PC's with a working
  • Well that's good, but I'll still opt for building my own.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DrDitto (962751)
      I built my own machines for a long time. But sometime last year I realized I could buy an HP machine from Circuit City for way less money. For $550, I got a machine that had a CPU that, at the time, cost over $300 alone from newegg.com for the identical model (AMD X2). For the extra $250, I got 1GB ram, 250GB disk, case/PSU/nifty_media_ports, DVD-Burner, and a license of WinXP Media Center edition.

      The machine is rock solid. I added a recent, high-power video card and the stock power supply didn't fl
      • by bky1701 (979071)
        There are a lot of things you don't take into consideration when buying a pre-built computer. Having done so, and now regretting it, they are:

        1. Cheap "low profile" parts. Most of the motherboards have crappy configuration options, cheapo power supplies, low end ram and crappy hard drives.
        2. Somewhat related to the above, there are parts that are sometimes unsupported on non-windows OSes. I was lucky to get a chipset that worked right as far as sound and IO, but not everyone gets such.
        3. Bad support. E
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by rucs_hack (784150)
      I've done this for years, but I will admit the idea of a 'pick up and fix for me' warranty does have its appeal sometimes.

      Mind you, if I got a machine from Dell it would have windows on it, I like my linux machines to be headless monsters capable of running my experiments, or simple coding boxes with a basic Gcard.

      windows machines == gaming boxen for me, not a place for serious work.
  • The real question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by milas (988484) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:54PM (#17732482) Homepage
    Has anyone figured out how much cheaper these computers come than those with OEM Windows? Dell's pricing/models are so scattered I don't even know where to begin.
    • by lottameez (816335)
      I would think that was the only question. Couldn't you just reformat the drive yourself and get to the same state?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Beuno (740018)
        Yes, but you would have payed for Windows, which you won't use.
    • Has anyone figured out how much cheaper these computers come than those with OEM Windows? Dell's pricing/models are so scattered I don't even know where to begin.

      Why don't you begin by determining what segment these "blank" systems come from, "home / home office", "small business", etc; and then look at comparable "bootable" systems in that same segment. Staying withing the segment helps to make Dell prices a little more comprehensible. When you go between segments there can be radical changes in things
    • Re:The real question (Score:5, Informative)

      by jmorris42 (1458) * <jmorris@nOsPAm.beau.org> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:11PM (#17732702)
      > Has anyone figured out how much cheaper these computers come than those with OEM Windows?

      Well opening a seperate tab on www.dell.com and finding almost the same system with Windows I get a difference of $185 once you make em exactly equal. But they are running a promo hard drive upgrade on the N servies right now and aren't on the normal Dimension I looked at. But it doesn't matter, when the difference is that big it is clear they are actually taking something off the sticker price when you buy an N series. Finally. Guess that makes this a real news item instead of a pathetic dupe.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by chrylis (262281)
        I configured an E520/E520n to identical specs, with the one exception that the Windows version came with a Core 2 Duo (1.86GHz) and the n Series a Pentium D (2.80GHz, and Linux would've used the 64-bit processor). The n Series came out to $959 and the regular to $1089, a difference of $130 for Windows and the Core 2.
    • My recollection is that they AREN'T cheaper. Been a while, Dell's pricing is always shifty, but... I remember the price of Windows (if you were in a state where you could "return" it) to be something like $47 - but these "bare" boxes to usually cost the same amount as a similar computer WITH Windows... no savings at all. Oh, and not available on the least expensive boxes, as I remember - a Windows box is always the cheapest Dell option.

      Now if THAT changed, maybe that would be news.

  • Good News? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Skewray (896393)
    They have been doing this for some time. I have heard that Linux is known to port badly to these machines.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      They have been doing this for some time. I have heard that Linux is known to port badly to these machines.

      There were some [launchpad.net] problems [fedoraforum.org] with [dell.com] the BIOS [redhat.com] on the AMD X2 64, but it looks like those might have been fixed with a BIOS update.

  • by dangitman (862676) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:56PM (#17732500)
    Shows how much Microsoft's monopoly is silently accepted when it's news that someone sells computers without Windows.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *
      I love the way 64 bit PC's from Dell come with Windows XP Home Edition (32 bit) on them. You can only upgrade the OS to Win64 by paying $1000 extra, and you can't NOT pay for the OS. Maybe I should ask for a refund of this XP Home Edition CD.. too bad I already opened the packaging to use it in QEMU on my Linux box.

    • It looks like they have an almost identical E520 for $240 less - if you vote for M$ [slashdot.org]. No thanks, Michael Dell, if I'm going to pay extra to avoid giving my money to M$, I'll give my money to someone who's not giving it to M$.

    • by patio11 (857072)
      >>
      Shows how much Microsoft's monopoly is silently accepted when it's news that someone sells computers without Windows.
      >>

      So THATS how Apple keeps generating the feeding frenzies with every press release. "Hey guys, we launched a new product today! Prepare to be amazed... no Windows!" "Wow! Innovative! No Windows! Although, come to think of it, the interface sort of looks like Windows... are you sure you didn't copy it?" Then millions of rabid Mac fans beat the reporter to a bloody pulp, a
  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by apilosov (1810) <alex@pilosoft.com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:56PM (#17732502) Homepage
    This is at least 1.5 years old, probably more.

    I've been buying n-series in 2005.
  • Note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JoshJ (1009085) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @10:57PM (#17732514) Journal
    Note: Dell does not support non-Dell installed operating systems.

    In short: "We won't even give you tech support for the FreeDOS that comes in the package. All we'll do is replace your hardware if it breaks."
    • by Trelane (16124)
      Fine by me. OTOH, sometimes it's not. So I'll buy from LinuxCertified, RCubed, System76, or others when I want things to Just Work, and I'll maybe buy a dell when I don't mind being a hardware-OS support engineer.
    • by jmv (93421)
      I see that as an advantage actually. Last laptop I had, the CDROM broke and they (Dell) wouldn't replace it until I checked that the Windows CD that came with the laptop (and took a few days to find) couldn't be read either. That's because "we only support Windows". Now, I have an n-series laptop, so hopefully they can't tell me to "check with windows" before replacing broken hardware.
    • Re:Note (Score:4, Insightful)

      by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:14PM (#17732732) Homepage
      And this is a problem.. why?
    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:15PM (#17732754) Homepage
      Note: Dell does not support non-Dell installed operating systems. In short: "We won't even give you tech support for the FreeDOS that comes in the package. All we'll do is replace your hardware if it breaks."

      That sounds like support to me. They support what they assembled/installed. Dell support is not a uniform thing, it varies quite a bit from product to product and segment to segment. Give them more money, they will give you more support. Give them even more and they'll send someone to your home/office. Give them alot of money and they'll help you setup your enterprise with custom software and help you keep it running.
    • > "We won't even give you tech support for the FreeDOS that comes in the package. All we'll do is replace your hardware if it breaks."

      If you are buying one of these computers, it's likely that you already know more about your operating system of choice than their technical support does. I doubt that phoning them would help much even if they offered a support contract. They don't seriously expect anyone to use FreeDOS and they can't support every operating system in existence.

      There are plenty of companies
  • Does a company the size of Dell really lack the expertise to port this "unformatted disk" technology to the entire line?
    • by CastrTroy (595695)
      Too many people would call up saying their computer doesn't work when they select unformatted disk to save $50, or whatever it comes out to without windows. If there's $50 to be saved, then i'm sure there's tons of idiots who have no idea what an operating system is to choose the option of no operating system, just because it saves them money.
    • by rob1980 (941751)
      Given the amount of business they probably get from people who don't know an unformatted disk from a slipped disk, I'd say it's a good idea.
  • Yes [slashdot.org]. We know. And you usually have to go through about 50 pages to find them. Usually buried somewhere in the Business sections. MS doesn't want them to advertise systems without Windows.
  • by Wesley Felter (138342) <wesley@felter.org> on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:05PM (#17732610) Homepage
    An ATI graphics card with proprietary drivers or an NVidia graphics card with proprietary drivers; what a choice.
  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by juiceg (700027) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:07PM (#17732642) Homepage
    Anyone notice that, during the configuration, all the banner ads, logos and "recommendations" all mention Vista? High-larious.
  • How is this news?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trelane (16124) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:08PM (#17732650) Journal
    They've been doing this for years. News would be if "No OS" and "Linux" options were available for every system, and even more so for notebooks and the "Home" section. As it currently seems, however, this is not news.
    • by westlake (615356)
      News would be if "No OS" and "Linux" options were available for every system, and even more so for notebooks and the "Home" section.

      a show of hands please from the Geeks who believe that the "No OS" system or OEM Linux is a viable product in the domestic consumer PC market.

      • by Trelane (16124)

        If you read my post, you'll note that I said it'd be news, not that it'd be a good idea.

      • a show of hands please from the Geeks who believe that the "No OS" system or OEM Linux is a viable product in the domestic consumer PC market.

        a show of hands please from the Geeks who believe that the domestic consumer PC market significantly outweighs markets Europe and the Far East, which have shown themselves to be more open to a GNU/Linux software stack.

    • HP sold a notebook specifically designed to support Linux. It was dropped in six months, without a replacement. Given the Linux market share numbers I've seen, I can't help but think that there wasn't sufficient market for this to make it worth their time.
  • Interesting that when you "configure" the computer the "operating systems" button is still a windows logo. The only option available is "FreeDOS". (I was trawling to see if Dell would let me configure an open-source machine with the windows operating system. They don't.)
    • by drawfour (791912)
      Yeah, I tried that too. I think it would be nice if it was an "option". Then you could see how much it actually costs you do get Windows with a new PC.

      As an aside, of the three models, only one of them allowed you to choose "No monitor", which is the Intel system. To go from a 19" LCD (default selection) to no monitor takes $240 off the price, which I think is pretty nice. However, that option was nowhere to be found on the two AMD systems. Considering I already have dual-20" LCD monitors, buying yet
  • by Anonymous Coward
    some of you might remember back six years ago:
    how PCs shipped without Windows will destroy your life: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/11/23/ms_how_pcs _shipped_without/ [theregister.co.uk]
    it's (nearly) illegal to buy PCs without Windows: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2000/11/28/ms_its_nea rly_illegal/ [theregister.co.uk]

    is there a web archive somewhere of http://www.microsoft.com/OEM/nakedPC.htm [microsoft.com] ??
  • by robbak (775424) on Tuesday January 23, 2007 @11:53PM (#17733110) Homepage
    Companies like Dell are in a unique position to break the Windows monopoly.
    The main problem Open Source developers are having is the near-impossibility of getting hardware documentation. The manufacturers are unwilling (which is something I do _not_ understand!), and we lack the marketing clout to force them.
    Dell, Hp /et al/ have that clout. A simple decision - only use hardware for which full specs are available - would force the manufacturer's hands. The developers of xorg, linux, BSD etc would use that to produce full support, and everyone would have a real choice. The companies would not have to pay the MS tax, MS would have an incentive to actually make their products useable, DRM would take a heavy thwacking as people can choose not to have it.

    Ah, a perfect world. Well, I can dream, can't I?
    • by jonwil (467024)
      Even if Dell, HP Compaq, Apple, Sun AND IBM said "We will buy our graphics cards exclusively from whichever vendor (ATI or NVIDIA) is the first to deliver open source drivers or hardware specs for the full line of cards", it still wouldn't be enough for them to do it.

      It would require all the gold in Fort Knox and then some in order to be able to liberate (either by buying outright or acquiring a license) all the patents that are covered by a modern 3D graphics card.
      • by mollymoo (202721)
        Or ATI and NVidia could negotiate their patent licensing deals so that the patent license goes with the card, not the drivers, even if it's partially implemented in the drivers. They could even license software-only patents that way, but I don't think they would. It wouldn't be full-on free-as-in-speech, but it could still be open source in the literal sense.
  • Unrelated to Linux (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747)
    This is particular unrelated to Linux, especially since I'd wager a lot of money that Windows goes on 90% of these machines after they're sold. I may very buy some of these guys so I can use my "old" Windows 2000 licenses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ZorinLynx (31751) *
      Yup... I happen to work at a university campus which has a licensing agreement with MS, so we're already paying for Windows. These machines would be perfect for us, but we still end up buying regular Dells with Windows preinstalled because there's a wider selection and it's easier to find the configuration we want.

      The N-series selection is so limited that it might as well not be there for a large business/university with diverse needs. It does hurt to pay Microsoft twice for each copy of Windows, though.

      -Z
      • by Trelane (16124)
        If you install a volume license on these, Microsoft says you're a dirty pirate [microsoft.com]. Quoth Microsoft:

        Volume Licensing programs: For organizations that use multiple copies of Microsoft software, Volume Licensing is a flexible and economical way to acquire from five to thousands of licenses for software. Volume Licensing agreements, including Academic Volume Licenses, do not offer the full license for Windows Client operating systems; Volume Licensing covers only Windows Client upgrades. The full operating syst

  • January 26, 2004 to be exact, just after the first time this story was posted, that I'm aware of. It was shortly after Microsoft started its Get the Facts campaign. I think it cost more than the Windows variant though. It wasn't as Linux compatible as one would like. There was a bios issue (according to devs) that made 3D acceleration slightly unstable in xfree86, though a workaround was eventually added to x.org. This was probably the only affected Dell model not to get a firmware update to fix the issue.
  • If they are just strapping in an unformatted hard drive, how do they do any QC? Is the POST sufficient to guarantee all the components are good and installed correctly?

    I'm sure anyone installing *NIX is capable of re-seating boards and the like, but it still has to cost Mr. Dell money to do the replacement part thing, right?
  • Prepare for 1 in 4! [slashdot.org]
  • Same old BS (Score:3, Informative)

    by burnin1965 (535071) on Wednesday January 24, 2007 @01:27AM (#17734026) Homepage
    Each time these articles come out I go to dell.com just in case there is a deal to be had, unfortunately its the same story every frickin' time.

    The basic stripped down N521* comes to $749, the basic stripped down E521 with Windows XP Home is $729! So I save $20 if I buy Windows, WTF!!! I have to pay about $70** for NO OS***?

    Try again Dell.

    * I had to add the 320GB drive to match what is offered on the E521.
    ** the N521 is $20 and Windows OEM is maybe $50.
    *** it comes with FreeDOS, but its FREE, get it!
  • I can't find these desktops on dell.ca with no OS. Does dell only offer OSless nonserver/nonworkstation computers to the US?
  • Dell has been selling these for a while. At least a year ago they were selling them at prices higher than the same windows version. Somebody must of b1tched.

    Here are the Windows/Dimension series & price:
    Dimension e521 [dell.com]
    Dimension c521 [dell.com]
    Dimension E520 [dell.com]

    My apples to apples comparison for the e521 N series vs. the e521 Dimension(Windows) series is that the Windows system costs $60 more ($699 vs. $759).
    For the apples to apples c521 bundle, the Windows Dimension series costs $40 more ($699 vs. $739).
  • by Zaiff Urgulbunger (591514) on Wednesday January 24, 2007 @06:50AM (#17735800)
    If dell.co.uk sell them then they keep them very well hidden. Dell.co.uk *do* sell servers without OS's though, but I can't find any n-series in the UK.
  • by mrzaph0d (25646) <zaph0d@cur[ ]ch.com ['zte' in gap]> on Wednesday January 24, 2007 @10:20AM (#17737104) Homepage
    finishing up a custom system build on their site, i get this error:

    Errors:
            Windows® Vista does not support Optical Drive selected.
    Warnings:
            Congratulations! You have chosen all of the required hardware for a Vista Premium experience!

    guess i'm outta luck...
  • by stan_freedom (454935) on Wednesday January 24, 2007 @11:01AM (#17737566) Homepage
    I just purchased five E521 workstations with XP Home Edition on Monday. Total cost, with a $60 small business coupon was $509 per system. I ran through the E521 config using the FreeDOS option. The system, almost identically configured, was $709. The only upgrade was a 250 GB drive versus a 160 GB drive (I couldn't get a discount by dropping to a 160 GB drive). Even without the coupon, it is $40 cheaper to purchase with Windows XP than without a licensed OS. So, either Microsoft is giving away XP Home Edition, or Dell is screwing their customers.

    It would be better to purchase the Windows version, then you could install Linux/Xen and would be licensed to Windows as a guest.

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