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Dell Opens a Poll On Linux Options 404

Posted by kdawson
from the you-asked-for-it dept.
narramissic writes "In response to overwhelming user demand for Linux, Dell has posted a survey on a company blog that asks 'PC users to choose between Linux flavors such as Fedora and Ubuntu, and to pick more general choices such as notebooks versus desktops, high-end models versus value models and telephone-based support versus community-based support.' Votes will be collected through March 23, and Dell plans to use the feedback to begin selling Linux-based consumer PCs." The poll is pretty minimal. Wonder how much it will really guide Dell's choices.
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Dell Opens a Poll On Linux Options

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  • Re:Naaa. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:04PM (#18338549)
    You realize they can't support other distributions right?
    They can't even ensure that they'll work properly.

    Fully testing a distribution on a given piece of hardware probably takes a man-month.

    Trying to fix issues that don't work increases that time line.

    The best they could do is set up a standard test- run it against a given distribution and give it a percentage pass rating.

    Would you seriously pay them $890 for a laptop with a version of linux that passes 97% of tests and they'll show you a list of the 3% of the tests that fail so you can decide if you want to figure out and fix them or not on your own. Myself- I want everything to just work. And that means they can really only use a couple standard flavors.
  • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:06PM (#18338583) Homepage Journal

    The problem is that it's impractical for Dell, or any other company, to support every distribution and version of GNU/Linux that's out there. It's also impractical for them to test every hardware configuration with all of those distributions. They've got to pick one. Or two. Or five. Or whatever practical number their support people can handle. (Which I'm guess will end up being one or two at the most.)

    Personally, I think they should go with Ubuntu, as it is extremely popular and arguably the most user-friendly distribution. If you want a different distribution, you're free to install it, and it will probably work since you know that the Ubuntu drivers will work on their hardware. But if you get a Dell with Linux, along with their support and guarantee that it will work on their hardware, you'll have to go with the distribution they've actually tested and that they support.

  • Options (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:07PM (#18338591)
    You know everyone has been complaining that Dell doesn't offer Linux. Then they open a poll, they then get flamed for not having enough options. There is no way to make everyone happy, there just aren't enough Linux trained support techs to support everything. On their servers they only support a limited amount of distros and if the customer wants to using something other than those then it's best effort maybe that will be the case with the desktops. I know some people on the support side and, even in the enterprise world you hear some really stupid questions come in and you wonder why they are even running Linux...imagine that in the consumer space.
  • This is really part of the problem. It costs Dell a ton of money to install a different default OS, or at least they claim that it does, and I've no basis to argue with them, so as a community, we need to be able to be satisfied with one distribution.

    One of the reasons that Dell et al have always used as an argument against installing Linux by default, is that Linux users are too hard to please, and the market is too balkanized. With Windows, you have (well, you did, pre-Vista) Home, and Professional, and you can charge extra for installing Professional. With Linux, you have Ubuntu, Novell, Fedora, and god knows what else, and you really can't charge extra for installing one or the other without alienating users.

    I think they need to pick ONE easy-to-use "beginners Linux" distribution, like Ubuntu or Lindows, and then offer a 'bare drive' option for users who want something else. Let's face it; if you are enough of a Linux user to have developed a preference between distributions, you can install the damn thing from an ISO. As long as the hardware is compatible and has Linux drivers available, you ought to be able to put anything you want on there.

    The argument for pre-installations is really about novice users who can't be bothered to install an OS onto a fresh machine, and just want something that's going to work with minimal fuss. They need a distribution that's as idiot-proof and "polished" as possible, and that's what the criteria for choosing it should be.
  • Re:Obquote (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:11PM (#18338657) Homepage Journal
    I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    I do not think that joke means what you think it means.

    (Dell's servers seem pretty overwhelmed at the moment)
  • by DogDude (805747) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:17PM (#18338713) Homepage
    And so on. Support "Linux", not "Red Hat". Ship the hardware and let the buyer get support from the distribution s/he prefers.

    Not gonna happen. Not in a million, billion, trillion years. Dell has to maintain some semblance of quality and reputation. People who don't know what they're getting into, and buy a Dell box with some kind of Linux, are going to be sorely disappointed in Dell once they realize what their support options are. Also, how is Dell going to handle warranty issues? How can they possibly troubleshoot a PC is it has god-knows-what software on it?

    Back to the ubiquitous car analogy: Toyota isn't going to sell you a car without tires. It's a hell of a lot more headache than it's worth.
  • My vote (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mstahl (701501) <(marrrrrk) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:18PM (#18338725) Homepage Journal

    Wonder how much it will really guide Dell's choices.

    My vote: not that much.

  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:18PM (#18338727) Homepage Journal
    If it comes preinstalled then you know the hardware is working. You can take a system image (hopefully you will get a disc with one anyway) so if you roach the system you can reload it and see how THEY got everything working. It's very helpful to have it preinstalled even if you're just going to repartition.
  • Re:Naaa. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The_K4 (627653) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:18PM (#18338743)
    As opposed to them selling me a Windows Laptop that I can then load Linux onto and GUESS at what works and what doesn't? The scenario that you propose is vastly better then today!
  • Laptops please (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:22PM (#18338789)
    My workplace already gets Precision workstations from Dell with RHEL on them. Although to be honest we swapped vendors for the last round because quad Opterons were the better choice at the time. RHEL isn't a particularly good desktop OS for my needs (low popularity, license/reinstall headache) but Ubuntu works well enough on the same hardware.

    What Dell really lacks is laptops with obvious Linux support. It's still a pain in the ass to look through their website and pick up a laptop that you know has working 3D drivers (ATI blows), wireless, and hibernation support. You can go look around for third party reviews and match model numbers but that leaves you looking off site (and evaluating against competitors) and Dell has a huge turnover in model revisions.
  • Dell? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DogDude (805747) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:23PM (#18338807) Homepage
    No, as opposed to you buying a Linux laptop from a company that sells Linux laptops. I don't see what everybody's obsession is with wanting to buy a Dell. Is it a status symbol to have a computer box that says "Dell" on it?
  • explanation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zogger (617870) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:32PM (#18338911) Homepage Journal
    It's because once Dell starts offering linux, then the DRIVERS for all the various hardware and games, etc, will follow and *everyone* who runs linux in general will benefit. Dell and HP are the big kahunas with desktops, the entire industry will sit up and take notice that "Linux has arrived" once their linux offerings are common place. The peripheral industry is not impressed enough with the small tier 3 linux -capable computer vendors right now, a lot of them just totally ignore linux or offer some token crappy drivers, etc., but with Dell they will have to take notice and do something about it.
  • Re:Naaa. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by livewire98801 (916940) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:36PM (#18338983)
    I don't think it's THAT important that they have any paticular distro. As long as they have hardware that is certified to run with open-source drivers or fully capable vendor closed-source drivers (like the current nVidia driver), I don't care what distro they put on it. Put SuSe on it, and I'll reformat the drive and put Fedora or Ubuntu on it like I would now with Windows. The major difference will be my confidence that it will work with Linux.

    The biggest problem we have now is that you never know if all the hardware in a machine will work with Linux, the distro is pretty much irrelevant until you start using it. My notebook is from HP (dv8000t), and it works great with any distro I've put on it, since 2.6.14. I bought it without knowing this. When I was making my purchase, if there had been a manufacturer that put out a machine in the same price range with a simalar screen size and was certified for Linux, they would have gotten my money instead.

    Keep in mind that this experience is only regarding notebooks, I've never purchased a brand-name desktop.
  • Re:Dell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:40PM (#18339055) Homepage Journal
    Is it a status symbol to have a computer box that says "Dell" on it?

    No, it's because they're cheap, and are of basically predictable quality.

    Most of the companies that specialize in "Linux laptops" that I've ever seen, charge a significant premium. In some cases, more of a premium than top-of-the-line Apple hardware. But more than that, it's hard to tell what you're buying. If I order a Dell, I have a good idea of what I'm going to get. With a no-name laptop, which is what most of the Linux ones start off as, it's harder to say. I can't go down to Best Buy and hammer on one of their keyboards to see whether it sucks or not. I can't go ask 5 out of every 10 of my friends what they think of theirs. That's a problem.

    It hasn't really been a problem to get a computer that will run Linux in a while, if you're willing to pony up bucks. The reason people are so interested in Dell, is that it would mean (hopefully) cheap, known-quality Linux machines, being sold right next to Windows ones. That's a big deal, particularly for the vast field of people who are 'on the fence' about "that whole Linux thing."
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:42PM (#18339073)

    I am very curious as to how they would pick a Linux and properly provide support for it without preventing you from being able to upgrade your kernel whenever you want or adding any of the bazillion packages out there that you want.

    Pretty much the same way they provide "support" for Windows.

    Take your installer disk and re-install the system and it will be back to the same way you received it. Too bad about your data.

    Come on. The distributions can do better than that without even trying. Dell doesn't provide any support beyond returning your system to the configuration you received.

    As for upgrading your kernel and breaking things ... that would mean that the drivers in the kernel were broken ... and that would be the fault of the developer who submitted the buggy patch. If anything, having a few thousand Dell boxes out there means that testing on those boxes would happen sooner and the bugs would be found BEFORE the kernel was released.

    Almost every Linux distribution out there has a package management system that means that the problems Windows users have will be non-existent on Linux.

    You've claimed to use Debian and Ubuntu. How easy is it to remove an application? That's how easy tech support is for Linux. On known hardware.
  • by Ariastis (797888) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:46PM (#18339139)
    My guess is, Dell is doing this to push/force Microsoft into according it better pricing bonuses. The half-hearted way they are doing this just smells too fishy for me. Customers have requested No-OS computers for years and Dell has always ignored them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:49PM (#18339173)
    "I personally do not want any flavor pre-installed. FreeDos is fine thank you. There are just too many options and partitioning preferences that I would typically reinstall anyways."

      And this is precisely why dell doesn't bother selling linux on their hardware, at least up to this point. Because the linux fanatics are going to build their machines from spare parts and load their favorite distro of the month on an underpowered box just to talk about how technical they are on slashdot forums.

      Don't think about this offering as something you are going to be using. Think of it as something your non-technical neighbor is going to be using. You know the one who has his PC running vista on 1 gig of ram and a 3 year AOL agreement pre-installed with 5 gigs of spyware eating away and his processing speed? You know that guy who inadvertently clicks on pop-up ads...that's who this should be for.

      The less technical the average linux user is, the better off the linux fanatics are. The better personal computing is in general.

      Stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about the typical user. Please.
     
  • by Crazy like a fox (735019) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @06:08PM (#18339493)
    Hard to take seriously a poll from a company that cannot even implement the submit button correctly on their poll page, using proper HTML, and without the ultimate stupidity of making their submit button tied to Javascript.

  • Not just that (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phorm (591458) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @06:28PM (#18339803) Journal
    But it helps solve the chicken-before-the-egg issues that linux tends to run into. Big manufacturer starts supporting linux, starts using hardware that works in linux (even if it's a particular version of linux). Hardware vendors start getting orders for linux-compatible hardware. Other venders start supporting linux more in their hardware. More drivers, more compatible hardware, and the situation improves overall as the visibility and marketability of the OS increases.

    Is it just me, or doesn't anyone else thing that MS must be rather worried about the fact that a large manufacturer is looking hard at selling a non-MS operating system?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @06:34PM (#18339877)
    *IF* they do, it'll probably be the binary blobs and bloatware the windows drivers come as.
    56 MB wireless card driver? 36 MB video card driver? 96 MB audio drivers? Gah, thats terrible.
  • by quantaman (517394) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @06:49PM (#18340059)

    The argument for pre-installations is really about novice users who can't be bothered to install an OS onto a fresh machine, and just want something that's going to work with minimal fuss. They need a distribution that's as idiot-proof and "polished" as possible, and that's what the criteria for choosing it should be.
    Actually for myself (who is definitely not a novice user) there are two very tangible benefits for a pre-installed version.

    1) Even if I don't use the version they installed I will know that there are drivers (hopefully open source) available for that specific hardware and these drivers can likely be ported to my distro (if they haven't already).

    2) If piece of hardware X isn't working right now I have no idea if it's a hardware or driver problem. If they have a pre-installed version I can throw it on pre-installed distro and test it. If the hardware still doesn't work that still means it's either the hardware is broken or the driver is broken. However with the pre-installed distro I now have the ability to bug Dell about it since in either case it's still their problem.

  • If Dell were to say "sure, we support Linux, just use the binary-only Nvidia driver", that approach isn't going to make a lot of Linux users happy.

    But Dell is in the position of selecting the best hardware components based on what their users want; if Dell said to Nvidia "we'd like to use your stuff, but it doesn't work for our Linux customers, who now represent 10% of our customer base, so we're going to offer your competitor as well", I'm going to bet that Nvidia sees the light. They simply wouldn't want to lose that many sales through Dell.

  • Dell language (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @07:09PM (#18340333) Homepage

    Dell assumes that customers 1) know the difference between an Inspiron, a Latitude, and and an XPS, and 2) care. Even GM gave up on that nonsense and discontinued the Oldsmobile nameplate.

  • Support wanted (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @07:33PM (#18340673) Homepage
    The support that I want Dell to do is to: help the kernel developers to support their devices/hardware.
    Everything else can be done through normal channels.
  • Re:Support? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Bachus9000 (765935) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @07:51PM (#18340913)
    All I want from OEMs is to make laptops with hardware that is supported by Linux. They could ship a blank hard drive for all I care as long as I can install my distro of choice and have suspend/hibernate, wireless, bluetooth, graphics, etc work with very little to no trouble.
  • Re:Dell? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Eric Pierce (636318) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:01PM (#18341001)

    The reason people are so interested in Dell, is that it would mean (hopefully) cheap, known-quality Linux machines, being sold right next to Windows ones.
    That's what I've been hoping to see in the US for years now. If people see Linux desktop (KDE, Gnome, etc.), that'll be a huge step in generating interest in the general public. It will validate it as a true option for many Joe publics.

    I've been to a large electronics store in Beijing, China, and I saw Linux and Windows machines side by side. And that was back in 2002! I haven't been back since then so I don't know what you'll find there. I was so surprised by the number of computers for sale to the public with Linux installed (it was a mix of Red Flag and Red Hat at the time). It was approx. a 50-50 split between Linux options and Windows options.
  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:08PM (#18341075) Homepage Journal
    Dell's servers being overwhelmed doesn't mean there's an actual overwhelming demand for Linux, just that there's a lot of Linux users with time on their hands who wish to try and give that impression, at least until they lose interest and move on to something else.

    Hmmmmmmmn, on the one hand we've got a whole bunch of people saying 'we want Dell to pre-install linux', on the other hand, we've got just you saying 'its a bunch of zealots trying to game Dell to make linux look good'.

    I know which I'd believe.
  • Re:Naaa. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jon_anderson_ca (705052) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:58PM (#18342125)

    You realize they can't support other distributions right? They can't even ensure that they'll work properly.
    But there are so many people who will help them! I have a Dell laptop, and I've been bitten by Ubuntu Bug #43745 [launchpad.net]. I'm already a beta tester for Linux on Dell.

    Would you seriously pay them $890 for a laptop with a version of linux that passes 97% of tests and they'll show you a list of the 3% of the tests that fail so you can decide if you want to figure out and fix them or not on your own.

    I paid more than that for a laptop that was 0% guaranteed to work with Linux.

    I recognize that not everybody is up for that brand of adventure, but y'know what? If Dell gave me a test suite to run, I'd gladly hunt down what problems I can in the 3%. I get a community-helping project to chew on, Ubuntu (eventually) gets a "compatible with Dell laptops" endorsement, and Dell gets a new product line for free*.

    * Yes, the initial development of said test suite might be expensive, but they probably have to do that anyway even if they only support one distro. Each successive distro that works on passing said tests costs Dell nothing, but they get to say, "See! We support all kinds of Linux!"

  • by fyoder (857358) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:23PM (#18342307) Homepage Journal

    The argument for pre-installations is really about novice users who can't be bothered to install an OS onto a fresh machine, and just want something that's going to work with minimal fuss.

    I'm not a novice user, and 'something that's going to work with minimal fuss' sounds pretty darned good to me.

    I have a couple geek friends who formerly used Linux but are now using the OS/X that came on their Mac laptops. They're easily smart enough to slap a Linux distro on it if they wanted, but they don't. They've got a complete little no fuss package that works just fine and with which they're happy. Power geeks can do all sorts of stuff mere mortals cannot, but that doesn't mean they want to. Something that 'just works' right out of the box might be really nice for a change.

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