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Why Buy a PC Preloaded With Linux? 518

Posted by kdawson
from the diabolically-advocating dept.
Shadow7789 writes "I have been in the market for a new computer for the past few weeks and I know that I want to run Linux on it. However, every time I look at (for example) Dell's computers that are preloaded with Linux, the question pops into my head: 'Why should I buy a PC preloaded with Linux?' They are more expensive, and it's not hard just to reformat the PC with Linux. I hate paying the Microsoft Tax as much as anybody else, but if paying that 'tax' allows companies to reduce my price by bundling with my PC products that I will never use, why wouldn't I just buy a Windows-loaded PC and reformat?"
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Why Buy a PC Preloaded With Linux?

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  • by oneandoneis2 (777721) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:08AM (#23554289) Homepage
    If it's got Linux installed on it, you know that the hardware it's got is supported by Linux. Nothing worse than buying a new computer and finding out it's got some chipset or other that Linux doesn't work with yet.
    • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:13AM (#23554325) Homepage Journal
      Conversely, when people buy Windows machines, hardware makers think people will only want/need Windows drivers. Many of those people will install some other OS, but how are the businesses supposed to know about that? In capitalism, buying decisions are the primary means of sending messages to the producers.
      • by hunteke (1172571) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:56AM (#23554703)

        In capitalism, buying decisions are the primary means of sending messages to the producers.
        Agreed, but I'd think being specific as a consumer where possible would be good. That's why when I recently bought my Dell, I bought it with Windows instead of Linux. (It was a good $300 cheaper for better hardware!) Then, when the computer arrived, I rejected the on-first-boot MS Eula and got a refund for a little over $50 dollars. This way, I still got what I wanted, and I was able to send the most accurate message as well. The article that gave me the idea: How to Get a Windows Tax Refund [linux.com]
        • by Mateo_LeFou (859634) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:44AM (#23555245) Homepage
          Yes; I went over to Best Buy the other day to get a meatspace look at an eee. I had no intention of leaving with one, of course. But I made sure to let the (unusually knowledgeable this time) personnel know that the XP edition was useless to me.

          This doesn't mean they'll run off and hold a shareholder's meeting about it, but next time one of them is in a meeting and hears "No one wants the Lx version" they'll know better.

          Baby steps.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by MikTheUser (761482)

            Yes; I went over to Best Buy the other day to get a meatspace look at an eee. I had no intention of leaving with one, of course. But I made sure to let the (unusually knowledgeable this time) personnel know that the XP edition was useless to me.
            Whenever I visit our biggest local electronic supermarket for some reason, on at least one showcase laptop, I open the Windows Vista editorand type in font size 72; "use linux". Never got caught.
        • by nanamin (820638) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:46AM (#23555289) Homepage Journal
          I guess I'll be buying from Dell from now on. I tried to get the "Windows Tax Refund" from HP after buying a machine pre-installed with Windows from them, and they were very rude and in the end would not refund my money. Buying a machine with Linux preinstalled provides a financial backing to an alternative choice, namely the ability to buy a machine that doesn't come bundled with an operating system you will not be using. Unfortunately, many vendors do not offer this option, or the even better option of buying a machine without *anything* pre-installed.
          • by hunteke (1172571) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:52AM (#23556259)

            I tried to get the "Windows Tax Refund" from HP after buying a machine pre-installed with Windows from them, and they were very rude and in the end would not refund my money.

            I don't think it really matters that you were with HP. I think a couple of things were in my favor when I got my refund from Dell:

            • I got lucky - I got a nice representative
            • I realized that I had to get him on my side: I called late in the day, and finally got through after "closing time." When he finally understood that I wanted a refund, and said "No, I can't do that" I responded "Hmm. Well, this problem isn't going to go away, why don't we tackle this in the morning, let you get off work at a reasonable time, etc." Honey 'n vinegar, and all that.

            Be persistent, be firm, and be nice -- realize that the customer representative is just a regular Joe/Jane, like you.

            Also, for those who don't read the previously posted article [linux.com], remember that the point is not to get your money back; the point is to respectfully decline the MS Tax, and let them know your doing it.

            N.B. It took me about a total of two hours on the phone.

        • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:57AM (#23555443) Homepage
          If you buy windows and then get the refund, then you are quite clearly saying "I don't want windows". However, if you buy linux instead, then you are not only clearly saying "I don't want windows", but also "I do want linux". So what you propose definitely does not send the most specific message.
          • by hunteke (1172571) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:47AM (#23557063)

            So what you propose definitely does not send the most specific message.

            Eh? And what message am I trying to send? To be clear, I'm not trying to say "I want Linux." I want choice. The message I want to send is "I want the hardware for the standard price, and I don't want other gobblety-gook rammed down my throat for it."

            I am honest: I do not want to pay for something I will not use. I will use the hardware. I will not use the forced-to-buy software. Getting a refund for what I'm not using seems to send exactly the message I want to send. And, it helps the wallet.

          • by at_slashdot (674436) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:53AM (#23557155)
            Buying stuff to send signal is ridiculous.
            • by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @01:34PM (#23559773) Journal
              Buying stuff to send signal is ridiculous.

              Not true. Everytime you buy a product, you are "voting" for it. Refusing to buy a product is voting against that product. In capitalism, the product with enough "votes" to pay the bills, wins. The ones that don't, go away.

              An example: I don't buy Sony products, hardware, games, music CDs, etc. Even if they are the best or have the best price, it doesn't matter. Part of this is to "send a signal". I don't wear anti-Sony shirts or really even talk about it (excepting this post). I just refuse to buy any of their products since the root scandal. That *is* me quietly voting against them, thus for their competition. My goal isn't to put them out of business, it is simply to *not* contribute toward their success. They forfeited any possibility of getting my votes (dollars) in the future, regardless of what you or anyone else does.

              Seriously, what other methods do people have to voice discontent against a company? Letter writing? Voting with your dollars *is* democracy in action, as it is the only way to send a signal with the most important commodity in the capitalist world: money
          • Given the hassle of the refund and the great expense of dealing with these refunds, I think (playing devils advocate) it sends a stronger message when you buy what you want and exercise your consumer rights by making the necessary effort. Not to sound too elitist, but the machines offered by Dell with Ubuntu are fairly weak for their price. Hours on the phone with a CSR and possible small claims judgments against them can either be damaging, or encouraging to offer real options to the small subset of unhapp
          • by akpoff (683177) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @11:18AM (#23557539) Homepage
            Good point and while this is a Linux-related thread, those of us who run OpenBSD or some other free OS only have this option for sending a message: "We want reliable hardware with open-spec components so we can use them as we want."
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DannyO152 (544940)
          So far so good, you were up $350 for your choice, which is a nice sum of money. Now, we need to look at the cost side of the choice. Let's value your time at $50 per hour and any distro would require a minimum of one hour's worth of time for the reformat, install and setup. So, up $300, which supports your point. As long as any problems took less that 6 hours, it was a net plus. Did the installation and setup go flawlessly?
          • by pherthyl (445706) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:15AM (#23555705)
            If you had stuck with windows, how much of your time would it take to clean the crapware off the machine? How much time did it take to put all the software on that you use? How much time will it take in the future to keep the various virus/spyware/malware stuff up to date and clean up the mess? So even if you spend a day setting up Linux there's still no way of knowing if that's more or less than it would have taken to set up windows.
          • by sammy baby (14909) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:25AM (#23555847) Journal

            So far so good, you were up $350 for your choice, which is a nice sum of money. Now, we need to look at the cost side of the choice. Let's value your time at $50 per hour and any distro would require a minimum of one hour's worth of time for the reformat, install and setup. So, up $300, which supports your point. As long as any problems took less that 6 hours, it was a net plus. Did the installation and setup go flawlessly?
            Attempting to monetize every last aspect of your life may bring joy to some contractors, but it's not necessarily a great way to bring peace of mind. Besides, as a former contractor, I can think of precisely zero times when I've thought to myself, "Damn, I wish I'd gotten this software pre-installed on my home PC - now it's stopping me from billing hours on my day job!"
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Orange Crush (934731) *

            and any distro would require a minimum of one hour's worth of time for the reformat, install and setup

            I just installed Xubuntu (hardy) over an existing Windows install yesterday. Took under 30 minutes (using the text installer). And this is on an old P3 Thinkpad T21.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LWATCDR (28044)
          I can see your point but for the average person to use Linux they are going to want it pre-installed.
          To get to that point the companies that are offering Linux need customers.
          Your tactic looks like Anti-Microsoft tactic. But it really isn't since so few people will ever do it to make any difference.
          Buying a Dell with Linux is a much better Pro-Linux move.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by cyphercell (843398)
          I bought a inspiron 1525, it costs about $50 less than the windows version. I wonder was there a linux version available of the computer you purchased?

          http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?c=us&cs=19&l=en&oc=DNDCPA2&s=dhs [dell.com]

          http://configure.us.dell.com/dellstore/config.aspx?oc=dncwpl1&c=us&l=en&s=dhs&cs=19&kc=segtopic~linux_3x [dell.com]

          of course the windows configuration has a lot more options and I still haven't been able to read off of the media card slot. (so much for
    • by montyzooooma (853414) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:13AM (#23554333)
      If you're buying from Dell then it's going to be the same hardware on the Windows or Linux machine.
      • by mhall119 (1035984) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:33AM (#23554491) Homepage Journal
        Not necessarily. Last time I checked, the Linux machines used Intel wireless and nVidia video cards, where the Windows models used ATI cards and I some other brand of wireless.
      • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:32AM (#23555947)

        If you're buying from Dell then it's going to be the same hardware on the Windows or Linux machine.
        Absolutely not true. For each model Dell sells they've got an assortment of parts that may make it into the case. If you buy a large number of the same model you'll see two or three different motherboards going in there - each with their own on-board LAN/audio/video/whatever. Some of these may have better or worse support for Linux.

        If you specifically order the Linux model you know that whatever hardware they put in the box will work with Linux.

        If you order the Windows model you know that whatever hardware they put in the box will work with Windows, but you might get the one motherboard out of three that doesn't like Linux so much.
    • by phtpht (1276828) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:18AM (#23554383)
      Also, if the PC/notebook/whatever has some special features - e.g. buttons - the preinstalled Linux will have them mapped to sensible functions. It's the polishing.
      • by xSauronx (608805)
        and if its a tower he can build his own, unless hes looking for entry-level he should save a few bucks easily enough.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kcdoodle (754976)
        Do I really want the "polishing" if it isn't part of a major (updated/supported) Linux Distro?

        Will updating/upgrading the pre-installed Linux break the tweaks?

        I typically reload a computer at least once in it's lifetime, some computers many times. If I can not keep the tweaks between installs/upgrades, then I would rather not have them in the first place. That really just teases me.

        Also, Linux is way further along than it was back in the early 90's. Lately, I have had very little problem finding dr
    • by xzvf (924443) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:28AM (#23554457)
      This is probably obvious to most people, but any x86 server is good out of the box today running Linux. Same for the vast majority of desktops. Slightly less so for Laptops, but I haven't tried many that don't work. It is the "secret" contracts with MS and the spam-like crapware that cause most of the headaches. We should be able to buy virgin systems, like businesses and put on any OS we like. The hardware manufacturers would love to support only the hardware, but they are forced to support Windows and squeeze their margins. Companies like Lenovo and Dell sell their hardware with Linux because they don't have to support the OS. Of course the Lenovo T61 I just bought was $97 dollars cheaper with the Suse option than with the Vista.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ajs318 (655362)
        Not necessarily so. Bought a server recently with an Intel 64-bit processor and the DVD+RW drive (from which I had already booted up with a Debian CD) wouldn't detect. Fortunately, I had a USB stick handy and the motherboard supported booting from such a device, so was able to create a netinstall image on that. (You'd be surprised how many motherboards won't boot from USB, or maybe I've been doing it wrong all these years). Even when I built myself a brand spanking new kernel, the DVD+RW drive remaine
      • by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:19AM (#23554931)

        This is probably obvious to most people, but any x86 server is good out of the box today running Linux. Same for the vast majority of desktops.
        I don`t agree with that at all. There is still plenty of hardware out there that is simply not supported, and even more so hardware that is supported, but requires some tweaking. To an experienced Linux user, having to patch alsa to get line in support might not be a big deal, and checking against hardware compatibility lists before buying parts is always a good idea, but the point stands that neither of these are things which someone who is new to Linux is going to want to go through.

        And I think thats really what pre-installed Linux is about. It's not for experienced Gentoo users who have no issue tweaking and who know what hardware is well supported. It's for people who have heard a lot about this "Linux" thing lately and what to give it a try.

        With a pre-installed machine you are getting hardware which has been chosen for you and is known to work well with Linux. You are also getting a certain amount of "polish". Chances are the media buttons on your keyboard/case will do something sensible right out of the box, your video capture card will work without any configuring, etc..
    • by kylehase (982334) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:40AM (#23554543)
      Some also include fully legal DVD playback [ubuntu.com]. Otherwise you're supposed to check with your local laws before loading up those libraries and codecs.
    • Not nessararly.
      When Dell started to release Servers Preloaded with Linux we baught one with a second eathernet card (nothing to crazy for a server configuration) however while Linux supported both eathernet cards it didn't seem to support both cards at once. We had pleanty of experience in configuring Linux systems with duel eathernet cards. But there was some chipset or hardware design that Linux drivers didn't support 100% that allowed duel cards to work at the time.
      We argryly returned it and demmanded a
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hey! (33014)
      No, there is something worse.

      It's taking a software update that renders a machine you are relying upon hors de combat until you fix it. Wifi issues are particularly vexing, because you'll need another machine from which to pray to Google, or at least a real Ethernet jack.

      Of course, you shouldn't do any updates when you are on a tight deadline, but you don't always know when you'll be in a hurry in advance.

      For years, I had good experiences when running Linux on ThinkPads. Then I got cheap and bought a Tos
  • by LaminatorX (410794) <sabotage@praecantator . c om> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:08AM (#23554293) Homepage
    Everything you say is correct from a cost/hardware standpoint. If you wich to vote with your dollars against crapware bundling, you will need to overlook that.
    • by Rogerborg (306625)

      So, I should pay more now for "bleeding edge" in order to help someone else pay less tomorrow?

      This is Linux we're talking about here, not Apple.

      • by backwardMechanic (959818) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:41AM (#23554553) Homepage
        Nobody said anything about paying for bleeding edge. You can choose to pay more to support the wider project (FOSS) and have your computer the way you want it. But it is a choice.

        I would choose to pay slightly more, because it tells the manufacturers that I want to use Linux, and I'd really like them to supply Linux drivers for their hardware.

        There is a different argument as to whether you should pay more to Dell et al, or buy the cheaper machine and donate the extra to a FOSS project. I'm not sure which option is preferable there.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        >So, I should pay more now for "bleeding edge" in order to help someone else pay less tomorrow?
        As that 'other' person in you're equation, I'd say yes, fairly emphatically.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:24AM (#23554417)
      One of the best way to vote with your dollars is to buy a Windows machine in a place where you can definitely return it and insist on a full refund, including taking it to the small claims court if needed. If need be make an order from France and insist that they unbundle, however there are a number of US states and other places where you can get your Windows machine and then return the Windows. Be very careful not to open any packaging that you don't have to to get to the machine and check your local web sites about how to do it.

      Returning windows does so many good things: increases the cost of selling Windows. Reduces the cost of buying a machine for Linux. Ensures MS don't get their MSTax, exercises the consumer laws, teaches companies to accept returns. (in the long run; the company probably makes a fixed cost deal with MS in any case and probably doesn't dare claim back, but they get a stronger negociating position next time round if many people do this).

      Probably even better (I'm not sure though) is buying from a supplier like penguin computing [penguincomputing.com] which doesn't stock Windows in the first place. When you give extra money to Dell, you are giving to a company which does a great deal to support Windows development. When you give to Penguin, you can be pretty sure you aren't contributing.

    • Based on the assumption that the crapware makers pay for having their stuff bundled, in the hope of selling subscriptions (or whatever) to inexperienced users:

      By all means, buy the Windows computer and reformat to Linux. You will end up doing Microsoft a favor, but the crapware vendor has wasted his advertising money. I dislike this guys as much as Microsoft, and would settle for damaging them instead of MS.

      Now if lots of people do this, I predict two consequences:
      1) Crapware bundling will no longer be an a
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by The_Wilschon (782534)
        Provided you never buy anything via the crapware, you're still screwing the crapware vendors. In fact, if you view the ads a lot (this presumes that the hardware vendor has ad tracking, which I hope they don't.), and still don't buy anything, then you are screwing the crapware vendors even more. They pay (if there is tracking) for views, and they don't get anything unless you buy.

        Wiping the crapware is really no different, in the end, from ignoring it.
  • To make a point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord_Sintra (923866) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:09AM (#23554299)
    So that companies realise that people want Linux, which will encourage them to start making drivers/software compatible. If people buy, then add Linux, companies just assume no one wants Linux. However, if you read the Windows EULA, you can get a full refund from the retailer for the copy of Windows, so that proves a point, and saves you a lot of money.
    • Re:To make a point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:57AM (#23554719)

      However, if you read the Windows EULA, you can get a full refund from the retailer for the copy of Windows, so that proves a point, and saves you a lot of money.
      Assuming the retailer has read the EULA, that is.

      Depending on the country you're in, they may or may not be obliged to refund the cost of Windows. Very few countries where they would be have included in such legislation "and the retailer must make it easy".

      Forcing you to spend an hour on the phone to a potplant reading from a script and training staff in a draconian refund policy (but not the customer's legal rights) are just two ways retailers use to duck out of honouring your statutory rights.
  • by Kickersny.com (913902) <kickers@gmail . c om> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:09AM (#23554301) Homepage
    I'm a die-hard Linux geek as well, and all for preloaded Linux (especially if it solves driver issues!), but if a computer is cheaper with Windows, why not buy the cheaper computer and get a refund for not accepting the EULA? You then save money on both fronts, and get your Linux computer.

    At the end of the day, I always decide that the hassle isn't worth it and that I'd also rather send the message to the company that there is a market for selling computers preloaded with Linux.

    Just my $0.02.
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:19AM (#23554389) Journal
      A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step... and often enough a flat tire, nevertheless, by insisting on the preloaded Linux computer (if you can afford it) you are telling the store, the OEM, and more importantly the MS pundits that you prefer Linux to Windows. Yes, that is something of a statement you are making, yet, the more people who make it, the more who won't have to, and the less likely that YOU will have to in the future.

      Believe it or not, MS had to go through this phase of consumer acceptance with Win95 also.

      Personally, when I purchased my last pc I could not get a pc preloaded with Linux, so I bought pieces and built my own like I have been doing for years. Hopefully when I buy my next pc that will not be the case.

      If you can afford it, pay the tax, then take the EULA back for a refund. That should be good for one or two WTF blog posts anyway.
      • by yincrash (854885) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:28AM (#23554451)
        I remember that when Windows 95 came out, my local micro center had lines at the door before the store opened.

        It sold out on the first day, and was also full of bugs.
        I don't think you can compare Linux consumer acceptance to Win95 consumer acceptance.
      • by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:41AM (#23554557) Homepage
        Unfortunately, you will not get this as a choice in most cases. They've slapped EULAs on the machines themselves- you don't use Windows, at the minimum they will flat-out not support you. If you don't accept the EULA, in some cases, they've verbiage stating that the vendor won't take just Windows back- they will only take the whole machine back. (Gives a sideways nasty look in HP's direction...)

        Blithely saying just return the EULA isn't going to work.

        Saving money is all well and good- but when it contributes to the problem, unless you just simply can't swing the "extra expense" you should probably be doing DIY instead where you're not adding to their sales figures- which is what happens when you buy a unit, even if you return it because of the way their accounting for this stuff is done.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fred_A (10934)

      [ ... ] if a computer is cheaper with Windows, why not buy the cheaper computer and get a refund for not accepting the EULA? You then save money on both fronts, and get your Linux computer.
      On both fronts ? You've obviously not been through the hassle of trying to claim a refund for Windows. It would be much less work to just find and patch the bugs in Windows.

    • by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:36AM (#23554515) Homepage
      Considering that they've tied acceptance of the machine (warranty and all) with the acceptance of the Windows Vista EULA with recent machines...

      In the end, you're NOT helping things by buying the Windows machine. If you're not running Windows and they're not selling bare machines or ones with your OS of choice on it you're not really their customer- even though you're buying the machine. If you've no choice (no funds, no buying options...) this is a lesser of two evils thing- it's okay.

      It's not so okay if you've got a choice. Sure it's cheaper- but each purchase of Windows or a Windows application is a VOTE with your dollars for MORE of the same crap.
  • I was looking at new Thinkpads through Lenovo, and a T60/T61 with Linux pre-installed actually costs less than the same system with Windows XP or Windows Vista.

    I haven't looked at their desktops, so I don't know if the same applies there.
    • by jimicus (737525)

      I was looking at new Thinkpads through Lenovo, and a T60/T61 with Linux pre-installed actually costs less than the same system with Windows XP or Windows Vista.

      I haven't looked at their desktops, so I don't know if the same applies there.
      I'm not surprised. Lenovo have inherited from IBM the policy of overpricing their products by 20-25%.
  • by Andy_R (114137) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:12AM (#23554323) Homepage Journal
    If you buy a machine with a preinstalled OS, it's the vendor's reponsibility to ensure that it's compatible, and all the relevant drivers exist and perform reasonably well. If you roll your own, then you take that responsibility.

    If you consider the ability to say 'hey, this doesn't work, I want my money back' without the reply being 'works for us, you messed up the install, your problem' to have a monetary value, then it's probably worth paying for the 'free' software.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:32AM (#23554481) Homepage
      I want my money back' without the reply being 'works for us, you messed up the install, your problem' to have a monetary value,

      you never delt with DELL or HP have you. that is their standard answer with....

      "get out your restore CD and reinstall the OS."

      Oh that support is worth paying for.... Erase my pc and everything I did for the past 4 months and wipe+reinstall the drive.

      If that is what commercial support I am "paying" for is I'll pass.
  • by dominux (731134) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:16AM (#23554361) Homepage
    look at Novatech [novatech.co.uk] they have all their headline prices without operating system. You can specify various flavours of windows as an optional extra. In fact look at this one [novatech.co.uk]
    No Operating System Installed £249.99 inc vat
    Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition £299.99 inc vat
    Microsoft Windows Vista Home Basic £329.00 inc vat
    Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium £339.00 inc vat
    Microsoft Windows Vista Business £349.00 inc vat
    Microsoft Windows XP Professional £359.00 inc vat
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:17AM (#23554367)
    ... but pretending that every computer user out there can install an operating system is just delusional. Yes, there are people for whom clicking on "ok" several times (or, g0d forbid, getting the computer to boot from something other than its HDD) is an insurmountable task. They hear "install an operating system" and immediately know that they cannot do it. Regardless of how simple it may seem to you. It's not Solitaire, a web browser, or outlook (express), so they cannot do it and do not even want to try learning it.

    And that's the ideal case where there are no problems whatsoever after installing the OS. During my last attempts to install Ubuntu, I had to manually mess with the video driver settings (and that was for an ancient Ati Rage Mobility 3 chipset, nothing newfangled, which ran just fine with the previous version of Ubuntu).

  • Ok (Score:5, Interesting)

    by d3ac0n (715594) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:18AM (#23554377)
    Well, first of all, the price difference isn't really all that much. In fact, unless you are buying in bulk and getting an Enterprise discount, the cost difference is less than $50.00 (in the case of Dell, anyway).

    Secondly, if you WANT Linux and FOSS software to succeed in the desktop realm, supporting companies that are willing to go out on a limb and sell Linux on Desktops and Laptops is necessary. If there isn't any profit in it for them, they won't support FOSS. Simple as that.

    Thirdly, Why would you WANT to pay the "Microsoft Tax", or have to deal with fighting with a machine who's hardware might only be partially supported under Linux. Vs. a machine with NO "Microsoft Tax" AND will have all hardware fully supported in Linux? Why make things harder on yourself?

    Unless there is a specific piece of hardware that you need or want that is in a Windows box and not a Linux box, I really don't see the need to buy Windows when you want Linux if there are Linux machines available. Especially when the Linux machines are comparable in specs to the Windows ones, excepting the really high-end gaming rigs (Of course, if you want a high-end gaming rig, why wouldn't you just build it yourself from hardware you know is Linux supported?)
  • You told us the answer already. Why bother us with the question then?
  • support? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doktorstop (725614) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:20AM (#23554397) Homepage Journal
    I can see several benefits of buying a Linux-installed desktop.
    - for one thing, one can pray that the manufacturer has done everything to maximize compatibility. Sure, you can do it yourself, but for an average user, it really makes sense.
    - support. Support is needed, when you're stuck and dont know what to do (or what questions to ask in the forums!). Having professional support is always a plus.
    - you can't resell your Windows liscence anyways (read the small print). So why just trash it?
    - giving the industry a sign. Ok, that one is a bit too theoretical, but anyways. A company producing a nice linux-powered PC that sells will continue to do that. Develop drivers, boots support, invest time and money. It will be an indicator that it isnt ony possible, but profitable... maybe others will then follow!
  • by MasterOfMagic (151058) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:21AM (#23554401) Journal
    It's not that much more difficult to build a computer on your own. You get to pick the parts which means you can build Linux compatibility. You don't have to pay for Windows. It's really that simple.
  • by Adaptux (1235736) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:21AM (#23554403)
    Even if buying a computer bundled with a Microsoft license does not cost you more, it means that some money goes to Microsoft corporation. The question is, are you ok with that? If you'd rather not support what Microsoft is doing, it might be a good solution to offset the effect of that financial support for Microsoft by making a donation to one of the various organizations that work towards achieving a more reasonable future in the field of IT.
  • Then return windows. Tell them you do not agree with the licence and ask for a refund.

    Sorted
  • Best of both worlds (Score:5, Informative)

    by SpinyNorman (33776) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:22AM (#23554409)
    If the cheapest PC you can buy has Windows pre-loaded, then buy it, reject the EULA (document the proces - maybe take photos - since you can expect a hassle) and claim a Windows refund from the vendor, then install Linux. Or, if like most people you still have occasional use for Windows, then accept the EULA and create a dual boot system.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ricegf (1059658)

      buy it, reject the EULA... and claim a Windows refund from the vendor

      Be advised that my wife's laptop came with a second EULA added by HP. The second EULA specifically overrode Microsoft's to add a condition - you may return the entire product, or nothing - no operating system refunds.

      I'm thinking Windows refunds are having an effect, amigo. :-)

  • Why choose? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HetMes (1074585)
    I think the choice between the two only applies to people that want a working system out-of-the-box. The rest of us just build from parts anyway. And surely, even with Ubuntu, there are still a couple of problem with hardware and multimedia playback on a clean install, hence a little extra effort. Besides, Dell had a large Windows help desk knowledge base. The probably don't want to have to support two OS'es
  • It's convenient. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:26AM (#23554431)
    I bought a Ubuntu Dell because it's very convenient. It's been a long long time since I thought installing an OS was a fun use of my time; and it was kinda nice to have it working out-of-the-box.

    And it doesn't always cost more.

    Dell pricing is very funny.
    Sometime the Linux models cost more, sometimes less.
    Sometimes the Dell Small Business models cost more than Dell Home, sometimes less.
    In my case a dell coupon code that they didn't mention would work on the Ubuntu model happened to work, so it was actually the exact same price as the windows model that day.
  • by jejones (115979) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:26AM (#23554435) Journal
    Reread Milton Friedman's _Free to Choose_. When you buy it, you're communicating with the market, saying "I want a computer with Linux." When you buy a computer with Windows preinstalled so you can wipe it and install Linux, you're fibbing to the market--it will interpret that as "I want a computer with Windows", and be more likely to do that and ultimately to stop selling computers with Linux preinstalled. And for that matter, they aren't going to press hardware makers for Linux-friendly hardware, either--why should they?

    You may be able to install Linux on such a computer, but the proverbial Joe Sixpack or grandmother can't, or will be afraid to, or won't want to bother. If you lie to the market, you're making it less likely that _they_ will have the option to buy a computer with Linux preinstalled.

    (And yes, I've put my money where my mouth is; I'm waiting for the Dell laptop with Linux preinstalled to arrive.)
    • by EriDay (679359)
      By having a lower price, Dell is saying "We want you to buy a computer with Windows+crapware installed, and reformat the disk" or alternatively "Suckers will buy computers with Linux preinstalled". The OP was about a 2-way conversation between Dell and the consumer.
  • I recently purchased a computer, and I just went with a smallish company that lets you spec the computer how you want (www.secret.com.au if you are interested). One of the questions is about what operating system you want. By splitting it up this way and having a cost associated with each item, I can see that I saved anywhere between AU$120 (XP home) and AU$250 (Vista Ultimate).

    If you do get a computer with windows bundled, then just return the windows part for a full refund. You are entitled to it. It wi

  • IBM (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Detritus (11846) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:31AM (#23554467) Homepage
    A few years back, I bought an IBM server and I was willing to pay for the effort and testing that IBM had performed in order to guarantee its compatibility with Linux and other popular server operating systems. I was very impressed with the level of support that IBM provided. None of the usual "It shipped with Windows Blech, install anything else and you are on your own".
  • Just build it -- It will only take a couple hours at most and almost always save you money.

    It seems quite obvious to me. I can't stand the thought of a MS tax. (Though its unavoidable as most hardware -- even drives, memory-sticks -- everything has a NDIS CD you don't need!) Build your PC -- Its very simple to do and you have total control of your hardware. In the case of a laptop, you might have to have it "special ordered", which could be a wait. No OS is a legal right in Europe and the only way I'd accep
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by teslar (706653)

      Just build it -- It will only take a couple hours at most and almost always save you money.
      Ok, I don't know why but that sentence just reminded me of this [xkcd.com] :)
  • First, is the visibility. Companies do not have any idea how many people want Linux (or do not want M$, depending on your view point). Purchasing pre-loaded fixes the books so that companies have no doubt.

    Second is, as someone else mentioned, you know that all of your components work with Linux. Most of us have had issues, where M$ only devices reside on a purchased PC. In that case, generally the products have no vendor support for Linux, and driver/software products capable of using them rely on t

  • Hah! You buy Windows machine to get it cheaper. M$ gets a licensing fee from OEM. You never use Windows, but what does M$ care, if they get paid? Norton, M$, AOL, etc pay OEM to put crapware on PC. You install Linux distro of your choice, for free. Everybody wins.
  • by bersl2 (689221) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:39AM (#23554535) Journal
    If you buy something preloaded with Linux, the companies involved know that they just sold one more unit on account of Linux. If enough computers are sold in this way, compatibility with Linux will have much more value to them, and the hardware they buy will reflect this. This, in turn, will encourage more hardware vendors to be compatible with Linux.

    The question you want to ask yourself is whether the extra money paid is worth the chance to help bring this about. How much is the future prospect of better Linux compatibility worth to you? Is there something more valuable you can and want to do with whatever money you might save?
  • Custom made? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slash ... m ['ail' in gap]> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @07:43AM (#23554579) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps in your country they don't do this, but where I live there are lots of stores that assemble your PC with the specs you give, and no OS preinstalled. My PC costed me around 600 dollars.
  • I am buying an eee PC 900 preloaded with Linux because it has a bigger SSD drive. I intend to reformat Linux off it and install an MSDN subscription XP when I get it. I realize I will probably have to "n-Lite" XP first to reduce its size further to get it to fit the 4GB primary drive.
  • by rs232 (849320) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:10AM (#23554829)
    "I hate paying the Microsoft Tax as much as anybody else, but if paying that 'tax' allows companies to reduce my price by bundling with my PC products that I will never use, why wouldn't I just buy a Windows-loaded PC and reformat?"

    So as you can then get the refund of US$109.162 [bbc.co.uk] by clicking "no" on the Windows licence agreement .. :)

    It is odd that a Linux box costs more then a Windows box considering what Dell is paying for Linux. And considering with Linux you get a fully functioning Desktop, Office suite, multimedia etc as compared to a time limited reduced functionality Windows desktop.

    Does Dell still have to pay the Microsoft tax regardless of how many Windows boxes it sells?
  • by Megane (129182) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:49AM (#23555331) Homepage

    You want to know a good reason to get a Linux preload? Trying to get Ubuntu to work with a Latitude D830 a few months ago was no fun.

    Most of this is from memory, as I won't work there any more, and I'm mostly an OS X user, because I hate wasting my time with things that are broken out of the box.

    First was even getting Ubuntu to boot. The current Ubuntu at the time needed to have "all_generic_ide" manually added to the boot parameters to get the Live Install CD to boot at all, or it would drop to a shell prompt with a cryptic error message, because it couldn't see anything on the IDE bus, and it couldn't read anything from the CD that wasn't part of the kernel/ramdisk image.

    Next was getting the wireless drivers to work. It uses a Broadcom chipset which doesn't have Linux drivers (or at least not without a lot of work googling and downloading and compiling and configuring unfinished drivers), and when using ndiswrapper with the drivers from the Dell CD, I wasn't able (IIRC) to get it to stick to a particular SSID or enter a WEP key using the Ubuntu GUI setup, and I don't remember having much more success with the command line. Also, changing the network configuration sometimes didn't always change the network address, and while that may have been an Ubuntu bug,laptop didn't ship with Linux, so there was no support beyond pin-the-tail-on-the-user-support-board.

    And then there was the trackpad. Goddamn piece of crap trackpad. I'm sure it worked wonderfully under Windows, but Ubuntu's default install set it up in a hyper-sensitive mode, where the cursor whizzed across the screen, and more than the lightest touch was taken as a mouse click. Try to click on something on the menu bar at the top of the screen, and you're likely to launch Firefox as you pass by its tiny little icon. It took me days to come up with an xorg.conf that moved at a decent speed, and turned touch-click completely OFF. (And the way that USB devices get set up for X-Windows under Linux, sequentially numbered in the order they were found, makes configuring trackpads potentially unreliable anyhow. Oops, this time I had a mouse plugged in during boot, so now my trackpad has a different event source number!)

    And that's why you should want Linux pre-loaded. Drivers and configuration.

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