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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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  • 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.
  • Re:support (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:13AM (#23554331)
    Isn't preloading one the mantras the Linux community has been chanting in their "this is the year of Linux"?
  • by dominux (731134) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:16AM (#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 RationalRoot (746945) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:22AM (#23554405) Homepage
    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 @08:22AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:24AM (#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.

  • by yincrash (854885) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:28AM (#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 Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:31AM (#23554469) Homepage

    [ ... ] 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 mhall119 (1035984) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:33AM (#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 Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:36AM (#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.
  • by kylehase (982334) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:40AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:49AM (#23554615)
    It's nice to have a machine that has been burned in with its OS installed. It is an assurance that the PC is healthy.
                But now it goes a bit deeper. Asus has several motherboards that have Linux built right into the MB. Highly desirable says I!
  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2NO@SPAMearthshod.co.uk> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:56AM (#23554705)
    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 remained obstinately undetectable.

    Since that box is now the NIS/NFS and APT server for the whole site, I'm a bit reluctant to try anything else on with it. Obviously it'll have to be upgraded when Lenny goes stable, but that's unlikely to be for awhile :) Seems like Etch is going to hang on longer than Woody .....
  • It's worth it (Score:2, Informative)

    by freelook (1227968) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:08AM (#23554817)

    I bought a Dell Ubuntu laptop, which I decided to wipe clean and try a fresh Linux install with the standard image that I downloaded.

    No dice. Dell shipped that with a custom install of Ubuntu that included the special drivers I needed that weren't part of the standard install. I ended up using their custom image to restore my pc, which worked perfectly. I can't imagine how long it would have taken me to get everything working otherwise. If you're going to use Linux anyway, I say it's better to get the peace of mind, for the small price difference there may be at any particular point.

    And I fully agree with what others have said. Give these companies the incentive they need to get support for Linux hardware.

  • by rs232 (849320) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:10AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:24AM (#23554979)
    It's not open source but it's also not included by Ubunut, it's added by Dell.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:33AM (#23555081)
    Necessarily, bought, Ethernet, too, plenty, dual, angrily, demanded, tandem, completely.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:08AM (#23555595) Homepage
    ...ok then tell us what more you get done with YOUR midrange PC because you aren't "futzing around getting the GUI working"?

    This is the kind of 10 years out of date FUD that I was alluding to one
    of my previous posts... not that this was necessarily true even 10 years
    ago.

    It's kind of like that SouthPark "I am a Mac/I am a PC" spoof...

    My favorite game is Super Smash Bros, I do edit video and I do create spreadsheets.

    Modern Linux will boot from the CD and be ready to surf the web.
  • by ricegf (1059658) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:38AM (#23556051) Journal

    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. :-)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:50AM (#23556229)
    This is strange, ATi drivers are much more suitable to *nix than nVidea are.
  • by mhall119 (1035984) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:59AM (#23556355) Homepage Journal
    Not the proprietary ones. I've has no trouble with the binary nvidia drivers, but have seen many people unable to get the proprietary ati driver working for things like Compiz.
  • by Orange Crush (934731) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @11:29AM (#23556749)

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @11:44AM (#23557025)

    With ubuntu (which dell is using), it will detect your laptop type and automatically make those button mappings for you. If you get the windows variety and install ubuntu after, it will be identical to the pre-installed variety.

  • by thtrgremlin (1158085) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:03PM (#23557311) Homepage Journal
    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 unhappy customers.

    M$ plays hardball to sell their OEM VLK's. I would not be surprised if Ballmer wasn't lying when he said "Vista has been a great success" because the way M$ does business doesn't require people to actually buy it or use it. Think Dell got any "discount" or paid any less across the cost of all their machines because of a few (even potentially a million) Ubuntu computers? I bet not. M$ effectively collects a direct tax. They already have the money.

    If it is playing nice, or going to small claims court, either Dell/HP is going to get screwed from both ends, or they are going to start taking money back from M$ by whatever means is necessary for them.

    As long as I am making it as dramatic as possible, I have heard (at least from The Great Escape) that your primary duty as a Prisoner of War is to make it as expensive as possible for your captors to hold you. It isn't just pro-Linux, it is Anti-OS Bundling! How different would it be from all computers coming bundled with all the latest and greatest games for your computer because it is cheaper than fighting piracy. Even better, all those games are bundled at 5-10% of the retail price. I think most people would say "hurray, what a deal!". Cheap games, preloading saves time, defeats piracy (cause who needs to steal what they already have), and game developers get their fair share. Nothing about economics would have anything negative to say about this, so what is with all these elitist slashdotters coumplaining about?*

    *-sarcasm
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:09PM (#23557397)

    Why is ubuntu the only linux distro that has drivers for my wireless card? You would think something that simple wouldn't be hard to get drivers for.
    Why didn't any version of linux have drivers for winmodems for a long time?

    Because the Manufacturers didn't write an Open Source driver? Because the Manufacturers didn't write a binary blob driver? Because most of the hardware was emulated on the CPU and wasn't part of the released hardware spec? Because there wasn't a released hardware spec?

    Yes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:19PM (#23557547)
    See barebones laptops [laptoping.com]. You can build your own laptop. It's not as easy as building your own desktop due to the size limitations and the built-in monitor, but you can build your own laptop.
  • by cyphercell (843398) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:31PM (#23557723) Homepage Journal
    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 hardware that just works)
  • by martinw89 (1229324) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:59PM (#23558137)
    I can verify that with vanilla Ubuntu Hardy (as well as Gutsy before it), the media buttons AND the remote are already mapped perfectly in Gnome with my XPS M1330. So it could be that some tweaks may seem to be that because we're so used to making up for these things missing
  • Re:support? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jc42 (318812) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @01:17PM (#23558477) Homepage Journal
    With luck, the recent court decision will make it legal to resell your windows license. On the other hand, that is likely to let everyone know just what those are worth (probably in the $10 and change range).

    Actually, we had a story here a week or two back in which Microsoft answered that. It seems that they're planning to sell the OLPC SO machine with Windows, and charge $3 for the license.

    I wonder what the resale market for those machines will be like?

  • by Smauler (915644) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @01:40PM (#23558881)

    Installing Windows is _not_ as easy as you make it seem. I recently built my own PC, and tried installing Vista64 on it. It just repeatedly got a little way through, threw a bsod and error codes at me, then immediately rebooted. It turns out Vista just does not work with a nVidia chipset motherboard, and 4gb or more of RAM without a hotfix (that I couldn't download because because I didn't have WGA). I've just realised how completely ass backwards this is - This is a hotfix for a bug that prevents Vista installing, which you can only download with a fully installed version of Vista. Very fucking useful. I installed win2k anyway, found out about the problem, then pulled 2gb out, installed, installed the hotfix, then put the 2gb back in. Then the wireless didn't work, despite claiming to be supported. It just failed. It was a Belkin card, and I eventually found out my revision was on a Ralink chipset, so I went and downloaded their drivers, which didn't work either. I finally tried using Vista's included Ralink drivers, and that did work. Woohoo, working system. Apart from the network copying "calculating time remaining" bug, it's working fine now - I just use robocopy from the command line, though whenever anyone suggests using the command line in Linux, people throw their arms in the air. Yes, that's right, on a new version of Windows, new install, I _have_ to use the command line to copy network files about.

    Anyway, I'm not having a rant against Vista here - I quite like it. It's fast, it boots fast, and works decently. I'm just pointing out a few major problems I had with my most recent install of Vista. It most definately can be difficult to install. I've not gotten round to installing Linux yet (got a nice 400gb partition set aside for it though), I don't know how many problems I'll have with that. ;)

  • by qlayer2 (1122663) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:24PM (#23559643)
    I have a custom made windows xp disk with sp2, firefox, Ad-aware and AVG corporate edition, and no bloatware, just for this task. Setup takes about 30 minutes, and driver installs usually take another 15-30 minutes. I buy Dell laptops fairly regularly for my workforce, and always do this. It takes an hour of my time, and makes laptop set perfectly for our needs (we have Windows software that can't be replaced with any Open Source program yet), and they are designed and set up with the proper spyware, anti-virus, and firewall settings.

    Most competent IT teams do the same thing. Now as an individual, I would always recommend a clean install- Dell actually includes the OS disk seperate from the bloatware/drivers disks. Do a clean install of the OS, stick in the driver disk and load the proper drivers, without installing the extras you don't want(which are clearly labelled as extras on the disk).
  • by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @04:03PM (#23561223) Journal

    integrated video chipsets
    Never, ever had a problem getting those to work. Worst case, I don't get hardware acceleration, but then, if it's not at least an Intel chip of some kind, how much acceleration is there, really?

    NICs and wlan cards
    A year ago, I'd agree with you. Maybe even six months ago. But now, there's a very high probability of "just working".

    webcams
    Last time I tried a webcam, my roommate plugged it into his XP laptop, and had to install a ton of crapware that came with it -- and it ended up having a horrible green tint. Plugged it into my desktop, opened Kopete, and it worked.

    sound cards etc.
    Occasionally, especially in laptops. This, too, is getting better -- last Ubuntu, I got no sound at all. This time, I get sound, but not on headphones.

    often you end up having to manually configure ndiswrapper or whatnot.
    I haven't had to touch ndiswrapper in over a year. The last major wifi card that needed it was Broadcom wireless, and we've got that done, everything except the firmware. And if you have the Windows driver somewhere, there's exactly one command needed to slice out that firmware.

    please don't go over linux hw support in a baloon, it's not that good.
    It is amazingly good, when you consider that 99% of it is reverse-engineered, with no help from hardware vendors at all. It's amazing that it boots at all, and yet, I can get a livecd to work well on almost every machine I've tried lately.

    And for the last 5 years or so, it has at least been able to boot, and generally handle physical, wired networks, and a simple unaccelerated X, everywhere I've tried. It's things like the ndiswrapper hack you mention that have been steadily disappearing, especially over the last year or two.

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