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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 @08:08AM (#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 Kickersny.com (913902) <kickers@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:09AM (#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 Andy_R (114137) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:12AM (#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 TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:13AM (#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 montyzooooma (853414) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:13AM (#23554333)
    If you're buying from Dell then it's going to be the same hardware on the Windows or Linux machine.
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:17AM (#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).

  • by phtpht (1276828) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:18AM (#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 zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:19AM (#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.
  • support? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doktorstop (725614) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:20AM (#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 @08:21AM (#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.
  • Why choose? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by HetMes (1074585) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:25AM (#23554427)
    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 @08:26AM (#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 xzvf (924443) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:28AM (#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.
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:32AM (#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 bersl2 (689221) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:39AM (#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?
  • by ciaohound (118419) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:40AM (#23554541)

    If you stand on principle, you may cost Microsoft a few bucks, but in the process you will end up costing yourself a few bucks too. It's hardly worth it since it's really a drop in the bucket for MS whereas it's probably a real cost to you.

    No, you'll feel better if you stand on principle, especially if it only cost you a few bucks. Judas killed himself over twenty silver pieces, right?

    Look at it this way, every voice probably counts for something, but in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter all that much what you as an individual do, so why go out on a limb and do something that is going to directly harm yourself?

    Every voice probably counts for something? That should really inspire the next generation.

    So pay the Microsoft tax and save a few bucks. Whatever money MS gets will go into coming out with a better competitor to Linux, and that perpetuates the good positive feedback cycle that competition is supposed to spur.

    Come on, man. You do actually use Linux, don't you? Do you really believe your own post? I encourage you to think critically about it. Participating in slashdot should embolden us to eliminate the Microsoft tax, not rationalize paying it.
  • Custom made? (Score:4, Insightful)

    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.
  • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:49AM (#23554621)
    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 attractive business model. Maybe some crapware vendors go out of business :-)
    2) The license costs of Windows are no longer compensated by crapware advertising money. At that point, computers bundled with Windows should actually become more expensive than the Linux versions.
  • by capebretonsux (758684) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:51AM (#23554643)
    If you stand on principle, you may cost Microsoft a few bucks, but in the process you will end up costing yourself a few bucks too. It's hardly worth it since it's really a drop in the bucket for MS whereas it's probably a real cost to you.

    Uh, how would not paying a Microsoft tax end up costing myself a few bucks?

    Look at it this way, every voice probably counts for something, but in the grand scheme of things it really doesn't matter all that much what you as an individual do, so why go out on a limb and do something that is going to directly harm yourself?

    What limb? I can't think of anything negative that could happen to anyone if they dared not to choose windows on their new computer purchase.

    Whatever money MS gets will go into coming out with a better competitor to Linux, and that perpetuates the good positive feedback cycle that competition is supposed to spur.

    Ahahahahaha! Now I know you've been joking! Sorry I didn't pick up on the sarcasm sooner...
  • by hunteke (1172571) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:56AM (#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 pdusen (1146399) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:57AM (#23554713) Journal
    Except that's bad advice. Buying a machine from, for example, Dell, with Linux pre-installed means that that PC has the same guarantee as Dell's Windows PCs as far as hardware compatibility, which means fewer headaches for you as a user. That alone should be worth a slightly higher price, if you're going to be installing Linux on it anyway. This also counts toward telling manufacturers that there's actually a demand for Linux, which will drive them to improve support for it--a "drop in the bucket", as you put it, but after a while they start to add up.
  • Re:To make a point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimicus (737525) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:57AM (#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.
  • Re:To make a point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lilomar (1072448) <lilomar2525@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:09AM (#23554821) Homepage

    Dell isn't responsible for drivers and software anyway. If that's your goal, hunt down parts that have compatible drivers or just badger the companies that have the incompatible parts you want.
    Yes they are. Dell is in a much better position to "badger the companies" than any individual. The other companies don't sell directly to users, they sell through Dell, so what should they care if someone doesn't have the drivers they want? You aren't the one who is buying them in the first place. Dell on the other hand, is buying their hardware. If Dell says "We need these drivers or we will be going to your competitor for our purchases for the X number of linux boxes we sell." then those companies listen, especially when that X is rather high.
  • by MBGMorden (803437) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:14AM (#23554871)

    Why would ANYBODY go buy a random PC and then just expect Linux to work on it? WTF?
    Because, for the last 5 years or so, generally any random PC runs Linux just fine. While "back in the day" I would check my charts before I bought something and make sure it was Linux compatible, lately one just hasn't had to do that.
  • by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:17AM (#23554913) Journal
    Indeed. Some of the simplest things trip people up, but it's especially true about joe sixpack. Joe will say "I need a computer" and choose it simply on hardware without even knowing what it's for. Most ignorants (and this is not a slam at anyone, everyone is ignorant about something. Nobody knows everything) will simply buy the most expensive one they can afford, because common perception (usually untrue but still) is that "more expensive is always better".

    A computer is good for one thing and one thing only: runnig an operating system.

    An operating system is good for one thing and one thing only: Running programs.

    Of course, with a computer you want to avoid vertain things as well, such as viruses, spyware, etc.

    Car analogy: you may like convertables, but if you live in North Canada one is pretty much a waste of money. If you live in Florida a four wheel drive is likeways a waste. If you run Linux and buy a Logitech wireless keyboard, the extras like the media control buttons aren't going to work. I've sworn of Logotech for just that reason; the morons only support Microsoft (as I found out after buying Logitech - never again!). I have no use for a company whose hardware won't support my OS.

    So the GP hhas it right. If it comes preinstalled with Linux, you know it and any accessories that come with it will work.
  • by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:19AM (#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 jefu (53450) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:36AM (#23555115) Homepage Journal

    But sometimes it isn't just a question of compiling drivers, it may be more like writing drivers. Worse yet, it may involve reverse engineering the hardware in order to figure out how to write the drivers.

    Then too, there may be hardware out there that works like the "winmodems" where you not only need to write a hardware driver, but also a pile of software to do much of the work.

  • by nanamin (820638) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:46AM (#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 theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:50AM (#23555361) Homepage Journal

    Why would ANYBODY go buy a random PC and then just expect Linux to work on it? WTF? You find out what works and then buy the PC, not the other way around!
    and this is exactly why 1997 through to 2008 have all failed to become the year of Linux on the desktop.
  • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:54AM (#23555415) Homepage
    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.
  • by The_Wilschon (782534) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:57AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:03AM (#23555511)

    While their neighbor who has a MidRange Windows PC seems to get more done with his system because he still isn't trying to figure out how to get to the GUI just to run a graphical web browser.
    If you install Kubuntu on that "top of the line PC," you get to the GUI just like you do on Windows. The only difference is that instead of a "Start" button, you use the "K" button. At that point the programs on the machine are arranged by groups (e.g., Multimedia, Internet, Office, etc.) rather than just harum-scarum.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:04AM (#23555547) Homepage
    No it doesn't.

    If you are going to install your own OS, Windows requires far
    more babysitting and futzing before you will end up with a fully
    functional system.

    This is why you buy a system with the OS preloaded.

    Loading Windows on a bare machine is a royal PITA compared to a
    Linux install. This is pretty much a sure bet with Windows versus
    being a role of the dice with Linux.

    Then there's the stupid anti-piracy crap...
  • by DannyO152 (544940) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:08AM (#23555605)
    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 @10:15AM (#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 LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:25AM (#23555841) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:39AM (#23556063) Homepage Journal
    So, how do you go about building your own laptop?
  • by Ticklemonster (736987) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @11:20AM (#23556655) Journal
    Indeed!!! In Windows, is there a program you can open and choose to install everything you want at one time, walk away, come back and it's done? Nah.

    Imagine clicking: "yes, I know, sure do, yep, of course, my mom said it's okay, uh huh, why not?, I know what I'm doing already", in all those windows programs you want to install, then add all your time up.

  • by Anarke_Incarnate (733529) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @11:43AM (#23556993)
    It can bug you all you let it. It IS intel 64bit architecture. Intel designed their spec to be "mostly" compatible with the AMD64 spec.

    However, the grandparent simply said Intel 64bit. If he was using Core 2 Duos, then, he purchased intel brand CPUs. They are 64bit. QED, he was right and you were pedantic and not funny.

  • by at_slashdot (674436) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @11:53AM (#23557155)
    Buying stuff to send signal is ridiculous.
  • by akpoff (683177) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:18PM (#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."
  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @02:34PM (#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

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