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Dell To Linux Users — Not So Fast 356

PetManimal writes to tell us that after all the hubbub over Dell's note about manufacturing Linux-friendly Dells and choosing distros, the company is now telling users not to expect factory-installed Linux laptops and desktops anytime soon. According to the article, Dell says that lining up certification, support, and training will 'take a lot of work.' "The company said today that the note was just about certifying the hardware for being ready to work with Novell SUSE Linux, not an announcement that the computers would be loaded and sold with the operating system in the near future..."
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Dell To Linux Users — Not So Fast

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  • huh? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mastershake_phd ( 1050150 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:17AM (#18177260) Homepage
    What is there to certify? The SUSE Linux people knows what works with their OS. Pick some hardware from that list, build it, ship it.
  • by TeraCo ( 410407 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:23AM (#18177308) Homepage
    Sure, but the only people who that sort of deal would appeal to are people who would buy it with no OS at all and then install their own OS.

    People who want linux preloaded also want professional grade support.
  • by Kannaida ( 1069502 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:31AM (#18177364)
    I'm not a Linux user (yet). I just started looking into a distro to install, and I'm swimming in some unknown waters here. I can kinda sympathize. Not that I'm a huge Dell fan. I bought 2 5 years ago and was never really happy with their customer support, but as a well known, well established PC vendor, they have to have people on hand that can support a Linux environment. They've spent years as an M$ only vendor, so it's not like they have a bunch of Linux guys who can just show up and say "sure, I'll do customer support". They need to know that their support people can handle the calls. Bash Dell all you want (I won't disagree) but they still have to maintain what they sell, and so they need some level of confidence in the people who are supporting their computers. It's not like Windows where you can count on most of the users being no smarter than a tech-support person with a script to read, if they're going to be serious about sending out a box with Linux, they need to be able to support it. It's much more than "is our hardware supported". They need to be ready for when someone who's never even seen linux calls in and needs some help. Personally I know where to go, but I can just imagine some of the people I know thinking "Linux is the next big thing, I need one of those" and then scratching their head and wondering what they got themselves into. From what I've gathered from my Linux using friends, tech support is going to be a lot more than just "restart".
  • by jhfry ( 829244 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:33AM (#18177372)
    Most of the previous posters are saying that certification is a waste of time or simple. It is not... the process of certification is not that simple.

    Essentially certification means that the hardware will operate as expected/designed. Sure the kernel will support the network card... but will it support it when someone wants to make some off the wall settings that are supposed to work?

    Not to mention, with the level of integration and customization done by Dell and their OEM suppliers, using a supported Broadcom NIC, for example, does not mean that it will operate correctly in Linux.

    Besides... it gives linux credibility. I know I have purchased hardware thats on the linux HCL and run into compatibility issues or hardware that is supported but has limited functionality. Things have come a long way, but they are far from perfect.
  • by johnnnyboy ( 15145 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:35AM (#18177392) Homepage
    I'm very dissapointed. Just when I thought when Dell was going to grow some pubic hairs they prove again to their customers that they don't have the guts.

    It would be nice to have a laptop guaranteed to have all of its buttons work like dvd/cd buttons, lcd contrast, hybernate and suspend!
    I would have definitely bought from Dell if they went through it!

    It's a missed oportunity really, they could have supported ubuntu and pre-installed a nice glossed version with all the beryl trimmings and gdesklets turned on and guaranteed all the features and buttons on it will work.

    It would have presented to be a nice alternative to windows vista and the mac!

    Dell you have no balls... sorry you've got no balls man.

    that sucks man ... to live life with no balls. that's not funny man.... no balls. shit.
  • better be good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gsn ( 989808 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:36AM (#18177396)
    This really does worry me - if the linux Dell's do come out and are cheaper with SUSE or whatever distro they go with, I'm sure your everyday Joe will buy it. I worry that everyday Joe will then get stuck if he can't get something working with a GUI. I'm not trolling. I've seen people download windows programs and expect them to run in Linux when they double click setup.exe Its worse if they call the "Windows guru" whose never touched linux and cannot help. If Joe gets really frustrated he "upgrades" to Windows and vows never to try Linux again.

    Let Dell take their time because if this is going to work its going to have to be seamless and familiar. I'd actually be thrilled once Dell picks out a distro because thats a big impetus to standardize a lot of things to it, GUI, installer and package manager especially. If you can get a standard cross distro installer and package format, unfortunately like InstallShield, that correctly adds entries for menus, and just works then Linux is really ready for the desktop.
  • by Omega Hacker ( 6676 ) <> on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:39AM (#18177408)

    People who want linux preloaded also want professional grade support.

    And they're going to Dell for this?!?!?!?!?

  • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <> on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:54AM (#18177522) Homepage Journal
    As much as we've liked bashed up on Novell lately, they happen to be the best people to do this kind of hardware certification as they have explicitly stated that they are against binary drivers; hopefully they will recommend Dell ship Intel 3d hardware and this will make NVIDIA and ATI sit up and notice. Oh, and I don't think that winmodem will be acceptable either.
  • Re:Why SUSE? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mikachu ( 972457 ) <> on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @12:57AM (#18177552) Homepage
    Why SUSE? Two answers, both simple.

    One, they are partnered with Microsoft, so they won't lose the deals they get from MS for their Windows-based systems, which will undoubtedly outsell their Linux-based systems, at the very least for a long time.

    Two, SUSE is one of the few distros that has paid support. Unfortunately, as hard as it may seem to believe, people actually tend to PREFER paid support. Mostly because it means end-users can have people kissing their ass as they try to find the any key. Also, I'm sure it's easier for Dell to figure out who's full of it when they get applicants for Linux support because "experience in Ubuntu" doesn't mean quite as much as "worked at Novell".

    Disclaimer: I'm both a Windows (2000 and XP) and Kubuntu user, but most certainly not a Dell user.
  • by Erris ( 531066 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @01:05AM (#18177616) Homepage Journal

    It will be just as long before I consider buying any of your computers.

  • by Kannaida ( 1069502 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @01:12AM (#18177666)
    While I respect that, I also see the reason... Servers typically mean a larger client, which typically means more money. Money = good = Dell happy. I imagine if my 2 dell systems cost more than the $5k (U.S.) I spent on them (combined), I'd be getting a bit more customer support too. If they put Linux on their machines, they need to deal with the thousands (or, more likely, millions) of customers who bought one system and demand customer support. Financially it's a nightmare. Putting Linux on their boxes doesn't mean "enterprise" it means supporting the masses that think "Linux will make me look cooler" in a home user support role. I've been through numerous software and hardware scenarios where being a "home user" just isn't lucrative enough for some decent support. But, if you tally up the numbers, who's more likely to give you a bad reputation? Thousands of pissed off (home) consumers or hundreds of happy (enterprise) consumers? Who do *you* think the U.S.'s (notoriously one sided) media is going to showcase? And then, there's market share. How can a company, who's ultimate responsibility is the dollar, justify offering Linux? Microsoft can say "in the past Y years we sold N copies of Windows" while all Linux can say is "X number of people downloaded our OS" without being able to (financially) justify that they were *all* new users (or at least a majority)? As long as Linux is free it will be hard to say how much of a share they have in the computing world. I pray it's always free, and hearing of institutions going OSS is great (like so many governments) but shy of that, it's hard to put a price on the users who use Linux and will buy a Linux based system. Financially it may add up, but there just aren't enough numbers to prove it.
  • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @01:14AM (#18177692) Journal
    'Most people using Linux in the workplace already have their preferred Linux hardware vendor. Most people that are Dell shops are MS exclusively.'

    I'm gonna go out on a limb here and suggest that Dell wouldn't be interested in investing the time and effort in stable linux support on their hardware in order to sell to their existing customers. They are doing this in hopes of gaining a piece of the millions of computers running linux.

    'Verifying hardware and drivers and support staff will take time and money. They can't switch overnight, not Dell. They are too big to do it quickly. If they don't do it right the first time, they will alienate everybody that may have been interested in the past as well as losing the money they spent on failing. If they take their time and do it right, they can start eating in to HP and other hardware vendors that ship with Linux certified.'

    On that point I couldn't agree more. When this is done and it is successful it will be a huge milestone for Linux. First Linux was considered a joke for actual use. It wasn't polished like windows and wasn't considered stable and secure like traditional unix. Then it creeped into the server and now it is a proven and even common server solution. Now Linux is generally considered the ideal choice for the backroom unless vendor lockin ties your business to a windows only feature. In recognition of this Dell offers server systems with Linux pre-installed. This will be the next step that means that means the time of Linux on the business desktop is here. It will take awhile to fill this segment. Just like it took awhile for Linux to move from internet related servers only to being accepted for every server room function. Eventually the secretary will be running Linux and it will be informally trickling into the home user desktop.

    Every year they claim it is the year of the linux desktop. What people seem to forget is that Linux will never go out of business. The linux on the desktop cause has no need for this year to be the year. Five, ten, or twenty years from now is just as good as this year. Every year the linux desktops outpace the proprietary systems in development and close compatability gaps. Every year the desktops become more polished and suitable for new classes of users. Every year the battles in the real desktop war, that of mindshare, continue to be won and the current desktop monopoly retreats a bit more.
  • Question for you (Score:1, Insightful)

    by sottitron ( 923868 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @01:17AM (#18177706)
    Do you really want Dell craplets in your Linux Distro anyway?
  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @01:18AM (#18177714)
    Not necessarily, I voted for it and I can honestly say that as long as they sell a reasonably complete "works with linux" package I'd be happy. I would prefer that I can select an option to have it preloaded with Ubuntu and all the proprietary drivers but I definitely don't need "professional grade support"

    Fine for you.

    But Dell has to provide meaningful technical support to make a go of OEM Linux in the consumer market.

    You don't tell retail customers to Google for answers, you don't sent them to the IRC chat rooms. You provide the level of support that is appropriate for users new to Linux or you will drown in a flood of red ink.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @01:36AM (#18177830)

    I'm not a Linux user (yet). I just started looking into a distro to install,

    You can run knoppix off the CD without installing anything. If you have used nothing but MS Windows it is a very different way of doing things - so I suggest giving it a try before installing anything.

    The other thing to remember is unlike MS Windows there is documentation for just about everything (except for very new stuff and gnome for some reason) - so the RTFM responses to questions on mailing list are not just people being annoying. One final thing is distributions really don't matter after the first setup - drivers are in the kernel so can be installed on any distribution for the same platform and most applications are cross platform enough that they'll run on other versions of *nix let alone other distributions.

  • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @01:48AM (#18177888)
    It will be just as long before I consider buying any of your computers.

    Like you'll be missed.

    There isn't a shop, restaurant, bank, professional office, hospital, school, library or public facility of any kind within twenty miles of here that isn't running a Windows OS on a Dell PC.

  • Throw in 2 CDs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GrEp ( 89884 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `200brc'> on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @01:48AM (#18177892) Homepage Journal
    If you want linux you probably won't like Dell's factory settings anyway.

    They should just include a Suse CD and make a deal with Microsoft to include a CD with a 30 day trial copy of Vista.

    Microsoft is happy, linux users are happy, everybody is happy.
  • by StickyWidget ( 741415 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:07AM (#18178008)
    Pre-installed Linux from a reputable vendor of computer systems would require a support plan, warranty, additional software, plus allowances for upgrades later down the line that will be compatible with the Linux OS. It's not the fact that it's better, it's the fact that we can get support from our vendor if the fit hits the shan.

    What are the programs on YOUR Dell/Compaq/HP/Whatever that you use daily? Were these installed by the factory, guaranteed to work with your hardware and equipped with a 1-800 number? Do you get free upgrades (to a point) for these pieces? The cast majority of us are Linux geeks, but the main reason the normal Joe and Jane Schmoe don't use Linux is that they don't have the support.

    As for companies, they REQUIRE that some form of vendor support be in place, which is why RedHat, and Sun, and HP are all doing so well. They provide companies with machines and the companies are guaranteed a certain level of service in return, which makes it cost effective for the company. (That is, if it breaks or the software dies, they send it back to the vendor).

    In conclusion, it's not just about being able to install Linux and go, it's about being competitive and supportive. It's about bringing Linux to the desktop/laptop in a way that allows for the same service and support levels that are already given for Windows based machines.

    The Widget of Sticky
    A.K.A. Mr. Gooey Contraption

  • by Grinin ( 1050028 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:43AM (#18178150) Homepage
    Before OEMs can even think about pre-installing an OS they need to create an infrastructure that is going to work. The software needs to have a functional software installer/distribution method, and patches and updates need to work without too much user interaction.

    Today for instance I was attempting to install my nVidia drivers onto my OpenSuSE 10.2 install, and it is giving me a very difficult time. Without the drivers, I can run the desktop at 1024x768 on my LCD. Once I install them, it doesn't recognize my monitor, and refuses to give me any other resolution but 800x600 at 50Hz.

    Things like that simply HAVE to work from the get go. People are used to popping in a CD, or clicking a few buttons, and their products work. They will not take the time to jump onto IRC and talk to some really angry geeks who think they are gods of computers and try out any terminal commands.

    I think Dell is on the right track at least because this puts some pressure on the other OEMs to tap into the market. Basically whichever OEM finishes the infrastructure first (my money is on Dell by way of India and China) gets the prize.
  • Novell-Microsoft (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Schraegstrichpunkt ( 931443 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @02:52AM (#18178184) Homepage

    "The company said today that the note was just about certifying the hardware for being ready to work with Novell SUSE Linux, not an announcement that the computers would be loaded and sold with the operating system in the near future..."

    Not necessarily a stupid move, since distributing that operating system quite possibly violates (or will violate) the GPL. If copyright infringement lawsuits result from the Novell-Microsoft deal, Dell would likely want to hold Novell at arm's length.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @05:22AM (#18178944)
    who doesn't wipe out a new dell box? the point is hardware that works with linux
  • by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @05:34AM (#18178996)
    I think I've just discovered why Linux can't get on the desktop.
  • by thebdj ( 768618 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @09:45AM (#18180340) Journal
    How is that much worse then Windows? Let us recall briefly that default installs of Windows still require you to install real nvidia or ATI drivers. Now, to run this in parallel...

    Open Synapic, select Settings -> Repositories, tick the box that says "Proprietary drivers for devices (restricted)", Close. Select Sections (it's the default), scroll down to the bottom and select "restricted". Click on the box next to linux-restricted-modules- Click apply. Watch Synapic do it's thing, restart X.
    Open IE (or Firefox or Opera), click on the Address Bar, type [] or []. Navigate through the website to the Drivers section. Find the set of drivers most appropriate for your system. Download your drivers. Double-click the downloaded drivers to load the new versions. Click through the settings. When installation completes, restart windows.

    Now tell me, how is this SO much harder then using Linux? And, yes, the original drivers in Windows can affect performance of things other than games and make the OS about as unusable as the original poster is claiming KDE was.
  • by encoderer ( 1060616 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @09:53AM (#18180424)
    I'm going to run out of town with a mob carrying torches and pitch forks just for saying this, but THIS is why Linux--despite anyones claims--is simply not ready for the desktop.

    When a guy that has enough knowledge and comfort to actually install and run linux STILL didn't know all the esoteric reasons why you need a specific GPU or WiFi card, etc, how could you ever hope for a regular joe-user to know?

    I'm certain that the average user doesn't know a GPU from an IOU and they don't want to know.

    Whether or not this is a GOOD thing (i think it is, personally), users are accustom to something that Microsoft does that /. gives them no credit for: Ensuring hardware compatibility--usually "plug & play" style--for nearly anything that you can buy at Best Buy or Dell or CompUSA.

    When linux can say the same, then you're on to something. Until then, stop evangelizing so much and spend more time writing decent drivers.

    The server market--esp. web server--Linux is awesome. But desktops are a different beast. You can argue that the desktop shells for Linux are excellent now--and that was an important piece of the puzzle--but now that users have a desktop they might actually want to USE IT for something, and to do that, they'll need support for networking, optical, and video hardware.
  • by encoderer ( 1060616 ) on Wednesday February 28, 2007 @11:38AM (#18181578)
    You really don't get it if you think that a consumer has any desire to worry about their video chipset or WiFi drivers. Seriously.

    And your "McD's coffee V. Starbucks coffee" analogy is just bad. These are well branded companies. Any person on the street could tell you that their impression is that Starbucks is further up market than McDonalds. Now go ask them that same question about ATI Vs. nVidia. They'll look at you like you're on LSD. Ditto for Intel WiFi Vs. Broadcom WiFi.

    Linux is still offered on "Nerd Terms." Linux may be free of charge but there's still a heavy cost associated with it. If you want to run linux, great, but you're going to have to become a computer expert. You're going to have to understand what a driver is, first of all, and then understand why you need certain makes of hardware. You'll need to understand many of the mundane things that Windows abstracts away. You'll need to know why Broadcom=Bad and Intel=Good except for somethings where Intel=Bad and AMD=Good and you'll have to know what a video card is and why ATI is a huge brand name but ATI=Bad and nVidia=Good and you'll need to understand that SOME nVidia STILL =Bad and the next nVidia card that comes out might =Bad for a year until drivers come out and then it =Good.

    To any "average" user that I know, if you'd ask them to pick between learning that, or shelling out another $100 for a copy of Windows, they'll pick Windows in a second.

    People always talk about about how "If cars worked like windows, they'd crash all the time..." but you never hear about "If cars worked like linux.."

    If cars worked like Linux they'd be totally free, but they'd require you compile them from their parts.
    You'd have to know why the Delco spark plugs that fit your car won't work, but the Bosch spark plugs do.
    You'd be able to boast that your car can stay running for 300 days even though you don't actually ever need it to.
    You'd have a car that doesn't crash but you'd also have a car that you couldn't lend to a friend without giving them a significant training lesson.
    You'd have to re-compile the car every time you make a significant addition to it.
    It would look like a normal car on the outside, but on the inside, everything you're used to in a Windows world is different.
    If you bought a fleet of linux cars for your business, they'd run forever but you'd never have any good drivers.
    You could get more speed out of a lesser engine but you'd find that the most common and coolest new roads aren't compatible with your car.
    You'd be able to configure things like how many degrees your wheels turn for every revolution of your steering wheel, or how fast your CD plays back, or fuel injection timing, even though you don't want to do those things. At the same time, you'd have to use a CLI to change your radio station or set your climate control.


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