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Dell Thinks Ubuntu Makes Hardware More Fragile? 380

WolfWings writes "Apparently Dell has decided that Ubuntu-based computers are ineligible for their famed CompleteCare service, or any form of hardware warranty what-so-ever. The news has only recently hit Dell's own IdeaStorm website, via a forum post describing an interaction with the company's customer service. Says the customer, 'I am looking for protection from bricks. The laws of physics do not differ from one OS to the they?' After so recently decided to support Linux on their machines, including limited technical support, Dell seems to be squandering any possible good-will with this decision to leave purchasers of these machines high and dry for hardware warranty coverage." Update: 06/05 23:40 GMT by KD : many readers let us know that Dell has said that the omission of extended warranty and CompleteCare options from the configurator for Ubuntu systems was an "ordering system glitch." It should be fixed by now according to
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Dell Thinks Ubuntu Makes Hardware More Fragile?

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  • Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jshriverWVU ( 810740 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:44AM (#19396461)
    They have a system to diagnose and test hardware defects based on software checks which aren't available under Linux. They need to create a similiar system where each component can be tested using native linux tools.

    Yes please check dmesg | grep ERROR. Try saying that to someone who doesnt know what a shell is.

  • by bdr529 ( 1063398 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:44AM (#19396469)

    Dell Thinks Ubuntu Makes Hardware More Fragile?

    No, but it makes for a nice headline, eh? I think it more likely they believe their users will mis-identify software issues as hardware issues and request replacement hardware. Further, it would also cost them extra to have personell on hand (familiar enough with the OS) to help RESOLVE hardware issues. Either way, it costs them more.

    It's not entirely unreasonable to charge more for a warranty coverage. It *IS* odd not to provide coverage at all, though.

    But not because Dell denies that "The laws of physics do not differ from one OS to the other". That's just frustrated customer venting...

  • by eln ( 21727 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:50AM (#19396567)

    1.) Dell does not have the tools or expertise in house to do this yet, but will in the future. So, they got pressured into releasing their Linux PCs before they were ready to support them. Incompetence maybe, but not malice.

    2.) Dell simply put out Linux PCs to shut the geek crowd up and get them to buy Dells. However, they don't really want to support Linux, so they designed the program to fail. This way, when they cancel this offering in a year or two due to poor sales, they can say they tried, but Linux on the desktop just doesn't work.

    I want to believe it's reason 1, but the added fact that Dell doesn't seem to be advertising this thing at all, and the fact that you actually have to jump through some hoops on the website to even see that the option is available, makes me think that reason 2 isn't entirely impossible either.
  • by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:51AM (#19396587)
    Dunno about the "home user" machines - Dimensions and Inspirons - but the Optiplex and Lattitude series all have a Dell Utility partition that loads Dr Dos (or similar) adn runs diagnostics from that... they should be able to have the same partition setup in *nix...
  • by MMC Monster ( 602931 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:52AM (#19396601)
    Dell asks us what we want. We tell them. They do it. Now we complain.

    Admittedly, there are issues with not having any hardware warranty, but do we need to get so incendiary against someone who is trying to work with us?
  • by nametaken ( 610866 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:53AM (#19396613)
    Absolutely, and I worry that making a stink like this might actually scare other PC vendors out of offering linux desktops. Don't get me wrong, a person should be entitled to whatever they paid for, but this territory is largely uncharted. It might benefit everyone to be careful with how they handle things.
  • Dell = service (Score:3, Insightful)

    by simong ( 32944 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:54AM (#19396621) Homepage
    The rejoicing behind Dell's decision to provide machines preloaded with Ubuntu was the assumption that they will also provide software *and* hardware support. It doesn't matter whether everyone who buys a Dell laptop with Ubuntu on is a Linux power user or not, the point of buying Dell is that there's someone on the line if something goes wrong. These machines should have certified to work with Ubuntu, and the support people should be able to resolve common problems, whether hardware or software. What makes matters worse is that Dell continues to promote that expectation in order to take a couple of hundred dollars of a purchaser for hardware cover. One of the reasons to buy a well known name is that, to put it bluntly, a lot of people want someone to shout at if something goes wrong. It seems that there's going to be a lot of shouting if there's no useful response.
  • by CaptainPatent ( 1087643 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @10:58AM (#19396743) Journal
    Some people are contending that the lack of warranty is due to the lack of Ubuntu tools Dell is willing or able to use, however there could be an even bigger motivation behind their choice. Most hardware is sold at or near cost these days with the majority of the profit being due to add-ons and software. Because the Ubuntu boxes generally have far fewer add-ons there is less purchasing power so I can understand Dell wanting to do less in general. One must realize it would require a lot more training and probably a couple brand new company branches in general for a very small share of the market
    I could also see a company like MS being fairly raw about something like this and denying Dell their discount if they decide to give a warranty. This would deny most corporate clients the ability to go the Ubuntu route.
  • by nmapper ( 1110717 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:00AM (#19396781)
    Why doesn't dell just put a bootable diagnostic utility in a small partition on the disk? Seems like a no brainer :)
  • Re:Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by endianx ( 1006895 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:01AM (#19396827)
    That system sucks anyway. I called them up with some laptop problems. I ran their test. Their test said nothing was wrong, so they told me nothing was wrong. They refused to fix anything. So the only difference between Windows and Linux hardware support is that with Linux, they tell you upfront that they won't fix it.
  • No, we're not... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:03AM (#19396857) Homepage
    Not providing a hardware warranty that's purchasable otherwise, just because a specific OS is installed
    is most decidedly **NOT** working with us, thank you, very much.

    I could have bought the same laptop he was buying but with Vista instead and burned the install down and been offered the option to buy
    the hardware warranty- and it wouldn't have voided it upon my act. It's someone's bright idea over there at Dell because they probably
    don't have the same testing/burn-in line for the Ubuntu laptops so they're not standing behind them as well as the Vista ones. It's
    rubbish and they know it- and so should you.
  • Re:Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jcgf ( 688310 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:03AM (#19396859)
    Many (most?) newer models also have a bootable diagnostics program on another partition that can be accessed through the boot menu (F12 on boot).

    We do Dell warranty service where I work and I have to say that they're not very good computers and other than price, I can't see why you would buy one. This Ubuntu ordeal is just more of the same bs customers have to put up with. On the other hand I wish customers would get it through their thick skulls that their data is not covered under warranty.

  • Re:No Techs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by krazdon ( 1092849 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:03AM (#19396861)
    This is very likely the real reason why Dell is offering less support for linux than windows. That is, it costs them more. There are several possible reasons to this: 1) There are fewer people trained to troubleshoot linux than there are for windows, so they can demand more money. 2) If the mass consumers this product, they will on average know how to do less with linux than with windows and may need to call support more often. Of course, the true linux geeks would never call Dell for help... For both 1 and 2, it is debatable whether people have less experience with linux because it is actually more difficult to use or because people are just more used to windows.
  • Re:Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forrestt ( 267374 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:04AM (#19396869) Homepage Journal
    The FOSS community (and I am one of them) have been waiting a LONG time for Dell to start selling Linux native systems. What Dell doesn't realize, is we are more than happy to help write any diagnostic software they need. They just need to learn how to utilize the FOSS community better. . .

    Dell, if you tell us the checks you want to have made, we will write the software for you. If you want our help though, then it needs to be a win-win situation, and you need to support the physical hardware you sell us.
  • Re:FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drrck ( 959788 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:06AM (#19396903)
    What you want to do in that case is to pretend like you are doing what they are asking. I've done it at work with Dell before many times. I know what a dead hard drive acts like, and a reboot is not going to fix it.

    If you've already know what the problem is you should have an easy time fabricating the results of whatever inane tasks they are required to ask you to perform.
  • by DoctorDyna ( 828525 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:06AM (#19396907)
    I look at it like this. Dell released machines loaded with Linux, much to the hurray of most of us. However, thinking from a corporate view, which seems to be shared with most large companies, you are missing one important thing:

    4.) The search for the guilty.

    See, in a corporate world, Windows servers and Windows workstations are used for one simple reason. When something goes wrong, they know who to take to court. They know who to blame. They know who to call on the phone at 3 AM and work all night trying to solve a critical server process that likes to eat memory or crash.

    Now, seeing as how applications exist that can modify hardware (read: brick it) then something tells me that Dell isn't going to warantee a mainboard when they can't call up and say "Hey, that patch you released bricked our onboard sound chip / video / lan / cdrom firmware."

    For those of you interested, the 6 stages of every project are as follows:

    1.) Enthusiasm.

    2.) Disillusionment.

    3.) Panic.

    4.) The Search For The Guilty.

    5.) The Punishment of the Innocent.

    6.) Accolades for the Non-Participants.

  • Facts? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dugmartsch ( 125676 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:13AM (#19396987) Homepage
    Dell is still honoring whatever warranty you bought. They stopped offereing EXTENDED warranties including Complete Care. So what? They probably removed it due to lack of demand. Geeks don't pay for warranties anyway, do they? Why train and staff an Ubuntu tech support queue for the three people who bought an extended ubuntu warranty? Not exactly a sound financial decision. Man this is people getting really worked up for a one liner on idea storm. Wow.

  • by foxtrot ( 14140 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:15AM (#19397023)
    Admittedly, there are issues with not having any hardware warranty, but do we need to get so incendiary against someone who is trying to work with us?

    Especially when, this being Slashdot, everything gets overblown.

    These machines come with a hardware warranty.

    They don't come with the ability to purchase an extended warranty.

    Now, this makes some sense. Loading Dells with Linux is a trial thing. This is not something they want to figure out how to support long-term yet; if this doesn't work for them, having four and five year service contracts out there they have to cover is going to make this a very expensive prospect. They're willing to make sure they have Linux expertise around to support these things for their base warranty time, whether or not it turns out they can make a buck selling Linux systems long-term. But it makes sense that they wouldn't want to keep Linux geeks around (which, let's face it, cost more than Windows monkeys) long term if they can't sell these things long-term.

  • Re:Support (Score:2, Insightful)

    by pilbender ( 925017 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:16AM (#19397035) Homepage Journal
    This captures the essence of how we do things in Open Source. Great post.

    But it doesn't appear to be the problem they are having. It looks like they threw together this Linux stuff fast. Very little planning went into it. They're probably not prepared at this point in terms of infrastructure and training to do hardware support on another OS. Sure a diagnostic program would be helpful, but so would employee training.

    I'm speculating that they might be testing this Linux offering too before they put too much into developing and supporting it. It's going to have to have a business return if Dell goes down that road and they are probably waiting until they can verify that.
  • Re:Support (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Vicegrip ( 82853 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:17AM (#19397039) Journal
    I expect there's a number of issues the Dell organization has to resolve.

    After working for two years, my sound card on my XPS decided to stop working. Hardware problem or software problem?

    The Dell organization has an extensive structure for dealing with such quandaries. In my case it was simple Windows atrophy. Reinstalling the drivers solved the problem. With the speed with which Linux evolves, I suspect Dell is simply worried they won't be able to keep up with the pace of software changes. Windows evolves MUCH MUCH more slowly than Linux does. A slower to evolve OS is cheaper to support for Dell.

    Hardware issues caused by defective drivers are not Dell's fault, but they routinely have to eat support costs figuring out which is which.

    They'd be fine if they could just rely on boot time hardware inspection tools. Dell Diagnosics boot independently. They could probably really benefit from Linux here. Move Dell Diagnostics to run on a controlled Linux boot CD. If the boot CD runs fine then its the user that has hosed their system and they need to fix their software.
  • Re:Support (Score:5, Insightful)

    by idesofmarch ( 730937 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:26AM (#19397185)
    I realize you are very well-intentioned, but Dell is a business, not an open source community. As a business, Dell must honor all promises it makes, or risk lawsuits and bad press. For Dell to hold out a warranty now, as you ask, Dell must have a way to diagnose hardware issues right now. Not later, when maybe someone can get around to writing some code, but right now. At this point, Dell is not prepared to do this. Later, when it gets some better support tools, this may change. Your proposal is akin to "Hey guys, let's all be cool to each other. You give us a little warranty and we try to write some code and it will all be groovy." That's not how business works.
  • Re:Support (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ryan Amos ( 16972 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:44AM (#19397593)
    Hell, there are plenty of college-age Linux nerds here in Austin who would likely be willing and able to do this as a project on an unpaid summer internship.
  • Re:FUD (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nimey ( 114278 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @11:52AM (#19397735) Homepage Journal
    So? J. Random CS rep won't be trained on Solaris, because almost nobody uses it and training is expensive. The fault is yours for not translating what they wanted you to do into equivalent Solaris commands.

    They're obviously going to want information like the output of a ping, or your IP address, or your MAC address. If you're too clueless[1] to figure out how to get that information to them, you shouldn't be blaming them.

    [1] From your post, it sounds more like you're an arrogant ass.
  • Re:Support (Score:3, Insightful)

    by infochuck ( 468115 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @12:39PM (#19398685)
    You know, as someone who's been building systems since I was 10, I feel a need to respond to you assertion that Dell systems "are not very good computers" and ask: by what criteria? They've got wonderfully easy-to-work-with toolfree chasis, decent quality parts (including PSU, an area where so many are lacking), the systems are customizable to a limited degree at purchase, pretty upgradble after the purchase (depending on what line), and they are rock-solid in terms of reliability, especially the workstations. Truth be told, I stopped building systems 5 years ago, and have reccommended purely Dell systems to friends/family/clients since then. I've had too few problems to mention.

    Can you build a faster system better suited to high-end gaming/video production/audio editing yourself? Absolutely. But then, you're also on your own for figuring out which of the parts you just ordered is the bad one (RAM? CPU? MBoard? PSU?) and then getting a replacement.

    Don't get me wrong; I'm a clone diehard, but I just don't have the time for building systems anymore, especially when someone else can do it for me, and fairly well.

    So again, I ask: what about Dell makes them "not very good computers"? I can see "not the best" and "not speed demons" but "not very good" makes you sound like you've not touched a Dell since 1992; for most people doing most things computers are used for, I think they're great. And have a great price tag to boot.

    Move on, kiddo.
  • Re:Heat! (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @12:42PM (#19398759)
    The laptop was clearly not in suspend mode. Don't scapegoat Linux.
  • Re:Support (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jd142 ( 129673 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @12:45PM (#19398829) Homepage
    Sorry, but the Dell diagnostics can be run from a boot floppy/usb/cdrom. No need to run them in the installed os.

    Plus complete care shouldn't care. If the problem is that you can't run the diagnostics, run it over with your car. That's covered under complete care and they shouldn't expect you to be able to run diagnostics. ;)
  • Re:Support (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:05PM (#19399271)
    This is not about software support. It is about hardware warranty, which apparently is not voided if you buy windows but install linux.
  • by VWJedi ( 972839 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:19PM (#19399583)

    Who wrote Dell's order system? It seems like anything that falls outside the realm of a "typical order" just gets kicked out with no notice to the customer.

    A couple years ago, my wife and I ordered new computers for both of us. After a week of nothing, we called to find out the order exceeded some maximum dollar amount so it could not be processed. We had to re-order everything over the phone (listing off all the options while the customer service person keyed it into their system) as two separate orders.

    My first question is why would the online system let me place an order that cannot be completed?

    The second question is, why wouldn't someone contact me if my order is "stuck"?

  • by __aahlyu4518 ( 74832 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2007 @01:57PM (#19400275)
    Thanx for clarifying an otherwise unfair (to Dell) article.

    Good thing this isn't a news site otherwise they should've contacted Dell first to get their side of the sto......... Hey ! It says 'news for nerds'!!! ;-)

    To all the people who are starting to shout at Dell in the rest of the thread : First people start bitchin' about Dell nog providing a Linux option.. Then Dell listens and acts in a relatively short time, and has not yet have everything 100% as it should be. And people start bitching here again. Cut 'm some slack will ya people? They are getting there. With a bad attitude, you'll have other companies think again before going the Linux way !

Machines that have broken down will work perfectly when the repairman arrives.