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Linux Business

Why Buy a PC Preloaded With Linux? 518

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 LaminatorX ( 410794 ) <sabotage.praecantator@com> on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:08AM (#23554293) Homepage
    Everything you say is correct from a cost/hardware standpoint. If you wich to vote with your dollars against crapware bundling, you will need to overlook that.
  • To make a point (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord_Sintra ( 923866 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:09AM (#23554299)
    So that companies realise that people want Linux, which will encourage them to start making drivers/software compatible. If people buy, then add Linux, companies just assume no one wants Linux. However, if you read the Windows EULA, you can get a full refund from the retailer for the copy of Windows, so that proves a point, and saves you a lot of money.
  • Ok (Score:5, Interesting)

    by d3ac0n ( 715594 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:18AM (#23554377)
    Well, first of all, the price difference isn't really all that much. In fact, unless you are buying in bulk and getting an Enterprise discount, the cost difference is less than $50.00 (in the case of Dell, anyway).

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

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

    Unless there is a specific piece of hardware that you need or want that is in a Windows box and not a Linux box, I really don't see the need to buy Windows when you want Linux if there are Linux machines available. Especially when the Linux machines are comparable in specs to the Windows ones, excepting the really high-end gaming rigs (Of course, if you want a high-end gaming rig, why wouldn't you just build it yourself from hardware you know is Linux supported?)
  • by Adaptux ( 1235736 ) * on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:21AM (#23554403)
    Even if buying a computer bundled with a Microsoft license does not cost you more, it means that some money goes to Microsoft corporation. The question is, are you ok with that? If you'd rather not support what Microsoft is doing, it might be a good solution to offset the effect of that financial support for Microsoft by making a donation to one of the various organizations that work towards achieving a more reasonable future in the field of IT.
  • by jejones ( 115979 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:26AM (#23554435) Journal
    Reread Milton Friedman's _Free to Choose_. When you buy it, you're communicating with the market, saying "I want a computer with Linux." When you buy a computer with Windows preinstalled so you can wipe it and install Linux, you're fibbing to the market--it will interpret that as "I want a computer with Windows", and be more likely to do that and ultimately to stop selling computers with Linux preinstalled. And for that matter, they aren't going to press hardware makers for Linux-friendly hardware, either--why should they?

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

    (And yes, I've put my money where my mouth is; I'm waiting for the Dell laptop with Linux preinstalled to arrive.)
  • IBM (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Detritus ( 11846 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:31AM (#23554467) Homepage
    A few years back, I bought an IBM server and I was willing to pay for the effort and testing that IBM had performed in order to guarantee its compatibility with Linux and other popular server operating systems. I was very impressed with the level of support that IBM provided. None of the usual "It shipped with Windows Blech, install anything else and you are on your own".
  • by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:35AM (#23554501)

    First, is the visibility. Companies do not have any idea how many people want Linux (or do not want M$, depending on your view point). Purchasing pre-loaded fixes the books so that companies have no doubt.

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

    Remember too that companies like Dell have to pay more for Linux support (Gigabazillions paid top dollar for that M$ cert.. as opposed to the handful that earned their RHCx)

  • by backwardMechanic ( 959818 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:41AM (#23554553) Homepage
    Nobody said anything about paying for bleeding edge. You can choose to pay more to support the wider project (FOSS) and have your computer the way you want it. But it is a choice.

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

    There is a different argument as to whether you should pay more to Dell et al, or buy the cheaper machine and donate the extra to a FOSS project. I'm not sure which option is preferable there.
  • by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:41AM (#23554557) Homepage
    Unfortunately, you will not get this as a choice in most cases. They've slapped EULAs on the machines themselves- you don't use Windows, at the minimum they will flat-out not support you. If you don't accept the EULA, in some cases, they've verbiage stating that the vendor won't take just Windows back- they will only take the whole machine back. (Gives a sideways nasty look in HP's direction...)

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

    Saving money is all well and good- but when it contributes to the problem, unless you just simply can't swing the "extra expense" you should probably be doing DIY instead where you're not adding to their sales figures- which is what happens when you buy a unit, even if you return it because of the way their accounting for this stuff is done.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:50AM (#23554637)
    There are many places who will supply a PC with NO O/S Installed. This is how I buy my systems. Then I can choose what Linux Distro I want to install and not have to use for example ubuntu as supplied by Dell on some of their models.

    Other replies here have said 'build your own' It might be better for you to start with what is called a Barebones system and add the bits you want.

    I have build many systems this way for people who do in the main run XP.
    Do a bit of shopping around and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
    It is far better than what I overheard a few months ago by a major retailer in the UK that it was illegal to sell a PC without Windows installed.
    I interrupted the sales assistant and said "So you are illegally selling all those Mac's I see on display behind you unless they come with a copy of windows as well as OS/X?"
    They had no answer to that. I directed the potential customer to one of the places ( a few miles down the road) who sell PC's with no O/S installed.
  • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @08:54AM (#23554685) Homepage
    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!

    I suppose this explains all the linux lusers showing up on #solaris complaining that Sol-X86 sucks and won't install. Looking for a hardware compatibility list before spending hundreds of dollars is evidently far too advanced for some people.

  • by kcdoodle ( 754976 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:26AM (#23554993)
    Do I really want the "polishing" if it isn't part of a major (updated/supported) Linux Distro?

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

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

    Also, Linux is way further along than it was back in the early 90's. Lately, I have had very little problem finding drivers and tweaks for just about every device out there (made in the last 2 years).
  • by Mateo_LeFou ( 859634 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:44AM (#23555245) Homepage
    Yes; I went over to Best Buy the other day to get a meatspace look at an eee. I had no intention of leaving with one, of course. But I made sure to let the (unusually knowledgeable this time) personnel know that the XP edition was useless to me.

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

    Baby steps.
  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @09:49AM (#23555331) Homepage

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:01AM (#23555489) Homepage
    The whole reason that those people are "linux lusers" to begin
    with is the historically piss-poor hardware support in x86
    Solaris. So that would be an obvious thing for a Linux user to
    knock Solaris for.

    Given all the recent hype about the "new and improved" version
    of Solaris x86 you would have thought they would have improved
    this end of things.

    It just shows that Sun still doesn't get it...
  • by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:32AM (#23555947)

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

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

    If you order the Windows model you know that whatever hardware they put in the box will work with Windows, but you might get the one motherboard out of three that doesn't like Linux so much.
  • by hunteke ( 1172571 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @10:52AM (#23556259)

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by hunteke ( 1172571 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @11:47AM (#23557063)

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

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

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

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:09PM (#23557399) Homepage Journal
    No, there is something worse.

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

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

    For years, I had good experiences when running Linux on ThinkPads. Then I got cheap and bought a Toshiba, and was treated to lessons on things like how the Linux kernel handles hotplug devices every time I did an Ubuntu update.

    If I were equipping people working for me, I'd definitely go with Linux preinstalled, because presumably the vendor has chosen components with good Linux support. But even if not, you have somebody to call.

    Toshiba is cheap, and pretty anti-Linux. I've often wondered if they deliberately sabotage Linux on their laptops; the answer to many "compatibility" issues is to tell Toshiba's ACPI bios that you're Windows Vista -- then suddently some stuff that doesn't work magically starts working.
  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Tuesday May 27, 2008 @12:32PM (#23557765) Homepage Journal
    I have a Microsoft wireless keyboard that worked out of the box with all the extra buttons on a Ubuntu system.

    More than some MS-users can expect :)

    'The Microsoft wireless keyboard or wireless mouse does not respond as expected', (MS Help and Support [microsoft.com])


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