Dell, Ubuntu and the driver details

Summary:Dell outlined some of the technical details surrounding its use of Ubuntu 7.04 on its desktops.

Dell outlined some of the technical details surrounding its use of Ubuntu 7.04 on its desktops.

Judging from Dell's post, the main takeaways appear to be:

  • Dell is choosing peripheral options based on what hardware has the most "mature and stable" Linux drivers.
  • Dell will use open source drivers where possible. If none are available it'll use closed source options.
  • Dell promises it will work with vendors to get better Linux drivers. "While this may not happen overnight, we do expect to have a broader range of hardware support with Linux over time," says John Hull, manager of Linux OS technologies at Dell.
  • Dell won't support audio and video codecs that aren't distributed with Ubuntu already. In other words, all the MPEGs, WMA, WMV, DVD and QuickTime.

My takeaway: This may be too difficult to mainstream desktop Linux unless Dell packages these things in a friendly way. That latter point on media support doesn't sound friendly. I realize that Ubuntu on a Dell is going to appeal to a small subset of folks, but in the long run someone like me will be a target. What would get me to try Ubuntu?

Here's the definition of drivers for me: A lost weekend screwing around with software when I should be outside. Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is dead on when he outlines what the Linux community doesn't understand about users (I fully expect them to get it later).

Nevertheless, Dell's Ubuntu move is important. As I noted before and Ryan Paul at Ars Technica said yesterday. Dell's Ubuntu choice is good news for desktop Linux. But semi-mainstream use of Linux on the desktop is going to take some time.

Topics: Dell, Linux, Open Source


Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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