Will half-baked Ubuntu Linux netbooks ruin the OS for consumers?

PC World's Keir Thomas recently caved in and bought a Dell Mini 9 netbook, which sells for just $249 with Ubuntu Linux.He loves the little netbook: "I'll be damned if the little thing hasn't stolen my heart," he writes -- and despite the machine being a bit sluggish thanks to its 1.

PC World's Keir Thomas recently caved in and bought a Dell Mini 9 netbook, which sells for just $249 with Ubuntu Linux.

He loves the little netbook: "I'll be damned if the little thing hasn't stolen my heart," he writes -- and despite the machine being a bit sluggish thanks to its 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, he really loves the form factor.

What he doesn't like, however, is Dell's in-house version of Ubuntu that came installed on the machine.

Thomas, in his own words:

It was a painful experience at times. I initially categorized the problems I experienced as bugs, but that's incorrect. It's more that the operating system is unfinished. Don't get me wrong. It works OK. It's functional. You can web browse, and IM, and word process just fine. But there was no final polish before the car left the showroom.

Some of the problems he had?

  • The Dell Ubuntu forgets his screen brightness settings, and even reverts to default settlings after a period of inactivity.
  • The brightness hotkeys stopped working intermittently. Touchpad deactivation -- so you don't mouse around while you type -- hasn't been activated.
  • The entire computer comes back from standby in seconds, but it takes the Network Manager "at least 30 seconds" to re-find the Wi-Fi connection.

Thomas calls them irritations, and said he has received lots of e-mail from Ubuntu users either pointing out how to fix the problems, urging him to switch to a different distro, or telling him to put up with open source the way it was meant to be.

The problem is that Ubuntu is no longer a geek's OS. Now it comes preinstalled on consumer netbooks -- Dell's Mini 9, HP's Mini 2140 (and Mini 1000 Mi) -- and must face a group of users that don't have a vocabulary that includes "Jaunty Jackalope" and "Hardy Heron."

In Ubuntu, the end-user is king. So what happened here? Is Dell shipping an unpolished machine to jump on the netbook bandwagon?

It's not as though we would even consider this to be acceptable if the OS were say, Windows XP or Mac OS X.

Will the decision roll out half-baked Linux-based netbooks ruin the average consumer's first experience with the OS?

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