Dell, Ubuntu and the driver details

Dell, Ubuntu and the driver details

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

TOPICS: Dell, Linux, Open Source

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

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Take some time? Yeah, years - if ever, (nt)

  • Message has been deleted.

    • That's just too funny! :)

      I put a NT meesage after my own just to make a [i]spacer[/i] between my post and any Bitty could make. [b]And he had it deleted![/b]

      He must have thought that I was calling him a "spacer!"

      I never thought of Bitty that way, but you know, it just might fit...
      • Or,,,

        Maybe you didn't post anything on topic and the moderator has no use for your games.
        • Ooooh, that's why ;)

          so many of your posts are deleted?

          I wondered...
        • Well if that were the case then ]:)

          90% of your posts would be deleted as well! ]:)
          Linux User 147560
  • Dell-usional

    I can't believe Dell has lost sight of the consumer. It has already lost consumer confidence as a result of its poor customer care management, and now its trying to sell Linux on the Desktop?

    As for small companies, I help many out and they don't generally know much about computers at all. For example, a small law firm thinks saving money is great, maybe we should look at Linux...oh but wait, they want Amicus Attorney and pissed would they be to find out that something Dell would sell them as a good low cost alternative causes them tons of nightmares. If you think Dell pissed off consumers before...just wait until they get people screaming at them because software they bought for their kids or for their home office or small business won't run on Linux.

    I think people looking at Linux are really missing "The Big Picture".
    • Great job shutting your eyes.

      There are small companies that aren't law firms. Do you work for a law firm? My neighbor across the stree works for a private attorney. [b]They are looking at Linux/GPL because they don't buy high end law firm software and just do emails and document editing.[/b] It could work well for them just like that plumbing business office, or roofing contractor, or bakery or any number of small businesses around my office.

      As for "tons of nightmares," no thanks. We already have that with Windows Vista. Thanks anyway.

      Nice post though. Keep trying to tell us how we won't be able to use Linux while we just go on ahead and do it anyway.

      Keep trying....
  • Maybe, but doubtful it will suceed

    While what you say here is true, most office workers are trained and skilled on Windows products. I doubt that many would want to move over to Linux-based apps and lose familiarity with Windows products and upgrades, while severely limiting future career options. At best you would probably have the same conundrum you are presented with in Linux support. It is cheaper to obtain the OS, but much more expensive to employ support personnel. I was educted on Unix, yet I still have not found a distribution that I would use to replace my Windows machine. There is always a problem with hardware, drivers, limited software, video/audio codes, etc. While I would love to get away from the viruses and constant software patches of the Microsoft world, I really do not envision that happening anytime soon. It is an unfortunate fact of life that Microsoft does not have the best product, but it is the most widely-used and compatible product on the market today.
    • "most office workers are trained and skilled on Windows products"

      Funny, so am I. I had absolutely no problems opening and immediately using OpenOffice. In fact Novell, in conjunction with MS, has already announced agreements with Dell for SUSE Linex Enterprise Servers and has this to say, among a lot of other treats, about their [b] - Novell Edition[/b].


      [i]"Protecting MS Office Font Fidelity ? Novell has licensed fonts from AGFA which are geometrically compatible with Microsoft?s native fonts ensures that documents look the same from machine to machine, Windows or Linux. Because of this, when opening documents originally created in MS Office, the pagination and page formatting should be practically identical."[/i]

      It seems that there is more reasons that this will succeed than those posting and whining here would know about or say anything about.

      An additional reason might be that OOo is easier to use for those "office workers are trained and skilled" on Office 200x than trying to learn Office 2007. The new Office 2007 interface pretty much obviates any value in the trained and skilled userbase claim.
    • I guess that means you will not be upgrading to Vista and MSO 2k7...

      ...and having to learn new GUI and app interface.

      I doubt that many would want to move over to Linux-based apps and lose familiarity with Windows products and upgrades....

      In fact, earlier studies showed that upgrading from MSO 2k to MSO XP and from MSO XP to MSO2k3 both had equal or higher learning curves than migrating from MSO 2k or MSO XP to OOo 2.x.

      Earlier experiments showed that upgrading from Win 2k/98 to Win XP had a learning curve similar to migrating to Mandrake Linux 10.x. I can imagine that upgrading to Vista would have a much higher learning curve than migrating to PCLinuxOS 2007. (Tried TR4 recently and about to try the full release downloaded last night. Everything plug 'n' played in TR4.)

      [i]...while severely limiting future career options.[/i]

      If you have only learned MS Word/MSO and cannot easily learn something else, do not try to get a job at a law firm. Most use WordPerfect/Corel Office Suite.

      There is always a problem with hardware, drivers, limited software, video/audio codes, etc.

      True for Vista also. What's your point?

      It is an unfortunate fact of life that Microsoft does not have the best product, but it is the most widely-used and compatible product on the market today.

      'Most widely used' is a variable and Win?MSO upgrades have proven incompatibility with its previous incarnations time and time again.

      Your options are now: (1) keep your current system as is without upgrades or migrations and suffer the ever-increasing discoveries of vulnerabilities and attacks or (2) upgrade or migrate to a newer system and suffer the learning curve either way.

      I strongly suggest option (2). I also strongly suggest you check your budget. As for me, I will eventually --a year from now perhaps-- get a Vista system to help with troubleshooting for other people who have it but all my other systems will be Linux or BSD distros.

      One of my brothers recently checked his budget. He wanted a system to safely surf the web. No e-mail client necessary --has web-mail-- and needs nothing else. He bought an old ThinkPad for US$50 and I loaded PCLinuxOS 2007 TR4 for free. He now has a secure, upgradeable, fully functional, currently supported OS on a system with a 6GB HDD, 128MB RAM and 800MHz CPU.

      He maintained his budget and now surfs the web fast and has very little of what he does not need. I.e., I still left Thunderbird, OOo, GAIM and MM apps on the system since he may change his mind on how he wants to use it.
      • RE: I guess that means you will not be upgrading to Vista and MSO 2k7...

        >>>...He bought an old ThinkPad for US$50 and I loaded
        PCLinuxOS 2007 TR4 for free. He now has a secure, upgradeable,
        fully functional, currently supported OS on a system with a 6GB
        HDD, 128MB RAM and 800MHz CPU...<<<

        All true except TR4 is not upgradeable. PCLinuxos2007 will
        have an upgrade path, unlike the beta and TR versions, unless
        things have changed. I like PCLinuxos a lot,
        since .092/nvidia. For me it is a lot more familiar and
        complete than Ubuntu, but I have never been a huge fan of
        Debian or Debian based distros.
        • Actually

          In this case it's all too easily upgradeable. Just pop in the PCLinuxos 2007 Final CD and install from the install option, select use existing partitions. By default only the / (root) partition will be overwritten - the /home partition, with all the users config settings and personal files, will be untouched, I did this last night on my demo laptop, and everything works fine, my settings for the desktop and applications were untouched.

          If it had been my other laptop with lots of additional software installed, now that might have been a problem. But in the case described where the user is only using the default software, or a subset of it, no problem.
          tracy anne
    • Most office workers

      use whatever is put in front of them. There is less difference between Office and OO.o, than there is between differing versions of Office - so that won't be a problem. The 'extremely expensive' support personnel' aren't likely to be needed either, as there is little an 'office worker' can do to screw up their machine, in comparison to on a Windows box - where are they going to find that cute little Win app that carries Malware to install? Are they going to be under the illusion that they know more about running the system than they do?

      There are MANY good reasons to run Windows in a business setting - usually to do with specific software that runs only on... but THIS is not one of them! Gee - a whole half hour to transition - when most new employees take a week or two to get up to speed anyway....
    • Not at all

      I am not a microsoft developer. But a Java developer with lots of experience in Linux and Unix. It is absolutely not career limiting. I can get a job any time.

      It may be career enhancing. I do not think MS will be ruling IT as it used to do.
      Van Der
    • It is already succeeding

      That's what the Dell deal is about.

      I got to think that the head honchos at Quicken are watching this closely. If Dell sells a lot of laptops that "Windows only" Quicken / Quickbooks won't run on, it won't take long for a Linux version of them to hit the streets. Games won't be far behind.

      If Dell can make a half-way go of things, look for Toshiba (love my Satellites (two), but I loathe Windows) and Gateway to step up to the plate, too. You don't need any home-runs at all if there is a steady stream of singles. But if the bases are loaded when one does get smacked over the wall, then ALL the runners get to cross the plate.

      There is so little difference between Windows apps and Linux apps already that the clerical force in Key Largo, FL barely realized that their new computers were, in fact, thin clients running Linux. That training baloney is pure hokum. And it is NOT more expensive to hire Linux support personnel. Even though they are paid more, you don't need as many because Linux aint broke. In fact, a good Linux admin is worth his/her weight in uptime.
      Jambalaya Breath
  • And yet, it just isn not happening.

    A person would have to be living under a rock to not have heard of Linux or open office by now. Guess what? Yup, they said no thanks...
    • Axey, Most . . .

      of the people around me can't (and aren't interested in) tell the difference between the Mac, Windows, OR Linux. Grandma and Grandpa ain't installing software on their computers, anyway, for the most part. My Dad calls me to install software on his system, for the most part. All he does with it is answer e-mail, print pictures, and print patterns for his wood-working projects. . .

      They aren't saying 'no thanks', they're saying 'What's the Difference?' . . .
      • Here we go again...

        Why is it that when people get down to talking about things Linux doesn't do or support the first reaction of the Linux fans is to tell them they don't need those things? I am serious, what is it about Linux fans that makes them believe they can dictate what others should use and/or like?

        Here is something I have found to be true in every case. I agree users have the "standard apps" that everyone uses. But the problem there is every user I have ever met has one or two non-standard apps that they "just can't live without". That could be a game, a photo editor, or who knows what, but the fact is they call them "personal computers" for a reason. If what you suggest were even close to the truth everyone would be using dumb terminals (thin clients?) hooked to big iron doing everything exactly the same way. Sorry, but that paradigm was kicked to the curb when the first PCs hit the market...
        • Acutally . . .

          for the most part, only us 'techies' have personal favs. The kiddies, except for a select minority, play console games, not PC/MAC games. Easier to deal with, and you don't have to worry about it malfunctioning as much. The rest of the crowd usually uses what was installed when they bought their machine (including the photo editor, etc).

          And the whole point of things like Google Apps, and 'Gametap', is to provide those things on the 'net. I didn't think so at first, and my personal preference is to have my apps local, but it IS swinging the other way. And when that day comes, it doesn't matter what OS you're running . . .

          BTW, Linspire (and Freespire) plays WMA, WMV, and QT stuff LEGALLY (they have a Legal license for them, check their site), so MS is selling the rights to SOMEONE . . .