I've just finished reading a review of an Ubuntu-powered Inspiron 1420N written by mainstream tech journalist Walt Mossberg. His conclusion: "But for now, I still advise mainstream, nontechnical users to avoid Linux."
Now, bearing in mind that I've been pretty critical of Linux in the past (there have been many times when the free, open-source OS has impressed me greatly), I can't help but feel that Mossberg is blaming Ubuntu for Dell's shoddy implementation of the operating system.
So, what do I mean when I say Ubuntu is too rough around the edges for average users? Here are some examples.
There is no control panel for adjusting the way the touch pad works, and I found it so sensitive that I was constantly launching programs and opening windows accidentally by touching the thing. Every time the computer awoke from sleep, the volume control software crashed and had to be reloaded.
When I tried to play common audio and video files, such as MP3 songs, I was told I had to first download special files called codecs that are built into Windows and Mac computers. I was warned that some of these codecs might be “bad” or “ugly.”
He also runs into codec issues:
Playing videos was a bad experience, with lots of flickering and freezing. Oh, and there’s no built-in software for playing commercial DVDs.
To me, most of these issues sound like omissions on Dell's part rather than Ubuntu, and they're all issues that Dell would have had to solve on a Windows-based PC. The touch pad needs a better driver/control app, the volume control software sounds broken and Dell needs to buy bulk licenses for a few commonly used codecs and preinstall them. As to video playback being poor, this has to be a configuration issue or a hardware issue - I've not come across this problem on any Linux install I've carried out. The bottom line is that Dell has failed to deliver a machine that works out of the box. It's not Linux that has failed Mossberg, it's Dell.
I've had concerns in the past that Dell isn't serious about supporting Linux and this review confirms that. Dell has rushed to support Linux and it's Ubuntu that's getting the blame.