It does beg the question: why isn't some tweaking done before the machines are sold?
Mark Shuttleworth was asked about it. My queries were: "I was a little surprised to find out that Dell installs vanilla Ubuntu and sells it without any tweaks. Surely they don't do this with Windows? So one needs to ask: are they really interested in selling these PCs/laptops to the mass market?"
Shuttleworth appears to have been in diplomatic mode when he replied. His response: "There's a big overlap between people who want Linux and people who don't want 'bloatware or adware' installed, so I think the Dell folks feel they are giving the typical user what they want in a standardised Ubuntu install."
I have lost count of the various versions of Linux distributions (and proprietary software) which I've reviewed - and I'm a recent entrant to the scene. But there's one thing common - whenever the software has been supplied by a manufacturer/supplier, they have done everything possible to try and avoid negative publicity - though, to be true, nobody has ever tried to put pressure on me to gild the lily. (They probably know that it's of little use to try such tactics).
With Dell, strangely, this does not appear to be the case - it seems to be worst foot forward, rather than the other way round.
One doesn't require a high degree of intelligence to figure out that people who buy computers don't want to have unnecessary headaches; with Dell, it appears to have been an afterthought because the company has now put out its "remastered" Ubuntu CD and DVD images for some of the models which it sells with Ubuntu installed.
It is thus reasonable to presume that if Ubuntu is installed from CDs or DVDs made using these images, then the problems which one experiences when using vanilla Ubuntu on the Dell machines would disappear.
The official wiki , which appears to have been set up to provide information about the Dell models sold with Linux, says: "Dell Linux Engineering team has a remastered copy of the Ubuntu 7.04 Live CD available for download. It includes native system hardware support and many of the fixes listed below. The media will help you get the system installed and running with the necessary drivers."
So what do those who have bought Dell laptops or desktop PCs with vanilla Ubuntu installed do, in the event that they are experiencing problems? Burn these images to CD or DVD and reinstall?
Dell isn't willing to commit to that. Further down the wiki page, one reads this: "DISCLAIMER: These images are both unofficial Dell recovery media. They are not officially Dell-supported. Do not call Dell Technical support with questions about this image, or software installed by this image, as they will not be able to help you. To get help, please send an email to the Dell linux-desktops mailing list."
The man or woman who has the experience (and sufficiently thick skin) to submit queries to mailing lists and sort out issues thereby, is not the sort of person who needs a PC/laptop on which Linux is already installed. No, that individual would also have sufficient knowledge to download Linux and install it himself/herself.
The wiki page was last edited on September 11 (sounds ominous, that) and also lists 21 known issues with various models, all of which Dell is presumably working to fix.
All of which begs the question: how much planning has gone into this plan to sell Ubuntu on Dell machines? Does one just wake up in the morning and decide that it's all stations go? Or is it because one would like the venture to fail?
In May , I wrote this: "There's one word in my lexicon to describe what Dell is going to do with Ubuntu - half-arsed." Four months down the track, I have a few additional words to describe this incredibly, muddle-headed effort by a company that claims second rank in PC sales worldwide. Unfortunately, they can't be mentioned in a publication of repute.
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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.