back to article Dell's Linux sleight of hand

Pssst, pass it on… Dell is selling Linux-based home PCs and laptops to its UK customers, but you’ll need a very good eye and probably a magnifying glass to find the systems on the direct seller's website. It recently said it had bowed to customer pressure by shipping computers with Ubuntu pre-installed - Dell already offered …


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  1. Andy S

    i'm not surprised at the 1 in 500

    I actually find it hard to believe that anyone technically adept enough to want linux would buy from dell rather than put a pc together themselves.

  2. Mike Taylor

    Dell's website is awful

    I presume that they have never employed (or listened to) a usability expert.

    I particularly like the way that sometimes you get to pick the type of machine you want, sometimes the type of customer you are and sometimes you think you're picking the type of machine you want, but mostly it's a poorly chosen predetermined list that has already made a bunch of assumptions based on something you clicked or a url you went to or the kind of underwear you're wearing.

    Despite that i keep buying their blasted machines.

    The place to go to is

    If you randomly decide to go to /linux you'll be taken to the outlet shop. Perhaps because Linux buyers are cheapskates?

  3. Adrian Jones

    I tried this a couple of weeks ago

    And had no problem finding and pricing a Linux box in Sterling.

    The problem I had with them was that an almost identically specced Windows box (including the cost of Vista) was slightly cheaper!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £20 premium

    It still asks if you are sure you want to then charges around £20 more compared to the windows version.

  5. Paul

    Odd sales pitch.

    "in this case it would have been an Insprion 530 loaded with Red Hat available for just £20 more than the same machine with Vista inside."

    So why not just buy the Vista one and load your own Linex Distro? I know it can be a pain, but its a principal thing, when it should realy be £70 (At least) Less.

  6. Chris Hembrow

    But XP is cheaper

    I've just spec'd up an Inspiron 6400 with both XP and Ubuntu, using the exact same components (as far as possible).

    Ubuntu: £440.62 inc. VAT & Shipping

    XP Home: £289.00 ex. VAT & Shipping (£339.58 inc Vat exc Shipping)

    So, unless they're charging ~£100 for the shipping, that makes the XP version cheaper. Again.

  7. Steve Mason

    Hiding Linux

    They're hiding the systems so well browing the "open source systems" on their site either takes forever to load or just crashes firefox completely.

    Naturally the windows systems are available to browse and their pages load flawlessly.

    Way to go Dell.

  8. Stephen Pegrum

    It's quite simple really

    Mind you I had to find the link from the Ubuntu website at

    Here are the national links

    UK - - priced in GBP

    France - - priced in Euro

    Germany - - priced in Euro

    I might even order one myself

  9. Stephen

    Yes we are doing Linux...

    But we will put it on a separate site out of the way so that nobody can find it. Then later on we can always say "well we tried but didn't make enough money" and pull the plug.

    Ubuntu should be an Option on ANY Dell machine currently available and sitting there alongside XP, Fista and the rest, not on some half-hearted out of the way site that only sells one type of PC or Laptop with Ubuntu.

    A PR move so they can say "We do support Linux" and yet not be serious about it.

  10. Don Mitchell

    Market saturation

    It's good to offer choice, but I think the Linux market is pretty saturated. Regular people who want to use a PC buy Windows or maybe Apple, which are customer-oriented systems. Only a small fixed percentage of people will buy Linux, as a sort of political statement against "big business" or to feel "elite" (which it is not really). But you can't get your work done on Linux or play good games. It's not a practical choice.

  11. Gary Littlemore

    Why extra £20

    Why is it an extra £20 with Ubuntu? When the Ubuntu OS is free to download.

  12. Mark Rendle

    Dell is for everyone. Linux isn't. Get over it.

    Come on! Most of Dell's customers have probably never heard of the IdeaStorm forum (or Linux, for that matter), and if you run a poll like "Should we offer PCs with Linux pre-installed", who is actually going to vote "No"?

    Several members of my extended family have bought Dells this year and although regular readers might find this hard to believe, most of them wouldn't know the difference between Vista and Ubuntu until they booted it up and couldn't find Internet Explorer. Haha, aren't they stupid. Well, no, actually, they're just not particularly bothered, they just want to do their work and maybe play some games. If they ended up in the Ubuntu section of the Dell site they'd definitely be lost, and Dell are absolutely right to make sure they realise it.

    As for Linux costing extra, since Dell probably pay hardly anything for the millions of Windows licenses they buy every year, I wouldn't be surprised if the man-hours involved in installing Red Hat or Ubuntu on a handful of customised machines far outweighs the time taken to dump XP or Vista images onto hard disks.

    And your analogising of Linux's incompatibility issues with Vista's is vaguely humorous but nowhere near the truth.

  13. Jonathan Walls

    El Reg seems fond of paranoid bullshit, these days

    I detected more the Register's trend these days of being more focused on puerile attacks than accurate facts, so I thought I'd check this out.

    Go to the home page, Click on home desktops (or laptops). Click on the "open source PCs" category. Configure, and even purchase, your Ubuntu PC in sterling.

    How can anyone find that confusing?

    "At every opportunity it reminds potential customers that open source is NOT Microsoft."

    Every opportunity?! It happened once in the entire process, right at the start. If you think it's unreasonable to check that a random punter understands he's not buying a PC just like 95% of the other ones they've ever encountered, you're no more cut out to run a business than you appear to be suited to journalism.

    If there's any truth to that article (I didn't bother calling customer support), it's buried under the general incompetence of the rest of it.

  14. Jaster

    Try finding the same Vista PC

    Dell Inspiron 530n (Ubuntu)

    N-Series-Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core E2140 Processor (1.6GHz,800MHz,1MB cache)

    Ubuntu Desktop Edition Version 7.04

    Dell™ 19" Silver Wide Flat Panel (SE198WFP)

    1024MB 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM [2x512]

    160GB (7200rpm) Serial ATA Hard Drive with 8MB

    128MB nVidia® GeForce® 8300GS

    16x DVD +/- RW Drive

    Integrated 7.1 Channel High Definition Audio

    1 Year Base Warranty - Collect & Return


    Inspiron 530 Vista

    Intel® Celeron® 420 Processor (1.6GHz,800MHz,512k cache)

    Genuine Windows Vista® Home Premium

    Dell™ 19" Value Flat Panel (SE197FP)

    Integrated Intel® Graphic Media Accelerator 3100

    1024MB 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM [2x512]

    160GB (7200rpm) Serial ATA Hard Drive with 8MB

    16x DVD +/- RW Drive

    1 Year Base Warranty - Collect & Return

    Integrated 7.1 Channel High Definition Audio


    This comparison was made seemingly very difficult but I seem to be paying £67.61 to not have Vista ?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Malice or incompetence?

    As the saying goes - never put down to malice what can be more easily explained by incompetence.

    Dell is a big company with lots of lots of clueless people working in bland call centres to pay the rent/mortgage. Why should they all be aware of the Umbongo revolution?

  16. Alan Gregson

    page no longer available

    I just used a premier login to find an Ubuntu machine. None of the systems or laptops I checked had it as an option. Although most servers will allow you to select a supported copy of Red Hat.

    When I did a search for Ubuntu it returned one link, following this leads to a Page No Longer Available error

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not had a problem yet

    I was thinking about buying an Insipron 6400 laptop which was going to get wiped and loaded with Ubuntu anyways so, when Dell announced I could get it preloaded, I decided to put my money where my mouth has been for a few years and support this initiative.

    One of the release announcements had the URL and I didn't have any trouble picking a system which should be delivered in a few days.

    I'm a bit annoyed with the community reaction. A major manufacturer is selling hardware pre-installed with Linux and a lot of the people who have been loudly clamouring for this to happen seem to be upset that it's not exactly what they wanted straight away. Come on, let's have some support for what Dell are trying to do here even if it's not quite right yet. I'm sure they are aware of how they are marketing it and the return they can expect from this to judge it a success and expand their Linux offerings. If this initiative fails because of lack of support then don't expect anyone to care about any crying for sympathy over things like BBC iPlayer for Linux.

    (Jut my £0.02 - please direct all flames to /dev/null)

  18. Hein Kruger

    £20 more?!

    "just £20 more than the same machine with Vista inside."

    Somehow that doesn't sound right. Red Hat Enterprise Linux Desktop is available from the for US$80 for the basic option. According to google's currency converter that is equivalent to about £40.

    Looks like it's more expensive to buy a machine with Linux preinstalled than just buying a machine with windows and installing Linux yourself.

  19. Daniel Ballado-Torres

    It might be the name...

    Maybe Dell thinks that, well, the average Joe would wonder what is that strange African nation doing in the OS options. Frankly, "Ubuntu" might sound nice in Africa, but it is a poor naming option for a worldwide distribution.

    Kind of like Linus Torvalds originally naming his OS "Freax"... he changed it to "Linux" instead, and the name's catched on the media; even RedHat and SuSE have been able to do it. That said, Ubuntu does seem to be the most user-friendly distro out there, though I've been able to trick "mortal users" into using Fedora Core 6 without them realizing it isn't Windows. (The Firefox culture helps, so they don't find out that IE is missing at first.)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What a con!

    Sorry Dell, but I want to select the OS as a component when selecting a PC like a processor or a hard drive. You can make it Windows by default but it should be clear that selecting Linux will knock the Gates tax off the price of the PC.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Unix users don't know much about computers?

    According to Jaster, a PC with a Dual-Core Pentium, a Wide Screen flat panel and an add-in Nvidia graphics card should cost the same as a machine with a Celeron, a "regular" flat panel, and on board graphics, and any difference in price is down to the OS that it ships with?

    Talk about being selective with the facts?

    "Dell Inspiron 530n (Ubuntu)

    N-Series-Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core E2140 Processor (1.6GHz,800MHz,1MB Dell™ 19" Silver Wide Flat Panel (SE198WFP)

    128MB nVidia® GeForce® 8300GS


    Inspiron 530 Vista

    Intel® Celeron® 420 Processor (1.6GHz,800MHz,512k cache)

    Dell™ 19" Value Flat Panel (SE197FP)

    Integrated Intel® Graphic Media Accelerator 3100


    This comparison was made seemingly very difficult but I seem to be paying £67.61 to not have Vista ?"

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Don Mitchell

    "But you can't get your work done on Linux or play good games. It's not a practical choice."

    I'm not a linux fan by any means, but I have a linux box for developing a very specific application (based on RADIANCE). I also have a laptop running Windows XP Pro for my main office work. When the laptop died I had to rely on the linux box for a week or so. It was fine - I could communcate with and read and write files sent to me by everyone else in my dept (all running windows). I could do all the day to day office stuff quite painlessly. I don't do games so I don't know about them (or care).



    ps - just so you realise I'm really really not a fan I'm back using Windows now, but linux does work

  23. Alex


    "It's good to offer choice, but I think the Linux market is pretty saturated. Regular people who want to use a PC buy Windows or maybe Apple, which are customer-oriented systems. Only a small fixed percentage of people will buy Linux, as a sort of political statement against "big business" or to feel "elite" (which it is not really). But you can't get your work done on Linux or play good games. It's not a practical choice."

    customer oriented? like hell vista is customer oriented.

    political statement or a need for something that actually works?

  24. Rob Strzelecki

    They can take you into the past though.

    Hmm, just went to to spec a machine (no point, there are hardly any options). But they could deliver it to me last month apparently: 'Preliminary Ship Date - 22/08/2007'. Yes my PC clock is correct. I doubt many people what actually use Linux daily would every think of buying Dell.

  25. Morely Dotes

    @ Don Mitchell

    "But you can't get your work done on Linux or play good games."

    Bollocks! I can do word processing, calendar meetings, create presentations, connect to users' computers remotely to work on their (always-crashing) Windows, and play World of Warcraft on Ubuntu. I could do Computer-Aided Design on Ubuntu, except I don't have the talent for that, so I can't do it on Windows, either.

    Don, you clearly don't know much about Linux. Why not go get a free 10-pack of Ubuntu (or for you Windows-drones, Kubuntu) CDs and run it "live" (e.g., no installation required, it runs from the CD)? At least then you'll have some clue what you're dissing.


    I am unaffiliated with Kubuntu/Ubunut (except as a happy and unpaid user).

  26. Dan

    well actually...

    Not that I don't like to see anyone with more than 12p to their name get a kicking, as a good anarcho-linuxist, but in fairness, if you look at these 2 pages you can find the same hardware spec Dell laptop with Ubuntu or Wispa, and the Ubuntu one is 30 quid cheaper. Took a while, though.


  27. Henry

    Tiresome tirades

    Is anyone else sick of the my OS is better than your OS arguments? I use Windows and Linux (and would like to try OSX, but don't want to pony up).

    I get the feeling that the Windows fan boys are afraid of something they don't know and understand, and the Linux fan boys are elitist toss-pots that are often out of touch with more modern Windows versions (I mean seriously - how often have you received a BSOD with XP SP2?, oh yeah - about the same as you see kernel panics in Gentoo).

    Why not agree to disagree - different horses for different courses.....

  28. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Re: Try finding the same Vista PC

    Erm... the systems you're comparing are vastly different - this is why there is a difference in price, not a conspiracy by Dell (in this instance). They might happen to both have "Inspiron 530" in the name, but that's pretty much where the similarity ends... For example:

    Linux - Core Duo processor, Vista - Pentium D (The Pentium D is a cheaper, naster processor by far)

    Linux - 19" Silver Wide Flat Panel, Vista - 19" Value Flat Panel (Notice the value and non-widescreen nature of the Vista system monitor)

    Linux - 128MB nVidia GeForce 8300GS, Vista - Integrated Intel Graphic Media Accelerator 3100 (Decent nVidia graphics card compared to cheap and slow Intel on-board output).

  29. J


    "But you can't get your work done on Linux"

    Stupid statement. Maybe YOUR work can't be done on Linux. I for one can ONLY get my work done on Linux, or at least some Unix derivative. Toy systems for drooling gamers like Windows are next to worthless for me, and even if you do bother with the available workarounds, it's clumsy and slow anyway.

    "I wouldn't be surprised if the man-hours involved in installing Red Hat or Ubuntu on a handful of customised machines far outweighs the time taken to dump XP or Vista images onto hard disks."

    Well, it seems like you've got no clue what you're talking about, so I think I'll "surprise" you. First of all, a disk image is a disk image. Why would it take longer to dump an Ubuntu image compared to an image of XP or Vista or random bits or whatever to a hard drive? Second, even if you do install from the CD, it's at least faster than Windows 2000 (the last Windows I have had the displeasure of installing), and I've heard it beats the modern Windozes too.

    @Jonathan Walls

    Hmmm, I wonder if you got redirected, it sounds exactly like the US site... I tried it myself in the UK site (redirects to, but states I'm in UK) and got mixed results. If you click, on the right, Solutions for: Home, then you get NO link to Open Source PCs in the next page. If you, as I suppose you did, hover the mouse on the laptop or desktop pictures and then choose Home from the pop up menu, then you do get the nice Open Source PCs link on the left of the next page.

  30. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    A little honesty for once!

    I just found a little honesty for once - in the page that Dell has regarding Vista -

    Read the section about the "Windows Vista Capable" PCs... it lists these specced systems as "Great for... Booting the Operating System, without running applications or games". This is amusing, until you read the specification and realise that MS has redefined bloat once again... :(

  31. Curtis W. Rendon

    @Tiresome tirades

    My work XP pro machine bellies up a couple of times a week. Usually isn't so gracious as to offer a BSOD.

    The SuSE machine I use to control my xen testing was last rebooted a few months ago when I upgraded to SLES10SP1rc5.

    My home BSD 6.2 machine had to be shutdown a few weeks ago when its UPS was running out of juice because of an extended power failure due to a thunderstorm.

    I switched away from MS because of its instability some years ago. The IT people at work even 'let' me switch over to FireFox from the Lookout virus because they got tired of refusing to take my bug reports. So much for M$ support...

  32. James Butler

    Just like GM

    When you have vested interests outside of encouraging diversity, diversity suffers.

    @Stephen, you are probably correct. Dell "does" Linux like General Motors "does" electric cars: Manufacture a few, leak them out as a "bastard child" product, and then claim that people don't want the alternative technology because "look at the paltry few that sold".

    GM went so far as to collect all of the electric vehicles (EV1) that they distributed in the US and CRUSH them. Of course, they were never for sale, just for lease in California and Nevada only. But they claimed the program was a failure because "only" 1200 people leased the EV1 ... in fact verifying that EVERY ONE of the cars that GM produced had found a home. Rather than saying, "Wow! Those electric cars are flying out of the showrooms! We're sold out!" they chose, "It's a failure because only the entire inventory were snapped up." If they had made 5000, they would have leased out all of those, too. Dell are choosing, like GM, to make a paper effort just to seem cool for a little while. Bastards.

    There are lots of sources for Linux desktops/laptops, using hardware configurations that are optimized for it, just like Dell boxes are optimized for Windows ... even when they ship with Linux. (Fair? Hardly.) I know some of you corporate customers require the kind of long-winded, expensive, less-than-useful service contracts that a company like Dell offers ... but the beauty of it is that as long as you have the hardware warranties, you won't be needing much OS support.

  33. P. Pod


    Does anybody here know one single person not employed in the IT industry who runs Linux as an everyday machine? I bet you don't! The only people I know who use Linux every day are Linux developers who need that OS for a good reason.

    There are some round here who won't want to admit it, but XP and Vista work perfectly well on any Dell pre-installation. As for those that complain about the price - well if you buy a few million copies like Dell then Microsoft will offer you a good price too!

  34. prathlev

    @ Market saturation

    Don Mitchell wrote: " ... But you can't get your work done on Linux or play good games. It's not a practical choice. ..."

    Couldn't agree less.

    I may not be the most gaming person around, but I play Unreal and Q3 Arena (and Urban Terror) once in a while, and they run just fine* on Linux. These may not be "good games" in your eyes, and only few games actually run on Linux. Actually, most games ONLY run on Windows. Not Mac, Unix, Linux, whatever. That's sad, but at least that shouldn't mean anything in relation to a workstation / other work computer, should it?

    And regarding work: I couldn't do half the things I needed on a Windows box. It has a terrible shell and doesn't come pre-installed with anything (Perl, ssh client, nmap, Firefox and so on). Yeah, I know: "Download PuTTY, connect to nearest *nix, et voila!", but why not just have it all at your fingertips? Oh, and according to a lot of the people I know using Windows, stability could seem to be a problem too.

    I'm so glad I don't use Windows. Even though I'd like some of their UI people to give the Linux distros a helping hand, but that's another story. (I'd prefer the Mac UI people anyway.) :-)


    *) I have a few colleagues running Windows on exactly the same hardware (Thinkpad 42p) and they have a lower frame rate...

  35. Dave Moffatt

    Re: Linux

    I use Linux day to day as an alternative to Windows purely because it's what works best for me. I don't work in IT, I work in telecoms and I use Windows at work but at home, Ubuntu is what I like to use and is what I have used for about 6 months.

  36. Jason Harvey

    Here's a concept that no OEM will buy

    why not sell computers and let the customer buy their own OS. Then you don't have to support anything except the hardware... if it's a software issue, pass the buck to the OS maker. Then there's no OS premiums and you might actually get fair pricing. Or for those lemmings that must buy an OEM system... save the hassle of dealing with the OEM's support and build your own (except for laptops... bugger of a problem building those on your own... not enough universal stuff there to work that one out, but desktops build easy).

  37. cor

    Heated debate

    @ P.Pod : My wife runs her own small business (childcare). She spends about 35% of her time on the PC, which has been MS-free for about 5 years. oh, and all her digital photos are on it too. My kids (under 12s) play games on their Fedora -powered PC, and learn new skills using GCompris (opensource education). My mother-in-law, a retired nurse, creates computer art on her Ubuntu laptop. She has never used MS in her life. All of the above also do the usual webcam chat, e-mail, word processing etc.

    @Curtis W. Rendon : Yep, I had a RH9-based pentium II go down 2 months ago after the UPS gave up during a power outage. It had an uptime of 2 years and 4 months.

    @J : You tell 'em

    @Daniel Ballado-Torres: Yeah... Ubuntu is not an African nation. But you could be right; "XP" is such a universally coherent title. As for "Vista", a bit shortsighted really.. but you're right. The name is far more important than what it does. Penicillin is another stupid name, I'm surprised that stuff ever got off the ground.

    @Mark Rendle : "most of them wouldn't know the difference between Vista and Ubuntu until they booted it up and couldn't find Internet Explorer. "

    ... I think you've just proved the pro-ubuntu case.

    @ Anonymous Coward : "Dell is a big company with lots of lots of clueless people working in bland call centres to pay the rent/mortgage. Why should they all be aware of the Umbongo revolution?"

    ... because their Boss is, like.. euh.. selling it?

    Ok, my 2 sense:

    I think the argument is comparable with the Big Mac v. Home Cooking debate.

    -If you want no control, no information and no clue about what you're paying for - get a Big Mac hamburger.

    - If you'd like to have some influence over what you consume, a clear view of what goes into it, the choice to leave out bits you don't like, add more of what you do and know that what you are getting is the real deal - eat Home Cooking.

    With one of these choices, the chance of suffering an early coronary attack is much higher than with the other.

    I'll leave it to the group to fill in which is which.

    Not everyone can cook, and not everyone will eat 7 days a week at the Golden Arches. The point is, each to his own, but don't go mouthing off about something you don't understand. Good food is an acquired taste, and not everybody likes to eat his (her) greens....

    Enjoy the weekend everyone...

  38. Nexox Enigma

    Linux v Windows?

    First, Windows is not inherently unstable. I've managed to get 100+ day uptimes on 2003 and XP, normally terminated by power outages or physical relocation. If you have decent hardware and you don't mistreat the computer, Windows can be very stable.

    Second, for all the Windows defenders that focus on what you can't do in Linux that you can in Windows, what about what you can do in a *nix environment and not Windows? I suppose most Windows users wouldn't care, but a powerful command line interface is amazing. I transcode audio by piping the output of an mp3 playing program directly into an ogg encoder. In one command. With programs that all came on my Slackware CD.

    What about performance? The list of ways in which Linux is faster than Windows is far too long to even begin to recount. Where Windows does things in idiotic ways (Hey, lets swap out every application that you aren't currently using! That way it takes 8 seconds to restore when you alt-tab back!), Linux does them sanely (Your physical memory isn't full? Then lets leave that swap file alone!) Once you get used to things like that it is very hard to go back to Windows.

    I haven't tried Vista much, but since they ditched all of the Longhorn features, it seems that they've been moving in totally the wrong direction.

    And the solution to all of these problems is simply to avoid buying a Dell. No matter what OS you run, Dell is just a bad choice. I've seen no less than a dozen of my colleagues' and friends' Dell laptops suffer catastrophic failures over the last 2 or 3 years. And I can't remember a single case of another brand of laptop breaking for no reason among my acquaintances in the same time period.

  39. Bruce Ediger

    Tracking shills?

    As the comments to this article seem to have attracted more than the usual number of Obvious Shills and Astroturfers, I have to ask:

    Does The Register make any attempt at counting the number of shills/astroturfers? It seems like the sort of groundbreaking thing that an irreverant, Fleet-Street-style Trade Rag like The Regiser should do. After all, you run "Dick Destiny's" crap all the time.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Dell support person

    "let's call her Pat"

    mayn't we call her Adele?

  41. Martyn Welch

    @ P.Pod

    "Does anybody here know one single person not employed in the IT industry who runs Linux as an everyday machine?"

    Yes, infact, I do, a few and they aren't all computer geeks either. I do provide a small amount of support to some of them, but I have had to provide less support than to those I know still using windows.

    "There are some round here who won't want to admit it, but XP and Vista work perfectly well on any Dell pre-installation."

    XP and Vista may work well on any new Dell machine, but just about any new machine is over-kill for the 50% (conservative guess) of computer users that use their computer to browse the web, send and receive email and do some light wordprocessing. Unless of course you happen to run microsoft's latest OS which, without wanting to go too hippie, means that running this OS to do just these tasks is a gratuitous waste of resources.

    "As for those that complain about the price - well if you buy a few million copies like Dell then Microsoft will offer you a good price too!"

    Which fails to make any comparison with the licencing cost of providing Linux on those machines. Given that the basic option provides "No Ubuntu support [Included in Price]" (other than the free community support of helpful users and developers, that are in most cases far more responsive to the needs of a single home user than microsoft) means that that actual licensing cost is near zero. Dell are free to download the distribution from the Ubuntu site, like anyone else, create and install image and blat it onto as many drives as they so desire. I say near zero cost since to comply with the licencing, as a distributor of the code, they must provide the source on request, which is usually achieved buy placing it on a ftp/web server, thus allowing interested parties to download it. This incurs some bandwidth costs.

    Now, if I buy a enough copies of microsoft's latest attempt at an OS to be able to provide every human on the planet with 3 licenses (one for work, a laptop and home computer) and enough to coat the entire land surface area off the planet in licence key stickers, I might, just, possibly, get the licencing costs down to an approximation of that of Linux. Though interestingly this won't include the cost of those pesky microsoft office licenses and other sundry applications to provide the equivalent functionality installed in the standard Ubuntu install. Ok, you could just use open office on windows, but if your going to do that and are one of the above mentioned 50%, why not just run Linux and save yourself the cost of those OS licenses?

  42. Martyn Welch

    @Andy S

    "I actually find it hard to believe that anyone technically adept enough to want linux would buy from dell rather than put a pc together themselves."

    It's a matter of cost. It is simply not possible to build 1 pc, with equivalent specs (including running noise) for a similar price.

  43. Alistair McDonald

    Only low-spec laptop displays on offer

    I've had a couple of Dell laptops - an Inspiron 8000, which ran Red Hat (7.1 & 7.2 at the time) like a dream. When I upgraded to an 8200 a few years later, I foolishly assumed that the laptop would be similarly Linux-friendly, but it was not to be. I can have accelerated X, or have working hibernate, but not both, AND the on-board wireless card has been replaced (proprietary hardware; no Linux drivers) with a linux-friendly one.

    BUT, I'm spolied with the 1600x1200 display I have on the 8200 (it's *never* run windows, btw). I could live with a 1400x1050, as on my 8000, but Dell are only offering 1280x800, which is majorly sucky, and about 10 years old, if you ask me!

    I'm *almost* tempted to buy a same-brand laptop with windoze (or fight them on the phone for *no* OS), but the pre-configured ThinkPads from look very tempting (if a trifle more expensive). Because they *will* work.

  44. James Butler


    Windows users please note that when your system reboots to apply one of the popular "security patches" ... that restarts your 'uptime' clock. So unless you haven't been updating your Windows installation, your 'uptime' figures are probably no longer than 60-90 days.

    Linux only needs to reboot when you update the kernel ... My Fedora servers have uninterrupted 'uptime' of over 3 years. No runs, no drips, no errors.

    Also, sit a new user down in front of any operating system and leave them alone, and they'll probably have a hard time getting going. Computing is still nowhere near transparent enough on ANY platform to be considered 'better' or 'worse' than any other platform.

    When was the last time you thought about the operating system used by your land-line phone? Talk about thin clients ... When day-to-day computing reaches that level of transparency, threads like this will be achingly dull. And if the operating system in primary use at that time is a Microsoft product, I'll eat my phone.

  45. J


    "Does anybody here know one single person not employed in the IT industry who runs Linux as an everyday machine? I bet you don't!"

    You lost your bet, what do I get?

    I'm not working in IT at all, but a biologist using Linux only since 2001 -- in the beginning, with a few dual booting cases because of hardware (scanner, mainly, but also music production), but it's been years ago. I know other biological scientists and mathematicians who also use Linux. And let me tell you, having a PhD does NOT necessarily make you computer literate...

  46. William Klee

    For what it's worth

    I'm one of those non-IT linux users - a Dell linux user, to boot.

    Why linux? It's free, and free is good. It's fast, and it's customizable. I don't play games, and everything I need to do on a computer, I can do in linux. Viruses/virii/whatever - that's a no-brainer. Fast linux vs. Windows bloatware? That's another no-brainer. Install what I want, when I want, without having to dink around with Microsoft's WGA malware? Not having to reboot after installing that software? Multiple choices for any task? All no-brainers. My choice of browsers, my choice of office software, my choice of UI (Gnome vs KDE vs XFCE)? More no-brainers.

    Why Dell? After I got rid of my aging PowerBook, I needed a new laptop, and I could get a lot more laptop from Dell than from Apple. Dell was selling linux preinstalled, I had a 15% off coupon and a close relative who works in Dell support. Seemes a natural to me.

    My stepkids use Linux, my wife uses linux (when she accidentally boots into Ubuntu instead of Mac), two of my nieces use linux and a couple of my co-workers use linux - as long as they can surf for porn (the co-workers, not the nieces [as far as I know]), they don't care. None of them are IT types either.

    Granted, some of the tweaking takes a lot of digging, but I can do that digging. And by the time I'm done, I've actually learned something.

  47. John Bailey

    A possibility

    Something that I have been thinking about the difficulty of finding the Dell Linux computers on their sites..

    Perhaps they are using the lack of publicity as a means of limiting the sales. Not for any sinister purpose, but to discourage the "average" user< thick as two short planks types> from buying a Linux PC and finding that they haven't a clue how to use it, or the inclination to find out, and returning it in a huff. Then they can work out all the glitches in the supply line, and get things as idiot proof as possible. the Linux computers may be available in several countries, but they are still in the market research stage. Expecting Dell or anybody else to switch to offering Linux on everything isn't gong to happen.

    From Dell's perspective, while Ubuntu is very new user friendly, it isn't so easy for some to make the switch. So a cautious roll out is advisable.

    And for P. Pod's benefit. I'm not working in the IT or any other industry. I had a little programming training years ago, and haven't coded since. I build computers as a hobby, so I'm a slightly above average computer literacy.

    I use Fedora 6 every day for photo editing, surfing, email, indexing my DVD collection, managing and playing my mp3 and OGG collection, watching stuff on youtube, and a little light gaming. Pretty much what I used to do on Windows... I do have one Windows PC, which only exists due to hardware problems with devices I bought before I switched to Linux a year or so ago. So when I can source Linux compatible replacements, these will go to friends or eBay. So far, I don't feel limited in the slightest using Linux, which is not only easier to install than Windows on a SATA equipped computer(as I found out last weekend), but it is more responsive and stable.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Don Mitchell

    "But you can't get your work done on Linux or play good games. It's not a practical choice."

    Wrong. The only games you cannot play on like Naitively run in DirectX. The majority of not all games developed my ID Software do run on Linux naitively, mainly due to the fact they use OpenGL instead of DirectX. Granted, generally the support isn't "out the box" and you need to download a patch for it, but it's a damn sight better than being forced to WINE your game, eh?

    Games with Naitive Linux Support:-

    Quake 1.

    Quake 2.

    Quake 3.

    Quake 4.

    Doom 3.

    Return to Castle Wolfenstien.

    Wolfenstien: Enemy Territory.

    Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

    Unreal Tournament 99.

    Unreal Tournament 2k4.

    Unreal Tournament 2k7 (It's set to run on Linux, apparently.)

    Neverwinter Nights (Afaik it's got a Linux client.)

    Suffice to say there are games for Linux. How ever, if you don't fancy blowing people into tiny chunks of gibs and would much rather spend your evening playing "The Sims"...Yeah. You're a bit screwed. Hopefully developers will start to realise how much of a flop Vista appears to be and perhaps consider writing their games for OpenGL3.0 rather than DirectX 10.

  49. BitTwister

    @Mark Rendle

    > I wouldn't be surprised if the man-hours involved in installing Red Hat or Ubuntu on a handful of customised machines far outweighs the time taken to dump XP or Vista images onto hard disks.

    What, you actually believe it isn't possible to dump preconfigured Linux images onto hard disks in the same way? Lordy, how short-sighted is that...

    You really ought to take a look at Linux before trying to slag it off.

  50. Peter Mc Aulay


    Haven't we already seen this exact same charade played out back in 2001? They'll pull the plug on it due to "lack of consumer demand" before 2010, mark my words. Just like they did last time.

  51. 0D0A

    menage a trois!

    Even less expensive is to build one. A little research, some shopping and two afternoons to put it together and install whatever OS one desires.

    In fact, install two or three! These days, I would think, multiple OSes is a prerequisite.

  52. Mike

    Just shitty laptops get ubuntu

    I noticed that none of the laptops the sell with Ubuntu has a proper GFX... And why isnt ubuntu a choice on all Dell pc's? These people clearly need their head checked.

  53. Mike

    only shitty pcs get ubuntu

    laptops that is

  54. ben edwards


    Why should Ubuntu be an option for every desktop? The OS should be waaaay out of the hands of vendors, really, so actually there should be such a lack of supported options that people will have to supply their own.

    There is no be-all and end-all of the 'best' operating system, for either desktop or server. If you know Linux, use it. If you know Windows, use it. If you're curious, use it.

  55. Andrew

    So how much did you bet when you wrote that?

    "Does anybody here know one single person not employed in the IT industry who runs Linux as an everyday machine? I bet you don't!"

    Yes, I know three: one is an editor for a magazine and uses it on his home computer, one works as a therapist for mentally ill people and she uses it on her home computer, and the last guy is a physicist and uses it both at home and (out of his own choice) at work.

    "The only people I know who use Linux every day are Linux developers who need that OS for a good reason."

    Get out more! You’ll make new friends that aren’t working in IT and get the surprise of your life when you end up back at your new friend’s house, ask if you can have a quick go in the internet and discover she’s running Linux. And an even bigger one when you discover she installed it herself rather than got her friend who works in IT to do it for her.

    I’ll put all this in context: You know those young guys, you know, the ones that have always had computers and mobile phones and are still in their early or mid twenties. Guess what? They aren’t afraid of installing operating systems, building their own networks in their homes, upgrading their computer’s hardware themselves etc. because for them, it’s just NORMAL.

    Do you get the picture?

  56. JimJamJamie

    Its not that hard to find an Ubuntu-loaded PC on dell UK

    Just go to desktops on the main page, then look at the drop-down menu at the top. There is an option for 'Open Source PC's'. It's not that difficult, and sure the page says 'Not sure Open Source is for You?' but Ubuntu linux is kinda confuzzling for a Windows user in my opinion.

    And yeah of course Dell is gonna blow Microsoft's trumpet for the cheap copies of XP and Vista.

    You Reg writers are kinda crazy :P

  57. g e

    Tinfoil hat time

    Maybe they hide the Ubuntu site away because if they publicised it more then more people might wonder why it's dearer for a free OS than Windoze and that would lead to people wondering if MS are subsidising the Windows PC's to further entrench their monopoly position in the market...

    Which would mean an arse-kicking for someone

  58. David Joseph

    Heres the link

    After a bit of browsing, to be fair to Dell, the navigation to anywhere leaves a lot to be desired they have no clear seperation between the US site and anywhere else so any link from a non US part of the site usually ends you on the US one for no good reason. Compare and contrast to Google or Yahoo etc


    is the link you need

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Specd up one

    The Inspiron 530 with same parts expect:

    OS: Ubuntu <--> Windows Vista Home

    Gpu: 128mb 8300Gs <--> Integrated Intel® Graphic Media Accelerator 3100

    note: Windows offering gives free upgrade to 250gb (£11.75 extra for Ubuntu) disk and Microsoft Works.

    Prices, Ubuntu £375.49. Windows £314.37

    The 8400Gs 256mb (higher model) sells for £35. Take a bit away for mobo w/o intergrated graphics and lower card, so add £30.

    £375.49 <-> £344.37

    So about £21 MORE for Ubuntu.

    Although 1/500 maybe buying linux, the proportion of people who use linux who builds them by themselves is alot higher.

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "selecting Linux will knock the Gates tax off the price of the PC"

    As a rather irritating UK TV ad says at the moment, "it doesn't work like that" (or it didn't, when I was in the business).

    In order to get the best possible prices for Windows licences, the boys at Dell, HP, etc promise Mr Gates that they will sell a Windows licence with every PC they ship. I believe this applies to specific PC families rather than a company's whole product range eg HPQ Deskpros get compulsory Windows but HPQ Proliants (being servers) have optional OSes. Same for Dell but I don't know their names.

    So when Mikey Dell comes to want to sell PCs with no Windows at all, it is actually commercially quite tricky for him, because unless Bill wants to be generous, Mikey loses the "most favoured vendor" status.

    Or something like that.

  61. Jim Baker


    Dell's core business depends utterly on Microsoft. For the foreseeable future the vast majority of their business will be Windows, regardless of how they position any Linux offering. They doubtless have an excellent relationship with Redmond on both price and support, given the huge number of OEM licenses that they shift. If that relationship was to deteriorate it would inevitably hurt their margin.

    Tokenism to stay friendly with a minority is one thing, but is anyone honestly expecting Dell to allow customers to opt out of the Microsoft tax in the standard purchasing web flow? Really?

  62. Albert

    It's not that straight forward

    Dell has an automated process for installing Operating Systems and software on their systems. So, it is wise to start with a few limited configurations to iron out the bugs.

    Also, and potentially more importantly are the third party drivers.

    Dell must ensure all hardware is supported by native drivers in Windows and needs to ensure there are drivers for all the hardware in their Ubuntu systems. I expect not all hardware in all the different Dell system options currently has stable and reliable Linux drivers. From a support standpoint if they use the beta drivers that’s just setting themselves up for a whole lot of pain.

    I think this is a great move by Dell – if nothing else it is getting Linux in the press. If it works out then even better.

    For context. I use XP at work (happy to do so) and Ubuntu 7.04 at home.

    I moved to Ubuntu in March on a home built system.

    I don’t do gaming at home. I have a PS2 for that.

    I do the normal things. Email, web, word processing, spreadsheets, video editing, digital images, music playing (ripping CDs) and web design. All except the video editing worked out of the box and the video editing was sorted with a quick trip to - I don’t know about the community support for other distros, but I have been hugely impressed by the openness and rapid assistance I have received from the Ubuntu community.

  63. Rich

    Crying over spilt milk?

    To me its just someone a little upset over some spilt milk. If you didn’t open your eyes on Dells own website, Google Ubuntu and Dell it’s the very first result. And Wahahow £20 more for an OS, anyone would think a bomb had gone off. Dell is simply releasing open source operating systems slowly so that they can get an infrastructure in place for supporting them. If you think about it its been a very long time since 2 different Operating Systems have been in the same store at the same time to buy. Its a challenging concept for retailers online and off. Considering PC World sell Macs and don’t support them, Dell are doing a much better job.

  64. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To Don Mitchell

    "But you can't get your work done on Linux or play good games. It's not a practical choice."

    Damn, I must have imagined the last eight years my career then. Mate, I use XP, Linux and OSX, like them all and would like to think that I have a fair idea of their relative strengths and weaknesses. True, Linux is weaker than Windows on the games front but to say that Linux is not practical for work ( let alone games ) I think probably says more about your own lack of knowledge and prejudices than actual fact.

  65. Edward Rose

    Dell's not all that bad ;)

    Provided they offer Linux on a range of PCs (low end, mid range and high end) then they are being quite sane in what they are doing.

    That said, if they are only offering it on high end machines they are clearly trying to cut out the Linux market to 'prove' it's not viable. Foolish - if they let things run the natural course they will make the most profit, either way.

    Remember, Dell really is best for large companies looking to roll out XX PCs, it's not the cost of the system at this point. Companies will generally care more for the support provided.

    Used Debian and Gentoo for years. Nope, knew nothing about them to begin with. It's called learning, same with computers. Learned about them from piecing broken ones together. Nope, don't and have never worked in IT.

    *nix is great for gaming (OK you need WINE/Cedega for a lot of them), but for the games that do work, it is great ;) Lots of brilliant kids games for free too.

    With the exception of specific software (Autocad, MWO etc) then IMO *nix has more benefits than an XP/NT machine for work. Used NT, now XP at work, use *nix at home.

    I know only one person who doesn't use Linux and can install WinXP etc. Everyone else has the annoying need to phone me to install anything like that. I try to explain to them to just get on and give it a try, but meh!

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Quake, Quake 2, Quake 3 *and* Quake 4? Truly Linux gamers are blessed.

    (oh, and mustn't forget TuxRacer...)

  67. Peter Green

    @Don Mitchell

    Hey Don,

    Love your statement: "But you can't get your work done on Linux or play good games. It's not a practical choice."

    Guess my current career in IT is a figment of my imagination, including the bit where I use Fedora as my laptops operating system... Hmm...

    TBH, for a techie, there are far more useful tools that come with the distribution - md5sum, ssh and bash itself are just a couple off the top of my head that I couldn't work without and guess what? They don't come with a Windows installation...

    Totally with you on the games front however... Cedega ( is cool, but by no means perfect, and I can't always wait for the latest game to be confirmed as working!

  68. A. Merkin

    Did you Factor in...

    The crapware discount? Machines may cost less if AV vendors et al. pay DeLL to install trial versions.

    On the US site, comparing an Inspiron 1420 Ubuntu vs Vista results in an $125 difference in prices (UB $744 vs V $869)

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