Monday, 1 December 2008

Preloaded Linux. Simply Excellence

In one of my previous posts, I pointed out how hard it was to find a decent laptop to suit my needs. I did try to evaluate the Dell Ubuntu machines at that time but they were so hard to find that I gave up. Eventually, I bought a MacBook Pro and have been really happy with it.

Well, since then I've been approached by a combination of friends and family members, looking for computer help or advice. Below are the general details:

1) A friend with minimal computer experience, looking for a small form factor machine for browsing, email, some spreadsheet work, etc.
2) A friend looking to replace an old XP laptop for browsing, listening to music, word processing, etc
3) A family member with an existing Dell 17" Inspiron. This came with Vista, which was now refusing to boot properly. It appeared to start up but nothing responded after the Desktop was loaded. The machine could only be booted into Safe Mode.
4) A friend who had used XP before and was now looking for a small form factor machine for browsing, IM, listening to music, etc.

It's fairly obvious that each of the above is a typical non-technical user, just looking to perform basic tasks on their machine. It's also fairly obvious, at least to me, that a modern Linux desktop is absolutely perfect in these scenarios. So, that's exactly what I suggested and in each case they took my advice.

Three of them ended up with Dell/Ubuntu machines and the other bought an Eee PC 901, now running Ubuntu Eee. (I can't begin to explain how impressed I am with Ubuntu Eee, it's simply brilliant)

One of the important pieces of advice was making sure they understood that they weren't getting Windows boxes. I took some time to explain that they would be able to do all they needed with the new machines but would have to use different applications in many cases. OpenOffice instead of MS Office, Pidgin instead of Live Messenger, etc.

I agreed to do the basic setup of the machines for each person. Basically, my job was to ensure that Java, Skype, Flash, wireless, codecs, etc all worked when the users got their machine. This is where pre-installed Linux really comes into it's own. The Dell/Ubuntu machines were a dream to configure. Most of the codecs worked out of the box. Wireless just worked, as did the webcam, etc. The Eee PC was just as easy to set up. It only took about 30 mins per machine to have it fully functional.

Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the saying goes. You can never quite know how people will react when given a new machine that's "not Windows". I could only hope I had explained things well enough before they agreed to use Ubuntu.

I'm happy to report that so far, I've had really positive feedback from everyone. These people are just happy using their computer as it should be: a tool to get things done. They appreciate not having to worry about things like viruses, malware & spyware.

I met one of them today. They've been using their machine for about a month now and I asked how things were going. I got a very interesting response. Everything was good but they had been looking for their machine online and couldn't find it. They could only find the Windows version.

I asked if I could help and they said another friend of theirs wanted the exact same machine. It had to run what they were running. I found this fascinating for four reasons:

1) My friend was clearly impressed enough to show off her machine and recommend it to others.
2) She didn't know she was running Ubuntu and didn't care. She just knew it wasn't Windows and it worked really well. All she had to do was find out from me what they needed to order.
3) They didn't buy the Windows machine, even though that's the only one they could find. They preferred to wait and get the Linux version.
4) They couldn't find the Ubuntu Dell machine. Exactly the same issue I had a few months ago. Nudge Nudge Dell. Make it easy for your customers to find what they want!

On that final point above, a previous comment on this blog by Vadi suggests trying System 76. I'll definitely consider them in future.

So, there you have it. Four more happy Linux users and another on the way.


Anonymous said...

The nice interface on Ubuntu EEE that you see wasn't made by them, so there is nothing impressive there. They just made a distro that infringes on copyrights of both Canonical and Asus and that's about it :P

(so, you probably won't get any official support if the OS breaks down either. Just beware!)

Rory Curtis said...

Thanks for the heads up Vadi. I'm certainly not aware of any legal issues with Ubuntu Eee.

However, perhaps Canonical, Asus and Ubuntu Eee should all get together. Because in terms of usuability the Ubuntu Eee interface is excellent. It's way ahead of anything else I've seen on a netbook.

TripleII said...

On the "make it easier to find". This is my #1 complaint. In many ways Dell has led the pack, however, MS still has very tight control over even them and they can't integrate (what is really needed) the Ubuntu site into the main site lest they invoke the wrath of Balmer. Look at the way they exploded when the Ubuntu mini was included on Dell's flyers.

It is slowly coming, but head to head non MS alternatives is a fight MS will not give up for a long time. It is virtually impossible to find a 6 cell Acer Aspire One with Linux pre-installed, and can anyone find a Linux MSI Wind?


Rory Curtis said...


I totally agree with everything you say. The situation is a bit farcical with MS having so much control over the hardware vendors.

However, that's the situation at the moment. All we can do to change it is to continually seek out the Linux option. Eventually, they'll get the message.

Anonymous said...

You can find Ubuntu machines here.
Nice story.

Anonymous said...


how about installing the new ubuntu, but dell flavoured.

all media buttons and hardware works out-the-box.

look here: