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Old 02-28-2017, 09:06 AM   #1
jeremy
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Why Dellís gamble on Linux laptops has paid off


Quote:
The whole juggernaut that is now Linux on Dell started as the brainchild of two core individuals, Barton George (Senior Principal Engineer) and Jared Dominguez (OS Architect and Linux Engineer).

It was their vision that began it all back in 2012. It was long hours, uncertain futures and sheer belief that people really did want Linux laptops that sustained them. Here is the untold story of how Dell gained the top spot in preinstalled Linux on laptops.

Where do you start when no one has ever really even touched such a concept? The duo did have some experience of the area before. George explained that the XPS and M3800 Linux developerís laptops werenít Dellís first foray into Linux laptops. Those with long memories may remember Dell testing the waters for a brief while by having a Linux offering alongside Windows laptops. By their own admission it didnít work out. ďWe misread the market,Ē commented George.

This first attempt at Linux on laptops failed mainly because most non-technical users were blinded by the cheap price and didnít understand what they were actually buying.

Dell found itself with purchasers who thought that they had scored an incredibly cheap laptop only to hit the inevitable question: ďWhere the heck has Windows gone?Ē which was generally followed by costly support issues and potential returns for the company.

The other unfortunate side effect was that by appealing to users with low-end hardware the experience was less than impressive even for those knowledgeable in Linux.

Thankfully Dell decided to give Linux on laptops a second attempt thanks to George and Dominguezís internal lobbying efforts. It isnít a well-known fact but Dell has an internal skunkworks project where tiny projects can pitch ideas and get official Dell support.

Proving you canít keep a good operating system down, George and Dominguez bid for funds in the Dell projects forum to produce a quality alternative to OS X and Windows. It was a tense wait to see if they had done enough to get the blessing of the skunkworks.

Thankfully, the project scored a green light. However, the struggle was only just beginning as they had a comparatively miniscule budget of $40,000 (around £32,000, AU$52,000) and just six months to prove that not only could they build a compelling Linux on laptops offering but that Dell could turn it into a viable product and make money off of it.

Learning how not to create Linux laptops from the first time was helpful but there were some major differences with the new project. The first one being that they needed to nail their market and it was a crucial concern given their previous failure to find the right one.
More at TechRadar...

Are any LQ members using a Dell Linux laptop?

--jeremy
 
Old 02-28-2017, 04:51 PM   #2
kingbeowulf
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I've toyed with either a Dell or System76 for personal use, though can't yet justify the expense. My employer provides Dell laptops (Latitude E7440 as of last year) which fire up remarkably well using Slackware - no driver issues beyond some configuration fiddling. Our Sun will be a red giant and fry the Earth before I use Ubuntu and derivatives - but that is another story.

Dell seems to take seriously that hardware on their laptops should support F/OSS software. Anecdotally, ever since Dell started offering Linux laptops, Linux compatible has improved over much of their product line.
 
Old 02-28-2017, 05:33 PM   #3
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Yes indeed. I've been very happy with my Dell Precision laptop. It's a great piece of hardware, and I saved about $100 by choosing Linux instead of Windows.

The only negative part of the experience was the preinstalled operating system. It came with a customized "Dellbuntu" 14.04 that was kind of like Ubuntu, except worse. (For example: the Windows/super key is deliberately disabled, I'm guessing as a concession to Microsoft?) I immediately replaced Dellbuntu with Fedora, though, so no harm done.

My favorite thing about the Precision compared to other Dells I have used in the past? No Broadcom!!!
 
Old 02-28-2017, 05:48 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowpine View Post
It came with a customized "Dellbuntu" 14.04 that was kind of like Ubuntu, except worse.
I always nuked Dell's OEM software from Orbit.
 
Old 03-01-2017, 12:25 PM   #5
ddeimeke
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jeremy View Post
Are any LQ members using a Dell Linux laptop?
After years and years of Thinkpads I witched to a Dell Latitude and never looked back.

Great Hardware, robust and 100% Linux support.

Cheers

Dirk
 
Old 03-02-2017, 07:01 AM   #6
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I'm still a heavy Thinkpad user at work, and I'd seriously consider a Dell, but the only Ubuntu models with a 15" screen they sell here are the crappy Inspiron ones (sub-$300). The XPS 13 already disqualifies itself for me because of the small screen, but it also appears to be glossy only.

If they ever manage to sell a matte 15" with the specs of the XPS 13, I'd be interested. Until then I'll stick to the Thinkpad T series (currently on 460s and very happy).
 
Old 03-02-2017, 01:30 PM   #7
snowpine
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psy-Q View Post
I'm still a heavy Thinkpad user at work, and I'd seriously consider a Dell, but the only Ubuntu models with a 15" screen they sell here are the crappy Inspiron ones (sub-$300).
Where is "here"?

In the US at least, Ubuntu is available on the following 15" Precision laptop models: 3510, 3520, 5510, 5520, 7510, and also on the 17" Precision 7710. (I also think there will be a new 7520 and 7720 coming very soon.) The 15" FHD matte screen is glorious in my opinion.

Make sure you are looking in the Dell Business store, not Dell Home. You might also take a look in the Dell Outlet, if you have any interest in a refurbished laptop.

Last edited by snowpine; 03-02-2017 at 01:37 PM.
 
Old 03-02-2017, 02:42 PM   #8
Timothy Miller
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I have far too many Dell laptops. E5250, E5450, E7450, E5470 and E7470. All work without any issues in linux (although there were issues up until recently with the Broadwell-based ones).
 
Old 03-02-2017, 04:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowpine View Post
Where is "here"?
Switzerland, the land that Dell forgot. It's been like this forever, almost none of the Dell Linux products ever made it here. Sorry, just noticed I don't have a country in my profile on this forum.

Edit: I did check the business section now, and there's only the XPS 13 there too

Last edited by Psy-Q; 03-02-2017 at 04:18 PM.
 
Old 03-03-2017, 09:33 AM   #10
snowpine
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Weird, I just went on the Dell Switzerland site, and was able to configure the above-mentioned Precision models with Ubuntu at a savings of CHF 162.54. But it could be giving me different options based on my IP address being in the USA. In any case, I'd suggest a phone call to Dell Euro Business Sales. They may be able to order what you need for you. If not, you might consider the Dell XPS 15. It is similar hardware to the Precision 15 so you would probably have good luck installing Linux on it. The two things to watch out for would be wifi and video drivers.
 
Old 03-03-2017, 09:40 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snowpine View Post
Weird, I just went on the Dell Switzerland site, and was able to configure the above-mentioned Precision models with Ubuntu at a savings of CHF 162.54.
Oh, you can custom-configure the OS parts? Doh! I'd completely given up on that (last time I checked a few years ago there were no options other than Win 7). I'll try it out and leave a response here if it works. Thanks for the hint I'd just searched for "Linux" in their site-wide search and the XPS 13 is all that come sup.

Edit: OK, so at least the Precision 5520 and 7710, the Latitude 12 7000 as well as the XPS 13 have an Ubuntu option. The other Latitudes that I've looked at don't have it. The Precisions also have a "No OS" option, but changing it to "Ubuntu" instead will save you €10 more (?). I don't know why it suddenly switched from CHF to Euro, Dell's site be quirky.

You're probably right that it's best to call them to make sense of this. They used to have a realtime chat option, but that seems to have disappeared. If I order a Dell I'd like not to e.g. order an XPS 15 with Windows just to delete Windows from it, it'd be nicer to send the signal that their effort preinstalling Linux is appreciated by buying one with with Linux. I'd be deleting Ubuntu as well to stick Debian on it, but it's the thought that counts I guess.

Last edited by Psy-Q; 03-03-2017 at 09:55 AM.
 
Old 03-03-2017, 10:25 AM   #12
hydrurga
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Inspired by this thread, I went on to Dell's UK site to have a look (my laptop isn't going to last forever ).

The Ubuntu range in the Home section consists of a Celeron-based laptop (no thanks) at £230, then a series of XPS's starting at £1180. Nothing in between!

In the Business section, they start with a Celeron-based laptop at £191 ex VAT, and the next one up price-wise is a Latitude at £879 ex VAT.

I tried a few other models to see if I could change the operating system to Ubuntu from Windows 10, but no dice.

Dell might have some Ubuntu machines on sale, but they don't seem to be catering for laptops in my price-range.
 
Old 03-05-2017, 10:54 AM   #13
ddeimeke
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psy-Q View Post
I'm still a heavy Thinkpad user at work, and I'd seriously consider a Dell, but the only Ubuntu models with a 15" screen they sell here are the crappy Inspiron ones (sub-$300). The XPS 13 already disqualifies itself for me because of the small screen, but it also appears to be glossy only.
Take a look at the Latitude series. As far as an employee told me, these are the "Thinkpads" of Dell.

Cheers

Dirk
 
Old 03-05-2017, 10:57 AM   #14
ddeimeke
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psy-Q View Post
Switzerland, the land that Dell forgot. It's been like this forever, almost none of the Dell Linux products ever made it here. Sorry, just noticed I don't have a country in my profile on this forum.
Switzerland here as well. You might consider becoming a member of the Linux foundation. If you are, you will get a rebate on Dell machines.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Psy-Q View Post
Edit: I did check the business section now, and there's only the XPS 13 there too
Dell XPS Notebooks have docking stations which are not supported with Linux. THis was a "no-go" for me. A docking stations is essential for me.

Cheers

Dirk
 
  


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