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January 12, 2004

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MozillaQuest Op-Ed

Does Dell Support Linux?

Mike Angelo -- 12 January 2004 (C) -- Page 3

Article Index
Linux is Better Than MS Windows

The editorial position of MozillaQuest Magazine is that the GNU-Linux operating system and desktop are better than the MS Windows OS and desktop.

To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

To learn how to run MS Windows-based software and accessories in GNU-Linux, please see our article Crossover Office 2.1 Runs MS Windows Software on GNU-Linux Systems

If there were no other reason to chose a GNU/Linux OS distribution over MS Windows XP, not having to put up with the Microsoft product activation mechanism would be more than reason enough to chose GNU/Linux!

Microsoft Product Activation Note

There are many reasons why Microsoft product activation is a bad thing. Discussion of all the bad and obnoxious things about Microsoft product activation is beyond the scope of today's article. However, a word of caution to anyone who is considering installing Microsoft Windows XP on a computer system. The Microsoft product activation mechanism that Windows XP places on your system can shut down your computer until such time as Microsoft decides to let you use your own computer. In other words, Microsoft, not you, ultimately is in control of your Windows XP computer system

There is something that you can do to counter the Microsoft product activation mechanism if it does shut down your Windows XP system. Install a GNU/Linux distribution on your computer before Microsoft can shut you down. This is called a multi-booting configuration. If you use a current GNU/Linux operating system such as Mandrake 9.1, you can boot into Linux and then access all your files on the computer even though the Microsoft product activation mechanism has shut down your Windows XP system.

Dell's Response

For the most part, Dell refused to respond meaningfully to these issues.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Why does Dell not sell desktops with Linux pre-installed?

Carmen Maverick: At this time, commercial demand is not there for corporate desktops, which is the largest desktop market Dell supports. We are closely watching the 'client' side of Linux to see if/how/where it's growing, but at present the demand is on the server products.

Carmen Maverick: But, we do offer select "n-Series" client products that ship without a Microsoft Windows OS. The n-Series models ship with a FreeDOS CD and are ready to load the user's OS of choice, which they can obtain from Dell S&P or from another source.

[Note: However, our legwork indicates that Dell's salespeople do not tell callers about this.]

Carmen Maverick: You can now find the Dimension 2400n, OptiPlex GX270n and 160Ln, and the Dell Precision 360n and 450n with FreeDOS for sale online in the small business store at Dell.com. Scroll down to view "Shopping Alternatives" and "Alternate OS Options." To see the Dell Precision systems with Red Hat, select Dell Precision then click on "Recommended Systems."

[Note: However, our legwork indicates that Dell's salespeople do not tell callers about this.]

MozillaQuest Magazine: Why does Dell not offer these or similar machines with Linux pre-installed -- or at least with a Linux CD?

Carmen Maverick: In general, customers are not asking for it.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Well, my friend asked for it, a MozillaQuest Magazine tech editor asked for it, and I asked for it. We all were told that Dell does not do that. So, your "customers are not asking for it" does not work for me. It seems pretty clear that your sales people do not want to sell Linux boxes.

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: Dell builds its systems to order. It's not like if you build machines on spec with Linux you might end up eating them.

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: I see no reason why if Dell really does support Linux (1) it cannot offer pre-installed Linux on all its desktop and laptop machines, (2) let customers know that Linux is available, and (3) actively promote Linux-based computers.

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: It appears that at best Dell is doing little to nothing insofar as desktop Linux is concerned. However, it seems more that Dell is anti-desktop-Linux.

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: And even on the server side, your sales people certainly are anti-Linux.

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: If what Dell's sales people are doing and saying Linux-wise is not consistent with Dell policy, then some heads need to roll and there needs to be some heavy duty Linux-sensitivity and Linux-awareness training for Dell's sales force. IMNSHO

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

Looking further into the appearance that Dell is anti-Linux and is very pro-Microsoft and pro-Windows, we noticed that Dell recommends MS-Windows and that it does not recommend GNU-Linux. We discussed that with the Dell people too. Their response was very evasive and disappointing.

MozillaQuest Magazine: I noticed that there are "Dell recommends Microsoft Windows XP" promotional notices all over the Dell Web site. Why does Dell recommend Windows XP over Linux?

Carmen Maverick: It's a promotion, nothing more.

MozillaQuest Magazine: You are opening lots of anti-Linux doors with that reply.

In our opinion that is a most lame cop-out. It suggests that it is OK to do or say anything under the color of a promotion. It suggests that it is OK to mislead customers under the guise of promotional activity. It also suggests that Microsoft is somehow paying Dell to recommend MS Windows XP. Humbug!

If Dell really is saying that it honestly believes MS Windows to be a better OS than GNU-Linux that is one thing and Dell's opinion would have to be respected. However, if Dell knows or has reason to believe that the GNU-Linux OS is better than the MS-Windows OS, then promoting MS-Windows over or instead of GNU-Linux is misleading Dell's customers.

Why is Dell recommending Microsoft Windows XP and not recommending GNU-Linux to its customers? If Dell claims to support Linux, then why does Dell not recommend Linux? Does Dell really say that MS Windows is a better OS than is GNU-Linux?

(Please see the Linux is Better Than MS Windows note and Microsoft Product Activation Note in the right-hand side bar above.)

We asked Carmen Maverick these questions and she refused to answer them.

MozillaQuest Magazine: So, are you saying that you are not saying that Windows is better than Linux but that you are getting paid-off somehow by Microsoft to promote Windows?

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: Does that mean that unless the Linux community pays-off Dell it will not promote Linux?

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: I am going to ask you outright here, is GNU-Linux or MS Windows the better operating system?

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: To me, your promoting (recommending) MS Windows and not promoting (recommending) GNU-Linux means that you are choosing Windows over Linux!

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: If that is so, then please have the guts and honesty to admit that.

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: If it is not true, then please have the guts and honesty to admit that Linux is better than Windows and recommend Linux everyplace where you recommend Windows. What's fair is fair.

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

Why not Mandrake and SUSE?

Getting back to an earlier e-mail discussion:

MozillaQuest Magazine: Why only Red Hat? Why not SUSE and/or Mandrake too?

Carmen Maverick: For the time being, Red Hat is our partner for factory-installed Linux as that satisfies the bulk of demand from our customer. One of the things Dell is known for is our Custom Factory Integration (CFI) program in which a customer can arrange for a batch of systems to be delivered to their site pre-loaded with whatever software and images they desire. Wherever possible, Dell offers support for as many Linux distributions as we can, based on customer demand. For example, we recently entered into an arrangement to support Dell customers in China running Red Flag Linux. Also Dell and SUSE very recently entered into an agreement to manage joint-customer issues to resolution. This provides a cooperative support environment between the two companies and the customer. Dell tech support can help a customer with an issue determine if it's hardware or software. If it's software, we can connect them directly to someone at SUSE. This is an example of programs and services we're offering in addition to Red Hat.

MozillaQuest Magazine: That tells what you are doing. However, it does not explain why Dell chooses to pre-install Red Hat and does not choose to install Mandrake and SUSE.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Inter alia, Dell sales people are actively discouraging customers from using Linux, Open Source, and Free Software. However, from what you say above that is not what they are supposed to be doing.

MozillaQuest Magazine: On the other hand, inter alia, Dell is doing nothing to facilitate, help, or encourage people to use Linux, Open Source, or Free Software.

Carmen Maverick: Dell is supporting the Open Source movement by sponsoring the standards bodies in that movement; Dell is an active sponsor of OSDL and FSF.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Interesting. Can you elaborate on that please? What does this sponsoring entail? Is it monetary contribution? If so, how much money?

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: While you do a have a Microsoft-free "n-Series" it seems if one does not know to look for it they will not find it. Nor are your sales people letting callers know about the "n-Series" or any other Linux options or systems.

MozillaQuest Magazine: Other companies such as HP are offering desktops with Linux pre-installed. Please see for example:

Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

and HP to Ship Desktop PCs with Mandrake 9.1 Linux Pre-Installed.

MozillaQuest Magazine: IBM has a TV advertising campaign aimed at promoting Linux. (Although IBM's commercial with the little blonde kid tells me nothing about what is Linux. Moreover, if I did not know what is Linux, I would go away from that IBM commercial with the mis-conception that Linux is some little blonde kid -- not an OS. Or am I missing something on that one?)

MozillaQuest Magazine: What is Dell doing to promote Linux for desktop computing?

[No response form Carmen Maverick]

MozillaQuest Magazine: What is Dell doing to promote Linux, Open Source, and/or Free Software in general?

[No response form Carmen Maverick, other than the previous mention that Dell sponsors OSDL and FSF.]

MozillaQuest Magazine: (BTW, overall Dell has some very good TV commercials. I like them. However, I do not see anything in them promoting or supporting Linux, Open Source, and/or Free Software.)

Carmen Maverick: Well I'm very glad you like our commercials! Actually, we do have at least one commercial that mentions Linux. I'm not much of a TV watcher but I've seen it a couple times. If I can, I'll see if it's something I can get my hands on and forward to you.

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