Reg readers take the Dell 'Open-source PC' challenge

Freedom is just another word for nothing to buy

The Others

And there's another class of Dell customer which has enjoyed the luxury of Linux pre-installs only to see the vendor begin dancing and cut them off.

"Hi Ashlee, i am working for the goverment in Germany," writes Walter. "We have a contract with Dell and normally we order our LINUX systems as PC without OS - no Problem - until recently. Suddenly we are forced to buy WinXP (as it is the cheapest Option). IHMO someone is putting pressure on DELL. it would be interesting to hear if there are other companies (like HP) that do the same ? IMHO there is something going on that has nothing to do with the markets, perhaps something for the EU commission ?"

Or take Niilo Neuvo, the chief technology officer at BaseN.

"We had an interesting incident with Dell. We bought a OptiPlex GX620 Ultra Small Factor machine a couple of weeks ago. The sales rep built us a version of the machine without Windows and all the other desktop stuff (we were planning on using a bunch of these for a computing grid).

"A couple of days ago we decided to buy one with a Pentium-D processor as that is where the world is going anyways. The same sales rep said that when you have Pentium-D processors on this machine she can't configure a setup without Windows.

"These Microsoft hurdles just make life so difficult for no sensible reasons at all. I just don't understand why there are people on this planet that have time to devise rules like these."

But, Niilo, dude, it's as easy as Dell!

And let's not think this is a US-centric story.

Say, for example, that you travel over to this UK page in search of a Dell system with Linux. We've all learned that Dell will not pre-load Linux on a PC, but it's quite proud of the fact that it will pre-load Linux on a workstation. And, luckily, that's what you're after this time.

So, off you go and click "Linux" in the "What Operating System are you looking for" category. Three workstations pop up as options - the Precision 670, Precision 470 and Precision 380. Oh, man, this is looking good.

If you click on any of the three systems, the first screen that pops up won't have an OS choice at all. It will, however, have an ad for Microsoft Office Small Business Edition with Dell recommending the software even though you said you wanted to run Linux. How silly.

No problem. An ad isn't enough to faze you. After all, you're probably man enough to recompile a kernel. So you click on "Customize and Buy" because surely that's where you can pick some kind of Linux OS boxes and move on.

Well, the first option you get for all these boxes is actually WIndows XP Professional. It's the default selection. Dell mentions it twice for one mention of Red Hat Linux, even though you've already told the server that you want to buy Linux. Dell informs you that you'll have to call a customer service representative to order this system with Linux and makes it seem like you'd have to do the same for Windows.

Not true.

If you click "Customize and Buy" one more time, you're taken to a screen with Windows XP Professional SP2 as the only option. You can order that one right off the web site!

Dell, of course, has invested tens of millions in Red Hat through its venture capital arm. But what do we see in the fine print on this new page, "Dell recommends Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional "The Dell Precision 380n supports the Red Hat™ Enterprise Linux Operating System. Please speak to your Dell Representative for further details." That's a solid way to promote one of your investments.

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