Dell and Linux
By NoMoreNicksLeft (Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 01:31:36 PM EST) linux, fud, dell, hardware, drivers (all tags)
A recent slashdot story makes it sound like Dell is really sympathetic to the linux community. In truth, they're either lying, or they don't understand a single fucking thing about what we need.

I don't need them to "try to support 3 dozen different distros". And while they are apparently loathe to "support one distro over another, and alienate all of us", they do not get it.

I need a computer whose ACPI implementation isn't so fucked up that it's impossible to get it working. I need them to publish a .config file for all the hardware in the laptop, and leave it at that. If a driver doesn't exist, they need to publish a GPL driver for it, and leave it at that. It -will- get merged into the kernel tree. Any specific X drivers (synaptic touchpad, gpu) would be nice, too.

If they do these 4 things, every distro will take care of supporting that machine on its own, without Dell having to spend any more time on it than that.

It's pretty fucking effortless, compared to what they must go through just fine-tuning the single window distribution that is out there.

Why can't they see this?

That's all they need

Dell and Linux | 41 comments (41 topical, 0 hidden)
Honestly by lm (4.00 / 4) #1 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 02:10:45 PM EST
If odds were very good that Dell would make more money by following your advice than they would spend in following your advice, they would do it.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
But only by blixco (4.00 / 1) #2 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 02:24:15 PM EST
if it could be done for less than twenty-five cents an hour.
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Taken out of context I must seem so strange - Ani DiFranco
[ Parent ]
That's simply not the case. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #3 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 03:02:12 PM EST
What I'm talking about is the total opposite of them developing a distro fine-tuned for their machines, or them spending much money at all. I'm talking about them (the biggest point) publishing a single text file that tells you what kernel/modules to compile so that linux runs smoothly. It's not even the sort of thing most users would directly use, but within a month of it being available, there'd be 20 distros that support that specific machine.

This is something that they don't have to hire new employees for. That they don't have to bill current employees to for any significant amount of time. Except in some weird corporate accounting way, it wouldn't cost them anything extra at all. Period.

The other more minor points, those are things they should be doing anyway. To comply with standards that are simple and clear, and would no doubt benefit their machines no matter what OS was running on them.

It's not about money (even the /. article doesn't claim that it is, the biggest excuse is "not alienating the linux community by picking favorites). It's about them being clueless. No one there in a position to make a decision understands how simple it would be to support all linux.

We see this mistake, again and again, where some idiot hardware maker has the drivers available in RPM for a specific version of redhat (often a version that's 4 years old), when if they'd do it right, every halfass distro there is would support that hardware perfectly in a matter of weeks.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
Right, I haven't a clue as to what I talking about by lm (4.00 / 1) #4 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 03:32:07 PM EST
Dell, Inc. isn't interested at all in increasing their profit margins.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Yeh, sure. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #5 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 03:48:51 PM EST
They're hemmorhaging profit by tasking some mid-level engineer with spending 5 hours per quarter to toss up a 25k ascii file in some lonely little corner of the ftp server.

Give me a fucking break.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
I think the person who knows about Dell by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #17 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 02:55:50 AM EST
already posted in this thread. And I'm fairly sure he knows exactly the standards Dell needs to release stuff, and even if it is crappy stuff, I'm sure the standards they require are far in excess of what can be done by a couple of engineers when there's nothing else that needs doing.

[ Parent ]
Their standards need to change then. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #35 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:47:03 AM EST
Because you are either saying that posting the correct kernel .config file is beyond what a few engineers are capable of...

Or, you are saying that they're standards don't allow them to do this, which is the correct approach to supporting linux.

The incorrect approach is to think that they have to pre-install it, and have a proper candy-assed little unbuntu variation with a bunch of binary-only drivers.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
He does have a point by LodeRunner (2.00 / 0) #6 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 05:40:18 PM EST
It wouldn't be terribly costly for Dell to provide a decent Linux experience for their customers.

Granted, there are some problems:

• decent ACPI implementation: if it's a hardware problem, it's unlikely to be fixed;
• a .config file: a good idea, but still, to which kernel release? a vanilla .config may not work on those patched distro kernels -- anyway, I get your message: for it to serve as a base for distro makers. That would be nice.
• GPL drivers: it's probably easier for Dell to pick hardware that's supported than to publish sources for drivers for what they currently use (third party code, etc). That is to say, not easy at all.
• specific X drivers: same issue. Though both Nvidia and ATI publish drivers, so they could only point to the correct ones (maybe shipping a xorg.conf, analogously to the .config idea)
Having said that, hw support on Linux has come a long way. It's not a complicated issue as it was years ago, thanks not only to the evolution of Linux but also of the hardware (USB or PCI busses vs. old-style "may crash your machine" ISA probing). Companies seem to be still in the old "supporting Linux is hard!" mentality.

[ Parent ]
I'm not saying it would be terribly costly by lm (2.00 / 0) #7 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 05:52:23 PM EST
I'm just pointing out that I haven't seen any concrete facts that would suggest that supporting Linux would do anything to improve Dell's bottom line. If you think Dell hasn't done the math on it, you're nuts.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
a related point: by garlic (2.00 / 0) #8 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 06:15:42 PM EST
is there any other large vendor out there making a large profit by supporting the linux market for personal use?

[ Parent ]
Being that Dell is a hardware vendor... by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #11 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 08:02:26 PM EST
It makes as much sense to ask if they make a large profit supporting whatever the next big game is.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
it does. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #19 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 03:43:59 AM EST
because the hardware doesn't do much without software, dell needs to design their systems around the idea that their customers will want to run software on the machines. So, since a popular game will have probably similar numbers of users as linux does, it seems like it should be similar. However, many games run with very similar requirements, making it both eaiser and more profitable for dell.

[ Parent ]
I think he's saying by martingale (4.00 / 1) #9 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 06:19:25 PM EST
Somebody's done the math. And whoever's done the math is incompetent in regard to linux.

I believe that.
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$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

[ Parent ]
I would believe that they are incompetent by lm (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 02:20:05 AM EST
But that doesn't mean that they're wrong.

Thus far  NoMoreNicks is arguing entirely by assertion without having actually done the math. Given a choice between him being right and Dell choosing not to pursue an avenue which does not increase their profit margins, I'll pick Dell.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
of course by martingale (2.00 / 0) #16 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 02:33:16 AM EST
Linux may simply not fit in Dell's strategy and the way its infrastructure is set up. That doesn't invalidate NMN's assertion or yours. Dell may want Linux to slot into the same infrastructural space Windows occupies, which NMN claims is completely the wrong way to go about it. Moreover, the IT industy is replete with examples of large successful companies who missed the next revolution, and small companies who ate their lunch. Dell started that way in fact.
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$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
[ Parent ]
Let me know when the revolution happens by lm (2.00 / 0) #18 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 03:19:23 AM EST
If it happens within the next two calendar years, I'll eat my words.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
yeah. and linux is almost ready for the desktop. by garlic (2.00 / 0) #20 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 03:45:56 AM EST
just like that past 10 years, when it's almost been ready.

[ Parent ]
am I called Martin? by martingale (2.00 / 0) #24 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 04:23:22 AM EST
You don't see MartinGellComputers.Com stamped on my T-shirt do you? How should I know when the next disruptive tech is ready to eat Michael Dell's business?

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$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

[ Parent ]
IBM Germany is switching. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #36 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:50:14 AM EST
IBM as a whole will too, eventually.

If linux isn't part of their strategy, they've already ceded the server market.

If it isn't part of their strategy, they will eventually lose corporate desktop.

It might not be part of their strategy, but that's alot like how the phone company I worked for in 2005 thought that telephone was 90% of their strategy, and internet was the remaining 10. It shows a complete lack of cluefulness. It shows that they can't see what's coming. Personally, I hate Dell, so this is a good thing... will be fun to watch them crash and burn, even as they're scrambling to do what they should have been doing years ago.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
I'll do the math by coryking (2.00 / 0) #32 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 08:19:27 AM EST
Here:

Linux Desktop Marketshare: 0.1%
Mac: 10%
Windows: 89.9%

Using my handy dany math, I think dell would be better offering something for Mac users.  Why oh why don't they offer something for my mac?  Like even a text file of how to run the mac on my dell?

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Dog food. Snack for some. Feast for others.

[ Parent ]
Dell's also in the server business. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #37 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:52:46 AM EST
Care to give me the marketshare on that one?

Personally, I can't figure out what in the hell has gotten into IBM. It's almost as if they're full of bright, capable technical people who can see the worth of a particular technology without having to have it beaten into them first. That's really strange, coming from them.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
They make decisions all the time... by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #10 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 08:01:30 PM EST
That aren't purely cost/benefit. Whenever the cost falls below a certain threshold, when it is truly petty, they just do it, because the resources are already there to do it, and it doesn't really cost them extra.

Businesses do this all the time. Any excuse to the contrary is bullshit. The type of support linux needs costs nothing, that's my whole point. I don't want them training pakistani call centers to tell people to "shutdown -r now" the machine. I just want them to publish the base facts on how to configure the damn thing in linux.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
How much experience in industry do you have? by lm (2.00 / 0) #13 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 02:17:44 AM EST
Because you're so wrong it's funny.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
overhead by tps12 (2.00 / 0) #21 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 03:47:31 AM EST
Things like that don't just get done in companies that size. The task itself may be practically free, but there is a ton of bureaucracy involved in it actually getting done.

[ Parent ]
IAWTP by LodeRunner (2.00 / 0) #29 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 06:41:38 AM EST
That's the real problem, not the difficulty of supporting Linux.

I think the point here is that to support Linux "properly", a company is way better off by supporting the distros (as in "providing the assistance the distro devs need", which is not that much really) than supporting the users. That's a fundamentally different way than how things work on, say, Windows. So, Dell's comments that "we don't want to pick a distro because we don't want to alienate the rest of the Linux userbase" shows how off-base they are.

Give the distro devs a tarball/patch saying "this driver compiles with a vanilla kernel version foo with this .config file." It doesn't need to provide a "friendly experience" to anyone. We will pick this, massage it as needed for our distros, compile it to our customized kernels and ship the packages -- we, distro devs, take care of the deployment, the "friendly experience". The vendor doesn't need to interact directly with the userbase, we provide the end-point support.

Hell, we do this even without cooperation of the vendors (often relying on tarballs/patches not unlike the aformentioned one, only provided by a team of developers who reverse engineered the driver). Having the vendor in the loop would make life nicer for everybody as it would benefit the users and the vendor would score as being Linux-friendly.

If they don't want to be Linux-friendly, well, their loss. Linux is already huge in the corporate world. It's well established on servers, it's growing steadily on workstations. Just because it's not in the "gamer's machine" doesn't mean Linux desktop is irrelevant. The line between workstation market and the desktop market has blurred a long time ago.

[ Parent ]
Last I checked by coryking (2.00 / 0) #33 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 08:27:21 AM EST
Dell supports linux on their servers flawlessly.  In fact, you can by servers from them with a 100% blank hard drive to install FreeBSD, Linux or whatever you want.  Better yet you can get a pre-installed linux distro.

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Dog food. Snack for some. Feast for others.

[ Parent ]
Don't get me wrong by LodeRunner (2.00 / 0) #34 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:27:48 AM EST
I'm not bashing Dell here specifically (never had much contact with them myself), it was more of a general observation about vendor support. And yeah, the server landscape as a whole is well served with Linux options. The situation in the "workstation" market (especially with people using laptops more and more as their #1 machine) could of course be improved.

[ Parent ]
I've not bought a proper server before. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #38 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:55:54 AM EST
But it would be nice to buy one to put linux on, and know what kernel to compile for the fucking thing, without 3 weeks of trial and error.

Also, servers make use of ACPI too (what doesn't anymore?), have they got non-fucked-up ACPI? Chances are, they don't.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
Maybe I'm not 100% than by coryking (2.00 / 0) #40 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 06:20:07 PM EST
ACPI = something something power something.  Power, right?  Basically how the software controls the power on a computer?

What does a server need besides "stay on, and dont shut off a damn thing, ever"?

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Dog food. Snack for some. Feast for others.

[ Parent ]
Yes. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #41 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 07:23:37 PM EST
Also important if you don't want the computer shutting down on you every time the cpu jumps past 10%.
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.
[ Parent ]
"we"? by Rogerborg (4.00 / 1) #12 Wed Mar 08, 2006 at 11:12:44 PM EST
I dunno about you, but I need a shower now.

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Metus amatores matrum compescit, non clementia.
Why do people buy from Dell? by Idempotent (4.00 / 1) #15 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 02:24:30 AM EST
It's not like you can't buy perfectly decent Linux compatible computers from elsewhere.

People like you are the problem. If you go and buy a computer from them, even though it doesn't meet your needs, then you're screwing up the free market and stopping the wonders of capitalism from providing your every need,

Actually, that's capitalism in action by lm (2.00 / 0) #22 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 04:00:26 AM EST
Free market theory supposes that money is a measure of satisfaction. If people who like Linux are buying from Dell rather than a company that supports Linux on the desktop, their actions are stating that they don't get enough extra satisfaction from having a Linux friendly PC to pay the price premium over a stock Dell system. Interestingly a significantly sized comparable group (Unix buffs who switched to OS X) is willing to do just that.

Which is exactly why Dell is presently operating the way that it does. There is no increased margin for them for the suggested activities.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
You're USian, aren't you? /nt by Idempotent (2.00 / 0) #25 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 05:52:49 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Yes, but I think you misunderstand by lm (2.00 / 0) #28 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 06:25:41 AM EST
That I understand how free markets work implies nothing about my estimation of whether or not that is a good thing.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
Oh well. by Idempotent (2.00 / 0) #30 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 08:14:30 AM EST
Too subtle for USians, eh?

[ Parent ]
No by lm (2.00 / 0) #31 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 08:17:06 AM EST
I'm just dense sometimes.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I haven't bought from them. by NoMoreNicksLeft (2.00 / 0) #39 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 11:57:08 AM EST
But where exactly can one buy a linux compatible laptop?

Moreso, is it so much to ask them to publish the actual .config for it?
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Do not look directly into laser with remaining good eye.

[ Parent ]
1998 just called, they want their rant back by Bob Abooey (4.00 / 1) #23 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 04:22:26 AM EST
Seriously, and I'm a fulltime Loonux user since 1998, they don't care about Loonux because Windows has about 99% of the marketshare and the other 1% is made up of lepers freaks and trolls using Macs and Loonux and BSD or whatever. It's business, they don't care about you or me, they care about profit margins and future revenue etc.

If you want to use loonux you learn to hack stuff or buy stuff that already works out of the box. QED.

Warmest regards,

If you're such a dirty hippie, by Idempotent (2.00 / 0) #26 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 05:54:24 AM EST
why aren't you using a Mac?

[ Parent ]
Well by Bob Abooey (4.00 / 1) #27 Thu Mar 09, 2006 at 06:19:49 AM EST
I may be a dirty hippie but I'm not a stupid dirty hippie.

I dig loonux, it works for me, but I check the HCL before I buy hardware, I'm silly that way after lessons leaned with Solaris on x86.

Warmest regards,