Dell sells Ubuntu boxes that cannot run Ubuntu
2008/12/30 § 74 comentaris
This Christmas, some friends made me a gift, it’s a Dell Mini 12, a small, lightweight laptop which will become my guerrilla computer, that is, it will be the computer that I’ll always take with me when not at home, thus preserving my main computer of the risks of the street and, at the same time, preserving my back.
The good news is that Dell sells this computer with Ubuntu pre-installed, so this is the first time that I do not pay the Microsoft (or Apple) tax for a computer that will run Ubuntu. This is great news, because Ubuntu is my preferred operating system.
However, when opening the box I found something suspicious, the DVD provided by Dell was not a standard Ubuntu, but a version that contains a + after the number of the version. This Ubuntu is not free because it is written “Do not distribute” on the DVD.
When I switched on my new computer, Ubuntu asked me some data, as in any normal installation, but then I discovered the famous Dell desktop, which is like a kind of virus. It is ugly and impractical. In addition, the selection of packages made by Dell seems strange (lots of KDE stuff in a Gnome based system). Furthermore, Firefox showed the Yahoo! toolbar. This is ugly. This computer contained an Ubuntu full of shit (call a spade a spade), so I decided to remove that version and change it to an ordinary Ubuntu. After all, having a 12” screen, I do not need to have a distribution of Linux for netbooks because, despite having a netbook processor (Intel Atom), this computer is the size of a small standard laptop (lpia aside).
So I tried to upgrade the installed Ubuntu 8.04+ to Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid). I configured the update manager to offer me upgrades to “normal” versions of Ubuntu, and not only LTS versions. Unfortunately, the upgrade manager didn’t propose me to upgrade to 8.10. I checked the sources of software and I saw that these were not official, but a special Dell repository hosted by Canonical, the parent company of Ubuntu. I changed to sources to the standard ones, but the system failed to update the package list. I realized that this Ubuntu was too tuned, so I decide to start from scratch, to install Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy). But the installation failed. I found myself in front of a black BusyBox screen. I looked at the forums and saw that the Dell Mini 9, (more people bought this one in comparison to the 12) has the same problem with 8.04, but 8.04.1 is ok for this computer. I tried and failed again. So I decided to install Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid). I thought that a newer version of Ubuntu should work fine, I trusted Canonical, I thought that they would support computers sold with Ubuntu pre-installed and that they would try to fix all the issues in the last version of the operating system. After all, I had an Ubuntu box! I Prepared a USB key with the installer (the computer has no CD player) and it failed again. There was a problem with the drivers of the graphics card. I saw that there is already a bug on Launchpad. The information found on Launchpad allowed me to get the system to boot and install Intrepid. Now, everything works fine except for one thing: I can not get a decent screen resolution. I can only get 1024 × 768 and apparently it will not be solved in this version of Ubuntu. I will have to wait half a year, until Ubuntu 9.04 appears, and now I don’t trust them, maybe the problem is not solved for that version. This is a problem, because the resolution I get is not proportional to the size of the screen, as a consequence, everything is deformed. Alternatively, I can buy an external DVD player (which costs a lot of money) to install, again, the experimental pseudo-Ubuntu shiped by Dell, but this one is only a 8.04 full of shit, which will force me to use older versions of the programs I like to use.
In short, I bought a computer that, in theory can run Ubuntu, and it turns out that, in practice, it can only run a distorted and old version of the operating system. I wonder how many people, due to this Kafkaesque situation, have decided to just install Windows XP and give up Linux, convinced that Linux is still somewhat experimental and only suitable for geeks. Frankly, to let Dell use the brand Ubuntu for a distribution that is based on it but, in fact, is not a real Ubuntu, is a serious error. After all, the buyer that buys a Dell with Ubuntu hopes that it will work with the standard version of this operating system, the very same version used in his other computers, and also she hopes to upgrade the distribution every six months, as she always has done with her other computers, at least for a reasonable time.
Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Ubuntu, said, not a long time ago, that, in a few years, Ubuntu will be better than Mac OS X. But Apple customers buy computers that work, computers that, in general, can be upgraded and that have no issues with the versions of the OS. One can use Leopard on a MacBook or a MacBook Air, however, I bought an Ubuntu computer that cannot run Ubuntu!
In short, I’m very disappointed. Those who know me know that I have devoted many hours to spread the use of free operating systems and, in particular Ubuntu. I hope that, in the future, Canonical will not allow the use of the Ubuntu brand for non standard distributions. People that buy Ubuntu should be able to run Ubuntu! This is very important, because Ubuntu is a very good operating system, that should be used by many people.
Now only remains for me to ask if anyone has tried openSUSE, or any other good quality Linux distro, on this computer, because Ubuntu does not work.