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Blog report: Dell Ubuntu machines to debut Thursday

Customers had requested Linux-based PCs and laptops earlier this year

By Todd R. Weiss
May 21, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Dell Inc. on Thursday is expected to begin selling three models of its long-awaited laptop and desktop computers loaded with Ubuntu Linux.

The arrival day was unveiled by blogger Jeremy Garcia, a Linux advocate who runs the Web site Linuxquestions.org. In his blog last Friday, Garcia said he received an e-mail from an unnamed Dell employee who offered a few details about this week's product launch.

"We will be launching a Linux-based OS [Ubuntu] on the E520 [budget Dimension desktop PC], 1505 [Inspiron laptop] and [home entertainment level PC] XPS 410 starting next Thursday, 5/24," the Dell e-mail stated, according to Garcia's blog. "Please cover the huddle deck below with your team by [end of business] Sunday. If any questions come up, please let me know so I can address them before launch. The goal of launching Linux is to continue to give our customers more choices to customize their new Dell. Providing more options to our Linux Enthusiast customer group will hopefully create even more Raving Fans!"

Jeremy Bolens, a Dell spokesman, declined to comment on the blog report today.

In February, Dell began asking customers for opinions on new products they wanted from the computer maker. One of the most frequently requested items was Linux-loaded computers, according to Dell.

After analyzing the ideas for several weeks, Dell moved quickly to announce in March that it would start selling some machines with Linux preinstalled.

On May 1, Dell announced that it would meet customer requests and offer a limited number of Dell models with Ubuntu Linux preloaded for sale later this month.

In a posting on Dell's Direct2Dell Web site today, John Hull, manager of Linux OS technologies at Dell, provided more technical details about the Ubuntu 7.04 operating system that will be offered on the new machines.

"Before we announce the availability of Ubuntu 7.04 on select Dell client systems, I'd like to give an overview of what customers can expect from our initial Ubuntu offering," Hull wrote in his post. He also said that "the default software from the Ubuntu media will be installed on the system, including kernel and applications."

Dell will offer only add-on peripherals and hardware options "that have the most mature and stable Linux driver support," Hull wrote. "These hardware options have been thoroughly tested by the Linux team here at Dell."

The company will configure and install open-source drivers for the hardware when possible, he stated. "We use partial open-source or closed-source drivers where there is no equivalent open-source driver. This includes Intel wireless cards and Conexant modems," Hull wrote.

More information on drivers and hardware and other details can be found at a Web page created by Dell for its Linux-based machines.

Hull said the company continues to work with vendors of hardware not currently supported under Ubuntu to create stable drivers for the equipment. "While this may not happen overnight, we do expect to have a broader range of hardware support with Linux over time," he wrote.

So far, Dell support is not being included for proprietary audio or video codecs that are not already distributed with Ubuntu 7.04. "These include MPEG 1/2/3/4, WMA, WMV, DVD, QuickTime, etc. We are evaluating options for providing this support in the future," Hull said.

Read more about PCs in Computerworld's PCs Topic Center.



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