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Dell Offers FreeDOS With New PCs 488

Posted by timothy
from the on-again-off-again-baker's-man dept.
Zed writes "Showing a distancing of itself from Microsoft, Dell now offers businesses a chance to purchase computers without a Windows operating system. The N-Series computers start at $319 from Dell's website and ship with a FreeDOS CD in the box."
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Dell Offers FreeDOS With New PCs

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  • I for one (Score:2, Interesting)

    by iswm (727826) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:40PM (#8095487) Homepage
    Am glad someone made the move.
  • FreeDOS (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vwjeff (709903) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:40PM (#8095488)
    OK, what can I do with it??
  • IMO, This is great (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HappyCitizen (742844) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:41PM (#8095501) Homepage Journal
    Its good to see at least one PC Retailer distancing itself from Microsoft. I thought that I read somewhere that Microsoft will not allow you to distrubute windows if you distrubute another non-microsoft OS as an option. Maybe it was just Linux. That connects with my second question:
    Why FreeDos Opposed to Linux?
    If its because of some MS rules, then I understand. If not, they should include more options.

    Eather way, they are allowing an OSS OS to be bundled. GOOD LUCK TO DELL!
  • Re:Is this new? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jlevitsk (198160) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:41PM (#8095505) Homepage
    I thought so too. I just bought one of these. Came in 5 days from when I ordered it too. Very spiffy and then I threw Debian on it.
  • justice dept. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by millette (56354) <robin@milletFREEBSDte.info minus bsd> on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:44PM (#8095541) Homepage Journal
    I wonder if it has anything with this January 16th document [usdoj.gov]...
  • by hoasis69 (745617) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:51PM (#8095622)
    Could be a brilliant Dell ploy to sell more systems to pirateers of Windows OS's since they'll save a bit with a free OS.
  • Re:Yes but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by retro128 (318602) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:52PM (#8095631)
    I think the idea is so you don't have to pay the "Microsoft Tax". They're not putting Linux on because they're not prepared to support it.

    So you can put on whatever OS you want and Dell doesn't owe you software support. Obviously, this deal is designed to appeal to geeks who want cheap systems.
  • by afidel (530433) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:55PM (#8095684)
    Because FreeDos requires zero setup, configuration, or implied promise of driver support. It would be very unlikely that someone could come up with a support call resulting from shipping with FreeDos but very likely that one might result with the inclusion of a Linux distro. There isn't any margin in a $300 PC for support.
  • Re:Is this new? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chuck Bucket (142633) on Monday January 26, 2004 @08:56PM (#8095688) Homepage Journal
    I just found out about this a few weeks ago, it changed my plans of rebuilding my current box; for 319$ (or a little more) I can have a ~2.6Gig box with those nice/quiet Dell cases. The fact that I don't have to buy MS on it turned me around, it'll be our new main workstation running Gentoo Linux.

    Next I'll think about replacing my server! At ~300$ I can't afford not to upgrade!

    CB
  • Re:Yes but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Orien (720204) on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:04PM (#8095776)
    That is a question that a lot of people are going to ask. The answer is, if you are asking that question then it is obviously not for you, but belive it or not there is acually a lot of uses for it, it's just a niche market that isn't going to be for the masses. It definatly is a great project though.

    There is a lot of old DOS software that is still in use by people with old hardware that don't want to upgrade. Such as small businesses that can't afford consultants that still use the same Point of Sale equipment they bought 10 years ago. They can't afford an IT guy, let alone one that can set up a Linux system for them, and a new system would cost way too much. If their computer dies and they don't have the DOS disk anymore they can use FreeDos to install on another computer, or buy a Dell preloaded with it.

    Another example are non-profit organizations such as churches, that also don't have money to spend on technology consultants and still try to use the software they already have. In fact I just spent Saturday morning at my church working on a DOS machine. They have a geneology library that is open to the community to come and do family history with, and they use old DOS software for it. Someone donated a 486 to them and I set it up so they could use their existing software. That one already had DOS, but if they get a computer in without an OS, or if I have to replace a harddrive, FreeDos will be the first thing I try.

    Also on the freedos site they mention that freedos is used a lot by hardware manufactuers who need to make a bootable floppy do things like flash rom for bios updates and such.

  • AMD Next? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Party_Pack (719951) on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:06PM (#8095802)
    Wow Dell trying to relax their ties with Microsoft, who knows we may see a Dell system with AMD hardware one day ;-)
  • Not even close (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:11PM (#8095856)


    Try Walmart getting into the picture [forbes.com].

    The blood is about to flow and Dell knows it. They are going to be slashing to the bone to prevent losing what could turn out to be major market share on the low end in the long run.

    Eliminating the microsoft tax is one way of slashing, especially since it isn't a trivial tax. Better to test Microsoft now so they can prepare for the oncoming war, than to wait and lose market share.

    Microsoft may dominate the market currently, but Dell sees the writing on the wall. It will only take one large distributor who doesn't have to pay the Microsoft tax to have a huge price advantage, and who will turn the market upside down.

    This is simply Dell battening down the hatches before the storm.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:18PM (#8095918)
    "They are required" sounds strangely passive.

    Who is doing the requiring ?

    Surely not MS, the company that was enjoined from making such requirements on OEMs ? Couldn't be, right ?
  • Re:It feels wrong. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pla (258480) on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:18PM (#8095920) Journal
    Its like having mcDonalds downgrade their free toy from a fun windup to to just a damn doll that doesn't do shit.

    I prefer to think of it as getting a happymeal toy that lets you record your own messages, rather than just repeating "Can we go to McDonalds", "I love Ronald", and "Big Macs don't make you fat", over and over and over.


    Realistically, you can do two things with one of these (and no, I don't include "install FreeDOS" as a viable option)... You can install Linux on it, or you can install the version of Windows you bought for your old machine (which, assuming you remove it from your old machine, you won't violate any likely-to-stand-in-court aspects of the Windows EULA).
  • by thedbp (443047) on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:28PM (#8096009)
    Plutonium 1000 [elementcomputer.com]
    - Harddrive Upgrade to 60GB
    - Internal Optical Combo CDRW/DVD
    - Memory 512MB
    - Model 17" LCD
    - Processor Upg. to 2.66 Ghz P4m
    - Software ProductivityPak,GamePak,SolitaireAce
    - Wireless None
    $1,938

    iMac 17" [apple.com]
    512MB DDR333 - 2 DIMMs
    80GB Ultra ATA drive
    Keyboard/Mac OS X - U.S. English
    17-inch flat panel LCD
    1.25GHz PowerPC G4
    4x SuperDrive (DVD-R/CD-RW)
    NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra
    Apple Keyboard
    Apple Mouse
    Apple Pro Speakers
    $1,899.00

    iMac is cheaper, has a dedicated graphics card, a professionally supported UNIX OS, a better processor for any sort of media, better built-in software, a 4x DVD-R, and 20GB more HD space, not to mention the better design and compatibility with all sorts of other devices. Plus options for internal bluetooth, etc.

    And people say Macs are expensive?
  • by kindofblue (308225) on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:34PM (#8096066)
    The real reason, as quoted from a CNet article [com.com] on Aug 13, 2002:

    The new desktops appear to be a slick interpretation of Microsoft's new licensing terms and a way to navigate customer demand for PCs without an OS installed. The Microsoft licensing terms, which were put in place on Aug. 1, specify that PC makers must ship PCs with an operating system. The new policy exists to prevent piracy and to better track OS shipments.

  • System Specs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ShipIt (674797) on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:34PM (#8096075)
    The specs on the $319 Dell:

    - Dell Dimension 2400N
    - Intel(R) Celeron(R) Processor at 2.4GHz with 400MHz front side bus
    - 128MB Shared DDR SDRAM at 333MHz
    - FreeDOS(TM) included in the box, ready to install
    - Dell(TM) Quietkey(R) Keyboard
    - Dell(R) 2-Button Scroll Mouse
    - 40GB ATA/100 Value Hard Drive
    - No Floppy Drive Included
    - No monitor
    - Integrated Intel(R) 3D Extreme Graphics
    - Integrated Audio
    - No Speakers
    - Integrated 10/100 Ethernet
    - No Modem
    - 1 Year Limited Warranty plus 1 Year On-site Service

    Beef up the memory a little and you got yourself a nice home file server or project box.
  • Why not Knoppix? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by poopie (35416) on Monday January 26, 2004 @09:35PM (#8096076) Journal
    If companies want to ship a computer with a free OS, I believe tossing a knoppix cd in the box would be a good move...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2004 @10:23PM (#8096445)
    Some here have questioned the usefulness of a company running DOS on a computer. Just to mention an example from personal experience, one of the most common types of turnstiles used today in amusement parks (for example, some of the Disney theme parks) contain a real small PC that have a couple of MB of memory and a hard-drive. Point is, the machine couldn't handle Windows. It didn't make sense to run Windows on it anyway, since the main display for the turnstile is an 80-character by 6 row LED display, not a computer monitor.

    I'm sure there are other examples where Windows is neither needed nor wanted by a corporation, but where primitive DOS still rules the day. Even Linux would be too big (and overkill to boot) to run in these things. DOS is small, simple, stable, and runs well on slow processors in as little as 640K of memory.

    It all depends on what you're doing.
  • Re:Is this new? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday January 26, 2004 @11:44PM (#8096885)
    No, I'm afraid that the original poster was the intelligent one. Obviously, "as far as you know" extends only to the limits of your olfactory appendage. My company used to use custom-built rack-mount equipment for the industrial data acquisition systems we develop, but now we've begun buying off-the-shelf HP/Compaqs, Dells, and others. And while the quality is better than the old Packard Bells, they do use thoroughly oddball, non-standard, user-lock-in components. That's the name of the game. Where you're getting these "integration is standard" systems from I don't know, but it sure has hell ain't Dell.

    Furthermore, if you're depending upon Dell's warranty to save your ass when your motherboard blows its zap, I feel sorry for you. You're far better off (if you have the technical skill) to buy some high-quality, truly off-the-shelf components and put together a real PC that you can maintain yourself.
  • Re:Is this new? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AstroDrabb (534369) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @12:01AM (#8096996)
    I don't know if Dell does it for thier home PC's, howver the do use some non-standard crap on thier workstations. I have 3 Dell Optiplex PC's and 1 Precision in my office. The power supply went on one of the Optiplexes and I wanted to get it back up fast. I ran down to CompUSA to expense a power supply and brought the old one. I could not find any power supply to fit. It had to be ordered from Dell. Also, the Precision I have uses some crappy duagher board which again, prevents me from using most standard cases if I wanted to put it in some other non-Dell box. Don't get me started on the insane price Dell charges for memory.

    Where I work we have a corporate support contract on the Dell desktops so we have to go through Dell to get our memory. I wanted to add an extra 512 MB of RDRAM and Dell wanted over $500 for it! You can get it on the net for half that price. The same thing for DDR. Go to Dell's site and customize a PC and add about 256MB of memory to one. They will charge you over $100 when you can get in on the net for $40 or so.

    Also, pray that as a home user you never need to call Dell's tech support. Your getting routed over to India and if you don't speak Hindi, your in for a rough time.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @12:12AM (#8097057)
    most customers who buy n-series are buying because they are some kind of retail chain, like hollywood video for example, that uses a text based dos terminal or some such interface that is not windows. They usually buy these boxes by the hundreds, and getting them w/o an OS has nothing to do with Dell distancing itself from microsoft. the only reason freedos is there is so they comply with their agreement with microsoft not to ship a system without an OS. it doesn't have to ship with a microsoft OS, just some OS. posting AC because I work at dell
  • by inf0mike (676125) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @05:40AM (#8098143) Journal

    This will not work for Microsoft Enterprise Licence customers because the "site" licences are in fact upgrades for an OEM pre-installed version of Windows. In other words, if a business were to buy a machine with just FreeDOS on it, they would not be elligible to just install Windows.

    According to Microsoft, you are not paying for Windows twice.

  • Dirty Play? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by maztuhblastah (745586) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @07:35AM (#8098476) Journal
    Although I respect Dell, I think that this may be a way of playing dirty. Picture this:

    1)A Major computer vendor makes a contract with MS to sell the majority of their systems with Windows. The more systems they sell with Windows the cheaper the copies of Windows get for the vendor. The cheaper the copies of Windows get, the more money they make.

    2)The vendor, one day, decides to try to knock it's Open-Source, non-MS loving customers off of their list of problems. They find the worst open-source distro (of anything) that they can find. Not bad enough not to boot the computer, but bad enough not to be feasible for day to day use.

    3)They make a deal with MS that they will be able to sell X number of copies at FULL price in return for some sort of favor. MS oblidges and gives permission to the vendor to sell the non-MS systems.

    4)The vendor ships low quality systems with a low quality open-source POS distro. Bill Gates chuckles and gets richer.

    5) The customers who buy the systems buy them for the price (incredibly low without Windows.) Then they find that they have no easily workable OS. Since they are not enlightened, they only know of two OS's: Windows and Mac OS. Since Mac OS only runs on a Mac, they decide to get Windows.

    6) They go back to the computer vendor complaining that they don't have Windows. The vendor says: "Oh, that's OK, I'll fix that." and sells them a copy of XP or 2k at the normal (non-OEM) price. To ensure repeat business, they give you a $15 discount because you just bought from them.

    7) The end result? The customer thinks highly of the vendor (for healping him with his problem and giving him a discount.) The customer is dipleased with open-source software in general (because he is told that the "broken" distro he got is representative of the whole open-source world.) The vendor has killed three birds with one stone. The vendor has a good deal with MS, made more money from the customer, and hurt open-source.


    Wow. I hope that if Dell is not already doing that, that they don't read /.
  • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @08:25AM (#8098702) Journal
    Actually, no. I haven't stolen a single piece of software on my computer, and it's still cheaper than those macs.

    Plus, there's something about being able to upgrade that PC as needed, instead of being locked into Apple's (or Dell's) lame "throw away the whole computer and buy a new one" scheme.

    E.g., do I need new hard drives? Not really.

    Do I need to buy a new OS _minor_ version every year, like you Mac fans seem happy to? Hell, no. This here Windows 2000 (full version, and yes, paid for) still runs everything perfectly. Maybe because unlike Apple, Microsoft can stick to an API, instead of blundering through "oh, this year we're using a completely different kernel" experiments.

    Do I need a new LCD monitor with each PC, like you iMac lemmings get? Nope.

    So putting that all together, it's cost me about 1000$ to swap a new mobo, an A64 3200+ and a Radeon 9800 XT into the existing computer. Even if I'm to add the price of the already bought 16ms LCD monitor (which is light-years ahead of the lame cheap-ass panel in the iMac), I still end up under 1500$.

    And unlike the Mac, I can actually run games on this machine.

    So what do we have? In one corner, the fastest (non-overclocked) gaming PC money can buy. In the other corner a lame iMac which is useless for anything except web browsing. No, thanks. I'll stick to my PC, and save a bunch of money in the process.

    Haven't had a dead CPU _ever_, and surprisingly enough the memory was true to the specs printed on it. (E.g., surprisingly enough, if you were a cheapskate and bought CL3 RAM, don't expect it to run at CL2.) Also surprisingly enough, the machine booted on the first try. Go figure.

    So, please... just because you're the non-technical kind who's terminally affraid to install a CPU, doesn't mean everyone else is in the same bracket. You stick to your Macs, I'll stick to my PC.
  • Re:Is this new? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rhadamanthus (200665) on Tuesday January 27, 2004 @08:39AM (#8098784)
    "I personally think that only HP, IBM and Sun are any of the big boys PC makers that offer real non-MS products."

    Out of curiosity, when you purchased these servers, was a windows CD included? Numerous times I have bought a "linux" server from HP or Dell, only to find out I payed for a Windows OS anyway, it just was not installed...

    YMMV, of course

    --rhad

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