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Dell's Secret Linux Fling 146

Slagged writes "The Register has up an article on Linux-based Dell systems being sold in China. While Microsoft quashed an attempt by Dell to create a market for Linux PCs in the U.S., such restrictions are not the case in Asia. From the article: 'Fifteen months ago our own Ashlee Vance, who broke the news of the first break-up in 2001, proved how hard it is to buy a PC from Dell without Windows. Not pre-loaded with Linux mind you - but simply a bare bones box. But far away from the prying eyes of Steve Ballmer, romance is blossoming. An eagle-eyed reader found the fruits of the union, brazenly on display in a Beijing subway.' The article has pictures of the advertisements, which offer Dell PCs preloaded with 'Red Flag Linux'."
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Dell's Secret Linux Fling

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  • But far away from the prying eyes of Steve Ballmer, romance is blossoming.

    Well, sticking it all over the front page of one of the largest tech sites means it will get his full attention now.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by camperdave ( 969942 )
      Well, sticking it all over the front page of one of the largest tech sites means it will get his full attention now.

      Thus lending a whole new, and unintended meaning to the term Red Flag Linux: "Red Flag! Linux"
  • by Janek Kozicki ( 722688 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:38PM (#17524564) Journal
    yay! []
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Machtyn ( 759119 )
      That is a really good thesis. I enjoyed reading it. I have one disagreement, but my disagreement does not have solid footing.

      As of yet, there is no killer app for Linux, nor for 64-bit hardware. []

      The one thing that got me started on using Linux (though I had installed Linux a dozen times previously) is MythTV. Granted, that application has potential pits, but it could be the killer app that even non-geeks could learn to love. My brother, an attorney, was surprised when I got on his computer at his home
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by shaneh0 ( 624603 )
        While I'm sure to get modded -5 EvilAssHole for this, I'm going to do it anyway.

        A coworker of mine runs a Myth box. Practically every day for the first month or so after he set it up he'd give me an update on the tinkering he had to do the previous night. Now, at least once a month it goes offline for some reason. I'm not a linux guy, nor a mythTV guy, but it seems like he's got problems with TV listings mostly, although issues with drivers, audio sync, and a smattering of other issues have also been recurr
        • I had the exact oposite problem. When I set my myth box up, all i had availible was old recycled parts that has been around for a few years. Granted the mythTV project has come even further now as this was a couple years ago. The default install seemed to work "right out of the box". Ok I spent about 2 hours the first night tinkering with it but after that it just worked. The system finaly died after about a year and a half. The hardrive had a massive stroke and took everything with it.

          Now, My question is,
          • by shaneh0 ( 624603 )
            So you're saying that you spent 2 hours acquiring and gathering hardware, assembling hardware, installing the OS, installing & configuring the software, networking the box, and settting it up in your living room w/ a remote control?

            If so, then you should do that for a living. But I really doubt it. Maybe you spent 2 hours on the actual myth-config part of that, but you have to include everything else.

            All I had to do was place the order (1-click) on Amazon, open the box, plug in the wireless usb adapter,
            • Ahh, It isn 't that hard. I take it you have never installed linux before or are one of those people who insist on doing it the hard way for whatever reasons.

              I took an old BT tuner card i got and a recycled P4 1.8 gig computer with a blown hard disk. Inserted the tuner card, added a hand me down video card, a new 60gig drive and booted to a net install of mandriva (or was it mandrake?) spent about 10 minutes of and on clicking next and enabling support for the tuner card in between the download sessions. It
        • I'll be the first to admit that our Myth installation has been problematic and a pain. So now I'm going to ask you some questions about Tivo which cut to the core of the things I really like about Myth compared to Tivo. I'm not a Tivo expert, so these really are questions; some of them Tivo probably does fine... But I think at it's heart Tivo has a great interface but is much more limited than Myth.

          Can you really BUY a Tivo, or only rent it? (That is, you buy the hardware but my impression is it doesn't
  • by Gr33nNight ( 679837 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:39PM (#17524574)
    Right before Christmas, I found an awesome deal for a Dell PC in their Small Business section. I configured it, added it to my cart and obviously found out I could not de-select Windows. So I called them up and the customer service rep saw my order and promptly removed Windows for me, saving about $50. 2 weeks later my PC arrived with freedos. Seems easy enough for me. Maybe it was because it was Small Business and not home.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:47PM (#17524730) Homepage
      You actually can configure a desktop [] or notebook [] without Windows directly from their web site. The selection is more limited, and it's harder to find, but Dell will sell you a system with FreeDOS instead of Windows.
      • by symbolset ( 646467 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:59PM (#17524924) Journal
        I've seen this before, and I didn't believe it, so I clicked your notebook link.
        The page you requested may no longer exist on


        The desktop link still works right now though.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by d3ac0n ( 715594 )

        Those are the N-Series equipment. They are a Godsend for shops like mine, where we use a RAID drive array and a custom Windows image. we don't have to pay the Windows tax on the machine just to wipe Windows off of it to install our version. (We have a corporate version, unlimited copies.) The notebooks are a more recent addition, and really great given that we don't want Vista forced down our throats for at least 2 more years.

        Nicely done Dell!
        • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) <> on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @02:18PM (#17526148) Homepage Journal
          Unless you have a very strange or old volume license agreement with Microsoft (different than every other volume license I've ever seen), what you are doing isn't legit. You can't install volume or corporate-license Windows on bare hardware; the hardware has to have some sort of Windows license on it first. I don't think Microsoft sells unlimited-install licenses that entitle you to put XP onto totally bare hardware. It's their way of cooperating with the big VARs; this is one of the reasons why you never see a big company with white-box PCs, even though any reasonably-sized organization with its own IT department could go to Taiwan and get their own equipment for half of what Dell charges. Only the gear that comes with a license sticker on it from the factory is eligible to have corporate images put onto it. (Which really makes me question the utility of those corporate licenses, but I guess that's because I'm not in management.)

          Dell is pretty clear about this on their n-Series page [], as it states in bold type: "It is not a Microsoft operating system and is not qualified for Windows licensing use under any existing Microsoft Volume Licensing Program (OPEN, Enterprise, etc.) Customers interested in a Microsoft® Windows® solution should purchase a Dell desktop pre-loaded with Windows XP Professional."

          If you get audited, you may be in trouble.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by aaronl ( 43811 )
            The blurb from that Dell page is just saying that FreeDOS has nothing to do with MS and in no way gives you a license to use anything MS related. If you take the full quote, it makes much more sense. This was the line directly before the bold part:
            "The open-source n Series desktops feature select popular models from the DimensionTM desktop, OptiPlexTM desktop and Dell PrecisionTM workstation lines available with a copy of the FreeDOSTM open-source operating system included
          • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
            Interesting, it didn't say anything about that on my MSDNAA copy.
      • Actually you don't even need to look for the non-windows version. They will automaically offer to sell you the PC without Windows at the end of the customization process and you save $30 (I tried using the OptiPlex 320)
      • Here is the full link for the notebook []

        They make it hard to browse to. If you go to the Home/Home Office you won't see it. Neither will Medium/Large Businesses. You need to be a small business to get any use out of it, apparently. Only there will you see open source computers. Yipee!

        The excitement wears off for me, however, when I see the Latitude D520 selling for $700 with FreeDOS, and only $600 with Windows XP Home. Better to order the Windows version and try to get your Windows rebate - or better yet, buy
    • by Anonymous Coward
      If Dell sold Ubuntu laptops where everything (wireless, 3D accel) "just worked" I'd get those instead of the mac laptop I use today.

      My desktop's Linux - all my company's servers are Linux - and as cool as BSD/Mac is I don't really need the context switch. I liked Dell hardware last time I used it - and yes, eventually I got Ubuntu running fine on it (damn wireless chips) - but no, it's not worth the effort to change. Yes, I understand for wireless and 3D it might cost as much as Windows to get the propr
    • by multipartmixed ( 163409 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:06PM (#17525030) Homepage
      Your PC came with freedos?

      Like inside the case, or were they still in the bag? Barbecue, or plain?
  • Well, I bought an Inspiron B130 right before Christmas as my Pentium 2 latitude had seen the end of the line and was supprised how well it works with Linux. With Ubuntu edgy, everything worked out of the box sans needing 915resolution to get my widescreen supported properly. I find myself using the laptop more than my athlon64 desktop these days.

    I would have liked the system to come without Windows, but booting the Ubuntu cdrom as soon as I got the machine and using dd to wipe the partition table solved t
  • Red Flag Linux... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tehSpork ( 1000190 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:42PM (#17524638)
    Would it kill them to find an original name?
  • If you know the Chinese market, this makes sense for multitudes of reasons.

    If for no other than to curry favor with the gov't. []
  • i rounded up for the sake of this but 6,000 yen is only like 55 USD...
  • Red Flag Linux?? (Score:1, Redundant)

    by neuro.slug ( 628600 )
    In Communist China, Red Flag Linux installs Dell!!
  • by Pakup ( 624459 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:52PM (#17524802)
    Nothing at all.

    Just look at Dell's Chinese website: there, right in the middle, amongst all those Chinese characters, you'll see the caozuo xitong ("operating system") listed in clear Roman letters: Linux. aspx/dimen_c521?c=cn&cs=cndhs1&l=zh&s=dhs []

    (The stuff at the top says Dell "recommends the use of" XP Professional.)
  • Red Flag (Score:1, Redundant)

    The article has pictures of the advertisements, which offer Dell PCs preloaded with 'Red Flag Linux'

    Red Flag Fork: Linux for Commies --- In Soviet Russia, Linux Codes You!

  • by fudgefactor7 ( 581449 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @12:58PM (#17524890)
    No it's not. I have one. OptiPlex GX280n. The "n" is for "no OS", it does come with a CD of FreeDOS, but other than that, you're on your own. You can see their newer versions of the "n" series by clicking this link spx/optix_n?c=pr&l=en&s=bsd []
    • Why is there no price at that link? Like nowhere to be found...
      • There's no price listed because you have to hit the "Contact us" button. Why they did this when the 280n had a price listed I don't know...perhaps it's a half-assed attempt to appease MS? Either way, it's worth the effort if you truly wish to avoid the MS bundled OS.
  • Given a country where local shops will sell you a system without charging you for the OS (in any way), how does a deep pocketed competitor from overseas compete? Linux. It can be shipped for free, without breaking laws, and avoiding lawsuits. I'm sure MS is well aware of this, and we have all read on /. how they keep making threats to China in efforts to solve this problem. Unfortunately, people that like to use cheap foreign labor to MAKE products, do not often understand that those same people can't affor
    • Well. If you spend much time in China, you will find out that no matter what box has someone buys, a priated copy of Windows (around 10 RMB = $1.20) will be put on it. Heck, some of the copies I have seen are pretty impressive.

      A DVD that has Win98, WinXP, Server 2003 Pro/ENT that you install from an XP look alike menu.

      Or even better, one pirating group build a new "version" of XP every ~2 months that have *all* the MS security patches slipstreamed.

      I would also guess that MS penetration in China as a % is pr
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @01:26PM (#17525278)
    I have bought hundreds of Linux machines from Dell. For a corporate customer it isn't an issue.
  • Linux on Dell (Score:2, Informative)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 )
    Linux on Dell Laptops seems to perform almost flawlessly. I run Ubuntu on my Inspiron 6400 and everything was detected. The only noticeable problem I have is that I have to manually put the laptop to standby before closing the lid. I confess I haven't checked the power control panel yet. Otherwise, everything was detected and cooks!
  • ...proved how hard it is to buy a PC from Dell without Windows.

    I call bullsh*t, or at least misinformation.

    I was able to negotiate a refund of some $62 for each of four Dell PC purchased while I worked at a former employer because we explicitly did not want Windows for them. Even though it came preinstalled, with shrink-wrap installation media, we got the refund upon returning the installation media and attesting that we reformatted the hard disk.

    Dell was not difficult about it.

    Of course, the fact that all our desktops were Dell machines, and most of them did run Windows, and my employer did have a blanket corporate license from Microsoft for all MS software may have had something to do with it, but still.

    Of course, getting a refund for returning something you don't want is not the same as not having to purchase it in the first place, but the bottom line was that, in the end, Dell happily sold us PCs with no operating system on them.

    • by bigpat ( 158134 )
      You are calling "bullsh*t" about someone's post saying it was hard to buy a PC from Dell without Windows and then as a an example of how easy it is you say how you were able to "negotiate" with Dell to get a refund of $62 after you returned the installation media and had to promise that you reformatted the hard drive. Seems to me that you just proved the point that you were calling "bullsh*t" at the point in your story where you say "negotiate".

      • Seems to me that you just proved the point that you were calling "bullsh*t" at the point in your story where you say "negotiate". "Negotiate" as in: one two minute phone call to our Dell rep. who was so quick to agree, that I had to make sure he understood what I was requesting. I wouldn't have spent more than 15 minutes trying to get a lousy $248 refund, anyway. It may have been that we did so much business with them that they'd not even blink over a louse $248, but my boss was in a nickel and dime mood
        • by bigpat ( 158134 )
          I think you can agree that if when I clicked on a button on Dell's website that said Linux instead of Windows and it took 2 minutes to change Windows to Linux in the configurator, then you would hardly call that "easy" and certainly not convenient. You might even call customer support and complain about the responsiveness of the website. But you aren't even given that option, aren't told that it is an option, and have to call someone you do business on a regular basis in order to make it happen and then m
    • You still bought a copy of Windows though even if you were successful in getting a refund in exchange for the media. The fact you had to request this by doing extra work is still an issue. The fact that the option isn't available is still an issue.

      Even with the nicest return policy in the world doens't excuse the problem: You still can't buy a Dell in the US without Windows. If you are going to call "shanigans!" point it at the loopy OEM deals.
  • Please explain to me in the most civil terms possible why is it okay that businesses even as large as Dell should be afraid of Microsoft's disapproval?

    I feel similarly about Walmart and what it does to its vendors, however, it's interesting to see what Walmart's push for flouescent lights over incandescent will do... such power over the market CAN be used for good.
    • by Haeleth ( 414428 )
      Please explain to me in the most civil terms possible why is it okay that businesses even as large as Dell should be afraid of Microsoft's disapproval?
      Please explain to me in the most civil terms possible why it is okay for you to beat your wife.

      Hint: Dell simply is not afraid of Microsoft's disapproval, which is why they have been selling PCs with Linux on them for some time -- certainly in the UK, at least, I can't speak for America. This is a non-story.
    • Because Microsoft has a monopoly on operating systems for the PC and because the profit margin on PCs is so small, a moderate increase in the cost of Windows can make it impossible for Dell to compete.

      Most people don't want to buy a PC that does not come with Windows preinstalled. So if Dell does anything that really frosts Microsoft's cookies, Microsoft could make it very difficult for dell to stay in business simply by raising the price it charges Dell for its monopoly operating system.
    • Please explain to me in the most civil terms possible why is it okay that businesses even as large as Dell should be afraid of Microsoft's disapproval?

      The only thing that Dell fears is the market, service and support costs.

      Dell will sell the bare bones, FreeDOS or Linux PC, in any quantity to its commercial and institutional buyers, who are typically thinking RHEL. It isn't persuaded by the die-hard Geek who thinks that OEM Linux is right for the direct seller in the domestic consumer market.

      Walmart los

  • Tinfoil hat time (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by wsanders ( 114993 )
    > Microsoft quashed an attempt by Dell to create a market for Linux PCs in the U.S

    Disclaimer: Both my grandfathers were Freeemasons, so I'm in on the conspiracy.

    I subscribe to the Dell Poweredge Linux mailing list - it a continual litany of woe from Linux newbies whining about how they can't get the latest random distro to work perfectly with the latest something-or-other. (Along with the odd message about the Broadcom ethernet and onboard RAID drivers locking up.) It's perfectly within Dell's rights to
  • I can't help but wonder if microsoft would allow the companies it intimidates into using only windows would mind if they allowed Suse (more specifically, SLED) to be preinstalled?
  • Workstations with RedHat pre-installed [] have been available in Singapore for ages. This seems to only be for small business-targetting workstations, though: I haven't seen any in the home/home office range yet (although atleast one of the OptiPlexs come with 'DOS not factory installed').

  • I followed a few of the links listed, and found great_linux_desktop/ []
    where a dell marketing sleeze says:
    "Our customers did not seem to want it though; the numbers didn't add up,"

    If enough people searched for "Linux Desktop" on Dells website
    it might make them reconsider.

  • Supreme irony (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS ( 41445 ) on Tuesday January 09, 2007 @04:33PM (#17529402) Homepage
    I am, in essence, an avowed capitalist, but let me say this:

    It is the supreme irony that it is possible to more freely purchase what you want in China than it is in the United States - the country of the products' origin and central influence of capitalism throughout the world.
    • It is the supreme irony that it is possible to more freely purchase what you want in China than it is in the United States - the country of the products' origin and central influence of capitalism throughout the world.

      I appreciate the poetry, but there's not a free market in the United States. It's a market where large corporations can make political donations to get the market changed to suit their needs, with the regulators either oppressing their competition or not enforcing laws where it's inconvenient
      • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )
        That was indeed the intended point of my statement. You know, the irony.
        • That was indeed the intended point of my statement. You know, the irony.

          Yeah, that's really clear now that I'm reading it again. I'm not sure what the cause of the brain-fart was but my reading comprehension skills were clearly on the low-end that day. It wasn't even late at night!

          Anyhow, we're agreed - I offer a sympathetic 'grrr' at the current state of affairs.

  • ... namely Chinese customers saying "WTF, Dell, I just checked your invoice. It seems you charged me for software. That must be some sort of mistake. Software doesn't cost money in China."

    Seriously, though, I think this is as much about giving Dell plausible deniability as it is anything else. Hardware makers have vastly different incentives than IP companies: Napster gave Dell a shot in the arm because the whole MP3 rip/burn craze sold a ton of boxes with extra ram, processor, and CD-RW drives. Apple,
  • I had my other half look at the ad. Since she is from China I felt that should qualify her as an expert. The first thing she told me that it didn't look right and don't trust any ads in China unless you see and are able to try out the product first hand. She also told me that the literal translation for the wording before Linux on the 2nd picture was "flag" and not Red Flag so it would be Flag Linux

"The Street finds its own uses for technology." -- William Gibson