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January 30th, 2015

SCALE Prep Continues; Will Dell Get It Right?

FOSS Week in Review

While linux.conf.au (held in New Zealand this year) is now in the record books and FOSDEM is currently happening in Brussels, the organizational team over at the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) has had its proverbial and collective shoulder to the wheel for the last few months as the first Linux/FOSS event of the year in North America — SCALE 13x — is starting to shape up.

The SCALE 13x schedule was posted earlier this week, and for those more observant among you, you’ll notice an additional day this year. SCALE 13x begins on a Thursday — February 19 — and runs through Sunday, February 22. SCALE’s Thursday schedule will be dedicated to specialty session tracks, similar and in addition to the tracks that have traditionally populated the Friday schedule.

I'm going to SCALE 13xDue to the increasing attendance, SCALE has also extended the exhibit hall hours, which will now open on Friday, February 20, at 2 p.m. Saturday’s exhibit hall hours will remain the same, beginning at 10 a.m. and closing at 6 p.m. And on Sunday — traditionally a quieter day in general — SCALE 13x has opted to close the exhibit hall at 2 p.m., though sessions will continue to run on Sunday afternoon.

Ruth Suehle and a speaker to be named later (more than likely in the next 24 hours) will keynote at SCALE 13x. There are about 130 sessions in the four days, and just over 100 exhibitors.

FOSS Force is proud to be a media sponsor of SCALE 13x. As such, coverage of the four days of peace, love and Linux in Los Angeles will be provided by yours truly who, truth-in-advertising, serves as publicity chair for the event. You can watch this space or keep an eye on the #scale13x tag.

Will Dell play nice this time? ZDNet reported this week that Dell brings to the market its top-of-the-line Precision M3800 workstation laptop and the latest model of the Dell XPS 13, running Ubuntu 14.04.

Steven J. Vaughn-Nichols starts out his article with this: “In 2007, Dell became the first major computer OEM to sell pre-installed Linux on their computers. Today, Dell continues to support desktop Linux.”

Let’s hope that when Steven says that “Dell continues to support desktop Linux,” what he actually means is something entirely different than my experience from around 2009.

While doing computer work at Redwood Digital Research in Felton, I had a commercial neighbor — a hair stylist — who wanted to buy her first computer; yes, someone who had never been burdened with Windows lunacy. After letting her use a ThinkPad with Ubuntu, she was ready to order an Ubuntu laptop from Dell because, well, I told her that “Dell continues to support…Linux.”

Ordering online, with me watching over her shoulder, the Ubuntu laptop would be available in a week, while the same hardware with Windows was available immediately. A call to Dell Customer Service resulted in four customer service reps, including a manager, who couldn’t answer why there was a discrepancy in availability, let alone understanding why I didn’t just want the Windows laptop in the first place.

So we hopped in the car, went to Best Buy and bought the Windows version of that particular Dell model, and I installed Ubuntu on it when we returned to the shop. While she has been computing happily ever after since then, the fact remains that in the annals of chalking up sales, that was one sale for Windows, not Linux. And how many folks trying to order an Ubuntu Dell just said, “Screw it, I’m not waiting a week — I’m buying the Windows hardware,” when faced with the same problem?

So whenever I’m told the key to Linux’s success is tied to big manufacturers offering distros on their hardware, my response is always, “You mean like Dell?”

See you next week.

Larry Cafiero, a.k.a. Larry the Free Software Guy, is a journalist and a Free/Open Source Software advocate. He is involved in several FOSS projects and serves as the publicity chair for the Southern California Linux Expo. Follow him on Twitter: @lcafiero

7 comments to SCALE Prep Continues; Will Dell Get It Right?

  • Uncle Ed

    Unfortunately, Dell is “supporting” Linux in their printers about the same way or even less well. I have two of their printers (Craigslist and surplus from a school) that do exactly what they’re supposed to do. Dell’s support website doesn’t even mention using them in Linux and there are no Linux drivers for those models to be found.

    However, ya gotta be smarter than the tool, especially if you’re as “frugal” as I am. I did Internet searches how to use them on Linux and found one of them acts like a particular HP and one acts like a Xerox model. Installed the printers with those drivers and they’ve been working fine ever since.

    The flaw in the ointment, of course, is that somewhere back in history Dell recorded the sale of two Windows printers.

  • I would hardly refer to putting Ubuntu on a top of the line laptop as “supporting linux”. When Dell starts offering multiple laptops in the $500-$1000 range with Linux pre-installed, then I would say they are supporting Linux.

    By putting Ubuntu on an extremely expensive device, there will be far fewer sales of Linux devices than if Linux was installed on more modest offerings. Later, when Dell is asked why they don’t offer Linux on all of their devices, Dell will simply respond “we offered Linux on a laptop and there was no interest”.

  • Colonel Panik

    My dear wife bought a Dell “supported” Ubuntu notebook.
    If you do not get updates is it really supported?
    After a couple of years running outdated software we somehow
    got another distro to load. Good little take anywhere and
    do what you gotta do machine.

    Dell spun its own Ubuntu and locked it down. Lock down is
    not so much FOSS, eh?

    Dell with Linux? No thanks. I found a good source for refurb
    ThinkPads and I will buy used rather than Dell.

  • Uncle Ed

    @Colonel Panik, you are destined to like the ThinkPads. My wife and I have three between us, all running Mint 17.1 KDE. She’s in the “when you pry it from my cold dead fingers” mode about hers.

    She knows Linux is something about computers and that I talk about it sometimes (she tunes me out), but that’s about it. But she had to bring her school desk computer home to me to clean off three times in 7-8 months and wondered why her computer at home never needed it. Before I could answer, she asked, “Does that have something to do with Linux?”

    Ta-dum.

  • Nonya F. Bizzness

    I will buy IBM/Lenovo used any day over any Dell! Dell has taken over the title of cheapest made, non-repairable, POS laptops and desktops from gateway and emachines! Most Dell computers are lucky to last more than a few months beyond the warranty period. My refurbished IBM T-43 Thinkpads and Lenovo M-60 desktop will be around for many years to come. And their hardware is fully supported in Linux. They are all running Linux Mint KDE 17.1

  • Larry Cafiero

    Simply put, ThinkPads rule 🙂

  • Uncle Ed

    Maybe we should be petitioning Lenovo to bring out some Linux models for us to use.

    Last summer, I got a “cold call” email from “an account manager at Lenovo.” He wanted to know if my small business was interested in replacing any Dell, HP, or other computers “with the latest technology.” I replied that I’m now retired, but was typing my reply on a ThinkPad that he wasn’t going to get away from me without a fight. He came back with a nice and friendly “thank you” for ending his week on a pleasant note.

    I just wrote this fellow a note asking what it would take to get Lenovo to bring out a Linux laptop in a middle range, maybe $500-$1000. And I said if Lenovo did it, I’d buy one.

    Stay tuned.