Paul Boddie's Free Software-related blog

Paul's activities and perspectives around Free Software

Dell and the Hardware Vendors Page

Hugo complains about Dell playing around with hardware specifications on their Ubuntu-based laptop products. (Hugo has been raising some pretty interesting issues, lately!)

I think that one reason why Dell was dropped from the Hardware Vendors page on the FSFE Fellowship Wiki was that even though Dell was promoting products with GNU/Linux pre-installed, actually finding them remained a challenge involving navigating through page after page of “Dell recommends Windows Vista/Windows 8/Windows Whatever” before either finding a low-specification and overpriced afterthought of a product or the customer just giving up on the whole idea.

Every time they “embrace Linux” I’d like to think that Dell are serious – indeed, Dell manages to support enterprise distributions of GNU/Linux on servers and workstations, so they can be serious, making their antics somewhat suspiciously incompetent at the “home and small office” level – but certainly, the issue of the changing chipset is endemic: I’m pretty sure that a laptop I had to deal with recently didn’t have the advertised chipset, and I tried as hard as possible to select the exact model variant, knowing that vendors switch things out “on the quiet” even for the same model. On that occasion, it was Lenovo playing around.

The first thing any major vendor should do to be taken seriously is to guarantee that if they sell a model with a specific model number then it has a precise and unchanging specification and that both the proper model number and the specification are publicly advertised. Only then can we rely on and verify claims of compatibility with our favourite Free Software operating systems.

Until then, I can only recommend buying a system from a retailer who will stand by their product and attempt to ensure that it will function correctly with the Free Software of your choice, not only initially but also throughout a decent guarantee period. Please help us maintain the Hardware Vendors page and to support vendors and retailers who support Free Software themselves.

(Note to potential buyers and vendors: the Hardware Vendors page does not constitute any recommendation or endorsement of products or services, nor does the absence of any vendor imply disapproval of that vendor’s products. The purpose of the page is to offer information about available products and services based on the experiences and research of wiki contributors, and as such is not a marketplace or a directory where vendors may request or demand to be represented. Indeed, the best way for a vendor to be mentioned on that page is to coherently and consistently offer products that work with Free Software and that satisfy customer needs so that someone may feel happy enough with their purchase that they want to tell other people about it. Yes, that’s good old-fashioned service being recognised and rewarded: an unusual concept in the modern world of business, I’m sure.)

The inside of some random Dell computer at a former workplace - this one may not have been running GNU/Linux, but my Dell workstation was

The inside of some random Dell computer at a former workplace - this one may not have been running GNU/Linux, but my Dell workstation was

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