[TriLUG] "The Linux Experience" at Dell, a tale of woe and wow. VERY LONG
chrisk at trilug.org
Wed Aug 29 11:11:13 EDT 2007
This is my tale of purchasing a computer from Dell, with Ubuntu 7.04
preloaded on it. It's got a bit of everything. It's got farewells,
happy meetings, struggles against evil and clueslessness, mild defeats,
mild triumphs, and concern for the future.
It is *very* long. Skip to the bit #DELLSUPPORT# for the juicy bits.
It has become time to upgrade my trusty black behemoth. Looking at my
various options it has become clear that building my own system is not
an option. (Having a 2 year old makes free time go away.)
So, I looked at how I could best get a desktop system that would work
well with Linux. (Specifically Ubuntu... I'm an unabashed fan of that
Due to my familiarity with Dell from work and their recent decision to
preload Ubuntu on consumer PCs, I decided to go with them.
I purchased an Inspiron 530 with big honking moniter (which I'm still
drooling over) various normal bits, CD-RW/DVD-ROM and an NVIDIA 8600GT.
(These get mentioned specifically as they figure in the rest of the
The NVIDIA card is the upgraded option... 256 MB of sweet BZflag
I receive the very pretty, very white, very small PC several weeks
Boots up... asks the normal post-install Ubuntu questions, and lets me
log in. Network, sound etc all working perfectly.
Sadly I didn't see the NVIDIA logo pop up.
Also, notice that the entire 250GB drive is set as one partition. I
usually like /home elsewhere in case I screw something up and need to do
a fresh install...
So I download the LiveCD version of GParted to move the partitions
around, and burn the ISO to CD.
Or rather, try to burn the ISO to CD. The CD spins, hums, and the
software reports success, but nothing is on the CD. I try nautilus,
K3B, and cdrecord. All report success, but no joy.
Back to NVIDIA, as bzflag would make me happy again. The "Ubuntu" way
of using the restricted drivers manager doesn't work. (It states that
there are no restricted drivers needed.)
After much googling... I find that the current version of the restricted
drivers manager doesn't support the NVIDIA 8600GT.
Poking around, I find the Envy installer...
http://albertomilone.com/nvidia_scripts1.html and use that. It gets me
into NVIDIA driver land, and I'm playing BZFlag.
But it's not the "Ubuntu way" Thinking that Dell may have added some
secret sauce, and wanting to figure out this CD problem too, I call
I call the 800 number off the Dell website for technical support. I'm
asked by a nice computer for the "Express Service Code" (ESC or serial
number) so they can route my call. "Hmm, I couldn't find that code"
says the nice computer. And asks for the type of computer, and whether
I'm running Vista. Then the phone rings, and I'm talking to a Tech
Support Person. (hereon referred to as TSP)
The TSP asks for me my ESC, which I give again, and they get my system
details... I tell them that I'm running preloaded Ubuntu and of my
problems. They ask me to click on the start button.
I reiterate that I have Ubuntu.
They ask me to go to Dell Connect. (Think GoToMyPC but only for Dells)
I remind them that the EXE file needed works with Windows, not Ubuntu.
(repeat this theme for ~30 minutes.)
The TSP suddenly states "Oh, you have Ubuntu. We don't support that
here, I have to transfer you to the correct number." Before I can ask
for that number, I get hold music followed by a disconnect.
Repeat this 2 times.
I get cranky.
I do a lot of Googling. Finally find a post on Ubuntu Forums from a guy
that had much the same problem as me. He however, got the number for
the Ubuntu Hardware support from Dell.
I call this number, I'm immediately talking to another TSP, this one
greets me by saying "Welcome to the Linux Experience by Dell..."
And he knew Ubuntu reasonably well for a level 1 TSP.
The upshot is... the CD-RW drives they ship in the systems are VERY
picky as to media. the FUJIFILM media I was using won't work, even
though I had used ~80 of them in another generic drive, but Sony media
seems to work... they're sending out a replacement drive that should be
The NVIDIA story is less happy. The 8600GT is truly not supported under
the nice Ubuntu way of doing things. The punchline is that if I had
stayed with the 8300 card that was default I would have had no problems,
according to the website.
I'm *very* happy with the support from their Linux support people.
I'm *VERYVERYVERY* unhappy with the difficulty of getting in touch with
the Linux support people.
My main concern is that it is one thing to make me edit my xorg.conf
file, it's another thing entirely to make Joe User do the same thing.
Also, getting the runaround in the support call would cause most end
users I know box the thing up and send it back. (If I had had one more
disconnect that's what I was going to do.)
From my discussion with the Linux TSP about how hard it is to get to
them, it appears that Dell hadn't really got the support system setup
before starting to sell the systems.
Anyway, I'm off to poke my computer and play BZflag. Anyone up for a
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