Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dell / Ubuntu

So I got my new Dell Inspiron 530N with Linux unpacked and setup. Feels good to not pay the Microsoft tax... Microsoft got about fifty bucks off the last couple of computers I bought, even though the first thing I did was reformat the hard drive and install Linux.

I had several questions prior to purchasing the Dell, to which there was no clear answers until I actually got the hardware

  • What is the on-board video chipset?
  • What ports are exposed on the front of the unit?
  • How expandable is is? (the picture on the website isn't clear about drive bays)

Well, here are some pics:

Yes, it's a white computer. I didn't expect that. Who do they think they are, Apple?

Note the plastic cover over the onboard video connector in the upper lefthand corner. It's a VGA connector for the onboard GMA3000 video adapter (G33 chipset). I'm interested in this because of the new Intel drivers which are completely open source. Nvidia makes good video cards, but the Linux drivers are closed source and I would rather have a slightly slower video adapter than a faster one in which I can't debug a kernel panic myself. You can't buy this system without an Nvidia card because the Intel driver wasn't in Ubuntu 7.04.

Also worth noting that the Nvidia card does have an S-Video output, making it useful for my MythTV development.

Here is the packout that came with the computer. Pretty standard. I do like that they included the stock Ubuntu media, and there is no Microsoft marketing collateral. I don't like though that they provided a 132 page book containing Dell's contact information in every country they ship in, in three languages. There's this thing called the "Internet". Do I really need to know their phone number in Bolivia? They know where they shipped the PC to. They could have just put the relevant contact information on the packing manifest and saved a whole lot of trees...

Here's a picture of the front of the unit, showing what ports are available. Note the Firewire port (labeled 1394) isn't populated.

And it includes the most important application.

- Summary -

The thing worked pretty much out of the box. No Microsoft EULA on first powerup. Plugged in my Sony digital camera and it just worked. Doesn't play DVDs out of the box because of the licensing issues, but I can't really blame Dell for that. Comes with Firefox and OpenOffice. If I had been a regular home user, I could have taken it out of the box and started working.