Monday, May 28, 2007

Dell Ubuntu XPS 410n On The Way

I ordered my first Dell PC on Saturday afternoon. It's an XPS 410n Desktop Computer with a special Operating System preloaded onto it: Ubuntu.

I am an end user.

I started to build it online at Dell.com. Dell's online sales process is a fine-tuned machine. I'm really impressed with how simple it is to put together a computer custom-made on Dell.com.


It's a very smooth, step-by-step process with a progress bar along the way. Each tab has a video explainer if you're stumped on which option to choose. I watched the video about choosing the right optical drive. The video carefully detailed the different options and advantages to each of them.

The steps were:

"Select your processor" (For an extra $50, I upgraded from the Intel® Core™ 2 Duo Processor E4300 (2MB L2 Cache,1.8GHz,800FSB) to the Intel® Core™ 2 E6320 Duo Processor(4MB L2 cache,1.86GHz,1066FSB). I can't wait to try out the Intel Core 2 Duo chip.

"Select your Operating System": Between the Ubuntu Service Support Packages, I chose the basic one: Ubuntu Feisty Fawn version 7.04 without any support (no added charges). (There were options for 30-days starter support for $65, 1-year basic support for $125 or 1-year standard support for $275 - these options will likely be the Canonical support offered through Dell - not sure if there's any price break here from what Canonical charges through its Global Support Services Group.)

"Select My Memory" - I bumped up the default memory of 1GB to 2GB Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM at 667MHz - 2 DIMMs.

"Select My Hard Drive" - Went with the default option here. 250GB is plenty. But you could go as high as 500GB.

"Select My Optical Drive" - upgraded to the Dual Drives: 48x Combo + 16x DVD+/-RW w/ dbl layer write capable.

"Select My Monitors" - I selected "No Monitor" (had to scroll down a little to see this option) and saved $170. (Dell's "Compatibility Instructions" popped up at this point to let me know that the default speakers on the XPS needed a monitor upon which to be attached and were not free standing. I chose "Fix it later".)

"Select My Video Card" - XPS only has one option: the 256MB nVidia Geforce 7300LE TurboCache [Included in Price]

"Select My Sound Card" - only had one option: Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio (Included in Price)

"Select My Speakers" - Selecting no speakers here saved me $10 and "fixed" the previously mentioned "No Monitor" issue with the flat panel speakers.

"Select My Keyboard & Mouse" - upgraded from the regular issue USB keyboard to the Multimedia keyboard with volume control nob & control buttons for $25. (I'm curious to see how well this works on Ubuntu.)

"Select My Mouse" - only had one option: Dell Optical USB Mouse.

"Select My Power Protection" - no thanks.

"Select My External Backup & Storage" - no thanks.

"Select My Floppy & Media Reader" - upgrade to the 13 in 1 Media Card Reader (adds $20 to price - but, oh the convenience for uploading photos.)

"Select My Warranty & Service" - 1Yr In-Home Service, Parts + Labor - Next Business Day (included in price).

"Select My Protection Against Accident" - no thanks.

"Select My Environmental Options" - no thanks, but yes, I will make certain my old Sony VAIO running Feisty Fawn will go to a happy family rather than the trash heap.

"Checking the Status of Your Build" Progress Bar (excitement builds!)

"REVIEW MY SUMMARY Congratulations! Your system is ready to be built."

(No telephone modem included in system - pesky Wintel modems!)

Dell.com wasn't giving me any options for TV tuner or internal wireless card. (I want to be ready to install Ubuntu Media Center as soon as it comes out!)

DesktopLinux.com had a nice post about the different Dell Ubuntu offerings. The article mentioned that the XPS was the only desktop that had three PCI slots. So I called up the 800 number. Tony from Nashville walked me through the rest of the sale. He checked with his manager to see if they were offering internal wireless as an option on the XPS desktop. A couple of minutes later no was the answer. That didn't surprise me. But I figured I'd rather check than not be certain. These are easy additions later on down the line.

Speaking with Tony, I found out about Dell's rather generous 12-month free financing offer. I took them up on this offer. I should receive the computer by June 5th.

I told my wife all about the new Dell Ubuntu PC headed our way. She's a Mac girl. She knows well my enthusiasm for Ubuntu. So I think she humored me a bit after I told her about our new acquisition.

"Why didn't you just purchase a Windows PC & dual boot it with Ubuntu?"

"Good question, babe. I suppose I did it to support freedom of choice. I am really excited about a "Choose Your Operating System" option being available. But I guess there's a pretty strong quotient of idealism behind my decision too. It's the principle of the thing."

"I think that's great, Pablo. What does Linux do that Windows or Mac doesn't do?"

"Wow - another good question, babe."

"Well, I'm not trying to second guess you here. I'm just curious about all of this."

"Linux is a very stable OS - like your Mac."

"I see."

"And it's free. And it's ALWAYS going to be free. That means no DRM, no spyware, no malware, no viruses, no costly upgrades, no worrying about whether your software is genuine Windows issue, no worrying about inputting a 25-character software key in order to obtain permission to install or reinstall something. That also means no more worrying about some company's fourth quarter report driving my software into early obsolescence. That means being able to copy my contacts from one e-mail program to another without an upgrade being bullied upon me. That means uploading and downloading anything I choose off and onto my iPod."

"Honey, why don't we watch a little golf? The Colonial is on television."

"OK OK. I can get a little carried away with this stuff, huh?"

"Don't worry - I know it's a passion for you."

"Thanks, babe. Who's on the leaderboard?"

"I think it's Bernhard Langer."

Thanks to Dell for offering Ubuntu, my favorite OS, on their rock solid PC's. It's good to see a Texas company in the vanguard on this one. Thanks to the Ubuntu Community and Mark Shuttleworth for getting this newbie onto the Linux bandwagon.