Dell makes me uneasy

Well, I finally did it.  I bit the bullet and bought a laptop.  I just finished ordering an Inspiron B120 from Dell.  It's basically the cheapest laptop they sell, but they were offering $150 "instant savings" plus discounted shipping and no-charge upgrades to half a gigabyte of RAM and an integrated wireless card, so I figured I'd go for it.  

Eventually, I'll be putting Kubuntu on this machine, but I did shell out the extra $10 for the Windows CDs anyway.  If nothing else, they may come in handy for use in VMware.  I'm also not sure how Linux-friendly the WiFi card is, so having Windows around might be useful.  From the research I've done, I'm lead to believe the card is a Broadcom chipset that can be made to work with ndiswrapper (yuck), but I'm not entirely confident in my ability to get that working in a timely fashion.  It doesn't help that the laptop doesn't have any PCMCIA slots, so it's not like I can just get a card to stick in it.  I guess I'll see how it goes.

I have to say that, during the checkout process, I saw a few things that made me uneasy.  First, there was an option on the payment page for paying with two credit cards.  And, when I paid with a single card, there was an option for the daily charge limit.  Now, maybe I'm just cynical (which I am), but does it sound to anyone else like Dell's business model is to sell over-priced computers to people who can't really afford them?  It kind of seems that way to me.

And just to be fair, it's not that Dell's systems are over-priced.  They're actually really cheap.  The base systems are cheap, that is.  It's just the "upgrades" and add-ons that are over-priced.  Then again, it's not like any of the other vendors are any better in that regard.

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Comments #

    Dell laptops

    Sorry to (possibly) be the bearer of bad news but in the UK at least dell's windows CD's will only install on Dell hardware. It is a complete Windows system, but during install it checks the motherboard (or something) and if its not Dell hardware it demands a "valid" CD key. As you are thinking of running it in VMWare which emulates the hardware it will not see the dell, and think its on the wrong computer. This is how Dell (and I assume other large system builders) avoid the hastle of windows activation. I am assuming here that you have an OEM copy of windows - I checked and Dells site does not specify for the B120 - if you have a full version then the CD key should work.

    You can still dual boot windows and linux of course, or use this as another reason to drop windows entirely. Either way you made a good call as without the CD's its next to impossible to recover from any problems, and since it sounds like you are planning on using Windows for a while its a good safety net to have. Good luck with the new laptop!

    • Comment posted on Thursday 14 Dec 2006 at 5:07pm
    • By Neal Harrington

    Actually...

    I got the laptop the other day, and you're right: it's definitely an OEM disk. I assume that you're right and it's the same deal as the Gateway OEM disks we have at work. I was hoping from the description on the web site that it might be an *actual* Windows disk, but apparently not. On further research, I'm actually led to believe that the default situation is that Dell doesn't give you *any* disks at all, which really sucks. So in retrospect, I'm glad I ordered them anyway, because I'll need the driver disk to get NDISwrapper working.

    I really only intended to use Windows as a safety net in case, for some reason, I couldn't get the integrated WiFi card working. The laptop only has one Express Card slot and three USB slots (no PCMCIA), so I wasn't optimistic about the possibility of getting any external WiFi devices to work. I'll probably blank the hard drive and install Kubuntu tomorrow. If it takes me more than a week to get the WiFi working, I'll probably just break down and put XP back on another partition until I can get it figured out.

    I really detest Windows XP, so I hope it goes well. It's not that I have anything against Microsoft or the Windows line in general, it's just that, compared to a typical desktop Linux install, XP's interface feels ugly (though the classic theme isn't as bad) and inflexible. Plus the system is crippled by the total absence of applications and lack of something like apt-get. I could waste days just installing software on it, whereas in Kubuntu, I can point and click through Synaptic, go away for a couple of hours, and everything I want is installed when I come back. For me, Linux is just easier. (Note: I do not claim to be typical in this respect.)

    At any rate, I'll be posting my progress throughout the week. We'll see how it goes.

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