Dell gives Ubuntu details

Dell has published the first details of its Ubuntu Linux systems

Dell has published on its blog the first details of what users can expect for some of its forthcoming Ubuntu Linux systems, even though the company remains coy on many specifics.

Dell will sell Ubuntu 7.04 preinstalled on "select Dell client systems", according to Dell manager of Linux OS technologies John Hull, and is expected to make the systems available starting late this month.

Dell has sold Linux-based servers for several years. The exact configuration of the client systems has been a complex matter to arrange because of the technical support and intellectual property issues involved, Dell has said. The company is expected to offer Ubuntu on certain XPS and Dimension desktops and Inspiron laptops.

Hull said Dell's systems will come with the default Ubuntu software installed, including the kernel and applications.

Support for peripherals will be more limited than with other operating systems Dell offers because of the hardware support available within Linux, Hull said. "We're offering the hardware options on each system that have the most mature and stable Linux driver support," he wrote. "These hardware options have been thoroughly tested by the Linux team here at Dell."

Closed-source drivers have long been an irritant to Linux users, and Hull confirmed that some proprietary drivers will be included in the Dell systems, where there is no equivalent open source driver.

These will include drivers for Intel wireless cards and Conexant modems.

However, Hull said the company is insisting on open source drivers where possible and will encourage hardware makers to improve Linux support.

"For hardware options not offered with this release, we are working with the vendors of those devices to improve the maturity and stability of their associated Linux drivers," Hull wrote. "While this may not happen overnight, we do expect to have a broader range of hardware support with Linux over time."

Customers should also not expect any support for proprietary audio or video codecs that don't already come with Ubuntu 7.04 - that means MPEG 1/2/3/4, Windows Media, DVD, Quicktime and other formats won't play on the systems by default.

"We are evaluating options for providing this support in the future," Hull wrote.

This is standard for many Linux distributions because of the licence fees involved in distributing such codecs. There are a number of third-party options for adding the codecs to Linux systems.

For those who want to know more, Hull said Dell is planning to build a wiki page on giving technical details of the supported systems, information on device drivers, details of the Ubuntu factory installation and information on the problems Dell has encountered in testing, along with fixes or workarounds.

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Matthew Broersma
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