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Dell chooses Ubuntu linux!

May 1, 2007

Today’s BBC Business News Headline reads, “Dell to use Ubuntu on Linux PCs“. Wow! I’m simply blown away at this historic news! It was just the other day I read that Michael Dell was using Ubuntu on his own laptop. I thought that was pretty cool, but this is simply incredible!

Only a short while ago, I had nothing but bad things to say about Dell’s attitude towards us consumers who’d rather not use Windows. I was shopping for a new laptop to use Ubuntu with when I looked closer at Dell. Asus had some nice barebones systems that came without an OS, but cost more than Dell’s similar compact notebook models.

I’d heard before of Dell selling PC’s with linux on ’em. My impressions of this in the past were that they cost more than the same version with windows (despite having to pay the $100 ‘Microsoft Tax’), and that the linux ‘option’ was sorta hidden, deep within the dark corners of the Dell website. I’d also read about people who had actually managed to get a refund for the cost of Windows if they returned it to Dell demanding a refund.

I tried to do the same in January and wrote about my experience on ubuntuforums.org. I tried to buy a Dell laptop without windows on it, and avoid paying for that ‘other’ OS I don’t like, want or need. I contacted my ‘personal sales advisor’, Wajid at Dell Canada. I asked, “Do I have to pay for Windows, or can I get a refund on the windows OS if I don’t use it?”

Wajid replied, “We don’t refund if you don’t use OS.”

It wasn’t Wajid’s fault for not knowing, but the truth is that they had done, and did do for other customers in the past.. who made enough of a stink. It was such a landmark event that the BBC reported the news. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Microsoft would try to put Dell out of business if they made it any easier than that to get a refund.

It all revolves around that wonderous book-length End User License Agreement (EULA ) that’s presented in a tiny little window the first time you start up your shiny new PC or freshly install a new copy of the OS. The EULA is that legal agreement no one ever reads, but usually agree to anyway. When you buy your new computer, you don’t own your Windows OS, you have purchased a license that gives you the rights to use it. The EULA could very well require that you’d happily give up your first born for the opportunity to kiss the feet of Sir. William Gates, but who’d know for sure anyways–when’s the last time you read the entire document? The Microsoft EULA is an ongoing issue that consumers have fought for many years. Consumers are now reporting that the EULA for Vista is simply downright evil.

The bottom line is that customers do have the right to refuse the agreement and to return the unused product. If they’ve paid for it, then its only fair they should be refunded the cost of it. Eventually I came across Dell’s ‘Total Satisfaction Return Policy’ where I found that they do provide for the consumer the following option:

For customers who want to return, for refund or credit only, either application or operating system software that has been installed by Dell, the whole system must be returned, along with any media and documentation that may have been included in the original shipment.

This is of course at the customer’s expense for shipping, insurance and being without your newly purchased PC for the next few weeks. It was enough to discourage me from wasting my time. I wasn’t up for taking on that activist battle… in that way… but the war is far from over!

Perhaps I’m being too complicit with the evil empire? But in the end, being such a technology geek, I decided to buy a new piece of Dell hardware, the XPS M1210 . I was convinced that it was an excellent price for the degree of sophistication and quality. There appeared to be many pleased reviewers with few complaints about the notebook.

We’ll there is mine, I guess… I had to buy it with Windows. But ‘the times, they are a’changin’, and it sounds like Dell is starting to listen to consumers requests. I wonder if that means I’ll ever get a refund for that OS I ended up deleting from my new laptop. Hey Dell? Michael? I hear you’re feeling ‘feisty’ lately…

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