Linux on Dells

Dell are going to start selling pc’s with Linux preinstalled. This could be an interesting trend.

I bought a sony vaio last year to use with Linux, but it proved to be such a PITA (the sony not Linux) that I went back to Windows, and barely use it. It came with a ton of pointless crapware, no install media and just a recovery partition. That meant every re-install brought back all the crapware. I’ll make sure any future PCs I buy are better set up than the Sony. If I get time I’ll rebuild it properly, but as Sony don’t seem too keen to provide Linux drivers, it will probably stay as a Windows (XP) machine.

It sounds like my next pc may be a Dell. The plan is to run Linux and then layer Windows on top using vmWare. I’ve also got half an eye out for the rumoured new Mac sub-notebook.

Anyone else got any plans to investigate Linux further? (a very easy way to try before comitting is to download a live CD or DVD, these just run from the CD drive, they install nothing, and make no changes. Knoppix is the best known, but ubuntu (and plenty of others) do them too).

Has anyone tried crossover office?

On a related note did you know the next version of Office for Macs (due 2007/8) won’t have VBA? AFAIK there are no similar plans for Office for Windows.



4 Responses to “Linux on Dells”

  1. MikeC Says:

    Simon – if you order a Dell, just be sure not to pay the price they ask…

    Just ordered a new desktop for my mother, and in the end had managed to knock just over £100 off the advertised price, with a free memory card reader, monitor upgrade and express delivery.

    On a side note, they’re selling all new desktops (not sure about laptops) with Vista as standard. To have XP instead they’re asking for £15 extra. Yeah, they’ll drop that too if you try (mom can barely figure out Outlook Express, I was NOT gonna give her a pc with an OS is still patchy!)

    (To get the above, I told them that I had found a better deal – they matched it without even needing confirmation / retailer details)

  2. Harlan Grove Says:

    I haven’t used Crossover Office, but I did get Office 97 up & running under wine under Mandrake 8 a few years ago. It was noticeably slower than running natively under Windows. I didn’t try it with XLLs.

    As for Linux on your Vaio, did you try mounting your recovery partition and seeing whether you could pick & choose packages to copy to CDs? Even if not, you could always copy the Vaio’s /boot directory to CD (a well-designed /boot should easily fit on a CD), then use a different Linux distribution as an upgrade. You may then need to hack the boot configuration files to add the original Vaio restore functionality to the new distibution’s base.

    If you’re going to be running vmWare anyway, then you’re going to run some version of Windows under it? If so, just run Office under Windows under vmWare rather than screwing around with Crossover Office.

    On a tangent, the company I work for provides most standard business applications on Terminal Server, including the major MSO 2003 Pro apps (other than Outlook – we use Lotus Notes). I’ve been able to run the Linux version of the Citrix ICA client on various versions of Ubuntu, so as I see it, there’s no reason the company couldn’t replace ALL employees’ Windows desktops with Linux desktops that automatically launch Citrix on login, giving everyone access to MSO and the other Windows applications on a much more secure platform. We could reduce the overall number of MSO licenses by at least half if not by 2/3 and reduce Windows licenses by 90% or more. Think of the savings!

    As for the next Mac version of Office, if not VBA, what? Back to XLM? Will there be AppleScript hooks? Will Office XYZ be able to run existing VBA code but not allow any changes? If not, it may be a very difficult sell.

  3. Simon Says:

    Thanks for the tip Mike – I’ll try that.
    Harlan I’ll have a look at the /boot stuff, but I think I will just format the drive and install everything from scratch. I have been looking at converting my current pc to a virtual pc to run on the Vaio. That may work.

    The plan is to just work in a windows virtual machine, I was just wondering about crossover. Interesting that you had office working under wine.

    I didn’t know about a linux citrix, I’ve only seen the active-x one, thanks for the tip off I’ll try that.

    Mac office I think will just have apple scripting, no idea if it will run existing VBA. I can’t see that helping sale either. XLM may well be approaching its end of life, so I don’t think it will be that.

  4. Harlan Grove Says:

    Final parting comments re XLM.

    XLM in defined names is dangerous in older versions, but it serves a purpose that nothing else other than VBA does – giving access to formatting/layout information in formulas via names defined as formulas calling XLM functions.

    Another of my major peeves about Excel is it’s CELL function, which was a knock-off of Lotus 123’s @CELL/@CELLPOINTER, thus the 123-like return values from CELL(“Format”). Lotus figured out how to extend it in 123R2.2 and R3.0, both in 1989, adding useful information like whether a cell contained a formula or not, font color, row height, lots of thing’s Excel’s XLM GET.* functions have already been returning. While it’s possible to write simple VBA udfs to return this information, udfs trigger macro security, XLM function calls don’t.

    One thing Excel needs and has needed for a long time is a better security model vis-a-vis udfs and XLM. It wouldn’t be difficult to split XLM functions, VBA procedures and object model method calls into always safe and not always safe categories. It’d be VERY USEFUL to have a security setting that didn’t complain about udfs that make only always safe calls, e.g., Range.HasFormula, but did catch anything unsafe, e.g., Shell calls in udfs (permitted!) and XLM file system function calls.

    Maybe MSFT will surprise me and make the always safe, information only XLM calls regular worksheet functions in XL14, but I won’t hold my breath.

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