Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dell ships to CA

Some time ago I voted on Dell's Idea Storm website. Bring us Linux on the consumer products, give me Ubuntu I voted! Dell listened (thank you!) and started to do limited releases out, what feels like, the back door of their site - but only to the United States but there were promises to (eventually) come to Canada.

Let me get one thing straight - I am not a patient guy.

I tried to order a laptop in the states, ship it to a guy I knew who could use it for a month or two before sending it north - but that fell through. I looked at mail drops south of the border that I could drive south to pick up, just never got around to it.

Then Dell started to ship to Canada. Glory glory.

But, by that time I was pissed at them (and I still have a bad taste in my mouth from my past Dell support incidents), so I sat on it for a while. But like most toys, my head turned and I went back onto and purchased a lower range laptop (maxed out on options of course).

I purchased the Dell Inspiron 1420n. (in red if you must know)

My first impression upon opening the box was how sparse the parts and documentation was. No problem. The unit is a nice 14.1 inch glossy display doing 1440x900, wanted open sourced drivers so left the Intel x3100 video card, 4GB RAM, 160GB 7200RPM SATA drive, Intel Core 2 Duo T5450 1.66GHz CPU. A little lower on the specs that I normally use (mostly on a MacBook Pro now) but since this wasn't intended to by my main system, it should suffice. I think the lower CPU will hurt the most - especially if I start compiling stuff (I tend to play with Gentoo a bit).

Boots fine, resolution is correct, Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon pre-installed, sound works, suspect, wireless. Good. I see that there is an ISO on the machine with a link on my desktop, okay I burn (two) a DL DVD with the image. The two documents that came in the box were of little help - Product Information Guide was less than helpful and the Owners Manual that was written for Windows XP users. Nothing telling me how to restore, that I should burn the ISO - nothing. 3D acceleration is not turned on - something about Compiz Fusion not supporting the chipset (but there is an easy fix, see below).

Since all was working and because I can't just use a distribution if a new version is available - I do a network upgrade of the operating system to Ubuntu Hardy Heron. Sound and the modem breaks - but luckily I found (though the Ubuntu Forums) an online Dell support wiki (definitely bookmark this page). Site also includes links to drivers and the reinstall ISO images. The upgrade fixed the 3D acceleration problem.

I've only had the laptop for a day, so I can not give you a detailed review of using it - but it feels like a good piece of kit, sturdier than my prior Dell laptops one that I expect to get full use of in the coming months.

Linuxfest Northwest 2008!

I do not attend many Linux conferences but have known about the event just south of the border for me, called Linuxfest Northwest. At this time of year (as well as the fall), work is especially challenging as I have to put on the tie as well as act the part in numerous corporate events. It was nice to steal away for a weekend to attend this affair.

Last year I attended Ubuntu Live. It was fun, it was educational and it was definitely different than Linuxfest Northwest. Ubuntu Live was definitely more corporate, with some big name speakers. I got less out of the sessions than the keynotes, which were a wide range of topics but in general very high level (if you get my meaning). This weekend at Linuxfest Northwest it definitely felt different - more grassroots, friendlier even.

The event is free, no charge for attending, no charge for the sessions. There are numerous topic sessions to choose for. Lots of different types of people in attendance, from kids (I know, I know, I'm sounding... and getting!... old), to older couples to just us normal geeks. There were numerous vendors of all types, from Oracle to local LUGs and hardware manufacturers. This was about Linux, about the community that we speak about so much and about having fun.

I enjoyed myself immensely and plan on attending again next year. If in the neighbourhood, I'd recommend you do the same!