Comments and Opinions

About Dell

I have no other laptops to compare it with, but the hardware seems to work quite well. I am less enthusiastic about Dell's customer service and about their support web-site.

Before buying, I did try to find out which of the available modems were winmodems and which were real modems. Their representative claimed to check the support database, and then concluded that the modem I preferred was not a winmodem. Needless to say, when I got the system, the modem was easily identified as a winmodem. Trying to reach the customer rep about this or other things turned out to be pointless. Leaving messages had no apparent effect. So much for customer support.

It took longer than expected to actually ship the system. When it finally arrived, two of the keyboard keys were hanging loose. It took a lot of effort to get them back in!

The Dell support web-site seems to contain some useful information, including some technical information about various components. However, it is almost impossible to find what you are looking for. Many links are out-of-date (i.e., no longer valid), including many of the hits found by their search engine. I don't see any valid excuse why their own search engine should return invalid links.

While there are various boasts about cooperation between Dell and RedHat on the Dell web site, there is very little concrete information about Linux. To my surprise I recently came accross http://www.linuxcare.com/labs/certs/dl-insp4000-redhat70.epl which claims

Linuxcare Labs has completed certification testing of the Dell Inspiron 4000 with Dell's customized version of Red Hat Linux 7.0 OEM that comes pre-installed on this system. Dell has included device drivers and other software with their build which may not be included with the standard version of Red Hat Linux 7.
When I bought the system (before I saw that claim) I asked, but the saleperson firmly denied that there were laptops with Linux pre-installed.

This is the first system BIOS I have encountered that doesn't allow you to exit without saving the changes you made. (On the up-side, it's also the first time I see a system that allows you to switch to the BIOS setup without reboot.)

About RedHat

As described above, the installation went reasonably painless. I think there should be a better way to choose the packages one wants to install, including an opt-out method. Also, during installation it is rather unclear how "packages" relate to actual applications. After installation, you can only refer to "rpm"s, not to packages.

Even though I chose to install "everything", I find that there seem to be very few X-based programs installed (sometimes the man page exists, but no program accompanies it). E.g., xv and xanim are missing, although they did come with earlier RedHat releases. I certainly don't recall any warning about a reduction in the number of applications included. They wouldn't be trying to hide this, would they?

Installing "everything" does not install all of the documentation, such as the HOWTOs (earlier RH versions did install that); you must install those separately or read them directly from the separate documentation CD.

Word has it that RedHat made a mess of the gcc installation. I've no way of knowing what has been fixed with respect to that in the version that I have. At one point I tried to compile the latest version of the ethernet card driver, and didn't manage due to apparent problems with the kernel include files (even with kgcc instead of gcc, see http://www.scyld.com/network/updates.html under "Special instructions for Red Hat 7.0"). If I wanted a system where I cannot recompile kernel modules I would have just stuck with Windows.


Marcel van der Goot <vdgoot@earthlink.net>