You might remember that a couple of years ago I ranted about my choice of a Dell laptop — I have not found the time until now to write a full retraction of that post, but you might have guessed that I’m not that bothered by the laptop anymore.
Indeed, after a few rough months, the laptop is working quite nicely nowadays; not only the issues with PME I reported were solved a version of the kernel in or two, but also nowadays gentoo-sources have a (patched) experimental driver for the touchpad that lets me disable it exactly like I wish to. After a firmware upgrade (which is unfortunately only available for Windows, but it’s a small price to pay), both the contactful and the contactless smartcard reader interfaces work fine, the SD card reader works nicely with modern kernel, and so does the soundcard (both speakers and microphones). Even the HSDPA modem (that I bought last year, separately, and was quite easy to set up!) works fine on Linux, even though I haven’t found a way to set up the GPS, or to read/send SMS, not that I care about the latter.
Indeed I haven’t run Windows in there for quite a bit, especially since last time I tried to repartition it I couldn’t get grub2 and Windows 7 to play well together, so I just let it “rotting” for the moment, and I’m now honestly considering whether I want to keep Windows 7 in there – it has a few uses for me at customers’, other than updating BIOS and various devices’ firmware – or just install an SSD and be done with it. Third option would be to find an HDD-in-Optical-Bay adapter and get an SSD for Linux and a (pluggable) HDD for Windows 7.
Anyway, after all this I’m pretty happy with Dell, to the point that I both started suggesting it for my customers, and got a few more things from them (namely a Vostro 3750 laptop to use for Windows development, and an U2711 monitor). Why did I change my mind so completely? Mostly because I have seen how other vendors seem to make it more and more inconvenient to use them for anything but looking at facebook.
Take HP: I had to downgrade a laptop for a customer last week, from Vista to XP. It was not the first time I did that, and not the first time I had to do so to an HP laptop.. but this time it got even worse than usual. Let’s ignore the fact that HP pretends that a ton of their “softpaq” packages only work on Vista (while they contain the XP drivers as well); at the end of the day, the BIOS is enforcing some stupid policy on the HDA-based soundcard… I was able to get it running by using the
devcon.exe command from Microsoft and making it reset the PCI ID of the soundcard at each Windows startup, which makes it work nicely.
Or take Gigabyte, which usually has a decent support for Linux: yesterday I built a computer for a friend of mine, with a Gigabyte GA-970A-UD3 motherboard; he’s running Windows 7 there, but as usual I wanted to write down the list of components and settings with
lshw, so I plugged in my usual SysRescueCD thumbdrive and … it didn’t boot. The same goes for the CD-Rom version; FreeDOS and Windows 7 boot cleanly, so my first guess is that there is something wrong, or at least different, in the way Syslinux boots. Contrarily to the kind of replies I received on twitter, I don’t think that Gigabyte is “not supporting Linux” given that they do list Linux support on their website for this board, more likely there is something funky with SysLinux.
But today’s hall of shame entry is quite enraging: Packard Bell (which has been bought by Acer a few years back) has a netbook line that is called “dot”; an acquaintance of mine received a “dot S” device that is actually a DOT_SE3/W-100IT, which comes with 1GB of RAM, and he asked me if I could get more RAM on it. Sure usually I can — in this case the maximum available is 2GB. He brought the device to me and I tried to find how to open it…
There are no instructions, it’s hard to find anything; DuckDuckGo does not find anything useful, while Google’s “did you mean?” feature made it impossible to find something related to SE3, with many more sources for SE2 and simple S instructions. It goes without saying that neither is anywhere near similar to this one. At the end of the day it seems like the only way you have to access the backside panel under which the memory is, is to disassemble almost the whole motherboard. Not going to.