Monday, June 11, 2007

Dell and Ubuntu

I recently posted a full review of Dell's Ubuntu laptop. The device has great promise, in more ways that one.

First, the laptop is a very capable Linux machine. Historically, Linux has supported a very wide variety of hardware, and yet hardware support has been its weakest point. While it can run on many platforms, and work fairly consistently across them, newer hardware makers see Linux as a non-entity. Thus flashy new graphics card makers would ignore Linux drivers, since it was too hard to setup a group to make Linux drivers, and too intrusive to reveal the inner workings of their device. It is changing considerably, with Nvidia commited to releasing Linux drivers, and ATI making routine pronouncements that it will do the same. In this laptop, all the hardware works with a stock Ubuntu Feisty Fawn install (32 bit, or 64 bit: your choice). If the sales of this laptop can help the sagging sales volume of Dell, customers can look forward to more Linux laptops, both from Dell and other manufacturers.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, this is a machine that needs very little maintenance. Linux is resilient to the Windows specific virii, and spyware, and so the daily grind of the anti-virus, and the adware, spyware blocker is un-needed. That is old news. With Ubuntu's simple and easy user interface, it is easy for anyone to use this computer. I am specifically thinking of setups where the person using the machine needs the standard computing functionality: browser, email, office suite, without the hassle of being a full admin for a Windows machine.

Further, the localization on this computer is good enough to encourage non-English speakers to begin using computers. The translation is not perfect, clearly. But with the fast release cycle of Ubuntu, and the open development model, this could be changed by a few classrooms of 10th standard students. Already, one can type Hindi documents, and send Hindi mail. The desktop also can be switched to Hindi. Of course, there is localization for Tamil, Kannada, Bengali, Gujrati. This would be nearly perfect for cybercafe's, where you need to provide desktop access, but you don't want the customers downloading untrusted programs, or running arbitrary code.

I hope this computer is offered soon in India.