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The OS Problem

I recently purchased a new laptop.  It's a Gateway M-6843.  It's wonderful!  The very first thing I did, of course, was install Ubuntu 8.04.1.  I plugged in the laptop and booted from the Ubuntu CD and clicked the install icon.  After about a week, I saw this blog detailing how this person got a refund from HP because he didn't want to use Windows Vista.  So, I started the process with Gateway.  It's been about a week and it's going to be a long process.  Customer Support at Gateway gave me the run-around so I am in the process of writing a letter to the Corporate Office.

The reason for all of this is because of the End User Licensing Agreement (EULA) from Microsoft.  According to the EULA, if I choose not to use Vista, I should contact the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM, in my case this would be Gateway) for a refund or credit.  But this begs the question: Why don't people get this option before buying the system?  That is, instead of having the customer pay for the OS, why not show them the EULA first?  That way, the customer is not out any money if the customer doesn't want to accept the EULA.  Or, have Windows installed like trial software 'bundled' with the hardware.  Then, after the trial period has expired, the customer has to purchase a license from Microsoft if they want to continue using Windows.  This is how trial software works.  This way, the customer is in charge of their purchase and not Microsoft.  And that's why it might not ever happen.

Right now, the customer is forced to purchase the software first and then fight the battle of getting the money back.  This will be a long, tedious process and most people won't even try.  The ones who do try will probably give up.  The current process is not about the customer.

This is why I'm such an advocate of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).  Most of the FOSS operating systems come on a live CD.  You can boot your computer from the CD and play with the OS for a while -- put it through the paces, make sure it works with your hardware, see all the applications available, etc.  Then, if everything works (or if there are easy to follow instructions to get the hardware working) you could install it on your system.  I believe that if most people had the choice, if they saw what they could get with FOSS, they would choose it almost every time.

At the same time, however, this is also why Linux won't ever get a big slice of the computing pie.  If the masses of people aren't given a choice, heck, if they don't even know a choice exists, they will be locked into Microsoft forever.  It will take more and more people demanding fair treatment before anything ever gets done.

But what about Apple and Mac OS X?  You used to be a big supporter of that platform.

Good question and comment.  It's true, I used to be a huge Apple fan.  My wife and daughter still use an Apple laptop.  Plus, we all have iPods.  However, I am beginning to see that Apple might be worse than Microsoft.  That is, not only are you locked into an OS (it comes pre-installed on your computer), but you are also locked into the hardware (the only way to get the OS is to purchase the hardware).  The difference is a person knows what she is getting with this deal.  She specifically sough out this hardware and the software (or for the software).  That is, she is tired of Windows and want something else.  However, she believes that her only alternative is to switch to Apple and Mac OS X.  But what if she knew she could keep her existing hardware a lot longer than she is told and could upgrade to an OS that is at least as secure (if not more so) than OS X and it wouldn't cost her a thing?  That sounds pretty good to me and most people I know.

But for Linux to get any type of respect and public attention, it must be show cased.  Right now, most of the plug for Linux is from it's user base, i.e., word of mouth.  There's nothing wrong with that.  But when people go to the store, most of the time, all they see are Windows PCs.  If they turn on their TV's they see Microsoft and Apple commercials touting their products.  Even in the print ads, it usually a Window's system that is shown.  Heck, even the companies that sell Linux powered systems have '<company name> recommends Windows Vista'.  You have to go digging in their web sites to even find Linux.  In other words, Linux, on a large scale isn't being promoted.  Granted, there are some PC magazines that are running ads for it or have articles about it.  But, these are specialty mags.  Only the people who like looking at those mags will see the ads/articles about Linux.  But what about the average person?  What about the parents that are trying to find a reasonably priced system for their child?  Or the grandparent that would like a system to email their grandchildren?  Or the college student that needs an inexpensive system for school?

Like it or not (and I don't) the average person will have to settle for Windows and continue to put up with the crap that Microsoft spews out.  For Linux to become the viable alternative I believe it is, it needs to be thrust into the public eye so people can see it in all it's glory.  It has to have it's time in the spotlight.  It needs print ads and TV commercials.  People need to see the great features and security and the applications that they can have.  They need to be able to walk into a store and see the hardware they like running Linux.  They need to have knowledgeable sales staff that can show off Linux.  Then and only then will people really have a choice in their computing needs.  Right now, they are still at the mercy of Microsoft.  And that's a problem.

Peace be with you.



Anglican said…
Very interesting. I always enjoy reading about your tech escapades. You are completely right, of course, about the dubious nature of "choice" when it comes to an OS on an OEM machine. Best of luck as you deal with Gateway, and keep us posted. (Looking forward to actually seeing this new computer, btw.)

I'm also pleased to see you come around on Apple. Microsoft may have a monopoly, but compared to Apple they are far more flexible about what kind of hardware they allow their software to be paired with. I think Apple's OSX is a fantastic operating system. And if Apple ever chose to flip the switch and allow it to run on all Intel-based hardware, I truly believe they would clean Microsoft's clock. But Apple doesn't want the headache of supporting the millions of hardware combinations that would require, and until they do Apple will always remain a successful but ultimately niche computer company. If I could legally buy OSX and use it on my PC, I would drop Windows in a heartbeat. But Apple doesn't need a customer like me.

Anyway, continued luck.
odysseus said…
Thanks for the comments. Yeah, it dawned on my really when I wanted to use my iPod with Ubutnu. It took about a day before I could make it work 'properly' and it still doesn't have all the features that it does in iTunes. That was my real first look at the problem with Apple. I buy music but I can't listen to it on any other device or OS. That music is legally mine. I paid for it. But, if I don't have iTunes or an iPod, well, tough for me. And the fact that Apple won't make a Linux client shows (at the very least) they are scared of what I wrote in this post. If people actually have an alternative to Windows and keep their hardware AND use iTunes, they wouldn't go out and buy Macs. They would load up Linux and install the Linux iTunes client more often than not. That is one of the deal breakers with Linux -- iTunes. When you tell people that they can't play their legally purchased music on Linux, they are quick to walk away. I know that one could use Wine but it's a little flaky when it comes to iTunes. However, I recently read an article about an open source company that figured out how to play DRM music without iTunes legally. So maybe there is some light breaking through on this front.

Again, thanks for stopping by.

Anglican said…
I've gotten into the habit of shopping for music on Amazon first, then only to iTunes if Amazon doesn't have it. Amazon's MP3 store offers DRM-free, universally playable MP3s at twice the quality--and often a few cents cheaper to boot. It took a little while to change my reflexive habit of shopping iTunes first, but for the most part the same music is available on Amazon.

The Amazon downloader (for Windows--don't know if they have a Linux model yet) is a snap to use and it puts the music right into the correct iTunes directories. Buy, download, and right on to my iPod (or anywhere else I want) with no problems. And I don't have to mess with the whole iTunes "authorization" thing. Check it out if you haven't already:
odysseus said…
Yeah, they do have a linux client (four, to be specific). I use Amazon exclusively. It's sure nice, too, when I'm at the office and I purchase some music and then copy it to my USB drive and bring it home to my laptop. No licensing problems or anything.
gertjan said…
Slightly off topic, I am trying to decided whether to buy this laptop (actually the 6867H, a canadian model). Can you tell me if video cam worked and suspend to RAM worked fine ? Any other ubuntu 8.04 quirks ? Much appreciated.

odysseus said…

Everything worked just fine. Suspend worked as did the web cam. Of course to USE the web cam, you will need to install Kopete (a chat application) or 'Cheesy' (I think) which is like a Mac Photobooth app.

Concerning 8.04: Download the latest ISO. It will be 8.04.1. This seems to be a lot more stable.

Peace be with you.
red said…
Hi odysseus. Just found your blog this morning via google, searching for Linux and the Gateway M6843. Glad to hear it's working! I was going to buy it last night, but the BestBuy sales drone wouldn't let me boot with my Ubuntu disk to check it out. In some ways I understand, but the excuses he gave were quite funny. Surprisingly haven't found much (any) other info about this computer and Linux. And searching for "linux" on the Gateway site turns up one non-related hit! Dell offers Ubuntu iso's on their site for some laptops, which is nice. So your wireless works too? Nice read and thanks for the info!
Odysseus said…
Thanks for stopping by, Red. Yeah, everything seemed to work right out of the box with Ubuntu 8.04.1. I haven't had any issues whatsoever. These two have been a really good mix. I would highly recommend it.

Again, thanks for stopping by and let me know if you need any help.

Peace be with you.

red said…
Good to hear! I'm more of a Fedora guy, but if the latest Ubuntu works, then Fedora probably will too. I'll have to hold back my grouchiness at Best Buy and bite the bullet. ;) Does the wireless support WPA? If the laptop only had Bluetooth and FireWire, it would be perfect. Thanks for the reply and your blog!

Odysseus said…
Well, I can't say anything about Fedora, since I haven't touched that distro in years.

Concerning WPA: Yes, both WPA and WPA2 work. I am currently using a WPA2 encryption.

Concerning bluetooth and firewire: I don't have any need for either of these, so that was a non-issue for me.

I hope all works well.

red said…
Just an update, I bought the Gateway Tuesday, and put Ubuntu on it last night. Piece of cake! I kept Vista, so that was a bit more involved to do disk prep (resize partitions) before doing Ubuntu, but it was happily connected over my wireless with no problem. And Ubuntu and the sticker on the Gateway both seem to think it has Bluetooth as well. I'm still not sold on Ubuntu itself, maybe I just need to install my preferred KDE packages instead. But it's a good start. One of the USB ports seems bad, because I can't even plug anything into it. But it's got two others, so I'm probably ok.
odysseus said…
Glad things are working out for you, red. I would, however, see if the faulty USB port works in Windows. If not, I wouldn't hesitate to take it back to wherever you purchased it.

You can install the KDE packages directly from the Ubuntu repositories. This will put both desktop environments on your system. Then you can choose which one your prefer at sign in. Or, you could just download Kubuntu and install it instead.
Matt said…
Hey guys.
I have the same laptop and was wondering if the webcam and card reader were also detected and functioning under Ubuntu?
Odysseus said…
Hey Matt! Yeppers, both worked for me. Although the web cam works for me, I am not using it (I tried it with Kopete just to see if it worked and it worked flawlessly).
Matt said…
[...] 16, 2008 As you may recall, I recently bought a Gateway laptop from Best Buy.  And, I did not configure Windows Vista.  [...]

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