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Archive for June, 2008

A 2008 Experience of Buying a GNU/Linux PC in the UK

Dell XPS

[These are some quick notes, nothing formal, but might be of use to Brits in this blog who wish to buy a PC soon...]

Things have improved drastically, even in the land of Bill & Tony, which is likely to be last to embrace FOSS (along with the US).

I’ve just spent about 3 hours trying to find a new PC. I found one.

I decided that living with antiques can be fun and very viable as long as you stick to GNU/Linux, but productivity is never optimal. With just 256 MB or 512 MB you soon develop some memory management habits that affect the way you perform tasks.

So, off I went looking for what’s available out there. One system that appears to be very popular and sold widely across the nation is the eSys Linux box, which is in some way associated with a company in India (I know this because I called them for support in 2005 and a person from India answered). Anyhoo…

Its cost varies from about GBP 100 to GBP 200, depending on how much the seller wants to pocket as a price difference/margin. Tesco still sells these with Ubuntu LTS (6.06) as far as I can tell and so do some other shops, not only those that specialise in Linux. I saw a few.

Dell sells Linux in the UK. It even has some nice Web page to guide those who know what they are looking for (can search for “Linux” or “Ubuntu” and you can’t really miss it). For various peculiar reasons, I decided to skip Dell. The decision seems poor because Dell’s offer depends on demand, but then again, Dell is a kickback-loving business where scandal and corruption is just part of ‘success’. Moreover, they offered no AMD options, which means that Charity Killer (Intel) would get a buck. I could care less about the NVidia-only option because while NVidia doesn’t stock FOSS (for now… someone reliable tells me that a big announcement has yet to come but it’s embargoed) it has been relatively kind to Linux over the years, compared with ATI (before the strategic 360 anyway). So that’s Dell anyway. Rumours suggest that there are hardly any savings if one buys a Linux PC from them (it varies depending on offers and nations). I didn’t check this carefully.

Then there’s Dabs, which 3 years ago I decided not to buy from due to poor (irresponsible) service. They probably still have some Linux PCs around, but their defective site has a dysfunctional search feature. It doesn’t do anything. Maybe it wants JavaScript to be enabled.

I could recall a company called Nov*something from (or uk.comp). It was discussed several years ago. It was mentioned regularly in the UK NGs because they don’t force you to buy Windows and AMD is available too. They have a nice-looking site at the moment and there’s a considerable discount for those who steer away from Windows, so I went for that offer.

The new rig will be overpowered for my needs, but at least it’s built to stay ahead of the curve even in the future. It comes with a dual-head-compatible GPU, so it’s more than enough; I’ve hardly played games in the past year. Anyway, the plan is to get this multi-core box also a multi-head box.

I turned for some quick advice to the public Phoronix IRC channel and an online friend was there to help.

<schestowitz> I have a quick query. I’m about to close a deal on a PC any moment. Does the Nvidia Geforce 7300GT 256MB work with dual head OK?
<michaellarabel> schestowitz: Using the binary driver, yes.
<schestowitz> Thanks a million! I was going to pick just the favourites, but no seller in the UK does that. I was relived enough to find Linux+AMD (quad-core)… but only NVidia among the options.
<schestowitz> *relieved
<michaellarabel> No problem. To set it up, just look at TwinView in nvidia-settings.
<schestowitz> I’ve made a note, thanks.
<schestowitz> michaellarabel, would it be possible (no matter how hard) to combine two of these cards for triple-head?
<michaellarabel> schestowitz: Yes, using Xinerama.
* m-c has quit (“Ex-Chat”)
<schestowitz> Thanks. I ask because my first Xinerama experience (2003) burned half a day. Afterwards it took no more than half an hour. Nothing scares me more than editing x config files (CTRL+ALT+BACKSPACE and pray :-) )
* m-c (n=mmm@ubuntu/member/desertc) has joined #phoronix
<michaellarabel> it shouldn’t be that hard to configure it these days.

So it seems like I’ll go out to get another GPU tomorrow. Novatech’s delivery schedule seems impressive, if they stick to it. They deliver within one day (or so they say, depending on ordering volume).

Other shops I came across were interesting too. Some offered to sell Linux CDs, Ubuntu was a popular choice for preinstalls and some shops were too small to be trustworthy. Also, Google Checkout seemed a tad problematic.

I remembered Jim Moore who used to post in COLA (USENET Linux advocacy). The first site I visited with the intent of buying a PC was his. But having followed the link he posted in his .sig I got just a default server page. I wonder what he’s up to.

The NASA Global Warming Deniers

Can we trust NASA?

NASA’s press office “marginalized or mischaracterized” studies on global warming between 2004 and 2006, the agency’s own internal watchdog concluded.

One has to wonder if any Federal or public body has actually remained decent.

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