Hardware stories to share
The following are either my personal opinions or stories from
people I trust.
Notice that for me the ability to run Linux and control my
hardware and software is essential, which motivates most of
what follows. Also note that a large part of it is hearsay,
which may be obsolete by the time you read it.
Vendors I like:
- (Boston local) CTS Computers: I own four machines
they built, and my friends have four more on my recommendation.
- Dell used to be here :-( They used to ship Linux machines,
with reasonable configurations. Sigh. See below.
I found three basic pieces of advice to be very useful:
- Go for separate hard drives for Linux and various
flavors of Windoze, if you need to keep the latter
for some reason (gaming?). In the likely event of
having to reinstall Windoze this will make your life
much simpler (see below).
- Get a "real" or "hard" modem. Most Winmodems are a problem
under linux, although some are indeed supported (
The difference of some $30-$40 will be negligible
compared to the time you will spend debugging a $30
- Don't go after the latest and greatest video card, take
something that has a proven record under Linux. Beware:
a small difference in the vendor's model name/number may
mean an entirely different chipset (e.g. an (imaginary)
WonderVideo vs. WonderVideo Pro or WonderVideo 2)!
As usual, it's a good idea to check your indended Linux distro's
hardware compatibility list first, and then look in the newsgroups
(Google is your friend).
As time passes, I feel less likely to buy from major vendors.
Partly this is due to Microsoft's pressure on OEMs to provide
"recovery" CDs tied to a particular brand of BIOS, not a full
distribution of Windows. Apart from being tied to a particular
machine, these "recovery" CDs likely start their "recovery" with
formatting the hard drive to restore the pristine partition table,
which is not acceptable for someone who does most of his work
in an active Linux partition on the very same disk.
- Dell: They used to be very dependable, but now they
are big, and seem slow and less friendly.
A friend of mine ordered a high-end system ($6000)
from them, and got a low-end one delivered by mistake. It
took him three months of calling and shipping it back and forth
to convince Dell that something was wrong, and another month
to get his money back. At one point some Dell rep told him that
it takes their finance department a week to receive an e-mail.
So now he has a G4 Mac running Mac OS X, and feels happy about it.
On another count, a Dell machine arrived with a broken
video card, and so did not work "out of the box". They were
really good about replacing faulty parts, though, in my
- HP: They may not tell you this right away, but you are
not getting any OS recovery CDs with the systems you buy from them.
Note that you could not get Windoze installation CDs from
any major OEM for a while, because Microsoft said so, only
a "recovery" CD that most likely trashed all of your disk just
to install Windoze. Not HP's fault, that.
HP will ship them for $10 if your disk has crashed or been
upgraded, but you need to call them and then wait until it
arrives -- they won't ship them to you just because you want
to be prepared, even if you are willing to pay.
Not a good prospect if your PC has just crashed, huh?
Alternatively, you can ship your computer back to them so that
they can re-image the disk (and what happens to your files?)
This means that you cannot easily re-partition you disk either,
as you won't be able to rebuild right away if something goes awry. No
Linux partition for you, just use Windoze and shut up.
See article at InfoWorld, article on Slashdot -- many interesting
customer stories there...
By they time you are reading this, every major OEM vendor may have
adopted the same practice. Very sad...