Engineers inside Dell are enthusiastic about support for Linux and Ubuntu, even if Dell's official offerings in this space remain limited.
The biggest news surrounding Dell's Ubuntu Linux offerings has been about the Project Sputnik XPS 13 laptop for developers. But in a sign of the healthy internal interest in open source support within the company, a Dell engineer recently posted instructions for loading Ubuntu on other hardware. They're unofficial, but they certainly don't hurt in keeping the Linux-friendly dream alive for fans of Dell's laptops.
The instructions, written by Dell engineer D. Jared Dominguez, appeared on Dell's TechCenter community website, which is aimed at IT professionals. Which means they're not likely to find their way to the huddled masses within Dell's customer base.
Still, for Dell fans who seek them out, the instructions present a detailed resource for installing Ubuntu on two popular laptops for which Dell does not currently offer "official" Ubuntu support: The Precision M3800, an ultra-high end machine; and the XPS 15, a model for general consumers.
Dominguez offers a rundown of what does and doesn't work out of the box on those two laptops in current versions of Ubuntu, along with instructions for solving some of the hardware-support issues under Linux, such as wireless devices. They're exactly what you need to get Ubuntu up and running flawlessly on those particular machines.
Of course, many Linux fans would be happier still to see Dell offer these laptops with Ubuntu preinstalled and already configured for a seamless experience—or, failing that, to be able at least to purchase them without having to pay the "Windows tax" for an operating system they don't intend to use. But if the past decade is any indication, the day will never come when major hardware vendors make it possible to purchase more than a select few of their PCs without Windows preloaded.
And while that may be disappointing, Linux fans can at least find encouragement in knowing that there is enthusiasm for open source compatibility inside Dell, even if the company's official support for such initiatives is limited for the time being mostly only to Project Sputnik—which, by the way, has been the object of increasing investment by Dell lately. That's certainly better than nothing—and better than most other mainstream PC vendors (not small shops like ZaReason and System76, which do offer expansive Linux support) are doing.