Dell Laptop Saga: Part 1

My ancient IBM Thinkpad 750C (a 486 CPU and tiny little 10″ LCD) is finally going to be retired. I wanted something reasonably fast with a widescreen that would run Linux. If money were no object I would’ve opted for one of the G4 PowerBooks with 15.4″ screen. Unfortunately, they cost way too much. So I ended up ordering a Dell Inspiron 8600. It’s not as cool looking as the PowerBook but was about half the price and has a higher resolution 15.4″ screen (WUXGA 1920 x 1200, at 13.56″ x 8.76″ that’s 140 dpi). After doing some research, I was able to spec a combination of parts that others have reported to work pretty well with Linux.

What I’ve found so far is that Dell’s service has continued to deteriorate. They used to have first class tech support until they outsourced it all to sweatshops in India. We’ve bought servers from them for years and they were always high-quality products. So I thought I’d take a chance on them for a notebook. But, looking around on the web, there seems to be general agreement that Dell customer service sucks. I’m hoping I’ll never need their customer service but things aren’t off to a promising start.

After placing an order, Dell’s website reports order status. In my case it said my notebook had been shipped on Jan 10 and provided a UPS tracking number. The UPS status webpage showed they had recieved paperwork for the package but not the package itself. After three days with no change in status, I called Dell customer service and spoke at length with someone for whom English seemed to be a second language. Dell said they handed the package off to UPS but UPS claims they never got it. I’m not entirely sure what happened after that but as best I could understand from the broken English of the customer support person, Dell has cancelled the lost order and issued a second order for a replacement notebook to be built and shipped. Who knows – maybe in another week or so I’ll have my new notebook.

Anyway, I’m still hopeful everything will work out alright. I’ll probably install either Ubuntu or Fedora when it arrives. I wasn’t able to order a notebook with no OS (which is odd because we do it all the time when we order servers from Dell). I may investigate getting a refund for the Windows XP Home license but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for that. I think I may remove and store the hard drive shipped in the notebook and install a new one to put Linux on. That way, I can swap back in the factory installed OS if I ever need to get it serviced by Dell.

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