The HeliOS Project is now.....

The HeliOS Project is now.....
Same mission, same folks...just a different name

Search the Blog of helios and all comments


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Who's Running Dell?

The title of this article? It's obviously a rhetorical question.

Unless you are a GNU/Linux User.

If you are a reader of, you have read or have heard about the donnybrooks in the comments section concerning their line of Linux machines. From seemingly hiding the Linux choices to plastering "Dell Recommends Windows Vista" over the top of the Linux ad, things got fairly interesting. At times, members of Dell Management would chime in and do their PR work.

A phrase containing "a grain of salt" comes to mind here.

Mark Van Kingsley is a successful Linux-based business owner in New York. Fact is, Mark started his business based on my Open Sourced business plan. I put months of research and work into it and it is the perfect example of how a business plan should be structured. Mark was even offered loans to start his business based on his revised business plan. Anyone can receive it simply by asking. But I digress...

He decided it was time to get a new desktop. Knowing that Dell had Linux options, he navigated to their website and began his shopping. No one relates an experience better than the person experiencing it, so let me present it straight from the source. What follows is a verbatim account of his experience with Dell Sales on the telephone.

On 4-28-09, I was on the Dell site, looking to purchase a computer. One
of the options was to select Windows, Ubuntu or FreeDOS. I selected
Ubuntu, but it then grayed out all models except the "Inspiron." I
wanted a "Studio" and couldn't do it from the website unless I agreed
to spend 100+ dollars for a MS OS. I tried to build a "Studio" and
then deselect the Windows option, but it wasn't available. I
figured I'd call their customer service line and get this squared
away. When I told the first operator what I wanted, you'd have
thought I asked for powdered water and was quickly transferred to
another operator. Same go around with this one. what I was asking
for wasn't processing mentally.

Finally, I was transferred to (someone who's name I can't recall) at
"Team BlackHawk." I told this gentleman what I wanted, he said he
couldn't send me an unformatted HD, but he could send me one with
Ubuntu or FreeDOS. I was very happy and we continued to customize it
the way I wanted. When all was said and done, I thanked him and told
him I was looking forward to getting my "Studio."

This "Team BlackHawk" member then told me "No, its an Inspiron, not a Studio." I told him...again...that I didn't want an Inspiron. He
started to tell me about the license agreement with MS and I cut him

"I'm not interested in your agreement with MS. I want your product, not theirs."

He told me he could only sell me an Inspiron if
I didn't want Windows. I then asked him "Are you telling me that Dell
Computer can't sell me a Dell Computer, unless MS says it it's OK?"
He said "Well, if you look at it that way..." and again I cut him off:
"How else would one look at that?" After an awkward silence on his
part, I thanked him and hung up.

Isn't that special...

Team BlackHawk.

I wonder if they come to work in Camouflage and fully-armed with assault rifles. One would wonder.

The first two pages of Google search results turned up zilch for any use of Team BlackHawk as it relates to Dell. I didn't bother to search any further. Some of you might suggest that there are other search engines aside from Google.

No there isn't.

I began doing a bit of research to find out why this was so. My first thoughts were that the Inspiron is built with hardware that has been extensively tested with Linux...and I believe that will be the official Dell response.

The Special Forces Dell Sales Representative said differently.

He evoked the Microsoft Licensing agreement. I want to see it.

I think we all should see it. Chances of that happening are as likely as Mark Van Kingsley getting his Studio laptop pre-installed with Linux. So the Microsoft Tax is alive and well at Dell. Mark has promised to follow this up with phone calls to Microsoft to pointedly ask why this is. Let's not hold our collective breath waiting for an answer.

It's a shame to see such a large and powerful company kneel at the feet of Microsoft but I suppose the old adage is true.

"Bowing to another does nothing but give your opponent the opportunity to knock you on your ass."

And is an old adage...about 20 seconds old.

All Righty Then


Amy Messerman said...

Ken, I am a relatively new reader and have signed up to follow your blog. I've spent the past few evenings reading every entry you have made. I want to offer a few observations if I can.

The first thing that struck me is that I know who you are. I can do a short search and find out your name, where you live and what you do. Most bloggers hide behind Internet names and we really never get to know them. I find that refreshing. Makes me wonder what others might have to hide.

I find your writing style vastly enjoyable. Some would say you are verbose but I enjoy the humor and detail of your writing. I am also an English teacher so you can take that as you will.

The most powerful thing I find in your blog is your passion. You are alive and vibrate with the love of what you do. I was poised to purchase a computer for my daughter for college and going to Dell was a no-brainer. That is until I read about this incident. Can you recommend an alternative to Dell for Linux computers?

I will continue to follow your blog and may be calling on you professionally. Just wear your HeliOS Solutions hat. I would love to have my picture taken with you.

Amy Messerman
Round Rock Texas

Lester McGrath-Rosario said...

I live in Puerto Rico, which creates a problem when buying electronics on-line, due to shipping restrictions to other countries (regardless of Puerto Rico being a US territory). It could be from paying extra for the shipment to needing an APO re-shipper to send it to Puerto Rico.

What, I find insulting is that I cannot get the same Ubuntu products when I select Puerto Rico as my location. The only choices are an Inspiron 530 PC and an XPS M1330 laptop. That's it.

Lester McGrath-Rosario said...

Try and

They sell machines with Ubuntu preinstalled.


Anonymous said...

Team Blackhawk?

Sounds fishy to me. Anyone know this Van Kingsley guy? Does he exist?

Andrew Magnus said...

Sounds fishy to me. Anyone know this Van Kingsley guy? Does he exist?Why don't you try clicking the link supplied in the article you slobbering moron. You aren't even a complete idiot, you are an incomplete idiot.

Your brother Yoni or whatever he calls himself should be along any minute now with his filthy mouth. Seems Ken's work brings out all the paranoid delusionals in their bath robes. Unlike you, I am going to sign my name to this comment. I hear there are plenty of places you can get your testosterone replenished medically.

Andrew Magnus

Anonymous said...

I assure you that I am alive and well and this is indeed what transpired. The link to my site is functional, feel free to email me or call me. :-)


Unknown said... nice. And his name is Yonah. He is banned for using profanity on a website that gets a bunch of visits from our kids. I don't even see his posts, they go straight into the bit bucket. And besides, he probably looks very stylish in his bathrobe.

Amy, I strongly suggest you visit We carry their banner free on the left side of the blog and we don't charge them anything...we simply belief in what they do. We don't sell advertising on Blog of helios. If we like what you do, we carry the banner.


Felis silvestris said...

Dell did similar here[1] - promised Linux on the first few pages, then on the configuration page, only Windows was available. I called to complain and was told that the Linux option was not available in this country. So? Stop lying on your web site, then.

The info on the MS License agreement is interesting - I wonder if Nellie Kroes reads this blog?

[1] Norway - and I believe Sweden, too, is locked out.

davesnyd said...

I hate to belabor the obvious, but at least on my screen, over in the left hand column there is an advertisement for ZaReason.

Don't buy Dell. They don't really sell Linux computers. Their offering of it-- or so I've been told by people in the industry-- is only an attempt to mess (insert your own choice of words there) with Microsoft's mind.

Go to ZaReason or System76 or Emperor Linux or some other dedicated Linux vendor.

You'll get a better machine, with much, much, much better service.

This isn't an endorsement of System 76 or Emperor Linux-- I have no experience with them.

I have bought a machine from ZaReason and not only has it been wonderful, but their service and support has been nothing short of fantastic. Every time I've emailed them a question, I have received within hours a detailed and well written response.

I don't think you can ever hope to get that from Dell for Linux boxes.

Is Dell cheaper? Maybe. Maybe even if you have to pay the Microsoft tax. But I suspect that the Linux vendors build better machines and take more care doing so.

Support the Linux vendors and help build up the Linux business ecosystem.

James Dixon said...

Ken, if there's one thing I've learned in my now 50 years of dealing with large corporations, it's this:

If they have what you want, at a price you want, buy it. If they don't, take your money and business to someone who does.

If you want to inform them that you're doing so, that's fine, but don't expect it to change anything. These decisions are made at a level and for reasons none of us will ever be able to reach, and their quarterly review of their sales figures will tell them everything they want to know.

Don't attempt to argue with them, don't attempt to convince them, don't do anything, as none of it will do any good. Just ask if they have what you want and how much it costs. If they have it and it's a good price, buy it. If they don't, take your money and business to someone who does. That's the only thing they understand.

The Observer said...

I can't say I'm surprised about the license situation between Dell and MS. MS has used licenses to push their products for years. That's how windows became so popular in the first place, and it's also how the dreaded IE came to be the #1 most used browser in the world. MS used its license to put pressure on manufacturers like Dell (or whatever the main manufacturers were at the time) to bundle only MS made/endorsed products on their systems.

Anonymous said...

Helios please keep us posted as to what Mr. Van Kingsley finds out when he calls Microsoft. That point is key and depending on that response, it may merit its own blog; a part II to this one. It could be a critical response. If Mr Van Kingsley approaches it as just a concerned consumer, he might get more information than he would if he identified himself as an adversary.

tracyanne said...

Yes Ken, I'd very much like to know who actually runs Dell. This story pretty much mirrors my own experience dealing with Dell, here in Australia.

There is now physical hardware reason why the majority of Dell computers can't be sold with a Linux Operating system, or no OS or FreeDOS, and it's not going to cost Dell naything extra to simply build the machine the way the customer ordered, that after all is the point of the customisation process. So there is no physical reason why any one can't simply order what they want.


Anonymous said...

Great article! I purchased a Dell Studio 15 with Ubuntu pre-installed several months ago for my mother-in-law. After receiving the laptop, I liked it so much I decided to buy another one for myself and to my surprise it wasn't an option anymore. I called Dell sales and got pretty much the same run around.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Van Kingsley should also contact the DOJ and file a complaint against MS.

matthews said...

I have a system 76 had it for almost a year... So far it rocks.
Okay to be fair the internal wifi doesn't pick up signals very far away my external belkin card is better. The thumb print reader may or may not work I don't try to configure it. I think its a great product if those are the worst things I can think of.

Anonymous said...

Amy ponders

Makes me wonder what others might have to hide.Oh, maybe like their privacy? sanity? jobs? there are some very unstable people out here in the Wild, Wild Interwebtubethigies.

Do some research on "Deb Frisch" or "Stephen 'Speedbump' Boursy". Boursy tried getting people he simply disagreed on with fired. Frisch did far worse.

Bottom line: judge the posting by the truth contained within the posting, not who posted.

As for Dell, they've made their deal with the Devil. But that doesn't mean we have to deal with Dell.

Logan F said...

I agree with the comment by davesnyd. Go to ZaReason or System76 or Emperor Linux or some other dedicated Linux vendor. We need to support our real linux vendors just like we support our linux software. Nothing good will come from dell on their Linux line, no decent support will come from their group. They are just poking at a market they don't really understand, and experimenting in a way to not piss off the devil MS. Us Linux users will always be treated second best by these large companies that are owned by MS licensing and money. I say forget these large garbage makers and start supporting our True Linux Vendors. And this is an endorsement for ZaReason or System76 or Emperor Linux, or any other dedicated true Linux solutions provider.

Michael Osborne said...

Serveral years ago I was the IT Manager for a government project. I ran into this exact issue almost verbatim.

We had been buying Micron PCs for years. I wished to buy six that did not have Windows tied to the machine. I didn't mind getting Windows, I just didn't want it tied to those machines. I was told that their contract with Microsoft wouldn't allow this. I was told that I could purchase Windows *again*. I was flabbergasted.

We never bought another machine from them and I wrote and told them why.

I got the exact same story from all of the other major vendors at the time, including Gateway, IBM, and Dell.

Anonymous said...

This seems to confirm what many have been saying - that there are deep anti-competitive Microsoft/OEM cartels in operation hidden behind those NDAs.

There is simply no other rational explanation for this. Time to for a DOJ and EU investigation to look into what is really going on.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm ... doesn't that sound SUSPICIOUSLY anti-competitive to anyone but me? Better sick the White House on 'em while the Democrats are in power.

I'd say dictating to another company what they can and can't sell for the threat of changing the terms of doing business with them in a negative way is pretty monopolistic.

Of course, what else do we expect out of Redmond?

Anonymous said...

Research PC building and build your own.
I use parts from Newegg and Geeks and am sure there are many other good suppliers.
Building P.C.'s and installing Linux is done by thousands each year.
Dual boot Debian and Vista and have the best and worst of all worlds.

o said...

"Open Sourced business plan"

Where can I find this?

InTheLoop said...

I can't believe I'm doing this, but I want to defend Dell here. They very explicitly only sell certain machines with Ubuntu:

Specifically, an Inspiron desktop, some Minis, and two XPS laptops. Granted this is kind of random, since they sold Studios just a few months ago, but even this selection is far better than most companies.

I think it is far more likely that they have simply made the business decision not to offer Ubuntu on their Studio line, rather than that they have some deal with Microsoft.

It's sad, but the word of a customer support rep really doesn't mean much at this point.

Dell's Ubuntu program certainly has a lot of issues, but we can't be too hard hard on them.

zelrik said...

Why I am not surprised? Dell is MS's buddy. Those guys are just offering ubuntu on some of their products to tease MS.

I noticed that System76 released a netbook. It's ok but not great resolution though (1024x4XX)

Curt Wuollet said...

It's fairly easy to build your own desktop and avoid the MS tax. Laptops are a bit harder as they aren't often sold barebones. But another way to skin the cat is to buy a lease return with no OS, or many now come with Ubuntu installed. Most of the lease returns will run Linux just fine and the cost is much less. The only downside is that this often retires a MS license and that means someone will buy a new one. But, at least it won't be you.

Curt Wuollet

Dailey Twp, MN

suhaw said...

Maybe there is a business opportunity here.

Help new Dell Studio owners install Ubuntu in place of Windows then seek a refund for the unused Windows licence.

Buyer gets a Dell Studio with preferred OS installed and Entrepreneur gets reimbursed for the effort.

Abe said...

I applaud your tenacity and dedication. Whether it is Dell, HP, or any one else, you are always on the ball exposing the trickery and sleaziness they use to keep cheating the consumers. One thing I disagree with you on is that, MS doesn't control OEMs, they are actually are in bed with MS. MS keeps giving them offers they can't refuse, or at least they like to believe so.

OEMs are not looking far and beyond their noses. They actually could do a lot better, business wise, if they adopt and support Linux for the masses. They could get Linux for free, or for a nominal cost from distributors if they wanted to, and get compensation from consumers for supporting Linux. But no, MS wouldn't like it and they chose the sleazy easy way instead.

FOSS community shouldn't be too hopeful and Linux distros shouldn't wait for OEMs to change any time soon. The only way Linux is going to proliferate and become poplar is by making it available pre-installed on PCs and with full support from an OEM & some distro like Ubuntu/Cononical. What Distros should be doing is to work with outfits, like the Zareason, to advertise and support Linux for the masses. I am surprised and just don't understand why Canonical hasn't joined with them yet.

Jens Staal said...

For European customers, I would strongly recommend Zepto as a possible alternative if you want a windows-free computer. The default OS during set-up is "no OS" and the additional cost for choosing Windows is clearly visible.

Unfortunately, no linux pre-install options were available back when I ordered mine (18 months ago or so), but a clear advantage for us scandinavians is the availability of scandinavian QWERTY keyboards :)

(although I am tempted to try to learn a Svorak keyboard some time... unfortunately I have not found one or stickers to change it into one).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the zepto tip, they a offer a no-os option here in UK too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ken,

Just to let you know that in FRANCE Acer, Dell, HP, Fujitsu, Asus, etc are buy the low, the obligation to refund the OS to the customer that click -NO- to the Microsoft license agreement at the first start up of a new computer.

Here is the official link from the ACER French site:

The page title French :
Procédure de Remboursement du système d'exploitation Microsoft
The page title English :
Procedure for Reimbursement of Microsoft operating system


Lester McGrath-Rosario said...

I got an email from Dell offering the Mini 10 with XP for $399 for Latin America.

The funny part is that the email shows a Mini 10 with an Ubuntu Hardy desktop wallpaper.

Wowsers said...

Good point above, Amy

In researching "Deb Frisch" I
found this


Anonymous said...

I also strongly object to my computer purchasing options being restricted by suppliers who want to sell me a useless operating system. I decided to do something about it and on Monday I set up which is a directory of suppliers who I can purchase from.

Lester McGrath-Rosario said...

HandyGandy said...

Before I get to the reason I started this message, let me make a brief comment about something I read in the comments. When the DoJ brought it suit against Microsoft. Two names that appeared on amici briefs opposing Microsoft were Robert Bork and Ken Starr two big conservative lawyers, and certainly not moderates. Not to mention that the judge handing down the initial ruling, Thomas Penfield Jackson is also a staunch conservative.

When you talk to some conservatives, they will say that monopolists distort the free market as much as bed government policy. In fact I would say that most Republicans like most of the general public is apathetic about the issue. When you suggest to them that it is part of some fictitious conservative platform is being proMicrosoft you drive them into MS's camp. Republicans are a significant portion of the population, so please lets not make their default affiliation proMicrosoft.

Googling around for Team Blackhawk I found this facebook page. Which took me to the main Team Blackhack page , and to the about page.

I'll keep it short and only post those three links I think you can take it from there.

A final point. Did you check to see that the model you ( he ) wanted didn't spec out the same as the model he was offered? Sometimes they call the same machine with a different OS a different name.( I don't think that's the case, but I have to be fair. )

Pink Laptop said...

A pinch of salt indeed!

mizuno wave said...

I'm not a linux user, grasping a lot of important facts in your blog. Thanks for sharing.

Dog Beds said...

Who's running Dell? How about Microsoft!