Re: a little rant about Dell

  • From: Neil Doane <caine@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: technocracy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 26 Jul 2000 02:35:05 -0700

* John Madden (weez@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx) on [07-25-00 13:22] did utter:
> Ok, so we all think Dell's doing great stuff for Linux these days, right? 

No, and statements like that sortof disturb me.  They're like, uhm, 
self-perpetuating-but-corrected lies.  By saying that, you imply that people 
in the Linux world think that Dell is doing great stuff for Linux and that
those people aren't looking at all the facts and are incorrect.  Most people
who are really _in_ the Linux movement, from my perspective, seem to
recognize that Dell is a computer manufacturing giant that groves to the
Linux beat because it's got market hype: they're in it for the money, not
for Linux, not for an ideal.  Not that those motives are ethically "wrong" or
lesser or whatever, just not what most Linux evangelists would call "doing 
great stuff for Linux".   But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. 
Some might say that their embrace of Linux spreads the word to more people,
creating greater opportunities for Linux, etc....I'd remind them of 
the old addage, "Famous doesn't mean Great; Hitler was famous too." 

> Think again:
> Dell 2450's (and many other models) ship with Dell's PERCxx raid controllers. 
> They're apparently pretty nice pieces of hardware.  But that's about as far as
> it goes with Linux.  
> - Dell won't release the source to the drivers.  Obviously not a good thing.
> - Dell releases binary-only kernel modules for their cards.  Also not a good
> thing, since running with kernel modules is bad.
> - Dell won't release a module compiled for kernel 2.2.16.  Thus, all Dell
> servers are shipping with insecure kernels, and you can't upgrade them and
> continue to use the raid controller (thus risking losing all of your data if 
> you
> weren't aware).  They consider anything higher than kernel 2.2.14 "beta" and
> "untested."  
> - These are all compiled with Redhat kernels, so they're of course not
> gauranteed to work with normal kernels (Redhat does funky things to the
> kernels, I understand).
> - Dell says "We only support Redhat" when you mentioned that you formatted and
> put a decent distribution on.  Nothing against RH, of course. :)

As you might imagine, as a company, VA's been following the development of 
the Dell/Linux phenomenon.  While I'm not privy too all the latest gossip,
nor do I follow the information as closely as some at VA, the general gist I
get from all the people I've talked with is that while Dell may have the
theoretical _potential_ to do something...even with a rather non-committal
and over-hyped relationship with RedHat, they basically still can't grep
their ass with both hands and sed.  I mean, I don't know of any really large
deployments of Dell Linux servers but I often hear horror stories of people
getting locked into weird software situations (or interesting support
delimas) by buying Dell Linux boxen.  Plus, they obviously don't "get it";
I mean, these guys are selling Linux for the market value of the word
"Linux", not for the ideals of Open Source Software (obviously).  To them,
"Linux" is just like another piece of catchphrase-technology or flashy piece 
of hardware, the product of thinking like: "Hey, people are buying this
Linux thing...what is it? Oh who cares, people are buying it, let's sell
some of it."  The bad thing is, something gets lost in the translation and
it's kindof harmful to Linux when the first taste some corporation
gets of a built-for-Linux system or service solution is when an engineer
talks the CTO into finally buying into Linux because "Dell sells it, it must 
be well designed and tested and supported."  Then he gets a Dell box and 
starts having the types of problems you're having.

> Wonderful.  So I'm forced to use software raid on these things until Dell
> gets their head out of the sand.  Does anyone have any thoughts on this
> stuff?

Well, since you're asking for thoughts on this. :)
<plug shame=none>
You get what you pay for. 
All the hardware RAID controllers that VA ships have open-sourced drivers
(in fact, for one brand of controllers we ship, our CTO is the _primary_ 
driver developer.)  Had you bought VA equipment, you'd not be 'forced' to 
do software RAID.  VA also supports "Linux", not "RedHat"...and not only
supports most other distributions from a 'technical support' perspective, 
but also 'supports' other distributions like Debian, by helping them 
productize their distribution and donate profits back into their project's 
development.  Also, basically none of the other problems you attribute to 
Dell's Linux support or philosophy would even be considered at VA.  Buy a 
name, get a name; buy kick-ass Linux boxen from a company that
understands Linux philosophy and practical application and that's what 
you get.  Next time, I suggest you call VA Sales at 1-888-LINUX-4U. :)


       . /._ o /     --personal="caine@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" 
      /|//- / /     --business="caine@xxxxxxxxxxx"
     / ''- / /__   --homepage="";
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