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The Answer Guy

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
Starshine Technical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

The original Open Letter to Dell was posted to comp.os.linux.advocacy and copied to Linux Weekly News and Dell Computer Corporation.

(?)Letter to Dell - Linux on Dell Hardware

From Rafael on 10 May 1998

Thanks Denis for your letter to DELL.

I bought some Dell stocks this year. Not much but that puts me in an awkward situation. Dell is doing well but it realy bothered me that they officialy issued that statement about Linux.

(!) As a shareholder, even of only a few shares, your message will probably get far more attention than mine.

I would love to see your letter to them, expressing your concerns both as a customer and as a stockholder.

(?) I wonder if we could find other investors, Linux users, admins perhaps and put a little pressure from that position. That would be even more effective if we do it openly on the web.

(!) I agree. You want to be even more "positive" in your tone since you actually have a financial stake in their future.

You want to emphasize how big a market you believe the Linux community to be --- point out that the first major company to offer Linux will probably remain at the top of that market for a long time, etc.

(?) I know that Dell signed a letter with other CEO's in support of MS. What a bummer.

(!) I personally can understand their official statements of support. From an official standpoint they claim that MS places no contractual restrictions on their choice of software bundles.

We can presume that there are veiled, subtle "issues" which suggest that any support for alternatives might result in unusual delays and backlogs or Dell's order fulfillment and possibly delays in the negotiation of new contracts and terms for future versions of MS products. It doesn't take much of this from a key supplier or customer (and MS probably does buy a large number of Dell workstations) to have a chilling effect.

Unfortunately none of those assertions are likely to be revealed in court --- and there's simply too much "plausible deniability" for them to have any effect in any event.

I'm not sure I can characterize it as a "bummer" --- since it is so utterly predictable.

What we want to do is to recast Linux as an "opportunity" for a "win-win" situation for Dell and MS. I think we can do this by pointing out that Dell offering "fine print" alternatives (No OS included, and Linux) will give the appearance of greater competition in the marketplace.

My plan is to outline this strategy to MS execs (I have a mole). Convince them that purely cosmetic notes in the marketing materials from Compaq will get the DoJ off their back and give them the ammo, in the arena of public opinion, to say: "Look! People have choices, and they still pick us almost all the time. The free market is working."

(This is bound to be more effective for them than that pathetic attempt to fabricate a "ground swell of grassroots support" --- as was reported by the L.A. Times recently).

(?)Dell & Linux

From Khimenko Victor on 10 May 1998

You must know this already but just in case: in linux-kernel list there are quite a few questions like this:

(!) While I do read lkern -- I queue up the digests for a week or so at a time and binge on them -- so I hadn't noticed these, yet.


I installed linux kernel 2.1.89 on a Dell with 2 Pentium Pros. But now "ps" fails?! Says "No processes available". During boot, I get error messages about various demons [sendmail, syslog...] trying to start, and this message gets printed for each demon. I think the demons are actually running, because [eg] if I try to start syslog, it tells me that an instance is running.

I looked in /proc, and things seem ok. Eg "cat /proc/cpuinfo" works, and shows both cpus.

Before this, I had already successfully installed 2.1.89 on an identically configured machine. ps worked there. And I'd also installed 2.1.89 on 3 Dells, containing 4 cpus each.

Any suggestions?

or this

I tried your io_apic.c fix on an Intel Alder 4x PPRO system (same motherboard,etc. as DELL PE-6100) and it had no effect: boot dies after first line about Uncompressing... OK booting...

I posted the log of a boot of 2.1.88 on the Alder earlier. Is there anything else I can tell you? By the way, 2.1.88 + aic7xxx 5.0.8 patch is VERY stable on these systems, and nothing else is right now. Also, I compiled 2.196 for a DELL 4200 (2x Pentium II) and it runs fine.

or this



there's been some talk recently about patching 2.1.9x to support dual PCI busses. Does this mean that the 2.0.x series doesn't support it? If so, I might be in trouble... I've just ordered a dual PII-333 Dell server which has dual PCI 2.1 busses on it. This machine is to become our core mail, news, dns server for my network, and so I want to run a relatively stable server (it's replacing an aging Sun Sparc 5 which hasn't crashed for over year).

Am I going to have to risk the development series on a core server? Or will I be lucky....!

In the worst case, could I install a 2.0.x series and run it with a single bus (cards on the second not recognised) ??
Dual PCI busses should run fine with 2.0.x kernels as they locate PCI devices using the PCI BIOS which of course should handle the dual bus case. Since 2.1.9x we try to access the hardware directly in order to circumvent PCI BIOS bugs. Anyway, in 2.0.x /proc/pci will show only the first bus.

At least this means that some of Dell customers are using Linux :-)) And not only for jokes (if you'll just try to play some games with Linux you'll not going to buy dual Pentium II or 4x Pentium Pro server, right?). Thay just not tries to bother Dell with their problems since they are sure that Linux is not supported by Dell anyway...

(!) That is the point of my message. We are somewhat self-sufficient and that is great for our userbase and developers. However, as consumers we must communicate our requirements back to the vendors --- and we must do so proactively.

In other words every Unix, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, Solaris x86, and SCO user must tell Dell, and Compaq, and (and Apple and Umax) every other vendor that refuses to recognize our market:

We demand recognition and support

... and we must back that up with action by shopping with vendors that meet this requirement.

If we fail to do so, and we scramble about to reverse engineer every new wrinkle then we are failing as consumers (no matter how we shine as engineers). "They" won't (and shouldn't?) care about the "silent minority."

The risk and cost of this is that we may not always benefit from the same economy of scale that's enjoyed by the mass market. We may have to pay a bit more (though not quite as bit of a premium as we used to see between PC's and Macs nor nearly the discrepancy that still exists between micros and workstations).

Copyright © 1998, James T. Dennis
Published in Linux Gazette Issue 29 June 1998

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