It has been almost 6 months since I first booted my Dell mini 10v. In that time I’ve used it nearly daily. I do not regret the purchase in the slightest. However as time goes on I have become frustrated with the support the Mini has been getting. Rather, the lack of support.
When I purchased my Mini it was shipped with Dell’s remix of Ubuntu (DRU) 8.04. For those unfamiliar with Ubuntu’s version numbering system that means it was the March (04) release of 2008. 8.10 and 9.04 had both been released with 9.10 being right around the corner. Not as old as Windows XP (7 years out of date) but old enough that some of my favorite software had problems.
With Ubuntu’s 9.04 release I decided to give Ubuntu Nebook Remix (UNR) a try. I gave it a pass because of video performance. Youtube videos would not play as smoothly as under DRU. Cheese, the only webcam application that works with the Mini, couldn’t record videos in UNR because of the poor video performance. Of course, Cheese has other problems under DRU.
These are not deal breakers for me, really. I am a computer user. I have had to deal with little problems like this regardless of hardware or operating system. I’ve had similar problems with desktops and laptops, generic and name brand, self-built and pre-fab, Windows, Linux or Mac. I have come to understand that in time issues like this work themselves out.
However, I do not feel that is the case this time. Recently there have been new stories that HP and Dell both are pulling back from their Linux offerings. Dell itself has chopped it’s Ubuntu lineup from a netbook, 2 laptops and a desktop to just a netbook and a single laptop. Even worse is that while the laptop Dell offers with Ubuntu has been upgraded to 9.10 they still sell the Mini with their remix of 8.04. Support for 8.04 is to end soon.
On the flip side I could just kiss Dell g’bye and go forward with Ubuntu’s UNR. However UNR 9.10 still has poor video performance on the 10v. The Mini is the only Netbook in which Canonical is an official partner. Yet it seems no effort is being made to ensure that current or future releases of UNR work optimally on this hardware.
If Dell is not supporting their hardware by releasing an updated remix of Ubuntu and Canonical is not supporting the hardware by ensuring their remix doesn’t cause severe performance degradation on the one platform on which they are an official partner what option do I have? Throw the 7-year old XP on here?
The frustrating part of all this is that I know this is not a limitation of the hardware. I still have a small 16Gb partition that contains my DRU 8.04. If I boot to that partition Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates (A 2D game!) plays smoothly, Youtube videos in SD play smoothly, Cheese can record videos. If I boot UNR 9.10 YPP! is jerky and laggy, Youtube videos in SD sometimes chop and the annotations flicker, Cheese is incapable of recording videos at anything faster than “slideshow” let alone with sound. The hardware is identical. The software is not.
It’s a shame as this was a prime chance for Dell and/or Canonical to show that Open Source is able to provide quality support. So far all they have been able to do is disillusion this long-time Linux supporter.