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Michael Dell’s Linux choice? Ubuntu


What operating system do the heads of Fortune 500 companies run on their personal laptops? In the case of Michael S. Dell, president and CEO of Dell, it’s Ubuntu 7.04 Feisty Fawn.

Yes, the head of Dell Inc., with a market-capitalization of just south of $56-billion, isn’t just saying that Dell will be selling Linux-equipped PCs in the near future — he’s already running Linux at home.

To be precise, Mr. Dell, in addition to running the latest version of Ubuntu, which is still scheduled for final release on April 19, is also running the VMware Workstation 6 Beta, 2.2, Automatix2, Firefox, and Evolution Groupware 2.10.

The only name that most Linux users may not recognize immediately on that list is Automatix2. Automatrix2 is a popular Debian, Ubuntu, Pioneer, and MEPIS Linux add-on program. With that application in place, it becomes mindlessly simple to install useful software that doesn’t come with a vanilla Ubuntu installation. It includes access to Skype, Opera, Macromedia Flash, Google Earth, Picasa, Adobe Reader, DVD support, WiFi, and so on.

Mr. Dell is running all this on a loaded Dell Precision M90. The company describes this as a mobile workstation.

Certainly the model that Dell is running at his Austin, Texas area home qualifies as a mobile workstation by anyone’s definition. His machine comes with an Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 Processor, which runs at 2.33GHz and comes with a 4MB cache. It also comes with 4GB of DDR2 (double-data-rate) 667Mhz DRAM, a 17-inch WXGA+ Widescreen LCD, a 160GB 7200rpm SATA hard drive, a 8X DVD +/- RW optical drive, and a NVIDIA Quadro FX 3500 512M graphics card.

While no WiFi card is specifically mentioned, Dell also offers both its own Dell Wireless 5700 (CDMA EVDO) External Express Card for Verizon Wireless data connections and an assortment of 802.11a and g WiFi cards.

By our calculations, the total bill for Mr. Dell’s system, as described, comes to $4,703. It could have been more. He didn’t splurge on the optional Blu-Ray drive.

Unfortunately, if you tried to order it yourself, your only operating system choices on that system today are Windows XP SP 2 and Vista. Sources close to Dell, however, tell us that pre-installed Linux on Dell systems may be coming before the end of April.

We still do not know which Linux Dell Inc. will be installing on its desktops and laptops. Among the distributions we know to be under consideration are: Novell/SUSE, Red Hat, Fedora, openSUSE, and Ubuntu. It would be safe to say now, though, that Ubuntu will be at least one of the Linuxes that Dell will be offering.

Of course, Mr. Dell also uses no fewer than four other high-end systems. Each of these is running Windows.

Still, while many millionaires, such as Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth, Red Hat’s Matthew Szulik, and Novell’s Ron Hovsepian, are running Linux on their own machines, Michael Dell is almost certainly the first billionaire to embrace the penguin. And, far more importantly, he’s the first one who also owns one of the world’s biggest PC vendors.

Pre-installed Linux on top brand-name computers is so close to becoming real you can almost run it.

A version of this story first appeared in DesktopLinux.

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