Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Dell Inspiron 530N Review (part 1)

OK, I did it!  I admit.

I went online to my local Dell website and purchased the Dell Inspiron 530n based system with Ubuntu 7 preloaded on it.  I couldn't resist the cost of the machine with the percieved functionality I would have.  Dell has always supplied very nice systems to me as I currently own several different systems with different configurations:

  • Latitude D820 (Core 2 Duo 1.86 with 2 GB RAM - XP Professional)

  • Optiplex 745 (Core 2 Duo 2.1 with 4 GB RAM - Vista Business x64)

  • Inspiron 530n (Core 2 Duo 1.86 with 4 GB RAM - Ubuntu 7.04 x32)


What did I get:

  • Dell Inspiron 530n system

  • Intel Core 2 Duo e4300 (1.8 GHz) with 2 MB L2 Cache

  • 512 MB DDR2 RAM (1 stick)

  • 128 MB nVidia 8300gs video card

  • 13 in 1 Media Card Reader

  • 250 GB SATA 2, 7200 RPM Western Digital Drive

  • 48x CDRW/DVD Combo and 16x DVD+/-RW Drive

  • 1394a Firewire Adapter

  • Keyboard/Mouse/Mousepad!!!


The default presentation of the system was so-so.  It is a smaller than normal box - I was expecting a larger case like the Optiplex line or the Dimension line - instead it is about the size of a 30-50 dollar small case you can get at your local white-box dealer.

Case was held in with SCREWS - most Dell cases are easy to crack and get at the internals - let me tell you - there wasn't much to get into on this little system - it was very sparse inside and not very conducive to people splunking the internals of the system. 

I swapped out the measly 512 MB stick of RAM for 4 x 1 GB sticks purchased at my local computer equipment warehouse (2 x 99.99 = 200.00 for 4 GB's total).

I booted the system up and the Dell License Agreement popped up - I hit any key to continue (and subsequently agree to their terms).  Firstboot started on the system and I selected my language, keyboard, setup my user, my region and finally rebooted the system.

GREAT!

Very fast configuration/setup and no bloatware! No Microsoft!

I rebooted the system to ensure all my settings too effect!  They did - and now for my first task - enabling my RESTRICTED DRIVER for my NVIDIA Card.  This is where the process bogs down a bit.  Let us forget that I have been working with computers for the past 15 years, and am currently employed as the Sr. UNIX and SAN Engineer for Finisar Corporation in Sunnyvale.  Let us further ASSUME that I am just a guy who wanted a reasonably priced system from a reputable computer vendor without having to invest in Microsoft software or the issues related to their software.

When I purchase a computer with a pre-installed OS, I would expect/suspect that the current vendor approved drivers enabling all my hardware would be installed on the system.  I would not expect a computer coming from Dell without, say... a network driver. Doesn't make sense! 

Why would Dell - who preinstalled UBUNTU on this system, not install the proper hardware acclerated devices for their customers.  Now I have to 'enable' the hardware drivers and for some reason, with my installation, it is giving me grief.  I cannot 'enable' the video adapters hardware drivers. 

very sad!

I couldn't enable the driver - it wouldn't take.  Very frustrating.  So I decided - let's patch the system and see what that gives me: A big fat ERROR!  There was an INDEX issue with the apt-get program and I had to run from a terminal window: sudo apt-get install -f   command which basically 'fixes' the issue plaguing the system - unfortunately, the fix was to remove the nVidia hardware drivers.  That sucks!

So I proceeded to uninstall my hardware driver, because I otherwise couldn't patch my computer.  I then proceeded to patch my system (Ubuntu update server I was using was incredibly slow).  It took 2 1/2 hours to download about 90 patches over a DS3 because the system was downloading at 20-40 Kbps - OUCH.

Finally - patched - configured - now I need nVidia's driver - more on this to come in PART 2.

Bill

 

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