Ubuntu Pre-installed: Tell me your story

In my team, we spent most of our time working with system manufacturers improving hardware support in Ubuntu.  Apart of allowing users to install Ubuntu after they purchases their laptop, we also like to increase the number of computers that you can buy from the shops with Ubuntu pre-installed.

If you ever had the chance to work within the logistics of a manufacturing line, you will understand the level of complexity and how far remove software developers are from the shop floor. As feedback is the best way to learn and improve, here is my request: Please share your Ubuntu Pre-installed story with us!

Have you ever bought a system with Ubuntu pre-installed? Where did you get it? What systems was it? How did it go? Could you then upgrade to the next Ubuntu release?

I look forward to hear your story!

45 thoughts on “Ubuntu Pre-installed: Tell me your story

  1. I purchased a ZaReason MediaBox 4220 pre-installed with UbuntuStudio64 10.10 in 2010.
    This has an intel i3 530(?), DVD, USB2, wifi, LAN, it’s Awesome!

    Everything works. The OS is incredible! (still running US10.10) I have not had ANY problems with this system. It runs several days a week… it is not my main system currently, but it was.
    Presently, I am thinking of converting it into a NAS system.
    If this is not on your Approved List, I can’t think of why not. The folks at ZaReason are Linux fanatics and really care about compatibility with *nix. They have been very helpful with answers to any questions, both prior to AND after the sale.

    Quite frankly, I think Ubuntu and all Linux websites need to do more to direct people interested in Linux toward these vendors. Oh, you may pay a little pit more, but they (at least ZaReason) offer a product that works. No checking HDD’s, grfx cards, wifi/LAN support, it’s done!

    Yes, you may contact me,


  2. I have purchased three and had a good experience each time. The only reason I used three different vendors was to support Ubuntu being preinstalled by being able to give knowledgable vendor recommendations based on personal experience.

    In 2008, I bought a Dell desktop for my wife. It has been upgraded for every release without a problem. It is currently running 11.04. I have never made a support call on this machine, so I can’t comment on that.

    Also in 2008, I bought myself a new laptop from System76. That machine was updated several times without difficulty. The hard drive died at one point, and System76 worked with me to troubleshoot and eventually replaced the drive at no cost to me. The machine is still running with a new drive (with the OS replaced easily because I had a recent rsync backup of the dead one) and is currently running 11.04.

    In 2011, I bought a new desktop system for myself from Zareason. The system came with 10.10 and was easily upgraded to 11.04.

      1. They’re based in Berkeley, CA and had international shipping for a number of years, but now they’re switching to regional-shipping and expanding to have offices around the world. The Berkeley location ships to the US & Canada. New Zealand will have their next shop.

  3. Victor,

    For my wife when she needed a Laptop we got her a dell with Ubuntu preinstalled, everything just worked.

    On doing a fresh install of a more up-to-date version the only thing I had to do was install the bcm wifi driver. I did that after and update, I simply opened up “Additional Drivers” (jockey-gtk) and selected what to install.

    She is still over joyed with that machine.

  4. I run a computer refurbishing project in Ontario. We’ve been around for over 15 years and have been installing Linux for the past 10. We started installing Ubuntu in the 7.04 days. Currently we use a PXE server to deploy 10.04, 11.04 and Lubuntu images on machines ranging from an Athlon 1.4GHz to 3GHz system.

    We’re also a Microsoft Registered Refurbisher. This is an important detail because it bears on our experience with both operating systems. Hands down Ubuntu is much easier for us to install and support. Even with the amount of automation we use to install Windows the install inevitably leaves us with more work after (and takes more time).

    I’ve also seen probably over 1,000 volunteers since we’ve started installing Ubuntu and regardless of the method we’ve used in the past/present they have an easier time installing Linux.

    From a support standpoint, we see so many virus-infested systems (we even had one person who brought their Windows system in twice within the first week of owning it with infections) that supporting Windows gets frustrating. (And that’s with Microsoft’s own Security Essentials security solution). Of course there are other free anti-virus/malware solutions, but the licensing ironically doesn’t permit us to install them pre-sales.

    Supporting Linux on the other hand can be fun. We had one former UFC fighter buy a system from us. He’d never used Linux before. When he got it home his Internet didn’t work (but he had a VOIP phone so we knew his Internet was active and working, just not with our Linux box). It turned out to be the fault of his VOIP router which didn’t do IPv6 correctly. To get around the problem we disabled IPv6 in Network Manager and his Internet worked fine. When he came to buy a second system we had plenty of Windows systems, but he only wanted Ubuntu.

    We’ve also replaced a lot of our infrastructure with Linux systems. Our file servers all run Linux. Our point-of-sale is a custom-built solution based on OSCommerce. We hired a programmer to write a simplified PHP front end that looks more like a register and does end of day balancing.

    Linux rocks!

    1. Great story! is there anything that would help you with respect hardware support. i.e. is there specific hardware you get to refurbish that you can’t get working with Ubuntu

      1. We keep an internal Drupal site for documenting problems/fixes. One thing we have posted is something about Lucid Video problems. Here’s the work around we posted to the site:

        Sometimes you will install Linux and nothing will appear on the display. This is sometimes caused by video driver problems. One example is here: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/X/Bugs/Lucidi8xxFreezes . There appear to be many other causes too.

        Here are some things you can try to fix the problem. If you are not familiar with Linux, you will want to read the page on becoming root before following these instructions.
        Getting a terminal

        If you are not in graphical mode, your first task is to get a terminal so that you can fix things. There are assorted ways to do this, but the easiest is to try one of the following keyboard combinations (which should get you into the second “virtual terminal”):


        If you are lucky then one of these combinations will result in a command prompt.

        If you are not lucky then ask the shop lead. Some things to try could be:

        Booting into Knoppix and using chroot
        Getting into the GRUB menu and modifying the boot parameters to boot in single-user mode

        Disable Plymouth

        “Plymouth” is the graphical splash screen that comes with Ubuntu. It has lots of problems. You might try disabling it.

        First, type

        sudo nano /etc/default/grub &

        to edit the GRUB configuration file as root. In the file, change the line

        GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”quiet splash”


        GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT =”nomodeset init=/sbin/init -v”

        You can also enable the GRUB boot menu. Change the following line:




        (that is: insert a hash mark in the beginning. This comments the line out.)

        Save your changes and exit gedit. Now become the root user in a terminal, and type


        to make your changes active. When you reboot the computer then you should see a lot of text scroll by as the computer boots, and you might see graphical mode start.

        Use the VESA video driver

        Sometimes you need to change the video driver to make video work. This is a lousy solution because it limits your screen resolution to 1024×768, and it disables hardware acceleration for graphics. But it is better than having no graphics at all.

        To make this work, you need to create a file called /etc/X11/xorg.conf . Fortunately there is a file premade for you that the installer puts in /root/conf . To apply it, become the root user and type

        cp /root/conf/xorg.conf /etc/X11/

        If for some reason you like typing, you can also create this file:

        Section “Device”
        Identifier “Configured Video Device”
        Driver “vesa”

        Section “Monitor”
        Identifier “Configured Monitor”

        Section “Screen”
        Identifier “Default Screen”
        Monitor “Configured Monitor”
        Device “Configured Video Device”

        When you reboot you should hopefully get some graphics.

  5. Back in early 2008, I bought the Darter Ultra 2 from System76. Lovely machine. This comment is going to sound like a litany of complaints, but I should say up front that I have been generally happy with it. But there have been a few problems with the hardware.

    Out of the box, everything worked. But there were problems. The harddrive they chose had the “aggressive harddrive power-save” problem. But there are workarounds for that to keep the harddrive spinning down all the time. I replaced it with an SSD about a year ago anyway.

    Then Hardy came out. Some upstream kernel developer decided that a “hack” that allowed suspend to work on these machines needed to be removed. It also did strange things to power management, making it impossible to get reliable readings from the battery and causing it to panic and shutdown periodically.

    The latter was fixed by adding a kernel parameter. But suspend hasn’t worked since.

    There’ve been other little problems as well. Sound coming up muted on startup for one release; speaker his for another; in Natty, the webcam and bluetooth stopped working… Bluetooth has since been fixed in a update, but the webcam hasn’t (not that I use it much).

    I have to say that the support from System76 has been great and the community on the forums is also incredibly helpful, posting kernel patches to try to keep things working over the years. And to be fair to them and their current products, I’ve never seen anything like the problems I’ve had with the daru2 compared to what users are experiencing with other machines on their forums.

    I still highly recommend pre-installed machines. (My Dell Mini 9 has been pretty much flawless the whole time I’ve owned it), but it’s no silver bullet. System76 and I had bad luck with this particular machine.

  6. I bought my Dell Mini 9 with Ubuntu netbook edition. Bumped the memory up to 2 Gigs and it’s been great. I do with Dell had better support for Ubuntu. My next laptop will probably be from System76.

    BR Jones

  7. I like it so much I did it twice!

    First I bought a Dell Inspiron 530N pre installed with Ubuntu back in 2008 and have never looked back. It has been probably too easy to mess about it with and I have installed since then Kubuntu and then went back to Ubuntu. Updating it has been a breeze. I bought it as I wanted to put my money where my mouth was as I had used Ubuntu for years before that and wanted to recognise (rightly or wrongly ) manufacturers that put Ubuntu on pre installed

    Dell were faultless in their handling of this even here in the UK. It did ship with ati radeon graphics card which has been a pain but would be a pain in any system but it works – all the time!

    Second item I bought was from the Linux Emporium in the UK which was a Lenovo S10-2 preinstalled with Ubuntu /Kubuntu as I was undecided which I wanted and netbook editions were then quite new. Again brilliant service and the netbook has had more systems installed on it since then but Ubuntu always bounces back on when they go wrong!

  8. I bought a Dell Inspiron 1525 in July 2008. I live in South Africa, but they were cheaper in the UK, and available with Ubuntu pre-installed, and we were planning a trip there – so I ordered mine on the web, got it delivered to a friend’s house shortly before we got there, and then collected it.

    It all worked smoothly, and upgraded smoothly from the pre-installed 8.04 (I think) right through to 10.10 – In March then got a new machine (Dell Vostro 3700, but Ubuntu pre-install not available), copied the hard-drive over and continued from there.

  9. desktop from DNUK
    has worked great. one interesting BIOS issue (would reboot when you asked it to shut down), DNUK advised me to upgrade the BIOS, which fixed the issue. Has worked fine though many software and hardware updates.

    lenovo ideapad S12 from linux emporium.
    came all set up with wl (proprietary) driver for the broadcom wireless. in recent ubuntu versions b43 works better than wl. updating/installing ubuntu has given a few ‘fun’ broadcom issues, having to get the firmware, PIO mode, acer-wmi conflicting with the RFkill.
    also have to say LE did a heroic job in getting the laptop to me, after a DOA and difficult time constraints at my end.

  10. Just as a user, thank you for all that info. I’m filing it.

    I’ve build custom systems and “rehab’ed” them since the late ’70’s. Ever since ZaReason preloaded UbuStudio, I ALWAYS install Ubuntu as my first choice because I use hardware I know will work.

    m$ lost two users when they “just watched” me install both OS’s. They thought the “Update” process in Win7 was ridiculous. I literally dl’d the equivalent of the installed OS as updates!?

    Sorry, back to pre-configured Linux Boxes…
    ZaReason Rocks!
    All Linux users need to check them out. They have some outrageous high end stuff (new i7 laptop!).

  11. I bought a Dell Inspiron 1420N for myself, and an Inspiron 1525N for my mom. Upgrading worked great. Unfortunately, my nVidia gpu was defective, so I have sent mine in four times for repair, most recently as part of a class action lawsuit settlement. Also, my utility partition was corrupt, so, that was a pain too… but concerning hardware support.. I remember I used to have problems with my webcam for the first release or two.. then that got to Just Works status.. I think it still might have problems with the sound input port.. For the most part though, it works without a lot of hassle. My mom’s is even better. Everything Just Works, all the way down to 3d acceleration on LiveCDs.

  12. I have a ZaReason Terra HD that came with Lucid and a ZaReason UltraLap SR (with Intel graphics; my brother has one with Nvidia) that came with Hardy.

    The UltraLap was mostly compatible out of the box, with a sound bug on resume from suspend. I wrote a patch. It’s upgraded fine.

    The Terra was great under Lucid, but midway through Maverick’s development cycle started having suspend/resume problems. I don’t know if it’s the kernel or a hardware component. I’m going to swap the hard disk since I get I/O errors on resume.

  13. I bought one of the Dells with Ubuntu pre-installed that they sold a few years ago. One of the first things I did was reformat the drive and install Ubuntu myself. It was something I planned to do before the machine was delivered, but seeing how the pre-install was set up just confirmed that it was something I should do. Instead of having me set up a user account for myself when I first turned it on, it instead automatically logged me in to an existing account with a username that was something like “ubuntu-” followed by a seemingly random series of 4 digits. It was also all on a single partition, and I like having a separate partition for /home.

    The reason I bought a computer with Ubuntu pre-installed, when I planned on wiping the drive and installing Ubuntu myself anyway, was because I wanted to avoid paying the “Microsoft tax” and also getting a computer that already had Ubuntu ensured that all the hardware in my new machine would be compatible. But it actually turned out to be more complicated than that. After reinstalling, a lot of the hardware *wasn’t* working properly. I eventually discovered the Dell did some of their own customization and installed their own drivers to get everything working on the shipped installation, and I was able to get everything working finally. But in the end, I was left with the feeling that I didn’t really get that much advantage out of buying an Ubuntu computer instead of one that came with Windows on it.

  14. The story I hear far too often from Ubuntu users is that they end up purchasing a computer based on the model number listed on ubuntu.com/certification/ only to find out that the components are not the same as the certified system. Unique model numbers (SKU), certification stickers or stating Ubuntu certification in the specs would help avoid this issue.

    My personal story: I have looked around computer stores in Canada to see if I could find one which sells computers with Ubuntu pre-installed, but have not had any luck yet. There are some online options, but they add shipping, in many cases duty fees, and do not offer price matching or satisfaction warranty like Best Buy or Future Shop. IMO, getting Ubuntu pre-installed computers into stores would make the Ubuntu name much more popular.

  15. I’ve just bought one month from now an Hercules ecafé EX-HD (800mhz ARM based machine with 512mb RAM / 8gb Flash for the system (an specific version of ubuntu for Hercules) 8gb on internal SD card), this is an “smart”PC, 10″6 inch LED screen on it with an HDMI output (720p), 1 SD external slot, i’ve add two 32gb SD card, that’s putting me the whole machine up to 72gb, which is his maximum capacity.

    I’ve bought it on rueducommerce.fr which is one french distributor fro the machine.

    A day after i’ve received it, i’ve used the ubuntu default repositories and upgrade it, just to have Xfce / Lxde, i really don’t enjoy the default interface.. (this is an netbook edition of ubuntu 10.04).

    Now i’m running it on xfce 4.6 with the last version of the LTS, the 10.04.3.

    This machine is delivered with an 6 cells battery wich gaves me more than 10 hours of use! That was the main reason for me to buy this machine, fanless / noiseless – low consumption and a huge autonomy.

    I’m not using it as “PC” replacement, but just to read my RSS feed / emails / a bit of surf on blogs, listening some music.. and that’s perfect. Not running fast at all, but usuable at my point.

    I really think that, for this kind of machine, Ubuntu in that version is a bit too “fat”.. But at this time using it like that, i have the possibility to boot on the internal SD card, i think i’ll try an full debian 6 on it.. (with Lxde i’m gaining almost 30mb of RAM on Xfce…).

    Well, i’m using a bit the ecafe forum from Hercules, at this time i’ve only get a response from them about the future installation of flash in the machine. The other info about some little issues i’ve got was already solved by other users..

  16. I purchased the Dell 1420N with Ubuntu preinstalled back when Dell first started offering this. It initially worked right out of the box, but things became rocky with newer versions of Ubuntu. During one STS cycle the Intel graphics card did not support 3D. Soon support for the sound card was dropped and I have had no sound through the external speakers since. I’ve filed a bug but I have not had any luck getting it resolved.
    Next time I will buy a System 76.

  17. I bought a Dell laptop with Ubuntu pre-installed a couple of years ago (before Dell stopped selling them in France).

    Being a Fedora contributor, I replaced if with the latest Fedora (Fedora 9 at that time), but:

    1. I specifically chose to buy a laptop with Ubuntu pre-installed (I couldn’t find anything with Fedora pre-installed and it was harder to buy a laptop without nay OS, so I figured I’d rather have my money go to a Linux company than to Microsoft)

    2. I used it for a week before I had time to replace it with my favorite system and the experience was very similar to Fedora (that was pre-unity, and after all, Gnome is Gnome 😉

    1. I should probably add that everything worked perfectly out of box, but I had carefully chosen every component (at least the ones Dell allowed me to choose).

  18. Almost all the mid-range laptops in Thai IT malls come with Ubuntu on the display model. It is pre-set with Thai keyboard switching and codecs. Unfortunately, the video is never right, and many Poulsbo graphics chips don’t even have drivers installed, leaving the 720p widescreen at 1024×768. The overall look is fine at first glance, but the system was obviously designed to be wiped and set with a pirated XP ASAP.

  19. I bought a first-gen Starling notebook from System76. After booting it and checking it out, I told it to update. Partway through, a kernel panic. A hard reboot, and now the keyboard and trackpad don’t work. I managed to rescue it, but I need to know about VTs, magic SysRq commands, and dpkg. (See the full saga here: http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1404066)

    I’ve been able to upgrade it (9.04->9.10->10.04), but this hasn’t solved problems with the wireless card. I can still reliably cause a kernel panic with `iwconfig`.

    In short, my previous method of buying a Linux computer (to wit, buy a Windows machine and hope everything will work under Linux) looks much better.

  20. Bought a Lemur Ultrathin from System76 three months ago; absolutely love it. Though I had one issue with one TV not giving the correct resolution and an awful bug with an encrypted home partition causing nautilus to freeze. I don’t believe either one were hardware issues though.

  21. I bought a couple of Dell Mini 9 machines. Everything worked really well, and Dell’s custom UI was really nice to use. The only problem was that, although day-to-day updates worked fine, Dell never supported the next full release, so I ended up installing UNR manually.

    UNR was okay. I preferred Dell’s previous UI but wanted to be on a newer release so accepted the step backwards in style as a compromise. Subsequent releases improved on it a little, until Unity which I find to be too restrictive, even as a netbook UI.

    If Dell had continued to support their custom UI beyond its first release, the Mini 9 would have been wonderful. As it is, I still think it’s a great bit of hardware, but leaving the user without a proper upgrade path prevented me recommending Dell’s Ubuntu offerings to other people.

  22. My former employer SumConcepts Technologies is an Educational Computer Vendor and they exclusively use KUbuntu on the desktops. Besides they also sell customized distros with regional School syllabus.
    While working there, I built a custom ERP system for them using LAMP stack and we always provided latest KUbuntu release to our customers, with all updated software. For our old customers we provided offline updates. It was a great experience working for such an organization.

  23. I bought a Dell Inspiron 1525N, way back in 2007, for my dad. I went for the Ubuntu pre-install option. This was partly due to the fact it was never going to run Windows; both dad and I resented paying ‘Microsoft tax’ for an OS we weren’t interested in him having. Additionally, we wanted to show support to Dell who (at that time) had just started offering Ubuntu as a pre-install option. It seemed vital they knew from cold, hard sales figures that non MS machines would sell.

    How was the experience?

    Well, if you’re looking at it from a channel perspective, we had to dig to find the Ubuntu offerings. It was literally only by using the search engine on Dell’s site that we were able to find the Ubuntu pre-installed products. I feel Dell could have done a lot more to promote Ubuntu, but this may well be tied into commercial and in-house support factors I’m sure we’re all aware of.

    The Ubuntu / laptop combination, on arrival, was great. Everything ‘just worked’. It was fast and lean, and nice to experience Ubuntu on a shiny new computer. It was slightly disappointing that Dell chose to provide an older distribution of Ubuntu however, so right ‘out of the box’ it was straight to Update Manager to rectify that. It’s important that new users experience the ‘latest and greatest’, or at least a polished LTS release.

    Still, the fact we had just bought an Ubuntu laptop from Dell was a very cool feeling, and the machine is still going strong four years later – but for a faulty hard disk, it’s been solid as a rock. Dad is still using the laptop on 10.04 now.

  24. In the UK in 2008, I bought a Dell Inspiron 1525 with 7.10 pre-installed. Flawless (except for me breaking a keycap – oops!), now running 11.04. Mostly upgraded in between, although I have also re-installed to 64-bit and changed the partitioning.

    I also bought a Viglen MPC-L using the offer I heard on the Ubuntu-UK podcast. I can’t remember exactly which version was pre-installed, but it’s now running 10.04. I mostly use it via SSH, except when it fails to reboot after a kernel upgrade or because the external disk is switched off. Other than a few problems with kernel upgrades, I’ve not had any other issues. I’ve never re-installed this, just upgraded.

  25. I have helped three friends purchase Ubuntu pre installed laptops from http://www.linuxemporium.co.uk (LE) (approximately 2 or 3 years ago) and on each occasion the service was excellent. One friend had poor eyesight and they were offered and accepted a dual boot install which included Vinux also, no charge. Warranty service was excellent, including competent remote support. When time came to upgrade, I did this on two of them, as a friend, and I asked LE for configuration comments and advice.I received a full comment on what to do if I wished with offer for further help if I needed it. Outstanding.

    I have also recently purchased a Meenee notebook pre installed Ubuntu 10.10
    and am very pleased with it.

  26. I purchased a Dell netbook in 2008 with Ubuntu pre-installed. It worked without a hitch for me and I later gave it to my daughter to use after upgrading it to Ubuntu 10.04 remix. She still uses it as her primary system at home.

  27. I purchased a System 76 “Wildebeest Performance” back in March, running Ubuntu 10.10. Using the instructions on the System 76 website I easily upgraded to Ubuntu 11.04. As a long time Linux user who had tried other distributions, I found myself always coming back to Ubuntu. It made sense to buy a machine with it pre-installed and I couldn’t be happier. Everything has worked without a hitch.

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