How do I benefit from Ubuntu Pre-Install?

I was reading the Ubuntu Forum when I saw a thread called Ubuntu-certified hardware is not accurate ! This grabbed my attention.

The main issue seemed to be that the user that started the thread wanted to know if he should buy the Lenovo X220 or not. He had looked around and seen that the system is Certified (pre-install only) for 10.10 but found several user comments in the web pointing at problems with stock Ubuntu.

I was planning to reply explaining when I found this great reply from  williumbillium:

First of all, the X220 works well with Ubuntu. I bought one last week and for the most part the laptop is well supported and IMO the current issues are either minor (probably wouldn’t cause the laptop to fail certification) or will likely be fixed soon. I’m documenting my experience on the wiki.

I believe that the “special image of Ubuntu” referenced on the certification page must be a business only deal. I’ve contacted Lenovo about it and been told that it’s not available.

That said, I saw a number of bugs fixed by Canonical employees before the laptop was even released so I believe that us consumers are benefiting from the fact that it’s certified.

Finally, I would not recommend installing 10.10 on this machine unless you have a particular reason to. Since it’s using brand new hardware (Sandy Bridge) it really needs the latest kernel to work well. I don’t have most of the issues mentioned on this ThinkWiki page for example.

The reason why Williumbillium “saw a number of bugs fixed by Canonical employees” is that Canonical has commercial engagements with companies like Lenovo to make Ubuntu work well on their systems. These engagements result on:

  • A custom image delivered to the manufacturer with all major problems fixed. The manufacturer then chooses in what cases to distribute this image with their system. This is why it is certified as Pre-install only.
  • Stock Ubuntu Certification  in a future release. Canonical continues to work after we deliver the custom image to include all the fixes into the latest development release. We do this until all issues blocking certification have been resolved.

Following this process, the Canonical team has successfully Certified with standard Ubuntu over Fifty systems for 11.04 that previously did not work well with Ubuntu. And more are in the pipeline for 11.10…

21 thoughts on “How do I benefit from Ubuntu Pre-Install?

  1. I haven’t been following hardware cert as much as I should, but it would be nice to have a real searchable database of components and laptops instead of wiki pages for things like this. And then a place where people can document common workarounds that can be peer reviewed, etc.

    I would also like a pony.

  2. Speaking as someone who has only purchased certified Ubuntu systems in the past 3 or 4 years, even though I actually don’t run Ubuntu on them, I think you should try to find a way to make the difference between stock and custom pre-install certification much easier to recognize by drive-by users of the certification pages

    Using as a starting point, you really should be able to divide the certified hardware into pre-install only and stock certification. DiYers who need to install Ubuntu on their own are only going to be confused by the pre-installed cert listings mixed in. And similarly people who just want an out of the box Ubuntu experience will want to look primarily at the pre-install cert options so they can quickly find a pre-installed option from an OEM.

    You can’t do anything about OEMs that choose not to make their pre-install custom images available globally, (which is a real pain in the rump and just makes it hardware for Ubuntu users to find OEMs they can rely on) but you can make it less likely to confuse users looking to your certification database by making it easier to just see stock or pre-install-only options.


    1. I see two problems with your suggestion:
      1. You can have pre-installed systems that are certified with stock Ubuntu.
      2. The certification DB doesn’t mention anything about the availability of the systems, only their certification. The site would have to be updated regularly to list all existing purchase options for pre-installed systems.

      1. The fact that it’s certified only for pre-installed systems doesn’t mean I can buy it, or would know where to look for it.

        If someone is looking for a system that is certified to run Ubuntu and comes pre-installed with it, that doesn’t mean the certification will say it’s certified with pre-installed systems, as that is only mentioned when it’s not compatible with stock Ubuntu, so anyone looking for a certified system that comes pre-installed with Ubuntu will miss all of those that are certified for, and come pre-installed with, stock Ubuntu.

  3. Good point. Now that we have remove ubuntu ready from that page we can work on a better design for it. Possibly with different graphic icons or something… wireframes soon to come

    1. Another point. Are you getting any feedback from OEM partners with regard to trending of the sales of certified systems?

      As a consumer, I value the fact that OEMs are making an effort to certify that stock Ubuntu is working with the system and is trickling money back to fund development. Even though I’m not installing Ubuntu on those systems I do actively look for Ubuntu stock certification. I personally make purchases which reflect that I value the effort to cert the hardware.

      However, I seldom get the chance to actually tell an OEM “I am purchasing this system in part because its Ubuntu certified.” And OEMs aren’t badging their products on their sales pages for the most part. There’s no evidence as part of the purchasing process that my active decision to buy certified systems is being captured and accounted for.


      1. In general, when it comes to purchase power the focus is more placed on enterprises and government tenders rather than individuals, unfortunately.

        However, we do go back to OEMs and say “hey – did you know that X amount of users buy Ubuntu Advantage/Search for Certification for you hardware?”

  4. Hi Victor – just a lurker from Planet Ubuntu
    +1 for what Jef Spaleta mentioned – as a small time IT admin, I was drawn to the fact that Dell Latitude E6510 had certification. Problem is, there is no way to actually GET that image. Although I understand the idea of Canonical engineering directly with Computer Manufacturers, I wonder “what good does it do me?” when I get all excited that I can get a Ubuntu laptop from Dell, only to find that I can’t.

    Upon calling Dell the third time, I never got the call back from that Manager that was going to check on getting me that image…

    Thanks for the post!

    1. The good that does to you is that having that relationship allow us to then pass the enablement goodness to the next release. Unfortunately the E6510 (before my time ehem ehem…) is an exception to that rule

      1. I do understand that hardware enablement trickles into the next release – so you’re right. It is still a mess to a consumer that stumbles across the certifications page.

        “Unfortunately the E6510 (before my time ehem ehem…) is an exception to that rule”

        Come’on man! I bought that machine in 2010 with an i5 processor – before your time!?

  5. Could there not be a link from the certification page to a place where you can *actually purchase it*. In the UK it is massively hard to purchase systems with Ubuntu pre-installed. If you made the certification pages the entry point to funnel actual sales to vendors of OEM systems you could scoop up a referral fee, track statistics of purchase volumes and generally make it possible for people like me to avoid paying for an operating system that I am going to throw away.

    1. We had though hard about that , the problem is:
      a) Different regions sale via different channels
      b) Channels do not always have static pages you can link to
      c) Some regions do not sale online

      we are still hoping for a silver bullet here.. anyone?

      1. Make a store front the companies can plug into. It should support all the customization options the OEM offers, and behind the scenes will do little more than forward the sale information to the OEM. The OEM has to add his machines, provide the customization information, and plug into or use a Canonical-provided system for tracking sales and shipments. Canonical then forwards the payment to the OEM while keeping a small fee to itself.

  6. I had a very bad experience some years ago with the Dell Mini 12.

    Dell sold it with Ubuntu pre-installed, but they didn’t say that it wasn’t standard Ubuntu. It used specific repositories from Canonical, not the standard ones, and the driver for its graphics card (GMA500) was horrible, unstable and binary. Therefore I was stuck with that pseudo-ubuntu, with no possible upgrades, because the GMA500 is not really supported yet, even if there are some workarounds.

    If I had known that the Ubuntu installed in the Dell Mini 12 wasn’t a regular one, I wouldn’t have bought it.

    At the end, I became angry and suspcious about Canonical. As it was Canonical who allowed Dell to confuse the custormers labelling “Ubuntu” a distro which wasn’t 100% Ubuntu.

    At the end I haven’t used this computer much, because of all the problems related to the GMA500. I lost my money.

    This is a related post from 2008:
    After three years, this “Ubuntu box” can’t reliable run ubuntu.

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