Sad story, happy ending

Edit: Unfortunately, the images originally included in this post are gone, because of hosting problems in late 2009. My apologies.

Through some sort of technological tomfoolery, Mom’s new Ubuntu-running Dell computer ran into a glitch, and the sound stopped working. This is the two-months-old Inspiron 1420n, preinstalled with Ubuntu 7.10, and quite a pretty machine too.

(Note the absence of a Microsoft COA. :D )

At the same time, she got her copy of Ubuntu for Non-Geeks, which she highly recommends and which comes with an Ubuntu 8.04 live CD.

You might be able to predict where this is going. Through an unfortunate chain of circumstances, she found herself in the installer utility on the live CD, and managed to eradicate half the drive. When she tried to abort the procedure, which most of us know isn’t really abortable, the drive was already blanked and the machine unbootable.

Situations like this are why you pay for customer support. I couldn’t help much, being asleep in a different time zone when the catastrophe occurred, so she called Dell and was routed to a customer service representative … for Windows.

All was not lost though; this particular rep had an Ubuntu machine at home and knew how to get it working, so she walked through the 7.10 reinstall with him, and in short while she had a fresh system in place. Mom was quite happy — the machine booted fine, and worked cleanly and properly again.

The story’s not over though. When she realized how easy it was to actually go through the installation process, she started to wonder if she could install 8.04 on her own. She was confident that putting 7.10 back on would be painless, so she decided to make the jump, and see how her machine behaved.

Dell has some “known issues” for 1420n’s running 8.04, and it’s something we had talked about in the past — that she could try the new version, but she might be more comfortable waiting for Dell’s customized ISO. Of course, as far as I can tell, Dell’s been promising that for months, with (as of today) none forthcoming.

But she tried it anyway and the good news is, everything seems to work perfect under 8.04. Sound, video, wireless and all the software is just right. No problems to report, aside from configuring the modem connection, which seems to be somehow different from Gutsy.

Note that I said 8.04, not 8.04.1. With more than 220 packages to update, it’s taking a little while to make the next hurdle, and it’s always possible that some software update will behave strangely. But that’s always the case, no matter what operating system is in use.

But the experience has reinforced a couple of things — like, installing it is easy and she can do that if she has to. That’s important really; it’s like knowing if your car breaks down, you can get it restarted again.

And for me, and hopefully for others, it suggests that the installation process really is simple enough for a relative newcomer to handle. The original error notwithstanding, Mom managed to install Ubuntu — not once but twice — and ran into no real difficulties. Of course, she had some things working in her favor: She has used Ubuntu since 6.06, she got lucky with a customer service representative that was kind enough to walk her through the first installation, and her machine is more or less designed to play nice with Linux.

But even those points don’t void this happy ending.

Another satisfied customer. :D

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1 Response to “Sad story, happy ending”


  1. 1 Tony 2008/07/22 at 9:40 PM

    Congratulations to your Mom!! I’ve also got to mention the Dell representative treated you Mom properly and that Rep. deserves a Thank You!

    I have owned an Acer laptop for a little over a year. With Vista installed it runs terribly and when it was still under warranty I notified ACER about the problem. Needless to say, Acer refused to help 100 percent of the time I contacted them. I then when through the Better Business Bureau, the Office of Consumer Affairs, and the FCC. All government offices agreed I had a legitimate claim, but they “claimed” they were powerless to do anything to help make things right except file a complaint on my behalf to ACER.

    Your Mom getting support from Dell is great and I wish that Acer would learn that lesson from Dell.

    As a side-note, I asked ACER would they support hardware related problems under my warranty if I were to install Linux on the laptop? The moment I asked that simple question I was informed that my warranty was cancelled. They did not asked IF I had installed Linux, they cancelled the warranty because I asked about installing Linux. My subsequent contacts with ACER indicated that my warranty had been cancelled. After a year of fighting with ACER I gave up. ACER is just not worth my time and when I finally get the time I will dump Vista from that laptop.


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May 6, 2011
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