Jan 1, 2009

Dell Inspiron 530n, NVIDIA 9400GT, and Ubuntu GNU/Linux preloaded. One word - AWESOME!!

As a technology professional I don't usually purchase OEM systems for my personal use. I usually prefer to customize and build systems for myself instead.

But this time around, I decided to put my dollar vote towards a company that is among those who are paving the way to the future of technology by selling computer systems that are preloaded with the GNU/Linux Operating System.

Enter the future. Enter Dell. Enter GNU/Linux. Dell sells Ubuntu GNU/Linux preloaded on the Inspiron (and other models), click here to see.

Quick boot-up, processing muscle, graphics like silk, configurable beyond the imagination, and over 20,000 free software packages at the fingertips with a click of the button. This is the computer that would show a new GNU/Linux user what it's all about.

Here's the details on the one I bought for about $700 (shipped 2nd day):
Inspiron 530,Intel Core2 Duo processor E4600 (2.4GHz 800FSB) w/Dual Core Technologyand 2MB cache
2GB DDR2 SDRAM at 800MHz
Dell USB Keyboard
Dell Optical USB Mouse
Dell 19 inch E198WFP Flat Panel Analog and Digital
Integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3100
320GB Serial ATA 2 Hard Drive (7200RPM)
Ubuntu 8.04 with DVD Playback
Mouse included with Keyboard purchase
Integrated NIC card
16X DVD+/-RW Drive
Integrated Audio
Dell Hardware Warranty PlusOnsite Service, Initial Year
1 Year Limited Warranty and Next Business Day,Desktop
PNY NVIDIA GeForce 9400GT PCIe Graphics card (Purchased from frys.com here and added on)

Unboxing/Setup of the Dell Inspiron 530n
  1. Inspiron 530,Intel Core2 Duo processor E4600 (2.4GHz / 800FSB) w/Dual Core Technology and 2MB cache. Order Date: 11/14/2008, received on 11/20/2008 (1 day ahead of estimated ship date). Our cat(callsign:Fatso) decided to hold down the boxes until I arrived home from work to take the photos.
  2. Box cap: DELL "YOURS IS HERE". "It's a Dell with Ubuntu DUDE!!"
  3. Everything out of the box and onto the table. Notice the Ubuntu restore DVD that came included. Note: No mention of "Vista" or "Windows" anywhere on the box or computer - this makes me happy. On the front of the case, there are four USB ports, audio ports, the DVD Writer drive, a space for another CDROM, a space for a floppy/media drive, and the power button (no floppy/media reader is included by default).
  4. I ordered my Dell Inspiron 530n with the Intel Core 2 Duo processor($90 extra), 2GB of RAM(plenty for Ubuntu GNU/Linux), integrated 7.1 channel audio, and the 19" monitor($20 more than 17"). This is but a slight deviation from the default Dell Inspiron 530n model, which is the low price of only $408. My custom configuration cost around $700 after purchasing the graphics card and shipping with the 2nd day option.
  5. The case is sleek enough to be sexy, and much smaller than my "legacy" computer systems cases, which are solid iron.
  6. Rear view of the case. Pretty simplistic. I hadn't yet plugged in the separately purchased NVIDIA 9400GT PCIe graphics adapter yet. The connectors include, power(switchable for other countries), analog monitor for the integrated graphics, 4 USB ports(added to the 4 on the front, this makes 8 total), RJ45 port for the integrated Ethernet network adapter, and 7.1 channel audio connectors (includes the subwoofer port). Also, as you can see, there is room to add on your favorite PCI or PCI-E x1 card.
  7. Quick shot of the internals. With the heart pumping before me, there seems to be plenty of room inside considering the case is smaller than my other systems. The hard drive placement is different from what I've seen recently though, neato. There's a slot the hard drive fits into that doesn't show in this picture. The Hard drive and DVD/rw are of the SATA2 variety of course. Interesting how the fan on the processor looks like a regular case fan. The two fans make somewhat of a racket, and then slow to whisper quiet when you first turn the machine on (they must blow pretty hard if ever throttled up that high).
  8. This system came with 2GB DDR2 SDRAM / 800MHz installed (2x 1GB chips), and there's 2 slots left for upgrade. Awesome. Thankfully Dell didn't fill all four slots with 512MB to total the 2GB.
  9. Motherboard is a FOXCONN G33M02 with 2 spare PCI slots and a PCI-e 1x slot. For those wanting to see the Owner's manual for the Inspiron 530, see here.
  10. Closer look at the motherboard markings. Sorry, I'm not much of a photographer.
  11. Here's a shot of the power supply model ATX0300D5WB. Output is 300W max.
  12. Here's a shot of the SATA DVD Writer Model TS-H653.
  13. Heres the 320GB (was a free upgrade from 250GB) SATA2 hard drive, Seagate Barracuda ST3320620AS (7200RPM).
  14. Here's a shot of the startup screen BIOS version 1.0.15.
  15. After the Dell EULA(not shown), the Ubuntu mini-setup kicks in (Select Language).
  16. Next screen is choosing time zone. I couldn't find Mars, so I selected Los Angeles instead.
  17. Ubuntu Keyboard layout. Anybody ever use Dvorak?
  18. The Ubuntu create a user screen. Username will be Kickass!
  19. Initial login screen for Ubuntu GNU/Linux. This picture doesn't do it justice at all. I think it's cool how the time and date are shown on the front login screen(for everyone to see, even though no user is logged in), this shows the paradigm of "technology as an enabler of humans", which paired with FREEDOM, is the core driver of GNU/Linux.
  20. Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron desktop, complete with Dell DVD Restore media creator icon. No Crapware of any kind, No Trial-ware, No limited offers!! Hooray!!
  21. Update manager shows 1042 updates available, wow. Who says GNU/Linux isn't secure? Security updates are written and made available for download almost as soon as they are discovered.
  22. Here's the PNY NVIDIA GeForce 9400GT PCIe 3d graphics card. $84 at Frys.com here.
  23. Here's a picture of the graphics card with box contents (includes: s-video/composite external video connector, drivers disk, and manual). Also pictured here is my Chiefmax NKRUSB-400 802.11b Wireless USB Networking Adapter Dongle, which is available from 3btech.net (a similar one is available here. I like to buy stuff from 3btech.net because they sometimes specify whether a piece of hardware is compatible with GNU/Linux or not (here's the "Linux" search results from 3btech.net).
  24. PNY NVIDIA GeForce 9400GT PCIe card closeup.
  25. With the PNY nVidia GeForce 6400GT physically installed, I was disappointed to find out that the GNU/Linux driver was not included on the installation disk. Guess I'll have to email PNY about that. UPDATED: after having problems upgrading to Ubuntu 8.10 with *.run driver script from NVIDIA installed, I recommend installing the "restricted driver" for NVIDIA directly from the Ubuntu repository. This works better because then the driver will be tested to work along with regular Ubuntu updates.
  26. Here's a picture of the Ubuntu supplied NVIDIA restricted drivers enabled (System>Administration>Hardware Drivers)(reboot required).
  27. Dell Inspiron 530n with PNY NVIDIA GeForce 9400GT PCIe plugged in and working.
Now for some fun. Here's a video of the open source game GL-117(website|screenshots) (3d action flight simulator). My camera video doesn't do the graphics justice at all, but at least you see how smooth the game runs.
video

Here's a video of the open source game TORCS(website|screenshots) (3d racing). Again, my camera video doesn't do the graphics justice at all, but at least you see how smooth the game runs.

video

Here's a video of the open source game Alien Arena (website) (3d shooter). Again, my camera video doesn't do the graphics justice at all, but at least you see how smooth the game runs.
video

Here's a video of the awesome 3D game called "Prey". Prey was recently ported to GNU/Linux by Ryan Gordon at this link. Purchase this game in the box from Amazon via this link (about $17 when I bought it), then run a quick script on your GNU/Linux machine here(3d graphics required) and away you go. For more information about the game, see here. This game rocks!!



Here's a video of the awesome and FREE online MMORPG game called Regnum. Many hours of fun await, just signup for your free account, download and install (Windows or Linux), and away you go.


Here's a clip of the awesome online game Savage 2. Also checkout linux-gamers.net for more information on GNU/Linux gaming at its best.


Here's a clip of the awesome game World of Goo, which was recently ported to GNU/Linux by the great guys at 2D Boy. "World of Goo" is a superbly crafted, 2d puzzle game, which is artistically beautiful, features great music and effects, has no DRM, and is a great value at only $20 for a version that works with Linux/Win/Mac/Wii. "World of Goo" was named Wii Game of The Year(2008) by IGN. This game is a perfect example of how gaming on GNU/Linux (both commercial and free) has a very promising future. If you support GNU/Linux, you should purchase a copy of this game!! Note: My short video does the game no justice at all, there are so many more levels, much more scenery, and much better graphic detail in the game.


Here's a clip of the awesome game Halve Life 2. "Half Life 2" is a action-packed, man vs. alien, 3D FPS game that runs on the steampowered.com platform in winehq.org on GNU/Linux.



Here's a clip of the awesome and FREE GNU/Linux-compatible multi-player First Person Shooter game Urban Terror. Get Urban Terror here



Here's a clip of the awesome and FREE GNU/Linux-compatible multi-player First Person Shooter game Assault Cube. Get Assault Cube using these easy instructions for Ubuntu




Here's a clip of the awesome and FREE GNU/Linux-compatible (via Wine) MMORPG game for Kids called Wizard 101. To make this game work with Wine, checkout this tip on the wizard101 site.




Here's a clip of the awesome and FREE GNU/Linux-compatible (via Wine) FPS game called Half Life 2. To make this game work with Wine, checkout this tip on the Winehq.org site.




Here's a video to show the functionality of my 51" panasonic TV as the secondary Monitor connected via the S-Video port on the PNY Verto NVIDIA 9400GT PCIe graphics card. I set this up so I can watch hulu.com and other online channels on my big screen TV... Oh yeah baby!! Also pictured is our shiny new Wacom Intuous 6x8 Tablet(my Son is an artist),for which we used the easy instructions at https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Wacom to get setup. Go GNU/Linux!!



Here's a clip of the Unigine Tropics Benchmark video that was run at 1024x768 resolution. You can test your machine with this free download as well. Thanks to Vadim P. for mentioning it in the comments.
video

Final score from Unigine is 270 @ 10.7 FPS. This certainly isn't a hardcore gaming machine score, but for a regular use computer it's not bad at all.


Pros:
Fast System with plenty of RAM (GNU/Linux uses SO MUCH less anyway)
Quick Bootup.
Killer Graphics that flow, beautifully, without hiccups or hangups from other processes.
Plenty of Monitor - 19" widescreen LCD.
Lightning Fast user experience, even with compiz effects enabled.
Bloatware Free - seriously, there's not one single crapware icon anywhere.
Unbelievably Configurable - it's GNU/Linux.. Have it how you want it.
Hundreds of free software titles (all categories) - Internet Connection required.
Here's the best one - Freedom from restriction.

Cons:
Didn't come with free speakers.
Didn't come with free multi-card reader (e.g., camera smart cards and such).

Conclusion:

This Dell is Awesome!! If you're not using a Dell Inspiron 530n with the NVIDIA 9400GT graphics adapter and the 19" monitor, you don't know what you're missing! If you DON'T like for your kids to be interested in, and get on the computer, then DON'T buy this computer. Oh, and if you were thinking about a Holiday gift for your favorite computer user, this is it!!

My next project will be to build a computer from scratch using an ASUS motherboard(perhaps the Asus P5QC Socket 775 Motherboard from frys.com ) with SplashTop and GNU/Linux of course!