Swedish Linux Users: Avoid Elgiganten

As detailed here before, a few Samsung laptop models have a firmware bug that makes them liable to becoming inert bricks if you install Linux. It's a one-way process. This happened to me when I bought an ultrabook from the Elgiganten big-box store last summer. Both Samsung and the store refused to reimburse me for the loss of my machine's use. At the suggestion of my home municipality's consumer advisor (konsumentrådgivare), I took the matter to Allmänna reklamationsnämnden, the National Board for Consumer Disputes (complaint no 2013-10081).

My main argument was that installing Linux is a common procedure these days. Elgiganten sells many brands of computer that don't have the hidden design fault I ran into, and not even most Samsung models have the fault. Nobody warned me that the particular model I happened to get would fail on such an everyday point.

Yesterday the National Board sent me their verdict.

The Board finds that the computer came with a pre-installed operating system and that Martin Rundkvist has then installed another operating system. Normally such installations and similar changes in the computer are done at the buyer's risk. Our investigation does not suggest that the vendor has promised that the computer would be compatible with the operating system Martin Rundkvist has installed. According to the Board, nor has Martin Rundkvist had reason to assume that the computer would be compatible with the operating system in question. In this assessment, the Board finds that the fact that the computer stopped working due to the installation Martin Rundkvist did, does not constitute the kind of defect for which the seller is responsible. Martin Rundkvist's claim should therefore be dismissed.

Nämnden konstaterar att datorn levererades med ett förinstallerat operativsystem och att Martin Rundkvist därefter har installerat ett annat operativsystem. Normalt sett sker sådana installationer och andra liknande förändringar i datorn på köparens risk. Utredningen ger inte stöd för att säljaren har utfäst att datorn skulle vara kompatibel med det operativsystem som Martin Rundkvist har installerat. Enligt nämnden har Martin Rundkvist inte heller haft skäl att utgå ifrån att datorn skulle vara kompatibel med det aktuella operativsystemet. Vid denna bedömning anser nämnden att den omständigheten att datorn har slutat fungera till följd av den installation som Martin Rundkvist har utfört, inte utgör ett sådant fel som säljaren ansvarar för. Martin Rundkvists yrkanden ska därför avslås.

I guess there are a number of lessons you can draw from this.

  • Let's just disregard “Never run anything but Windows.”
  • “Beware Samsung laptops” is a lesson the Linux community has already learned.
  • For Swedish Linux users, the main lesson seems to be “Ask your big-box store salesperson to certify in writing that the machine she sells you is capable of running Linux equally well as it runs Windows”.

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That is infuriating. Even the national board claiming to work in the interest of consumers are empowering one american company's monopoly.
Forget about getting a salesperson to confirm that anything works for Linux. They are instructed to 'Just say No' and cut off any helpfulness if you even mention Linux.
Order some laptop from the web that has Linux preinstalled. That's the only way to know.

By Lars Hartviksen (not verified) on 29 Mar 2014 #permalink

It's unfortunate that the board ruled in favor Elgiganten and Samsung but it's ultimately because a bricked computer can't be resold. Clearly, Samsung didn't intend to support Linux for that ultrabook so they don't want to fix the problem.

Samsung, which is based in South Korea (not the US), produces Android tablets and smart phones, and Chromebooks. They are no strangers to Linux so I see no reason why they couldn't make their Windows computers compatible.

By Robert Froelich (not verified) on 29 Mar 2014 #permalink

It seems to me that the question was misinterpreted. The point -- as I understand -- is not whether the computer was compatible with Linux, but whether it would not break just for having Linux tryied on. For instance if you buy a car not specifically off-road you should't expect to behave as one, but it sure should accept some dust. If the car would break from being exposed to dust then I believe the manufacturer must make this limitation clear to consumers.

By Fabio Malagoli… (not verified) on 29 Mar 2014 #permalink

Martin, if you write to the tech news site ArsTechnica.com, you can get major publicity for this and embarrass Samsung to the point where they might reimburse your cost.

You should also post a PayPal link or some equivalent way of collecting the money to replace the machine: many of us will be happy to contribute. I've heard of Kickstarter being used to raise money for people also.

The ideal case for a DIY Linux installation is a laptop with a hard drive that can easily be replaced by the user. For example on Panasonic Toughbooks, the hard drive slides out of an external hatch: it's as easy as replacing a battery (back in the days when batteries were user-replaceable also). You buy the machine and a spare hard drive, and use the spare hard drive for the Linux installation. If anything goes wrong, put the original drive back in and the machine is functional again.

Panasonic Toughbooks cost about as much as Apple laptops, but they're designed for long service life, so the total cost of ownership is low. Panasonic makes a lot of stuff for the commercial/industrial sector, and they are known for high quality hardware that doesn't break. Contrast to Apple hardware that appears to get increasingly fragile with each generation: my last two Apple laptops have suffered from ridiculous crappy hardware flaws.

Lenovo is also highly regarded for hardware quality, and they have picked up the ThinkPad line that used to belong to IBM. I'm not sure how you replace the hard drive in a Lenovo laptop, but it would be worth looking into.

Asus laptops are widely known in the Linux user community, and installing Linux distros on Asus machines is common. I'm using Asus machines for Windows and Linux respectively, on separate machines, and everything works well.

If I was looking to buy right now, I'd go Panasonic with two hard drives. The ability to run MacOSX on one of those machines would be excellent, but Apple is hooked on their walled garden theory, so at some point I'll either replace my current Apple laptop with another (and hold my nose about the hardware) or ditch Apple altogether.

I think I mentioned this before, check the motherboard and chip set/s to figuring out who actually manufactured it, look up on the MB manufacturer site for a BIOS/MB driver replacement compatible with Linux. I really doubt Samsung produces its own MBs. It used to be a touchy process twenty years ago but now most major MB manufacturers have simplified the process, typically as a self-executing file.

Odds are that that MB is used in a dozen other machines and at least one of them is compatible with Linux. Replace the BIOS and MB drivers, and a few odds and ends, and you have a new machine.

Not surprised at Elgiganten's attitude; I mean they don't exactly know or care about the goods they sell. But Samsung ought to have pulled this machine long before it got to this point.

Smug points for me - my new laptop is an Asus. Not that I run Linux, but it's nice to know that I could if, as seems likely, I do eventually get driven totally mad by Windows 8.

"... nor has Martin Rundkvist had reason to assume that the computer would be compatible with the operating system in question."


By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 30 Mar 2014 #permalink

Can't one just Exchange the hard drive, or is this computers error in the hardware somewhere else?

Nope, this is due to information stored in circuits on the motherboard.

I have circulated the link to this topic widely to warn other Linux users. This sucks worse than the initial Pentium flaw.

By Birger Johansson (not verified) on 01 Apr 2014 #permalink

Not that I would buy a Samsung model, especially not from Elgiganten now (will not buy anything from them currently due to this, thank god we have other, cheaper, options) but I'm still curious. What was the specific models name that you experienced this problem with? Have you contacted Samsung and told them about your "adventure"?

As G said, you should really contact ArsTechnica as well as set up some kind of donation solution. Not because you can't afford a new computer, but just to involve people and to show Elgiganten and ARN that noone agrees with them.

Hej Martin!

Will you challenge this statement: "According to the Board, nor has Martin Rundkvist had reason to assume that the computer would be compatible with the operating system in question."?

Or will you settle with your documentation of it?

Best regards.


By Erik Josefsson (not verified) on 02 Apr 2014 #permalink

Peter, the model is NP535U3C-A05SE. I talked to Samsung first, and they said "not our problem".

I have submitted the blog entry's URL to Ars Technica.

Erik, I'd rather not spend the time it would take to propel this thing through the courts. My reaction was just to create some retaliatory badwill with the blog entry. Do you have any other suggestions?

I have had good results with several Hewlett-Packard laptops. None of them has presented a problem for Linux.

By Bill Poser (not verified) on 07 Apr 2014 #permalink

You can brick it with Windows

By ミッコ (not verified) on 23 Apr 2014 #permalink