I just noticed an article on Ars Technica about a $750 discount on Dell Inspiron laptops priced at $1500 or more. Fortunately, I saw a notice about the sale in the RSS feed for More Stuff 4 Less Bargain Blog Monday. I also spotted it at TechBargains.com. The sale started at 4 a.m. Pacific Tuesday morning. When Dell has offered discounts like this before (though I’ve never heard of a discount this large), they usually have a limited number of machines they want to sell. When they’re gone, the sale is over, even if that means it lasts only a couple hours.

Monday night I priced out an Inspiron 8600 exactly as I wanted it, at least at their prices. Without tossing in gratuitous features, it came to about $1650. After adding taxes and then taking the $750 discount (the $49 shipping charge will be covered by a rebate), the total came to just under $1000. I leapt out of bed at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, hoping that was early enough, tweaked the configuration a bit, and ordered it.

The laptop is scheduled to ship on October 27. I’m thinking it will come even earlier. The Dell site shows it has reached the testing stage. All that is left is boxing. Fortunately, it survived the kitting stage, which for a second, I though might be a kilting stage. I have a Scottish surname, but I really don’t need to have my computers delivered to me swathed in kilts.

Since I decided to get the ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 PRO video card, I first had to make sure there was a Linux driver for it. Specifically, I needed a 2.6 kernel driver, since I will probably install Fedora Core 2, though Debian is a dark horse candidate. More likely, though, I would switch my Dell desktop from FC2 to Debian and start using it more as a server. ATI is still working on 2.6 kernel support, but fortunately I found a thread at FedoraForum that tells you how to get it to work.

I plan to leave a 10 GB Windows partition for when I absolutely have to run Windows apps, but mainly, this will be a Linux laptop. I’m really hoping that power management in the 2.6 kernel was as much improved as people have claimed it is. I will definitely be reading through the laptop forum at FedoraForum this week.

The Ars Technica article mentions that eBay was flooded with Dell laptops today that people are probably trying to flip for a quick couple hundred bucks. I actually though about doing that on Craig’s List. I saw a bunch of laptops for sale in the $900-1000 range that are nowhere close to as nice as the machine I just bought. But, I finally decided I wanted to keep it too much. Even if I made a couple hundred on the sale, I would probably have to spend that much extra to find another laptop of similar quality and features.

I still have a few more things to get for the new laptop. I’m going to buy a 60 GB 7200 RPM drive (~$120 on sale) to replace the 40 GB drive it will come with. Then, I will buy a USB notebook drive enclosure ($20-40) to hold the 40 GB drive. For about the price of upgrading to the same 60 GB drive from Dell, I will also get a 40 GB USB drive that I can use to easily and quickly move files between the laptop, my desktop, the PowerBook, and my desktop at work. Thanks for the tip, Raghu!

Also, I got the laptop with just 512 MB in one DIMM. I’m confident I can find a 1 GB DIMM to add to it for much less than Dell was charging.