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back to article Dell puts Sputnik open-source laptop on launch pad

Dell is building a laptop loaded with open-source software ideal for developers. One of the company’s open-source geeks has announced Project Sputnik, a six-month venture that will marry the tech titan's XPS 13 Ultrabook, Canonical's Ubuntu 12.04 and cloud-based user profiles. Barton George, Dell cloud computing group evangelist …

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FAIL

That all sounds great until you realise this £1200+ laptop comes with a 720p screen resolution, which is a poor resolution at the best of times, but for programming where you want lots of screen real estate it's just terrible!

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Apologies, the Laptop starts at £950. But my point is still valid!

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Thumb Down

I hate 16:9 screens. The extra vertical space of a 16:10 is so useful.

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Silver badge

I've installed Linux on laptops

~6 averaging about 3-4 versions each machine over the years and wifi has been the only problem and that only on some and that seems to have gone away in the last few years.

Mostly OpenSuse and Kubuntu

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Bronze badge
Linux

Re: I've installed Linux on laptops

Same is true for Debian. Wheezy is a bit better than squeeze.

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Anonymous Coward

Only problem?

I've not had problems with Debian on laptops, either, but that's not the same thing as everything working. For example, I don't think the webcam and the fingerprint reader on my current laptop work under Debian. However, I haven't really tried and don't care, so it's not a problem.

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Bronze badge
Linux

Re: I've installed Linux on laptops

Agreed. Wifi needed some fettling when I first loaded up openSUSE 11.1 but the more recent releases on the same machine are far more likely to work. A former colleague found that Ubuntu was similarly capable. I suspect that the rise in the number of laptops that include such devices has pushed the developers and distros to make sure that all is well with this sort of thing.

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Silver badge

Needs more info

Proper open source drivers that any distro can package, or binary blobs that could potentially only work with Ubuntu? e.g for full multi-touch or whatever.

As for the lappy, just a rehash of what Dell has offered before (over-hyped and under-spec'd).

All Dell (and other OEMs) have to do is provide a "No OS" option when spec'ing a device and stop placing Windows Limits on what you can spec.

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Silver badge

They're not listening

But anyway:

Hi resolution 4:3 screen. Wide screen is useless. I'd take 2048x1536 plz (talk to Samsung).

Full size escape key. We don't all use Visual Studio.

Removable, washable keyboard.

10 hr battery life/ARM powered (same difference)

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Anonymous Coward

Ubuntu, viable for developers?

Facepalm. Fortunately we didn't wait for Dell to be able to install Linux on laptops, the best part being that we can even install a decent distro if we want to.

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Gold badge

Re: Ubuntu, viable for developers?

Yes we all know you can simply replace Windows with Linux. What people want however is a way to not pay the "Microsoft tax" and also not to have Windows keys or Microsoft stickers all over the damn thing.

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Silver badge

typical Dell

Old spec, low end hardware tagged as "linux compatible" - ususally 2-3 years behind the curve.

This is why we stopped buying them for desktop use (and mostly don't consider them for server use)

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xps gone poopy

The old XPS was just magical for its build quality and screen quality. I ordered a new one 2 weeks ago based on the strength of my previous experience and found XPS to be cheaply made crap now. Sent it back and now i'm looking for a new one.

And who uses Ubuntu for development? Shouldn't that be Red Hat/Fedora or at the least Suse? My default Ubuntu install didn't even have g++.

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FAIL

Re: xps gone poopy

And you cannot do

apt-get install g++ gmake emacs

??

That's a FAIL.

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Re: xps gone poopy

I can and did.

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WTF?

Re: xps gone poopy

then the problem is?

I mean, if you want to complain about the crap GUI, I might buy that one... even then apt-get makes it go away.

Frankly, I'm trying to undestand this. The GUI sucks on Ubuntu, only making sense for a touch screen (and I'm not sure on that), so why are they useing a touchpad?

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Trollface

Re: xps gone poopy

Sod emacs, JOE ftw.

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Linux

IdeaStorm not up to much then?

Strange how Dell IdeaStorm covered the idea of Linux support for Dell products for many years with bazillions of suggestions - see www.ideastorm.com - only for Dell to basically fob users off because they couldn't be bothered supporting Linux (except on servers, where they do see potential revenue there).

My suggestion was that Dell certify all their laptops/desktops/etc for Linux (pointing out what bits don't work yet - if it all works, give it a 100% Linux compatible penguin logo) perhaps using the latest Ubuntu LTS as the distro tested against, but don't actually ship Linux with it initially to avoid support costs. Also offer a "no OS" option with all their equipment like they do with servers. Neither suggestion has ever been taken up by Dell for fear of loss of their Windows volume licensing I reckon.

After a trial of this, then consider adding Ubuntu LTS as an option right next to Windows *at the same price and hardware spec* (use the Windows OEM licensing saving to fund support staff to deal with Linux enquiries or use the money to strike a deal with Canonical for support).

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Silver badge

Re: IdeaStorm not up to much then?

"Neither suggestion has ever been taken up by Dell for fear of loss of their Windows volume licensing I reckon."

And this is why the regulators need to act. The major OEMs need to be forced to provide "No OS" as an option (they caveats/warnings about support and needing licenses if needs be).

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Bronze badge

or provide a refund

This idea to bundle two independent products is ridiculous and illegal.

A buyer has the right to return or resell the OEM copy of MS Windows, or the antitrust authority should intervene.

Dell's Linux offer used to be unfair. Lower specs and equal or higher price. Just get your M$ cr*p back and provide the refund, I can take care of my system all by myself.

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Silver badge

Re: or provide a refund

"A buyer has the right to return or resell the OEM copy of MS Windows, or the antitrust authority should intervene."

No, they don't. MS changed the EULA, remember? You must now comply with the vendor's policy which may mean you have to return the entire machine (and I believe that is not the policy of the major vendors).

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Silver badge

Re: or provide a refund

I recently got a nice laptop that has a small partition with Windows7 on it. Never used it and cant keep the machine and get a refund.

I will be booting into windows soon when I've worked out how to write a windows NFS driver so Android/TomTom etc no longer have to pay royalties to talk to MS machines.

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Bronze badge

I'm not really sure why people pick on the drivers with Linux is these days - every x86 laptop I have bought since 2004 has worked with all the hardware supported out of the box with RHEL clones and Fedora. What exactly are people having problems with?

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Anonymous Coward

Agreed...

If it's WiFi that's the perceived problem, as per the story, I don't think I've had to resort to ndiswrapper since about 2006. Kernel support has come on so far, I feel confident in ordering the cheapest dongle available in the knowledge I can just plug it in and it will immediately just work. The same is true now of 3G modems and Bluetooth dongles.

It's trying to get the same devices working on Windows /n/ when you've lost the bundled CD that can best be described as a 'driver safari'.

Regarding touchpads, Synaptic and Alps are both well covered by Xorg. I wonder who is making Dell's these days?

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Devil

Why play with penguins...

When you can dance with daemons?

I'm running an old Dell C840 with FreeBSD 9.0 as I type this. No worries with the add-in Broadcom mini-PCI WiFi card since the BSD folks do not have the "problem" with loading proprietary firmware to it, unlike the purists at Debian.

Ran very well with GNOME 2, even better with Fluxbox. I can have more Emacs buffers than you can shake a big stick at, multiple frames on multiple workspaces all while running Firefox and Thunderbird. "Only" a 1.7 GHz P4M and "only" 1 GB of RAM.

Solid as a rock, too.

I also have an old Acer tower with an Athlon64 X2. Xubuntu ran ok when I only had 1 GB RAM in it but will not even boot now that I have 4 GB in it. FreeBSD says, "Oh, goodie! 4 GB!" then boots in no time and blows the doors off my son-in-law's quad-core Win 7 machine with one core behind its back. :-)

Only thing that doesn't work is my Wacom tablet. Xorg driver has not kept pace with the FreeBSD kernel.

Avatar is the closest thing El Reg has to Beastie.

Watch the Linux fanbois downvote this post.

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Linux

Re: Why play with penguins...

Here's one Linux fanboi (and free software purist) who has upvoted this post. These are exactly the sort of charges I level against friends' and neighbors' proprietary systems. My 5 year old laptop runs rings around their year old machines "with one core behind its back."

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Re: Why play with penguins...

Afaik there's Wacom modules out there: hunt, make, kldload?

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Bronze badge

Re: Why play with penguins...

>>I also have an old Acer tower with an Athlon64 X2. Xubuntu ran ok when I only had 1 GB RAM in it but will not even boot now that I have 4 GB in it.

What does Xubuntu say when it fails to boot, what version of the kernel?

Does your FreeBSD still get into kernel panic when a usb flash disk is ejected without umounting it? (happened to my 7.0-7.1 some year ago)

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Re: Why play with penguins...

Yay! The Wacom driver has been fixed. Last time I looked (a couple of months back) it was still marked as "BROKEN" but the current version is fine. Thanks for the tip.

As to Linux, the boot simply goes off into never-never land. No error messages. Same thing under 11.04 and 11.10. Not interested in doing any additional diagnostics

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Go

@Wile E. Veteran -- Re: Why play with penguins...

>

Not interested in doing any additional diagnostics

<

I know, but it bugs me... ;-) I would wildly guess that that was a graphics issue:

Boot up holding Shift, press F6 for boot options, choose 'nomodeset' as a boot option.

hth.

#####################

Apart from that: I just like it if you can put your fingers into the OS; I'm not a great fan of the walled gardens.

Of course Nintendo games run very reliable on Nintendo consoles, but nothing else either way.

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Flame

This Is Just a Ploy

..to get leverage over Microsoft for the next $$ negotiations. "See, we could sell client machines with Ubuntu pre-installed - you did read our press release. Now please give us some fucking discount or we will actually do it".

DELL has done the same with AMD and Intel. And when they got CA$H from Intel, they duly stopped using AMD processors. With capacitors this approach does not work, so they use the crappiest ones they can get if they get a 0.01cent rebate. You, the customer(I mean Dumb Fuck), will be left with the problem anyway.

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Silver badge
Mushroom

Windows centric nonsense

Driver download safari?

This is generally not the Linux problem. Completely unsupported devices included in the machine by a Windows vendor that couldn't give a rat's *ss about desktop Linux is the problem. So are borked quasi-custom Linux versions.

You solve the actual Linux problems by catering the hardware to what Linux supports and supports well.

Dell? Don't make me laugh. Find a proper Linux vendor instead.

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Anonymous Coward

Go to Dell (I think that's what they said to me)

HP (well, Compaq actually) have been selling Linux-certified business-class laptops since the days of the Pentium III (a decade ago?). I had an Armada E500 from that era, it ran Linux out of the box. I now use an HP Compaq 6715b which also runs Linux straight off the DVD, no downloads needed. And in between I had an HPQ nx6125, which also played nice with Linux.

Where's the news here? That Dell are ten years behind the game, that's not news.

At least it's nice to see that some other folk have already worked out that this is proably just some kind of Dell idea for gaming with the Microsoft licensing costs across the range.

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The Dell 17R laptop is excellent

Got one in December and installed openSUSE 12.1 on it. Overall, it's an excellent performer and I have very few problems with it (needed to update the kernel to get the touchpad working as a touchpad rather than as a bog-standard mouse).

Even the webcam worked out of the box.

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Windows

Ubuntu's Tuned Hardware

"tuning its hardware to the manufacturer's machines."

Now if only Ubuntu could tune their software too....

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Don't you love when Linux elitists

when faced with a genuinely popular distro like Ubuntu, have to retreat further into elitism by hating Ubuntu.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't you love when...

... clueless people fail to realize that Ubuntu is to Linux what Vista is to Windows: a bug-ridden, slow, barely usable OS, in other words a complete failure.

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Re: Don't you love when Linux elitists

I think you'll find Linux users who dislike Ubuntu do so for a variety of reasons including not liking Unity, objecting to Canonical dropping "Linux" from its site and seeming to take credit for the work of others, and disliking how some things are automated in such a way that problems occur in slightly out of the ordinary cases.

That said, I've seen very little evidence of people "hating" Ubuntu. Many people still recommend it to new users, though other distros like Mint get a lot of mentions too.

You may not find all that many long-term Linux users, or professional Linux users, running Ubuntu themselves but that is generally because they either want something more stable or they want something lighter or more tweakable with less hand-holding.

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Boffin

I've never had any problem running WiFi on Ubuntu -

or for that matter, peripherals like printers, etc. As I don't care for the Unity desktop, I have lately been installing Cinnamon after version upgrades, but otherwise everything works out of the box - or more accurately, out of my fibre-cable connexion....

Henri

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Gold badge

Won't be long before Microsoft leans on them to take it off the market. It's been done before.

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Anonymous Coward

System76

A while back I was in the market for a new laptop/desktop replacement. I looked at Dell, and their Linux offerings.

I was not amused.

Then I looked at System76: https://www.system76.com/

Much better machines, much better support for Linux (as in, that's ALL they do), and I am much happier with my choice.

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Happy

I always thought it was as simple as this to get a linux laptop:

Go to lenovo's website, pick a machine, make sure it does not have AMD graphics, make sure to select an intel wifi adapter, buy it, then install your linux distribution of choice.

Intel wifi always just works with linux, and AMD graphics frequently just don't with linux, so if you keep those two details in mind you have a perfectly nice linux laptop.

And most importantly you don't end up with a Dell machine.

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Bronze badge

AMD has improved ATI

>>make sure it does not have AMD graphics

You mean "make sure it does not have NVidea graphics"?

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Silver badge
Linux

Re: AMD has improved ATI

> You mean "make sure it does not have NVidea graphics"?

Why would I do that?

Nvidia gives me unrivaled 3D performance and full video playback acceleration through VDPAU. Nvidia also has superior base support for things like oddball monitors that send gibberish through EDID.

Nvidia "just works" and works well. ATI and Intel do not.

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