back to article Dell launches Sputnik Linux Ultrabook

Apple landed an important punch against Microsoft some years back by becoming a popular platform among devs building new applications. The resource-vampire Windows Vista, Microsoft’s effective hiatus on new releases, the power of MacBooks and rise of the web as a runtime saw Microsoft lose its grip on an influential and …

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FAIL

13.3" HD 720p

Sigh

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Anonymous Coward

and glossy too. ffs. Earth calling ultrabook manufacturers, anyone listening?

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Anonymous Coward

Manufacturers are listening, at least some of them are.

http://zenbook.asus.com/zenbook/?c=prime_ux32

Curiously, the specs don't list the display resolution - but I have one, it has a 1080p matte IPS display (google for reviews if you don't take my word for it), and what a wonderful display it is. And although there's no Linux option available by default (mine came with Windows 7), so far the only thing that has not worked out of the box is NVidia Optimus (for which there is Bumblebee). That, and adjusting the keyboard backlight and display brightness with fn+F*, but I don't mind - by default the keyboard backlight is automatic, which is fine by me, and I prefer to set sensible defaults through power management for the display brightness and leave it at that. Should you be so inclined you can get these to work, at least via scripts (and you could bind them to some keyboard combinations with xbindkeys or something similar), I just haven't bothered). This is with Arch, I recon with the likes of *buntu the experience should be the same if not easier.

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Silver badge

No, they aren't

Nobody is even trying to make the laptops you want.

I recently tried to find a laptop that met my needs, and found that literally only Sony made laptops that came close. Then I found out they had proprietary SSDs, and sighed. But upon realising I could shove an SSD in the optical bay instead, I went ahead and grabbed a 13" Z series Vaio. I don't particularly like Sony all that much, but it seems nothing else met what I was actually looking for. (Also has discrete graphics, another requirement).

When you look for stuff, you get an absolute sea of 1366x768 junk, onboard graphics, glossy screens, one button trackpads, and if it's not just that, they're heavy beasts. If you're lucky, of course, it'll also come with a pointless (saves no appreciable power) 5400 RPM HDD to round the deal off.

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Bronze badge

Re: Manufacturers are listening, at least some of them are.

The UX32 with the 1080p screen was my choice for a new laptop. Unfortunately Asus have decided not to do this model in the UK. You can get the 720p version but not the 1080p.

I considered ordering one in from America, which would be cheap. Unfortunately I don't get on with the return key on US keyboards.

I did consider buying a UK model and a US model and swapping the keyboards but that's just a step too far.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No, they aren't

Lenovo thinkpad w530 - 8 core i7, up to 32GB RAM, supports about three monitors. Suits all my dev needs.

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Silver badge

I've stopped caring about new laptops

I guess I'll go the "used business Thinkpad" route for a while.

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Meh

Lenovo thinkpad w530 ...

Lenovo thinkpad w530 - 8 core i7, up to 32GB RAM ...

Well, the display is only 1600x900 -- so not nearly enough vertical pixels. If the Nexus 10 tablet can put 2560x1600 onto a 10.1" panel a 15" laptop should be able to manage at least as many.

Oh, and by the way, You haven't got 8 cores, you've got four cores and hyperthreading (so, worth about 5-6 cores in reality) -- but that's about as good as it gets.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Lenovo thinkpad w530 ...

re thinkpad w530 - The display on mine is 1920x1080.

But, yes, it's a quad core extreme, my mistake...

Either way, it's a beast of a laptop which will give most workstations a very good run for their money.

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Paris Hilton

My thoughts exactly. I just ordered my xmas present, a i7 15" Sony Vaio with 1080p screen, backlit keyboard etc for $500 less, Windows license included.

And I can still install linux on it (although with i7 it's much better to run linux in a VM, that way I don't have to worry about the lack of hybrid graphics, multi touch pad etc support from linux).

I understand that it took lots of development to get linux running on a laptop with all hardware supported. I love linux (linux machines way outnumber windows in my house), but this price tag is ridiculous. Maybe linux on the laptop was just not meant to be.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Manufacturers are listening, at least some of them are.

Like other hardware manufacturers, Asus "hides" Linux. It's not accessible and not visible on the list.

Genuine Windows® 7 (Home Basic 64 bit | Home Premium 64 bit | Professional 64 bit)

Certainly Ubuntu is not less genuine and not something to feel ashamed about.

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Silver badge

Re: Lenovo thinkpad w530 ...

I had a look at the HP specs for this sort of thing too. All the nice stuff fails with a lack of external monitor support (at least it isn't listed on the website). Doh! Come on guys, mini-DP + adapters at least!

The dell xps 14" looks a little better - you can get 8G ram, 32G msata + 500G spinny disk with 1080p for a price.

No idea about the quality though.

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Silver badge

Re: No, they aren't

PC Specialist offer lots of customization (SSDs, discrete graphics, Full HD, matte screens), though they're mostly geared towards larger/heavier laptops.

Note though, you're possibly restricting your choice if you want something that's light and has discrete graphics (it's not just the weight of the card I imagine, but also whatever's needed for extra cooling). To be honest, Intel integrated graphics is a lot better than it used to be, with HD4000 probably being good for most purposes except high end gaming (and if you want a high end gaming laptop, it's not going to be light).

I do agree the choices seem odd - why do we have super high resolutions on phones/tablets, but not on phones/laptops? Why can't we get more laptops with SSDs (where speed is useful) and tablets with hard disks? (Which seems an obvious option to me, given their usage for media playing - if you can get hard disks into small mp3 players, it should be possible in a large tablet - it seems pointless having Full HD tablets, considering that one Blu Ray quality HD film is 25GB, and many tablets only have 16GB!) Why did I have the option of matte on my 17" Clevo which I use indoors, but all the phones/tablets that get used outdoors in sunlight only have glossy?

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Happy

Re: Manufacturers are listening, at least some of them are.

@ Fuzz (& perhaps Piro and others)

Will this do you?...

http://www.lambda-tek.com/componentshop/index.pl?region=GB&prodID=B1234968&go1=go

It's a UX31A not UX32A - no idea what the difference is - the spec suits me fine so I'm not going to bother trying to figure that out.

i7-3517, 13.3" 1920x1080 IPS, 4GB, 256SSD, 802.11 a/g/n, 2USB3

I'm just finalising my order now. Have a downvote - to (hopefully) attract your attention!

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Anonymous Coward

Shit screen.

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Anonymous Coward

They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

Nice.

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Bronze badge

Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

Except that as the article mentions, this is priced higher than the same spec Windows box....

How do they justify charging more for removing a paid-for OS and installing a free one instead? Looks more like their previous Linux offerings where it was a twisty maze of passages all the same to find the one product with Linux and then you paid a premium for the privilige.

I got the feeling last time this was more to 'prove' a lack of demand than anything else, nothing seems to have changed.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

Have you ever heard of economies of scale?

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Meh

Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

Economies of scale don't really apply to a situation where the hardware is the same but a different OS image is added. It's not going to add hundreds to the price to flash a slightly different image to the exact same hardware.

Now, I can see them wanting to recoup any development effort they put in by charging for it, fine, that could explain it just fine.

Still, don't hold your breath for Dell UK to get the picture. They flat-out refused to sell one of these without Windows when I enquired, and made no mention that they might be able to meet my requirements for an MS-free laptop in the near future.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 14:30GMT - Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

Erm, no! They are not and they never did. Even the stupidest Linux fan will buy the cheaper Windows version, dump the Microsoft OS and install the free Ubuntu or whatever Linux distro he/she fancies.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

@David Hicks: "Economies of scale don't really apply to a situation where the hardware is the same but a different OS image is added. It's not going to add hundreds to the price to flash a slightly different image to the exact same hardware."

Guess again. How much do you think testing and support of these OS images cost per unit sold? So, yes, there are economies of scale.

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Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

I guess I never consider support beyond hardware failures, which should be the same, because as a competent software developer I support myself.

If they're going to start offering linux to consumers I can see it, but this is aimed at developers.

I'd still rather be able to buy one with no OS and no support contract.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

As mentioned, creating and testing the image will have taken a fixed amount of time. At least as much as Windows, and fact probably more, but split over far fewer units sold.

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WTF?

Totally missed the point!

Deliberately? Surely they can't be that stupid? Has MS paid them to launch another "look, no one wants Linux" flop? Something the FUDmeisters in Microsoft PR will all be able to point at and laugh at for years to come?

Isn't the point of buying an OS free or Linux preloaded system largely to avoid paying the "Microsoft tax"? Not to double it and pay it to Dell instead! So what are the choices:

1. Pay extra to avoid the moral turpitude of handing money to Microsoft (but knowing they'll probably be getting their cut anyway) and find the release-before-current of Ubuntu shoved on it...

OR

2. Save fifty quid and get a "free" Windows license (which could come in handy?) and install an up-to-date release of your fave distro.

OR

3. Buy a Zenbook.

So Dell's market is: Ubuntu developers seeking a mediocre notebook who want to spend an extra 50 quid for an outdated preinstallation of Ubuntu? Developers who don't know how to install Linux?... Aren't these rather "niche" niches even by "niche" standards?

(Yes, I realise that it's the current LTS release - LTS being aimed at "home" and "enterprise" users - not exactly "developers" so much)

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Re: Totally missed the point!

"release-before-current of Ubuntu"

It's the current LTS which is always recommended on a production machine so it's not completely unreasonnable. Of course, developers do have a tendency to want non-LTS releases too.

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Linux

Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

' At least as much as Windows, and fact probably more, but split over far fewer units sold.'

Which should be more than taken care of by the lack of windows license.

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Bronze badge

Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

"Which should be more than taken care of by the lack of windows license."

But, on the other hand, they don't get paid to install crapware

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Silver badge

Re: Totally missed the point!

"Isn't the point of buying an OS free or Linux preloaded system largely to avoid paying the Microsoft tax?"

In the past the "Microsoft tax" was levied--as per the MS OEM agreement--against all machines sold, regardless of whether they are sold with a Microsoft OS or not.

I don't know if this has changed, but I can't imagine it has unless some Supreme Court judge has made a ruling that I'm not aware of.

This is why you don't see Windows free PC's from major OEMs cheaper than their Windows alternatives.

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Bronze badge

Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

Downvoted for disrespect ot a golden poser.

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Re: They are giving the middle finger to microsoft at last!

Thanks for the feedback, you helped pointed out that we had not priced consistently across our online stores, this has been fixed (Its now priced at $1,449). This offering was always intended to be priced less than Windows (I promise).

Barton

Project Sputnik lead, Dell

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Pint

@ Barton808

Hi Barton,

A sincere thank you for the update!

I'm sorry this story wasn't better received among us commentards. I fear that I, and I think a few others, have become rather jaded & cynical having watched the Microsoft corporation spend the last 20 years eviscerating the global IT ecosystem with its Morton's fork "business strategy" of FUD and imposed cartels. Something for which Dell, even very recently (with it's previous Linux offerings, so carefully crafted from rocking-horse shit, hens teeth and the tears of fairies) is sadly not totally blameless.

I just had a look at the Dell page linked to from the story and could find no mention of Ubuntu anywhere. The ONLY OS options appear to be "Windows 8, 64-bit, English [Included in Price]" and "Windows 8 Pro, 64-bit, English [add $70.00]". Was eradication the means to the consistency of which you speak? I suppose the Microsoft corporation might not permit Dell to offer direct selection between its own OS offering and certain other better value possibilities - for fear of... competition! :O NOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo....................

I did manage to track it down elsewhere though: https://www.dell.com/us/soho/p/xps-13-linux/pd.aspx

The list price there is indeed $1449 and the specs seem to match. It looks like a nice machine in general. Pity about the shit screen problem. If it had been equipped with something appropriate (1920x1200 IPS or PLS - or better, with a nice soft Matte finish) I'd have snagged myself a pair on the spot. Back to my Zenbook/Dreamcolor deliberations...

Anyway, I hope you're sincere. Your post seems genuine and I actually imagine you are. I don't imagine this offering is expected to sell in any quantity and I'd be flabbergasted if any attempt will be made to help it. However, it appears the corporate mitigations/machinations for the looming ARMageddon are proceeding nicely.

Best of luck.

One more thing, if you read this and if you are able, can you tell us if any royalties or remuneration of any kind is paid to Microsoft from sales of these Ubuntu machines? Worth a try innit? ;o)

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Silver badge

Does not compute?

So you pay an extra $50 to have a OS on the machine that you can download for nothing, as opposed to one which you pay M$ an in-built license fee for? Even the tailored image set up for the machine is available via the link in the article.

Aside from the note about the screen, why would you pay extra for Ubuntu rather than buy the standard machine, blank it and then put the image on yourself? Yes it saves a little work (and it's nice to have the option) but it's hardly worth a $50 surcharge for the privilege.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: Does not compute?

It's a niche product they have to put more time into per unit (R&D overhead / number of units). They might also anticipate higher support costs.

You're paying someone $50 to set it up for you, how much do you value your time?

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Silver badge

Re: Does not compute?

@ JDX

Paying someone $50 to set it up to a generic image which I'd probably then spend a while re-working and customising for how I want things (and probably de-crudding given what mostly happens) isn't something I'd do. And that of course doesn't include giving the choice of what distro to fly with.

Plus having stuck Ubuntu and other distro's on various laptops at various points over the years (most of which involved sticking in the CD/DVD and leaving them to it) and indeed then having to spend an almost equal amount of time whilst they then went off and updated themselves anyway (a joy of all OS's by nature) frankly the additional time to do the first installation is minimal and you end up with a clean install set up exactly how you want it.

And in all that time I don't recall having any significant functionality missing, and indeed on one occasion a network card that Windows (XP at the time) refused to reliably deal with played quite happily under Ubuntu (which I was very pleased about, as until then I had thought the thing was going hardware-senile).

So yes I value my time (at my professional rate the $50 would be about 10 minutes worth), but I also value the time I don't have to spend undoing stuff before I can do it how I want it.

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JDX
Gold badge

Re: Does not compute?

So you're not target market then are you. The fact THEY are just copying an image across is irrelevant, the typical buyer will spend how ever many hours it takes to download/install/configure Linux.

Of course if you want a specific setup it's not for you but if someone wants a Linux dev-box, $50 is a good deal especially if they are not an expert Linux-er...

And as for you charging $300/hr, yeah right.

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Silver badge

Re: Does not compute?

I'd love to know who exactly is the target market, as I would hope anyone willing to spend that figure on a laptop wouldn't be your average casual emailer or novice. And I'm no Linux guru, and if I can do that kind of tweaking then almost anyone can. Judging by the other comments in this thread (and the upvotes and downvotes that various posts are attracting) then I'm not alone in this viewpoint.

Oh and aside from the fact you haven't got a clue as to who I am or what I do, I never said I charged, I said it's my professional rate that my employer charges our customers for my services (and which they pay for lengthy projects). Although you are correct, it should be a bit higher than $300. I just wish it was the rate that I got paid...

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Anonymous Coward

@JDX - Re: Does not compute?

Even for a niche product, if you come up with a new product and the targeted customers wake up and realize they are being ripped off, you can safely kiss good bye that niche. It's business 101 to me, I can't see how is Dell missing this.

You seem to be right with your estimations so this proves that Dell Linux offer is economically not viable so they should have killed this product since the beginning. Notice they never tried to discount them (Microsoft would not allow them to do that) they would rather re-image them and sell them as Windows computers.

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Anonymous Coward

@JDX - Re: Does not compute?

If you're not an expert Linux-er you'd be stupid to spend 1500$ on such a product and if you are an expert Linux-er you'd be also stupid to spend that much money too.

As for 300$/hr is not that usual but sometimes companies pay that much in special circumstances.

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Holmes

Re: @JDX - Does not compute?

"JDX" is perfectly correct. It's an "economies of scale" thing:

The plan is to sell twelve of these.

The markup is $50.

12 x $50 = $600

$600 is about the sum one might expect Dell to "invest" into the "R&D" of getting some monkey to prep an Ubuntu image for twelve notebooks.

QED

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Silver badge

Re: Does not compute?

I installed Ubuntu on a 1.5Ghz machine yesterday using a CDROm that took ~20minutes to download and burn. It took maybe 20 minutes to get the box fully up and running. Maybe took 5 minutes of my own time altogether.

On a new machine with a faster than light DVD I cant imagine it taking anywhere near that.

If it cost Dell $200 to install Linux (when they can offer me minute changes in spec for nothing in everything normally it cant be a supply chain cost) I'd steer well clear of their Linux offerings - they obviously either haven’t got a clue what they're doing or they don’t want you to buy one.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Does not compute?

@Tom 7 - That isn't how thing work in a PC factory though. The image will be hosted on a server and will be pulled onto the new laptop, probably via a pxe boot. The boot will then run all the appropriate scripts to install the image and make any per-machine specific tweaks which are required. Either that or there is mass hard disk cloning, with specific modifications made at first boot.

This is a fast process, but it is not simple to setup and requires extensive testing. Images for new laptops also require extensive testing. We're not talking about downloading a DVD and just sticking it in. The testing process for a new build is significantly more rigorous than the general end users "stick it in and hope".

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: Does not compute?

> the typical buyer will spend how ever many hours it takes to download/install/configure Linux.

Less than one hour, unless you have an *especially* slow Internet connection...

Vic.

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: Does not compute?

> This is a fast process, but it is not simple to setup

Yeah, it is.

There's a couple of hours building an appropriate image, then you stick it on a cobbler server, and you're done.

Vic.

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WTF?

It's got a lot of memory...

264GB according to the article.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: It's got a lot of memory...

That'll be 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD. Does it really need explaining?

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Linux

Re: It's got a lot of memory...

I read it just a bit earlier and it didn't say 8GB anywhere...just Core i4 and 256GB of memory...

I think they fixed the type error. It still calls the 256GB "memory" instead of "SSD" or "storage."

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Linux

Re: It's got a lot of memory...

"RAM IS Memory" -- I.T Crowd

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FAIL

Re: It's got a lot of memory...

The author must be from the Marketing dept.

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Thumb Down

Desktop space! >:-/

Another sodding 720p screen. Can anyone recommend a decent 1080p ultrabook (or AMD equivalent)? There don't seem to be many :(

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