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back to article Shaky liftoff for Sputnik: Dell's Linux lappie runs its own cloud, ish

Want a laptop running Linux? You could do worse than Dell's XPS 13. This svelte model began life a year or so ago as a Windows Ultrabook. More recently it was updated with Intel Ivy Bridge processors and a 13.3" 1080p screen. The XPS 13 Developer Edition - because only software developers use Linux, right? - uses a high-end Core …

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Gloss kills it

The rest seems OK.

It seems suspicious that somehow Ubuntu seems to have problems with that hardware. They may have used some very oddball components there. From the photographs it doesn't look like it was well designed, but appearances can be deceptive.

What I'd like to see are the results of the "coffee spillage" and "drop" tests. A device like this, which costs several times as much as a used Thinkpad better lasts a decade. Is the battery easy to replace?

So all in all it's just Dell slapping Ubuntu onto one of their stock consumer models, something which the buyer needs to do again anyhow since they probably want full disk encryption. It's probably just another alibi product so they can continue claiming that nobody buys their Linux models.

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FAIL

Re: Gloss kills it

Small screen, lack of resolution kill it.

Just get any other Dell - it'll be fine as they required all their components to upstream Linux drivers...

Tom

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gloss kills it

Hmmm, save 20 pence by wiping the installed crap, and replacing with Warez Windows - it might just sell a few...

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FAIL

Re: Gloss kills it

"Small screen"

Small laptops necessitate a small screen. The success of netbooks and the Macbook Air, as well as Intel's massive Ultrabook push demonstrate that this is a compromise lots of people are happy to make.

"lack of resolution"

The resolution is 1080p (i.e. 1920 x 1080). What the hell resolution do you want on a 13" screen!

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Re: Gloss kills it

A small glossy screen is not inevitable on a small laptop. Screens have got smaller (the 16X10 factor) because they are cheaper for the manufacturer that way. I don't know if there's an economic explanation for the horrible glossy screen.

But the solution is very simple. Install your preferred GNU/Linux system on an older laptop such as the Lenovo X61 on which I write this (the OS is Linux Mint 14). That way for a couple of hundred bucks you have a very capable, small netbook with a large, matte screen.

What is the point of this Dell laptop anyway? It's marketed to developers. But surely developers know how to format a hard drive and install an OS!

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Anonymous Coward

> The XPS 13 Developer Edition - because only software developers use Linux, right?

vs

>Steam for Linux, which runs perfectly after a bit of fiddling with dependencies.

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Anonymous Coward

What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

"Shutdown can be problematic; sometimes it shuts down, sometimes it only logs out. Hibernation fails with a "device failed to thaw" error message. I had no success with Bluetooth; neither a keyboard nor an audio streamer would connect. Perhaps the biggest annoyance was when I connected a Canon camera and got the error message "unable to lock camera" and no access to my pictures."

So one of the largest PC manufacturers in the world builds a dedicated Linux machine and it can't be relied on to shutdown properly! Absolutely laughable.

No doubt the fanbois will be out in force trying to explain this away with the same tired old excuses, but the fact remains, after nearly 20 years Linux is still not ready for the desktop.

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Ru
Facepalm

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Or to put it another way: "Dell still not capable of deploying Linux".

Hibernate works fine on my linux-running laptop, desktop and sundry virtual machines. If Dell cannot get an operating system of their choosing working on a machine which they specced, then surely they are to blame... Ubuntu didn't choose Dell's hardware, so why is their underlying platform even remotely relevant in the face of Dell's inability to test or correctly configure their own products?

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Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Generally speaking, I've always had more luck with Linux on Dell hardware than Dell has had. It's almost as if they don't know what they're doing and don't much care either.

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Stop

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

I have a [work issued] HP mini 311; it refuses to hibernate properly and will not awake requiring power cycling - every time. It runs WinXP; conclusion : after 30+ years Windows is not ready for the desktop.

(FWIW: SAME machine runing Linux [stock Ubuntu 10.04] hibernates and reawakes perfectly: Conclusion Linux is ready for netbooks?)

I have many other examples with WinXP and wireless cards - and before you say "bad/misconfigured drivers" - that is EXACTLY what you are bleating about

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Anonymous Coward

@Ru (Thursday 11th April 2013 09:33 GMT) What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

"Or to put it another way: "Dell still not capable of deploying Linux"."

- WHO is, then? Which Laptop/Desktop/PC maker CAN?

Hibernate works fine on my linux-running laptop, desktop and sundry virtual machines.

- and which brand of laptop is that?

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What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

"- and which brand of laptop is that?"

Well mine are a Lenovo 3000 N100 and an Asus 901 and yes everything works every time

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

The biggest problem in this respect is linux fragmentation into all this myriad of distributions. Great for freedom but not good for suppliers to be motivated to build drivers for the 1% of linux users...sorry, I mean a driver for each linux fragment of 1%.

To be clear, I have Mint Linux installed on one PC and it's really great for many tasks, but over the years I have had myriad of frustration with linux not working.

Having said that, the amount of time wasted on issues and re-installing and security threats on XP and even of W7 are countless, so it's like comparing apples and oranges, you take your pick and use it, not slag someone off because the prefer an apple to an orange, or vice versa, it's crazy.

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Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

"sorry, I mean a driver for each linux fragment of 1%"

AFAIK the drivers are the same for all distros and are distributed with the kernel

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Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Correct.

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Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Er, no. Software an OS written for hardware.

Why does Ubuntu not work with ordinary, everyday components?

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Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

No true.

Some of the eight million distros out there have open-source only drivers, others provide drivers that should work properly.

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Bronze badge

hibernate

As far as hibernate is concerned, there's supposed to be a line in the

/etc/default/grub file

GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="resume=/dev/sdaX"

where X is a/the swap partition number (sudo fdisk -l /dev/sda)

This line is missing because:

1) Hibernate is not as popular as suspend-to-ram and rarely needed, although given an ssd drive, I'd wonder if it would be comparable in speed with s2ram

2) it won't work if the aforementioned drive is encrypted which might be the case with this Sputnik lappy, I presume.

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@HereWeGoAgain

others provide drivers that should work properly.

Nvidia? The worst and least reliable crap ever.

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Anonymous Coward

@HereWeGoAgain - Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

For the same reason I had to download and install appropriate drivers for my Asus motherboard and NVidia cards in (what do you know!) Windows 7. To return your question, why, please tell does Windows not work with ordinary, everyday components ? To enlighten you, it's not Microsoft job to write device drivers for each and any type of component, it's the hardware manufacturer that has to make it work. Back under the rock, troll!

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Linux

Re: @HereWeGoAgain

> Nvidia? The worst and least reliable crap ever.

...a weak attempt at disparaging the best kit and drivers out there.

Nvidia is what you install when you don't want to suffer with the onboard shovelware anymore.

A cheap trailing edge nv card can turn a relic into a proper game machine. Works well for Linux or Windows.

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Linux

@JEDIDIAH , nvidia

Yes, that's why I prefer nouveau. My point is that nVidia is a (well-known) "Dog in the Manger" that neither would write good drivers nor would open necessary specs for more competent people to write them. However, despite all nVidia's efforts, we might see nouveau mature to the point when it gets on par with radeon and i915.

My suggestion is NOT to buy from nVidia ... at least for now

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Anonymous Coward

The title is too long.

« - and which brand of laptop is that? »

I do not know about the other bloke, but if I may answer: two Asus netbooks (including the one I'm typing this on, last shut down / rebooted about three weeks ago), two HP laptops, more than half a dozen (not sure the exact count) HP Z800s, a few Dell (hehe) rack-mounted servers, various models and vintages, two Dell (hehehe) desktop machines, and two more no-name desktop PCs. Distros used are OpenSUSE (starting with 10.x, currently 11.4 to 12.3), Debian 4 to 6, and RHEL 4.x., 5.x, 6.x.

There are other machines, but I have never tested hibernate on them. I agree with the poster above that Dell's Linux support is quite weak--the guys working on it seem well intentioned but vastly underfunded.

I hope this helps.

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Silver badge

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

I've installed linux on a few Dell machines, and a lot of other laptops with great success. Even with ubuntu and sometimes even with NVidia.

Linux is ready for the desktop - Dells are ready for Linux and they seem to want to make it look like they're trying to push Linux but they dont seem to mind looking like complete assholes when they screw up. When they always screw up.

I really cant imagine it has anything to do with a hidden licensing arrangement with anyone at all, no siree not in the least. Must be for a nod and a wink

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Black Helicopters

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

>>> I really cant imagine it has anything to do with a hidden licensing arrangement with anyone at all, no siree not in the least. Must be for a nod and a wink <<<

Only in the reg comments could the blame for rather half-assed linux laptop be put down to a conspiracy by Microsoft.

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@JEDIDIAH

Ok, reread your post again and would suggest you to not use the Penguin pic when praising nVidia with its proprietary habits.

..a weak attempt at disparaging the best kit and drivers out there.

How come they are are best drivers? What's wrong with supporting kms, opening the source and/or specs? I have several nVidia chips and they are ALL problematic with the proprietary nVidia drivers. I don't give a damn about games, computer is a tool for computing first and foremost. I have the following issues with them:

1) hardware mouse disappears regularly with every screen sleep, need to reboot

2) no reliable suspend-to-ram and resume

3) fonts go awry with compiz effects on or when using cinnamon desktop

4) frequent kernel freezes

this is with the proprietary nVidia drivers, unfortunately nouveau is not better in many cases, hopefully it'll improve.

When you have any of this problems (more rarely) with AMD or Intel cards, upgrading the kernel almost always fixes it.

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@cap'n

It's called Sabotage. The idea is that hundreds of different types of laptops, including models supplied by Dell, are working flawlessly with GNU Linux nowadays. If there is any effort worth trying, it is letting people choose an OS when they buy a machine or letting them get no OS at all. This would be perfect for every OEM, including Dell. If Linux or whatever is not ready, there nothing to bother about. If Linux becomes a bestseller sensation, better for the OEMs, and f** you, MS!

Contrary to any logic, they either won't give you any choice or come up with stillborn babies like, Sputnik, that are doomed, because they (Dell) are not being honest.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Here's an example I ran into myself, for all the sceptics that disagree when I say that linux (specifically Ubuntu in this case) is not ready for the desktop.

Just try formatting a USB stick or SD card in Ubuntu 12.04 or 12.10 with the only GUI tool (Disk Utility) that ships as standard with these versions. Unbelievably, it can't be done! The bug has been known since at least October last year, but amazingly for such a fundamental operation, it's been replicated in the beta version of 13.04 as well. Now sure, there are workarounds, such as installing GParted which is unaffected by the bug, or diving into the command line, but that's not something that Average Joe should have to get involved with in a modern OS. If the core basics like this can't be put right then linux on the desktop will forever be relegated to niche status, suitable only for hobbyist that have the time to study and fix problems that were ironed out literally decades ago in Windows.

"Ubuntu 12.04 and 12.10 can not format a usb stick or drive without using the terminal.

In day to day use this function is used a lot by users to clean the drive before adding new data like pictures etc. I'll use the terminal for this, but some people will return to windows for this"

Error formatting disk using disk utility: https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/udisks/+bug/1059872

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Re: @cap'n

Last time I ordered DELLs we phoned them and asked for units without OS bundled/installed since the company had a volume licence - no problem. The Online shop can not do it but DELL can.

Same for Lenovo, the last batch my employer ordered came "blank" - volume licence again

With some chains (german Atelco) I can order "no OS" as well. There it is even doable in the online shop IIRC

So it is doable, it is not complex but most units still end up with Windows. Because the current version of Windows (Win7/8 currently) simply works with the current hardware. No "compatibility lists", no "half assed drivers", no "dies with the update 9month from now". Buy x86 hardware, install, use.

That's what the customer wants. That's what sells Windows (and iOS/MacOS) and what killed i.e OS/2 (and will kill Android IMHO). For most people computers are not the hobby itself, they are the platform FOR their hobby (or work).

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@mmeier

Because the current version of Windows (Win7/8 currently) simply works with the current hardware.

Either you're not being honest, or were born only yesterday,

So when a current version of Windows stops working all of a sudden, who/what do you blame? Viruses? Drivers? Hardware? Global Warming/Cooling? Should I count you how many times I installed GNU Linux on the broken Windows machines that were supposed to work?

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Re: @mmeier

I have yet to see a x86 unit that does NOT work with Windows. And I have NOT seen one fail since the days of Win98 except for hardware errors (Dead harddrive, dead power supply, bad CPU cooling). And I have seen a few hundred boxes in that decade or more. All big manufacturers as well as some "backyard boxes". BlueScreens have been history since XP for me - and I do software engineering so I stress the boxes a lot

I HAVE seen quite a few x86 boxes where one or more components did not or not to full capacity work under Linux (WLAN and Graphic cards are the most common). So IF one is lying here - it is not me.

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@formatting issue, AC

Ok, it is kind'a strange. start-up disk creator used to work for me all the time. I never knew there is anything besides gparted (and the parted or cmd) . This more of Ubuntu issue that wouldn't ship this indispensable tool by default (it's on the live install media though). I got it on my lmde system by default.

As far as these weird issues are concerned, no Windows will "see" everything on mufti-partitioned sd/usb drives. Isn't it a stopper? Sometimes Windows (XP it was) won't boot on damaged disk, nor would the Windows rescue utilities see it. A live Linux media sees it, it can mount it without transfer stuff back and forth.

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Re: @formatting issue, AC

A "Linux" may be able to "see" a damaged NTFS partition - but accessing it and doing it properly? NTFS drivers are still Beta.

Besides - bad drives are "replace, install backup, trash old drive" not "play around and waste time".

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@mmeier

Are you kidding me? Do you claim there are no driver issues on Windows? A Toshiba laptop Win7 would shutdown out of the blue spitting out some enigmatic error numbering. You google for it and get that Toshiba points at MS, MS nods at Toshiba, and everyone else is blaming dying hdd, and of course viruses. You don't get an answer anyways. It had turned out to be a driver, not a hardware issue, since the lappy was very happy with Ubuntu on the newer kernels.

AMOF, one reason I installed Linux first time to see if the problem with XP desktop I had on a fresh Dell E510 many years ago was not hardware related. Now Windows is long gone, many generation of Linux' ran on it of various distros. The last one is the newest LMDE, and it is simply awesome!

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Linux

Re: @formatting issue, AC

but accessing it and doing it properly? NTFS drivers are still Beta

Yes it did just that, access it and was doing it properly using he beta driver letting me back up the user's data onto an external hdd. The real shame was that the none of the Lenovo-MS tools (5or 6 cds) could not make out a single file out of it and lead me right to the moment of "Reinstall Windows XP". So I decided : screw you, MS and Lenovo, wiped that crap out of the machine, installing Linux. it is still working (with backlight died) and every half a year needs to run the rescue kernel (bootable from the grub menu) and takes less than a minute. Yes, GNU Linux is much more resilient than this amateurs' OS called MS Windows.

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Re: @mmeier

Of the four boxes I use THREE won't run under Linux

EP121 - Wacom not supported

T731 - Wacom not supported, graphic not supported

Compaq E450 based unit - Graphic not supported

The only box that should work is the HP Pavilion and even there I am not sure (Scanner, Wireless Mic/Speaker) and NVidea support is "depends on kernel"

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Linux

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Again, this is a problem with Dell, not with the GNU/Linux system. Just buy a used Thinkpad for a couple of hundred bucks (or pull one out of the IT closet) and install whatever flavor you prefer. Fedora installs easily; Linux Mint is my preference; there's also Ubuntu, OpenSUSE, and many others to choose from.

Installed from a flash card on this Lenovo X61 Mint performs flawlessly. Wireless works, all the ports work, no problem whatsoever with shutdown or suspend.

GNU/Linux has been ready for the desktop for a long long time. Come join us!

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Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Okay, now we do the same on systems younger than five years and with a dedicated graphic card. Or with the convertible X61 version (or any other penable). And we ask for support of build in features like WIDI/Miracast (Not uncommon in better notebooks). Or support to the 3G/LTE modem...

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Linux

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Right click on the drive in the launcher bar, select "format", click "format. No problem (Ubuntu12.04). Just did it on my Toshiba Portege Z835 ultrabook which has been running flawlessly for a year. I came from the Mac world & haven't needed the command line once. All laptop features work including keyboard backlight, webcam audio, etc.

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Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

Really?

I've had Ubuntu running on my Vaio VPCEB4L1E for a few years now - It's running 12:04 and Bluetooth works perfectly for me - I can use my phone as a modem with it. Hibernate works when I close the lid. Granted, I'm limited to 802.11G at the moment as it has the Centrino 1000 chippery but that doesn't cause me any problems.

Then there is my main home office machine which is another Ubuntu box. Dual monitors with an Nvidia card, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, serial port and works perfectly, as does my wireless printer - It does everything that I want it to do including controlling my radio station. Same as the old machine that this replaced. Runs Ubuntu and does what I want it to do without fuss or waiting around. With this machine I had to faff about to get the wired Ethernet chippery working - but if you are delivering a platform with an OS, then there are no excuses for not getting the basics right before shipping. Sounds to me like Dell haven't done their job in putting together a build to support their hardware.

Unfortunately, Ubuntu is not really ready for main-stream release because it is not an out-of-the-box experience. But if it does what you want it to do and you have the time to mess about, it's a much tighter solution than Windows. Stuff I can't do on Ubuntu (audio editing mainly) I can do on my Mac.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What a surprise! Linux is STILL not ready for the desktop!

you should (re)try ardour as the long awaited version 3 has been released and your soul hangs in the balance!

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Ru
Paris Hilton

You would think that using free software would mean a lower price. The same-spec Windows version is £1,079, and the Linux edition is £1,078.80. The

Um, correct me if I'm wrong, but comparing the £899 base price models... the Windows one has a lower spec processor. This suggests that you are getting a better deal from taking the Linux option here. Did I miss some configuration step?

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You would think that using free software would mean a lower price.

The pricing is designed so that you pay £1.01 for the microsoft licence. That was if you disagree to the EULA and try and claim the money back, your only entitled to a quid.

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That's ex-VAT.

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Windows

Multiple desktops on windows...

*cough*

http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/cc817881 - OK, so you have to download and install it, but it's there and free.

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Re: Multiple desktops on windows...

Only up to 4. I'm on an XP machine here (don't ask) and using Virtual Dimension to give me the standard 10 desktops I've been using on Linux for nearly 15 years now, swapping with the function keys (+ctl).

I can also log on to my machine at home and have a desktop there (with 10 virtual desktops) at the same time my wife uses it at the keyboard. Again, this has been standard stuff on Linux for longer than I've been using it.

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Re: Multiple desktops on windows...

Thanks - just tiried it on my screenspace-deficient netbook and works a treat.

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Angel

@Robert Long 1 - Re: Multiple desktops on windows...

Yes, only 4 - which matches Workspaces on the Dell; there are other options for Windows, however, free and paid for:

http://virtuawin.sourceforge.net/ - up to 9

http://virt-dimension.sourceforge.net/ - Unlimited

http://vdm.codeplex.com/ - Unlimited

...and so forth.

I'm such a helpful soul... :-P

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