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back to article Dell orbits Linux a third time with revamped Sputnik notebooks

Dell has shipped a second update to its Ubuntu-powered Project Sputnik developer laptop, and its engineers have begun testing other Dell portables with an eye to offering an even more powerful Linux workstation. When Dell launched its first Sputnik notebook based on the XPS 13 in 2012, some customers were disappointed with its …

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Bronze badge

I see panes cracking here...

Broken windows to follow. Thankfully not mirrors, as we won't have bad luck.

Me? I'd scrub it and Fedora the box. But that is just me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I see panes cracking here...

Is it cheaper than the full consumer version with Windows? i.e. do I save money if I buy this, wipe the freetard stuff and upgrade to Warez Windows 8?

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Bronze badge

Really?

Touchscreen for a Linux laptop? So were these planned as Windows 8 but there was no demand or are Dell once again trying to prove no interest in Linux laptops as a follow-up to their last games where you could have a Linux laptop if you accepted a slightly lower spec at a slightly higher price.

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How much?

Looks priced to fail. Even with a non-spinny disc, big processor and touch screen that looks like a lot of money.

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Silver badge

Re: How much?

@No Quarter - "Looks priced to fail. Even with a non-spinny disc, big processor and touch screen that looks like a lot of money."

I agree. I recently bought a 13" HP Win 8 laptop with nearly the same specs as the Dell i5 with the Intel 4400 graphics, including the 13" screen, and I only paid $829.

I would think most Linux users would buy a Windows laptop, save the $400, and then install the distro of their choice (which probably wouldn't be Ubuntu 12.04).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: How much?

"Looks priced to fail."

It has Linux on it. Regardless of the price there is near zero demand for it...

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WTF?

Depressing comments

Perhaps, just maybe, criticizing Dell because it doesn't have your favorite distro or because you want to get a cheap shot off at Windows 8 is like telling your five-year old that they are stupid because they can't tie their shoelaces perfectly. Very big of you, I'm sure.

It takes big companies a immense amount of work to get a product out of the door. Were you there when some true Linux enthusiast pitched the idea to Dell's management? Did you take the bullets when the N-Series Optiplex failed? And did you pick yourself up off the floor and try again?

No? Then stop the snark. Buy one or don't buy one, but don't be a smart-ass about it.

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Silver badge

Re: Depressing comments

Just don't see the value in it. Why should a Linux user pay Dell an extra $400 just to "support" their Linux initiative? What's the value proposition there? Dell should be meeting the needs of the community, not the other way around.

Even if you JUST wanted to buy a Linux laptop - for $200 less than the Dell i5, you could buy a 14.1", i7 Haswell "Galago UltraPro" ultra-thin laptop from System76. And the graphics on the System76 latptop are the faster Intel Iris Pro 5200, instead of the HD 4400 on the Dell.

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Re: Depressing comments

Do not even listen to the doom sayers. Cant see the sun over anybody but them selves. Hate you because you are from another place. They have got so boring ignore them. All and any Linux distro will beat their brains out

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Re: Depressing comments

But that weighs an extra 0.8lbs and is much larger (not just for the screen size, either - it's a less efficient design with a much bigger screen bezel). For $1,000 you only get a hard disk: if you want an SSD - which the XPS 13 has - it's an extra $125, which is almost back to the price of the XPS 13, for a bigger heavier system.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Depressing comments

"Why should a Linux user pay Dell an extra $400 just to "support" their Linux initiative?"

Basic economics. Linux costs Dell more significantly money to engineer, and more money to support per PC than Windows....

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Re: Depressing comments

I suspect your comment is completely bogus. As they found out in Munich and various other places, Linux takes less IT support. As for engineering, I would expect that everything already works on Linux right out of the box. Just like the cheapo HP laptop I'm writing on now.

I've seen identical Dell systems, one with Windows, one with Ubuntu priced $50 less. That's more like it. "Not available in the USA", of course.

But thanks for your opinion, Mr. Ballmer.

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Sputnik 2 owner

I have one of the older Sputnik 2 models, though mine came from the Dell Outlet with Windows 8 on it. The hardware is identical to the developer edition that Dell ship however. I've got no complaints (well only one and that's that they used the cheapest touchpad that money can buy). It installed and runs CentOS 6.4 with no problems at all and everything on it works perfectly. Battery lasts a good 6 hours or more and I'd imagine that'd be the biggest improvement with the newer one.

And it's an ultrabook hence the cost of the thing. It's not a bottom-feeding 5lb laptop, it's a MacAir-alike. I give mine an 8 out of 10 so it's really nice to see Dell still improving the model.

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BJC
Happy

I'm in

I got the 2nd iteration of the XPS13, preinstalled with Ubuntu and it's one of the best buys I've made. It's a fantastic size, the screen is great.

As for Ubuntu, well it just works - no drama, no excitement. It's an OS - that's what it's supposed to do! I was a little miffed about the pricing - virtually the same with Windows or Ubuntu, which seemed unjust given the MS tax. However, the Windows option was through the "Home" channel while the Ubuntu option was through the "Work" channel, with better support (although I haven't needed any). However, I'm happy to pay for the Ubuntu pre-install if it's tweaked to fit the machine which it seems to be. Personally, I've drifted to a preference for GNU/Linux for home use, over the last few years, although I'm still firmly with Windows at work.

Searching around, as I did prior to purchase, there weren't many options for buying a decent spec laptop with GNU/Linux pre-installed, so I welcome Dell's efforts. Perhaps other vendors might take note so we can have a genuine choice of OS.

Anyway, I'd buy another in a heartbeat. Each to their own though.

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Re: I'm in

Yeah, they don't discount much more than the price of getting a copy of the installation on CD or DVD from them. I wonder if they have to pay MS on the basis of the number of Systems they build as opposed to the ones they install Windows onto.

I tried Windows 8 and hated it and it fought like crazy with me to go back to Windows 7, in fact I tried upgrade to cure crashing of Windows 7. Only to find I had the same buggy crashing issues but had to deal with a less flexible interface with that 'Metro' mess. I got so frustrated I dropped into an Apple store one day and bought an iMac. I don't miss Windows and would have and probably should have just installed Linux and got rid of Windows in total.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm in

"they have to pay MS on the basis of the number of Systems they build as opposed to the ones they install Windows onto."

That's the way the desktop/laptop market worked for the serious volume builders (Dell, HP etc),

That's one reason why it's sometimes called the "Windows Tax". Other reasons are available.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm in

""they have to pay MS on the basis of the number of Systems they build as opposed to the ones they install Windows onto."

FUD - Microsoft charge for PC licenses by OEM activation volume only. Windows 8 is individually keyed to each OEM PC during the manufacturing process and this is reported via a licensing server infrastructure....They would not pay for licensing of a PC not activated for Windows.

The only restriction Microsoft ever had in this direction was that manufacturers may not ship a PC without any OS (as that might encourage piracy)

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Bronze badge
Joke

Re: I'm in

Personally, I've drifted to a preference for GNU/Linux for home use, over the last few years, although I'm still firmly with shackled to Windows at work.

FTFY!!!

PS, you poor soul ('shackled' to WindblowZE)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm in

"FUD - Microsoft charge for PC licenses by OEM activation volume only."

That certainly wasn't the case historically.

"The only restriction Microsoft ever had in this direction was that manufacturers may not ship a PC without any OS"

Ever? Strong word, that, and in this case it makes you just plain wrong. I used to work in a dark corner of a volume manufacturer and I know what we were and weren't legally and politically permitted to do.

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Re: I'm in

"Ever? Strong word, that, and in this case it makes you just plain wrong. I used to work in a dark corner of a volume manufacturer and I know what we were and weren't legally and politically permitted to do."

Indeed, BeOS (the company) was destroyed by MS OEM licencing that forbade OEMS from dual booting multiple operating systems.

As you say, ever is a strong word, especially coming from someone accusing somebody else of FUD

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Re: I'm in

"Indeed, BeOS (the company) was destroyed by MS OEM licencing that forbade OEMS from dual booting multiple operating systems."

Microsoft always allowed you to choose once from multiple preinstalled OSs. What they didn't allow you to do was boot Windows via a 3rd party boot loader or dual boot Windows. Which for support and security reasons makes sense - as well of course of locking out the competition from a co-existence embrace and replace strategy...

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I was just at a solutions expo...

...and one of the Dell guys I know handed me one, said "I think you'll like this one", opened the screen and it woke to an Ubuntu screen. He gave me the password and I started pecking around. Extremely usable experience. Then he tapped the screen and all of a sudden Unity moved up a few rungs on my personal UI scale.

It's pretty sweet, I'll be honest. Glad Dell sees a market for a decent spec Linux ultrabook, even if it isn't everyone's favorite distro. At least the derivatives should all run well on it.

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Maybe it is time for MS to exit stage Left...

...maybe just maybe their time at center stage is over. Dell are very likely sensing this. HP have already started to look at alternative with Chrome and partnering with Google.

For the majority of people the Desktop PC and Even the laptop is an overpriced, device that they no longer need. They have Tablets and their Smartphone for most things.

MS lumber blindly. They have a warped advertising system. They advertise their Surface Tablets, or rather they advertise an optional extra that Keyboard cover thing that costs extra. Let's face it when they tell you that you need a cover with a built in keyboard to 'do real work' it really tells the buyer that their Tablet is incomplete since it can't do real work unless you pay them that extra $129.

90% of home users never really used their Pc's for anything other than Email, Social Networking (back then maybe yahoo chat), looking something up using a search engine and possibly purchasing online. These days they do most of that and more using their tablet or smart phone! Heck, people are doing their tax returns using their tablets and smart phones. They are learning that they don't need a 'Real PC' for what they do and for many they are familiar and comfortable with Linux etc.

I won't buy a Windows based system again. It will be either Linux of OSX based systems. I don't have a need for anything else these days!

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Linux

Re: Maybe it is time for MS to exit stage Left...

last copy of windows I actually paid money for was windows 98....

Unless you count the version on the second hand laptop I bought that was immediately erased and replaced with Linux.

Pro users who don't have 'special needs' that some MS app is essential for, don't need windows, and consumers don't want it. They would rather have a slab.

Microsoft stands to lose 90% of the consumer market and 70% of the professional desktop market.

Not with this product though. Too much money.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Maybe it is time for MS to exit stage Left...

"I won't buy a Windows based system again. It will be either Linux of OSX based systems. I don't have a need for anything else these days!"

Can't see why anyone would buy OS-X - it's an inferior OS without touch support, with fewer apps and games and is much more expensive. That's also largely true for Linux unless your time is of no value...and as Windows 8 is faster for graphics it will also be the choice of gamers unless that ever changes.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Maybe it is time for MS to exit stage Left...

"Pro users who don't have 'special needs' that some MS app is essential for, don't need windows, and consumers don't want it"

Microsoft Office - or Games for instance isn't exactly a 'special need' - That Windows is gaining market share recently versus OS-X and still has over 90% of the PC market (whereas Linux still hasn't grown over 1%) says that consumers do still want Windows...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Maybe it is time for MS to exit stage Left...

No one wants 'apps', touchscreens or Metro anyway on a desktop. Windows 8 is NOT the choice for gamers, Windows 7 is. As for Linux being time wasting, the last time I installed Mint all I needed to do was install the Nvidia proprietry driver, and then I was laughing. Where as on Windows 8, I had to download Classic Shell then change all the file associations to banish Metro to the obscurity it rightly deserves. Windows 8 took more time to set up to make a usable system.

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How could they find an SD-card reader....

... that doesn't work out of the box. I mean it's trivial to do that, you can for example use USB as an internal interconnect and it'll just work.

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Re: How could they find an SD-card reader....

I would have though the same - until the other week, when I was searching for a new laptop - and stumbled over the following bug report for Ubuntu on an Acer B113 - and obviously the card reader using the "tg3" kernel modules has some pretty crappy issues - go figure:

https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/linux/+bug/1099057

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Bronze badge

Re: How could they find an SD-card reader....

No it won't. My Samsung Series 7 has a USB card reader ("Bus 003 Device 002: ID 0bda:0129 Realtek Semiconductor Corp. RTS5129 Card Reader Controller") which has not worked in Ubuntu until Saucy (13.10). USB just adds another layer of abstraction to the problems.

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: How could they find an SD-card reader....

> ... that doesn't work out of the box

I had an old HP laptop that had an SD reader with an embedded processor - it needed a closed-source firmware blob to get any life out of it.

I never bothered...

Vic.

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Facepalm

How much is that in real money?

"The new Sputnik model replaces the old one and it's available for preorder in the US beginning on Friday for $1,249 [GB£ 775.08] with a Core i5 and a 128GB SSD or $1,549 [GB£ 961.25] with a Core i7 and 256GB."

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PJI
Bronze badge

Re: How much is that in real money?

Add 20% VAT, so, £930 and £1154, respectively. One starts to think about, for example, a Macbook Air, also supplying a fully-fledged UNIX and much less management overhead.

As for the chap slating OSX and Linux above, Both can do all you want and much more than you know about. The main differences are that one is BSD derived, the other is the Linux/Minux development stream and OSX comes with all needed for most things already installed, plus full development environment as a free, automated installation while Linux, at least from a do-it-yourself installation, requires rather a lot of extra work.

Both use GNU or BSD shell utilities. OSX can get compiled or source kits from the same sources as Linux, plus macports that resembles BSD ports.

If the critic wants to emphasise the dearth of commercial applications for OSX or Linux, of course he is right in that Windows has been around for a while, deeply embedded into large and small firms. But OSX is not as far behind as he may think. e.g. full MS Office suite, the plethora of professional picture editing/managing software for which OSX has long been a major workhorse and so on. These are not OpenOffice-style copies; these are original, supplier software.

This, of course, does not cover some of the enterprise management tools for servers and so on.

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Stop

Excuse Me Dell

Just sell me a laptop sans OS and minus the cost of Windows then leave the rest up to me.

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Bronze badge

Re: Excuse Me Dell

Unfortunately, while it will be sans the heavily discounted price of OEM Windows it won't benefit from the crapware subsidy, so it might cost more without it...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Excuse Me Dell

"Just sell me a laptop sans OS and minus the cost of Windows then leave the rest up to me."

It doesn't work like that. As already noted, many vendors accept bribes to put bloatware/trialware on their factory installations, in particular on models for the consumer market, although whether those bribes go straight to the bottom line rather than reduce prices is moot.

But there's also the MS high volume licencing model (Dell, HP, etc), aka the "Windows tax", which basically says that if you don't pay for Windows on every desktop/laptop you sell, the contract changes such that your per-system licence cost gets more expensive, thereby outweighing any potential saving (to the company, not to you) on Windows licence costs.

Many people might call that kind of thing blackmail (at best) or maybe just abuse of monopoly. But MS have got more money for anti-trust lawyers than the competition authorities (e.g. the EU) can compete against.

Nice work if you can get it.

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Re: Excuse Me Dell @AC 10.02

Grated some are like that, but seller of el cheapo (get what you pay for) supplier Zoostorm offer no OS and OS. Check the price difference and with no OS you get a 2TB drive instead of 500gb

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoostorm-7877-0322-Processor-Professional-Downgraded/dp/B00DWTJICC/ref=sr_1_10?s=computers&ie=UTF8&qid=1384698505&sr=1-10&keywords=Zoostorm

OS Win 8 pro : £299.95 - 500gb drive

and

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoostorm-7877-1033-Pentium-Processor-Operating/dp/B00DWTJW8W/ref=pd_sim_sbs_computers_5

No OS £237.42 - 2TB drive

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Excuse Me Dell

If they do that then Microsoft accuses them of selling laptops for pirates.

By sticking Linux on they can prove that it is designed for Linux.

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Linux

I'd expect a developer machine to come with 16GB of RAM. And what's with the non-5000 graphics? Half the point of Haswell is that the iGPU is now available in a non-sucking version.

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Flame

<rant>Actually, from the point of view of an end-user (many of my customers are end-users), I'd want developer machines to be restricted to about 640k of RAM to enforce proper coding instead of the memory-gobblers that even relatively simple applications like PIMs have become these days because developers just chuck in libraries without end which have at most one single function that is actually used in the application.

A point in case being the wordprocessor/page layout crossover Papyrus, which in its latest version needs about 50 MB of hard disk space and a negligible amount of memory, yet has all features 99 % of all people need out of a wordprocessor plus quite a few that go into page layout. I wonder why it is that, say, Quark XPress and Adobe InDesign need more than .5 GB each on the disc and won't run on less that 2 GB of memory these days. Let alone MS Office, or, not to be too picky here, also OpenOffice.org. Half a gig for an office suite? WTF?!?

And yes, I know most coders have little to no choice because of time constraints; they have to deliver something that somehow works on time. But if they didn't have machines that allow them to do things 95 % of all consumer PCs can't do (because of lack of memory and CPU oomph) and would be restricted to those constraints, that would IMHO lead to more consumer-friendly applications.

As sysadmin, I have seen too many instances of companies having to upgrade their complete end-user hardware just because the latest version of whatever-it-is needs ludicrous amounts of memory and HD space despite adding little to no new functionality.

</rant>

Rant aside (sorry, that one has been building inside me for years...), I laud every effort, even if overpriced, to give consumers choice other than between W8 Home and W8 Professional. Or whatever the editions are called these days.

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Anonymous Coward

Testing with less memory? Try this. No screwdriver necessary.

"You can simulate a low-memory environment for testing without changing the amount of physical memory on the computer. Instead, you can limit the memory available to the operating system by using the /burnmemory and /maxmem boot parameters in Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP, and by using truncatememory or removememory options with the BCDedit /set command on Windows Vista and later"

Can't say I've tried it recently but it's been around a veeeeeerrryyyy long time. Text above found at:

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/hardware/ff542290%28v=vs.85%29.aspx

However, where's the motivation for people to actually try in a sensible-memory environment? If some new shiny needs a bigger faster CPU or more memory or whatever, it just helps the IT Department (or consumer-market equivalent, the PC retailers) in their quest for ever-increasing budgets without ever-increasing benefits in return.

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Re: Testing with less memory? Try this. No screwdriver necessary.

They have to keep up with Moore's Law.

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Dell/Ubuntu

So when in 2014 will you be able to buy your Dell/Ubuntu smartphone?

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Preinstalled Ubuntu 12.04 on my Latitude E5530 would frequently hang due to kernel power management bug. I had to install latest stable 3.10 kernel to fix that. I hope Dell test this one more thoroughly.

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Thumb Up

Something I can afford please....

Why cant we have an _affordable_ laptop without the Wndows tax? I am writing this on my recently acquired HP11 Chromebook running Ubuntu 13.10 (+ LibreOffice, Thunderbird, Gimp etc etc) and I LOVE IT!!! (c. 200 UKpds)

A big "Thankyou" to the developer(s) of the Crouton script that I used to install my usual full-fat office apps, but most people I see wandering about dazed and confused in our local 'PC' supermart don't want to (or can't) get to grips with scarey 'developer mode' trickery so their only options are Win8 horribleness, or Mac priceness if they want to run 'real' applications. Surely there is an marketing opportunity here?

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Bronze badge

Re: Something I can afford please....

Aren't laptops with Windows on usually cheaper due to microsoft subsidies?

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Re: Something I can afford please....

Yes, they pay you to take Windows as it has negative value. Fortunately, you can install a better OS.

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