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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Linux

Ubuntu = Fail

In my eyes at least.

If I were to buy one of these, the stock build would get wipes and something a little more stable installed.

I'm torn between CentOS and Debian. Probably CentOS simply because a lof of the software I develop for works fine on RHEL/SUSE. Getting it to work on .deb systems is a PITA and also unsupported.

Still, it is a start but the H/W seems to have been cobbled together from the spare parts bin.

Devs need more than 1366x768 but like HP and many other manufacturers just stick their fingers in their ears and shout 'La-La-La I can't hear you'.

Or perhaps their lords and masters from Redmond are playing the netbook specs game again but a little less blatantly this time. In any case, this is a failure in my eyes.

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FAIL

@JDX I value my time. In order to get any laptop the way youwant it will take time. It is quicker to re-install Windows than remove the crud.

As with any Dell you still pay the M$ tax regardless, in this case without getting an M$ OS.

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JDX
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I agree, re-installing Windows instead of that nasty Linux is exactly what I'd do!

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Anonymous Coward

I can't be the only one who clicked through thinking I'd be getting an ultrabook without the windows license premium, allowing me to obtain my own licensing much cheaper through work (or less legitimate means), only to be genuinely surprised to find it more expensive than the windows version. Absolutely crackers.

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Anonymous Coward

Quit your whining

and people wonder why companies like Dell only ship laptops with windows installed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Dell only ship laptops with windows installed.

Awesome! Taking "not reading the article you're commenting on" to new heights!

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 15:37GMT - Re: Quit your whining

RTFA!

We're bitching here about Dell shipping laptops with Linux.

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@AC 16:25GMT - Quit your whining

RTFA!

We're bitching here about Dell shipping laptops with Linux.

No, as I understand it, we're bitching about Dell offering laptops with Linux, but with specs and prices that nobody is likely to accept. I don't know of anyone who has ever actually bought a Dell with Linux preinstalled, because it's always cheaper to buy the Windows version and install Linux over the top.

That's why we're bitching.

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FAIL

Re: @AC 16:25GMT - Quit your whining

RTFA yourselves. You clearly missed the part where it points out that Dell spent some of their own money getting the drivers working properly for Ubuntu.

THAT is why there's a (rather small) premium. This means Dell had to do work themselves that they normally would not have to bother with. With Windows 7, the component manufacturers themselves do 99.9% of the heavy lifting when it comes to drivers. All Dell's monkeys have to do is bolt it all together properly, test it actually works, then shovel it all into a plastic case with a shit screen.

For the Ubuntu Edition of their laptop, Dell's own people have had to do some of that work, because there's nobody else do to it for them. They've had to muck about with source code and driver support in Ubuntu to make it talk civilly with their choice of components. Only when all the features listed on the side of the box are actually usable can they then shovel it all into that plastic case with the shit screen.

Las time I checked, programmers capable of working on drivers weren't cheap, regardless of the operating system. Neither are project managers familiar with such GNU / Linux projects. So Dell do have to pay for the skunkworks people's time and effort somehow.

Furthermore: providing customer support is a legal obligation in most territories. It's also expensive. Even more so when you consider that most call-centre operators have been dealing with Windows users rather more often than Ubuntu users. That means training will be needed to ensure suitable operators are available for these Ubuntu-burdened laptops.

What happens if a customer decides to upgrade Ubuntu "Anthropomorphic Axolotl" to its next version, which might even have a radically different GUI (again)? Dell need to consider that support aspect too.

Hence the extra $50.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me.

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Anonymous Coward

@Sean Timarco Baggaley - Re: @AC 16:25GMT - Quit your whining

Every argument you present is reasonable but still, it can not be used to justify what can be easily perceived as a rip-off. In this case, as I was saying somewhere else on this forum, the offer is economically non viable so if Dell can not match the pricing to what the intended target customer would be willing to pay, they should not bother at all, period. This is elementary business teaching.

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Dell's own people have had to do some of that work, because there's nobody else do to it for them. They've had to muck about with source code and driver support in Ubuntu to make it talk civilly with their choice of components.

Wow, all of a sudden, Dell is an active Linux device drivers developer? Sorry, very unlikely...

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Seriously?

Driver support for Linux is still hit or miss. In order to make a particular distro work on a particular piece of hardware, you have to do some tuning. That doesn't necessarily involve writing actual driver code, but it is quite likely to involve messing about with config files and the like.

Also, where Dell are using some custom components, they do need to work on integrating drivers properly. And I wouldn't be surprised if Dell's people were finding bugs too.

The source code is open. ("Open Source" – the clue's in the name.) Anyone can play with it. Why would Dell's skunkworks team be an exception? If it were as easy as just installing an Ubuntu ISO onto a bare laptop, it wouldn't have taken this long, would it?

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Re: Seriously?

"Driver support for Linux is still hit or miss. In order to make a particular distro work on a particular piece of hardware, you have to do some tuning."

Mostly you are wrong. I've not had to do that for ~6-7 years and I install 3-5 a year on quite a range of hardware even 3G dongles and printer/scanners have worked out of the box.

I don't know where you get your 'information' from as you seem so dismissive of Linux but I can't believe that it from personal experience. If indeed Dell have some custom components, which I find hard to believe, then some configuration/coding might be necessary.

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Linux

Re: Seriously?

...That doesn't necessarily involve writing actual driver code, but it is quite likely to involve messing about with config files and the like.

This particular statement is giving away your being imaginative and quite far away from the whole process. Because, I'd tell you what could Dell "Linux Sputnik team" have possibly done to tune anything if that (had required to be done at all) Go to ubuntu kernel ppa place to install and try some upstream kernels. If something doesn't work with the default Ubuntu/Debian kernel, chances are very high it will work and perform better with some recent stable kernels. Cloning the kernel.org or UBuntu's own git tree, branching , checking out and building kernels is also very elementary and takes so little time (about 2 mins on some AMD's and Intel's desktop multicore cpus, unlike my old P4...sigh)

I was explaining recently the difference between dealing with issues on GNU/Linux and Windows. Turns out, due to the fact that the former is free and open, it is indeed so much easier to troubleshoot and fix it. Linux is for the ... lazy ones nowadays.

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Vic
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Re: @AC 16:25GMT - Quit your whining

> Dell had to do work themselves that they normally would not have to bother with

No they didn't.

There's an open offer from the kernel developers to generate a proper driver for any piece of hardware for which the vendor will supply specs. Dell didn't need to write a thing (not that they did).

> Las time I checked, programmers capable of working on drivers weren't cheap

You should check again. Linux driver development is as cheap as you want it to be, without sacrificing quality.

Vic.

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Vic
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Re: Seriously?

> In order to make a particular distro work on a particular piece of hardware, you have to do some tuning

Your statement clashes with my experience. Perhaps you'd like to supply some substantiating evidence?

Vic.

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Vic
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Re: Seriously?

> I install 3-5 a year on quite a range of hardware

I install quite a few more than you do. I have a cobbler machine with a handle on top that I can drag to site to install a choice of installation...

> I've not had to do that for ~6-7 years

Nor I.

Vic.

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Further screen downgrades

The last three laptops have all been 1920x1200, now everywhere I look I have to downgrade to 1080 at best for the next one. You'd have thought people like Dell would have taken a leaf out of Apple's book and realised some us who do a lot of work across a lot of applications (and don't care about playing HD videos) actually want more screen real-estate, not less.

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Anonymous Coward

Ubuntu?

Bloatware... give me this machine with a fine-tuned Arch Linux (and a non-lardy-desktop - XFCE?), and maybe we'll talk*. I bet this fella would burn virtual rubber with Arch...

* - Oh, and give me $1500 whilst you're at it, or else it'd be a bit of a non-starter for me :-(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ubuntu?

Wow, you are the coolest commenter on here!

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Linux

I like that it's certified Windows 8 compatible!

At least that's what the graphic just above the price indicates

:-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I like that it's certified Windows 8 compatible!

But, hang on - Everyone was saying that Linux can't be run on Windows 8 certified machines, because of nasty Microsoft trying to kill Linux.

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Anonymous Coward

@AC 16:30GMT - Re: I like that it's certified Windows 8 compatible!

I'll help you with this.

Because of nasty Microsoft trying to kill Linux, you can't run anything else but Windows 8 on ARM machines and you can't run Linux if the computer manufacturer does not allow you to disable UEFI secure boot on that machine. In order for a computer to be certified for Windows 8, it must have the possibility to prevent the user from booting alternate OS. Translated for you, Microsoft tells computer OEM that if they want to sell Windows 8, by default they must prevent Linux from booting on that machine. Get it now ?

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Re: I like that it's certified Windows 8 compatible!

Blame the hackers. Microsoft tried allowing other software to run and it ended up being rootkit-ed endlessly.

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Re: @AC 16:30GMT - I like that it's certified Windows 8 compatible!

I think that was his point, wasn't it? That Linux is being sold on a machine certified as not being able to run Linux.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @AC 16:30GMT - I like that it's certified Windows 8 compatible! @AC 18:15

What the OP said is actually perfectly true. The threads here are full of UEFI-means-no-Linux FUD. (Nice to point that finger the other way for a change.) While your point about the default is true, it's not an answer to his post. So you haven't helped. Rushing to be supercilious often causes that failure.

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Re: @AC 16:30GMT - I like that it's certified Windows 8 compatible!

OOI, how much easier is it to install Linux on an Apple tablet, or install GNU/Linux on an Android tablet? Is this something that MS made harder - or is it that MS ARM tablets are no different, but as always, MS get criticised when Apple got a free pass?

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Anonymous Coward

Does anyone know why Dell bothers with Linux ?

At the beginning I used to have a lot of respect for Dell. They had the courage to speak openly about Linux and actually offering it on their hardware and I was wondering how could Microsoft let them get away with it. Was Redmond sleeping or powerless ? I soon realized that in fact Dell is cleverly marketing their Linux installed products in such a way that nobody in his right mind would be tempted to buy them (inferior specs, higher price etc.). So this is how I got to ask myself, why is Dell doing this ? Maybe there will be a few suckers who will fall for Dell computers running Linux but this is never going to help their decline on the market ? Why try entering a market in which you have no real interest ? Why don't they just stand up like Lenovo or Sony and say "Sorry, folks, we're just not interested in Linux. It's nothing personal, it's just business".

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WTF?

Did I Read That Article Right?

$1500 for a laptop running linux?

$1500?

A grand and a half?

I must have missed a memo.

I suppose one could nuke linux off if and make it a hackintosh or something...

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JDX
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Re: Did I Read That Article Right?

Why wouldn't you put Linux on a high-spec system?

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Re: Did I Read That Article Right?

If you got a high spec system there’s no reason not to put linux on it. But if you dont need a high spec machine because your not putting windows on it....

I use a low spec laptop to do 'enterprise' level development work on and the only noticeable difference between that and my 4 core monster desktop with 8 times as much ram and 10* available processor speed is usable screen space.

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JDX
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Re: Did I Read That Article Right?

I'm pretty sure Eclipse will benefit from a decent spec and SSD.

The VMs running DBs definitely will.

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FAIL

Re: Did I Read That Article Right?

"Why wouldn't you put Linux on a high-spec system?"

Since when is a 1366x768 screen part of a "high-spec system" ?

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Trollface

8GB RAM and 256GB memory

Wow. 256GB of memory. That's awesome! I am going to hold Dell to this one if it's in their literature and not only a screwup on the part of El Reg. Yes, Dell must design me a new machine.

Incidentally, what is this 8GB of non-memory RAM used for? (Not that I care much. With 256GB of main memory, I can easily waste 8GB here and there.)

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JDX
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Re: 8GB RAM and 256GB memory

It's a fairly poor attempt at a joke when an SSD is memory. It's the word 'disk' which is out of place,

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Go

Re: 8GB RAM and 256GB memory

That'll be for the video card. Not a bad spec, tho I'd expect higher given the quantity of memory available.

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Silver badge

Re: 8GB RAM and 256GB memory

In computer industry vernacular "memory" means RAM and not storage.

Of course you knew that already, despite your snarky comment, I'm sure.

Yes, I know that technically SSD's are "flash memory", however that technicality is irrelevant when the context is a puff piece about some generic consumer laptop. That rubbish about being aimed at programmers was nonsense. No programmer would use a screen with 768 vertical pixels.

Oh, and the D in SSD is for Drive, not Disk.

HTH

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Headmaster

Re: 8GB RAM and 256GB memory

"Oh, and the D in SSD is for Drive, not Disk."

Which almost as much of a misnomer in it's own right as there's no drive motor in an SSD either. :-)

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Interesting tactic

It this another ruse by Dell? Sell an over-priced and under-spec'd machine to then claim "Oh look Linux is shit. It didn't sell). And I'll believe it is available in the UK when I see it. Probably for £1,500 too, given Dell's pricing structure.

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JDX
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Re: Interesting tactic

It'll just be further proof Linux users are cheapskates who want everything for free,

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Re: Interesting tactic

Or that they have common sense.

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Re: Interesting tactic

Not quite. The mistake so many – including Dell – make is to assume that there is a single "Linux market", when there's nothing of the sort.

The collective noun for Linux fanatics is "argument".

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JDX
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Re: Interesting tactic

>>Or that they have common sense.

Not if El Reg is anything to go by, Sean hits the proverbial nail.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Interesting tactic

"The collective noun for Linux fanatics is "argument"."

The collective noun for M$ fanatics is "poodle".

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Did I hit a nerve? (Was: "Re: Interesting tactic.")

Oh dear. The Dollar symbol instead of an 'S'?

Seriously? Do kids still think that's original or clever?

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Re: Interesting tactic

@JDX - Cheapskates? Hardly. I am willing to pay for a laptop with GNU/Linux pre-installed. I am even willing to pay a (small) premium due to economies of scale. I am just not will to pay for that turd.

Give me an ASUS Q200E with a working GNU/Linux install and I'm a happy man. But no, they are only shipping the X201E with GNU/Linux and it has had some features ripped out/downgraded for apparently no reason.

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Re: Interesting tactic

Replying to myself...

And that's the problem. OEMs seem to assume (for whatever reason) that GNU/Linux should only be a budget option and it's that which irks me. Just like a Windows user, we'd quite like to buy some semi-decent kit. Now whether this is just ignorance on the part of OEMs, basic economics or some MS imposed conspiracy to keep Linux at bay - I dunno. I doubt it's the latter, but rumours keep appearing and OEM licensing pressure.

What I don't get is why OEMs cannot just offer a "No OS" option on all products. That would do me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Did I hit a nerve? (Was: "Interesting tactic.")

"Oh dear. The Dollar symbol instead of an 'S'?

Seriously? Do kids still think that's original or clever?"

That was a useful contribution to the debate !

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Anonymous Coward

No sale here

The higher price might partly be due to the presumable lack of crapware on the Linux installation.

Remember that McAfee trial version (or whatever Dell ships) that desires a paid-for license after a few months? As we all know it's only there because it provides Dell with an additional income. Do they have the same sort of thing on the Ubuntu install? I suspect not.

That said, no explanation of why it costs more than the one with Windows license takes away from the fact that it does. If at any point you want to sell the laptop you're much better off having Windows on it. So really, unless you're afraid of downloading and installing Ubuntu, there's no good reason to buy this over the Windows version. And Dell should have realised that. Just as they should have realised that in 2012/13 the vast majority of programmers will not purchase a laptop with phone-style resolution. That just sucks.

I predict this is not going to sell a lot better than a salt-free low fat shitburger.

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