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Dell Announces A Linux Laptop Designed For Developers (devopsangle.com)
267 points by alexwilliams on May 7, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 193 comments

How about a laptop with a better key board, slim figure, larger special character keys and more feedback for keys?

Then shove a great processor, a mouse pad that's not accidentally click able while typing, and a high resolution screen.

That's a developer laptop. Ill install my own software, Thank you very much.

I agree that all your points are far more important than whatever image is pre-loaded.

At the very least a laptop designed for developers ought to keep the Insert/Home/PageUp + Delete/End/PageDown cluster in the normal formation, like Thinkpads do.

We are typists before we are programmers, and software is something we do have control over. Dell should be fretting over the things we don't have the ability to change on a lark.

Like thinkpads did... the ivy bridge models soon to be announced use a new layout. While the chicklet keyboards are largely an improvement (I've tried an E420 for a few moments and love the wider spacing), losing that row will take some getting used to.

I think I must be the only person out there that can't stand chiclet keyboards. One of the many reasons I'm interested in the upcoming Vizio thin+light notebooks is because they're not using chiclets.

Yes, the old-school ThinkPad keyboards were the best you could get on a laptop. Chiclet keyboards are made for non-touch typists, the kind of people who need to hunt and peck with big fat fingers. My fave keyboard is my Unicomp Linux model, with the Caps Lock and Ctrl keys swapped...but best of all, with positive keyclick and actual mechanical switches under each key instead of dopey, squishy foam like what you get with modern, cheap keyboards.

I thought this for a while as well, but I wouldn't put it past manufacturers to have done some comprehensive testing before just moving to island-style keyboards.

I prefer the thinkpad keyboards myself and use a mechanical keyboard on my desktop (one which I consider to have the best tactile feedback available: a Topre Realforce).

However, as a dvorak touch-typist I was curious to find out just how well different keyboards performed, so a while back I did a 1 minute random word test on each and got (approximately) the following results:

#1) Topre Realforce: ~110wpm random, ~140wpm non-random

#2) White macbook (island style): ~98wpm random , ~120wpm non-random

#3) Thinkpad T420: ~90wpm random, ~110wpm non-random

I used this site to do the comparisons: http://speedtest.10fastfingers.com/

Would be interested to see what other people get.

If you are in India and TVS Gold mechanical keyboard is also a very good keyboard. I have been using mine for past 6 years without a problem and I tend to bang on keys a bit harder than normal.

It's also cheap - Rs. 1500 ($30)


The last time I remember this discussed, I believe the main points in favor of chiclet keyboards were:

- looks stylish

- very cheap to manufacture

Obviously the manufacturers wouldn't switch arbitrarily, but I wouldn't be surprised if those two reasons alone weren't enough to drive the switch.

They also use less space (depth -- imagine a MacBook air with an old-style keyboard), probably weigh less and are much easier to keep clean.

I prefer them for that last point alone. Non-chiclet keyboards get filthy and are a nightmare to fully clean.

I just got 114wpm random on a ThinkPad T400 using a qwerty layout (note that all the keys I mention below assume a qwerty layout). I couldn't find a non-random option on that site. I prefer the feel of the MacBook-style keyboards, and I think I'm more accurate on them, but I don't have one in front of me right now to test my speed. I might be faster on a ThinkPad.

For me, one of the biggest factors in choosing a keyboard is if it has a right control key directly under the forward slash. I use the key to the left of the A (Caps Lock on my ThinkPad) as my left control key when a key chord involves a letter on the right hand side of the keyboard (e.g. C-u in qwerty), but I still use my right control key in chords whose letter is on the left side of the keyboard (e.g. C-a). I've considered trying to get used to using the left control key all the time to preserve my right pinky and to faciliate the adoption of new keyboards (e.g. MacBook), but I'm not there yet.

non random was done on gtypist.

Realforce completely spoiled all the other keyboards for me. Totally worth the $400 pricetag.

if you don't mind having a 10-key you can get a realforce 103 for $235 from elite keyboards. The switches supposedly have a 30 million press lifecycle, significantly higher than most keyboards, so it should last many years.

I bought both an 87UB (the $400 one) and a 103UB, and kept the 103UB because I both prefer the feeling of it over the 87, and also discovered that I like having a 10-key again. Had pretty much abandoned them.

The 103 feels different, as far as keys go? I'm a bit surprised, I thought they were made exactly the same. What's the perceived difference?

well, for one the space bars are at different angles. the space bar on the 87 is a bit sharper and digs into your thumbs unless you use the feet to tilt the keyboard, which i prefer not using. secondly, though both keyboards use topre switches, the 87 is made by leopold for topre whereas the 103 is made by topre in japan ... the build quality on the 103 seems better and the keycaps on the 103 seem a bit more rounded and smooth.

...all purely subjective, of course, but i just prefer the typing experience on the 103 to the 87.

you are really super fast! I just got 80 WPM with mechanical keyboard (The Cheat CMA)

I only recently figured out that my inability to easily use Vim was related to the fact that I'm not a touch-typist (not a hunt-and-pecker either). Good thing I'm just a hobbyist, wannabe programmer.

When I got my T61 after three plus years of using netbooks, my fingers were very happy to use that keyboard. After I got the ultranav set up, disabling the damn trackpad, I was a very happy camper, indeed. Years had passed since I'd retired my 770ED, and I'd forgotten just how good it was.

I love my my 2007 MacBook Pro with fingertip-complementary shaped keys. Typng on a chiclet hurts. Sadly battery number two is end of life and it seems silly to buy another one. It is nice at home though.

Sorry, I have to disagree about chiclet keyboards and I consider myself a keyboard Connoisseur and a touch typist. I own a couple of vintage IBM Model M keyboards, a Northgate, a Filco ... I've grown fond of the Apple Keyboards and my better halves and those who work around me thank me for it. Vim + Apple keyboard is coding heaven.

I do agree the ThinkPad keyboards were the best in its class.

Are all modern Apple keyboards pretty much the same? I've been considering the Apple wireless keyboard for my iPad, but I wasn't sure if it would offer a superior experience to the Microsoft wireless keyboard that I already have.

Oh dear. Was hoping you're wrong, but it seems you're right...at least for the X series. I'm still hoping that the T series will continue with a normal keyboard, especially since my T61 is near EOL for me.

At least they centered the touchpad and set the keyboard so I can touch type from a center position (no numeric keypad).

Lack of numpad is a matter of personal preference. I love it and use it almost exclusively, so lack of one is a big deal for me.

My problem with a numpad on a laptop is where I center myself. If you center on on the keyboard so you aren't typing "side-ways" then the numpad means you're head is tilted to center of screen or you're looking directly at the left of the screen.

That may be a requirement for developers who don't use Vim. I can't remember the last time I used any of those keys.

A Linux laptop should be a good laptop. But we should be aware that having Linux pre-installed does make a difference.

A) You'll either pay the Microsoft tax or have Linux pre-installed, possibly both depending how how deep MS' hooks are.

B) Having all the drivers work is important, especially modern laptops will often switch their peripheral chips without changing even model # so there.

Sigh. I wish more end users would consider option C:

Ask nicely for a laptop with no OS. When the reply is 'No', return/wipe the Microsoft default, carefully documenting your refusal of the End User License Agreement, and ask for your money back on the OS. (They'll still say 'No'.) Be firm, be persistent, and even go as far as issuing a Small Claim.

They will ultimately accede, because the law is on your side.

No one need pay the Microsoft tax.

Doesn't an OEM Windows license cost something like $20? It's certainly way less than a shrink wrap copy.

To me that sounds like a whole load of work for not that much money. If I don't want it I'd just order the cheapest most basic version of Windows I could, wipe it and move on.

This isn't really a matter of money for many people. It's a matter of ethics (or principle, if that's too strong of a word for your tastes).

I consider it highly anti-competitive to force people to buy an OS with their computer. It doesn't matter if you're a GNU/Linux person or simply already have a Windows license - it's forcing you to pay for something you don't want and don't need. And even if you want or need an OS with your computer (which many people, in fact, do), it should be an option[1], not forced upon you. As far as I'm concerned, this should be illegal by consumer protection laws.

In fact, there is a consumer protection directive in the EU that does just that - forbid unlawful bundling. It's just that no one knows and no one gives a shit, and here in Germany, there's a saying: "Wo kein Klaeger, da kein Richter." - "Where there's no complainant, there's no judge.". So, become a complainant. It's your good right, and those companies like Lenovo know it - that's why they make the process of getting a refund as arcane and customer-hostile as possible.[2] Most people will just bite it and silently pay the Windows tax, further fueling this vicious circle and the Microsoft monopoly.

[1]: For all I care OEMs can make it the default option, as long as I can choose "No OS" or "Preinstalled $distribution" - I don't care as long as I'm not forced to pay for something I ultimately won't use.

[2]: I had a slightly older (2008) mailing list post on (I think) Google Groups about refunds from Lenovo Germanu somewhere, but I seem to have lost the link. It included contact details for a guy at Lenovo Germany who apparently was responsible for granting refunds, but it took the author of the mail hours to get this information from the from the various hotlines.

That's what I did when I got my 17" HP Pavillion. I had it wiped and was installing Ubuntu within 20 minutes of unpacking. Later on down the road, I thought, "Hmmm I could really use at Windows 7 Home install for Visual Studio... maybe I should install it in a VM, after all, it would technically be running on the same hardware". So that's what I did. I called MS and used the COA sticker serial number on the bottom of my laptop. So weeks like this, where I'm doing plenty of C# development, I don't have to find another machine. That $20 OS comes in pretty handy.

Doesn't that mean you're paying the tax with your time instead?

On top of that, I will never consider switching away from my Macbook until the following things are true:

* battery will last several hours (macbook still at 4+ hrs on full charge and it is 1.5 yrs old)

* very good (open) acpi support - if I can't 100% trust closing and opening to just suspend and resume correctly, I won't use it for anything other than toy purposes. (and open because I will be using my own kernel, or at least my own install of a distro, so it needs to be supported or at least compilable for every kernel).

Thinkpad already has both problems solved. Getting 12-14 hours on my thinkpad T420 with a 9 cell and a power script written to make all the items found "bad" by powertop2 turn to "good". Switched from x220 (which was getting roughly the same battery life) because its 1366x768 screen wasn't quite enough for on-the-go work.

As for the lid opening and closing doing what it's supposed to, it does. Coincidentally, the ACPI also works flawlessly on my wife's 5 year old Japanese Toshiba laptop running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS.

Edit: here's a link to a thread in which I described the steps I took to get great battery life out of my thinkpad T420. May need tweaking for different thinkpad models, but I used it on my x220 as well with only minimal changes:


Do you have any more details on how to create such a script?

I have a T510 and despite the 80 watt hour battery I get only <4 hours of runtime.

edited my initial comment to include the information. HTH.

Is it possible to get powertop2 on Linux Mint? I can't even find a source download; their alleged source repo at git.moblin.org seems to be down. Going to that domain gives me a "502 Bad Gateway" error.

Edit: ah, "git clone git://git.moblin.org/powertop powertop2" works.

I'm using Ubunutu 12.04 (and learning to love the bomb, err, Unity) on a Samsung 15-inch Series 9, and those things you mention work fine. Small irritants include a screen of less quality than I expected (vertical viewing angle is minimal), a keyboard that is more noisy than I wish, and a touchpad that I can't get to disable during typing. But it's fast, quiet, large-screened and has more than enough horsepower for development (using it for Google App Engine work right now).

FWIW I've got the 13-inch Series 9 on Debian, and everything just works, including disabling the touchpad with a keystroke.

What I'd really like is to be able to disable touchpad clicks without disabling scrolling, but I understand if I'm on my own for that one.

I can disable touchpad clicks but not scrolling using synclient on my Thinkpad. In fact, I configured the whole thing to act as a scroll surface and nothing else.

You should look into syndaemon. This will disable the touchpad when you are typing. https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Touchpad_Synaptics#Disa...

Also, the screen on the Series 9 is one of the better screens out there. Also, I don't find the keyboard on my 13" loud though.

> (macbook still at 4+ hrs on full charge and it is 1.5 yrs old)

My MacBook Pro, mid-2009, original battery:

    Temperature = 2982
    CycleCount = 591
    DesignCycleCount9C = 1000
    DesignCapacity = 5450
    MaxCapacity = 4814
    WearRatio = 88%
    CurrentCapacity = 1514
    ChargeRatio = 31%
    Voltage = 11077
    Amperage = -694
    InstantAmperage = -661
    InstantTimeToEmpty = 2:17
    TimeRemaining = 2:11
    AvgTimeToEmpty = 2:11
    FullToEmptyTime = 6:56
(this is from a python script of mine [0])

Close to three years of daily, heavy use. The thing just doesn't want to die (crossing fingers).

[0] https://gist.github.com/2630561

Here are the stats from my MacBook Pro (also mid 2009, 13-inch, original battery):

  Temperature = 2990
  CycleCount = 488
  DesignCycleCount9C = 1000
  DesignCapacity = 5450
  MaxCapacity = 4804
  WearRatio = 88%
  CurrentCapacity = 4804
  ChargeRatio = 100%
  Voltage = 12568
  Amperage = 253
  InstantAmperage = 88
  TimeRemaining = 0:8
  AvgTimeToFull = 0:8
I seem to be missing the InstantTimeToEmpty and FullToEmptyTime data. Reading your script, that tells me the values are "None" but not why that is. I'm also apparently 8 minutes from an empty battery, even though it's fully charged. Do you know why this is?

Amperage is positive: you're charging. So:

- TimeToEmpty makes no sense.

- you're 8 minutes to full.

Doh! Thanks for the update.

Thinkpad (T60) has a great keyboard, good feedback. I don't use the mousepad, I like the little red pointer thingy it has and has 1400x1050 resolution display. It also a mate display (not the glare type).

It is bulkier than other laptops and by now its processor is behind the latest i7 and i5's.

Also as soon as I got I installed Ubuntu on it. Ubuntu lets me re-map caps lock to a control for my emacs usage.

And most of all this machine has worked great for many years . It has traveled with me, has been banged up, dropped, had hot liquids spilled on it and it still works.

What I really miss from the T60-era laptops is the 4:3 (non-widescreen) display. Widescreen is fine for watching movies, but a taller display can be really nice for reading, writing, and coding.

I actually like the widescreen displays for coding. I keep my line counts to 80 columns and now I can have two files side by side. Or a file open and a browser open side by side.

Yep. The T40 series had those too. I did a lot of programming on ThinkPads.

The UXGA IPS panels on some of the T60s are one of the nicest screens to spend all day looking at. New screens are often brighter, but the color and viewing angle found on those is far superior to what's available today. Oh, and they're 1200px tall - the 17" MBP is, I think the only major-brand laptop that tall today.

Couldn't agree more. I use a Thinkpad X60 for much the same reasons (X-series because I carry it around a lot, still "bulky" compared to a Macbook Air but not to the point that it ever actually bothers me.) I really don't look forward to having to upgrade it some day.

Aside from the screen feeling a bit outmoded to me (although I like matte, LCD tech has come a long way in 5 years) it's an absolute pleasure to use.

So I was disappointed when Dell's announcement was about Linux shovelware instead of just saying "easy modular upgrades, quality keyboard, portable and light but solidly built." :/

I have a T60 that I use as my primary laptop. They don't make laptops like this anymore.

I keep a spare T60 just in case this one breaks. They are pretty cheap on eBay, especially if supplies without HDD off-lease.

-sent from my T60

I've got a T61. It's widescreen but I kind of like that.

+1 for ebay. I can buy a new one for 100GBP if this packs in.

Don't you get too much strain on your left pinky if you remap CapsLock to Ctrl?

I shifted to:

CapsLock -> Enter

Keys next to spacebar -> Ctrl

This feels a whole lot better. As Xah Lee [1] points out, the original symbolics keyboard that Stallman developed emacs on, had Ctrl keys next to the space bar.

[1] http://xahlee.org/emacs/emacs_kb_shortcuts_pain.html

I read Xah Lee's article a good while ago. Emacs is the program I spend >90% of my time in, I first encountered it on a SUN Sparc Classic. If my memory serves me right, the SUN keyboard had META close to space and CTRL under the TAB key (where PC keyboard have CAPS LOCK). So, naturally, I grew up with the control key in that position.

When using Emacs on a PC, for the longest time I didn't remap CTRL and with the default position Emacs becomes quite awkward to use. On a PC keyboard, I used to have pinkie strain a lot when doing lots of coding. But these days I spend most of my computing time in front of my Dell Netbook and the keyboard size is ideal for this key mapping - so nice, in fact, that I'm wondering whether there are any external netbook-sized keyboards that I could use with my desktop PC.

Another comment on this page complains about the arrangements of the HOME/END/INSERT/DELETE keys etc. on most laptop keyboards. I've got to say that I basically never use them. Even though the SUN Sparc keyboard had arrow keys, at some point I disabled them on my keyboard to force myself to learn Emacs' native shortcuts for moving the point. Now my hands hardly ever have to leave the home row.

I swap both CTRL and ALT keys and it makes life great. To type ALT I usually shift my whole hand, but that's okay, since I use CTRL 10x more often, at least.

I don't know about this whole CAPS LOCK thing... then you are stuck with only one key to hit, and I find it much better to press the modifier opposite the character key with my other hand, rather than scrunch up one hand.

Well, CAPS LOCK is just an additional CTRL for me.

I went shopping a couple weeks ago for a MacBook Air to replace my 15" MBP as my primary development machine. (The endorsement a couple weeks before from Linus about the simplicity and silence of the Air sold me)

I picked it up at BestBuy and when I was there I glanced at their Ultrabooks display. They had 3. The Asus and Toshiba seemed complete crap. Flimsy. Trash.

The only one that seemed a plausible purchase was the Samsung. I wasn't a persuadable customer: I'm not going to switch my platform choice because of one credible alternative. But for those customers that are, I think it's fantastic that they at least have 1 credible windows 7 alternative to an Air.

(Not that it matters, but if you're interested, this MBP is a work-supplied machine and it's the first Mac I've ever used. My other PC is a sony vaio core 2 duo circa 2008 or so running Windows 7. I was very impressed with Windows 7 when it came out. But as an engineer it's only a credible option because I was running a Ubuntu VM. When I took my current job and had my choice of machine I finally took the plunge and I've loved it ever since. I still use Ubuntu VM's for sharing dev environments but having a fantastic terminal app and a clean experience is something I have no interest in giving up. Thus, i'm not a persuadable.)

Two questions:

1. Are you happy with the Air versus the MBP?

2. Seems a strange time to buy. Why not buy in six months time?

> 1. Are you happy with the Air versus the MBP?

Yes. Very. Largely due to portability but also because the Pro didn't have an SSD. The pro was about 18 months old so it had similar specs in other aspects but no SSD.

I wouldn't hate more RAM of course. But the SSD in here is anecdotally faster than an aftermarket SSD I installed in a windows machine last year and it definitely helps you overlook the 4GB limit.

> 2. Seems a strange time to buy. Why not buy in six months time?

I have a zen about these things. There will always be something right around the corner.

How about taller and higher-resolution screens while we're at it? 16:9 "HD" is fine for movies, but not exactly optimal for development. Right now the portable computer with the highest screen resolution is the iPad. I'm using a Thinkpad T61 because it's the only laptop I know of with a 4:3 screen that can take 8gb of memory.

es you are correct. We need 4:3 laptops. I hate these HD screens.

It looks like Dell has set up a "storm session" where they'll take our feedback/suggestions, here: http://www.ideastorm.com/Idea2SessionIdea?v=1336432210237...

> Then shove a great processor, a mouse pad that's not accidentally click able while typing, and a high resolution screen.

Agreed, although I don't consider the processor all that important. I run out of ram way before I can exhaust the CPU capabilities in the current generation of "ultrabooks". I want a 13" macbook air or something of similar build quality with a higher res screen and 8-16GB of ram.

I'm trying to bring this to market, first in the form of Thinkpads, but possibly other models too (including our own in the future). If anyone's interested, please sign up here - http://giniji.com

I own a XPS15z but I was never able to put what is wrong with it so succinctly.

I absolutely don't get what's with the pre-installed software thing, I can do that myself. What I need is full-driver support and some basic information of what is known to work. I don't expect them to maintain a full Linux compatibility list, but just a simple list that says: With this specific kernel and this mainstream distro, those things don't work out of the box. You need one intern for about two days to do that. Throw in exact specs and I can figure out a lot of things for myself.

You hit the nail on the head there. My ideal hacker laptop would have something like:

Realforce 87U keyboard

2x (yeah they do exist I think) 1920x1200 screens, perhaps with really high PPI like the new ones Apple is releasing soon.

No touchpad (I'm quite happy with plugging in a mouse), I'd rather use a nipple.

Light, lots of battery, no need for a fancy graphics card. Decent CPU, doesn't have to be extreme.

Tons of memory, 16gb at least, the more the better.

No software at all. I'll install my own distro.

What you are describing sounds like my 5 year-old HP DV9000. The keyboard & track-pad were surprisingly of very high quality, very close to that of Apple's IMO.

Too bad though the hardware & chasis design of the product line was extremely shoddy & defective; if the notebook didn't fry itself so often it probably would've been noticed more.

The DV9000s also had a terrible hinge design which was highly prone to breaking. The hinge itself would snap because it was made out of cheap pot metal and the 17" display put a lot of leverage on it. To make matters worse, the hinge secured directly to the bezel and top cover; when the hinge broke, it'd generally break both those parts as well. Even if you were to DIY the repair, you were looking at $150-200 in parts from HP.

Everybody is praising Apple keyboards here. Strange thing is at my work place many have a "real" keyboard beside their MBA or MB.

Why? Do they use it when the laptop is closed? Did they miss a numpad? Did all their keys pop off and the devices are out of warranty? Is it about the "click" feeling?

I haven't seen this so I am curious. The biggest bummer for me about Apple is the lack of a USB external trackpad.

Is this what you're looking for? http://www.apple.com/magictrackpad/

I think gurkendoktor is looking for a USB(wired) trackpad. The Magic Trackpad can only interface via Bluetooth.

Right. BT is annoying when changing operating systems or computers and batteries are bad for the environment and always run out at the wrong time. I went with the Magic Trackpad though.

I guess it is about the click feeling and proper position of the hands.

Speaking of frying itself, when mine got hot the keyboard stopped working reliably, and it got hot easily and often.

I will trade in most of that for just a matte screen. I read code all day and I like my terminal black. Most laptops nowadays function as mirrors instead of laptops.

Hands down the most important part of this comment is the touch pad. It's a real struggle to find a decent touch pad aside from you know who.

I still like the Thinkpad's trackpoint, and have the pad set to scroll-only.I can comfortably mouse and scroll without moving my hands from my typing position.

This is kind of sad. XPS 13 is not exactly good -- the display resolution is terrible, there's no ethernet port, and for ultrabook it is not very thin, feels real cheap in hands, and the keyboard is not very good. It's almost like someone tool everything bad from the ultrabook trend and nothing good from it.

And when people won't care because the hardware is not worth it (especially when it's not that much cheaper than MBA), it will be interpreted as "no one wants linux".

i agree, a developer ultrabook must be more modular, and more equipped.

>Project Sputnik, a product of Dell’s new internal incubation fund, features not just full hardware support for Ubuntu on the XPS13, but a notion of “profiles” for developers

They could have stopped at "full hardware support for Ubuntu". Nobody cares about their crapware.

Just two weeks ago I bought an HP ProBook for a colleague for the sole reason of being Linux certified. It came with a Suse license but he's using it with Ubuntu.

The one Dell laptop I could have bought came with an Ubuntu version from 2010.

Agreed that I don't want/need their crapware. It'd be great if companies that make hardware had a clue what people wanted, but that's why Apple is going to be the biggest company in the world while IBM lays off seventy-some percent of their workforce, HP has 100 models of notebook that all do the same thing, and Lenovo forgets what made their older laptops so nice.

IBM and Apple compete about as often as GM and Boeing do. One builds servers, systems, and writes business software wrapping it all with services and the other sells end user devices, media, and minimal software wrapping it all in a brand LVMH is jealous of.

One of them developed Siri and the other Watson.

Lenovo's good laptops were IBM. IBM sold out the Thinkpad brand and it died.

Not sure if I'd classify it as crapware.. they're going to be legitimate and useful tools, not "CLICK HERE TO INSTALL OFFICE 2012!!"

If its vertical resolution is lower than 900 pixels I can't take it seriously as a laptop designed for developers.

Amen; I'm also a member of "Team 16:10"

Not getting rid of my Latitude D830 (14.1" 1920x1200) until I can get something with /more/ pixel density and vrez

16:10? Let's bring back 16:12. There's something deeply wrong when the iPad is the portable computer with the highest resolution. I stare at a screen all day most days and would happily pay extra to stare at a nice one.

Well, then you're s@@t out of luck :-)... though the 1920x1080 17.3 inch laptops aren't that bad - the resolution is good enough (well, it's the best vertical resolution you can get) and unlike Full HD 15.6 inchers, the text is big enough not to make your eyes hurt like you're welding without a mask...

The Macbook Pro 17" Still ships with a 1920x1200 screen, still not as nice as the same on a 15" though.

I know there is a lot more to a nice laptop than proper software integration. However, proper software integration goes a long way. I bought an XPS m1330 "N" with Linux pre-installed 4 years ago. I have had zero funky hardware/software dances with it through the many re-installs I have done. I don't relish the idea of replacing it.

So this is good news to me. I looked into recent Dell's and found that there is almost always something slightly "wrong" with them when you run Linux on them. Either weirdness in power management or the touchpad or some other random thing. Just being able to buy a computer and not have to worry if it is going to work with my OS is very nice. I have too much to do and don't want to spend a week futzing with drivers and other nonsense (I have done enough of that for a life time).

In the spirit of... well... "thinking differently" we might call it, I'll actually say I'm pretty happy with the Dells I've had. They're solid workhorses with relatively good value for the money I spent on them. Certainly, they are not glamorous or beautiful, but they work well, have good support, and have generally run Ubuntu pretty well.

That said, if someone came along and really did good Linux support, I'd probably switch.

I've been pretty happy with my Dell laptops, running Ubuntu.

But they lost me when they dropped WUXGA. That extra 200-pixel row may not matter to folks using their machine to watch movies, but it's missing developer real estate to me.

Ditto - and it's not just a developer thing, it's an "anything except video watching" thing.

I hate the shift towards widescreen in laptops for pretty much any activity, and it's only bearable in desktop monitors because there's no real size limit on them, so it can be adding width rather than just reducing height.

Ouch, they have? That does stink, I have one of those, and love it. Sigh...

I think you have to go to 17" or something to get WUXGA from them.

It pains me that there's no good way to assemble or upgrade laptops to one's liking. It's pretty much take it or leave it.

I think this thread is a great example of why developers are notoriously tough customers (myself included)

Actually, the things that we are asking for are not that difficult for a hardware vendor to implement. Besides, we usually tend to buy the higher end models rather than the entry level ones, so the profit margins are higher for each developer

What would you think about a contemporary GRiD Compass?

Emphasis on durability and ergonomy before slim-ness, providing :

  - Stronger structural material for laptop frame
  - Shock and torque absorbing bits around corners, and hinges
  - Stronger hinges that you can manipulate carelessly
  - Better ergonomics by balancing weight
  - More space for internal addition (PCIe, USB3) for modders
  - Ease of access to internal, repairability.
  - Easier heat dissipation aiming for 35-50C min-max range with minimal fan speed.
Beside, add:

  A true 8bit IPS LCD.
  A thinkpad class keyboard.
A nice vintage black box that handle 25 years of hackery without a glitch.

The worst part for me is that the XPS13 only allows a MAXIMUM of 4GB of RAM. This is ridiculous for a dev box, especially when I want to run a VM or two.

The 4GB is (obv) the limit of the Macbook Air as well.

I agree, running a VM leaves you at the redline. Running 2? Good luck.

I do run with a single Ubutnu VM nearly 100% of the time, but I skimp on it and only allocate 384MB usually. Sometimes I'll bump it up depending on what I'm doing in it.

All that said, I do wish that I could have 8 GB in my Air. But, with the extremely fast SSD, it's not essential. I use this machine as my daily driver (for mostly web-based Python, PHP and Go development) and love it. It's honestly my favorite development machine ever. I've never enjoyed developing on-the-go more, and at home plugged into a Cinema display it's a real joy to use.

They all say that - I'm 99% sure you can install at least 6 GB, if not more...

Aren't the ram chips usually soldered to the mobo on ultrabooks? Crucial indicates they can't upgrade ram on the XPS13. And a little googling says soldered RAM... Nothing on the Dell website suggests they can upgrade past 4.

Damn, you're right, the XPS 13 is non-upgradeable. the Samsung Series 9 and Series 5, as well as the Toshiba Z830 are, though...

So their target audience is developers that are incapable of installing their own tools and that are cool with the cheap look and flimsy build quality of Dell laptops.

Unfortunately, that market actually exists, and nine out of ten times that lack of caring for quality is reflected in their work.

Official driver support matters.

You won't run the risk of buying a notebook, install Linux, find that driver xyz doesn't work, then find the store won't take it back because reinstalling the os voids warranty. And waste money. This is a big risk when shopping for Linux laptops. Specially for cheaper brands that you can't easily find online reports about whether it works or not.

Official support makes shopping much easier.

> reinstalling the os voids warranty

That's why you should make a disk image before you wipe Windows. Plug in a Linux Live USB, use dd + gzip to create a bit-for-bit copy of your hard drive (it should compress well because there's no data on the machine), keep the copy in an external hard drive, and then wipe the internal hard drive. Nobody at Best Buy will know what you did.

I'm surprised they think developers would be interested in this. Having worked with Dell in IT, you couldn't pay me to use anything they put their name on. Dell have a bad reputation in both hardware and peopleware, and it's well deserved.

I worked in a university's IT department for most of my undergraduate career and have nothing but good things to report about their business class laptops. Their low-end consumer grade laptops are, well, low-end. Most of the tales of disappointment I've heard from Dell are people who decided to scrape the bottom of the bargain bin and were disappointed when they got what they paid for.


Every single interaction save for one I've had with dell has been an absolute joy. Our rep remembers me by voice, and even when I've had servers with expired support, I've had techs following up with me to make sure issues have been resolved.

I don't know who you've been dealing with, but Dell has been a complete dream to deal with for me; more companies should be like them.

This comment would be meaningful if it even contained a hint of an anecdote. "Well deserved" how, exactly?

I've owned 3 Dell laptops in the past 2 years.

First one's screen broke. Second one's graphics card was faulty. Third one's sound was messed up, sent the PC in for repairs. Dell technicians dropped it on the ground, blamed me for doing it, then refused to further support it.

I don't care one way or the other if anyone else buys Dell; but there's no chance in hell that I will ever again.

Okay, anecdotes with anecdotes. The dell laptops that I've had (from the latitude series. That ugly gray one) have been sturdier than most bricks. I've dropped them on my wood floor, they've been tossed around in my backpack, had things spilled on them, and been abused in every way you can imagine.

They still keep chugging.

*When I'm talking about multiple laptops, I'm talking about multiple laptops within my company. Not my personal laptop [although I have had one]

I think this is because you are comparing the business laptop to the consumer edition. While I haven't actively shopped laptops for a few years, I have noticed that the business editions, while a tad more expensive and less "stylish", are usually much better built. My friends' consumer Dell laptops consistently fail within the first 1.5 years or so. My father's 6 year old Dell survived much abuse, and is doing fine.

The business versions of laptops are usually far better built, but you cannot buy them at Best Buy and the like.

The older Dell laptops seem to fare much better than the newer ones.

I'll chip in for him. They're made of cheese, unreliable, have shitty bios implementations, crap battery life and horrid screens and keyboards.

That's an approximation of a review, but "shitty" is a relative thing. Compared to what?

Nothing is more annoying than opinions like "I hate X because it sucks" without an insightful counter-point like "You should try Y because it's much better for reasons A, B and C."

Shitty compared to my reference point of "fit for purpose".

Dell servers are excellent. They are beautifully engineered, sacrifice nothing, and are extremely well supported.

Such "Dell sucks" anecdotes are generally of the "my company bought 400 of the cheapest desktops that Dell manufacturers, of which a couple presented troubles. Therefore Dell sucks." variety.

I own nothing from Dell beside my 23" Ultra Sharp monitor and I will tell you that I will never ever buy anything from Dell again.

The monitor is really awesome at its price point and I don't want to miss it but the service Dell is doing is the worst I have ever seen.

Let me tell you why. When I bought the monitor I was really happy to get a 3 year ultra warranty service from Dell for free. So the monitor gets shipped and I plug into my MacBook Air. The monitor works but the colors are really bad like a 16 bit color scheme. I call the Dell "ultra service" and tell them just what happened. After changing three different employees the guy on the other hand asks me what happens and tell him that the screen looks broken when I plug it into my MacBook and his answer is "oh we don't Mac's cause Apple doesn't conform standard graphical ports. I really don't know about Mac's so I can't help you. Don't you have a "normal PC" to plug it in?". At this point it was clear to me that I would never buy something again from Dell!

It turned out that the monitor was broken and my next monitor worked just fine with my MacBook. the monitor was not replaced by Dell but by the shop I bought from cause they swear that the fault was my Mac.

Next time I will pay the extra money and buy something from Apple again. They don't do shit like that...

Even if Dell's monitors had a 50 percent failure rate and no warranty, you would still be saving money by purchasing only Dell monitors. While price isn't likely your only concern, $1000 for a monitor(even a nice one) is really ridiculous. When you consider the fact that a 27" iMac only costs about $1700, it only seems even more absurd.

I assume you are referring to the Apple 27" display listed here: http://store.apple.com/us/product/MC914LL/A?fnode=MTY1NDA5OQ

You do realize that it is 27" with a 2560x1440 resolution and it uses an IPS panel, right? That doesn't come cheap. Dell's comparable monitor is only $100 cheaper: http://accessories.us.dell.com/sna/productdetail.aspx?c=us&#...

Of course, I would rather get the Dell, but the Apple display isn't really over-priced.

27" 2560x1440 IPS screens can come cheap. http://www.ebay.ca/sch/i.html?_from=R40&_trksid=p5197.m5...

My experience with Dell support was actually pretty good. A DVD-drive in my desktop broke after a few months, and after calling Dell support and going through some obligatory motions (turning the computer on/off, re-installing some drivers etc), they just sent me a new DVD-drive.

I hardly want to defend Dell support (knock on wood but I've never, ever had to directly deal with them), however what you experienced is hardly unique -- they see a usage outside of the norm and assume the usage is to blame. Honestly if I were you I would have said "Oh yeah, plugged it into my `normal' PC and it still looks terrible" and they would have replaced it. Unfortunate that it demands a lie or two, but such is the nature of tech support.

And I would hardly give Apple a free pass. They are the ones who are quite eager to blame any issue on a water sensor that is well known to indicate false positives.

Very true, you tend to often hear the same sort of thing from recent Mac converts too.

People who will argue that all PCs suck because their old $300 netbook compares unfavorably with their new $1000 Macbook Air.

The biggest possible upside to this project will be if Shuttleworth & Company get on board to support the XPS13 as a first class Ubuntu platform because of Sputnik.

And when I say first class, I don't mean "give it the Supported Platform stamp." I mean "respond to user reports of touchpad bugs" and "fix them."

This is actually a pretty great Idea. I wouldn't mind paying a support fee instead of the ridiculous Windows License fee that I have to pay every time I buy a laptop (only to erase and install Ubuntu the moment it arrives). If only Dell had the courage to stand up to Microsoft...

"Configuration as code". In other words, "configuration as plain text files". Another innovation that's actually been in *nix since forever.

As a result of this, I can turn any computer into a me-friendly machine in about an hour. Install my favorite Openbox-based distro (Crunchbang), copy over dotfiles I've already customized, and install every package from a list that's been exported from my main laptop.

This is kind of interesting for me. I'm trying to find for myself a proper Linux machine. Right now on Dell e6410, a bit regret that I bought it. In my opinion nearest to the ideal developer machine on Linux is Lenovo X1 or X220.

Screen 13": is enough, even 12" is enough. If you are kind of developer who moves his behind from meeting to meeting or spends some time on plains or conferences. 13" (max) is your choice. You can buy really cheap big monitors and plug you machine, in every place where you work.

Processor and Memory: this is out of discussion i7 and 8GB ram. Memory is so cheep those days that giving developers less than 8GB is a sin.

HDD: SSD 128. This works for me. I have external drives, as a developer I don't keep movies, games, photos on my computer.

Graphic Card. I had a rule that if I'm using Linux I'm using Nvidia cards. This probably not true any more. I've heard from people that Intel Cards work well. But still, switching screens is done decently in NVIDIA drives.

Screen: for me Glare.

Battery: should follow at least MacBook Pro 13". which is 3-4h.

Price if this will be more than 1400 $ people will buy MacBookPro.

Ubuntu: I'm using Xubuntu. Unity still keeps me angry, and as smallest as possible number of installed programs. Because I'm developer it doesn't mean that I'm using Eclipse.

+1 to the NVIDIA requirement with Linux - when looking for a new Linux dev laptop, this was a must since I use an external monitor most of the time when docked - you can trust this will work 110% with NVIDIA - Intel GPU's have been a bit shaky with this in the past. But this might be better with newer Linux kernels/Xorg shipping with distros like Ubuntu 12.04.

In the end, I went for a speced up Thinkpad T420 with i7/NVIDIA/8GB - works really, really well.

Uh, I can’t really second this. I’ve been using Intel graphics for the last 3+ years, and never had a single multi-monitor problem. Intels FOSS drivers (nVidia doesn’t publish FOSS drivers or even specs) support xrandr (the linux standard for multi-monitor configuration) like a charm. nVidia only offers xrandr support in the latest beta of their driver, forcing people to use their weird twinview utilities for years.

I am actually surprised that the battery only lasts 3-4h on a mbp on linux. on the x220 i get around 6h with the 6cell battery, obviously depending on use.

X220 is really nice, as long as you use an external screen. Apart from being small, the screen (although bright) has a big aftereffect problem .

Linux developers by and large don't care what distro or software comes preloaded. They intend to replace it with their favorite setup the moment they take the machine out of the box. What they want is a keyboard designed for productivity and hardware that is fully compatible with the Linux kernel. Some will only use free (libre) drivers. Some want a large touchpad, others just want a pointing stick, and others don't use a pointing device at all. Many want easy access to the inside of their computer. Then there are always the regular consumer issues like how pretty the machine is, does it have bluetooth, an optical drive, etc. All laptops have a tradeoff among portability (size and battery), performance (CPU, GPU, RAM, and display), and price (low is good). Most great laptops only excel in two of those categories. Different developers choose a different two.

I'd like the ability to have 16GB of RAM in a machine that's the size of an Air or Ultrabook. It seems at the moment, that is impossible to find.

A nice move. Too bad the XPS13 has a (reportedly) terrible display: http://www.theverge.com/2012/3/6/2848346/dell-xps-13-review#...

It is only softwares for the XPS13?

So far, yes.

I fully expect it to be $140 cheaper than a comparable machine running Windows 7 Pro.

Can't tell whether this is sarcastic or not, but if you think Dell pays full price for Windows licenses you are in for a surprise.

I don't know the backstory on this....does Dell pay much less than the full price? How much less?

When people have managed to get refunds for preinstalled Windows licenses from major OEMs, the number's generally been in the $35-50 range.

Keep in mind that the manufacturers also subsidize the cost of systems with all the preinstalled crapware that comes on a lot of machines.

The OEM agreement prevents the exact numbers from being disclosed, but I believe it's common knowledge that it's quite small; probably well under USD50 for a company like Dell.

I think dell gets subsidies from installing all that crapware, so I would expect it to be offset by that.

Hmmm .. "devops" angle .. "developer profiles" .. these things don't seem necessary.

DevOps is hot area right now.. applications are driving the infrastructure and it's changing what cloud is..developers are in charge

I don't know, I think matching hardware to software is a stupid idea. Just focus on building the hardware as a platform, don't lock it down with custom BS solutions and let the software developers handle the software.

What kind of developer doesn't have their own workflow and customize their own workstation to their needs? You just can't mass produce a one-model-fits-all laptop for developers...

Of all Dell laptops, the Precision line is the only one I'd buy - the M6600 looks especially good now that HP abandoned the near-perfect design of the Elitebook 8740/8540w (just for the sake of a new design it seems)...

the negative and aggressive attitude in this thread is depressing.


Maybe Dell should have consulted their target market first.

On every single Dell I've used I've hated the keyboard within 10 key presses at most, and I've tried a good 2 dozen over the past 15 years.

And there in lies the problem, every other spec is fucking useless compared to 'does this keyboard suck'. If it sucks you can have 32GB of RAM, a draw that spits out toast and Knuth built into it and I still won't buy it.

Why would a laptop running Ubuntu be for "developers"? Not to get into a distro flamewar, but (for example) many large organizations use RHEL on their servers, and developers on the back-end would want to develop there so it will run on their customer's systems. They should be clearer that it's for "web developers".

Standard size function keys. No media keys, only volume/mute control.

Trackpoint is a must. I can even live without a track/touch pad.

If I'm allowed to design my dream laptop, I'd make it have

- a 13 inch 1080x1920 screen

- two video outputs (for when its docked)

- an SSD for the OS and my tools

- an average hard disk for my data

- a good keyboard

- enough memory

- a camera and audio

- 3G data (or better)

- Bluetooth for the keyboard and trackpad when it's docked.

And the rest of it would be a humongous battery. And power it with an Atom-class processor so that the battery lasts a day. Leave the software alone.

Make it pretty.

The XPS13 doesn't really seem equipped to appeal to professional developers, but Dell might be specifically targeting the entry-level and enthusiast markets. I would have enjoyed having something along these lines in high school, for instance.

They can start by unfucking the internal/external display mode key. http://www.osnews.com/story/23202/The_win_p_Mess_Will_Micros...

Running SUSE 9.1 on a Dell Precision M70. Huge screen works fine in Suse, and as I use an external PS2 keyboard, no chance of accidentally tapping the mouse pad. Wifi works fine on M70's internal wifi card. Great cheap Linux laptop.

Great, now offer Fedora on it and you might have a shot at selling me one. I'm in the market for a new laptop Real Soon Now, and I will definitely be looking for something to run Fedora on.

I like the pop-under ad for gambling when you visit this site. Classy.

On devopsangle.com or somewhere else? We don't do any sort of banner advertising, popunder or otherwise so unless our site has been hacked (I'll look into it) then it sounds like you've got malware on your computer.

Well, I visited this link twice to be sure and Safari pitched up a pop-under ad both times.

I assure you, I do not have malware.

It happens when the justin.tv widget in the side-bar loads. It attempts to load something that redirects to http://rts.pgmediaserve.com/03d458/

I cannot duplicate the error..sometimes i've seen providers have f'd up dns where some bad stuff happens..

This is not a DNS issue. This is the justin.tv widget doing something fishy in the background.

I have Little Snitch installed and locked down so it can't make any connections, but it tries two different sites over SSL in an attempt to fetch content for the frame.

Curiously it works with AdBlock enabled, too.

Thanks, I'll have our webmaster check with Justin.tv.

thanks for pointing that out we are not doing that on our end so wanted to let you know that..it might be coming from another source...i'm investigating

john (founder of the site)

With Linux slowly growing in popularity among developers this is good news to me. Now if IT shops at large companies will start supporting Linux for developers more that would be cooler.

A developers laptop without a trackpoint, crappy keyboard and a screen that does not provide much vertical space? Other than this, I welcome Laptops designed for developers with Linux.

So I immediately went to the Dell website to check the XPS13. The only OS choices were Windows or Windows. Apparently they didn't announce Linux internally.

I would buy a Ubuntu laptop. I feel like a fool that I spent money on a MacBook Pro. I was too lazy to get a Linux laptop working.

And there I am, wishing the headline was "Dell Announces a Linux Laptop Developed for Designers" instead.

People can develop on 13" screens?

I have been doing so for about 6 years. In my experience, gaining screen real estate is amazing at first, and losing it really hurts at first, but in the long run, it doesn't make much difference.

My dream machine was a 12" Toshiba Portege with an extra battery, 1920x1200 rez and a trackpoint.

Great form-factor, especially on planes.

It eventually started falling apart, and I never found quite the same thing again.

My 13" Macbook Air serves me well as my primary development and design workstation. For purely development, I would love to use an 11" Air, but Photoshop is a bit too cramped on it.

My 27" display gets used for watching movies mostly these days. I do go through phases though, and will probably try using the large screen for work again eventually. For now, I find the smaller screen less distracting.

I do it on 12". Absolutely no need for any more for development, not even one bit.

Now, design work obviously needs a lot more, but that's offset by the fact that my HP 2730p is also a tablet with stylus, which made me extremely productive in dishing out graphics.

I develop on an 11" screen.

My laptop is in for repair and is taking a disturbingly long time, but my friend lent me his out-of-use EeePC with a 10" inch screen.

I'm amazed at how much work I have actually managed to get done. When I'm in the office I dock it to a keyboard/mouse/monitor, but even on the road I've found myself able to use it, once I adjusted to the keyboard.

If you run light-weight ubuntu (lubuntu for me), have your browser/editor/terminal in fullscreen, and you can get back to work. The slow processor does struggle with our companies rails app though...

Yep. I've had 13in and 15in MBPs but I prefer my 13in MBA. Work gives me the option to get a 24 in monitor for my desk but I haven't bothered to request one.

I develop on a 12". Well, 12" multiplied by 20 workspaces.

Someone must be able to make a viable business model out of selling Ubuntu on Ultrabooks.

Big time developers have always said that OS X is a better Unix development environment than Linux. Dell is smart to come out with a power Linux development station. My friends have been replacing their unix workstations with Macintoshes. Mac OS X is basically plain Unix -BSD flavor. Now Dell is going there. Smart by Dell


It would be nice if you could get them to ship it preinstalled.

Just get a Macbook Pro 17 inch. Best machine ever. The only serious laptop for developers ;-)

Bought it last week, and did almost go for a Macbook Air after the Linus endorsement. I am so happy I didnt!

what's new here, because xps13 is a fancy ultrabook? i installed ubuntu on my laptops and they always worked fine, why is this big news. i might be missing something...

The most obvious thing about Dell's ignorance-promoting product page for the XPS13 (the differences are only defined in marketspeak) is that there is still no SSD available:


However, I'll keep the low-end version in mind the next time I'm shopping for "America's Best Protection." Oh wait, they all come with that. Hrm.

Are they really hoping to get a piece of the Macbook Air pie with this?

The most obvious thing about Dell's ignorance-promoting product page for the XPS13 (the differences are only defined in marketspeak) is that there is still no SSD available:

Says right there on the page you linked that the $999 base model comes with a 128GB SSD. So does the final summary if you went through their configuration tool (which is admittedly laughable because all it allows you to configure is what level of Windows/MS Office licenses you want bundled, warranty coverage, and accessories like a monitor/printer).

I'm not seeing any mention of an SSD on the page I'm looking at:


The yellow 'signal strength' bars under the 3 configurations -- 'Solid State Drive'.

Also, a 'solid state drive' is mentioned in the feature details under 'Turns on instantly'.

LOL. In my defense, those are extremely crappy UI signalling.

Check the yellow (telephone reception) thing on the right of the ram.

I don't get the SSDs thing. I see somes with the three models on the linked page.

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