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Thanks Mr. Jobs, But it Seems I Can Use a Linux Laptop Now (hypergeometric.com)
170 points by gpapilion 1889 days ago | hide | past | web | 165 comments | favorite

1. What's the battery life like?

2. Are all devices supported with drivers - Bluetooth, 3D, graphics, sleep/wake, 802.11n, webcam, internal mike, ...

3. Does it do instant sleep/wake like a Mac - 100s of times without crashing/rebooting?

4. How does it handle external displays? Plug and play like a Mac? Does it handle display rotate? The internal display is only 1366x768 ?

5. Does it detect a headphone and switch from speaker to headphone automatically (speaker driver?)

6. How's the trackpad compare to a Macbook Pro?

7. How's the keyboard compare to a Macbook Pro?

Asking because I moved from Linux->OSX a long time ago, and I wouldn't mind switching back if the hardware is right and more importantly the Linux drivers work well.

So, specifically:

1. 4 hours depending on workload(sort of an air form factor with a core-i7).

2. Yes, all supported, and still using my apple magic mouse. Used Skype, Vidyo, and Google Hangouts.

3. Can't say for sure, no reboots so far, wakes just fine.

4. Using an external monitor at work with my apple display port -> dvi adapter, so pretty much worked no problem. I was worried about the display being lower res than an air, but it hasn't been a real issue.

5. Yes, work fine.

6. The trackpad is ok. functional, but more temperamental than the mac pro.

7. I like the keyboard better, but I've never liked the mac keyboards.

Just to add another data point, Arch Linux on X220:

1. 4-6 hrs with 6 cell battery.

2. Yes, Intel everything (HD4000, wireless, etc).

3. Yes, 1 resume crash total this year.

4. Yes, attached to external monitor via DisplayPort -> DVI right now.

5. Never tested.

6. Small, crappy. I'm one of those guys who disables the touch pad in favor of TrackPoint though.

7. Much better IMO, not a fan of chiclet style and Apple's "mushy" keyboards.

The problem is that these are exactly the kinds of replies given by Linux advocates throughout the years. I've used unix varieties for more than 20 years and never experiences like this for anything, ever. Nothing is totally supported, or works right away. Ever. At least not in the way a Mac user would employ those descriptions.

I'm sorry you've had poor experience with Linux, I've had plenty of them myself.

I'm tired of dealing with ACPI / driver issues as well. That's why now I just buy ThinkPad and Intel-only chipsets. If you're going to use Linux, you have to research your hardware ahead of time (e.g. poor Atom support) or buy Linux laptops (Dell Ubuntu series, unofficially ThinkPad series).

I'm not trying to say everything's happy in Linux land. Printers are still a sore point, as are AMD / nvidia cards (Open or binary drivers? Multi-monitor support?).

> these are exactly the kinds of replies given by Linux advocates throughout the years

Sometimes a happy Linux user is just that - someone who's happy using Linux. I've had some hardware compatibility problems, but they were all minor and none for the past couple years. Of course, I know what I'm doing and I avoid hardware I know has poor Linux support (much like you should avoid a SPARCStation to run Windows NT in the 90's). Comments like yours are very much in line with other comments from people who have been called "Microsoft apologists" since ever. I will, however, avoid calling you one.

> I've used unix varieties for more than 20 years and never experiences like this for anything, ever

While it seems you have been trying a lot (20 years is a long time) you may have to consider the possibility you are just very unlucky. Of course, 10, 15 years ago, the supported hardware list was much smaller. Solaris and SCO Unix were never intended to be general purpose desktop OSs anyway and it makes little sense to support general purpose desktop hardware back then. I'm now on my fifth Linux-only laptop and I'm yet to have a single problem. In fact, this one is the first that came with Linux preinstalled. I had to remove the "Designed for Microsoft Windows" stickers from all the others, but I've left this one's "n series" as a proud reminder of its origins.

It may depend on whether you buy with Linux support in mind (having waited for someone else to do the spadework, and posted the results to Ubuntu Forums or wherever). There are machines where everything really does Just Work, with at most a few proprietary drivers that are in most distribution repos. (And I've had models from several manufacturers needing at most minor tweaks going back ten years or so --- FWIW, one machine that needed custom scripts to get the display-dimming function keys to work right.)

But if you buy on raw hardware specs, and then try to get Linux working after that, odds are that you'll run into something (sleep/wakeup issues, flaky Broadcom wireless drivers, or lately, problems with fussy trackpads) which will be real trouble.

So, you can get a pretty trouble-free Linux experience, if you do research --- but it might not be the exact machine you want, and it probably won't be anything bleeding-edge.

I use Linux on a VM, running under OSX.

OSX is ... finicky ... with dev tools. Apple does the compilers, and the bolt-on distributions (brew, Macports, fink) seem to have trouble keeping things compatible. Linux distributions don't end up falling behing their own compilers every time the compiler gets updated. I'd rather stay off the bleeding edge compilers, and have everything just work.

There is the "Apple tax", but it's hard to find a good lightweight laptop which is much cheaper than a MBA. A few hundred dollars cheaper, but you lose that on the resale value. For a desktop, there's no comparison (a $600 white-box will thrash an iMac, and if you pay for a nice monitor it's better to keep it than sell it bundled with an obsolete machine).

I can really recommend having an i7/64Gb desktop with native Linux OS as your primary development environment. It is like 20x faster than a Macbook Pro/8Gb with Linux VM.

And you could keep your Macbook Air for looks [and ssh to that box] ;)

this is what I do now at work. It has totally changed the way I do development. Instead of having a "build farm" or separate box to run continual tests on it's all in the same machine. SSHFS makes a world of difference too.

> OSX is ... finicky ... with dev tools. Apple does the compilers, and the bolt-on distributions (brew, Macports, fink) seem to have trouble keeping things compatible. Linux distributions don't end up falling behing their own compilers every time the compiler gets updated.

Seem to? From first hand experience, while MacPorts shows its age and cruft, homebrew just rocks. I just recently upgraded a SL+XCode 4.2 machine to ML+XCode 4.5. Zero issues. The only problem is old or broken software that assumes C == GCC in some way (e.g ruby 1.8). I've had more — although infrequent — problems with ArchLinux updating to latest GCC.

I've heard brew is great, but I haven't tried it (as my system is currently working OK).

But the reality is, no matter how good brew is, apt-get on a stable Linux distro is just going to be better. Unless you want OpenGL ;)

Linux can be fun when you want media. I told my brother to try Dwarf Fortress. He then proceeded to screw around for half an hour, installing OpenGL drivers (to display a text-based game, WTF?) and an audio library (to run the solo guitar track). It took something like the page-breaking apt-get here: http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=113626.0)

Look at the new Lenovo Carbon X1 - from what I've heard it pretty much ticks all of those boxes.

Anything Lenovo usually does. I've got a T61 and an X220 tablet here which everything in Ubuntu 12.04 works fine.

The only problem I've had was connecting to an SSTP VPN but that was resolved easily with an ssh tunnel.

I'm thinking it depends on your graphics card. I have the nvs 8400m in me T61 and it's giving a heck of a lot of problems. For example, connecting an external screen means fudging with the xconf. Also screen brightness doesnt work.

Probably all the fault of the proprietary drivers, so it just goes to show that you'll have to pick your laptop wisely if you want Linux running on it.

Yeah I avoided the external graphics T61. Anything that isn't integrated is a PITA on a laptop. I have an Intel integrated one.

My wife's got a Lenovo laptop and upfortunately the trackpad is appalling. Not just worse than my MacBoook Pro, but worse than the bottom of the range Tesco/eMachines laptop that she had before it.

Which model. If it's a G-series, you're probably right.

Anything Lenovo based in Intel preferable with internal graphics.

I have heard that Intel Atoms with internal graphics should be avoided since the graphics on those is not actually Intel's doing, though my eeepc with an Atom/internal graphics works fine.. maybe I got lucky.

I wouldn't recommend getting a Lenovo with an Atom anyway though, if they even sell anything with Atoms (mostly just from a "If you are going to spend money, spend some money" standpoint.

I'd just buy a second hand Intel core based lenovo rather than a new atom one. The market is saturated with Lenovo kit so it's very cheap.

Another happy linux user on Intel Atom Asus eeepc 1215N. It has done well with Arch and Ubuntu.

This could be true, I was referring to iCore chips.

Yeah, those are all a dream and that situation is only going to be improving with all the Valve/Intel stuff going on.

Avoid low end consumer. My G575 basically sucks.

On the other hand, my G530 works just about flawlessly, although a separate wireless keyboard was minor trouble to get set up.

I love my G570. Great value for money. My expectations aren't higher than the price I paid for it.

Yes they are horrible machines. I don't think Lenovo actually manufacture those themselves.

X230 is reported to have freeze issues with ubuntu 12.04 though

If you like the hardware, try Linux on a Macbook. Ubuntu works perfect on the latest Macbook Air, even better than OSX in some ways.

It doesn't work so well on the retina MBP though, and it might take months to get the drivers to work with the weird things Apple did to the Thunderbolt firmware.

I don't use Thunderbolt so I never noticed. But everything other than that should work perfectly.

It won't even boot unless you add noapic to the kernel line in your boot loader. And that's just the beginning... http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=apple...

1). Depends on ACPI support

2). Depends on the hardware, but surprisingly yes. Even the free Nouveau drivers do pretty decent 3d support.

3). Yep, configure it to suspend on closing the lid.

4). Depends on the wm you want.

5). Usually yes.

6). Pretty good, in fact you can enable the two finger scroll pretty easily.

7). More configurable.

If you are considering a switch, I'd recommend installing Fedora or Ubuntu, they usually have pretty amazing defaults. However, if you are considering this using a Macbook/Mac, be prepared for a lot more effort.

Actually - no offense - I'm looking for specific info on the drivers on this system than a generic response. I've heard far too often 'depends on driver/acpi support' to go down that road again :)

Which specific system are you basing your answers on? Can you be more specific on (6) - how many points does the multitouch support?

For Thinkpads what you list under 2) will usually work without hiccups.

Generally, Intel is very good with its driver support, so try to pick a laptop with Intel WiFi & GPU. Depending on your needs you may want an nVidia or ATI GPU though.

Can't say anything on multitouch with the Touchpad, since I don't use it.

Keywords: usually, generally, depending, can't say.

Obviously. How would you ever be able to say such a thing with absolute certainty given the number of possible hardware/software combinations?

I can tell you that my specific installation of Debian works flawlessly on my specific Thinkpad T420s, but what does that help you?

That's what prior research is for: http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/

I have a cheap Acer 7741G. So I answer your questions for this generic hardware I bought from ebay.

1. Not good but not much worse than on windows.

2. It doesn't have builtin bluetooth but my $2 usb bluetooth dongle from ebay works. 3D with fglrx and the open source driver works. Wifi speed is not that great with 6 Megabyte/s but it's faster than 54 mbit wifi so I guess it works. The webcam used to work but not at the moment. I think I disabled it myself. I have to investigate that. I don't know what mike is but the microphone works of course.

3. Suspend doesn't work with amd's proprietary driver unless I boot with nopat. That's 100% amd's fault. With the open source driver it works out of the box as expected. Putting it to sleep and waking up is not instant but less than two seconds, so good enough for me.

4. xrandr --output LVDS --preferred --output DFP1 --preferred --left-of LVDS --primary --rotate normal Does what I expect it to do. Of course --rotate right etc. works too. Why shouldn't it? It was nvidia that refused to implement the freedesktop randr standard but recently they finally got it together and implemented it.

5. Yes.

6. I don't know. It's not great but ok. I have no problem with it.

7. See 6. You could just use linux on your macbook if you'd like the keyboard/touchpad...

You missed one, critical:

- does it handle GPU switching (Optimus&al) without piles of hacks?

Irrelevant. The XPS13 only has Intel graphics.

I think everyone knows the answer to that question, and it is: not yet. Future support has been announced but it's not there yet.

Theoretically it is.

Practically it segfaults or hangs X (I tried on a notebook with optimus and a computer with sperate intel onboard and nvidia cards).

Give it some time, even nvidia announced to probably support optimus with the prime/dma-buf stuff in their proprietary driver.

Why are people voting up this article? There is nothing interesting in it. I'm genuinely curious about what people are finding interesting here.

"I used to really like Linux, and I can prove it. But I'm not willing to compromise on getting stuff done, and I can prove it. But now I can use Linux without compromising, and I can prove it."

Except he actually gives the proof.

Although anecdotal, that information is useful if you care about the state of the Linux desktop for any of a variety of reasons.

Though the real reason it's getting upvoted, I think, is: he has fabulous style. The post reads like a narrative, and he doesn't digress. And he has really clever subtitles and a great title.

I, for one, find it refreshing to see a community of hackers (HN) going back to its roots and upvoting the struggles of a major anti-hacker corporation (Apple).

Because, sorry, but Apple's spirit is in direct opposition with the natural grain of hackers, even in a broad and "entrepreneurial" sense of the word.

I'm pretty blown away by your opinion that Apple's spirit is in opposition to hackers. It's the only beautiful unix environment that's easy to use; I can worry about things when I want to, but when I don't want to, I don't have to, and it continues to work.

For some reason, people have begun confusing "hacker" with "tinkerer".

> "easy to use"

I don't think it is in the hacker spirit to trade any bit of said "ease of use" against their control over the hardware or software tools they own.

Heck, even Windows is much more in line with hacker spirit than Apple. In PC boxes you could plug your own cards, develop your own driver, etc. Just look at an Apple product, from last month or from 10 years ago: you cannot open it, you are not supposed to install another OS, you can't even change the battery on their phones. And I even didn't start scratching the surface.

Why do you think Apple is anti-hacker?

Walled gardens?

Also: he's been using it for all of two days. That's still the honeymoon period; anything seems amazing for a couple of days/weeks before you start to come back to reality. If he was writing this post a year later I would give him more credit than if he was writing this post two days later.

I loved hosting my website through GoDaddy for two days as well.

It's the story of my life - I got Apple initially because I wanted a 'Unix' laptop without the hassle of dealing with Linux drivers for laptops. The Powerbook G4 was awesome for this.

Now if Linux drivers for laptops have finally settled down after 11 years, I can see myself move back to Linux. That's an interesting alternative if the hardware is as good as Apple hardware and less expensive.

I agree. I also got a Mac back in 1998 because linux on a Notebook was a pain.

But since Apple started to take their developers as hostages (app store) and consumers too (closed systems like iPhone, iPad), I honestly think about linux on a Thinkpad again - or a Vaio. If we could only get Photoshop for linux...

That's why I got Apple. But getting siloed apps wasn't part of my game plan so I might switch back for my next machine. Especially if I can get a laptop to work after a mere hours of fiddling rather than days :)

My guess would be "In your face, Apple!" being one of the reasons. The need for this attitude is beyond my comprehension.

Based on the number of apple-negative articles recently, i think apple have subconciously hurt a number of people here rather than it being an in your face attitude.

You have a point here. I'd say it is still more the perception of being hurt than being hurt for real, but as they say "The 90% of everything is attitude".

It plays into the "apple-is-dying" schadenfreude that many people seem to like a lot. Apart from that, there's nothing much there beyond a laundry list of computers he's used.

agreed. the guy barely even mentions why he decided to move to linux, just that he did. or do people just like the sentiment?

Freedom of choice, being able to fix things yourself, ability to work on the same OS your server uses, being able to run old programs or on older/cheaper hardware -- all these and other things are not sentiments.

Why are you guys complaining about a guy choosing Linux over Mac? Is it because of the sentiment? :-)

They're complaining because the article is light on the why he made the choice, just that he made the choice.

I could imagine some interesting discussion about the relative merits between tcsh and bash given the stated history, but this has little if anything to do with crazy abstractions like graphical interfaces.

I have a Lenovo x220 running Ubuntu 12.04. Aesthetics of the machine aside, it is the best setup I've ever used for a development machine. Ubuntu is by far (we're talking leaps and bounds) better than OSX for dev work and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the keyboard on the x220.

I don't have a XPS 13, but I can see any reasonable machine loaded with Ubuntu being a developers dream. Honestly, any machine loaded with Ubuntu these days would be more than reasonable for a most anyone.

PS. Did I say I love the keyboard on the x220? Because I do.

Fingerprinter - same questions for you on the Lenovo x220 you use

1. What's the battery life like?

2. Are all devices supported with drivers - Bluetooth, 3D, graphics, sleep/wake, 802.11n, webcam, internal mike, ...

3. Does it do instant sleep/wake like a Mac - 100s of times without crashing/rebooting?

4. How does it handle external displays? Plug and play like a Mac? Does it handle display rotate? The internal display is only 1366x768 ?

5. Does it detect a headphone and switch from speaker to headphone automatically (speaker driver?)

6. How's the trackpad compare to a Macbook Pro?

7. How's the keyboard compare to a Macbook Pro?

Asking because I moved from Linux->OSX a long time ago, and I wouldn't mind switching back if the hardware is right and more importantly the Linux drivers work well.

> 1. What's the battery life like?

Very typical to get 6-7hrs. If I turn down brightness and don't use power hungry apps (Chrome, Firefox), 7-9hrs.

> 2. Are all devices supported with drivers - Bluetooth, 3D, graphics, sleep/wake, 802.11n, webcam, internal mike, ...

Everything works out of the box. I haven't had to tweak a thing. I don't game at all, though, so I can't speak to the 3D in games.

> 3. Does it do instant sleep/wake like a Mac - 100s of times without crashing/rebooting?

Yes. I had some crashes in wake just before 12.04 went final, but nothing since. Hibernate works as well, you just need to turn it on.

> 4. How does it handle external displays? Plug and play like a Mac? Does it handle display rotate? The internal display is only 1366x768 ?

Seamlessly. I haven't rotated the display, but I've heard it works.

> 5. Does it detect a headphone and switch from speaker to headphone automatically (speaker driver?)


> 6. How's the trackpad compare to a Macbook Pro?

I prefer the nub, however, the macbook pro trackpad is still the best I've seen. I don't think this one compares, but it isn't bad, just not great like the MBP.

> 7. How's the keyboard compare to a Macbook Pro?

100 thousand million times better. I've never liked the MBP/MBA keyboards since they went chicklet style. I don't hate them, I just don't like them. The Lenovo/IBM keyboards are, quite simply, the best out there. I even bought an external Lenovo keyboard to use at my desktop I like it that much.

> Asking because I moved from Linux->OSX a long time ago, and I wouldn't mind switching back if the hardware is right and more importantly the Linux drivers work well.

The reason I bought a Lenovo x220, tbh, is because I had a friend tell me that they were at UDS in Oakland and the Ubuntu kernel team all had them. When you think about that, makes me feel pretty confident things will work correctly.

Another vote for the x220. I Have the tablet version, and some of the tablet stuff isn't perfect yet. But I mainly use it as a laptop, for which it is solid since 12.04.

I've got Xubuntu on an X220.

1. About 5 hrs of web browsing (though I've gotten more once I was on a cabin w/o electricity and turned off wifi etc, there's a nice hardware switch to turn off all radio on the X220). About a year ago, there was this famous Linux Power Regression, where you had to append some stuff to your grub command line and worry about crashes. I tried it, and never got the crashes, and then they fixed the regression and I now run it unmodified with the same power usage. EDIT: there's several battery sizes, I think mine is the "medium" one, it sticks out a bit in the back …

2. Bluetooth: Tried it once, seemed OK. 3D: I don't really play games, but it seems to work w/o problems. Graphics just … work? Sleep/wake works just fine. No trouble with wifi. Webcam seems to work, but I've never tried video chat. I actually haven't tried the internal mike, maybe I should some day …

3. Yes.

4. Never tried. What's display rotate? It is unfortunately only 1366x768, yes. I tend to have one window on the left half and one on the right (got some keyboard shortcuts that do this for me even though I just run xfce).

5. Yes (isn't this handled by the hardware?)

6. Hehe … the trackpad is a bit weird: the buttons are on top. Takes a while getting used to. But it has the famous red Lenovo ball in the middle of the keyboard, which is nice for typists. And it has three mouse buttons! Scrolling works fine btw.

7. Infinitely better. You will never want to go back. If you really need OS X, buy a Lenovo and install it in Virtualbox, the keyboard is that good.

Annoyances: it doesn't look as good, and on lending the computer to other people, they often take a while before understanding the trackpad buttons.

(4) Display rotate might be sw thing - change your external display from portrait to landscape by rotating it 90° physically and in software - helps to see a whole page doc for instance.

(6) The 'clit' mouse rocks :)

This is definitely tempting! Only 'downside' would be lack of MS Office, but I can go back to OpenOffice for that.

btw, if you do get an X220, go with the IPS screen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8MO-XaCZ_8

X220 is not available anymore, X230 is. And if I configure it close to the Macbook [ssd, bluetooth, display, web cam, etc.] - it's almost as expensive - which leaves me with a tough decision :(

We use the x220 & x230 in our office and while I don't use one as my main machine, I can answer some of them in case that commenter doesn't come back.

2. Graphics, Sleep wake, wireless, all yes. Not sure about the others listed but there is nothing that would cause a problem as a work machine.

3. Yes

4. Yes but not sure about display rotation. Displays attached to the laptop dock work as well (everyone at work uses one) including sleeping the laptop removing the laptop, and all the windows taking care of themselves.

6. Fine but its smaller than I'd like (spoiled by my air).

7. Solid but I'm not much of a keyboard snob. I can type just fine on my Sager's Mac knockoff chiclet keys or a cheap membrane keyboard.

In terms of battery life, we seem to always have our machines plugged in but no one has ever complained about poor battery life.

for my x220:

1. Fine. 9-10 hours with a 2 year old 9 cell battery. I run powertop and don't use unity though which is a power hog.

2. Everything works flawlessly

3. Yes but you have to enable it as Ubuntu turn hibernate off by default.

4. External display works fine. Never tried rotation.

5. Yes.

6. I don't use it. I use the nipple mouse. all trackpads make my fingers hurt as I have skin sensitivity issues.

7. Several orders or magnitude better than a MacBook. Keyboard is amazing.

Re: 1., I tried powertop once but was afraid to touch anything :-) what did you do to get 9-10 hrs? I don't think I've gotten far above 7. What kind of usage? (I expect you're not running make -j4 all the time =P)

Also, for those two years, have you tried keeping it between 40-70% charged as they recommend, or have you been more "reckless" about letting it discharge and fully charge?

I turned all the powertop options on. Granted I did do this before I started using it for anything serious as a test case and left it a day. Worked fine.

To get 9-10 hours I used a 9-cell pack and keep the brightness fairly low. The screen kills it more than anything. I also have a 128Gb Crucial M4 SSD in it which is a little less power hungry than most devices. It does only have 4Gb of RAM though.

As for usage, mainly Eclipse with JDT and a Windows 7 VM spun up for Visual Studio 2010. CPU is throttled most of the time and memory usage is about 60-70%. Disk IO is fairly low once everything is up. Unity is running in 2D mode or disabled entirely in favour of Awesome WM. I don't do heavy compile runs as a rule as our dependencies are quite small and coupling free.

Regarding charging, it spends most of its time docked in an Ultrabase but when away or sitting in the garden I rarely have to bother charging it. I've got to the point I don't actually bother dragging a mains charger with me. The 9 cell pack was a year old when purchased with the laptop off ebay - neither were new. The battery had 108 charge cycles when purchased. I have no idea what it has now as I don't know how to extract that info from Linux.

Battery life is better if you install Windows on it as a rule though. I actually much prefer windows on it to Linux but I'm forcing myself to use Linux as my primary OS for a few months to see how I get on.

Windows 8 will probably give best battery life as it is tickless as well but I can't stand metro.

Ah, I guess I shouldn't keep brightness at full then :-) Unfortunately I can't get away from big compiles … Thanks for the detailed answer.

This is your friend for big compiles:


Weighs a bit but you'll get another 5 hours :)

How is Ubuntu by far better than OS X for dev work?

There are lots of little answers to that question. For instance brew is a third party addition to OS X whereas its equivalents in Linux-land are integrated into the main OS. Brew does a surprisingly good job, but it still has to work around the fact that the main OS wasn't installed with brew.

But there are two big meta-reasons:

The first one is that since much of Open Source in general is done to "scratch ones on itch", Linux can be seen to be "by developers, for developers". This is generally seen as a negative for non-developers, but for developers it is a positive.

The second one is that if you're a web developer, your deployment platform is going to be very similar to your development platform. This means that you only have to deal with half the number of platform specific bugs and configuration. More importantly, you discover these platform specific bugs and configuration issues sooner.

> Your deployment platform is going to be very similar to your development platform.

I'm glad you mentioned this because Sputnik is very awesome for this. They included our new service orchestration tool [Juju](https://juju.ubuntu.com/) (along with a bunch of other useful stuff) on it to do just exactly what you're talking about.

This lets you deploy your application locally on the laptop using LXC containers, assuming you're set up with an environment called "local" and your AWS account called "amazon", hack on your local app, let's say it's node.js, when you're ready to test:

    juju deploy -elocal node-app whatever-yourapp
    juju deploy -elocal mongodb
    juju add-relation -elocal mongodb myapp
Then just `juju status` gives you a listing of your environment. What happens on Sputnik is you've deployed three [LXC containers](http://lxc.sourceforge.net/), one for orchestration, one for your node app, and one for mongodb with Ubuntu server just like they would deploy on EC2. Then you iterate a few times, commit, deploy, test. After you've done this for a while, now you're ready to deploy in EC2:

    juju deploy -eamazon node-app whatever-yourapp
    juju deploy -eamazon mongodb
    juju add-relation -eamazon mongodb myapp
    juju expose -eamazon whatever-yourapp
Then `juju status`, snag the public URL for your AWS instance, paste it into your browser, and you're deployed.

The nice thing there is you're doing all your app development locally on sputnik in containers that are pure Ubuntu Server, just like you'd get on AWS or HP Cloud, except now you're not running up a bill testing every little thing, you can replicate those kinds of deployments locally, which is nice when you're on a plane.

Sorry to sound like a commercial but Dell lent me a Sputnik to show this off at OSCON and it's really really nice to be able to just fire up deployments locally on a fast SSD and then push willy-nilly to the cloud, all right out of the box.

Totally agree with this post, I make CRUD-dy web apps and my dev box is a mirror of my production stack (nginx, apache, postgres, python/django + associated tools) with the desktop stuff like browsers, chat clients bolted on.

Having a desktop like this means I get to practice all the intricacies of sys-admining (nginx configs etc) just by turning my machine on and running my apps on localhost and it shows when I compare my sysadmin skills to all my peers using MBPs

Don't miss anything from Macbooks except the battery life but I'm on a bootstrapped budget so my beater will have to do until we get enough customers to pay for a new computer.

The big tools like Nginx probably compile on Mac. The edge you'll get from using Linux every day is troubleshooting tiny problems and picking up details about Linux's guts.

Questions like "Is my webserver going to perform well under load?" would be answered if you knew what epoll() was and if your server had it enabled, but you wouldn't really learn that until you messed with it on Linux. Plus it's just fun to tinker with your app's performance and Linux lets you do that in spades.

For example, developing with Qt in Ubuntu: apt-get a few packages and you can get started. In OS X: install XCode (> 1GB), set up macports, install Qt, wait several hours for it to finish compiling... (I know there are other ways to get Qt installed, but another tool I was using expected the macports layout)

Also, diversity: on Ubuntu, you either install .deb packages or compile stuff yourself. OS X has three competing packaging systems (macports, homebrew, fink), binary installers and manual compilation. Files can end up in very different places according to how they're installed.

I'm on a thinkpad t530 dual booting Mint 13 (which is Unbuntu based for those that don't know) and Windows 7. screen is 1920 by 1080.

The disadvantage Linux has to Windows or Mac OS X at this point is mostly small ease of use issues and polish. Sometimes to have to do stuff to make stuff work, though most stuff worked out of the box.

The stuff that is easier to do in Linux is really easy to do. The stuff that is hard to do is sometimes really hard, but I've yet to find anything to be impossible. Where as with Windows and Mac OS X, some simple things are easy, some simple things things are difficult, and some things, especially anything unusual, seem impossible to do.

I think where Ubuntu occasionally falls is in a lack of unity a focus on functionality before ease of use, and a tendency towards a tabla rasa. I'd probably be on xmonad (a tiling window manager) now if it came with a nice setup to start and then let you select from built in user set ups, tweak existing setups, OR make your own. But that's also part of the strength of the linux ecosystem, people build things to be interoperable and flexible and hackable. And for a Developer, the latter is preferable anyway.

tl:dr Linux isn't the same as windows or OS X. But it is perfectly viable as a desktop OS. And where it rocks, it rocks hard.

I go to a coffee shop often and among other things, I notice people's machines and how they interact with them. Two observations:

1. People with non-Mac machines always plug their laptop into AC power before starting work (unless it's a netbook). My previous Windows laptop had battery life of about 2 hours while my Macbook Pro has about 5 hours.

2. People with non-Mac machines have to be very careful where they sit, or the glare from the outside makes it impossible for them to see their screens. This was my experience with a Windows laptop as well.

With every new release the Mac operating system becomes, in my opinion, more complex and harder to use. Mac hardware on the other hand, just gets better.

This is pretty crappy generalization.

Much more accurate would be to say "people with shitty laptops" or even better "people with laptops that have short battery life or glare screens".

I have a non-Mac and I don't have to do either of the two things you listed. That's because I put great care into selecting my machine and because I don't like paying out the ass for Apple's overpriced laptops, although I know a lot of people who do. (I do have an iPhone 4S, but not because of the hardware)

1. My notebook has short battery life because it wasn much less important than price for me when I chose it. 2. My notebook has a glossy screen because I didn't find one with a matte screen < 500€ with the same performance.

With every update my Archlinux system is approximately around the same difficult to use. I wouldn't care if I used it on Apple hardware or not but it's just more expensive.

#2 also applies to most Macs, which is why I paid extra for a matte display on my Macbook Pro.

Hmmm...I live in Florida so our outside glare is pretty bad. I have a one year old MacBook Pro and have never had a problem (even outside in the shade in the summertime).

I'm sure there are very good Windows laptops. As the previous poster wrote, if you do your research, you can find one. I don't want to do research.* I want to walk into a store and say "I'll take that one," and have it work.

* Useful, accurate online information on laptop battery life and other performance statistics is pretty much nonexistent. The only trustworthy information source is to ask strangers "How do you like your laptop?"

Your "a good Windows laptop is hard to find" statement is a non-sequitur. I wrote that glare is an issue on Macbooks. It is. It doesn't matter if Windows laptops are very good or very bad or don't even exist.

I believe that you're able to deal with the display, but I'm not making anything up. Check out this photo from an AnandTech review[1] of the Retina MBP : http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/mac/retinaMacBookPro/DSC... From left to right, it's MBP, MBP retina, and MBP with matte display.


tl;dr: I've been using Mac for ten years. "Two days ago I got my Dell XPS 13 as part of a Dell beta progam called project Sputnik." After two days of use, I haven't run into any serious roadblocks, so I'm not using Mac anymore.

a) Is writing this blog post a requirement of the Sputnik program?

b) Regardless of the answer to a), how do I get into the Sputnik program?

a. They would like us to be vocal, but there is no strict requirement.

b. Its as simple as installing this image you can find here on an XPS 13 : http://hwe.ubuntu.com/uds-q/dellxps/

"I spend 70% of my time in a terminal, and 30% of my time in a web browser"

One didn't have to wait till 2012 to be able to do that.

There was a period there in the early-mid 2000s in which an unfortunate number of websites, and rather more corporate / enterprise web-based tools (intranet or external portal) were very highly MSIE dependent. There were workarounds, and some of us stayed largely independent (absent a few VMs or Windows Terminal Server sessions), but it was fairly ugly.

The embrace of Web standards by major players (thank you Google, and I don't say this often, Facebook) and availability of cross-platform standards-compliant browsers (thank you Mozilla and Google), and even the resurgence of Macs (thank you, Apple) have helped.

That and the fact that proprietary application format usage for standard desktop functions (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation) has dwindled dramatically. I won't say it's gone by any stretch, but even Microsoft touts open standards, and far more often you'll encounter Wikis, Google Docs, or git.

He was also a Linux user in 1998.

The main difference seems to be that he now uses Google Docs instead of Microsoft Office, and thus spends more time in the browser.

Ironically the biggest reason for me to stick with OS X is Microsoft Office.

If you are working with other organizations, they will use Office. Excel seems to run the world and is used for accounting, specifications, I've even seen customers give us mockups they have made of the website they want in Excel.

The various tools on Linux or the web for reading Word docs have come a long way and I'd say are mostly good enough, but when it comes to complicated Excel spreadsheets, you have to use the real thing.

If it wasn't for that I'd see Linux as a viable alternative. I'd miss Photoshop, but could get by with the Gimp. But for the time being MS keeps me solidly in the OS X camp.

If I need Windows, I use a virtual machine. Works very well, and I usually don't need to stay in Windows-land for a long time. YMMV, of course.

The problem with this for me was that I used Windows so seldom that when I started it, it would spend a long time installing all the updates accumulated since the last time.

I just decline to install them, myself.

You might want to try PlayOnLinux. I used it to install Photoshop on Ubuntu recently and the process was painless. Office is also supported.


So, if he spends 70% of his time in a terminal, and 30% in a browser, what is the advantage of the Linux laptop? It probably has worse battery life, is heavier and clunkier, has a shitty trackpad...

And those patches will bite you in the ass on the first OS update (or when they are abandoned 6 months on). Other than it being cheaper, am I missing something?

Probably cost.

His past 10 years were on Mac, which i'm sure worked nicely for him, but (i'll bet) was on average 1.5x to 2x more expensive. He's realizing that the old Penguin can finally give him what he needs for less.

Well this is a bit of a weird post. It feels almost that light on content and discussion that it comes across a bit like a promo for Dell. I'll assume it isn't, as everyone should get the benefit of the doubt. I'm weird. I develop Linux applications, and I primarily do it on a Mac as I'm happier on OS X than most Linux distros.

This sums it up pretty nicely: "Ubuntu sucks but not on my Dell XPS 13, now I can -finally- ditch my Mac"

This posted by Dell or something?! What's with the over-excitement?

The Dell program he is in encourages testers to be vocal about their experience.

You had me until here "with some kernel patches, and some patched packages for sleep and hibernation. After an hour of struggling with making a bootable USB drive from my Mac for my Dell"

I know how this goes. There is untold functionality that is broken. Likely you might not know what until later. Updating your OS will likely be a bitch. I like so many other people, don't have time to patch my computer and patch my servers, and patch my phone. I just need shit that works. I am willing to pay for that.

Can someone explain to me what exactly is wrong with the OS X terminal?

For me it was a combination of things. For one, I use emacs and a Norwegian keyboard layout, and Apple handily ensures that '\' is only possible to type using both shift, option and 7. Now, since I'm an emacs user, typing meta+\ should mean command+option+shift+7. As if that wasn't bad enough, I never found a way to configure neither Terminal.app nor iTerm2 or whatever it's called such that I could get both option functionality and a meta key (perhaps this has been fixed later? been a couple years), so when ssh-ing I had to use esc, then option+shift+7.

Combine this with how difficult it is to get a real dev environment set up, on debian-based systems you just apt-get install build-essential etc., similarly on Arch Linux, whereas on a Mac it was installing that whole XCode from a CD which included a bunch of stuff I never needed, then waiting for hours for macports to compile gcc etc. (I never understood why macports didn't go with precompiled binaries, mac's are so uniform compared to linuxes it should be _easier_, shouldn't it?). And then waiting for hours every time gcc etc. got an update, thinking "I thought I did this already, what is this, gentoo?" And the annoyance of having to install GNU sed and ensure it was before OS X sed in PATH because OS X sed was horribly slow on certain regexes (I think they had a \1 in them, can't remember), it felt so … inelegant.

And most of the projects I use and like working on just seemed to have better Linux support; of course I could rant about how OS X is a POSIX too and they should support it just as well as Linux, but, well, I chose convenience. For the sake of my fingers and my patience.

use an english keyboard, problem solved :o). I know, there are special keys ( I am german and we have special keys too). But that is solved with a handy tool named ukelele, that allows to change keyboard profiles. Very useful. Have you ever seen such a thing on linux?

It's been a while since I used it, but off the top of my head:

- colors never worked right, you can certainly enable them but themes like solarized are impossible to get working.

- it took forever to open. as in, a terminal on my machine is just a keypress away and it took the terminal on my osx machine a couple seconds to open a window, and even longer to show me a prompt

- somehow they borked mouse input, so clicking the line you want to edit from within a vim session, for example, is a no-go.

- this is a lion problem but terminal interacts with it especially badly, there's no easy way to open a second terminal window. I usually have tons of the things open and it's impossible to manage them properly.

Re: Delay on terminal - Yes, well known (and annoying) problem in OS X. It isn't actually a terminal issue but a log processing PITA. See: http://osxdaily.com/2010/05/06/speed-up-a-slow-terminal-by-c...

But, basically, sudo rm -rf /private/var/log/asl/*.asl fixes it.

I live in Terminal.app - usually have 15-20 tabs open all day long - so little tweaks like that (saving 2 seconds each time you open a new window) makes a big difference.

Hmm I faced some of the same problems:

- Colors work perfect with the tomorrow theme, kinda similar to solarized (https://github.com/chriskempson/tomorrow-theme/tree/master/O...)

- I think I changed my shell to /bin/bash in the preferences, which fixed it

- Haven't encountered this

- Haven't encountered this

It's my understanding that bash has been the default shell in OSX for quite some time now, though I can't imagine tcsh started noticeably slower than it back when it was the default. On my incredibly underpowered machine the difference between the two is around 0.05s.

Might i suggest trying iterm 2


Problem #2 can be addressed with this.

touch ~/.hushlogin

Yeah - I've tried that in the past:

  mbf041:~ shephard$ ls -lart ~/.hushlogin
  -rw-r--r--  1 shephard  staff  0 Apr 23 21:36  /Users/shephard/.hushlogin
  mbf041:~ shephard$ 
But it still didn't help. I ended up having to sudo rm -rf /private/var/log/asl/*.asl to fix it on my system.

Never seen any of these.

One thing I don't like is you can't completely clear the scrollback, only the visible portion. I often use 'tput reset' when doing new build/test runs and it is nice when the scrollback only contains this time's output.

Cmd + k clears scrollback how you want. If you want to script it, you can use osascript: http://apple.stackexchange.com/questions/31872/how-do-i-rese... Yeah, it's hacky.

It's a usability trade-off. Defaulting to allow scripts to erase all your scrollback would be pretty annoying in a lot of cases. Ideally there would be a checkbox for this behavior, but Apple doesn't like config options.

One thing I wish terminals had was a "scroll up to the last place I typed something." I think that would solve your problem as well.

They are my scripts and I don't need "protection" from myself. Users don't use the command line so it isn't particular relevant to them - this is relevant to developers.

I fully agree it shouldn't be an option, and that generally being highly configurable is a way of abdicating responsibility for making the right choices in the first place, and ensures that not everything is tested (there will be too many combinations of settings).

In this particular case I just think Apple chose the wrong behaviour.

The few times I had to use it, I could not figure out how to turn off the chrome, though I suppose that is more of a general OSX complaint.

Otherwise, color support at least used to be dreadful. I believe this has been fixed recently though?

I think it still doesn't have proper mouse support though. Seems like a silly thing to have/want, but I find it very nice for resizing/focusing tmux panes/Vim windows, and scrolling in both.

Terminal.app often feels sort of clunky to me. I use iTerm2 instead--being able to split panes is really nice (no, I don't want to use tmux).

The default userland is kind of annoying, in that a lot of utilities are BSD ones and aren't compatible with my imported-from-Linux scripts, aliases, etc., but that's just an install of coreutils away.

By the way, if you want to get the benefits of tmux with respect to attach, detach, but want to manage splits and tabs using the Terminal, iTerm2 has you covered:


It does, but I'm still not a fan. I find its attach/detach on remote servers a little wonky.

Yeah, I get annoyed too when people use Linuxisms in scripts because they don't ever run right on FreeBSD.

"ls --color=auto" is not what I consider a "Linuxism", it's what I consider "basic functionality" (and yes I'm quite aware of BSD ls's -G, but it doesn't honor my other custom settings). I have no interest in rewriting all of my rc files and scripts to support BSD tools because doing so is a significant investment of time better spent elsewhere, moreso because of the simpler, easier option of installing GNU coreutils and findutils.

I'm glad you could migrate your snark from Reddit, but it doesn't do a lot for a real conversation.

So what's wrong with it is that it feels clunky to you...

Yet another vote for the Thinkpad X220. Made the move from a Macbook myself about six months ago. Tried out a long list of distributions and just about everything works out of the box if you're using a desktop environment like KDE. I'm now running Arch and Openbox which takes a bit of configuring but it makes for the quickest laptop I've ever owned. I won't deny OSX is a good, polished operating system but I can honestly say there's nothing I miss about it. I love the simplicity and the control Linux gives you over the system and I think Apple bury a lot of the nitty gritty but that's quite understandable really. Sure, there's been plenty of roadblocks along the way but I've enjoyed solving problems when they come up. More than anything, running Linux has provided a valuable learning experience.

70% terminal, 30% browser. Sounds like he needs a Chromebook.

Yah, except he'd be 70% SOL.

Na, Chromebooks have a full terminal built in.

Interesting; I did not know that was possible. But can you install AMP and do web dev on it? That's what the author was using it for.

For the life of me, I can't figure out what's going on here. There's certainly nothing wrong with moving to another platform, but the emotion flying around here is pretty strange.

It feels like people just really, really want to find a good reason to hate Apple.

"I got a special version of Ubuntu, with some kernel patches, and some patched packages for sleep and hibernation."

What version of Ubuntu is this hardware specific patched one?

Are Canonical or Dell guranteeing updates? If so, for how long...

Best of luck with it.

All the custom stuff is in a PPA[1]. Some of the patches are already merged into Quantal.

[1] https://launchpad.net/~canonical-hwe-team/+archive/sputnik-k...

Good work, especially the practice of merging the patches into main kernel.

my question might sound stupid but how can you guys develop on such a small screen? I use eclipse and running that on anything less than 14inch seems like a struggle to work with. especially at 720p resolutions.

> Two days ago I got my Dell XPS 13 as part of a Dell beta progam called project Sputnik.

This makes it unclear if I can actually buy this thing (in Europe).

>I got a special version of Ubuntu, with some kernel patches, and some patched packages for sleep and hibernation.

Why isn't this in the official Ubuntu distro? I don't trust binaries from Dell.

Looks like they're bringing forward some fixes that the regular kernel is more cautious with. That makes sense, because they only have to worry about one set of hardware. There are PPAs with the patched packages:

https://launchpad.net/~canonical-hwe-team/+archive/sputnik-k... https://launchpad.net/~canonical-hwe-team/+archive/sputnik-p...

Hm, I guess it's better seing that it's Canonical doing the patches although I would prefer for these things to be part of the upstream kernel or at least of the official Ubuntu ISO.

Right now the http://hwe.ubuntu.com/uds-q/dellxps/ link warns you "this image is not considered an official Ubuntu release"; "this image is for demo purposes only". Not very reassuring.

Still, it does put the Dell XPS on my watch list.

From a comment further up:


I've been running mint on my x220 for about a year with absolutely no issues. Prior to that I was running ubuntu on an x61 for 3 years, also with no issues. I use an external monitor every day and unplug it every night and don't have to change a thing. It 'just works'.

I'm glad to hear sleep and hibernate are improving on Linux laptops and I really hope more manufacturers will follow suit with their own initiatives like this.

However, will any portable laptop get 7 hours of battery life on Linux with wifi on like the 13" Macbook Airs do?

I'm getting ~8 hours with wifi with Ubuntu 12.04 on an Asus Zenbook UX31E. Everything works out the box with no tweaking, see here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/AsusZenbook

If I had to buy now though, i'd get the UX31A (Full HD IPS in 13"), but looks like some things there don't work yet: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/AsusZenbookPrime

I get about 6-7h if I don't do much more than use a browser, on a Thinkpad E325 (AMD).

Playing a game it's about 2-3h, but it doesn't seem to ever overheat.

Portable, yes, I do, although it's now almost two years old and the age shows when compiling. But on the other hand, I whip out my core i7, compile something and the battery is drained after an hour and a half.

Disclaimer: the two year old machine is one our company used to make, and my version of development is on the Linux kernel or various packages like the MATE desktop.

Depends on the laptop :) But it's possible with low powered laptops.

The Dell XPS 13 certainly looks nice. And Linux, woohoo! But after using 13" for the last year, 16" for 2 years and 15" for another 3 years, i think 13" is too small for me.

Does someone know if there will be such a slick Laptop with 15 or 16"? Preferably FullHD display?

Is my impression right: Apple stops to be cool!

Now that Apple becomes vastly popular with everybody, hackers, early adopters and other trendsetters start bashing Apple and look for different stuff. The parent post is only one in a growing number of others.

I switched from linux to mac recently because my Ubuntu 12.04 laptop would randomly freeze after waking from sleep. I tried like 3 different solutions that I had googled but none of them worked.

What's a 'Linux Laptop'?

Wasn't Linus Torvald using a Macbook Air ... with Linux?

Indeed. So do I; 12.04 runs flawlessly on it out of the box.

Photoshop. For a web developer, it's pretty much pointless to even talk about using Linux until this is taken care of.

Even for someone who only has to prepare presentations from time to time and cares about the quality of the graphics, Photoshop is more or less not replaceable.

I tried gimp for a while but it did not nearly qualify. Do you have any idea, if there is linux-software that comes somewhat close to photoshop?

Dell has done this before and the service went away. I have zero confidence that won't happen again. Sorry Dell.

Sophos tell me that this site is blocked because of Troj/Unif-B. Did it happen to anyone else ?

had the Troj/Unif-B warning too! seems to be an other warning then the false positive one!

Just as a reminder: 'Linux Is A Lemon On The Retina MacBook Pro'


For now. Linux DEs are very close to full support for variable DPI, much better than Windows.

It'll change as high DPI devices become more popular.

Variable DPI is only one factor, there are apparently many other problems with Linux on current MacBooks (and Apple is probably more to blame than Linux). For now, running Linux in a virtual machine seems to be the most convenient way on current MacBooks (MacBook Pro Retina, new MacBook Air).

i got warned the site is affected by Troj/Unif-B?

Three major grammar mistakes. And nothing interesting.

I, for the heck of it, tried elementary OS in a VM on my Macbook Air. I can't stop using it. Except there's no smooth scrolling (there might be if it weren't in a VM).

I'm tempted to grab a cheap XPS 13 and try it out for a bit.

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