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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?)

Yes.

> 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:

http://shop.lenovo.com/us/itemdetails/0A36280/460/2D575BF5CD...

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.




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