Dell readies Ubuntu Linux laptop for developers

Dell readies Ubuntu Linux laptop for developers

Summary: Dell is working on an Ubuntu Linux-powered laptop that will be just for developers.


Dell is working on an Ubuntu laptop just for developers.

Dell is working on an Ubuntu laptop just for developers.

Dell has been on good-terms with Linux vendors for ages. The Austin, Texas-based company was the first major original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to ship an Ubuntu Linux PC. Long before that, Dell was shipping Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) on its server lines. Now, Dell is renewing its Linux ties with a new Ubuntu Linux-based developer laptop.

Barton George, director of marketing for Dell's Web vertical, announced that Dell is working on creating an open-source laptop targeted directly at developers. It is based on the brand new Ubuntu 12.04 and Dell’s XPS13 Ultrabook.

A first look at Ubuntu 12.04 (Gallery)

George explained that Dell is doing this “to better understand and serve the needs of developers in Web companies. We want to finds ways to make the developer experience as powerful and simple as possible.  And what better way to do that than beginning with a laptop that is both highly mobile and extremely stylish, running the 12.04 LTS release of Ubuntu Linux.”

Specifically, Dell started this effort, codenamed Project Sputnik, to focus on companies who use the Internet as their platform. Analysts, customers, and developers kept suggesting Ubuntu Linux as their operating system of choice, so since to Dell's knowledge, “no other OEM has yet made a system specifically targeted at devs and figured it was time to see what that might mean.  When the XPS13 launched we realized that we found the perfect platform to start with and when Dell’s incubation program was announced we knew I had the vehicle to get the effort kick started.”

George added “that Ubuntu was a natural choice not only because of its popularity in the Web world but Dell has quite a bit of experience with it. In fact Dell has enabled and pre-installed out-of-the-factory Ubuntu on more computer models than any other OEM.”

System76 and ZaReason would disagree with that. Dell's support for Ubuntu Linux desktops has waxed and waned over the years. At the moment, I am unable to find any shipping Dell laptops or PCs with Ubuntu pre-installed in the U.S. market.

That said, Dell is working hard on this project. An Ubuntu ISO image of this developer release is already available for download. for users who are comfortable with bleeding edge technology.

It's not perfect. Dell had some hardware drivers problems. Most of those have been licked now though. The remaining one, dealing with multi-touch on the touchpad, is proving tougher to knock out. Dell is working with the vendor though for a permanent fix and with Canonical, Ubuntu's parent company, for a temporary patch to deal with the problem.

But, George, continued, “Where Sputnik starts to get interesting is when we talk about profiles.  No two developers are alike so instead of stuffing the system with every possible tool or app a developer could possibly want, we are trying a different approach. As mentioned above, the actual “stuff” on the install image is pretty basic, instead we are working with a few developers to put together a tool that can go out to a github repository and pull down various developer profiles. The first profiles we are targeting are Android, Ruby and JavaScript.”

One goal of the project though is to provide a “meta-system to manage your developer configuration.” With it, programmers could set up their tools just the way they wanted, store them in a repository, and then configure any system with their customized development environment. If they can pull this off, I can see this feature being very popular.

Want to join in on the this project? You can. Dell has set up a wiki for developers to get their say in what should be in Sputnik.

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Topics: Linux, Apps, Dell, Laptops, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software, Software Development

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  • Hopefully this sells better than every single other Linux PC ever offered

    Linux PCs have the same story as the traditional Windows tablet: OEMs make them, sell very few of them because demand is just too low, and then take them off the market to minimize their losses.

    "Linux PCs: The Windows Tablet of the PC World"

    Actually, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Windows Tablets have sold better than Linux powered PCs, that's how low the demand for Linux powered PCs is.
    • Or...

      Since there is no price difference anyway and it is trivial to install Linux on a computer, why not just take the free Windows license? That's what I do.
      Michael Kelly
      • There is no price break, due to the Microsoft tax.

        If an OEM doesn't pay for a windows license for each system shipped, they might lose their OEM license. It's really that simple.

        Th really crappy part is Windows licenses are now activated before the computers leave China, which prevent getting a refund on Windows.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Jack: this you have to prove

        When you have the proof, run (don't walk) to your local DoJ office and present them with that evidence.

        What's that? You have no proof? Oh. Then don't go to your local DoJ office. It might hurt your feelings when they laugh at you.
      • Michael: That's what economies of scale will do for you

        The overhead it takes to configure a Windows image for 1 Dell model can be spread across millions of units sold.

        The overhead it takes to configure a Linux image for 1 Dell model (and they are already admitting to this being difficult with drivers failing) have to be spread across a few thousand units sold.

        If Linux PCs ever became popular enough to sell millions of units, you'd see the price fall. Until then, the money Dell saves on a Windows license is eaten up by the extra configuration costs that must be charged to every customer.
      • I priced them a while back and there is a difference

        If I remember correctly the Dell's with Linux were about $100 less than the Windows PCs. Not all that much to a developer investing in their business, but enough.

        Windows isn't free unless it's stolen. MS charges EVERYONE, no exceptions.
      • I'm not complaining tb3...

        Nor do I disagree with you. I'm just stating the reality of the situation. If I can get a Windows license on a computer for the same price as a computer without a Windows license, why would I turn it down? At least it's there should I decide to switch to Windows.

        Most smart Linux buyers would probably do the same thing. Not all Linux users are zealots after all.
        Michael Kelly
      • Michael: I know

        [i]I'm not complaining tb3...[/i]

        Didn't think you were.

        [i]Most smart Linux buyers would probably do the same thing. Not all Linux users are zealots after all.[/i]

        There is something to be said for "voting with your wallet". If everyone acted that way, Dell would rightfully look at their Linux PC sales, look at their Windows PC sales, and kill the Linux PC. Why spend all that time and effort creating Linux configurations that no one buys?
      • @cynical99

        >>If I remember correctly the Dell's with Linux were about $100 less than the Windows
        No you remember quite incorrectly, the $100 was a joke, namely with much lower specs. AMOF, the same low specs sometimes with a Windows offer was not a penny more than Linux.
        Until Dell offers no reasonable refund for the OS I do not need, or provides no "without OS" option for less money, I am not interested. I can install and set up a distro of my choice all by myself.
      • eulampius: Rabid Howler Monkey thinks you are a zealot

        You have officially been asked to shrug your shoulders and accept whatever Dell sells you.

        Thank you for your cooperation.
      • Price difference on Dell's - Linux to Windows on identical units

        Actually, I priced two identical units with the specific purpose of proving that there was no differnece in price so I could respond to one of Steven's ludicrous claims.

        Guess what? I was wrong, the two identical systems did have a significant price difference.

        Yes, Windows licenses are charged for on Windows boxes and not on Linux boxes and the difference was significant.

        Whether that's true today is another story as this was some time ago. It can't be proven at this point because Dell isn't offering anything in Linux that I can find to price check.
      • Errr....

        @Jumpin Jack Flash: "If an OEM doesn't pay for a windows license for each system shipped, they might lose their OEM license." And where did you get this funny statement from?
      • re: Or...

        @m ichael Kelly: What free license? You buy a computer with Windows on it, you are still paying for Windows - just not as much compared to a retail copy.
    • They don't throw the units away

      I'm sure they just re-image the HD with Windows, and sell them again.

      I doubt there is too much in the way of loses, beyond the advertising money spent, and additional labor reconfiguring them.
      William Farrel
      • Not suggesting they throw away the hardware

        Still, all that effort in creating a Linux image, troubleshooting driver issues, contacting touchpad manufacturers, etc. have to be booked against a revenue stream. They can't be booked against a Windows PC revenue stream, they can only be booked against a Linux PC revenue stream. Even if the hardware can be repurposed as a Windows PC, they've still spend all that time and effort on a configuration that has now sold 1 fewer unit.

        I suspect that Dell has killed off their Linux PCs because they actually spent more in creating the image than they got back in profits from the Linux PC SKU.
    • Really?

      [i]"Hopefully this sells better than every single other Linux PC ever offered."[/i]
      I'll bet my left nut you [b]don't[/b] hope so!

      [i]"Dell readies Ubuntu Linux laptop..."[/i] YAYY!!! Freedom of choice!
      [i]"...for developers"[/i] BOO!
  • Profiles, there's the key

    This one may not flop... the key lay in the profiles set in a repository. It will give devs the simple freedom to set-up machines as they choose just once, some with multiple project profiles to cut down on set-up time. Genuitec does this with Pulse and Secure Delivery Center.
  • Umm

    This is cool and all but somebody has to develop better dev tools for Linux first.
    • How do we do it?

      Frustrated with commercial captive portal solutions I embarked on my own. Guest (15 min) and authenticated users (3 hr), registration process (including confirming email address), white & blacklist sites, 12 hr lockout, etc

      Nearing completion in under 3 evenings - about 15 hrs.

      Bash scripts (apache cgi-bin & cron jobs) manipulating iptables. Marking unauthenticated users' data packets, redirecting to Apache. HTTP STATUS redirects to various user customisable html files (for skinning).

      The tools under Unix aren't lacking, sometimes knowledge can be a problem.
      Richard Flude
      • Masochism?

        I just use any of the open source portals in PhP or a variety of other languages. Install MySQL, PHP and run the install script. That's around an hour and then I can spend the next few hours making it pretty. It already has all the features I need plus a lot of others.

        Now I'm sure you can do all this on Apache, I just prefer a modern Windows Server.

        At keast I think that was what you were talkning about as your post was fairly arcane ;-)