Dell XPS 13 laptop: The Ubuntu developer edition arrives

Dell XPS 13 laptop: The Ubuntu developer edition arrives

Summary: Do you want a serious—I mean serious—developer laptop? Then Dell and Ubuntu have the system for you in the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition.

You want a Dell powerhouse developer laptop with Ubuntu? In the XPS 13 Developer Edition, you've got it.

Several months ago, Dell told me about their plans for a killer Ubuntu Linux developer notebook computer, Project Sputnik. The planning is done and this top-of-the-line programmer's laptop, the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition is ready to ship for $1,449.

What you for get for that is an Intel Ivy Bridge i7 CPU, 8GBs of Dual Channel DDR3 1333MHz SDRAM, and a 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD). For a display it uses 13.3" HD (720p) Truelife WLED Display with 1.3MP HD Web-cam backed up by Intel HD 4000 Graphics.

Behind the hardware, is Ubuntu 12.04.1 Long Term Support (LTS) with its usual assortment of open-source programs. It also comes ready to work with two beta community projects, Profile Tool and Cloud Launcher, that make it far more than just an extremely well-equipped, Linux-powered Ultrabook.

Barton George, Web vertical director at Dell and the man behind this computer, told me, "The profile tool and cloud launcher are beta open source projects that we have recently kicked off on github.  These projects are quite nascent at this point and we are looking for more people to get involved (hint, hint :) ."

"The idea behind the profile tool is to provide access to a library of community created profiles on github, such as Ruby and Android, to quickly set up your development environments and tool chains." The plan is to give developers a way to save their lovingly, iteratively, and relentlessly customized shells, editors, editor plugins, syntax highlighters, utilities, languages, language libraries, system libraries, servers, daemons, etc... into a personal development infrastructure under source control. "In this way, your entire environment, from shell colors and preferences to application frameworks, can be built from scratch on any supported operating system and hardware in a matter of minutes and with only a single command:

sputnik launch

This isn't just for you to preserve your own developer set-up. You can also share your developer profile or borrow from others. Dell plans to have Three ready to go developer profiles to begin with: JavaScript, Ruby on Rails, and Android.

The XPS 13 Developer Edition isn't just for PC or server programmers though. Cloud launcher, using Ubuntu Juju enables you to create "'microclouds' on your laptop, simulating an at-scale environment, and then deploy that environment seamlessly to the cloud.  Today the launcher utilizes Linux Containers to model your environment on your laptop and then uses Juju to jettison that environment to the cloud. The launcher project on github allows for community expansion on this concept using different technologies and approaches."

Juju is a Development/Operations (DevOps) program designed to get rid of the “metawork” of setting up a program on a server or the cloud. On the XPS 13 you can use it to make sure you have not just your programming libraries ready to go, as in traditional software development, but all your other network and server services will be in place for your new cloud application before you actually deploy it to the cloud.

Does all this work? Well, Nnamdi Orakwue, VP of Dell Cloud. Is certainly excited about it. Orakwue told me, "When I learned about project Sputnik I was excited, I have long felt the Linux laptop experience has been weak. This is the first Linux powered laptop that I feel is amazing! It is a very powerful and beautiful machine; I still get people asking me "what laptop is that." Maybe I am vain, but it feels good. When a fellow Linux freak sees Ubuntu running they are very impressed with the whole package."

Orakwue continued, "I am a Ph.D. student and spend massive amounts of time developing software. Currently I am doing lots of Apache, Python, Django, Android development using GIT and all of that nice stuff. This machine has been solid, the experience a pleasure, and months after getting my XPS 13 I am still very very happy…..Overall I would give this system a 9 out of 10, and I really, really, really hope that Dell continues with it. I think targeting developers and creating amazing machines running Linux is a smart thing for Dell to do.”

As you can tell this is not your usual corporate "Our product is the best thing since sliced bread" yadda-yadda. Orakwue is a hacker who clearly loves his new development system.

George hopes that the Dell XPS Developer Edition, which began as a skunk-works project will be "The beginning of a beautiful relationship between Dell and developers." I think his hopes will be realized and any serious open-source programmer should put the XPS 13 on their holiday gift list. Unfortunately, only U.S. and Candian programmers will be able to buy it at first. George assured me though that Dell plans on expanding its availability as soon as possible. 

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Topics: Dell, Cloud, Laptops, Linux, Software Development, Ubuntu, PCs

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  • The Ubuntu developer edition arrives

    Kudos to Dell and the Ubuntu Team.
  • Looks Pretty Nice

    The machine looks pretty nice. I'm not a big buyer from mainstream manufacturers because I'm always looking for a deal, and usually the best deals come from medium sized sellers. I'm also wondering if there will be a 15.6 inch 1920x1080 version at some point. Still, assured Linux compatibility/integration is an attractive characteristic.
    • Agreed...13" screen is a bit too small.

      I would like to see a 17 inch wide screen similar to my HP laptop. That would make me seriously interested.
      linux for me
    • But...

      Why couldn't they have removed the Windows logo from the Meta Key?! While they were at it, a gold, coffee or orange case design would have been nicer (this is Ubuntu after all).

      Personally, a 13" is fine, as long as I can connect to a big external display (I don't actually develop software on park benches).
  • Good job, Dell.

    Not much to add other than the profiles with sharing will be a powerful tool.
    Eric Sofia
  • It's a sleek and powerful mobile workstation. And it's expensive.

    It's good to see Dell give Ubuntu-based mobile workstations a go. I hope, for Canonical's sake, that it's successful.

    I wonder if Linus Torvalds and other kernel devs will purchase and use one of these? (Remember that Linus purchased a Macbook Air for a 'desktop' Linux system earlier this year.)

    P.S. I still think that a Macbook Air or Pro is a better option for web site testers (yes, software testers, including web site testers, are part of the development team) as one can legally run Windows, OS X and desktop Linux on a single computer.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Depends on flexibility

      If those profiles and other goodies can readily be accessed from other OSs besides Ubuntu, it will be really handy. If devs end up having to use Ubuntu/Unity, many of them won't be nearly pleased with it. (for example, I hear that Linus Torvalds has left XFCE again, for KDE).

      Some devs are quite happy with the ubuntu/Unity GUI, but even more truly despise it -- often because they find the paradigm actually interferes with their workflow.

      Still, this is a pretty intriguing development. If I was a dev myself, I'd seriously consider this.
    • Nope

      Linus doesn't use Ubuntu, nor interested at all about Unity or GNOME. Linus is KDE user (again) and use Fedora (if I remember correctly).

      That thing, Linus loving Apple hardware, is just that, he loves that hardware.
      • LOL

        I'm certain that Linux Torvalds could manage to install the KDE packages on Ubuntu and make KDE the default. Or any other desktop environment.

        As for Linux loving Apple hardware, he likes the Mac Mini form factor in addition to the Macbook Air. OS X, though, may not be his favorite UNIX flavour. Just don't forget, UNIX came first. No UNIX, No Linux.
        Rabid Howler Monkey
  • Hopefully the Windows 7 and 8 drivers are available

    Would make nice Windows 7 and 8 experience too.
    • Happy research

      But since this is Dell, the chances of Windows drivers not being available for all of the hardware are pretty much zero.
      John L. Ries
  • Compile ??

    Lovey, you keep ranting with this "compile" crap. I am a H.S. drop-out, with no training on computers, and I have been running Ubuntu and/or Mint as my main, sometimes only O S since 2006. I and my wife have NEVER had to "compile" a d**ned thing!! Not once!! We use at home, work, and church. We also had never a driver issue, which you also harp on. We have had numerous driver issues w/Vista, Win7, & Win8 !!
    And Ubuntu & Mint are much easier for average users than Win8 ever will be, and these Linux systems are both faster than Win7 or 8, on same machine doing same work.
    Find yourself a hole, crawl in the hole, and pull the hole in after you.
    Old Dog V
    • LD...

      Dude, he's been singing that song for years...I started out outraged, then it was kinda funny, now it's just sad...
      • So Very Pathetic L.D.

        This Bird deliberately spams/trolls the same time worn, idiotic, monotonous, claptrap. That no truly sane individual can sustain subscription to. He's an embarrassment to MS fanboys; no asset.
        Why? If he's as truly unhinged as he comes across, we need to tolerate and ignore him until the appropriate authorities can rein him in. Just ban him for now till they do.
        Or it is by a deeply ingrained perverse streak. He gets his jollies/glee by lobbing homemade amateur stink bombs and cocktails into the conversation and thereby getting a rise, flame baiting and igniting flame wars.
        It's clear as the nose on my face that he is ravenously pathologically starved for attention, incapable of any legitimate means to attract it in the real world. Obviously he lacks all social graces currently extant in our mainstream culture.
        So my compadres, lets see him not as any kind of sincere or even remotely qualified in matters internet and cyberspace. which he's patently not. And not take what is always only deliberately, consciously flame war bait.
        But sad it is, no matter how you slice this blot on the technical world landscape. And he sticks and hangs around these Sites only because those who engage him give him reason and impetus to continue to be so very cloyingly annoying. Please Don't Feed The Troll. Who is so very starved for attention. Pathetic.
        • Nah. He's really an undercover Linux fanatic and agent provacateur

          He does this just to give Windows fans a bad name...

          (In fact, "Loverock Davidson" is a fictional poster, maintained by a dedicated team of Linux operatives -- how else do you think he can post so frequently, reliably and monotonously? It's clearly too much for any one individual, especially if they're sane.
    • Ok your've ethier never installed and extras

      Or you've been down right lucky.
      Ok we know Loverock is an extreme Windows Nut, but I on the other hand do run 2 machines with Linux and have helped several customers to duel boot Linux. But there are driver issues and more so then the Windows 7 or 8 (Yes Vista was shit in the first 6 months)
      Nvida drivers on older machines are rubbish and can cause crashes not to mention installing Canon Laser Printers with Ubuntu.
      I truly believe Linux has a place and hope it continues to improve but lets not be dishonest about it. Improvement comes from recognizing faults and fixing them and that applies equally for Windows and Apple. Anyone who claims there favorite OS is perfect is either deluded or telling porky pies!
    • Old Dogs can learn new tricks...

      ... but Loverock Davidson is another story.
  • It's nice, but it won't help Linux

    This is a massively expensive laptop aimed at developers. Only problem is, developers that want to use Linux are already using Linux. This really does nothing to help Linux break into the consumer market. It certainly doesn't help that the price is on par with the Windows version of the XPS13.

    I'm not really sold on developing on a 13 inch anything either. 13 inches is just tiny enough to be incredibly annoying.
    • it won't help linux

      but it might help developers- and all you have to do is look at the title of the computer to see that's the point of it.
      • and

        while I haven't really compared the price, at least you know there won't be problems with drivers I guess