Project Sputnik: Ubuntu-based developer laptop pilot
Duration: May 6, 2012 - Sep 16, 2012
For those of you participating in Project Sputnik or simply interested in learning more, check out the Project Sputnik page on Dell TechCenter. The page is set up to provide information and updates on the project and contains a forum to discuss the project.
Due to the fantastic amount and quality of input we have received on the Project Sputnik Storm Session, as well as the thousands of applications we received for our recently announced beta program, we have decide to take this project from pilot to product. This fall we will be offering an Ubuntu 12.04LTS-based laptop pre-loaded on Dell’s XPS13 laptop. For further information you can view the press announcement, read Barton George's blog post and view the FAQ.
A least 8GB of RAM
Developers laptops must provide power, flexibility and latest technology to play with
When using cloud ressources with whatever virtual machines or dedicated hosts for testing web development or server side features it doesn't really mater because all is needed is a link a enough juice to run an editor/IDE locally.
But there are always time where it's more pratical to run some bit (or the entire project) in a local Virtual Machine.
As others have mentionned - Minimum is 8GB.
For the same reasons as above, virtualization features are important and the CPU such as Intel i7 must be present in the laptop line.
Eternal question of Mobility vs Graphicability depending on work style.
Bottom line is when XPS 13 laptop is released, the 14 and 15" cousins must be made available at same time with at least same specs.
Latest, fastest SSD must be present
Each project/work needs are different.
Keep things open and let us have the choice.
Dell has been pretty good with the online model offering choice - Please keep it this way and avoid pre-configured models.
No need to be locked down.
Dell must require/liase accordingly with hardware part manafucturers to provide support underneath. It includes Open Source/non Proprietary drivers.
No more out of the blue unknown/non documented hardware (i.e Latitute/Inspiron track pad issues for almost 2 years because Dell says it's the manufacturer fault's).
That doesn't means support for every new hardware but a road to get there. Can dell offer that flexibility?
By essence developers test, validate cutting edge technologies.
Means hardware must be released often with latest stuff.
And keep us informed. Not 6+ months later.
BTW where is Thunderbolt roadmap?
No windows preinstalled
Hi guys! First of all I'd like to thank you for your effort, ultrabook class laptop supporting ubuntu sounds like a dream might come true, but I won't buy it untill there's no windows preinstalled on it.
Don't get me wrong though, it's not just that I can't pay extra 100$( or what is the windows price? ) for something I'm not going to use. It's just the fact that buying a windows laptop makes me feel like I contribute to windows monopoly, that already makes me suffer while choosing a laptop
Status Update: The XPS 13 Developer Edition comes with Ubuntu preinstalled. Thank you for posting!
Just wanted to post this as a seperate idea after seeing it mentioned 3x times as a small in between comment in other ideas: No CD/DVD drive even if a different basis than the xps13 is chosen (which is cd-less as far as I know).
Status Update: The XPS 13 Developer Edition is available with no CD/DVD and you can add an external drive if you wish. Thank you for posting!
My ideal sputnik lappy
Dell's main concern should be a seemlles integration between Ubuntu and the HW its running on. We as developers will take care of what packages to install on the box, after all we are software developers.
Here are what makes a great laptop:
1. OS and Hardware just work and taken full advantage of.
2. Display - Matte, High resolution (1920x1080) stare at the screen all day. Display port just works with projectors and extended monitors.
3. Specs - As high as possible in CPU (i7 ivy), Ram (most i can get) and storage (dual SSD and HD) for 6 hrs of batter on half dim screen.
3a - Hold the SD card reader and other useless ports and bays. Just give me the link ports.
3b - Serious front camera for conference calls.
4b - Hold the speakers! I don't know a soul that uses the speakers... everybody uses headphones.
3d - Back lit and spill resistant keyboard.
4. Support - time is money, if something breaks i want it repaired asap!
5. No bloat ware!! i don't want your settings and other worthless tools. Don't install anything other than bare bones OS.
We'll take care of everything else with regards to software. Just make sure the os works with the hw.
Leave 1366x768 resolution in 14-17"
Today laptops are very strong at most of aspects, but 1366x768 is awful.
Great Idea, but has a ways to go before release..
NO intel! cpu or video systems.
nVidia based chip sets
AMD DUAL or QUAD core only please
One 1Gigb Ethernet
802.11a wireless NOT 802.11n, but real support for 802.11a 5.8Ghz wireless IN ADDITION to 802.11b/g/n for 2.4GHz, Insipiron 9400 had 802.11a support. Less interference on 5.8GHz, but not all users in this band are 802.11n compatible.
CDMA 3G 860/1900Mhz and LTE 4G from VZW either as an optional PCIx card or built in.
nVidia 1GB VRAM on board graphics. And NONE of those dual mode hybrid cards either! They cause nothing but trouble.
Monitor output, prefer VGA, but DVI is fine, last and least favorite is HDMI.
DVD-DL with Lightscribe and DVD-RAM multidrive, no laptop should be without them.
Docking station to add PCIx ports, additional serial ports, USB, HD, DVD/CD-ROM bays
ALL PORTS on the BACK! Except for a couple USB ports, but otherwise all ports on the back, including power!
16GB RAM or 32GB would be better
15 or 17" screen would be the preference.. 13 is just too small... as for matte v. glossy, not an issue for me.
NO UEFI BIOS or Bootloader!
Linux YES! ubuntu, no thanks!
Please use or offer Kubuntu 64bit, KDE is what regular developer users want. NOT unity and gnome 3 which have been pretty soubdly rejected.
HPLIP full install including the GUI software
nVidia OEM drivers installed in the image ready to go. Work with the XSWAT PPA to get the best drivers out there.
All compiler requisites should be installed ready to go ie: build-essential, etc..
Eclipse IDE with PHP, Java, C/C++, Ruby setups
Netbeans IDE with PHP, Java, C/C++, Ruby setups - This may be an issue with the idiotic licensing nonsense certain company causes.
Do NOT install openjdk! It just has to be removed any way, as most Java programs are not compatible with it. And since you can *legally* distribute Sun(REAL) Java any longer.. just let the user install it.
I mean, if today I want to develop for mobile, to have my configurable appliance in the cloud and when I want to download it have everything ready. Likewise for programmers / web designers can take full suite preloaded.
I Think appliances can be used while getting downloaded coloring on gray options being downloaded.
Just make it good.
Plentiful hardware, attention to details
- quad-core i5
- at least 16Gb of RAM(better if 24/32), necessary to build Android. The RAM must be ECC, otherwise I'd rather use a cheap notebook to connect to my clould development server via NX
- matte screen
- integrated Intel graphics to save energy(even if game devs will probably want the nVidia option)
- Intel SSD
- one Gigabit ethernet port
- backlit keyboard
- US keyboard even in European countries
- at least two USB3 slots
- separate wifi and bluetooth hardware buttons
- ambient light sensor: I'd like to be able to turn of all lights when dark(at night), so no blinking power LED, otherwise it disturbs sleep
- sound speakers far away from the keyboard, otherwise the small holes get filled with grime, which is disgusting and can't be cleaned easily
- 13in screen is good, 15in is better
- no need for internal modem
- no DVD drive, but the BIOS must be able to boot from USB DVD drive
A good Ubuntu-based developer laptop should have a minimum of 8GB RAM, solid state drive, i7 processor, integrated graphics, 1Gbps LAN port and a camera. That gives a good base for Linux and Android development and the camera allows for web conferencing. A low-glare matte screen for the display would be good, too. The software will vary greatly from one developer to another so just a basic Ubuntu 12.04 installation would be good. Having a place to share ideas for additional software, utilities and developer tools should be better than including software and tools with the laptop.
Vagrant for Virtualized Environments
One of the goals of a system like this is to encourage "good behavior" by making it easy to follow good practices. Testing and automation are some of those good practices and Vagrant (http://vagrantup.com) is a tool to help them. By being able to quickly spin up and tear down VMs, Vagrant encourages rapid (continious) deployments for testing. Developers can also use Vagrant to maintain individual and separated development enviroments.
Would love to see this laptop positioned for large-scale deployment such as development teams. This would likely require network authentication on networks running MS.
Linux-Compatible Portable Developer System
Great idea, I really want something like this. I am in the market for a fully Linux compatible higher end portable system.
OS - Great that it comes with Ubuntu since that is the de facto Linux desktop. However, it is very important to me that the hardware is supported via open drivers so that distributions other than Ubuntu will be able to take advatnage of the same level of hardware compatibility. It's great to focus on the experience for Ubuntu, but please don't do it such that users are locked into that one distribution if they want full hardware support.
Deal breaker: 4GB non-upgradeable ram. I already have a 4GB developer system that runs out of memory and starts swapping when I am developing java applications with Netbeans and running a Glassfish application server and a database. My 6GB system has no issues. I would like the ability to upgrade the ram, or at the very least if it has to be non-upgradeable, give it 8GB minimum.
Disturbing: No lan port? I know it's one of the taller ports out there but it is really very important - sometimes you need to plug directly into a specific switch, or into a network that for whatever reason lacks a wireless access point. I see that there exist some USB to RJ45 connectors, so if something like that could seemlessly work in linux and be included with the system that could be a workaround.
Barely livable: The screen. Please provide the option for a higher resolution screen, and it would be excellent if it could be matte as well. I would gladly pay somewhere around $100-$200 extra to get a model with an fabulous screen.
Like: 1) Battery Life, 2) Small form factor for the screen size 3) Durable and pleasing design 4) Backlit keyboard 5) Large touchpad... as long as the clickpad works perfectly in Linux! My current HP clickpad doesn't like to let me drag/click while having 2 fingered scrolling enabled...
Thank you for your work, I eagerly await the results :)
What we DON'T need
A lot of folks have chimed in with things that developers need. I think there's also some value in discussing what we DON'T need, because as we all know, design is all about trade-offs.
On the hardware side, there have been lots of comments already about needing more pixels on the screen, more RAM and maybe at least options for more CPU.
Hardware that I think most developers would be willing to give up in exchange for more of the above:
- Battery life. I'm sure that there are exceptions, but most developers will do their work someplace they can hook up to power; you can't make a laptop with today's technologies that will run for a full day of hacking on a battery, so don't try. If my extra RAM, CPU and screen brightness that I need to be productive means that my battery is only good for 3 hours, so be it.
- Fast Graphics. Just enough graphics to run a modern desktop without stuttering. Intel integrated is fine.
- Custom Ubuntu builds. Custom breaks stuff. A lot of us will be reinstalling anyway with later versions of Ubuntu, Fedora or something like that. Ditto for binary-only drivers with licensing restrictions. The vanilla Ubuntu experience is pretty good, don't mess with it.
- Lots of software support. We can figure out our own software. If there were a simple known-good mini Linux install we could boot to that would allow us to test all of the hardware to make sure that problems we're having are or are not hardware-related, that's all that most of us need. If users don't know how OpenOffice works, redirect them to community support in a forum or a wiki.
Drivers and Software
Opensourcing the drivers and putting them upstream would be the make or break for this project. Also a tightly coupled integration between bugzilla and git (current plugins/hacks don't the job well enough, and I'm super lazy) would be enormously helpful. As well as putting things like a more current nodejs api (or any api) upstream would be useful so I don't have to go compile it manually from source (Laziness again).
Your displays are what holds many of us back
As some others have requested, a matte screen is a must. It is, for many of us, one of the few features that could qualify as a "sine qua non" for any laptop to be used that often.
The last Dell I bought for development was an Inspiron 6000. 3 years later, I bought a MacBook Pro and have been holding onto it because Dell simply will not offer matte displays even as a premium option on XPS and Alienware systems.
Right now, if that 4 year old MacBook Pro died, I would likely buy a Samsung Series 7 laptop because they have good specs and come standard with respectable matte displays.
How much is this feature worth to me (and probably many other here)? Apple charges about $200 for it on all 2011 and 2012 MacBook Pros. I would gladly pay that much to Dell.
I understand that many home users are content to use a glossy display in a dimly lit room. What I can't understand is why so far Dell has dropped this on every system where it could be a premium add-on.
Project Sputnik - I wish for...
What programs do you need?
- gEdit is a must!
- GIMP 2.8
- 8GB RAM as a minimum, preferably @ 1600MHz
- intel i7 Ivy Bridge dual core with power saving for better batterylife
- Improved battery - XPS 13 has good battery life, but it can be improved
- SSD with 256GB
What bugs me?
- Issues that are hard to fix myself, therefore I suggest you go with a LTS distro, like Precise Pangolin as it will get more support and faster updates
- Low resolution screens with bad colour accuracy. The XPS 13 has an okay screen, but if one was to use the laptop for CAD or artistic work, it would need better colour reproduction and higher resolution. Normal workflow is also hampered by low resolution, making 720p unattractive.
- intel GPUs, as they don't work properly with Linux as of yet. nVIDIA has traditionally had the GPUs with the least problems related to Linux. Everything seems fine when you're working with regular programs, but as soon as GPU power is needed, it's no fun.
- The support needed would be related to hardware, as the software issues are taken care of by the Linux community. It would be wise to have capable DELL represants to guide customers to the right place, though.
- Support for the drivers for touchpad, web cam etc.
Hardware not software.
So software isn't important to me as whatever you install on it a later version for something is going to be available by the time I get it. apt-get is my friend.
As long as the hardware is fully supported I really don't care about anything else concerning software as I con configure it myself.
- High Res display - Any developer no matter what they do needs this.
- 8gb (16gb would be nice) (
- Core i5/7 CPU
- Eclipse Eats alot of RAM.
- Building Android needs a lot of RAM http://groups.google.com/group/android-building/browse_thread/thread/3757b189f4e93df0?hl=en&pli=1
- Building pypy needs alot of RAM http://doc.pypy.org/en/latest/getting-started-python.html
- Running a VM helps if you have lots of RAM. (Windows is needed sometimes)
- Running Chrome with my normal amount of tabs takes 1GB
- CPU is irrelevant if you don't have enough RAM
No network jack!
Just checked the spec of the laptop being suggested, and it has no network connection, doh!
I'm not going to download heapdumps over a wireless link and my company bans wireless anyway for security reasons. Lack of a Gig ethernet would prevent me buying the suggested hardware, even with a promise that wireless is going to work. I dont have a wireless LAN, without internet its a brick.
I think Apple + Goolgle might have some interest in "consumers" having airbooks with extremely limited network connectivity, but not business users.
The all rounder
What are the basic, lowest-common-denominator tools that you would like to see pre-loaded.
git, because there is no better SCM out there.
gEdit. No, really. I love that text editor! You should also include the github gedit themes.
What profiles are most important to you to be available from Github?
For me, nginX, SQLite, and PHP. PHP 5.4.x takes care of SQLite as it's built in. nginX is a really fast web server software that I use in production. And of course, you'll be providing the linux flavor for me.
PHP 5.4.x, stand alone. Now that it includes a web server built in, I can pretty much start programming after just installing PHP. It includes a web sever, so I don't need to install nginx, it has SQLite baked in by default. It's my whole application layer, in one application. Crazy but true fact, using PHP 5.4.2, with PDO SQLite enabled, running the built in web server, I was using 2.4 MB of system memory.
What do you need in a laptop to do your job, how much memory, how powerful a CPU etc.
In most cases, I don't use that much CPU power when I'm devloping. But I do have some image editing to do, it would be useful to have a pretty fast CPU. Anything from the Sandy Bridge era should work pretty well. But if you can include an Ivy Bridge just for battery life sake, that would be a great option. But that's just me, I'm sure there are a ton of C++ devlopers that would love as many threads as you can give them so it does not take an age to compile their software.
I do use quite a bit of ram when I'm fidding with SQL data. So, obvisouly, the more the better. I can't see anyone complaning about haveing 8GB of ram as the default for this system.
What makes you more productive, what bugs you?
GET OUT OF MY WAY! Don't make me think about why my computer is not working. Because if it's not, then it's useless to me. I'm using it to program, not trouble shoot my linux install.
I really don't want it to have a terrible trackpad. Things like two finger scolling should work right out of the box, SMOOTHLY, or just don't bother. I should never have to think, "Right, I should not do this, because I don't know what the results are going to be" when using the laptop.
1366x768 is EVIL! I very commonaly have two documents open side by side on my computer. One is the text editor that I'm using, and the other might be the manaul. I need more space then that resolution affords me.
What type of support do you need/expect from an offering like this if it becomes mainstream.
Very little, really. Most people that use Linux in the first place don't require that much help.
Just make sure that your drivers work well with the system and we should be golden
Although, if you could open source your drivers, so that they can be pulled down by Ubuntu's update manager, instead of having to handle the 3rd party driver nonsense, that would be much better for everyone.
Java vs Other developers
I have been reading all the ideas here and I am starting to get the impression Java developers need an entirely seperate model as the apparant requirements of Java are on an entirely different level from for example web developers (either php, node.js, coldfusion, phonegap etc.).
Java seems to need (according to the other idesa):
- CPU: i5 or i7
- RAM: At least 8 GB
- Disk: Harddrive, as apparantly 128 GB is already a bottleneck during compilation 
- Screen: More than 13" seems to be the general impression
- GPU: Unimportant
Webdevelopers (according to my own needs and those I seem to summize from the other ideas):
- CPU: i5 is enough (although i7 is nice)
- RAM: 4 GB is enough
- Disk: Solid state (a lot of space isn't needed)
- Screen: 13" is do-able although 14.*" might be the sweet spot
- GPU: Not important, but relatively more and more web applications are starting to rely on heavier graphics so might be useful.
- (And due to the lower hardware requirements it should be able to make it entirely silent)
Either way, my point is, trying to please both groups might result in a product which is not powerfull enough for java developers and too expensive or too bulky for web developers .
I am using Dell Inspiron 1545 with Ubuntu for 2 years and Develops web Application. Dell Must included software packages for Web Developers. Following are some tools that are must in Dell's Laptop. :
1. XAMPP (it makes laptop a choice for PHP developers)
2. FileZilla Client.
3. Firefox(with web Developers Tools and FireBug) ( Custom Build )
4. Eclipse( for Android and PHP Developement)
5. Web Developer Tools for Ubuntu ( https://launchpad.net/~petrakis/+archive/wdt-main )
6. Qt Creator( for Android and Cross-Platform Application Development )
and If you include some extra softwares like :
6. VLC Player.
They are bounus to user.
Screen height is key
Now that processing power and storage have exceeded minimums, the height of the screen seems to be the gating element for coding effectiveness on laptops. I would want a screen at least 900px tall in a 13" form factor.
I think this is a very attractive idea. Developers seem to be buying Macbook's in droves yet a well equipped Linux desktop is just as powerful and in many regards moreso. Most users simply don't know about the number of fantastic dev tools on the Linux desktop. A marketing effort showing the fantastic tools would go a long way to swoon the Macbook crowd. Not to mention the fact nearly all these tools are 100% free *and* open source.
Creating a single image to rule them all is obviously a difficult task. You seem to be making good decisions. I personally am a Fedora user so this initiative doesn't directly align with my preference right off the bat, but I understand your choice. I hold hope that this effort indirectly results in better upstream driver support for the Dell XPS 13 that Fedora and other distros can enjoy. I would be happy to vote with my dollar if that were the case.
For future hardware considerations, more RAM the better. I am a Java developer so it seems one can never have enough. Also as others have said +1 to much higher resolution displays, 1680x1050 is the minimum to be practical.
I think this would be a great idea. especially on the 13 xps system. sounds like it could have a lot of potential.
why not? i think its about time.
a good multitouch trackpad
A good multi touch trackpad would be great too, similar to the macbook pro and the samsung series 9. i currently use a macbook pro and the touchpad works so well that i dont even have to worry about using a mouse. scroll gestures and 2 finger click for right clicking built on the touch pad ie clicking down on the touchpad like you do with the macbook pro and samsung series 9 (those stupid little buttons thats usually at the bottom of a trackpad really doesn't work well)
java software developer
Honestly looking from a software development point of view:
- decent cpu (i5 or i7 is good). Ivy Bridge would be great
- lots of ram (you can never how to much ram, 8 gigs should be good)
- 128GB-256GB SSD (the biggest bottleneck in any machine, if you use maven for building this can become quite a big bottleneck)
- dont worry about GPU, a HD3000 or the new HD4000 will be more than enough plus it will give you good battery life and drivers will work better than that of nvidia or ati
- 15" screen with a res of 1680x1050 (matte)
Also, keep in mind if you can make this laptop well priced it will do extremely well. around $900 would be the sweet spot.
If you can build a notebook like this, i will buy one tomorow!!!
Another Vote for Expansion
When in my office I use dual monitors and NAS storage. I also like an external keyboard and mouse. Hence I'd also request that you consider other expandable platforms in addition to the XPS 13. (I currently develop on a Latitude E6500 with docking station.)
A barebones "just works" Linux
I'm a Java dev and I know how I like java installed and its not the same as any distro.
Java tools installed out of the box would not be a plus for me. I'd like the option in the repos but better to get a barebones box that you choose the tool you want installed.
I would install from the repo immediatly all the C and C++ tool set and kernel source but I'd like to tune the Java setup myself.
It would be cool to be able to apt-get ruby and get all you need to have a play with a new language ready setup, but my work has my requirements. So I need to be able to install work stuff (Java) myself. I'd imagine other people in the same situation with ruby but would be happy to apt-get eclipse-java out of the box if thats not their core money earner.
As a Java dev we spend a lot of time compiling fast CPU and lot of RAM are needed. A develeoper laptop is a tool not a toy so I'm prepared to spend some money on it.
But I totally agree with other comment that the box must cost less than the Windows version of the same spec PC. If canonical want to offer/hard sella license deal cool with me, I'll probably buy into ubuntu one, but it should be an option. I'll put up with handy tools (ahem adverts) for such things when I set the box up. But a markup for Linux is worse than the Windows tax.
I would not buy a virtual Windows thing, we deploy on Linux and I never touch windows in my day job I use Firefox QA have to install IE, FE devs deal with that kind of problem.
But VM support is critical, I'm happy to develop on Ubuntu but we deploy to RHEL, VMs not working is a show stopper for me.
Screen real estate is important for developers we use every pixel, fluff is not needed, cool and clean is best. I've no objection to Unity, HUD is better than a menu bar taking up space IMHO provided the graphics are so fast its instant, but the most important thing is that the graphics work and at the end of the day the reason to buy a dev PC like this has to be that it takes zero effort to setup the graphics card and the USB3 or the webcam or whatever. There is an overhead to setting up Linux on a laptop, I'd like to not have that setup overhead.
The Machine must come pretty bare with everything working. The most annoying thing about developing on Linux is having to dedicate time you dont want to dedicate to getting some bit of hardware to work as it should. Linux is cool for its tweakability, I install Jack-audio and mess with the sound and break things ocasionally, that's my problem. Dell's should be that the microphone jack works out of the box with whatever Linux audio is in the base system.
If I break it its my bad, I dont need support, but its really annoying to have a PC that after you install the OS stuff still needs attention. They key should be that you open the box and everthing works to start working the same day. First days work is dev-env setup installing that eclipse 188.8.131.524.beta6 with xxx patches. It should not be fiddling with drivers.
- Fast PC, lots of RAM
- Big screen
- VM support
- Bare bones but 100% working Linux OS, graphics especially must "just work", inc the external HDMI port!
Heres an Idea to keep everyone happy wiht regard to their OS preferences mentioned in the other ideas, unity is a moot point in the Linux community at the moment.
It would be really cool if the PC came with installed nothing on it yet but an installer,
You could pre-load some working distros.
When you first open the machine it said
Which OS would you like?
Then installs the fully working Bare bones OS to the primary partition, deletes the unwanted distros, and do some disk partitioning magic to reclaim the space used from the unwanted distros.
Better linux support is enough
As someone already tell it: the first thing you should do is to provide a better HW support. e.g., provide drivers for the kernel, so a developer could use it for his prefered distro. Or at least target Ubuntu, but for many of your machine. And all drivers etc are available in a repository for apt (and why not, for RPM etc), and updated for new versions of distros.
Don't target only one machine. For me, the XPS 13 machine doesn't fit my needs. I'm using a latitude e6520 (i7+8go+ssd 256). I'm a web developer but also a C++ developer. And probably this e6520 doesn't fit the needs of other developers. So try to provide drivers at least for one machine in each categories (xps, inspiron, latitude...).
I had bought a e6520 (one year ago), but unfortunately, it isn't supported at 100% by any linux distro:
- Optimus is not supported so only the nvidia card is used (and because of this missing feature, the intel card is not deactivated, although it is not used). So my battery life is tiny (2 hours, ouch). There is a project to support Optimus (Bumblebee), but it does not work very well (two weeks ago, I tried to install it, it crashes Ubuntu, X did'nt work any more etc, I had to reinstall the distro) and is not really friendly to use.
- The trackpad (multi-touch) is not supported too. It is seen by linux as a simple ps/2 mouse.
- The SD card reader and firewire didn't work at all.
- the suspend mode didn't work very well.
- the fingerprint reader doesn't work at all
I had to wait one year to see the SD Card reader, the firewire and the suspend mode to work out of the box into recent distro. Linux 3.3 seems to fix the support of the trackpad, but it is not yet into distros. For Optimus and the fingerprint reader, I'm still waiting... The support of Optimus, (so the support of hybrid graphics into linux), is a critical issue since the missing of this feature greatly reduces the life of batteries.
So, spend your energy in the linux support for many of your machine, instead of to target only one machine and only one category of developers with a single distro that will fit the needs of only a tiny percent of developers.
I don't think it is useful to preinstall bunch of developper tools, since each developer use different tools. For example, some of them prefer to use Eclipse, other only Komodo, or VIM etc... If you preinstall some tools, you could be sure that some of them will be useless for the developer, and some tools were missing. However, you could provide a software which will allow to choose and install easily different set of softwares. The user could choose between several sets of software, depending of its profiles. After selecting criterias, like "i'm a PHP developer", "I'm an Eclipse User", the software install the LAMP plateform, Eclipse and relating tools.
So, to summary, first of all, provide drivers at least for ubuntu, but for many of your machine. If you do this: the customer can choose the machine he prefers, and you can target not only developers, but also other kind of users. Doing a distro targeting developers with preinstalled software that the developer won't probably use, is useless. A developer is supposed to know how to install his prefered tools. But not the "lambda" user. So, for him, and for developers too, the distro (ubuntu), should work out of the box for the most possible dell machines. From my point of you, I don't care the tools you could provide. I want a laptop that works!
I am a software engineer who does a range of development on an Ubuntu desktop at the moment. I mainly work with PHP, Python, Ruby, Java (including Android dev), C, and different databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL and MongoDB. I run a VM to do my IE testing when I am doing web development.
I need a fair bit of memory and fast storage more than a blisteringly fast CPU when I am working with IDEs and working with large database datasets. I also need a fair bit of space on the disk when I am working with large database dumps.
The packages I use would depend on what development I want to do.
- When doing PHP/MySQL, the basic LAMP stack with xdebug and PEAR is great. If I need to do profiling then I install kcachegrind. MySQL workbench is available in the 12.04 repos too.
- When doing Ruby I always need ruby-dev installed alongside ruby, and ruby-gems is a must.
- When doing Python, easy_install is a must.
- When doing Java, a JDK is a no brainer, I think 12.04 has openjdk6 installed by default anyway. A nice addition is the openjdk-6-doc package. The Android SDK would be an addition to this for Android dev. I always end up using Eclipse when doing any Java development.
- I always seem to need buildessential installed. Not just for C development.
- Eclipse would be a good IDE to install because it covers a lot of languages. Installing a good terminal editor like vim would be very useful too.
The level of documentation I'd like to see would be like the Ubuntu wiki. In fact, it would probably be best to just rely on the Ubuntu wiki, as it discusses setting up development environments and servers really well. Perhaps Dell could contribute directly to the Ubuntu wiki.
In my development PC I have found the perfect hardware to fit all my needs are around the following:
- 8gb ram, useful for database work and running VMs
- SSD, useful for database work
- A half decent CPU. I run a 2400k, but that is much more than what I need.
- Good battery life. If I am developing at work or home I will have a desktop, and I believe most developers do anyway. I see a laptop as mainly an "on the go" development platform, more than as a desktop replacement.
- GPU with good video output. If I am developing on a laptop, I will always plug in a secondary monitor where possible.
Display Resolution >1366px
first let me say: Thanks for giving people the chance to participate in your product development and for this great idea of a developer Ultrabook.
My idea is simple: Give us better display with higher resolution.
If I want to develop on a laptop with this lowcost 1366*768px resolution, I don't need to spend 900$+ to do this. So to make it short: PLEASE give us a matte display with a resolution of at least 1600*900px.
Status Update: The XPS 13 Developer Edition has been updated and now comes with a Full HD (1080P) screen resolution. Thank you for posting!
Multi Environment developer
I work in multiple environemnts: python, php, android, mono. I won't have trouble setting up these environments myself.
But I would like sufficient power with compromise to battery-life. Virtual machines are important to my development so a multicore processor with virtualization features is a must.
multi lingual support
I am based in Montreal, Qc and do mostly multilingual projects: French, English and Spanish. It would be nice to get the option of getting a multilingual keyboard and installation.
Battery Life, Anti-Glare Screen
I currently run Ubuntu 12.04 on my Inspiron 1764. The battery barely lasts two hours with the brightness of the monitor turned all the way down when simply using Sublime editor and Chrome for development. The other gripe I have about the currently setup is the display...in any level of natural light I have a very hard time seeing the screen. I would love to see an anti-glare screen that would allow the use outdoors in natural light as I love working outside when the weather permits.
My two cents. Thanks for listening.
Other Linux Flavors
It would be nice to see an offering of other Distros of Linux. I am interested in Mono development, but implementing that on Ubuntu is a bear since some of the default functions of Ubuntu are dependant on parts of Mono and you have to configure around that. Suse Linux is a good choice for Mono development.
How to image a developer's machine
I was just thinking about how cool was going to be if I could buy a xps13z and use it for development, but then I'd have to format it, find drivers, etc...
Reading your idea I think that the best would be to have this image with not only drivers, but some predefined packages compiled for the machine, with apt-get -b source [package]. Some packages like vim, xorg, etc are default, but you could have a list of predefined packages like gimp, virtualbox, komodo, (other IDEs), window managers, etc. built specially for the xps13z hardware, on a nifty xps13z section inside Ubuntu's package manager.
The more tools available the better, because I would like to choose what I would use, but would be a great thing to have pkgs compiled for my machine instead to compile everything to get the most excellent performance.
Don't bother with too much support I think personally, being developers I doubt we need a lot of support from a company like dell to be honest, as we tend to know more than the people who are expected to help us often (at the very least that was the case when my boss called with dell last time). The only important thing is making sure that all legal warranties are met as far as hardware support goes (e.g. in the EU depending on the country 2 to 3 years), as I (and many other people) really dislike being spammed with all kind of hardware support options which I already have for 80% without paying for them*.
*which was part of the reason I didn't buy a Dell laptop last time I concidered it (although I am working on a Dell desktop right now).
As downvoting/disagreeing isn't possible I just wanted to submit a mostly opposite idea to one of the other idea's.
- No seperate buttons (as is the case on macbooks for example and the current xps 13), as this greatly increases the useable trackpad area.
- Two buttons at most (middle mouse button is /rarely used/).
- The bigger the better (trackpads are extremely useful when they get past a certain point where you can start using them as a one on one representation of the screen (rather than a relative moving device) which is incredibly useful in some applications).
- Two finger scrolling (or the circular scrolling which was popular on linux awhile ago) that actually works (I have seen a number of really really poor implementations)
Brute power not necessary!
A number of ideas here seem to suggest web developers need the horse power to do video analysises on their laptops which simply isn't the case. For the majority of developers most i5 processors are more than enough, although a fair amount of RAM is always useful. The reason for this is simply that IDE's + a browser are both fairly average applications and do not need that much processing power. Especially the fact that often faster processors come at the cost of battery life I would suggest battery life to be far more important than the cpu.
(Please note that I assume the reason for people asking for the i7's is mostly out of the concept that geeks (which most programmers) tend to want the best ignoring their actual needs (which is to some extend why apple and apple macbook airs are so popular: they create the best they can ignoring what the consumer thinks he needs (to best would be some balance between the two I guess)))
let us actually buy it
I currently use the top-range Thinkpad X220. Things I love about it:
- _matte_ IPS screen that works outside
- keyboard that you can type on forever without hurting in your fingers
- long battery life
- RAM upgradable to 16GB
- fast, quad-core cpu
However, the Thinkpad is also ugly and not very thin. The Dell XPS
beats it there.
I realize web dev's don't really need more than dual-core, but if you
want to catch 3D devs, big data analysts, researchers, people who do
lots of compiling, you should really offer more cores for the
top-range models. And make sure RAM is upgradable in these VirtualBox
But the most important point to me is this: make it available on your
web site! And sell it in all countries where you sell Windows laptops.
I don't want to have to call some foreign number and ship to a friend
in another country just to buy a Ubuntu-pre-installed laptop …
I am a Ruby developer working on a 14" TravelMate 8471 (Core 2 ULV, 4GB RAM) - I am looking for an ultra portable in the next few months. I'd wait for the Dell if it has:
- a good, bright and preferably mate screen with at least 1366px resolution
- Core i7 and 8GB of RAMs - a must have for my next machine
- fast SSD drive, preferably 256GB
- 7 hours of battery life must be possible (at least when I am turning off WIFI and make the screen darker)
... I'd care less about the software as everything is easy to install in Ubuntu. A virtual Windows7 preinstalled (ready to enter the license key) would be awesome.
Laptop for developer needs to be ergonomic, allowing for long hours workin with code without causing much strain on eyesight. Working with glossy screen in office environment is just terrible. Also, TN screen is subpar. So the ideas for the screen are:
- must have matte as option (or even default)
- must be IPS
- optional 14" model
- 16:10 aspect ratio (instead of current 16:9)
- should have better resolution (at least 1440x900 for 13", higher resolutions as options)
First, I am a C/C++-Developer, but I also do web-programming. With PHP/HTML/CSS and also with C/C++.
The first thing I am looking for is a high quality keyboard. It should be exchangeable. Even if I am satisfied with my Inspiron 9300 keyboard, it might happen that it got damaged. A laptop with a damaged keyboard is worthless. At next I need a high resolution on a non reflecting display panel. I loved my Inspiron 9300 (on Debian Linux) for it's screen resolution (1920x1200) but unfortunately I had to work in darker edges.
I need to read lines of code. I need overview. I want to buy a 27" 2560x1600 Monitor this year. Dell only offers a 16:9 display. Please stay at 16:10! For coding I also accept 4:3. 1440x1050 is a great resolution for coding on a 12 or 13" display. I would love to see 1680x1050 on a 13" 16:10.
I do 3d programming. If you ask for webdevelopers: There is XML3D which is close to OpenGL/WebGL. I am working on this topic. I don't want to have problems, so I really want nvidia graphics. That's why my Inspiron had the additional GeForce 6800 graphics card. NVidia runs well for OpenGL applications. The laptop had a gread gaming performance - but I am no gamer.
My laptops are usually plugged. So I do not need a big and heavy battery. But I always carrying the power supply which needs additional space in my bag. Please create a laptop with a power supply you can put into the laptop instead the battery. Or half the battery to two identical batteries. So you can select if you need more battery with an external power supply or less battery but power supply is included. To make the laptop cheaper, the main battery could be internal.
I love the trackpad of my Apple Macbook. I usually do not need a button, just tip with 2 or 3 fingers - great!
CPU power is not that neceassary for me. Of couse it cool, but a SSD is more important today.
I ike this idea a lot, the problem I have with it though is cost
In the US the XPS 13 starts from $1000 which is £625 (@ 1.6 USD = 1GBP)
In the UK the XPS 13 starts from £950 which is $1520
My question is why do I have to pay over 1.5 times the cost in the UK?
Would the developer laptop be subject to this cost increase as well (note that there should be no licence fees!)
Recent instead of pre-installed dev software
Do not bother to pre-install dev software: Each developer will need a little bit different set and installation of software is easy and fast in ubuntu.
(e.g. in the blog post you list git and bzr, but I use svn and hg)
Instead, make sure the recent dev tools are available in the repositories. At the moment I use several PPAs to fetch recent dev tools. Maybe you could have one PPA for various DEV tools where tools are updated within a reasonable time frame.
Pre-installed ubuntu with Win7 license / image for VirtualBox
Every developer I know which are using linux or mac os x, still have Windows VM: If you develop for web, you need to test on IE.
Personally, I would never buy an ubuntu pre-loaded because I would need to buy a windows license separately anyway - and this is costly. I would rather buy a notebook with OEM Win7, install ubuntu on it and run Win7 inside VirtualBox.
Providing a proper licese or VirtualBox image for Win7 would be the only option I would buy ubuntu pre-loaded.
The TrackPad Perfected
Usually one of the worst thing about all laptops are their trackpads. Awkward placement or size can really ruin a beautiful product. How about using a glass trackpad like Apple? They are super sleek and wonderful to use. Lastly, on the size of the track pad, you should use something with the same aspect ratio. As a side note, I currently do a lot of my development on my Precision M4600 and one of my favorite features is the three buttons right below the track pad.
My wish list:
-Physical buttons (3 if possible/ give buyer the choice)
-Made of glass for perfect touch and feel
-Size ratio matches screen proportions
-Give the trackpad a "disable" button (tired of hitting the trackpad by accident when typing)
-As flush as possible (I hate having debris caught in between my trackpad and the casing)
Developer/Programmer = Lots of typing
Why don't you offer us a keyboard of the highest quality? Also, people always have different feelings about customizeable hot keys, but it's deffinitely worth taking a shot at. A specially designed dev keyboard that possibly has a couple of programmable custom keys.
Interesting dev experiment (needs multi-OS support)
Using Visual Studio and Windows Azure you can already build in the DevOps model by developing locally using Visual Studio & the Windows Azure fabric and then deploy to your cloud infrastructure. This works for Java, C++, etc.
To make the machine a real world DevOps machine you need multi-OS capability out of the box. Tool sets will help define most productive environments (NB/Eclipse for Java deployment, Visual Studio for Windows Azure & cloud-based Hadoop instances)
Use a trackpoint
I would really love a trackpoint. I try to do as much work as possible with the keyboard and if I have to use the mouse I always use the trackpoint so i dont have to take my fingers off the keyboard.
For me, this is a really important feature and I can well imagine I am not alone with this sentiment in the world of linux power users and developers.
IDE full Integration
People using Eclipse IDE & Netbeans IDE as main tools for their development machine, would love to see those latter well integrated in Ubuntu 12.04.
- Latest version of Netbeans should be available in USC (repository) - version 7.1.2.
- Netbeans & Eclipse should be integrated with Unity Global menu.
Speed, Speed, Speed
Implement the smooth scrolling features like in Mac OS X. Also have good multi-touch features similar to those in macs.
Short list of what would persuade me to switch...
- At least 1440×900 resolution. 1366×768 on the XPS 13 doesn't cut it after using a MBA
- A better touchpad. I have yet to find a touchpad that comes close to those on Macbooks. The Cypress touchpad on the XPS 13 is as bad as they come. Someone must be able to produce a touchpad that at least comes close to functioning as well a those on Macbooks.
- Better battery life. From the reviews of the XPS 13, its about an hour short of the battery life of the MBA. If this is due to the fact that the XPS 13 has a smaller footprint than the MBA, I would rather take more battery life over the smaller size.
- Simple power supply. I really like how Macbooks have a compact power supply, and you can use flip out prongs to plug it in. I don't like the Dell power supply that I have to carry around a second cable with. I'd like something simmilar to what Apple offers.
- SD card slot. I still use a digital camera, and would rather not have to find an SD card reader everytime I want to transfer photos. Especially when most other laptops have them.
- XPS logo on the screen. Makes me feel like I'm using a cheesy gaming PC. Just place the standard Dell logo there.
- Cheesy futuristic font on keyboard. Again, makes me feel like I'm using a cheesy gaming PC. Just use the standard font that all the other Dell PCs use.
- Carbon fiber on the underside. To be clear, I have no problem with the carbon fiber since it provides technical benefits, just how its exposed. Once again, it makes the machine look like a cheesy gaming PC. Just paint the carbon fiber flat black, so the machine has a clean, professional look.
- No 'Windows' keys. Since this machine is designed to run Ubuntu, please don't use the same old Windows keys on the keyboard. Don't use an 'Ubuntu logo' or 'Tux' to replace it either, just use something generic like the ◆ found on the Meta keys on old Sun keyboards. Keep things clean and professional.
No chicklet keyboard please. ThinkPad keyboards are close to perfection.
Coreboot instead of BIOS
HDMI CEC support
1. Plug laptop into TV via HDMI port
2. Laptop tells TV to use it as input.
3. Laptop (video/presentation etc) can be controlled by TV remote.
This is something most laptops can't do, and none can do in Linux.
Fix the Internal/External Display Toggle
So it doesn't just send Win+P
Screen real estate is a big deal. 1920x1200 at ~15".
There are two things I look for first in a laptop: Does it have a ~15" WUXGA screen, and does it have a trackpoint. After that look for CPU, battery life, etc.
I used to be quite happy with the D8** Latitudes, but when Dell stopped offering WUXGA I had to look elsewhere and opted for a Thinkpad W500 from a Lenovo outlet.
Screen resolutions meant for the average movie-watching consumer are not quite suitable for software developers. 16:10, 1920x1200 is needed for a ~15" screen.
My Wishlist for the perfect Ubuntu PC
Ok, so I don't know what a developer laptop is, but as a developer who lives in linux all day, I have a pretty good idea of what would make a good laptop for me.
- distribute your laptop with vanilla ubuntu, no add-ins or additional software. Not so much as an icon for DELL support. Make sure the laptop runs well out of the box on debian... if I'm buying a laptop designed for living in the linux world I think everything in the laptop should work out of the box. It's ok if it works in Ubuntu, but I switch distros a lot so I'd expect it to work well everywhere. Don't be like 'well we gotta add the restricted drivers and ffshow and a support center icon' No! Don't make me format this thing right out of the gate...
- two hard drive bays - this way I can rock a fast boot drive and a large drive for storage. So I'd want two 2.5 in sata bays and definately a SATA stick mount by the ram, that way I can also RAID the two 2.5 inch sata drives and boot off of a third drive.
- You don't need the largest screen, but it should have a large resolution. It should have mulitlble video output options. I develop in a dual screen setup so I want to be able to push that on any development laptop. So, two HDMI ports, DVI ports whatever works best but somehow it needs to support that setup.
- A good, solid BIOS with all the little features I would expect with a great gaming motherboard, sans the overclocking.
- I don't think it needs to be a super powerhouse, I'd rather have a thin system then a strapped powerhouse. A decent GPU something that more than run compiz, maybe something that could dual boot into Windows and play a game at a decent pace. That's secondary though, to me the biggest thing would be a gpu that doesn't disappoint me on the driver front.
- I think developers are going to expect tons of RAM slots and maybe an accessable CPU slot that supports a ton of CPU's in a popular socket. Again, I'd blow all that for a thin laptop with decent RAM support but I think most developers would prefer expandability.
- USB3, SATA6.0, all the perphrial connections should be top notch.. Multitouch trackpad, backlit keys, etc... c'mon, I'm the person who cares about this stuff so hook me up.
- I'm surrounded by mac users. I don't think my system should be prettier, but please... no plastic, no OS stickers, don't destroy the bottom with service tag stickers and warnings about heat, don't screw up your logo placement... for the love of god let me show this thing off.
For this to be a machine to do "real work" on, I'd need it to be offered with the same level of support you can offer with Latitude systems. That is, repairs next-business-day on-site, and a promise that you'll have someone on the phone who will not tell me to install MS Windows just to verify I have a hardware issue.
Status Update: The XPS 13 Developer Edition has been released with ProSupport options. Thank you for participating!
Make it work with a vanilla image
First of all, thanks for doing this - good Linux-support is very high on my list of required features, and has been a reason for buying Dell in the past.
You write "The image will come with the necessary drivers to support the HW" and I have to ask: isn't it possible instead to update the machine's firmware, so that it is sufficiently standards-compliant to work with a vanilla Ubuntu image?
If the machine requires a custom image, that leads me to worry that it will need customisation for every new version of the distro in the future, and that reinstalls might be a hassle every time. It also suggests that it might prove a hassle to install other distros, which lack your customisations.
Dell appears to have a fairly good track record of building laptops that "just work" with Ubuntu: at least quite a few are listed at http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/desktop/ - so please make this another one!
Please do not use Unity...
I used to love Ubuntu and had all kinds of scripts that would setup the box just the way I wanted it and then came Unity... Wow, did they completely hose this wonderfull OS or what. Completely unusable for a developer (IMHO). So if I would have one suggestion it would be to use Xubuntu instead. I think if you wanted to do Ubuntu/Unity for non-techies that might be alright. Unity has eliminated my ability to customize the OS the way that I want and I would not buy such a machine. Put Xubuntu (or Mint or anything other than Unity, really) on an XPS 13 and I will be the first one at your door with credit card in hand!
Just don't make it more expensive than the Windows version
I bought a laptop from Dell back when they were still selling the Ubuntu option. I intended to run Ubuntu, but when I was selecting the options, I saw that (for some reason I don't fully understand) the Ubuntu version was more expensive. Maybe the extra cost was in assumed support, but regardless it strikes the brain strange to charge MORE for a free OS than for a paid one. I figured I'd save money and have a Windows license in case, so that's I bought it with Windows and then just install Ubuntu. Had it been the same cost or lower I would have bought Ubuntu. Don't shoot yourself in the foot here by charging extra for this stuff, especially when targeting developers. We still glorify the self-built, self-modded setup, so I wouldn't bet on being able to charge extra for "ease-of-use".
as much CPU as possible, bigger screen
I would be interested in an XPS13 in 13.3, 14.1 would be better and oversized at 15.4 would be awesome. Anything less than an i7 for Android dev ( my day job ) is almost unbearable. I have had a 60GB SSD for two years now and it's all I've ever needed. 128 is more than plenty and 256 is just me paying for space I wont use. Memory is negotiable, 4GB is fine but we are developers, let us add more if we need to. Give us options, we aren't grandmas, we dont get confused by options.
Better Hardware Specs
The only problems I see with the current XPS Ultrabook are the underpowered specs in the following areas:
- Display Resolution
If the machine could be maxed out with 8gb ram and had a 1440x900 screen (same as the MacBook Air) then the purchase of this for development (and personal use) would be a no brainer. It would be usable as my only machine.
Please, please, please. I want one.
Just provide proper Linux support.
It really beggers belief Dell are still "experimenting" with Linux and Ubuntu. Dell sells Linux machines in Asia without issue. It sold Linux machines in the UK and USA before without even advertising them while doing it's level best to make them as hard to find as possible.
Please stop pussyfooting around and just get in the game already. Provide proper Linux solutions to developers, businesses and consumers. Ubuntu is more than capable of meeting their needs.
First, I think this is an incredible idea. Casual users are buying apple, powerusers who know better than to buy apple are buying dells, and dual booting them with a flavor of linux. The main problem is the hardware support. If you made all of your machines more linux friendly this would solve the issue. I just purchased an xps 15z a few months back and have spent much time dealing with compatibility issues with it. Backtrack, Ubuntu, and Arch all have some issues with the machine. If this xps 13 is much more compatible I might purchase it. Hopefully this idea stays strong.
Large RAM, Multiple Cores, NVIDIA GPUs, Basic Make Toolchain
Generally when doing development I try to place all the tiers of my webapp on my local box... it encourages me both take a devops/bootstrap mentality when doing development. On the plus side that encourages developers to know the whole stack, but on the downside it eats RAM. 8 GB of RAM is the default now on our developer workstations.
Also multiple cores within a CPU seems to count more than the actual clock speed - so four hyperthreaded cores are more valuable than four overclocked cores.
NVIDIA GPUs are also highly coveted within the development team, especially for those that run Linux. ATi's Linux drivers have always been horrible, especially with multi-montior setups. KDE4 has made configuring these and switching to projectors much easier, but NVIDIA seems to handle things better. The big test is always this: can I detach from my second monitor, walk to a conference room and connect to a projector without re-starting X?
As far as pre-installed stuff... if I have enough of a C/C++/Make toolchain going to re-build the kernel I generally can do whatever I need. I have yet to see a Linux distro actually bundle Java/Eclipse/NetBeans well, so I always prefer to download and install the latest on my own. Unfortunately OpenJDK isn't quite ready for prime time yet either... so I'm always using Sun's (yeah, I said it) JDK. If there was an easier way to install with updating /etc/alternatives that would be awesome.