My adventure in the world of Linux continues and I’ve come to the point where I have purchased a Dell XPS 13 non touch and went ahead and installed Ubuntu 16.04 on it. It’s important to note that I did not spring for the Dell Developer Edition, since there was a sale on the regular (read Windows 10) version of the machine and since my intention was to immediately upgrade to 16.04 once I got the machine.
My first day working with Mate, things were great, but there was a lurking problem hidden by the fact that I was running my XPS to an external monitor that entire day. You see the XPS model that I have has the newest Skylake hotness in it. Unfortunately, Skylake has been problematic in terms of screen flickering issues on Windows 10 due to driver issues – the Linux situation is just as bad if not work. The screen flickers every few seconds and is basically not usable unless connected to an external monitor.
Because of this issue, I was forced to use the recovery tool provided by Dell to reset my machine back to Windows 10 and am using it with Windows without issue. This is a pretty disappointing problem but is not necessarily the end of my adventure. My plan is to simply wait until the community or Intel provides a driver that resolves the issue. In the meantime, I’ll be checking out Windows 10 as a development environment and try out that BASH on Windows stuff.
Let me know what you think on Twitter.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to try out the Dell Venue 7 and use it as a test device but also a day to day media tablet.
The Good: The tablet ships with a fairly recent version of Android: 4.2.2. Additionally, the UX is pretty much stock Android — in fact, I’m at a strain to find anywhere that Dell has significantly modified the OS. At $150, it is nothing if not affordable. This low price point is made all the more impressive by the beautiful screen that holds up fairly well to its higher-end competitors.
The Bad: Unlike most popular Android tablets, the Venue is based on an Intel chipset. Taken by itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there is a trend of developers (especially mobile game developers) tweaking their software to optimize for Tegra and SnapDragon processors — or more broadly put, developers of high-end Android software, have been optimizing for ARM systems. In fact, on a few higher end games, I’ve seen a bit of sputtering on the Venue that I don’t see on the Nexus 7.
The Ugly: Dell’s decision to go with Intel also seems to have affected the industrial design of the tablet. It is noticeably thicker than the Nexus 7 and feels like it is a year or two behind the likes of the Nexus and Nokia’s Sirius tablet in terms of its industrial design aesthetic.
Conclusion: Dell’s’ Venue 7 is not a bad tablet by any means and will probably excel in certain arenas where price matters more than performance: ie corporate deployments. However, if you can spring for the Nexus 7, then you’ll probably be a bit happier with Google’s tablet.
If you haven’t read it already, please take a look at my last post for a quick review of the Dell XPS 13’s hardware; this review will take a look at Ubuntu 12.04 on the laptop. A few things of note: Ubuntu was installed via the standard ISO, Dell’s Sputnik PPAs were added via apt-get after the installation was completed, and any and all proprietary drivers are being used on my machine.
The Good: Ubuntu, as always, installs cleanly and easily. The system promptly notified me of a number of updates and provided me with a helpful GUI for installing them. Ubuntu runs stable on the XPS and Dell has done a good job of providing any extra software for the XPS’s hardware via its PPAs. Unity, Ubuntu’s relatively new and somewhat controversial desktop environment, performs almost flawlessly on the XPS 13 and is a welcome update to the somewhat retro GNOME 2 desktop environment that preceded it.
The Bad: The system is for the most part fine, however, there are a few small but noticeable issues. If when the laptop comes out of sleep, adjusting the screen’s brightness does not function until the system is restarted. By default, the user is forced to enter his root password each time the system starts to connect to wifi; this is relatively easy to change for an Ubuntu power user, but the ‘out of the box’ experience is not ideal.
The Ugly: Canonical has done a great job with this latest long term release of Ubuntu and there really isn’t anything ugly about it; though, it is likely that Unity detractors would disagree.
The Verdict: Despite the XPS 13’s abysmal screen and finicky trackpad, it still runs Ubuntu (with the help of Dell’s Sputnik project) quite well.
Been to a developer conference or meetup recently? If you have, you might have noticed something odd. A large portion of the attendees using Macs. Now if that conference was an iOS or OS X developer event, then it probably makes a lot of sense, but what about web and backend developers? Is there are reason for all those Macs? Well, that’s a question that Dell has set out to answer with their Project Sputnik.
Sputnik is an initiative to design a custom spin of Ubuntu 12.04 LTS for the Dell XPS 13. If you don’t know the XPS 13 is one of Dell’s ultrabooks. Dell wants to address the web developer market that is so fond of Apple.
I am really excited about this. Ubuntu was at one time my dev OS of choice thanks to apt-get. Currently, dell is not offering a pre-configured machine with the 12.04 image, but you can download it here and they claim that if there is enough interest they may start offering XPS’s preconfigured with Ubuntu, so if you are interested in one of these machines or just a Linux fan, let them know.