New from Dell: an Ubuntu Linux Laptop Targeting Developers

Canonical's free OS will also ship on five percent of PCs next year, according to one report.

Dell has taken what you might call an on-again, off-again approach to offering Ubuntu-preloaded hardware over the years, but on Monday the company made an announcement that Linux fans are sure to cheer.

Specifically, through an effort known as Project Sputnik, Dell has been working on a prototype open source laptop aimed at developers, based on Ubuntu Linux 12.04 "Precise Pangolin" and Dell's XPS 13 hardware.

"Sputnik is part of an effort by Dell to better understand and serve the needs of developers in Web companies," explained Barton George, director of marketing for Dell's Web vertical, in a blog post on Monday. "We want to find 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."

An Install Image Is Available

The topic of Ubuntu has cropped up repeatedly in discussions with developers, George noted. Not only that, but "a fair number" of developers have specifically requested a laptop based on the free and open source operating system, he said.

"To my knowledge, no other OEM has yet made a system specifically targeted at devs," George wrote, so Dell "figured it was time to see what that might mean."

Project Sputnik is a six-month effort made possible by an internal innovation fund. Now available in an install image for the project are drivers and patches for hardware enablement along with a basic assortment of tools and utilities; a software management tool to retrieve developer profiles from GitHub is coming soon, George said.

The project has already been working in collaboration with Canonical to resolve hardware issues involving brightness and the wifi hotkey; still being addressed are touchpad and multitouch support. The video below explains the effort in more detail.

'We Have Big Plans'

The vision for Project Sputnik is "a Launchpad to the cloud," George said.

Among the possibilities for the developer-oriented machine is "a common set of tools from client, to test, to production, thereby tying Sputnik via a common tool chain to a cloud back end powered by OpenStack," he explained. "Developers could create 'micro clouds' locally and then push them to the cloud writ large."

If Project Sputnik is successful, "we have big plans for the effort," George added, though he didn't explicitly address the possibility of a consumer-oriented version.

Still, the news is particularly for Linux fans given the report published by OMG!Ubuntu! today suggesting that Ubuntu will be included on fully five percent of the PCs that ship next year.

Is Linux dead on the desktop? Sure doesn't sound like it to me.

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30 year MS-Dos -> Win7 techo


Just chipping in - 2 years ago we brought an old HP laptop with 512MB (!) RAM back to life, by installing Ubuntu. It comes with open office or whatever you call it these days, but - it is certainly as fast as our HP and Toshiba notebooks of just 1 year old loaded with Win7, i520 and 4GB :). If you only need a PC for MS office, then why throw away your old pc's/notebooks, this is brilliant. Plus the UI looks really good, and - no RIBBONS and buggyness of MSOffice 2010 (forget about 2007 that's not even worth using). So try it for yourself, the install is as painless as anything...

Dave Lane


Our who developer team (and sysadmin team and all of our hosting infrastructure) all run Ubuntu. It is unparalleled as a developers platform, simple as that.



What do you do when you support the computers of the whole family and your mother-in-law complains continually about Windows 7 on her shiny new Sony laptop? You install Ubuntu of course!

That's what I did 2 years ago and she's the only one I no longer have to support on a near monthly basis. She gets her email through the bundled email app, browses the web with Firefox, maintains her photograph collection through Picasa (yes, there's a version for Ubuntu), edits documents in Libre Writer (OpenOffice) and all her data is backed up silently through Dropbox (yes there's a Dropbox app for it too).

I simply cannot fault it for regular computer work, but more importantly - neither can she! In fact from what I hear she is regularly singing the praises of Ubuntu at the local Bridge club!

Ubuntu is so under-rated it amazes me. If they had a marketing team behind them like Apple or Microsoft I'm sure their OS would be widely used by all.


Michael Foreman


I run Ubuntu on a dual boot system with Windows XP on a two year old laptop. When I run Windows the laptop always overheats and crashes after about twenty minutes, unless the ambient temperature is really low or I use a desk fan. When I run Ubuntu it never overheats.



Dell may not have heard of Zareason, who, unlike Dell, do ship to New Zealand.

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