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Dell Designing Developer Oriented Laptop 399

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the dude-you-got-a-webscale-laptop dept.
jones_supa writes "Barton George, director of marketing for Dell's Web vertical reveals information about 'Project Sputnik', a laptop tailored for developer needs in web companies. '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,' George ponders. He also gives a quick list of packages that the default installation could include. The machine will base on the XPS13, assessing a couple of its main hardware deficiencies along the way." According to the article, this is a "6 month project to investigate an Ubuntu laptop. If successful, we have big plans for the effort." It's unclear how closely they are working with upstream, but there's mention of Canonical as a commercial partner so this may mean Dell is working to ensure some of their hardware Just Works (tm) with Ubuntu. The software side is so far just a customized install with developer tools preinstalled. Ars remains skeptical about Dell's strategy for GNU/Linux support, which may be warranted given their track record.
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Dell Designing Developer Oriented Laptop

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  • Resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nerdfest (867930) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:58AM (#39941441)

    The one thing that they (Dell) and pretty much everyone else are missing is a decent screen resolution. 1366x768 and 1440x900 just don't cut it for development. They're barely useable for browsing.

  • by Moheeheeko (1682914) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:01AM (#39941499)
    Not if Dell is behind it. You saw what they did to Alienware.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:02AM (#39941501) Homepage

    If I am going to be using the laptop outside of a dimly lit room, give me the option of buying a quality matte display. I don't care if it's an extra $200. Just give me the damn option. My comfort and ability to work in public without feeling like I'm staring into a mirror is more important.

  • Shovelware (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:05AM (#39941545)

    I'm worried about the shovelware. Will ten antiviruses and junk like that be in a removable ubuntu package or will it be too deeply embedded into the OS to remove?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:07AM (#39941589)

    Maybe Dell can succeed where legions of open-source developers have failed: to twist the arm of hardware developers to release the source of their drivers so we can FINALLY use our computers with Linux without ages of pointless driver and configuration file tweaking!

  • by Kjella (173770) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:08AM (#39941609) Homepage

    The software side is so far just a customized install with developer tools preinstalled. Ars remains skeptical about Dell's strategy for GNU/Linux support, which may be warranted given their track record.

    Call it a "developer laptop" and you've probably scared away 99% of the market, the 99% Dell doesn't want. The ones who think it'll be like Windows or run Windows software or work with all accessories they have on their old PC. The people interested in Linux will know hey it's just an Ubuntu install with a few preloads, the important thing is the hardware is supported under Linux. To me it sounds good, to make it profitable it's just as much about not selling to the wrong people as selling to the right people. Support and returns will very quickly kill your margins.

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:13AM (#39941671) Journal

    I find significant dissonance with their two statements:

    "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"

    I was unaware that web designers did most of their work "in the field" away from modern conveniences like desks and dual monitors. I am also surprised that "stylish" is equated with "powerful and simple".

    By the look of their press release, I'd say they are trying to convert all of the metrosexual Apple users to Dell brand users with shiny and an OSX-esque GUI. Function and capability don't appear to play into the equation much.

  • by billmil (59216) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:15AM (#39941683)

    As a developer, I need more vertical screen space: looking at code, looking at debuggers, editing long files.

    I have two monitors at work: an ld 19" and 23". The 23" has less vertical screen space than the 19".

    More vetical screen real estate would make a laptop more dev friendly

  • Re:Resolution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:15AM (#39941693) Journal

    There is a huge difference between reading a web page and developing.

  • Re:Resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by azalin (67640) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:19AM (#39941735)
    Oups forgot one: Non reflective screen surface, just in case your office has a window.
  • Re:Laugh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:20AM (#39941755) Journal

    Developing on a 13 inch screen...

    Developing on dual 30" screens is certainly nicer, but it you can't develop on a 13" screen, then you're not terribly effective. I developed good software on a netbook (1024x600), since I was travelling a lot and I valued the light weight (940g for a 20G EEE 900, with the lightest PSU I've ever used) and decent battery life over a big screen.

    Once you're all set up with a decent folding editor and plenty of virtual screens, it's a surprisingly good environment.

    And don't forget that unless you're flogging the CPU, the backlight is the biggest power draw, which scales with the square of the diagonal length. You simply cannot have a lightweight large screen laptop with a long battery life.

    Remember, no matter how awesomely huge your screen space is, development is a bit of a drag if you have to write the code on paper when the battery runs out.

  • by rjlouro (651989) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:29AM (#39941903) Homepage
    Developers have no problems hacking their favorite environment, linux, windows, whatever. It's the hardware that counts. Personally I'd like a development laptop that would be:
    • - Very high resolution
    • - 4:3 format
    • - mate screen, enough of that bright crap
    • - Powerfull CPU and RAM
    • - No internal DVD drive, swap that for an additional HD or Battery
    • - present that in several options, from 12 to 17 inch. Developers do travel sometimes, and they love to take their gear with them.
    • - a very good keyboard, with decent feedback. IBM M-Type would be great
    • - Button to disable trackpad.
    • - A good docking station to hook up external monitors, keyboard+mouse, etc.
    • - Easily removable everything, battery, ram, HD, etc.

    Do that and I buy one.

  • Re:Resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mepperpint (790350) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:30AM (#39941911)

    Agreed! The display is very important. I do not understand why the other commenters seems to be asking for a 1920x1080 display. This wide screen is good for watching movies, but crap for development work. I need more verticle screen real estate so that I can see a larger block of code at once. Verticle space is far more valuable than horizontal. I would gladly take a 1600x1200 display over a 1920x1080. If they really want to be innovative, they'll put a 1920x1200 display on the laptop along with a feature where it can be rotated vertical to give me 1200x1920. That's what I do on my desktop and it works great. Duplicate it on my laptop and I'll finally be able to use it for work purposes.

  • Re:Why Ubuntu? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 19thNervousBreakdown (768619) <[davec-slashdot] [at] [lepertheory.net]> on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:30AM (#39941913) Homepage

    Visual Studio vs VIM is like an aircraft carrier vs the world's greatest compound bow. I'll grant you, it is the best goddamned bow the world has ever seen. A good bowman can take shots a sniper would be hard-pressed to make, and there is a simple joy to using such a powerful and versatile tool. And if you want, you can call it the rustiest piece of shit aircraft carrier that's ever wallowed the seas. But come on. Be real. They're hardly even the same thing.

  • Re:Resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThePhilips (752041) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:35AM (#39941989) Homepage Journal

    In particular for development, I personally find the 4:3 screens better than the widescreen ones. And that is one of mine biggest complains with the modern laptops as development goes. I want to see more lines of the source code on the screen. In the end one buys 24" external display - sufficiently tall to fit more lines of code - only to waste 20-30% of the screen space on the sides.

    They should introduce something like "tall screen." And if keyboard is OK, I might even consider buying it.

  • Re:Resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pmontra (738736) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:49AM (#39942213) Homepage

    6 years ago HP was able to make the nc8430. It weighted 2.7 kg (6 lbs?) had 2 GB RAM (expandable to 4), 80 GB disk (I replaced it with a 500 GB one two years ago), 1600x1050 15", 2 cores 2 GHz (the T7200), 3 hours battery life for about 1200-1300 Euro. After six years a 4 cores processor (I'm not up to date with the GHz race), 4 GB RAM, 500 GB disk, HD resolution, 3-4 hours of battery life for the same price and a little less weight (not that I care) should be fair.

    My biggest complaint with modern laptops is that they have either a tiny screen (reduced height) or they are so large you could mistake them for skateboards if it were not for the number pad at the right end ;-)

  • One thing missing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bazman (4849) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:49AM (#39942219) Journal

    Yeah, every web developer runs Ubuntu up until that moment when they realise they have to make sure the site works with Internet Explorer. So the first thing you'll have to do with this is install Virtual Box and do a Windows Install. You do have a Windows license, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:58AM (#39942341)

    "'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, "

    Ummm. What developers are you referring to? Give me a nice dense 4:3 aspect ratio display (I know - this is a distant dream), lots of I/O, CPU power and RAM. I couldn't care less if my dev laptop watches movies or looks prettier than me and I really don't care how heavy it is.

    And I don't care what OS you preinstall. I'm going to put my own one on anyway.

  • Re:Resolution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @12:01PM (#39942393) Homepage

    Also, most of the other important developer friendly things would be in the hardware, not the software. Many developers are likely to wipe the thing and start over from scratch anyway.

    Still, I think the idea of having the computer ship with Linux is important. Even if you want to wipe the computer and start over, the fact that it shipped with Linux means that Dell is truly supporting Linux. That means that they're going to have to choose Linux-friendly hardware, and have stable/optimized drivers for all the hardware they're using.

    There are also probably sensible choices that they can make for packages for developers, depending on what kind of developers they're targeting. For example, if you're a serious developer, there's a good chance you're going to want some kind of compiler. Picking a particular set of packages may not make all developers happy, but you could possibly start with a normal set of "lowest common denominator" packages and save the user a little bit of setup time.

    Aside from that, the summary mentions that this is targeted for developers for "web companies". If you're talking about "web developers", I could definitely see them selecting a set of packages that an HTML/PHP monkey would be happy with and not want to wipe and start from scratch.

  • Re:Resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @12:04PM (#39942427) Journal

    You'd need that drop in build time, since that's about how long your battery would last.

  • Re:Resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyler Eaves (344284) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @12:51PM (#39943149)

    So, buy a Mac Book Pro?

    Quad Core i7
    500GB HD
    4GB RAM
    1680x1050 screen

    $1850 = 1420EUR

  • Re:Resolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rhsanborn (773855) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @01:08PM (#39943401)
    The conspiracy theorist in me would say because they pay for less screen area with the same marketing number. A 15 inch widescreen having less area than a 4:3 style display. More likely is that widescreen LCDs are so much cheaper because they make them for TVs and other media uses.
  • This would be a good moment for some smart guys to start developing a beautiful fully-scalable windowing system for Linux!

    It would also be a good moment for Apple to unfuck OSX and go back to resolution independence ala NeXTStep. I have read some rumors about that but nothing concrete.

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