Sputnik…Wow!!


Courtesy of nasaimages.org

We knew that project Sputnik, the idea of creating a developer laptop based on Dell’s XPS13 ultrabook and Ubuntu 12.04LTS, would have appeal but we never could have anticipated the response we’ve gotten.

To put it into perspective, the most cumulative views I’ve had of a blog entry before Sputnik was 2,700.   My post introducing Sputnik, as of tonight, has had over 42,000 views!  And the news has been carried by a boatload of   pubs and blogs around the world (see a partial list below).

Silent but not sleeping

In case you’re wondering, the radio silence for the last couple of weeks  hasn’t been intentional our little team has just been crazy busy.   Not only have we gotten attention outside of Dell but our profile has raised quite a bit inside as well.  Our skunk works team has been scrambling to leverage that attention to see what we can do to put this on a faster track.  We have also had a bunch of meetings with Canonical to talk about the best way forward given the intense interest.

Whole lot of feedback

We have been deluged with comments and suggestions both on my blog and the Sputnik Storm session and while there were plenty of people who said they would  buy it now if it was available, we also received some clear direction on where people would like to see this offering go.   Some of the key areas for improving the offering are:

  • Multi gesture support for the touch pad  (more on that in a second)
  • Screen resolution
  • More memory (8GB+)
  • Matte screen
  • Pricing: don’t make it more expensive than Windows

We are making note of these suggestions as we plot our way through this six month pilot.

The track pad

Its no surprise that the number one complaint has been the lack of multi gesture support in the touchpad.  Canonical and Dell have reached out to the vendor and last week they began working on an open source driver.  The vendor is sending both Dell and Canonical intermediary versions which will allow us to iterate on them as they’re developing and provide feedback about what’s working and what isn’t with the way things are assembled.  Fingers crossed, we hope to see the completed driver by the end of June.

Update June 21: the driver for the touchpad is now available!

Thanks everyone for their amazing interest Sputnik and look for a bunch more info soon.

Extra-credit reading — some Sputnik coverage

26 Responses to Sputnik…Wow!!

  1. wow indeed..been wondering bout the progress, cause i’m desperately in need of new gadget, wanna retired my toshiba m800.
    first of all, I like to thank for those who involved to make this project happen. that said, please give some info bout, is there any plan for dell to refresh xps 13 to ivy bridge anytime soon (just d prosessor), like I said iam desperate or at least info baout average battery life on current xps 13 using ubuntu, is 5 hr of coding achiavable, just in case I endup buying current xps. thx

  2. Is there anyway Ubuntu could make the development drivers for the Touchpad available via PPA (or other means)?

    I would love to test them as they evolved over the next month.

  3. seumas says:

    Those suggestions sound great. Very good news on the trackpad! We’re always trying to find the ideal machine for our dev team.

  4. Thanks for the update, I’ve been running this image on my XPS since your first post and I’m loving it. The trackpad is obviously a big issue, great to hear a solution is in the works!

  5. [...] in the history of IdeaStorm.  The leader of the Storm Session, Barton George, has written a blog post about the feedback received so far and even included a handy list of articles written about the [...]

  6. karl says:

    ok checking the announce today of new materials on Apple. The insanity of the system becoming more and more close. I might come back to linux. I was looking for something equivalent to a macbook air 11″ or 13″ in terms of size with 8Gb RAM and 512 Gb Drive and… Japanese keyboard.

    The Sputnik Dell is close from what I need, but need to go a bit further. It needs to match or be better than the macbook air for a lower price.

  7. [...] in the history of IdeaStorm.  The leader of the Storm Session, Barton George, has written a blog post about the feedback received so far and even included a handy list of articles written about the [...]

  8. Ok, you got the attention, now you have to deliver. And deliver fast.

  9. Jim Klein says:

    Do you have any code for the touchpad, no matter how buggy? XPS13 has been my primary dev laptop running 12.04 since it came out and a touchpad driver is the only bit it needs to be perfect. I’d love to help work it out.

  10. A says:

    Also plese use Coreboot and an AMD Processor and GPU (or APU, or both). Also a proper unix style keyboard layout would be amazing. Please model the keyboard on Sun Type 5 or the Happy Hacking Keyboard, (caps lock is unnessesary). I would find it irritating to purchase an ubuntu laptop and have a windows logo.

  11. Tomek says:

    Just a remark, perhaps useful. Myself and many of my colleagues (doing computational research of various sorts) switched to MacBooks only because they “just work” while providing a Unix environment for coding. I would happily switch back to Linux if only I could use a lightweight laptop where everything would “just work”. I think that many of my colleagues feel the same. I will with my laptop upgrade to the end of this experiment:)

  12. paulgrins says:

    Barton,

    Will Dell finally expand Ubuntu to all of it’s desktops/laptops/tablets now that Microsoft has become your #1 competitor in the tablet space and has basically destroyed the future of your consumer and professional tablet business?

    “Welcome to Microsoft Surface.
    http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en/us/default.aspx

    I find it insanely unfair that the Ubuntu people have tried to help you so much to develop your own innovative products to free your company from these sort of conflict ridden situations and yet you snubbed them for so long!

    While you bend over backwards for Microsoft and they sneak around your back and release two tablets that basically destroy any Windows RT based business you ever possibly thought you could have.

    Please start supporting Ubuntu and Linux on all of your desktops, laptops and tablets! Microsoft’s recent entry into your turf the hardware business is a major jarring wake up call!

  13. Erlantz Oniga says:

    Any news regarding the screen resolution, the memory upgrade or the matte screen? Will we see any of those changes in a future revamped version of XPS 13 with Ivy Bridge?

    Thanks for all your hard work.

    • Thanks Erlantz. I cant comment on our future roadmap with regards to the Hardware but you can assume that like all tech offerings it will keep getting better and better :)

  14. Radomir Dopieralski says:

    It’s really great to see the project didn’t die, but I’m really worried that you are working on the wrong thing. Developers, especially the kind that use Linux, can (and enjoy doing so) develop their own software, tools, automation and profile managers. Any second spent by Dell on that is simply a waste of resources. I think it’s much better to concentrate on the things that the community can’t do: drivers, hardware and sane purchase options. Sure, those are the hard parts, while programming yet another software installer is very cool and entertaining — but no developer will buy a Dell laptop just because he can install some canned software on it with one click less than on another laptop.

    Having said so, I’m really looking forward to see what *hardware* will result from this project.

    • AG says:

      Finally, I complete agree with Radomir here.

      Question:

      Can Dell change this?

      —————————————

      “Dell recommends Windows 7″

      “HP recommends Windows 7″

      “Lenovo recommends Windows 7″

      “Asus recommends Windows 7″

      “Sony recommends Windows 7″

      “Toshiba recommends Windows 7″

      “Acer recommends Windows 7″

      —————————————

      to this….

      —————————————

      “Dell recommends Windows 7 and Ubuntu 12.04″

      “HP recommends Windows 7 and Ubuntu 12.04″

      “Lenovo recommends Windows 7 and Ubuntu 12.04″

    • M says:

      > I think it’s much better to concentrate on the things that the community can’t do: drivers, hardware and sane purchase options.

      I agree. I need to re-install from scratch anyway even if shipped with Ubuntu pre-loaded so I can have an encrypted file system. Much more important than another config tool is hardware I know will work, and good options when purchasing.

      • AG says:

        I agree. Project Sputnik is really about Dell doing some soul searching as a company and questioning it’s attitude and practices towards Open Source OS. It’s all part of a long and honest discussion the Linux community needs to have with Dell management about Windows lock in.

        Project Sputnik asks:

        Is Dell “future proofing” it’s PC business and embracing the 21st century paradigm of cross-platform, OS agnostic and open source ecosystems versus the obsolete 1990’s paradigm of locked in single ecosystems?

        Is Dell ready to make that generational leap forward?

        Are they going to go the way of IBM and become a server and enterprise only systems company? Or can they still save their PC business before the innovation gap between themselves and the leaders in the industry becomes impossible to bridge?

  15. AG says:

    Barton,

    Does your Boss Mr. Dell know about this one?

    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has mandated that government will migrate to Linux and open source software by 2015. What??? :-))

    “RPA RusBITech is located in Russia where government support for Linux is strong. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has mandated that government will migrate to Linux and open source software by 2015. RPA RusBITech uses Linux and open source software to help manufacture complex training systems for a new generation of information and automation systems, decision support systems, domestic software general-purpose development and creation of information security and telecommunications.”

    http://ostatic.com/blog/the-linux-foundation-adds-seven-new-international-members

    Have you put any bids into the Russian government to see if you can do some Linux Desktop and Server consulting work?

  16. Michael Fox says:

    6 months? You’re giving Apple 6 months to paste an i7 and a denser DRAM onto the Air? Shut up and take my money before its too late.

  17. mb says:

    Just found this thread. Please, Please, Please, take my money!! We’re a mac shop for two reasons only: 1) because osx supports passable integration with open tools 2) stellar hardware. You get #1 for free. Just nail #2.

  18. [...] Sputnik, Wow! – This is Barton’s post where he responded to the external reaction of the project. [...]

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