Thursday, June 13, 2024

How Ubuntu Linux snuck into high-end Dell laptops (and why it’s called ‘Project Sputnik’)


Dell XPS 13 Ubuntu Linux Developer Edition with Tiger Lake


RALEIGH, NC — At present, the Dell XPS-13 with Ubuntu Linux is definitely essentially the most well-known Linux laptop computer. Many customers, particularly builders — together with Linus Torvalds — adore it. As Torvalds not too long ago mentioned, “Usually, I would not title names, however I am making an exception for the XPS 13 simply because I preferred it a lot that I additionally ended up shopping for one for my daughter when she went off to school.” 

So, how did Dell — finest recognized for good-quality, mass-produced PCs — find yourself constructing top-of-the-line Ubuntu Linux laptops? Nicely, Barton George, Dell Applied sciences’ Developer Group supervisor, shared the “Undertaking Sputnik”  story this week in a presentation on the well-liked Linux and open-source neighborhood present, All Things Open.

Additionally: The perfect Linux laptops (and why you may want one)

First, nevertheless, you need to know that Dell has supported Linux desktops and laptops because the center 2000s. In 2006, Michael Dell informed me that Dell would be the first major PC vendor to release and support desktop Linux — and this proved to be successful. 

George defined that Dell had at all times executed nice quantity with these computer systems. Not quantity, just like the Home windows machines, in fact, however sufficient that Dell has at all times supplied Linux-based — primarily Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) powered —  workstations.  

Nonetheless, none of those machines actually appealed to builders. George defined:

 “Again in 2011, a gaggle of us have been making an attempt to determine how Dell may develop into extra related to builders. Dell wasn’t an enormous factor in builders’ minds, and we determined it could be a good suggestion to get builders to vary their minds and to consider Dell as an organization they wished to work with.” 

This notion had been sparked by a dialog between Dell and Stephen O’Grady, co-founder of the developer-centric analyst agency RedMonk. Barton recalled O’Grady suggesting it could be nice for builders “in the event you took considered one of your laptops, put Ubuntu on it, and simply acquired it to work. We mentioned that is an superior thought, nevertheless it’ll by no means occur, as a result of we’re speaking about Dell. Our laptops have to ship enormous volumes and income. Once I talked to considered one of our higher-ups in regards to the volumes that we thought we might promote, he mentioned, ‘Yeah, that is what we promote in Belgium on Tuesday, between three and 4 within the afternoon.'” 

Regardless of this disheartening analysis, when Dell began an in-house innovation fund, Barton pitched it once more. This time, he was granted $40,000 to pursue the thought. “This was sufficient to get going,” George recalled. “So, very first thing, we put collectively an official group. However none of us have been full-time on this. We acquired approval from their managers to work on this formally, nevertheless it was kind of in our spare time.” At instances, George mentioned, “The mission workers was two individuals and a canine.”

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George approached Google and Amazon: “‘Here is what we’re making an attempt to do,’ he associated his pitch. ‘Does this appear like one thing you would be focused on?’ And so whereas they did not place an order there for 10,000 items, they did not snicker me out of the room, both.” It was sufficient to show there was a enterprise case for a developer-focused Ubuntu Linux laptop computer.  

Throughout that very same interval, George introduced on his private weblog what Dell was planning, and his site visitors went from 60 views a day to fifteen,000. Then, as now, there’s a whole lot of curiosity in laptops that include Linux able to go. 

In spite of everything that, the group wished to make sure they did it proper. This would not simply be a case of dumping a distro on a machine and hoping for the most effective. You are able to do that as we speak and have a great opportunity of every part working completely. In 2013? Not a lot. 

George added, “We created a tough picture that individuals may use on the XPS 13. Builders may obtain it and begin engaged on it. We informed individuals there have been a  lot of caveats, and it wasn’t an official launch nor supported. However the important thing factor right here is when you could not do that with customers, with builders — who knew it was a beta– you then’re okay. And, we had a lot of the bugs labored out. The most important one was the touchpad, which anyone described as ‘craptastic””

Additionally: Linux is likely to be your finest wager for heightening your desktop laptop safety

So, Dell acquired along with Canonical, Ubuntu Linux’s dad or mum firm, to ensure all of the drivers have been in place for a top-notch Ubuntu Linux developer desktop expertise. Certainly, the title ‘Undertaking Sputnik’ is a nod to Mark Shuttleworth, Ubuntu founder and Canonical CEO. A decade earlier than the mission itself, Shuttleworth had spent eight days orbiting the Earth in a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. George and the crew determined “Soyuz”  did not have an inspiring ring to it, so the corporate went with “Sputnik” as an alternative.

George continued:

 “We introduced a beta program for the machine with a ten% off supply. We thought, effectively, we’ll in all probability get 300 individuals. As a substitute, we acquired 6,000. That is the place senior administration mentioned OK, you have acquired one thing actual. We went from slides to launch in 9 months. That is fairly quick for constructing a system.”

Now, greater than a decade later, the Dell XPS 13 line and different other Ubuntu-Linux-powered systems are extra well-liked than ever. From a skunkworks mission, George and firm created a Linux {hardware} mainstay for each builders and energy customers.

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