Dell announces another in its series of “developer laptops” with Ubuntu pre-installed. This time it’s the überpowerful M3800 mobile workstation, available with everything from an i7 CPU, through a Quadro K1100M graphics board to a 3840×2160 display. I remember ArsTechnica’s review of the XPS 13 developer edition, in which they basically said the best thing about the laptop was that it was “unremarkable”, which by today’s standards is the best compliment. Dell managed to deliver a premium quality linux laptop that just worked, Cupertino style. If they manage to do the same with the powerful 15” mobile workstation and, as they announce in the blogpost linked above, with the upcoming XPS 13”, we’ll have Linux-powered alternatives to both the Retina Macbook Pro and the Macbook Air. Which would be brilliant.
You seem to be doing a great job, Dell.
Linux gets frozen, what do you do?
I’ve been using linux for the better part of the last 15 years, and I didn’t know this command. I would always try with
Ctrl+Alt+F3 or some other
F to get to a virtual console and then either kill the processes,
sudo reboot, or simply do a hard reboot if even the console was unresponsive. The solution in the link above seems more elegant.
setxkbmap -option "ctrl:nocaps"
It sets caps lock to ctrl, which is its most useful and reasonable binding. Useful especially in latest releases of most distributions, since newest Gnome control centre libraries remove the GUI to set the above (seriously, Gnome people, what’s with the constant removal of useful stuff, huh?).
I guess whether
.xsession still works depends on what kind of desktop env you’re using, afaik it doesn’t work on GNOME/Unity. Also, Unity still has a UI where you can put “startup applications”, and these can be arbitrary commands.
Every couple years I get the urge to peek out of my Apple-furnished hole and survey the landscape of alternative devices and operating systems. I call this urge switching season […] I figure that the least I can do when the urge to switch strikes me is to share what I’ve learned in the hopes that it saves other people some time.
via Alex Payne — Switching Season Report, 2013 Edition.
I have it exactly like Alex Payne – I’ve been living in the Apple-ecosystem for the last 3 years, and I am sorry to admit that the 2010 13” Macbook Pro is hands-down the best computer I have ever used. It’s fast (especially after having an SSD upgrade last summer), silent, portable, has great keyboard, and its software is boring like hell – it doesn’t crash and I don’t have to tinker with it to make wifi work after resuming from suspend. Despite all that, whenever I see a nice Thinkpad,1 I’m immediately browsing the best second-hand computer store in the world searching for a used X201 or X220 in good condition. It’s partly nostalgia, partly the love of XMonad, and to a small extent dislike of Apple.2 And every time it happens, I’m performing an analysis similar to the one Alex Payne did, arriving at mostly the same conclusions: Android sucks, Linux on the desktop mostly sucks, Windows is not considered due to it not being unix-based, and Apple sucks least on all fronts.
It’s all rather sad.
The complaint has been heard. In postings to the Dell Community site and to Dell Web Vertical Director Barton George’s blog, Dell has announced that as of today, the XPS-13 Developer Edition will be equipped with a “1080p” screen.
via Dell’s Linux Ultrabook gets more pixels, European availability | Ars Technica.
If Dell’s offering was present back in 2010, I probably wouldn’t have defected. Project Sputnik brings something the open-source community always wanted: a high-end ultraportable laptop with a high-resolution screen and full linux support from Dell. Now available in Europe as well.
How Would You Fix the Linux Desktop?
The culture of Linux remains the culture of 1993 mid-range computing—but we no longer live in a world in which CS students can’t afford the hardware/software they use at school and mainstream OSes can’t do the fun stuff. Quite the opposite. It’s funny to think back at how thrilled I was to have X11 on the desktop (compared to Windows 3.1) versus how I feel now, twenty years on, comparing KDE or GNOME on Fedora or Ubuntu to OS X 10.8. The tables have been exactly turned. Linux is still essentially the same in architecture and philosophy, while the rest of the world has moved to a completely different paradigm in which computing is essentially appliance-driven. In 1993 Linux was ahead of its time. In 2013 Linux is a decade behind.
These days, I want an complete, polished, turnkey appliance at low cost and with no labor time investment, not a set of building block. Today’s appliances are fast, intuitive, stable, durable, powerful, and integrated like the iPad (which I do, yes, use for serious work about 5-6 hours a day). For most users (which is where I have always ultimately fallen), Linux is solution in search of a problem that no longer exists.
Ask Slashdot has an interesting discussion about current state of the linux desktop, which has become (again) a heated debate after Miguel de Icaza’s blogpost and Linus Torvalds’ reply. There are some very insightful comments, like the one by aussersterne above, but more importantly the discussion gives a good picture of the linux/FLOSS community, with different views on what linux desktop is or should be, different backgrounds, ideas and problems. The first comment sums up the problem, or meta-problem to me:
I’ve been using Linux on my desktop for 13 years now. It works just fine for me.
It’s actually about “how I’m stopping to be a desktop linux enthusiast”, because I’m still using linux on my desktop/laptop, and I still think it’s a much better solution than any Windows OS. It’s just that I’ve been using various linux distributions for many many years (since 1998 I guess) on every computer I’ve owned and thought it is a nearly flawless system. It’s not, and in fact it’s getting on my nerves.
It’s all about hardware, you know. I’ve never had any problems with a desktop computer running linux, but on all the laptops I’ve owned (all two of them), there’s always been some issues. When I was a teenager in high school, I could spend months recompiling the kernel, optimizing, patching, searching for solutions. But I’m an old man now, and I get really mad when something simply doesn’t work.
Continue reading “How I stopped being a desktop linux enthusiast”