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29 November 2012, 16:34

Dell launches Ubuntu-powered Sputnik for developers - Update

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Zoom The Sputnik laptop runs Ubuntu 12.04 with some modifications
Source: Dell

Dell has launched its Ubuntu laptop for developers in the US. The project, which was first announced in May, uses an XPS 13 Ultrabook as the base for a customised Ubuntu 12.04 installation that is aimed at application developers and systems administrators. Dell has worked with Ubuntu sponsor Canonical and various hardware manufacturers to provide support for the hardware, and the system ships with additional features such as the sputnik command that allows developers to easily replicate their development environment on other machines.

Sputnik, or the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition as it is now officially named, includes an Intel Ivy Bridge i7 CPU at 3GHz, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB solid state drive, a 13 inch screen (1366x768) and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. The machine is only available to US customers at the moment and retails for $1549 (approximately £967 before VAT). A comparable machine with Windows 8 is available for $1499 (£935) from Dell's US web store.

Dell ships several modifications to the vanilla Ubuntu 12.04 kernel, which are also available separately from a PPA on Launchpad. The Sputnik laptop includes a profile tool that allows developers to pull pre-configured development environments and programming languages from a GitHub repository. Developers can also build their own profiles and share them in this way. Profiles can include a variety of different environment aspects such as application preferences, configuration files and bash profile settings. Since the Sputnik profile tool uses git, all of these settings are automatically placed under version control.

Another tool is called Cloud Launcher and is built on Canonical's Juju tool. Cloud Launcher enables users to locally build and test the project they are working on and then upload it to a variety of cloud providers including Amazon's EC2. At the time of writing, the source code for this tool has not yet been released on GitHub, but, according to Ars Technica, this will change once the application matures enough. Both tools and the other Sputnik modifications can be installed from an image available from the Ubuntu servers.

The Sputnik project was launched with the help of Dell's internal innovation fund. More information about the project and the included features can be found on the Dell TechCenter site. At this point, Dell has not said if or when the Developer Edition of the XPS 13 will go on sale in the UK and Europe.

Update 30-11-12 12:31: Dell has now revised the price of the Developer Edition of the XPS 13 down to $1449 (£903), which makes it $50 cheaper than a comparable laptop with WIndows 8.

Update 30-11-12 15:53: Dell has now published a statement on the price decrease on its Direct2Dell blog. The company says that it was not its "intention to price the XPS 13 developer edition higher" than the Windows 8 model.


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