I'm Blogging Again!!! About Linux

published by Eric Mill on

It's been over a year now since I last blogged, which is really disappointing. I think I got a lot of good writing done here from 2013-2015, with posts that really stand the test of time, and I'd like to create more of those.

This will not be one of them! But it is the start of me participating in Iron Blogger, which the kind and gentle Paul Tagliamonte has rounded up me and a number of our DC friends to do. So, I will pay a fine not to update my blog each week.

Though it is humbling to be at the point where a monetary penalty is the personal motivator that successfully puts e-pen to e-paper, I have decided to accept this and channel it in the best direction possible.

Today I would like to talk about Linux.

Desktop Linux: still not dead yet

Thanks to a dedicated little team at Dell called Sputnik, it is possible to get a light, beautiful, exquisitely machined laptop that ships with Linux, made with a world-class supply line, solid hardware and specs, and a guarantee that everything will Just Work.

In late 2014, I bought a snappy little thing and, with Paul Tagliamonte's help (sensing a pattern?), installed Debian and documented the hell out of how to do it for those who came after me. I loved that computer to pieces, in fact I loved it too much and I offered it a sip (well, quite a few sips) of the soda I was drinking at the time and then we had to spend some time apart.

So I recently went and checked out the latest from Dell's Sputnik line and got myself a new XPS. It is an outstanding and wonderful little machine:

Though it comes Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, you can install Ubuntu 16.04 or the latest Debian on it just fine. The only hiccup is that mine shipped with a buggy motherboard, but a call to Dell got me quickly in touch with a genuine expert who sent a technician out promptly to replace it. Even the customer support was excellent, better than I expect from a massive global company -- and especially nice to not have the company flick you away with their little finger when they hear that you've installed Linux on the computer they sold you. Because this time, they installed it first themselves!

If you're thinking about a new laptop and have an open mind towards Linux, consider Ubuntu or Debian. Ubuntu is very easy to install, while Debian is more challenging, my Debian instructions from last time got me through very well this time, and I'm in the process of updating them for tiny changes in Debian and the new XPS.

Did I mention that Steam works, with 3D and everything? I can play everything from Stephen's Sausage Roll to The Talos Principle, all on my fast and thin Linux laptop.

Also there's a gratuitous touch screen! The entire screen is a touch screen, while also sporting a 3200x1800 super high-resolution. It may not be the Year Of Linux On The Desktop, but goddamnit, you can still get a beautiful Linux computer today that runs a true community-built free operating system and it will make you feel very good.


  1. Lloyd Watkin

    It is indeed lovely and solidly built.

    The only issue I've had so far is with the D3100 "dock":

    • The ethernet connector isn't very powerful (thankfully I have a more reliable USB3 adapter that gets a connection)
    • I had to disable UFEI to get the monitors working
    • It does not power the laptop (which is fairly pants)

    Oh and now I also want to buy new QHD monitors (the laptop screen is amazeballs!)

  2. Lana Spires

    I've had a couple of Dell machines with Linux. A Latitude E5xxx series laptop with underwhelming cooling and a more recent Optiplex that came with an underpowered proprietary power supply. I've upgraded the power supply and mobo so I could upgrade the video. Added memory and replaced the hard drive over the last couple of years, so it's not really a Dell anymore. Running Xubuntu 15.10 and a 16.04 upgrade coming this summer. It's a i7 and plays games well with my GeForce 750 TI. KSP x64 with Real Scale runs without a hitch.

    No real hit on Dell. I recommend them to clients and am glad for their good support and well designed servers. But there comes a point where you just have to build your own.