Today, the Dell XPS-13 with Ubuntu Linux is easily the most well-known Linux laptop. Many users, especially developers – including Linus Torvalds – love it. As Torvalds recently said, “Normally, I wouldn’t name names, but I’m making an exception for the XPS 13 just because I liked it so much that I also ended up buying one for my daughter when she went off to college.”

So, how did Dell – best known for good-quality, mass-produced PCs – end up building top-of-the-line Ubuntu Linux laptops? Well, Barton George, Dell Technologies’ Developer Community manager, shared the “Project Sputnik” story this week in a presentation at the popular Linux and open-source community show, All Things Open.

  • cmnybo
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    9 months ago

    $1400 for a non upgradable SSD and RAM, not to mention there are no USB, HDMI or audio jacks. What a ripoff.

    • Free Palestine 🇵🇸@sh.itjust.works
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      9 months ago

      For 1400 bucks you can get a really nice Framework Laptop. And when it breaks, you don’t have to spend 1400 on a new one or 2000 on a overpriced repair that can only be performed by the manufacturer, you can actually repair everything yourself!

            • Free Palestine 🇵🇸@sh.itjust.works
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              9 months ago

              Sure, but the performance and battery life will be terrible. I don’t think that buying old laptops solves the problems we have with most new ones. Buying something like a Framework Laptop instead of some Dell or Apple garbage actively supports a pro-right-to-repair company and you also get a really nice laptop with good performance, battery life, upgradability, reparability and customizability.

          • flashgnash@lemm.ee
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            9 months ago

            Bought an old second hand p50 recently, and it still far outperforms most modern laptops by a mile, battery lasts 4 or 5 hours on integrated graphics (probably quite a bit less on discrete but haven’t really tested that yet)

            Plus I can buy a second battery and just swap them out when one runs out

              • flashgnash@lemm.ee
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                9 months ago

                My old Lenovo yoga cost more than the p50 and couldn’t hold a candle

                Came with 32gb memory, 4k display, discrete gpu and an nvme which all help considerably, the CPU generally sits around 1-8% during normal usage (on Linux that is)

                Can quite happily code on this thing, my previous laptop could barely run an ide

                Obviously there are more powerful laptops but considering I got it for ~£500 and even second hand modern laptops go for ~1000 with less memory and no GPU I think it competes very nicely

                • Free Palestine 🇵🇸@sh.itjust.works
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                  9 months ago

                  The Lenovo Yoga line is essentially the PC version of 2017-2020 MacBooks, thin, light, loud and hot with terrible performance. Even my toaster would outperform one of those. These are “Ultrabooks”, not real laptops. It’s a shame that they are calling some of these pieces of shit ThinkPads, but most other modern ThinkPads also suck. Quite sad how the ThinkPad brand has been ruined by Lenovo. Nowadays, I’d even take an ARM MacBook over a ThinkPad. The P50 was probably one of the last good ones, but it’s kinda outdated now. I’ve been really happy with my 13" Framework with the Ryzen 7 7840U, 32GB of RAM and a nice NVMe SSD running Gentoo. And I know that I can repair or upgrade almost everything on this laptop.

          • mogoh@lemmy.ml
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            9 months ago

            Todays ThinPads are not superior. Some things are:

            • Lenovo caught with spyware on Thinkpads
            • Hardware support for Linux is lacking
            • Lenovo caught using slave labor
        • wreckedcarzz@lemmy.world
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          9 months ago

          I recommended my father get one after his current laptop’s speakers blew out. He didn’t want to wait for Q4, so we went with my 2nd recommendation, a ThinkPad.

          The first two were defective (the whole model line is - overheating to scalding temps, not going to sleep when the lid is closed, not sleeping/infinite loop when manually told to sleep or by the OS idle time), the third (different model) arrived without a fucking w11pro product key. Are you actually fucking shitting me. Their solution for that was either a new machine (custom machine, almost 4 weeks lead time) or a new mobo. I figured they would put the key in the board, and we didn’t want another 4 week wait, so I went with the board swap. Guess who didn’t enter a key into the bios? The tech didn’t have one, was just told to swap boards.

          We are expecting a framework in Q1 now.

    • Avid Amoeba@lemmy.ca
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      9 months ago

      Project Sputnik didn’t start yesterday. It started in 2013 and Dell XPS was much different back then.

    • dinckel@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      Dell love pretending they’re the Apple of the Windows/Linux world, except the issue is that for one, people specifically bought their stuff for the things you mentioned, and that the build quality was not exclusively just black plastic. The current XPS is everything that people hated about the “Macbook” from almost a decade ago. The one with the first butterfly switches

    • penquin@lemm.ee
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      9 months ago

      Yeah, I don’t get it. What am I gonna do with 2 USBC ports? What if the ssd dies? Nah, I’d rather get a framework

      • cmnybo
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        9 months ago

        The framework is cheaper when comparably equipped. It’s not even any thicker or heavier despite everything being replaceable. Dell just wants to make you pay a huge repair fee when the SSD fails.

    • EarthShipTechIntern@lemm.ee
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      9 months ago

      Is it supposed to be submersible? WTF no jacks or ports?

      Non upgradable SSD & RAM?

      So Dell is trying to out-stupid Apple. Maybe they’ll come out with their own maps.

    • joojmachine@lemmy.ml
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      9 months ago

      linux users when a laptop that ships Linux isn’t absolutely perfect and cost $20 (they don’t care that it helps get linux to average users)

      • cmnybo
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        9 months ago

        Soldered SSD and RAM is something we expect from a cheap chromebook. It’s just not acceptable in a high end laptop.

        There are plenty of other good laptops that come with Linux installed.

        • joojmachine@lemmy.ml
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          9 months ago

          including, *checks notes*, ah yes… most of DELL’s other offerings with linux pre-installed

            • joojmachine@lemmy.ml
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              9 months ago

              Is it something that depends on the region? In Brazil their Linux offerings are usually way cheaper precisely because you can forgo the Windows license.

      • frippa@lemmy.ml
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        9 months ago

        We are pretty happy with framework, tuxedo and system76 even if their products often cost loads of money and for sure aren’t perfect.

        • joojmachine@lemmy.ml
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          9 months ago

          and yet people still find ways to complain when a manufacturer that is twice as big as all of these examples combined ships laptops with linux to the hands of millions of people, most of the time costing less than offerings by these companies

      • MiddledAgedGuy@beehaw.org
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        9 months ago

        I came here to disagree with you, but in thinking a little about it, I’m not sure I do.

        I find the lack of ports and upgradability extremely problematic. And while I understand they’re supposed to be light, slim, quality laptops, the price point feels high even so.

        But, these are personal gripes with the device. And nothing to do with Linux. But these are basically the same things Apple aims for and people seem to love that.

        So, I might argue the price doesn’t make it reasonable for the average user. But otherwise the more devices with Linux pre-installed, the better.

  • intrepid@lemmy.ca
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    9 months ago

    I don’t like the wordings and insinuations in the article. Ubuntu Linux ‘snuck’ into Dell laptops? Dell - best known for good-quality mass-produced PCs - end up building Linux laptops? What are they saying? Linux is low quality and it being in Dell laptops is bad?

    Dell and Canonical have a partnership. And Linux isn’t a choice that’s forced on consumers. That’s hardly what one can say about Windows. An ad-ridden spyware that’s disguised as an OS and forced down everyone’s throat even when we don’t want it. (Not dell, but there are cases where I had to buy a laptop and clean out Windows).

    I don’t understand the author’s exact intentions (I read the entire article). Seems like they are trying to say something positive. But the choice of words is bad.

    • twei@feddit.de
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      9 months ago

      Dell - best known for good-quality mass-produced PCs -

      I’d disagree with the “good-quality” part, but they certainly are mass-produced

      • yaaaaayPancakes@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        I think it’s very much a “you get what you pay for” thing. Cheap Dells are cheap. The XPS line is not cheap. I’ve had two XPS 13s now, and the build quality is top notch. And easy to open up and work on.

    • moon_matter@kbin.social
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      9 months ago

      Popularity makes all forms of support infinitely easier. I’d struggle to come up with any technical reason that could be worth giving up the ability to easily google for issues or install software. That doesn’t mean I think you shouldn’t use other distros, just that I believe Ubuntu is the best choice for a default install targeting average people.

      • PlutoniumAcid@lemmy.world
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        9 months ago

        Yes, that’s me. I have no interest in a nerdy deep-dive into esoteric distros that may be “better” according to whatever metric you suggest. To me, it’s just a machine that needs to work.

        With Windows, getting help when things break is easy. For a non-nerd USER, it has to be the same for Linux. Ubuntu was intended from the start to be made for people like me, and with AskUbuntu there’s a large support site.

        I know you can tweak your distro better, and it’s faster, and so on. But it requires knowledge that I don’t care to learn - just as I am not an auto mechanic, I just drive the machine.

    • joojmachine@lemmy.ml
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      9 months ago

      If you want it to stop being a standard, help your distro do a better job at marketing. Ubuntu is one of the few that do some actual market research and dedicate resources to getting the OS into the hands of people by getting them interested in it. It’s one of the things we are looking forwards to doing better in Fedora.

    • flashgnash@lemm.ee
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      9 months ago

      As much as people don’t like Ubuntu, for users who aren’t enthusiasts they don’t want a million different options to choose from

      If we keep changing the standard it’ll drive people away and leave behind support

    • phx@lemmy.ca
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      9 months ago

      There may be, but realistically it’s probably the most well known.

      I’m just happy to have Linux as a standard at all. If it works on Ubuntu, there’s a high chance it works on other distros and can be easily replaced

    • hemko@lemmy.dbzer0.com
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      9 months ago

      Ubuntu sucks for many reasons, but new user experience is on the better side. I don’t want to use Ubuntu over Debian myself but I feel like it’s the mandatory corporate evil that can make Linux more appealing to more than just techies while also making Linux desktop more appealing to corpos in Microsoft’s ecosystem. Intune already has some rudimentary support for managed Linux Desktop, with Ubuntu currently supported.

      • Possibly linux@lemmy.zip
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        9 months ago

        I don’t know the last time you used Ubuntu but its user experience is not on the “better side”. They are pushing snap so hard that they are blind

        • Elven_Mithril@lemmy.dbzer0.com
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          9 months ago

          hi, can you please elaborate why that is wrong? I am fairly new to Linux and have been using Ubuntu for the past month and so far I am satisfied with it…

            • RupeThereItIs@lemmy.world
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              9 months ago

              Because it’s shit.

              If I apt install an app, I expect it NOT to be a snap. I want it to use shared libraries, not bring its own along. They hide from you that they are installing the snap not deb package.

              Then you run into all sorts of permissions issues accessing the filesystem from the snap app… Because snap is rather broken in this regard.

              Functionally snap is a worse solution then deb, but I guess it’s easier on the developer/maintainer as you don’t get lost in shared dependincy hell.

              I feel snaps should be an option if you need cutting edge version of a software that can’t use your shared libs, but never the default install method.

          • MiddledAgedGuy@beehaw.org
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            9 months ago

            Snap packages are files that contain a file system and get mounted. They contain the application and libraries and such it depends on.

            It doesn’t sound like such a bad idea on paper, and speaking for myself and from what I’ve gathered from stuff I see in the community, a general bias against Canonical probably plays a part.

            But specifically as a desktop package solution, I do think it’s a poor one. It’s messy, slow, bloated and sandboxing creates usability issues (though it has benefits too, of course).

          • Possibly linux@lemmy.zip
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            9 months ago

            The problem is that when you install a app via apt it sometimes will install the snap version. This may not seem like a problem until you want to just have native packages or flatpaks.

    • MiddledAgedGuy@beehaw.org
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      9 months ago

      This one is tough for me. I’m opposed to any distro being considered the “standard”. It feels so antithetical to what makes Linux great.

      But it’s also probably what we need for better user adoption. I don’t know which I’d pick if I had to, but I know it wouldn’t be Ubuntu.

      • Possibly linux@lemmy.zip
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        9 months ago

        What we need it distro independent tooling. We already have flatpak and XDG portals to that’s a start

    • intelisense@lemm.ee
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      9 months ago

      It’s fine, I bought an XPS 13 years ago with Ubuntu and immediately put OpenSuSE on it. At least I’m not paying Microsoft. I still have that laptop, and it’s great. I think Lenovo deserves an honourable mention here, too - we buy T and X series laptops at work with Ubuntu and they work great too.

        • tuhriel
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          9 months ago

          Yeah and there is a big issue. I would place myself as quite tech savvy, but last time i looked for a distrobI got overwhelmed… Good thing: there are questionnaires that lead you to a good enough suggestion… Back then it proposed mint

          But then the next question: which desktopp environment?

          I installed on my huawei matebook and it worked okay-ish, but it had one dealbreaker: even with a lot of tinkering there was no way I got standby or hibernation to work. Which is a must for me…

          So I removed mint and installed kubuntu… Now standby and even hibernate work (kind of) But it totally craps up when I try to use my external monitor together with the internal screen… Even a lot of terminal tinkering later I don’t have it working… Oh and the speakers still crap now

          There is a lit of information around how to maybe get stuff working, but a lot of it requires a lot of upfront knowledge:

          • a lot of questions are answered with “yeah, enter that in your terminal” without any explanation what exactly it does (which is bad in two ways in my opinion)
          • a lot of official documentation doesn’t explain very well what the configs do and what syntax etc. is expected
          • there is often a lot of elitism around that really pushes away newcomers

          EmI do love tinkering, but sometimes it’s really frustrating even for me. No way I could my GF to try that out…

    • olafurp@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      Agreed, still when you sell a laptop and want to put in an OS that’s going to be supported for the whole lifetime of the device then there are not options for people who don’t tinker.

  • Vivia 🦆🍵🦀@sh.itjust.works
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    9 months ago

    Earlier this year I was given one of those XPS machines with Ubuntu and decided to install Debian on it. The camera driver was so bad - I can’t remember technical details but you can’t simply get it to run on another kernel, it was a mess of hacks to get it to work. I decided I won’t get a camera driver. “We ship a laptop with Ubuntu” does not necessarily mean working Linux drivers.

    EDIT: To add insult to injury, the touch bar suddenly decided to stop responding to input. It’s already bad enough to not have tactile feedback for Esc / Fn keys / Delete / Print Screen.

    • X3I@lemmy.x3i.tech
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      9 months ago

      Very true also for the opposite direction; I am daily driving an HP Elite Dragonfly for work and my Elite x360 1030 G2 for private and both work almost flawlessly despite no official Linux support. I have to disclaim that I never tested the Fingerprint reader or IR face recognition crap. But microphone, orientation sensors, webcam, keyboard, trackpad all work extremely well (Arch linux).

      It always comes down to the individual hardware it seems.

    • xcjs@programming.dev
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      9 months ago

      I bought a used 2018 model over a new current model because of the lack of physical function keys.

      Also, Dell, bring back Fn + Left for Home and Fn + Right for End!

      Who looked at a great keyboard layout and decided, “I know! I’ll make this Developer Edition hardware more difficult to develop on!”

  • sping@lemmy.sdf.org
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    9 months ago

    Lol, no mention of the fact that Ubuntu was already shipped on almost the entire Dell range, but only in China and developing world markets. This was because they had sold millions of laptops without OS in those markets, which immediately were flashed with pirated Windows, and Microsoft were pissed off. They pressured the Chinese govt to require computers must ship with an OS, so Cannonical/Ubuntu stepped in, did it for cheap (~$1/machine) and… they were still of course flashed with pirated windows immediately.

    They didn’t ship to the US or Europe etc., because in those markets Dell got more kickback-money than they spent, from Windows and the various crapware they shipped pre-installed. So shipping Ubuntu in the US actually cost Dell money.

      • sping@lemmy.sdf.org
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        9 months ago

        Just me. It was my job for a while at Canonical, until the work was moved to China.

          • sping@lemmy.sdf.org
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            9 months ago

            Just that work, and frankly doing it near the factories makes sense. We were “offshore” doing it from the US. Canonical is global, headquartered in the UK.

    • Zeth0s@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      Xps developer edition has been a thing since almost a decade. I bought a xps13 with ubuntu in Europe. I replaced it as soon as it arrived though. The built in OS was not “standard”.

      I still use it almost daily. Battery has gone, but everything else works

      • sping@lemmy.sdf.org
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        9 months ago

        Hardware enablement. A factory install where all the hardware worked, meanwhile all the fixes are upstreamed. So backported fixes to the current LTS.

        • Spectacle8011@lemmy.comfysnug.space
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          9 months ago

          I found this page on hardware enablement. My understanding is that new hardware isn’t supported with old kernels, which older LTS releases are stuck with. So Ubuntu solves this problem by backporting newer drivers to the older kernel release.

          That’s quite an interesting way of making money. I guess if Dell wanted the newer drivers, they could just install a newer version of Ubuntu. But since they wanted more stability, they preferred that Canonical backport the fixes to an LTS release.

          • sping@lemmy.sdf.org
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            9 months ago

            Most often it’s a case of minor patches to the audio system, or recognizing a card reader (both of which are weirdly often unique per model, often even on sub-models), and these are patches that do make it into the older kernel. That process just takes time, and they want a usable image right away, so they get something specially patched that will shortly be replaced by a mainstream kernel update. For extreme cases there’s dkms, where you can have a package that replaces a kernel module from source that is rebuilt on kernel upgrades.

            Canonical used to manage PPAs and packages to handle this - keeping them updated and then eliminating them as the fixes appear upstream. The PPA packages also contain trivial things like tweaks to get the keyboard hotkeys to work right.

            I know this lives on because I have a Thinkpad and the vanilla Ubuntu installer adds “sutton” packages to tweak its install, and sutton is the internal name for Lenovo enablement (although the package has nothing active in it, so presumably vanilla just works by now, which I’d hope, as it’s a 3 year old machine).

    • brenno@lemmy.brennoflavio.com.br
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      9 months ago

      They sell a bunch of models with Ubuntu pre installed in Brazil also. Not every model / configurations, but even gaming laptops are available here.

  • pnutzh4x0r@lemmy.ndlug.orgOP
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    9 months ago

    Not a fan of the XPS line (expensive, not great thermals, and meh port selection) and I have never own one (though I’ve seen others with them). That said, I have a few of their Latitudes (currently using Latitude 7420) and one Precision and those run Linux really well.

    One thing most people don’t realize is that Dell does support Linux (ie. Ubuntu) beyond the XPS line and you can buy Latitudes or Precisions with Linux support OOTB. Additionally, Dell ships firmware updates via LVFS on their XPS, Latitude, and Precision lines. The support isn’t perfect, but I have been happy with using Dell hardware and Linux for over a decade now.

    PS. You can get really good deals via the Dell Outlet (my current laptop is refurbished from there), and you can usually find a number of off-lease or 2nd systems or parts on Ebay (very similar to Thinkpads).

    • Zeth0s@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      The selling point of xps is that they are light. Many of us just need light laptops nowadays, as almost any hardware is more than capable of any task with the exception of gaming. But I have never gamed on laptops

      • pnutzh4x0r@lemmy.ndlug.orgOP
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        9 months ago

        Some of the Latitudes are pretty lightweight too. My Latitude 7420 is 2.7 lbs while the most recent XP 13 is 2.59 lbs. I should note that the Latitude 7420 is a 14in display rather than 13in and it has an HDMI port, 2 USB-C/TB ports, 1 USB-A port, and a microsd card reader (oh yeah, and a headphone jack). So for a small amount of more weight, you get more I/O and a larger screen.

  • HumanPenguin@feddit.uk
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    9 months ago

    Snuck. What a load of click bait shit.

    How the hell is Dell openly choosing to sell stuff to linux user. In any way shape or form snuck.

    • MooseBoys@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      I think it’s more like “snuck up on us” than any kind of nefarious connotation. Kind of like “how did a niche game like BG3 sneak into the top ten games list”?

  • willybe@lemmy.ca
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    9 months ago

    The XPS line was popular at work. Desk candy to compete with Mac books. However the engineering did not complete at all. The battery was the biggest fail point, we had a high percentage of battery issues under warranty, and they would take months to get replaced by the vendor.

    We stopped buying them, if someone wants desk candy these days it’s mostly Mac book pro as expensive as your budget can handle.

    • SpeedLimit55@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      Same, we got several small batches of XPS13 over a period of several years and just about all had problems. We had issues with batteries, drivers, random hardware failures, or total failure. We switched ThinkPad X1 Yoga and Surface Laptops 13 and have far fewer issues now.

  • themoonisacheese@sh.itjust.works
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    9 months ago

    I used to buy computers for a research lab as part of my job, we had a contract with dell.

    Overall dell’s entire market is made of companies like the one I used to work at, that signed a nice contract with 5 year on-site warranty, bulk order rebates and the like.

    These (or the ones they sold 3 years ago, at least) aren’t that bad. They’re not exactly good, but you have a Linux laptop with some manufacturer support (as much as you’re getting with windows at least) and they’re capable machines, with good drivers and they come from the factory with Ubuntu if that’s what you tick in their custom order form they give you when you sign that contract. As the guy in charge of fixing the computer, its nice knowing that its not the Linux support for the laptop that’s trash.

    • Zeth0s@lemmy.world
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      9 months ago

      For research labs, dell workstations used to be great. Put debian on it and you could forget about problems. I don’t know if it is the case anymore.

      • fernandu00@lemmy.ml
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        9 months ago

        I had this issue when I bought my laptop with Ubuntu and tried to install Debian. Since I needed the laptop right away I kept Ubuntu that came installed that was running flawless till 4 months ago when I switched to Fedora

    • tuhriel
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      9 months ago

      I would, but they don’t ship to my country :sadface:

  • duxbellorum@lemm.ee
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    9 months ago

    The pricing is preposterous…no option to forego the windows license, and only a 12th gen i7 and 16gb ram for $1400…on plastic with a shitty keyboard and no IO? Why not just buy a macbook air at that point and jail break it?

    Lenovo is absolutely stomping Dell right.

  • MooseBoys@lemmy.world
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    9 months ago

    I had a linux 5520 and it was terrible. Standby and bluetooth never worked properly. Are the new models any better?

    • sounddrill@lemmy.antemeridiem.xyz
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      9 months ago

      My family bought a dell vostro 3468 in a time of emergency

      Came with ubuntu(16.04 I think, maybe 18)

      It was dead slow after a few updates, thanks to snap

      We loaded windows on it and it was my second main computing machine ever

      I recently installed openSUSE tumbleweed on it with kde and it’s awesome! (Except for a dead battery)