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Dell plans project Sputnik Linux-based developer laptop

08 May 2012
Dell XPS 13 ultrabook

Dell is considering offering a laptop configuration specifically aimed at developers, based on its XPS13 ultrabook hardware and the latest Ubuntu Linux release, with a range of pre-built configurations to suit various developer profiles.

Dubbed project Sputnik, the initiative is part of an effort by Dell to better understand and serve the needs of developers in web companies, according to Barton George, director of marketing for Dell's Web vertical business group.

The project is a six-month process to explore the possibility of delivering an open source laptop for developers, and so may or may not result in an actual product.

However, if the result is deemed successful, "we have big plans for the effort," George wrote on his personal blog.

According to Dell, Ubuntu Linux is the platform of choice for developers, and so the firm settled on the recently released 12.04 LTS version of the software and chose its XPS 13 ultrabook as the ideal hardware platform to carry it.

The resulting install image, available to download now, is "pretty basic", according to George, but Dell has plans to for a tool that can go out to a github repository and pull down a portfolio of packages to meet different developer profiles, with Android, Ruby and JavaScript profiles the first being considered.

Dell also said it is exploring the potential for 'devops' use with Sputnik, which would provide users with a common set of tools from client, to test, to production, "thereby tying Sputnik via a common tool chain to a cloud back end powered by OpenStack," George said.

However, a common problem with Linux is the lack of driver support for some hardware devices.

Dell said it has already fixed issues with the screen brightness and the Wi-Fi hotkey on the XPS 13, but said it is still working on a solution to solve problems with the touchpad.

"We see a lot of potential in Sputnik to provide developers with a simple and powerful tool. Only time will tell however so stay tuned to this blog, check out the Sputnik Storm session and weigh in on the project," George wrote.

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Daniel Robinson

Daniel Robinson is technology editor at V3, and has been working as a technology journalist for over two decades. Dan has served on a number of publications including PC Direct and enterprise news publication IT Week. Areas of coverage include desktops, laptops, smartphones, enterprise mobility, storage, networks, servers, microprocessors, virtualisation and cloud computing.

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