Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition On Pause

I noticed a thread on Reddit today where people were speculating about why the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition was no longer available on the store. There are some rather wild guesses, but I wanted to try and find out the real reason behind the change. I communicated with Barton George via Twitter and received the response below.

Barton George Response

Barton George Response

It would appear that Dell is pausing production to put in some of the fixes listed on their knowledge base. No need for panic folks.

Canonical’s Revised Intellectual Property Policy

I would like to add my own, personal, thoughts to the new IP policy released by Canonical on July 15th 2015. The first thing I keep in mind is that Canonical is trying to balance the needs of a for-profit company with the ideals of free software. Based on the fact that Mark Shuttleworth is contributing large amounts of capital to Canonical and the Ubuntu Project I do not question that this effort is anything less than genuine. I will concede that there is reason to ensure that licenses, copyright and trademark language that would secure open source ideals if the ownership of Canonical ever change hands.

What is Canonical trying to protect?

Ubuntu is a trusted open source platform. To maintain that trust we need to manage the use of Ubuntu and the components within it very carefully. This way, when people use Ubuntu, or anything bearing the Ubuntu brand, they can be assured that it will meet the standards they expect.

This passage was unmodified in the new release, but describes the core of what Canonical is trying to protect. They are trying to protect the Ubuntu brands (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Edubuntu, Xubuntu, JuJu, Landscape).

What Canonical is not trying to do.

Canonical is not trying to change the licenses of any existing software they are distributing. While I thought this was clear in the original policy Canonical has modified the language to make this more clear. The original policy dealt with this under the Your use of copyright, patent and design materials and your use of Ubuntu sections.

Your use of copyright, patent and design materials:

The disk, CD, installer and system images, together with Ubuntu packages and binary files, are in many cases copyright of Canonical (which copyright may be distinct from the copyright in the individual components therein) and can only be used in accordance with the copyright licences therein and this IPRights Policy.

My interpretation of this policy was, and still is, that Canonical claims that it has copyrights over the Disk, installer, system images, Ubuntu packages and binary files. They make special note that the copyright may be distinct from the copyright in the individual components. Canonical specifies that the use of these must be in accordance with the copyright licensees therein. In other words, binary blob A with a GPLv2 copyright must still be in compliance with GPLv2 to be used. I took this to mean that no Canonical copyright would override or supersede the GPLv2 copyright.

Your Use of Ubuntu:

Any redistribution of modified versions of Ubuntu must be approved, certified or provided by Canonical if you are going to associate it with the Trademarks. Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries. This does not affect your rights under any open source licence applicable to any of the components of Ubuntu.

I want to stress that this test is the same in both the new and original versions. This specifically talks about trademarks and only calls for recompiling the binaries if you want to distribute a modified version of Ubuntu that you do not want to associate with the trademark. My interpretation is that the recompile is necessary since the compiled binary contains the protected trademark. This policy specifically calls out that it does not affect rights that are under any open source license that is applicable to the components.

You can redistribute Ubuntu in its unmodified form, complete with the installer images and packages provided by Canonical (this includes the publication or launch of virtual machine images).

This language is the same in both the current and previous versions. It specifically addresses using virtual machine images that have been unmodified. This is the one section that I feel is a bit unclear. I am not sure about what would happen if a company wanted to use an unmodified version of Ubuntu with a proprietary component added on top. The real world application that I have seen is Aruba Wireless Airwave appliance that runs on top of CentOS. Would running this on top of Ubuntu be allowed? To be fair Aruba did not choose to use Redhat and this is most likely due to the restrictions that Redhat has on redistribution of Redhat binaries.

To further clarify what this language was intended to mean Canonical has added the following:

A bullet point in the summary section that reads:

Ubuntu is an aggregate work; this policy does not modify or reduce rights granted under licences which apply to specific works in Ubuntu.

An entire section immediately following the summary.

Ubuntu is an aggregate work of many works, each covered by their own licence(s). For the purposes of determining what you can do with specific works in Ubuntu, this policy should be read together with the licence(s) of the relevant packages. For the avoidance of doubt, where any other licence grants rights, this policy does not modify or reduce those rights under those licences.

I think both of these sections clarify what Canonical’s intent is. It is apparent that the FSF agrees with this as well.

This update now makes Canonical’s policy unequivocally comply with the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) and other free software licenses.

However, I do not see this clarification addressing the one concern I noted above about virtual machine appliances or containers that use unmodified Ubuntu with proprietary bits added on top as is the case with the Aruba Airwave Appliance. I see the same concern being raised by Matthen Garrett.

The apparent aim here is to avoid situations where people take Ubuntu, modify it and continue to pass it off as Ubuntu. But it reaches far further than that. Cases where this may apply include (but are not limited to):

  • Anyone producing a device that runs an operating system based on Ubuntu, even if it’s entirely invisible to the user (eg, an embedded ARM device using Ubuntu as its base OS)
  • Anyone producing containers based on Ubuntu
  • Anyone producing cloud images (such as AMIs) based on Ubuntu

Garrett goes on to make a claim that, for me, is unclear. He could be correct with his interpretation, but I am not positive.

In each of these cases, a strict reading of the policy indicates that you are distributing a modified version of Ubuntu and therefore must either get it approved by Canonical or remove the trademarks and rebuild everything. The strange thing is that this doesn’t limit itself to rebuilding packages that include Canonical’s trademarks – there’s a requirement that you rebuild all binaries.

The IP Policy states:

Otherwise you must remove and replace the Trademarks and will need to recompile the source code to create your own binaries.

This does not specify all nor does it specify only those affected binaries. I see this language as being unclear as to which binaries need to be recompiled. I also agree with Garrett on the issue of confusion over what constitutes a trademark. Does this include the word ‘ubuntu’ in version strings or in maintainers email addresses.

Frustrating Process

For many this has been a long drawn out and frustrating process, but I would like to advert your attention to some comments by Bradley M. Kuhn to keep this in perspective.

First of all, I think it’s important to note the timeline: it took two years of work by two charities to get this change done. The scary thing is that compared to their peers who have also violated the GPL, Canonical, Ltd. acted rather quickly. As Conservancy pointed out regarding the VMware lawsuit, it’s not uncommon for these negotiations to take even four years before we all give up and have to file a lawsuit. So, Canonical, Ltd. resolved the matter at least twice as fast as VMware, and they deserve some credit for that — even if other GPL violators have set the bar quite low.

It should be noted that not only did Canonical take less time to comply than VMWare, but the VMWare case is about VMWare actually changing the license terms on code taken from the Linux kernel for use in their own kernel. From what I can see in the case of Canonical it was about the wording and possible interpretations of the old policy. The only situation that I am aware of that might rise to this level is the case of Canonical requiring Mint to obtain a license. Since I am not privy to the details of that license I do not know if it was related to the trademark or is similar to the VMWare violation. Based on the details I do have access too it is my belief that it was related to trademarks and was not an attempt to take GPL licensed code and violate the terms of the GPL license.

Moving Forward

It should also be noted that the FSF statement on the negotiations noted that Canonical repeatedly that their intention was to liberally allow use of their trademarks and patents by community projects.

Canonical, in our conversations, repeatedly expressed that it is their full intention to liberally allow use of their trademarks and patents by community projects, and not to interfere with the exercise of rights under any copyleft license covering works within Ubuntu.

I also agree with the FSF statement about the need for clarity for user to know their rights in advance.

While we appreciate today’s development and do see it as a big step in that direction, we hope they will further revise the policy so that users, to the greatest extent possible, know their rights in advance rather than having to inquire about them or negotiate them.

The inclusion of the wording ‘greatest extent possible’ highlights what I perceive to be the difficulty of balancing the needs of a for-profit company with the ideals of free software. While Redhat use a subscription model for restricting access to binaries and updates that has been found to be in compliance with the GPL I am glad that Canonical is trying to find a different model to monetize their efforts. I appreciate being able to use the same distribution in production as I use at home instead of having to use Fedora/CentOS vs Redhat unless I want to pay to be a subscriber. It is also interesting to note that despite the difference in models that Redhat has been seen by some to violate the spirit of GPL licensing and moved their appliances from CentOS to Scientific Linux when Redhat acquired CentOS.

While the topic is charged and can lead to heated debate all members of the Ubuntu Community should act with humanity towards others while discussing the policy and the changes. Progress is not made while belittling or berating others just because they do not agree with your position. While I normally do not moderate comments on my blog beyond removing spam I will do so on this post with regard to any comments which I find abrasive and rude.

As a member of the Ubuntu Community and the larger Free Software Movement I urge people to avoid using sensationalized language like landing punches or slap downs. Leave such phrases to websites that are looking to generate traffic. Bombast is not a basis for working collaboratively to improve the current wording.

I also want to stress, again, that this is my opinion and interpretation of both versions of Canonical’s policy. I am not a legal expert and my opinions should not be used as legal advice.

edit: Clarified that my interpretation of this policy was, and still is, that Canonical claims that it has copyrights over the disk, installer, system images, Ubuntu packages and binary files. I am not making assertion that this is a legally valid claim.

Dell XPS 13 (9343) Making the Transition to a Smaller Laptop

When I first left desktops behind for a laptop (Lenovo T500) it was a tough step. I was used to building my own desktops from the components I selected. I was used to the power of a desktop. Converting to using a laptop was an exercise in compromises. The transition from a 15″ laptop to a smaller lighter laptop is similar, but this is the first time I have taken a step back in the area of memory. I am converting from a Lenovo T530 to a Dell XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition. This article will cover accessories I own or am considering purchasing to replace some of the lost features of the larger laptop.

main_256Video Out
If you use your laptop to present or would like to have a larger monitor at your desk then you will want to have an adapter from mini-displayport to some other input (VGA, DVI or Displayport). In my case I went with the MDP-HDMI from Puggable which converts from mini-displayport to HDMI. Most of the presentations I do get displayed on large screen television with HDMI inputs which make this solution ideal. Linux does not have support for USB 3.0 Display Link device, but you could also choose to utilize a USB 2.0 docking station. As long as you do not have USB 3.0 drives or a need for 1000MB Ethernet connections that would be a possible solution.

main_256Network
Wireless works great when you are mobile and fairly well even when you are not. For most people there is no need for wired connections, but if you move large files then having a gigabit connection is a must have. For this I use a Pluggable Model USB3-E1000 device. Moving large files at 118 MB/s is much more enjoyable than 35 MB/s.

main_256USB 3.0 Hub
With only two USB ports a hub can make it easier to attach multiple devices. In my case since I decided to use the USB3-E1000 device I would only have one available USB port. I have the Plugable USB3-HUB7A which has seven ports. This USB hub has not been stable for me with either the the Lenovo T530 nor the Dell XPS 13 (9343). I am not sure if there is a firmware issue or something else. The current issues are that devices plugged in to the hub are not always recognized. That said this hub still allows me to use three devices directly attached and another two through a second USB 2.0 hub.

 

Dell XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition – Bluetooth Firmware

I installed Ubuntu 15.04 on my Dell XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition and found Bluetooth to be non-functional. I read several posts on the web that called for getting the firmware from Windows and using a tool to convert the hex to hcd. I knew that Bluetooth had been working on the unit prior to replacing the preloaded 14.04 so I plugged in my recovery USB stick and poked around to see if I could find the firmware. After little digging I found a package that contained the firmware and extracted it. (note: the install will put the firmware in /lib/firmware and it needs to be in /lib/firmware/brcm)

Dell Receovery XPS 13 9343 Developer Edition

Dell Receovery XPS 13 9343 Developer Edition

1. Go to the debs folder and find the bt-dw1560-firmware_1.0_all.deb.

Broadcom Debian Package

Broadcom Debian Package

2. Open this file with Archive Manager.

3. Navigate to /usr/share/bt-dw1560/firmware/

Archive Manager Extract Firmware

Archive Manager Extract Firmware

4. Extract the fw-0a5c_216f.hcd file

5. Move it to /lib/firmware/brcm with the name BCM20702A0-0a5c-216f.hcd (note: your path may vary – I put mine in my home directory)

sudo mv fw-0a5c_216f.hcd /lib/firmware/brcm/BCM20702A0-0a5c-216f.hcd

6. unload bluetooth using the command:

sudo modprobe -r btusb

7.  load bluetooth using the command:

sudo modprobe btusb

8. Bluetooth should now be working.

After following this process I was able to pair devices and send files from my phone to my computer.

Dell XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition vs Lenovo X1 Carbon (2015)

XPS 13 (9343) Bright Display

XPS 13 (9343) Bright Display

I recently purchased a Dell XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition for home and a Lenovo X1 Carbon (2015) at work. Both laptops are in the same ultra-thin and portable category, but the XPS has added Infinity Display this year and the X1 Carbon reversed course on the touchpad and keyboard design this year. I debated a long time about which laptop to get for home use, but in the end Dell won me over in a knock out.

Specifications:

XPS 13 (9343):
8GB DDR3L-RS 1600Mhz
DW 1560 Wireless (Broadcom)
SAMSUNG SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
Intel Core i5-5200U CPU @ 2.20GHz
13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) infinity display
52 WHr, 4-Cell Battery (integrated)
Price $944.10

X1 Carbon:
Work X1 Carbon – Comparison Specs:
8GB DDR3L-12800 1600 MHz
Intel 7265 Wireless
SAMSUNG MZNTE256HMHP-000L7 256GB
Intel Core i5-5300u @ 2.30Ghz
14″ WQHD+ (2560 x 1440)
50 WHr battery (integrated)
Price: $1,403.10

Temperatures (using lm-sensors):

XPS 13:
acpitz-virtual-0
Adapter: Virtual device
temp1:        +25.0°C  (crit = +107.0°C)
temp2:        +34.0°C  (crit = +105.0°C)
temp3:        +34.0°C  (crit = +105.0°C)

coretemp-isa-0000
Adapter: ISA adapter
Physical id 0:  +33.0°C  (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)
Core 0:         +32.0°C  (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)
Core 1:         +32.0°C  (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)

X1 Carbon:
acpitz-virtual-0
Adapter: Virtual device
temp1:        +39.0°C  (crit = +128.0°C)

thinkpad-isa-0000
Adapter: ISA adapter
fan1:           0 RPM

coretemp-isa-0000
Adapter: ISA adapter
Physical id 0:  +33.0°C  (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)
Core 0:         +33.0°C  (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)
Core 1:         +33.0°C  (high = +105.0°C, crit = +105.0°C)

The boot times are close with the XPS 13 at 13.4 seconds and the X1 Carbon at 16.1 seconds.

Battery:

XPS 13:
Disharge Rate: 3.8W
Watt Hours: 52.9
Volts: 8
Vendor: SMP

X1 Carbon:
DIschater Rate: 4.5W
Watt Hours: 50.1
Volts 15.3
Vendor: SMP

The XPS 13 has bios settings for battery charing thresholds. The X1 Carbon allows those to be set using tlp and the optional components for Thinkpad models. The system on the X1 Carbon works well and the indicator shows the proper state (charging, discharging or none). With the XPS 13 bios settings the start charging threshold appears to be non-functional. I have it set at 50%, but the battery starts charing as soon as it is below the stop charging threshold. I applaud Dell for putting this feature in bios, but they need to work on the implementation so that it functions properly.

Subjective experiences:
LCD Panel:
With the X1 Carbon I had to change the scaling to 1.12 in order to make the display readable. With the XPS 13 this adjustment was not necessary. Both screen are very crisp, but color temperature on the X1 is a warmer. I can make no claims about the color accuracy of either monitor. For my use the XPS 13 has the superior panel. Both the panels are IPS panels, but the Dell is an IGZO. If Lenovo offered a 1920×1080 IPS panel with the X1 Carbon things might be a tie, but the resolution of 2560 x 1440 causes some difficulty with apps that do not using scaling. With a dark panel I notice light bleed on the X1 Carbon and none on the XPS 13.
(XPS: 9 | X1: 7)

Keyboard:
I like the keyboards on both laptops. The X1 Carbon has seperate page up, page down, home, end and print screen keys. The XPS 13 has these keys, but they are combined with other functions. The Lenovo also offers the ability to mute the microphone with a function key. The Dell offers play control functions keys for previous, pause-play and next. The XPS also has a caps lock indicator light while the Lenovo does not. Both keys boards offer three steps (off, low, high) of backlighting. The Lenovo keys are have a little indented contour to them that make for a pleasent feel to the keys when typing. Overall I prefer the keybaord on the X1 Carbon slightly.
(XPS: 9 | X1: 9.5)

Ports and connectivity:
The X1 Carbon comes out ahead on this metric for most business users. The laptop comes with a special docking port that both powers the laptop and provides dock functionality. This functions much better than using a USB 3.0 dock and having to plug in the power adapter too. It also has a full size HDMI out which in the right circumstances will avoid having to carry an adapter. The X1 also includess a special port for a gigabit ethernet adapter that is included with the unti. At work where I need to use my gigabit network connection frequently the dock is invaluable for its ease of use and fucntionality. This is an area Dell could improve on for business oriented customers. My use at home is much different and the included SD card reader on the Dell is much more useful than a dock. I take plenty of pictures of my children and being able to extract the pictures directly from the SD card is much more valuable.
(XPS: 9 | X1 9)

Other items of note:
The Dell XPS offers an easy way to update the bios at boot time which avoids having the make a bootable CD or USB stick. At a time when so many manufacturers only provide Windows execuatbles for bios updates this is a welcome feature. The fact that Dell is officially supporting the XPS and the unit gets 24/7 next day business support for a year makes the warranty superior to what Lenovo offers. I also know that Dell will not deny support based on the fact that I choose to use Ubuntu over Windows. Both laptops are cool and quiet, but I do prefer the X1 Carbon exhaust being on the side vs bottom of the unit. The build quality of the SPX 13 is superior to that of the X1 Carbon. I have no squeeks or creaking noises from the case of the XPS 13, but I do have that issue with the X1 Carbon.

XPS 13 (9343) vs X1 Carbon footprint.

XPS 13 (9343) vs X1 Carbon footprint.

XPS 13 (9343) vs X1 Carbon Thickness

XPS 13 (9343) vs X1 Carbon Thickness

Overall, the XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition is an awesome laptop. While my T500 and T530 are fine laptops, this is the first laptop I have been truly excited to own. Considering this all comes in at a price roughly $460 less than the X1 Carbon I think it is obvious that Dell hit a home run with the XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition.

Coming up: Accessories that help me get the most out of my XPS 13.

Dell XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition Review

Background:
My last laptop was a Lenovo T530 that I purchased in October of 2012. When I ordered this laptop I was torn between the X1 Carbon, X230 and the T530. What tilted the scales for me was the 1920×1080 resolution on the T530 and the quality of the panel. The laptop weighed in at more than 5.6lbs and I decided I wanted a lighter weight laptop.  Earlier this year I replaced my work laptop, a Lenovo W520, with a Lenovo X1 Carbon. At that time the Dell XPS 13 Developer Editiion was not available, This time around the contenders were the Lenovo X1 Carbon, Lenovo X250 and the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition. The options were the X1 Carbon at $1,268.10 (14″ 1920×1080 non-IPS screen), the X250 at $1,259.10 (12.6″ 1920×1080 IPS Screen) and the Dell XPS 13 at $944 (on sale).

Ordering, Shipping and Packaging:
The first thing I have to mention is that Dell was extremely quick in delivering the laptop. I ordered the device on Friday June 12th and it was delivered Thursday June 18th. The ordering process was quick and easy. I made use of the pop-up chat offer and discussed the options with the Dell sales representative. In addition to the sale price and $100 off coupon I was offered free next day shipping. The device came in a rather plain brown exterior box, but inside was a smaller elegant black box. The specs of the XPS 13 I orders are:

8GB DDR3L-RS 1600Mhz
DW 1560 Wireless
SAMSUNG SSD PM851 M.2 2280 256GB
Intel Core i5-5200U CPU @ 2.20GHz
13.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) infinity display
52 WHr, 4-Cell Battery (integrated)
Price $944.10

Initial Experience:
The XPS 13 comes with Ubuntu 14.04 preinstalled and has several backports as well to ensure that the unit functions properly. The initial startup was quite impressive (see video below). The unit worked out of the box, but I wanted to install Ubuntu 15.04. The first step was to use the Dell recovery utility, but this did not work until after I did an apt-get update and apt-get upgrade. The Dell recovery utility makes and image of the computer and places it on a USB flash drive and after the quick upgrade worked flawlessly.

Screenshot from 2015-06-20 11:29:43

Upgrade to 15.04:
I decided to install a fresh copy of 15.04 instead of doing an in-place upgrade. The process was very smooth and I had no issues. I chose to use UEFI and secure boot. Everything I have tested is working properly. Function keys (including being able to toggel the function key lock), wireless, microphone, trackpad (including pinch to zoom), screen brightness, volume control, keyboard backlighting, wireless toggle and multimedia control.

Final Impressions:
Every day I go to use this laptop I am struck by how much smaller it is than the Lenovo T530 it replaced. It is absolutely stunning with the infinity display. It packs the same screen resolution as the T530, but an insanely small chassis. Where I used to dread taking my T530 to conferences and meetings this unit will be a pleasure to carry. It will likely weigh less than the other items I bring.

Coming Up: A comparison of my work Lenovo X1 Carbon (2015) from work and my personal Dell XPS 13 (9343) Developer Edition.

1990: Copyrights and Computer Operating Systems

Screenshot from 2015-05-31 13:47:48

Interesting to look back to the past and see where the world of computing was in the past. I lived through it, but it is hard for many to believe that operating systems used to have less than 1 MB (yes, Megabyte) of memory. Also, interesting to see that some folks thought Apple actually had a unique idea with a graphical user interface despite the fact that it started with Douglas Engelbart at SRI (Stanford Research Institute) and continued at Xerox Parc with release of the Alto computer [1]. The explanation about the command line interface is interesting as well. GUIs were exciting and many thought they would replace command line, but even Microsoft and Apple still use command line today.

As a user of Linux I am very happy that Apple was not permitted to copyright the GUI. Without it we would not have Ubuntu and Unity, Gnome Shell, KDE, LXDE, etc. It is a much better world that people be able to choose the best option for their work style.

Screenshot from 2015-05-31 13:48:08

Interesting video covering Linux where The Computer Chronicles poses the question how can anyone make a business selling it. Perhaps the wrong question now that we can look back knowing that businesses have been built around Linux and Open Source Software. Companies like Google and Facebook would not exist without the operating system. Companies like Canonical and Redhat exist by selling services supporting it. Amazing times we live in.

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