Dell’s Linux PC sequel still “just works”—but it adds 4K screen and rough edges

Almost two years ago, we closed out our review of Dell’s first Linux-powered Developer Edition laptop with some words of wisdom from my former uber-sysadmin mentor, a fellow named Rick, with whom I worked at Boeing for many, many years. Rick is now retired and living the life of an itinerant world-traveling SCUBA master, but he’s been hacking on Linux since around the time Linus first dropped the kernel on comp.os.minix. I lamented to Rick that I was having a hard time coming up with an angle or hook for the XPS 13 Developer Edition, because it all just worked—Dell got it right, and it was a great piece of kit. It was maybe even a bit boring.

“Isn’t that what you’re looking for in a mainstream product?” Rick told me over e-mail. “In 1996 it was: ‘Wow look at this, I got Linux running on xxxxxxxx.’ Even in 2006 that was at times an accomplishment… When was the last time you turned on an Apple or Windows machine and marveled that it ‘just worked?’ It should be boring.”

Rick was right—he usually is right, which is why he made such an awesome mentor. His words echoed in my head all over again when I recently lifted up the big M3800’s lid. Dell has expanded its Developer Edition offerings, taking what started out as an internal unofficial side-project of sticking Ubuntu onto the new M3800 workstation laptop and making an actual, official supported configuration that you can purchase. Like the XPS 13 Developer Edition before it, the M3800 Developer Edition comes straight from the factory with an Ubuntu LTS desktop release—14.04 this time around, rather than the previous XPS 13’s 12.04 LTS. Everything “just works.”

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