[Arm-netbook] new development laptop needed, looking at dell xps 13 9350

Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton lkcl at lkcl.net
Sun Dec 4 11:15:20 GMT 2016

around 3 years ago i bought an apple macbook pro 13in because it was
well-built, high spec'd and high-priced (translation: plenty of profit
so that no corners need to be cut in manufacturing, which in turn
means less chance of component failure).

that was the theory, anyway.  one design flaw, though: the PCIe SSD
could be "spiked" by the lack of earthing of the power supply,
resulting in resets of the SATA bus about twice per second.  setting
"min_power" on the SATA bus stopped this flood of entries in
/var/log/syslog... but the setting was OVER-RIDDEN at the slightest

also, i had no idea that i would need more than 8GB of RAM (and the
macbook pro is NOT UPGRADABLE - the RAM is soldered down).

i've also just had my backup SSD (a 4 year old kingston 512mb SSD
which is hardly used) totally fail after a non-intensive *READ*.  not
write: READ.

with the macbook pro's internal SSD being difficult to get at, i'm
feeling a leetle paranoid: this machine is a CRITICAL resource, now a
single point of failure.  my partner's machine only has 4GB of RAM and
a 1600x1080 LCD.  lovely machine but it would in no way cope with what
i'm doing.

also... i've literally worn holes in two of the keys (ctrl and S)...

basically it's time to get a new laptop, and i need something that has
particularly special high-end specifications in certain areas:

* 2560x1600 or greater resolution LCD (CAD development)
* 13in size (has to fit in my backpack)
* below 1.5kg weight (carryable)
* 16GB of RAM (i'm maxing out the 8GB)
* 512GB SSD (i've maxed out the 256GB drive)
* cooperative manufacturer that hasn't caved in to microsoft
cartelling business practices

actual processor and processor speed isn't actually relevant.  battery
life: also not really relevant.  doesn't *particularly* need a
dedicated GPU: intel shared graphics turns out to work well enough for
the 3D CAD work that i do (even when the framerate is seconds per
frame in openscad).  i run mostly from mains, and processors are so
insanely fast these days that speed is not really an issue.

now, the machine i came up with is the Dell XPS 13, 9350:


i looked at the lenovo yoga 900: zowee, lenovo are unethical.  they've
locked the BIOS so that you can't switch the NVMe SSD out of RAID mode
(so you can't even install windows from a windows CD), they've refused
refunds to people who claim mis-selling, they're ACTIVELY working to
release new BIOS updates that prevent and prohibit people from
installing linux, and they're scrambling to constantly censor reports
and complaints on their forum.

i also looked at the asus zenbook: fantastic machine.... except the
13in variant peaks at 12GB of RAM.

sony... have stopped doing laptops!  that's the end of an era: i'm amazed...

now, before i go spending $USD 1500 of crowd-funding money (which is
easily justifiable as it's absolutely essential that i have a working
machine and a half-decent backup) i'd like to double-check with people
if they know of anything better than the XPS 9350, both in terms of
specification as well as support for the linux community from the
manufacturer.  dell appear to be cooperating, releasing BIOS updates
that *actively* help linux users (as opposed to lenovo who do the
complete opposite and then try to hide the fact, generally being
incredibly evasive and unethical).

thoughts and suggestions appreciated for evaluation.  the 9350's at
the top of the list right now.


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