Occasionally I get asked about my personal “daily driver” laptop. For those of you who dont know me – I work almost exclusively in Linux for my day to day machine. Sure I have a company-issued Windows laptop and an additional home machine that I use for windows-y exclusive things but I just find that I am so much faster and proficient doing things things in Linux. Additionally I get a bit ‘particular’ about my computing environment. Getting that interface just right is key for me and its a level of customization that is unachievable in Windows. It’s probably just me. But I live at the intersection of custom keybinds, clean and simple graphical user interfaces, multiple workspaces, and easy access to terminal and command line level control. This inevitably leads to – well what do you use?
If you have followed me for a long time you know that I am huge fan of System76 and their gear. In many ways they do a lot of the ugly dirty work for you by customizing the hardware and software, driver integration, and do it seemlessly through their own flavored Ubuntu-based distribution called PopOs!. My previous daily driver was a Darter Pro with 32GB of RAM and performed like a champ for almost four years.
With global supply chain issues due to pandemics, armed conflicts, cost of fuel, and more impacting everyone’s ability to get their hands on much needed components,I decided to branch out and get an XPS 15 from Dell for my new driver. My reasoning was simple – the larger manufacturers would likely be the first movers and have greater opportunity to get the components needed and shipped to me. With most sites plastered with ‘Notify when back in stock’ labels on their products I felt it was a good bet. Plus the Dell XPS 15 is just a sexy machine and I have friends who are borderline religious zealots on their XPS 13s and 15s. So why not?
But even an organization the size of Dell is not unphased by current events and I got my machine a month AFTER the stated delivery date. Interestingly the Dell website continued to tell me the delivery of the device was on-track even though it had long past the date.
But arrive it did and it was exactly what I wanted. Great build quality, sleek looks, beefy and fast. It ships with Windows 11 (no choice – Its a Windows first device per Dell) and after I got it all configured it has been a dream. Getting to that dream? Well that was more of a journey. Let me refer you back to the value of a System76 pre-integrated bios, operating system, drivers comment. Yeah, that doesnt happen when you do it from scratch.
So I had a great exploration of changing BIOS settings, (including downloading new Bios firmware -which was a bit bizzare as presumably the machine had just left the Dell integration center pretty recently), searching for up to date drivers, and dealing with idiosyncrasies of distributions. To top it off, I decided to move to Ubuntu 22.04 during all of this as it coincided with the arrival of my new kit. Lots of variables in motion and I got stuck in the thrash that usually follows a new LTS release. It had been awhile since I had gone down that journey so for me it was kind of fun fidizzling with all of that. But for some – It may be more of an aggravation.
The resulting current state of my daily driver is as follows:
- Dell XPS 15 9520, 32GB, 1TB NVME
- Running Ubuntu 22.04*
- Running Gnome 42*
- For IDEs I am generally a JetBrains partisan (CLion, Pycharm, etc.)
So you may be wondering about those asterisks. The reason for them has to do with the fact that I usually prefer the KDE window environment with Kubuntu. But no matter how much I fiddizzled with the Kubuntu-based ISO, settings, modified my grub loader with different settings, being confused why the Kubuntu version was still shipping with the previous linux kernal version, and more – I couldn’t get it to play nice with the XPS 15. After reverting back to the base Ubuntu build – I had very little issues. I am sure its likely to do with the peculiarities of 22.04 release. So that may be another step somewhere in the future. But for now, Gnome is not as bad as I remembered it. There are the standard other tweaks that I have done as well. Canonical continues to love the performance dumpster-fire that is SNAP so installing Flatpak was an early must-do step. At present I operate with the motto of ‘If I cant get it via apt or flatpak, or download it as a last resort, I don’t need it that bad’. 🙂
Well there you go! Way more information than you could have ever wanted about my daily driver.