Announcing project Sputnik Beta program

July 2, 2012

Last week project Sputnik got an official presence on  While the project is still a skunk works effort rather than a product, we are rapidly gaining traction within the company.

If you’re not familiar with project Sputnik, its a laptop pilot targeted at developers and based on Dell’s XPS13 ultrabook and Ubuntu 12.04LTS.

The new page points you to where you can buy an XPS13 (unfortunately still pre-loaded with Windows at this time), where you can get the image to load, where you can offer suggestions, read about people’s experiences and where you can sign up for a beta unit.

Be a Beta Cosmonaut

If you are interested in getting your hands on a project Sputnik beta unit we are now recruiting volunteers for the Sputnik Beta Cosmonaut program (and yes we know the original Sputnik was unmanned, we’re taking artistic license here).  A limited number of applicants will be selected to receive a discounted, beta version solution (Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook with Ubuntu 12.04LTS pre-loaded).

If selected, all we ask is that you use the system regularly and give us your honest feedback on the project Sputnik forum.  It will be interesting to see if we get five people applying to be cosmonauts or 5,000.  Stay tuned…

To apply, please fill out this form.

Project Sputnik forum and wiki

Along with a landing page on, we recently launched a project Sputnik presence on Dell TechCenter.  On TechCenter, you can find a Sputnik wiki as well as the forum I mentioned above to share experiences with Sputnik and file bugs.

BTW both Dell and Canonical will be at OSCON and one of the things we’ll be talking up is project Sputnik.  Stop by and say hi if you’re there.

Key links

Pau for now…


May 29, 2012

Courtesy of

We knew that project Sputnik, the idea of creating a developer laptop based on Dell’s XPS13 ultrabook and Ubuntu 12.04LTS, would have appeal but we never could have anticipated the response we’ve gotten.

To put it into perspective, the most cumulative views I’ve had of a blog entry before Sputnik was 2,700.   My post introducing Sputnik, as of tonight, has had over 42,000 views!  And the news has been carried by a boatload of   pubs and blogs around the world (see a partial list below).

Silent but not sleeping

In case you’re wondering, the radio silence for the last couple of weeks  hasn’t been intentional our little team has just been crazy busy.   Not only have we gotten attention outside of Dell but our profile has raised quite a bit inside as well.  Our skunk works team has been scrambling to leverage that attention to see what we can do to put this on a faster track.  We have also had a bunch of meetings with Canonical to talk about the best way forward given the intense interest.

Whole lot of feedback

We have been deluged with comments and suggestions both on my blog and the Sputnik Storm session and while there were plenty of people who said they would  buy it now if it was available, we also received some clear direction on where people would like to see this offering go.   Some of the key areas for improving the offering are:

  • Multi gesture support for the touch pad  (more on that in a second)
  • Screen resolution
  • More memory (8GB+)
  • Matte screen
  • Pricing: don’t make it more expensive than Windows

We are making note of these suggestions as we plot our way through this six month pilot.

The track pad

Its no surprise that the number one complaint has been the lack of multi gesture support in the touchpad.  Canonical and Dell have reached out to the vendor and last week they began working on an open source driver.  The vendor is sending both Dell and Canonical intermediary versions which will allow us to iterate on them as they’re developing and provide feedback about what’s working and what isn’t with the way things are assembled.  Fingers crossed, we hope to see the completed driver by the end of June.

Update June 21: the driver for the touchpad is now available!

Thanks everyone for their amazing interest Sputnik and look for a bunch more info soon.

Extra-credit reading — some Sputnik coverage

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