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Dell XPS 13 7390 Review: The Best Laptop For Desktop Linux Users

Gone are the days when we had to do a lot of research and read a lot of reviews to find a machine that would work with the least amount of trouble with the desktop Linux distribution of choice. Today, almost every machine out there can run Linux. The kernel community has done an incredible job with device driver support to make everything work out of the box.

Still, there are machines that can run Linux, and then there are machines that run Linux. Dell machines fall in the latter category. Five years ago, Barton George started a program within Dell to bring desktop Linux to consumer grade, high-end Dell systems. What started as one machine is now an entire line of high-end laptops and desktops.

Among these machines, XPS 13 is my favorite. While I need a really powerful desktop to handle my 4K UHD, multicam video production, I also need an ultra-portable laptop that I can bring with me anywhere without having to worry about a bulky backpack and charger. XPS 13 was also my very first laptop, which lasted me more than 7 years. So, yes, there is that nostalgic factor, too.

Dell updates the XPS line almost every year and the latest rollout was announced in October (link to video interview). XPS 13 (7390) is an incremental update to the series, and Dell was kind enough to send me a review unit.

It is powered by a 6-core, Core i7-10710U CPU. It comes with 16GB of memory and 1TB SSD. At the base frequency of 1.10 GHz, which can boost to 4.1 GHz, this is a great machine for average workloads. It doesn’t have any dedicated GPU, so it’s not meant for gaming or compiling from source for Gentoo Linux or Arch Linux. However, I did manage to run some Steam games on it.

If you are looking to run your Kubernetes clusters, AI frameworks or Virtual Reality, then there are more powerful machines from the Precision line, which are certified to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Ubuntu.

The machine’s chassis is identical to the previous generation. The bezels remains as thin as they were in the previous generation, still thinner than MacBook and Microsoft’s Surface Pro.

It has three ports, two of which are USB-C Thunderbolt 3, which can be used to connect to 4K monitors, USB accessories, and high-speed data transfer between machines with peer-to-peer networking.

It also has a microSD slot. As a video journalist, a slot for an SD card would have been more useful. Heavy users of Raspberry Pis would also love this card.

It has 4 microphones and an improved camera, which is now located at the top (goodbye, nosecam!).

XPS 13 (7390) is sleek and slim. At 2.7 lbs, it is certainly comparable to Apple’s MacBook Air. This machine is meant to be your travel companion and for everyday tasks like checking emails, browsing the web, and writing.

Its 4K UHD screen supports HDR, which means you will be able to enjoy Mandalorian in all its full glory. That said, the on-board speakers are not that great and sound muffled. They are OK for video chats or casual YouTube viewing, but if you want to enjoy the The Witcher later this year, or if you want to enjoy music from Amazon, Apple Music or YouTube Music, you need headphones or external speakers.

But how much fun can you get out of this machine before you reach for charging cable? It gave me around 7-8 hours of battery life with average workload: browsing the web with a few tabs, just watching a movie or listening to music. Multi-tasking, especially any kind of web activity, will drain the battery. Some fine-tuning on Linux may give you even more life. On Windows 10, I was able to get more than 10 hours!

As a video journalist who is still doing a fair amount of writing, I really like the keyboard. However, the trackpad is the same story that we have been hearing on desktop Linux for ages: it’s nowhere near the quality on MacBook or Windows machines. Maybe one day. To Dell’s credit, they do release drivers for the trackpad that enhances the experience, but I am not running the stock Ubuntu 18.04 LTS that came with this system. I did a fresh install of Ubuntu 19.10 because Gnome is painfully slow in 18.04. I tried openSUSE Tumbleweed, Zorin OS, elementary OS, Fedora, KDE’s neon and Arch Linux. All worked, although some needed extra effort to run.

So, who is this system for? It’s certainly for professionals who want a well designed, high-end machine from a brand they can trust. It’s for those who like a MacBook Air, but prefer the desktop Linux ecosystem. It’s for those who want to use Linux for work, instead of working on it to make it work.

Spending a week with this machine reinforced why I love Dell’s XPS series so much. They are the best Linux laptops out there. And this XPS 13 (7390) packs a punch.

AWS Announces Graviton2-Powered General Purpose, Compute-Optimized, & Memory-Optimized EC2 Instances

AWS has provided a sneak peek at the next generation of Arm-based EC2 instances. These instances are built on AWS Nitro System and will be powered by the new Graviton2 processor. This is a custom AWS design that is built using a 7 nm (nanometer) manufacturing process. It is based on 64-bit Arm Neoverse cores, and can deliver up to 7x the performance of the A1 instances, including twice the floating point performance. Additional memory channels and double-sized per-core caches speed memory access by up to 5x.
[Source: AWS]

HPE Launches Greenlake Central

At HPE Discover More Munich, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today launched HPE GreenLake Central. According to HPE, the advanced software platform provides customers with a consistent cloud experience for all their applications and data, through an operational console that runs, manages and optimizes their entire hybrid IT estate. Building on the momentum of HPE GreenLake, the platform is said to accelerate business outcomes for customers by lowering costs and risks and providing greater choice and control.

[Source: TFiR]

Firefox 71 arrives with better Lockwise and tracker blocking, Picture-in-Picture on Windows

Mozilla today launched Firefox 71 for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Firefox 71 includes Lockwise password manager improvements, Enhanced Tracking Protection tweaks, and Picture-in-Picture video on Windows. There isn’t too much else new, possibly because Mozilla is getting ready to speed up Firefox releases to a four-week cadence (from six to eight weeks) next year. The company did, however, share updates on its VPN efforts and Firefox Preview. Firefox 71 for desktop is available for download now on Firefox.com, and all existing users should be able to upgrade to it automatically.

[Source: VentureBeat]

AWS launches Braket, its quantum computing service

While Google, Microsoft, IBM and others have made a lot of noise around their quantum computing efforts in recent months, AWS remained quiet. The company, after all, never had its own quantum research division. Today, though, AWS announced the preview launch of Braket (named after the common notation for quantum states), its own quantum computing service. It’s not building its own quantum computer, though. Instead, it’s partnering with D-Wave, IonQ and Rigetti and making their systems available through its cloud. In addition, it’s also launching the AWS Center for Quantum Computing and AWS Quantum Solutions Lab.

[Source: TechCrunch]

News organizations are engaging more proactively in open-source journalism to rebuild trust in news media

As news media skepticism grows worldwide and digital tools become increasingly robust and available, reporters and news organizations are engaging more proactively in open-source journalism — a practice in which reporters investigate and construct stories based on publicly available data, including via social media, per The New York Times.

As digital resources and social media have given all people a public, open platform to communicate, user-generated content has become primary source material and created a trail for open-source journalists to investigate. And by performing investigative research in this way, reporters can more easily connect directly to visual evidence on the web, rather than refer to private sources.

[Source: Business Insider]

Android: New StrandHogg vulnerability is being exploited in the wild

Security researchers from Promon, a Norwegian firm specialized in in-app security protections, said they identified a bug in the Android operating system that lets malicious apps hijack legitimate app, and perform malicious operations on their behalf.

In a comprehensive report published today, the research team said the vulnerability can be used to trick users into granting intrusive permissions to malicious apps when they tap and interact with legitimate ones. The vulnerability — which Promon named StrandHogg — can also be used to show fake login (phishing) pages when taping on a legitimate application.

[Source: ZDNet]

Helm Package Manager for Kubernetes Moves Forward

The official release of version 3.0 of the Helm package manager for Kubernetes is designed to make it easier for IT organizations to discover and securely deploy software on Kubernetes clusters more easily. Taylor Thomas, a core contributor to Helm who is also a software developer for Nike, says for the last year the committee that oversees the development of Helm under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has been structuring the package manager to rely more on the application programming interfaces (APIs) that Kubernetes exposes to store records of installation.

Helm Charts, which are collections of YAML files describing a related set of Kubernetes resources, now can be rendered on the client, eliminating the need for the Tiller resource management tool resident in the previous release of Helm that ran on the Kubernetes cluster.

[Source: Container Journal]

With Approaching Another Year Closer To Year 2038, Linux 5.5 Brings More Y2038 Fixes

With approaching another year closer to the Year 2038 problem, where on 19 January 2038 the number of seconds for the Unix timestamp can no longer be stored in a signed 32-bit integer, Linux 5.5 is bringing more Y2038 preparations. Y2038 fixes have been ongoing for years to mitigate the kernel against the Year 2038 problem, particularly for 32-bit platforms. Most of the Year 2038 preparations have been made to the Linux kernel to transition to 64-bit time_t even on 32-bit architectures, among other workarounds.

[Source: Phoronix]

Microsoft: We’re creating a new Rust-based programming language for secure coding

Microsoft can’t throw away old Windows code, but the company’s research under Project Verona is aiming to make Windows 10 more secure with its recent work on integrating Mozilla-developed Rust for low-level Windows components. The company recently revealed that its trials with Rust over C and C++ to remove insecure code from Windows had hit its targets. But why did Microsoft do this?

The company has partially explained its security-related motives for experimenting with Rust, but hasn’t gone into much detail about the reasons for its move.

[Source: ZDNet]