Ubuntu 13.04 on the Dell XPS 12

My first day with my Dell XPS 12 involved me battling Ubuntu 13.04. I lost that battle and resorted to Ubuntu 12.10 (which I'll try to cover in a separate post), but here's a few problems I faced:

Live CD

The Ubuntu live CD gives a blank display when attempting to boot. This can be worked around by pressing F6 at the live CD menu, and selecting nomodeset.


Unity really struggles out of the box. Animations are incredibly sluggish, so it makes even the basic task of switching windows very difficult. Having seen a video of Ubuntu 12.10 running on this same model I was confident this was not normal behaviour.

I installed Xubuntu in order to alleviate some of these issues, which it did (probably because it doesn't have any animations). However, VLC won't play videos smoothly with any zoom (though mplayer would) and the instructions I found online to try and resolve this didn't work.

However, installing fglrx resolved that. Unfortunately (again), this breaks Unity (and, from what I could tell, gnome-shell). With the rest of the issues below, I was close to sending this laptop back.


The touchscreen and touchpad work out of the box, including tap-to-click on the touchpad which was a known problem on 12.10.

Interactions with Nautilus were buggy at best - there seemed to be no support for tapping on window decorations (e.g. maximise, close) nor for dragging a window around (unless you grabbed the menu bar, which not all windows have). I would live with the latter, but not with the former.

There were also various issues with the touchscreen which I couldn't quite put my finger on. From time-to-time, the touchscreen's ability to click things would be lost, and I'd have to make the same gesture with the touchpad in order to 'reset' it.


Ubuntu 13.04 isn't horrible on the XPS 12, but it's far from ideal. Next up: Ubuntu 12.10.