XPS Life

I’ve had my XPS 15 for three full days now. Have I formed an opinion on it? What are the pros and cons of this machine? Is it worth the money? Before I answer those, I should circle back around and provide some more details on my use case for the XPS 15.

You can tell I’ve been using macOS for years, can’t you?

Use Case & Goals

My intention is to replace two computers: My aging MacBook Pro and my gaming desktop. At first glance, that sounds like a near impossible task. I’m getting rid of macOS in favor of Windows and I’m reducing raw computing power. This is true. Nothing comes without compromise. The goal is to get close enough while reducing the amount of e-stuff I own. In the case of the MBP, my work issued me a 2019 MacBook Pro so I still get to use macOS when needed (thus having a second, personal Mac seems redundant). On the desktop front, I don’t play AAA games often anymore so the desktop has mostly become a test bench for VMs and Kubernetes. The desktop sits idle a lot of the time, wasting electricity (though it DOES do a lot of good for World Community Grid).

Look at all the bezel Dell managed to hack off.

With all that said, let’s get into the XPS 15!


Let’s get the numbers out of the way first. I chose to benchmark all three systems with Geekbench 5.3.1. For the XPS and my desktop PC, I also collected 3DMark benchmarks.

XPS 15 Specs: i7-10875H / 32 GB DDR4 / 1TB SSD / GTX 1650 Ti 4GB

MacBook Pro Specs: i7-6700HQ / 16 GB DDR3 / 250GB SSD / Radeon Pro 450 2GB

Desktop Specs: AMD Ryzen 2700x / 32GB DDR4 / 512GB SSD / Vega 56 8GB

BenchmarkXPS 15 (9500)MacBook Pro 15″Desktop
GB 5.3 Single Core12677281049
GB 5.3 Multicore791830167348
GB 5.3 OpenCL443461062476454
Time Spy Overall3577n/a6657
Time Spy GPU3408n/a6419
Time Spy CPU4987n/a8430
Max Temps (CPU / GPU)93C / 77Cn/a68C / 72C
The 2016 MacBook Pro CPU still holds its own but look at the GPU performance.

The take away is this: I’m losing about 50% of my GPU performance vs the Desktop, CPU performance stays in the same ball park, and I’m gaining substantially over the Mac, especially as it pertains to GPU performance. None of this is a shock, really. The only thing I want to call out is this: Intel has struggled for years to get their CPUs manufactured with a smaller feature size out the door and it shows. This is a mid-spec mobile 6th gen (4c/8t) vs high-spec mobile 10th gen (8c/16t) CPU and performance is in the same ballpark per thread.

Apple manages to keep it thinner, mostly at the expense of thermal performance.


  • Screen is beautiful. Once you use the XPS 15, the MacBook Pro (both the 15” and the 16”) bezels look chunky and old school.
  • The touchpad is fantastic. I find it a better and more accurate experience. The click isn’t quite as nice as the MacBook’s haptic feedback but it’s by no means bad.
  • Battery life is great
  • Compact. This really is a diminutive 15” notebook.
  • SD Card reader. As a photobug, this is such a plus.
  • Can game on it, since it’s Windows and brings a powerful GPU to the table.
  • Keyboard is better than the 2016 MBP. What a train wreck the butterfly mechanism turned out to be…
Apple, until you make laptops thinner than an SD card, there is no excuse.


  • WSL2 is just not as convenient as native support that macOS and Linux enjoy for my development tools and workflows.
  • Speakers aren’t as good. No laptop speakers can beat the MBP so you just gotta deal with it. NOTE: This post on /r/dell helped.
  • Windows lacks some of the polish of macOS. I was a long time Windows user but after getting used to macOS in the past few years, you start to feel all the little gaps in Windows that the macOS folks nailed.
  • This machine is HEAVY. It weighs 4.5lbs while my 15” MBP comes in at 3.9lbs. While that doesn’t sound like much, you notice it because more because of the smaller footprint of the XPS. NOTE: My 2019 MBP weighs 4.3lbs.
  • Screen is too bright in low light situations. It’s borderline blinding when used in bed at night. NOTE: You can resolve this via Dell PremierColor and/or by switching to f.lux. See this /r/dell post.
They both look #premium tho.


Value is subjective. If you want a powerhouse of a machine, look elsewhere. Get a gaming laptop. If you want the closest thing the PC world has office to the build quality of a MacBook Pro, look no further. The closest spec I can build on Apples website is $3200 and as spec’d, this machine is $2550 from Dell.com right now. $650 buys a lot of dongles, yo.

Make sure you calibrate your screen if you’re planning to do photo work. You can get close to the MBP color accuracy just by changing the color space to sRGB in Dell PremierColor.

Final Thoughts

If you want a Windows machine with near Mac levels of build quality and mobile workstation performance, this is your horse. If gaming is important and you don’t mind the 16:9 aspect ratio, consider the HP Envy 15 which can be optioned with a GTX 2060 and comes with a more stout cooling solution, like the XPS 17. If you want old school cool, get the Lenovo X1 Extreme. If you want macOS, get an Intel Mac while you still can.


Dude, I’m Getting a Dell

I finally pulled the trigger and purchased a Dell XPS 15 to replace my 2016 MBP.

Why not another Mac?

I have nothing against Apple notebooks. In fact, my work issued MBP16 is absolutely fantastic. What drove me back to Windows were a few things:

  1. The keyboard and screen hinge issues I’ve had with my MBP bother me so much that I do not want to spend my money on another Apple device.
  2. WSL2 solves a lot of the use cases that drove me to switch to macOS in the first place.
  3. Apple is abandoning Intel/x86 which in the long run might be a great move though I don’t want to be caught in the middle of it.
  4. There are some fantastic Windows notebooks on the market nowadays (XPS, X1, Envy, Spectre, Surface, ZenBook, etc.).

What else did you consider?

  1. Lenovo X1 Extreme Gen 3
  2. HP Envy 15
  3. XPS 17

The XPS 17 is just too big so I eliminated it pretty quick. I considered it over the XPS 15 because it’s available with a better GPU (RTX 2060) and better cooling (vapor chamber). Considering those two factors, the HP Envy comes into focus… On paper it has it all.

The HP is a fine machine but with it’s 16:9 display, less color accurate (and hyper glossy) display, and lesser keyboard, I had to eliminate it. As you can see, a theme around keyboards is emerging, thus the Lenovo must be considered.

The Lenovo was the hardest one to walk away from. It’s rugged, it looks like a business machine, and it’s got as much horsepower as the XPS. Additionally, the keyboard is amazing. It’s probably my favorite laptop keyboard. Finally, it has the best array of IO of the bunch. What’s its Achilles heel then? The display. It’s only alright.

The Dell XPS ultimately was the goldilocks machine that worked best for me and with discounts, it was also the cheapest (not by much though).

Once I’ve used the it for 2-3 weeks, I’ll probably write up a more in depth review.


Ansible Roles

I consider a role to be a reusable, (mostly) standalone component to be consumed within a playbook. For instance, we have several different tools which require JDK, so we have a single role called install-oracle-jdk which downloads the JDK, installs it, updates the cacerts with some of our internal certificates, and makes sure that Java is available in the path for all users.

In the most simple case, a role is broken down like this:


In side of the role-name directory are two directories, the tasks/ directory and the vars/ directory. Inside of those two directories is a file called main.yml. vars/main.yml contains the default values of the variables needed for a given role and tasks/main.yml contains the steps required to apply that role. The intent is that if a role is run within a playbook without any variables overridden (more on that later), it will use the default variables. For a role like install-oracle-jdk, there might be a need to specify a different version of JDK. The other benefit of this approach is that when we’ve gone from 8_181 to 8_191 to 8_201 (current at time of writing), we only need to change it in one place and the next time we run the playbook, we’re able to confirm that the same/latest version of Java is installed across all machines in the inventory file which consume that role.

We have other roles where we’d need to pipe in additional variables. When executing a playbook, we generally use the a defaults file which we keep up in the top level directory of our Ansible repository. In the next post, I’ll cover how/when/why we use these defaults files.


Seneca VI

I haven’t posted anything in awhile, however I read this today from The Shortness of Life and I felt like it needed to be documented. I’m not sure this one requires much fleshing out or additional work to tease the meaning out. I’ll just present this by it’s self and let the reader be the judge.

I am often filled with wonder when I see some men demanding the time of others and those from whom they ask it most indulgent. Both of them fix their eyes on the object of the request for time, neither of them on the time itself; just as if what is asked were nothing, what is given, nothing. Men trifle with the most precious thing in the world; but they are blind to it because it is an incorporeal thing, because it does not come beneath the sight of the eyes, and for this reason it is counted a very cheap thing—nay, of almost no value at all. Men set very great store by pensions and doles, and for these they hire out their labour or service or effort. But no one sets a value on time; all use it lavishly as if it cost nothing. But see how these same people clasp the knees of physicians if they fall ill and the danger of death draws nearer, see how ready they are, if threatened with capital punishment, to spend all their possessions in order to live! So great is the inconsistency of their feelings. But if each one could have the number of his future years set before him as is possible in the case of the years that have passed, how alarmed those would be who saw only a few remaining, how sparing of them would they be! And yet it is easy to dispense an amount that is assured, no matter how small it may be; but that must be guarded more carefully which will fail you know not when.

Yet there is no reason for you to suppose that these people do not know how precious a thing time is; for to those whom they love most devotedly they have a habit of saying that they are ready to give them a part of their own years. And they do give it, without realizing it; but the result of their giving is that they themselves suffer loss without adding to the years of their dear ones. But the very thing they do not know is whether they are suffering loss; therefore, the removal of something that is lost without being noticed they find is bearable. Yet no one will bring back the years, no one will bestow you once more on yourself. Life will follow the path it started upon, and will neither reverse nor check its course; it will make no noise, it will not remind you of its swiftness. Silent it will glide on; it will not prolong itself at the command of a king, or at the applause of the populace. Just as it was started on its first day, so it will run; nowhere will it turn aside, nowhere will it delay. And what will be the result? You have been engrossed, life hastens by; meanwhile death will be at hand, for which, willy nilly, you must find leisure.


The Nest

Saw them gathering sticks from the ground
By the thicket while assembling a nest

On alert for any lingering threat
Building frantically without rest

Walls grew dense and blocked out the sun
Caving in everyone

Darkness fell, wiped a once joyous tone
Then famished, like possessed ended eating their own

Saw them gathering sticks from the ground
By the thicket while assembling the nest


2018 Book List

I have one hell of a list of books to get through this year. I just finished The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis which dives into the backstories of Danny Kahneman and Amos Tversky. Their work influenced economics and medicine greatly and while a lot of what they said now seem like common sense and foregone conclusions, their work was groundbreaking at the time. I need to write down all of the books I’m planning to read and create an order to read in them otherwise I’m liable to slip books into my reading list and not get through them all.

  1. Lila, Robert Pirsig
  2. People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn
  3. Fantasyland, Kurt anderson
  4. Shockwave Rider, John Brunner
  5. Religion and the Decline of Magic, Keith Thomas
  6. Rhetoric, Aristotle
  7. Politics, Aristotle
  8. Second Treatise of Government, John Locke
  9. Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
  10. The Point of View of the Universe, Lazari-Radek/Singer

Some of these are short and some of these are long. They’re all dense though… There’s another list about equally long that I haven’t even typed out partially because it’d look too daunting and partially because this is a 2018 goal of sorts. Depending on where I am in three months, I might reassess. I will need to cut back on my podcast consumption and switch to books for awhile if I have any hope of catching up.


Marcus Aurelius V

Man seeks retreats for themselves, houses in the country, sea-shores, and mountains; and thou too art wont to desire such thing very much. But this is altogether a mark of the most common sort of men, for it is in thy power whenever thou shalt choose to retire into thyself. For no where either with more quite or more freedom from trouble does a man retire than into his own soul.

This speaks to the need to meditate and to the Stoic tenant that a thing is not the cause of your emotional state, but your judgment of that thing. All of the time and trouble you spend to perfectly compile your retreat would be time better spent learning how to retreat into yourself.

I don’t believe in much but I really believe in the power of mindful meditation. Spending a few minutes to sit in quiet awareness helps me not just see the emotional state that I’m caught in but also escape it. It seems odd but I sometimes go for long stretches in a fog and then realize that I’m angry/anxious/depressed. Recognizing these states seems to dissipate the emotion. Mindfulness allows for a fast track of this mechanism for me. I can figure out what’s going on and shut it down in a matter of minutes rather than it floating over me for hours. Sometimes I do recognize it immediately and can come back but not always. Sometimes I still need to sit down and just be for a few minutes to get a handle on what’s corrupting my mental clarity.


It Feels Like Fall

I’m sitting outside my neighborhood coffee shop, enjoying the beautiful weather. It’s dry, mid-70s, with a slight breeze. This is not a typical Atlanta summer day.

Anyways, I’ll probably have some technical things to post soon. I’m working on building out a standardized configuration for Atlassian applications as we upgrade to Data Center Edition for our various applications. To make it as difficult and as nerve racking as possible, I’m starting with Bitbucket.

It feels like fall, so here’s some Mogwai.


“The New Mac Book Pro is Too Expensive”

“Apple has lost the plot.”

I’ve been a long time Mac hater. Not a Windows lover, but I never succumbed to the shiny glowing Apple logo nor the monochromatic aluminum cases. I tend towards function over form and in that regard, any ol’ Windows laptop/desktop would do. This began to change when I was issued a MBP for work, though. macOS makes my life as a developer and as an IT “professional” much better.

Obviously, Microsoft and the other PC vendors have caught on to the idea that quality hardware and good aesthetics are worthwhile endeavours.  Just look at Microsoft’s own Surface Book and the success they’ve had. Almost over night, every PC vendor rolled out lines of premium hardware for example: Dell XPS, HP Spectre, Asus Zenbook. Clearly, people want something built to last, with good design, and high performance.

This gets to the point of this writing. The new MBP: Despite it’s questionable port choices, it’s hyper thin keyboard, and it’s half baked touchbar– Is actually a decent value. It’s expensive, to be certain. It’s more expensive than the Windows machine counterparts, too. But it’s NOT double the cost of comparable machines like some folks would have you believe.

For instance, the 15″ MBP with the 2.6 i7 / 16 GB of RAM / 256 SSD / HD+ screen – $2300

Microsoft Surface Pro with essentially the same specs? $2100

Dell XPS 15? $2000.

I’m not convinced that Apple has lost the plot. I realize that Apple is using slightly older hardware, but there is no monumental difference between the 6th and 7th gen Intel CPUs nor are any of these machines true gaming rigs that demand ultimate in GPU performance. I’m just not convinced the choice of chips makes for a substantial argument. I think the other manufacturers have just caught wind and have gotten on board. If you want a premium machine, it’s gonna cost ya.

With that all being said, the availability of the Linux subsystem on Windows, kills the most compelling reason to own a Mac (in my view) as a developer…