Dell XPS 13 9370 Ubuntu 18.04 to 19.04

If you’re rocking a Dell XPS 13 9370 Developer Edition with Ubuntu 18.04 you might be interested in taking a look at the bleeding edge “Disco Dingo” 19.04. The good news is that this short term support release of Ubuntu seems to run well on the XPS 13, but the bad news is that you’ll need to update twice (through 18.10) to get there. Or will you?

Ubuntu is just the sum of its parts- a set of packages- and a major point release is, mostly, just a collection of updated packages with a new wallpaper and possibly some revised defaults based on the wind direction. 19.04 doesn’t differ tremendously from 18.04 but it does feature performance improvements to make Ubuntu’s desktop feel less like wading through treacle.

Perhaps one of the most important changes for XPS 13 users- specifically those with 4K displays -is “fractional scaling.” This allows for 150% desktop scaling (and also 125% and 175%) that gives a nice middle-ground between 1080p and the eye-watering 4K native resolution that at least some users will find more comfortable. This is useful in complex workflows like Blender where you may have multiple side-by-side views and need just a little extra resolution on the go.

You’ll need to enable this experimental feature, though, and for the regular X11 desktop that involves running:

gsettings set org.gnome.mutter experimental-features "['x11-randr-fractional-scaling']"

Updating from 18.04 to 19.04

Updating is easier than you think. For starters you should probably take a backup unless you’re upgrading a fresh-out-of-the-box system. Next you’ll need to update the apt sources to target “disco” instead of “bionic”. You can do this with a handy one-liner:

sudo sed -i 's/bionic/disco/g' /etc/apt/sources.list

Now start the upgrade process:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Be prepared to grab a coffee or sandwich since this will download around 1GB of files on a stock 18.04 system and use about 1GB of additional disk space. About 1200 packages will be updated, and 148 new ones installed.

Once this has finished your system will be most of the way updated, but before you reboot you should run:

sudo apt dist-upgrade

This will download around 27MB and install a further 80MB of packages, handling the more exceptional cases of dependencies that a regular “upgrade” leaves alone.

Finally tidy up by running:

sudo apt autoremove

This will remove any residual junk, including the now defunct 4.x Kernel (your system should now run a 5.x Kernel).

Finally take a deep breath and:

sudo reboot

And enjoy your new Disco Dingo system!