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Advice for Linux on a Laptop? 276

Posted by Cliff
Trillian_1138 is seeking your advice on the following: "So I'm looking at replacing my aging laptop. I have a desktop running Ubuntu, which I use as a primary, and it is more than adequate for my needs. However, I'd love a small, portable laptop to use in class and on trips. I've been looking at the MacBook Pros and, more recently, the MacBooks, and was almost ready to buy the low-end MacBook and be done with it. I liked its ability to dual-book to Windows for a couple of school-related programs, but the more I thought about it the more I like using Ubuntu at home and the less reason I saw to buy a Mac if I could use Ubuntu on a laptop. This brought me to the idea of buying a laptop to use as a dual-boot Linux/Window machine, either with Linux or Windows pre-installed, and setting up a dual-boot with the other OS. Might any of you have advice, anecdotes, success stories, horror stories, or general input?"
"Please note I am not looking for a discussion on whether Linux is 'Ready for the Desktop'. I switched over to Ubuntu earlier this year and haven't looked back. As far as I'm concerned, Linux is ready for *my* desktop, which is all I really care about. This laptop is for me, not my mom. I'm not a command-line guru by any means and likes having a nice GUI, but am comfortable Googling when my DVDs stop playing after an update or poking around in configuration files to get things working. What I'm now curious about is what to expect - positive and negative - with Linux on a laptop.

I know a quick Google search yields lots of information on laptops running Linux, and I am continuing to use Google to look at information on running Linux on laptops which came with Windows, buying OS-less laptops, and buying laptops with Linux pre-installed, but I'm curious what the Slashdot crowd thinks. Is it even worth the bother? Would I be better off buying a Dell and installing Linux or buying a laptop with Ubuntu pre-installed from somewhere like system76.com or Linuxcertified.com?"
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Advice for Linux on a Laptop?

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  • Advice (Score:5, Informative)

    by WilyCoder (736280) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @10:46PM (#15362777)
    Advice: MAKE SURE you get a wifi card compatible with linux. I got lucky with the intel 2200; at first it had no support, now its in the kernel :)
    • Re:Advice (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:00PM (#15362877)
      Pretty much any wifi card is supported now, though. There are four main cards out there: Prism (supported in-kernel), Broadcom (an experimental driver exists that is constantly improving, and you can always use ndiswrapper), Atheros (madwifi driver), and Intel (supported in-kernel). The most popular is Broadcom, though. You are better off with an Intel card. The Broadcom driver was reverse engineered from the firmware of a Linksys router and the PowerPC driver, so the Intel drivers are better quality.
      • Re:Advice (Score:5, Informative)

        by ryanov (193048) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:14AM (#15363213)
        This is not so true. Cards based on Atheros, while "well-supported" can be flaky to say the least. Mine resets for no reason, the madwifi-ng driver seems to be in flux (and for me, doesn't work when installed), and has generally been a pain in the ass. Thankfully, this card is an eval from a co-worker.
        • Re:Advice (Score:5, Informative)

          by Bert64 (520050) <bert@noSPAM.slashdot.firenzee.com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @05:13AM (#15364096) Homepage
          It seems to depend upon the cards too...
          There are a large number of cards based on atheros chipsets, i have several myself...
          My experience is that the d-link one (650G or something, i forget the model number, it has 802.11a disabled) is very flakey, while my cisco cards (also based on the same atheros chipset, but with 802.11a still enabled) work perfectly.

          If you ever want to do anything "dodgy" with wireless, like sniffing or packet injection, atheros cards are the ones to go for and i would recommend the cisco ones.
          • Re:Advice (Score:3, Informative)

            by Andy Dodd (701)
            Similarly, my Netgear WPN511 is also rock solid with madwifi on my old laptop.

            Newer Intel-based laptops almost always come with an Intel PRO/Wireless chipset, all of which are rather well supported. The 3945 isn't in the kernel yet and can be a bit of a pain to install due to dependency on a newer version of the 802.11 stack than what is in the kernel, but once installed it works GREAT in my Dell Inspiron E1705.
    • Re:Advice (Score:5, Informative)

      by ottothecow (600101) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `wocehtotto'> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:50PM (#15363111) Homepage
      Just get a thinkpad.

      IIRC they dont ship anything that has any problems with linux that arent easily fixed. Add to that the fact that they are just damn good laptops.

      • Re:Advice (Score:3, Interesting)

        by oyenstikker (536040)
        Watch out for the new ones with the 1400x1050 displays.

        I got a T43 with the aformetioned display. It does not come with Windows install media. You can create a restore DVD. This DVD is only capabale of wiping the hard drive and making 1 partition with Windows on it. Numerous calls to IBM have gotten me only "That is the only supported configuration, you must buy a retail copy of Windows if you want any other configuration." The retail copy DOES NOT WORK. I don't know if its just the SXGA+ T43 or all SXGA+
        • Re:Advice (Score:2, Informative)

          by lukas84 (912874)
          You can use any Windows XP OEM CD with this machine. Get one with bittorrent, and use the license provided with the sticker on the back of the laptop. You will have lot's of fun hunting drivers for you machine on the IBM homepage, but it will work in the end.
    • Those are the two to look for. Graphics is pretty easy nowadays, I got an Acer a year ago that runs well has an Intel chipset, though the WiFi support is (was? not sure havent trried for a few\ months) lousy (it's a Linksys InproComm something...)

      Besides that I AM a Mac user, I prefer Linux the OSX to use GNU apps, not everything Linuxy works on OSX.

  • hw (Score:5, Informative)

    by goarilla (908067) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @10:52PM (#15362823)
    avoid ati mobiles gpu's
    if you need good 3d performance go for nvidia
    if 3d gaming is not what you need go for intel integrated graphics as they
    have released their drivers opensource iirc and it's in the kernel as we speak
    • Re:hw (Score:3, Informative)

      by digitalride (767159)
      ATI has lagged behind nvidia for linux support in the past, but with the latest drivers that will be released with Dapper, the ATI mobile GPUs work perfectly. There is even a utility to scale back the clock on the GPU to save battery life at the expense of 3D performance. We found the MSI laptops with AMD 64-bit CPUS and ATI chipsets to be much better overall than the current Asus laptop offerings.
      In desktops, we prefer nVidia cards, but the latest AMD-64 ATI mobile chipsets are clearly the best in our e
      • I have been using Dell's for several years now, and have to say one of the advantages of a Dell is that Linux runs on it without any hassles. I have not had any issues with respect to Linux. In fact my latest Dell 6000 ran without a single flaw (ATI graphic card included). Because it runs so well (Ubuntu Dapper Drake) I always run Linux.

    • by mellon (7048) *
      I don't know why you'd care about a good graphics chip on a laptop running Linux, although I am happy that my Vaio has a fast chip for when I boot into Windows to run games. The main problem with laptops and Linux for me is that sleep and suspend to disk don't work very reliably. Despite multiple fixes to the nvidia drivers, I have never gotten my laptop to successfully resume from suspend to ram or from suspend to disk. This is a royal pain in the neck - it means I have to shutdown every time I move
      • by Trelane (16124)
        likely ACPI and/or 3d driver troubles? Have you tried just using the 2D driver with a fixed DSDT?
        • by mellon (7048) *
          The free driver draws bad data on the screen. I think it's because the GeForce does some kind of weird shared memory thing that the free driver doesn't understand. So I'm stuck with the nvidia driver, which is *supposed* to work for suspend, but unfortunately does not *actually* work. :'(

          My point is that it doesn't Just Work. If your goal is to put yourself in a position where you will try to make a different - that is, to get it closer to Just Working - then I encourage you to go for it. If on the
          • by Trelane (16124)
            The trouble is that your driver doesn't work, not Linux.

            If you want hardware/software support, why stop at MacBook and just run any of the bajillions of Windows notebooks?

      • Despite multiple fixes to the nvidia drivers, I have never gotten my laptop to successfully resume from suspend to ram or from suspend to disk.

        Buy a Thinkpad. Suspend/resume works flawlessly on all of the ones I've had for the last six years (I work for IBM, so I get a new one every 18-24 months).

  • mandrake (Score:3, Informative)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @10:54PM (#15362837) Journal
    I ran mandrake on an older sony vio (800mhZ) thru several releases including thier newest 2006 version without a problem. Everythign installed fine, Got my DVD's working easily and dual booted with windows XP 2000 and 98se. Actualy I had more problem getting 2000 and 98se (wich never was 100% because of drivers)

    My sugestion, look for a laptop that isn't bleeding edge and maybe go for somehtign a year or so old. Use a current version of your brand of linux, and increase the memory as much as possible. Look at even getting a larger drive so you can make a plain fat32 partition that can be use form both XP and linux. I made the mistake of not doing this and then i was left with getting NTFS working in linux and installing a ext3 driver in windows. the 98 partition wasn't large enough to be effective in sharing files between operating systems.

    Oh yea, Take a reletivly current bootable linux CD with you when your looking at the laptops. It should give you a decent idea of everything that would work or not. It make take some adjusting but if it works on the cd, you should be able to get it working on a local install. If somethign doesn't work, google around a bit, there maybe a fix that just wasn't included on the CD.
  • Research! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zanglang (917799)
    It would be a good idea to list down the brands and make of the laptops you're interested in buying. Don't worry about compatibility at the moment, deciding on how your future laptop would look like comes first.

    Afterwards you might want to visit Ubuntu's forums [ubuntuforums.org] and run a search on them to check out how current users of those laptops are faring with Ubuntu at the moment. There's usually quite a bunch of threads discussing the graphic drivers to use, how much of the system is working perfectly etc.

    And c
  • by TLouden (677335)
    I ran linux on my laptop after I switched to linux and had too much trouble with drivers. Hint one: research drivers BEFORE buying. Some manufacturers customize the hardware so even an nvidia card doesn't necessarily work.

    After buying a researched and compatible machine the drivers worked and wireless/video were possible. Problem is that linux on a laptop for anybody that pokes and tries new stuff means that you're constantly fixing and researching. I'm not upset but you must be aware that you're not go
  • vmware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:03PM (#15362894) Journal

    I've done many dual boot laptops, but the last laptop I bought I wasn't in the mood for jumping through all of the hoops (especially wireless drivers).

    On a whim I downloaded the vmware virtual machine software, and in less than an hour had a fully functional full color, wireless working, all peripherals working, full Xserver resolution laptop. It was WONDERFUL. And worth every penny!

    What started out as an experiment for another way yielded other unexpected benefits. Suddenly I could run a fully loaded linux in the vmware server, and communicate with it from XP! Suddenly what used to require two machines I was able to do on the one.

    Some of the configuration required some good indepth linux knowledge and a few google visits. If you can tweak, it's worth the investment.

    Good luck. (And feel free to send e-mail if you have specific questions, I'll gladly fill you in on some of the tweaks)

    • Re:vmware (Score:5, Informative)

      by breadbot (147896) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:37PM (#15363061) Homepage

      Yes, VMWare, a thousand times yes. All you need is enough memory to run both OSes. First, the bad news:

      • Linux (which I am assuming will be the guest OS) will run more slowly than normal. The slowdown will depend on the software; more system calls will mean more slowdown. I've seen a 10% to 75% slowdown, but normally I would guess (without any real measurements) around 30%. But very usable.
      • No native accelerated graphics in Linux. Still pretty fast, but I don't think you have a chance of getting a decent framerate in Half-Life.
      • You'll want to suspend Linux before you suspend the laptop. VMWare doesn't play nicely (or it didn't when I last tried it a year ago) with sleep etc. But don't worry -- suspending a VMWare image is trivially easy and very quick.

      Now, the good news:

      • Both OSes at once! No dual-booting!
      • No special Linux lappy configuration -- no wireless networking, no ACPI -- just plain vanilla drivers. SCSI, even :)
      • Not just one but lots of Linuxes! You can run several machines. Your own network! For me that's nice, since I do a lot of integration projects, but it may not matter for you. You can start with a base config and clone it. Etc.
      • Portability and backup -- your main machine will be virtual (your Linux VM image). Just back up the image (you can pause it, back it up, and unpause it without rebooting it) periodically and, if your shell machine (Windows) dies, which laptops are wont to do for a thousand reasons, you can migrate your Linux VM to a new host. Isn't there a Star Trek race like that in DS9?
      • VMWare (at least one version) is free now. I use VMWare Workstation, which is $115 (academic), but that may not be necessary with the recent changes.
      • Chicks! Ha ha, just kidding. I wouldn't know. I'm married, I use Linux (and Linux hosted on VMWare itself running under Linux), and my wife insists on staying with me anyway. So maybe it's true.

      That's my suggestion. It may sound weird if you're used to a one-OS-at-a-time machine, but I swear, once you try it you'll never go back.

    • Suddenly I could run a fully loaded linux in the vmware server, and communicate with it from XP!

      Personally I prefer to run the OS which crashes in VMware, and the OS which doesn't native...

      • Commercially, I am almost exclusively a Windows Client / Server developer. Running VMWare under Fedora Core, on my ThinkPad laptop has probably doubled or tripled my productivity.

        For each of my active projects, I clone a new virtual machine (or machines in the case of servcer projects). I never have to worry about one customer's configuration or third party tools corrupting the environment of another. I keep all my business critical applications running on linux (e-mail, web, IM, Word Processing, Spreadshe

  • Laptop Linux (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mr micawber (803118) *
    Check out http://emperorlinux.com/ [emperorlinux.com] for a lot of options for pre-installed Linux on your laptop. You can order a notebook with dual-boot and they list all the devices etc. that are available to your Linux environment.
  • Considerations: (Score:5, Informative)

    by slashbob22 (918040) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:06PM (#15362916)
    ACPI - For battery life (It's getting better, but there are some units which still have problems)
    Wifi - Both card and encryption mechanism. (Again, this is getting better and WPA support is becomming well integrated)
    Graphics - Mobile Nvidia usually has better support then ATI.
    Function Keys - There is fairly good toshiba support for function keys, but it's always nice to have the LCD bright/dim, mouse lock, etc. work correctly.
    • Re:Considerations: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Tragek (772040)
      I have to say this: If you can handle NOT using Linux, FreeBSD by far has the best ACPI implementation i've used yet. It's stable, usable, and well integrated. Wireless is decent, many drivers work well. WPA is really well put together (for my uses) too. I've been using a D-link (atheros chipset) without any problems. Apparently (and I have no experiance here), Nvidia puts out it's binary drivers for FreeBSD too. That said, this advice will probably fall on deaf ears, considering that he wants linux, but
      • Not my ears. I agree wholeheartedly. FreeBSD was the only *nix distro to be able to run all the hardware on my Dell Inspiron 9300 with minimal configuration. Neither Fedora 5 nor Suse 10 can claim that. Aaaaand, BSD offers a much smaller install footprint. I mean, when have I ever needed 2 FTP servers, Fedora? Sheesh...
  • ThinkPad T-series (Score:4, Informative)

    by Noksagt (69097) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:10PM (#15362938) Homepage
    A lot of elitists loved the IBM ThinkPad T-series (particularly those with a "p" after the model name). Even with Lenovo's recent purchase of them, the laptops have remained solid hardware for Linux. I have run both Ubuntu and Gentoo on them. See ThinkWiki [thinkwiki.org] for some good information on running Linux on the whole ThinkPad line.

    There are other good notebooks which can often be just as good. Just figure out what hardware you want to run and how much you're willing to pay for it. If you are tech-savy, install it yourself (sadly, you'll probably have to pay the Windows tax (though you may find some bare notebooks, sales on a win32 laptop will often be cheaper than a notebook with no software)). If not, get it from LinuxCertified.

    If you don't get something mainstream, be sure to try a LiveCD in it first & dig up as much dirt on it as possible.
    • I have happily run Ubuntu on my Thinkpad x40 since Warty came out (I used debian before that.)

      My only advice: the more complex the setup, the more tweaking you'll have to do. I have an external monitor (attached to my docking station.) I found some docking/undocking scripts that worked well online. Had to customize my xorg.conf file to have my external monitor supported. There is lots of documentation on this kind of stuff, though, online.

      I recommend the x series. Ultralight, good battery, sufficiently fast
    • I'll just tag onto this since I just acquired a Lenovo/IBM laptop. I got an X60 which is 3.5 lb.s with the bigger battery that offers 6-10 hours of life (which I acn vouch for). It's a great laptop; light, powerful, mostly well made. Even the vendor software is good. This [arstechnica.com] is a good Ars Techica review. Lenovo has owned the Thinkpad line for just over a year now, but the purchases are made via an ibm.com web site, and the case on mine says IBM. So far, mine looks like a quality piece of kit.

      As far as l
    • IBM Certified Used. (Score:4, Informative)

      by twitter (104583) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:33AM (#15363284) Homepage Journal
      Getting a laptop from IBM Certified Used [ibm.com] is supposed to be a good deal. They are in good shape and come with a warranty. Think pad service manuals are available as PDF files at no charge and are excellent. The system 76 deal looks good too, with a better chance of working the way you want than a Dell.

      I've used Thinkpads since 1997 or so. They are well designed tanks. If you do a lot of text input, you will want the joystick mouse control. Touch pads, drive me bats now. Over the years, they have gotten a little less sturdy but they are still very good. My favorite is still a 600 [thinkwiki.org] for it's small size and reliability. My current model is a poorly kept T23 [thinkwiki.org], which I did not buy from Certified Used. Power management works flawlessly on all models, with some tweaking - usually as simple as turning off ACPI and using APM for sleep.

      The only strenuous advice I have is to avoid "desktop replacement" pigs. All computers look "obsolete" in a few years. The small difference in performance between small, cute laptops does not justify the extra weight. You might think it does today, but two or three years from now, when clock speeds have doubled again, you won't. As an extreme example consider two 10 year old laptops, a 560 and a 380 thinkpad. Today, the 560, is still cute but a technically superior 380 [thinkwiki.org] is an ugly brick. At the time, the 380 was 50% faster and had twice the memory and a much better screen. The screen is still better, but the fan is loud, the case is huge, the 16MB of RAM is laughable and it's just too heavy. Unless your hands are unusually large, consider an X series.

      Avoid high school castoffs and other poorly handled and maintained notebooks. Screws should be replaced every time because they depend on a nylon coating to work. When you take them out, you mess that coat up and things get loose. Really badly maintained models will have missing screws and broken structural parts. They are not reliable and you might have to boot them daily like a Windoze machine. Yes, that's the worst I've ever seen in a Thinkpad. Lesser computers might not boot at all after such bad treatment.

      • The only strenuous advice I have is to avoid "desktop replacement" pigs.

        That's not as true for any machines created in the last few years (anything after 2000 that shipped with Win2000 is my cut-off). Performance gains have slowed quite a bit in the past few years. Not including the dual-core improvement, CPU speeds have only been doubling every 3-5 years instead of every 12-18 months.

        As an anecdotal example, my current laptop is a Tecra 9100 (built in early 2002, ~1.6Ghz CPU, 1GB RAM, WinXP Pro, 100
  • Ubuntu on a laptop can be made to work quite well. Ubuntu is the only operating system on my G3 iBook as well as my desktop PC. While it's fairly simple to put together a 100% Linux-compatible desktop machine, many people are surprised to learn that an iBook can be a full-featured Linux machine as well. The only drawback is that since the open-source world is x86-centric, there are issues with multimedia support. While you can get proprietary video and audio formats chugging along on an x86 PC by wrapping W
  • My Thoughts (Score:5, Interesting)

    by acidrain69 (632468) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:14PM (#15362957) Journal
    Buying a laptop with Linux installed on it is like buying a car with the engine already.... no wait. Buying a laptop pre-installed is like buying a house with the furniture already.... damn.

    What I'm trying to say is, there's something about linux that just lends itself to a self-initiated install. You'll have an easier time of it if you have to go through the grunt work on your own. You'll know where things are, what you changed, and you get a better pick of distros than you will probably find pre-installed.

    This coming from a Debian-addict. I haven't looked at Ubuntu yet. I go vanilla Debian and add what I need for the machine I am using. I also still use windows on the desktop, but all the servers I operate run Linux. I go for flexibility. Yeah, you could use Wine or VMware as someone already mentioned, but what else am I going to do with that Windows license that came with my laptop?
  • I'm running the Black Friday Walmart laptop (HP ZE2000) with Fedora Core 5.

    Only major problem was getting the NDIS wrapper to work. Took a couple tries, but now it work gorgeously.

    If you need to dual-boot and read the Windows partition, I'd advise against Fedora since it does not come pre-built with FAT32 mounting.

    • I'm not sure about that... I converted my external hard drive to FAT32 because Fedora core 5 could read it. It can't read NTFS which is what the problem was with (although I think you can get it sorted if you go to fedorafaq); but FAT 32 worked strait out of the "box"
  • I would say go with the MacBook.

    First, there is OS X. Even if you don't think you're that interested, just give it a try. You might like it. You could also keep it around for media purposes (iDVD, etc).

    You can run Windows, Linux or OS X. You can run virtualization software (Parallels Workstation is the name of the main one right now, and some say Leopard will have it built in) so you can run multiple OSes at once with better performance than VMWare (just make sure to put a ton of RAM in). My understanding

    • Re:The MacBook [Pro] (Score:3, Informative)

      by kalidasa (577403)
      What distributions are there out there that can handle Apple Airport wireless out of the box? (Hell, or any wireless out of the box.)
    • I would say go with the MacBook.

      Well I would say don't.

      1) Most of the hardware is not supported.

      2) You have too pay for OS X.

      They look like nice machines, but suggesting them in this discussion reeks of fanboism.
  • I am posting from an HP Pavilion ze2000z running dual-boot Debian and Windows. I haven't booted to Windows in at least three months. The laptop basically works, though the version of ndiswrapper I have to use for the WiFi seems to cause kernel panics; I haven't had time to diagnose it further. I'm sure the modem doesn't work, but I've never tried it, and I don't really care. Sound does work with ALSA for the most part, but you need a newer version of ALSA than is compiled into the default kernels (I don
  • some random advice.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ruie (30480) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:23PM (#15362993) Homepage
    For many years I have bought Dell notebooks - mostly due to the screen resolution which I was after, but also because they usually specified which chips were used.

    Nowadays, if I was buying one, I would carefully look at the competition, as everyone has good screens and there are really only few actual manufacturers that make notebooks - everyone else just sells a branded solution (Dell included).

    So, in no particular order:

    • Intel has native wireless drivers - see ipw2100, ipw2200 and later projects on SourceForge. Recent kernels also have this code, though I prefer to just download a recent tarball.
    • Check linux-laptops [linux-laptops.org] website in case someone else has purchased your notebook already, it has extensive listings.
    • Again, for many years I insisted on ATI graphics - since 2d specs were available (at least under NDA) X was very likely to work quite well. Right now, the support for older chips (before Radeon 1xxx) is quite good, but, AFAIK, the documentation (even 2d !) for newer chips was not released yet. Thus either look at older Mobility chips or find out what is the situation with NVidia binary drivers.

      I have heard that Intel has open source drivers for some of their shared memory chipsets, so this might be a reasonable choice, especially with higher memory speeds being available.

      (My personal preference is to try to avoid binary drivers as these tend to break when upgrading compiler versions of glibc library. Don't know what I'll be doing in a few years when I start looking for a new notebook.)

    • in my current notebook I opted not to get a BlueTooth module since I suspected it would not work with Linux. Since then I saw many BlueTooth drivers appear in the kernel so check this option.
    • network cards have a good chance of working - try to find out the pci ids if you can.
    • I found hard disk, usb, firewire and cdrom to work without problems in most notebooks I saw.
    • Not linux related: I found that Dell overcharges on memory. I usually buy a notebook with the smallest amount possible and then get a new stick or two from Crucial.
    • Forgot a few:
      • pcsforeveryone [pcsforeveryone.com] have some notebooks with Linux preinstalled. Unfortunately, they seem to gravitate towards NVidia. I have not bought any notebooks from them (yet ?) but did buy a few desktops/workstations, so they are quite reasonable.
      • not linux related - hard disk with smaller rpms tend to be slower, but produce less heat and noise. They are also usually less expensive. On the other side the newer drives with fluid-dynamic bearings are a lot quieter anyway.
  • Thinkpads, whoohoo. (Score:4, Informative)

    by tachyonflow (539926) * on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:29PM (#15363022) Homepage
    I've had great luck running Linux on Thinkpads. The models I've used over the years are: Thinkpad 600, Thinkpad R32, and (currently) Thinkpad T42. The R-series is the "cheap" line of Thinkpads, and I'd recommend paying the extra money for a T-series. My R32 was glitchy with suspend, even after sending it in for repairs.

    The only real trouble area for me is being able to effectively use dual monitors (the laptop LCD + an external VGA). It's easy to set up dual monitors, but not so easy (not so possible?) to have your desktop be aware of when you disconnect the external VGA monitor (to, say, go to the coffee house) and know not to pop up new windows on the screen that's not there anymore. This is an area that Windows does a lot better in, and as far as I know this is an issue with running Linux on most laptops.

    IBM has recently sold their Thinkpad line of laptops to Lenovo, and I'd be rather cautious about these new Lenovo-produced notebooks. Not because Lenovo is a Chinese company, but because it seems that in many acquisitions quality goes down as the new company discovers corners to cut. The Lenovo Thinkpads may be great for all I know, though.

    Another poster commented negatively on Thinkpads and Linux, but I think he was looking at it from a "what OS to run on your notebook" point of view, and not a "what's the best notebook for Linux" point of view. If your work requires Linux, like mine does, I'd definitely look into a Thinkpad.

    I'd be very interested in hearing about Linux compatibility with MacBook hardware. If Thinkpads start to suck, I'll probably take a serious look at MacBooks.
  • Powernotebooks [powernotebooks.com] actually sells decent laptops without 'Doze. I haven't ordered from them yet, but if I were looking for a non-Mac laptop, I certainly would. Their recent rating on resellerratings.com is a perfect 10. Good selections, and you can probably find something with GMA950 graphics and Intel wireless so you may not need closed source drivers for anything.

    However, I'm getting a Mac. I've concluded that OS X is simply a "better UNIX than Linux" on laptops. Suspend/resume and Wifi just work, and wo
  • I've it easier (Score:5, Informative)

    by jsse (254124) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:35PM (#15363047) Homepage Journal
    I boot it with Knoppix Live CD [knoppix.org]

    Better yet, a live Knoppix DVD [softpedia.com].

    Unless, of course, you're a perfectionist that you believe Linux must be installed natively, but I beg you try it and examine its features before judging it. There's no harm in trying.

    And you'd find it surprisingly featureful.
    • Re:I've it easier (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eideewt (603267)
      I fail to see how it would be better for him to boot from a live CD. He wouldn't be able to fiddle with the drivers and other settings, which he'll probably have to do, and he'd have to carry the CD around to use his laptop. Where's the benefit?
  • I've been running Ubuntu on a laptop as my primary system (a Toshiba Satellite hand-me-down). It's not without its hassles, but it works very well. This last month, I had to totally retool my setup for a new job (installing a bunch of things like Eclipse, Ant, JBoss, etc.), and after a mammoth RAM upgrade to handle it all, it's working very nicely.

    Battery life is sucktastic, and I'm not sure if that's a hardware or a software problem. It's a fairly old computer, and it's been through a lot. It also refu
  • I have two Dells (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kbielefe (606566) * <karl@bielefeldt+slashdot.gmail@com> on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:49PM (#15363107)
    The last time I needed laptops, I shopped around for a while, and ended up buying two Dell Inspiron 1200s. It ended up the cheapest, even though I never even booted the windows partitions once before wiping them out. Battery life is about 2 hours, and could probably be more if I fooled around with power saving settings. Suspend to disk works great. The recommended wifi card works just fine with ndiswrapper. If I boot up away from my home network, then it automatically connects to the strongest access point. I use gentoo, but the Ubuntu live cd worked fine when I tried it on my laptop.

    My previous linux laptop ran Mandrake until the hard drive crashed due to the sudden deceleration after a 6 foot drop. I ran it just fine with a Knoppix CD for over two years, until it stopped working piece by piece. The built in keyboard, touchpad, and battery all died one by one until I finally had to stop using it when the CD-ROM drive gave out. Call me stingy, but being able to run Linux on that laptop when I was a poor college student really saved me some money.

    Basically, running Linux on a laptop is no different than on a desktop. Just be a little bit careful about checking hardware compatibility and you should have no problem. Enough people run the big names like Dells that finding help should be relatively easy.

  • My guess is that you're probably going to end up re-installing both OSs in order to get sensible partitions, unless some of the linux laptop vendors offer a pre-installed dual boot system and you're not very picky.

    Given that, assuming you really need to have a dual boot windows, it doesn't matter what you buy. So, go with a windows pre-install if you're willing to do some hardware compatibility research ahead of time and want an easy oem discount on windows. Go with a linux pre-install if you either want
  • My girlfriend got an Asus laptop that did not come with an operating system because she didn't want to pay $100 for Windows when she plans on installing Linux on it. The problem is, Linux does not like to play nice with it...
  • by lanzek (948620) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:59PM (#15363153)
    Here's where I'm at so far, and what I'm still working on

    -Used PartitionMagic to create ext3, linuxswap, and fat32 partitions prior to ubuntu installation (get it OEM v.8.0 for $20 off PriceGrabber.com)

    Out-of-the-box:
    The screen brighten/dim function keys work
    Touchpad works
    Everything else, except what's noted in last section

    Used info in the Ubuntu forums to set up the following
    -fglrx driver for 3D acceleration with my ATI card
    -wpa_supplicant for WPA encryption
    -ipw driver for intel wireless

    Future projects: (free-time dependent)
    -built-in SD card reader does not work yet
    -after installing the ATI driver, suspend-to-disk crashes on resume
    -suspend-to-RAM crashes on resume 1/3 of time
    -external monitor port doesn't work w/ projector

    I'm really happy with it so far - the few remaining challenges will only give me an opportunity to learn Linux better.
  • advice (Score:5, Informative)

    by itzdandy (183397) <dandenson@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:11AM (#15363202) Homepage
    my advice is as follows. know that i have 4 laptops running linux and have been through just about every issue out there.

    first,
    avoid GPUs for power management. i have a radeon x1400 in one laptop but when i use accelerated drivers my power management doesn't work. if you want a laptop to just work get an inbuilt intel chipset. neither the ati or nvidia GPU have good power management in linux at this point.

    know that your disk drive will be slow and choose packages and distros carefully based on the hardware specs. I use (k)ubuntu and am up-to-date with dapper6.06 and everything works very well on my dell 600m. suspend to ram works well and hibernate works well also, both with some tweeking.

    wifi is quite easy now. many devices have inbuilt drivers in modern kernels or can use ndiswrapper and the windows drivers. configuring wireless networks has not gotten as easy as windows on all distros but in *ubuntu it is quite easy. 'network manager' programs makes it EASIER than windows in my opinion.

    most newer laptops are linux compatible as far as the other hardware. i have 2 machines with memory card slots and they work well, also pcmcia devices work very well as long as the device is supported.

    really, you should have no problems if you buy the right hardware.

    i know that:
    dell 600m
    dell e1505
    compaq m2000
    emachines/averatek m5105

    all work well. the m2000 does not like suspend to ram though.

    good luck
  • by Mindcry (596198) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:20AM (#15363235)
    thousands of first hand experiences, sorted by laptop make/model and distro.

    It has some very specific info on getting certain things like touchpads etc to work on some models that could save you HOURS of searching.

    http://www.linux-laptop.net/ [linux-laptop.net]

    best of luck.
  • HP (Score:2, Interesting)

    by glens (6413)
    I was one of the lucky 15 in my town who got an HP ze2000 [hp.com] from Wally-World the morning after last Thanksgiving, for $400 out the door.

    Ndiswrapper works the Broadcom wireless nicely, the ATI driver gives me 3D screensavers, the sound works, and I even spent a couple of hours getting the modem working just to see if I could.

    I sprung an extra $50 for another 512MB of RAM. I'm loving the crap out of this thing...
  • Buy Old (Score:3, Interesting)

    by smvp6459 (896580) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:47AM (#15363337)
    Look for something 2 years old and then research that laptop. It's rare to find a new machine that will run Linux seamlessly. At the 1 year mark a lot of major issues have often been solved by early adopters and at the 2 year mark it's as fully functional as it will get for that machine.
    • I'm running SuSE 10.0 on an Acer 2316 (go ahead and laugh if you like, but I like the wide screen and full-size keyboard, and it's cheap and reasonably fast) that came as a replacement unit for a stolen 2310 before the 2316 was even in the stores. Only hardware issue was the Broadcom wireless card, and ndiswrapper took care of that handily.
  • I got a HP dv1420 on which I am running Fedora Core 5.
    http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/genericDocument ?cc=ca&docname=c00500901&lc=en/ [hp.com]

    As many other posters have said the ipw2200 drivers are open source and in the kernel, though running fedora I know I had to get the actual ipw firmware from livna since it isn't open source. Howver, this didn't appear to be a problem with a live ubuntu cd (I suspect they include them anyway).

    The graphics card is a Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900-, again as oth
  • I chose a laptop that claimed full Linux support -- in fact, there was a site reselling these and preinstalling Linux on them. It was a Sharp...

    I'm now on a Powerbook, running OS X. Noticing the difference, here are some things to keep in mind:

    First: Wireless support on Linux is a bit arcane. My wireless on my Mac is easy enough -- all networks in the area are detected automatically and put on the menu, then it asks me if I want to connect to the best open one, unless it finds one I've told it to "trust
  • by arnedh (894706)
    This is a pretty trivial point, but in order to check out a laptop, you could burn a live CD with Ubuntu/Kubuntu, or even get hold of a DVD edition of Knoppix or something, and take this CD to the store to test things out. It might give you some clues on things that you consider important: Wifi, graphics/screen, interaction devices/USB. Bring along your camera, mouse, USB plug, mp3 player etc.
  • The only one problem with laptopts, and PC in general as well, is whether the drivers are available in the distribution.
    For example I have bought an Asus V6J [ubuntu.com] to run Kubuntu.
    It took me one day to finish the installation because the ethernet driver was not in the distribution!
    This is the real point with LInux distributions: too much fragmentation of efforts and resources.
  • HP is a safe option. (Score:3, Informative)

    by [DHC]AndyD (158424) on Friday May 19, 2006 @04:14AM (#15363945)
    I've got a HP NX8220 work laptop which I dual boot with Ubuntu. As far as I've noticed literally everything worked straight out of the install with Dapper - I even installed using Wifi. This includes sleeping and the additional buttons (mute etc.). I'd read the HP had been working with Ubuntu to make things work well with their laptops and my personal experience is very positive.
    Andrew.
    • Horsecrap.

      HP is a shithouse option.

      I have a HP NX6125 (and I am fairly happy with it as a cheapie [650 euros], don't get me wrong), but:

      1) HP sells two very different laptops [gentoo-wiki.com] under the 6125nx model number - one a 32 bit sempron & the other a 64 bit turion. You cannot trust a company that uses such vastly components inside a box with the same model number.
      2) Wireless card not supported (at least in 2.6.15 kernel, I use ndis wrapper, but I don't like it)
      3) ATI drivers suck.

      Everything else is well supporte
  • I'm running Ubuntu with XFCE on a Dell Inspiron 6000 with Ubuntu 5.10. From the start on, it mostly worked, except that the Intel Wireless Driver was flaky. After replacing them with current ipw2200 drivers, it works like a charm. The only remaining problem I still have, is that combined with beamers for presentations, the dual-screen setup doesn't seem to switch the VGA port to frequencies all beamers understand. In some situations I have to switch to beamer mode only.

    This site http://rtr.ca/dell_i9300/ [rtr.ca] wa
  • by BenjyD (316700)
    It really depends on how much your time is worth to you. Linux on many modern laptops is fiddly and time-consuming and will often leave you with some non-functioning hardware (the SD card reader on my Acer 8104 doesn't work in Linux, the wireless cuts out with firmware errors under load, suspend to disk is very unreliable and the battery life is about 2/3 it is in Windows). If you can't spare a few days of tweaking, buy a ready-installed machine or stick with OS X.

    Otherwise, I would generally recommend not
  • ...which is running Fedora Core 5 (I've also still got windows on here because my girlfriend wouldn't let me get rid ouf it). You should be aware that Fedora is really bleeding edge - there have been a few problems. When I first installed it there were about 4 new kernels in 3 weeks, the final one couldn't start X and I wonder if they even tested it. After the 2107 nightmare (and me having to re-install due to my over zelous reaction, d'oh!) they seem to have settled down a little with the updates - it's
  • I have a Tecra M2 that works very well. There are decent drivers for everything. However I recently bought an HP and then found out that there are no drivers in the kernel for it. I went looking for them at different sources and eventually gave up. So most of the special buttons don't work, wifi and modem don't work, I can't adjust the screen brightness and due to ACPI problems KLaptop the power management program does not work. So it is barely useable.

  • by pixel fairy (898) on Friday May 19, 2006 @05:51AM (#15364193)
    sony vaio u101 (discontinued, import)
    everything works out of the box(even rare
    things like suspend and temp sensor) hardware
    feels like it was meant to run linux,
    including things like 3d accel, screen
    brightness (better control than windows)
    temp sensor, etc. this is my main laptop.

    apple ibook g4 1.25ghz
    also runs ubuntu, power management works,
    but its not as nice. 3d does work. mostly
    run it in os x for when i need a mac at
    work, i like the u101 better.

    fujitsu p2120
    runs fine, couldnt suspend then, probably
    can now. everything else works, but that
    transmeta chip is slow...

    thinkpad A21p ran ubuntu fine, everything worked.

    compaq m700 everything worked out of the box in
    debian, so ubuntu should be no prob.

    the only things to watch out for are acpi (make sure
    it can suspend if you care about that) and the wifi card,
    unless you want to use a pc-card slot. ubuntu is
    good about hardware support.

    usually laptops are easier than desktops to run nix on
    or at least look up. look up linux laptop sellers and
    linux friendly ones ( http://powernotebooks.com/ [powernotebooks.com]
    http://www.emperorlinux.com/ [emperorlinux.com] etc) along with all the
    sites dedicated to linux laptops. also good to check
    bsd sites and see if anyone on #ubuntu is using / looking
    at a laptop your interested in.

    if you just need windows for a couple school apps,
    you might want to use qemu or vmware(player and
    server are free) qemus performance isnt bad with
    virtualization, but you cant like watch movies
    in it and stuff like with vmware. but anyway,
    its pretty easy to manage a 3 gig win2k partition
    and maybe a backup or two, or just run it in snap
    shot mode with another virtual disk for data or
    just using the included samba (both qemu and
    vmware have this) on a host only network so
    windows doesnt get exposed at all.
  • The Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Pro V2030 has a version that comes with Linux (Knoppix 4). And it thus is extremely cheap because it lacks the MS WinXP Tax. Here in germany it's only 499 Euros - it should be the same in dollars over in the US.

    If you want feature richness I'd suggest getting a ThinkPad. I don't know if lenovo is screwing around, but IBM has been supporting Linux on their Laptops for quite some time now. And the hardware and service is good.
  • I bought my laptop a few months before I realised I might want to run Linux full time, so I didn't take any of these factors into consideration and ended up with an ATI card, a wireless card that requires ndiswrapper, and an SD slot that I can't use.

    Heat is the main issue though. Every distro apart from Slackware maxes out my CPU temperature at 70+ degrees. Only Windows and Slackware manage not to, for some reason. So heads up - be aware that you might have to try a few distros (not necessarily Slack)

  • The new Turion X2 laptops will give you a nice 64-bit dualcore CPU and it looks like many will be offering nVidia chipsets and GPUs that ought to be Linux-friendly. They'll be buyable in June, possibly sooner. HP has already announced their 14" widescreen (GeForce 6150 integrated GPU, the best shared memory GPU out there at the moment) for shipment in June. MSI, ASUS, and assorted others have machines coming soon. Price looks to be only slightly more than singlecore models. I'm holding out for a 17" mo
  • I have had a Fujitsu Lifebook for over 3 years. It dual booted with Linux and Windows XP. I still have Red Hat 8.0 on it. Here is a web page [netlabs.net] describing my configuration.

    The only change I made since I got the machine was to upgrade the memory to 512MB.

  • (1) ACPI

    Laptop ACPI tables are the buggiest seen. It's quite common that the laptop designers have used the Microsoft com[iler which has let a whole slew of things which should have been syntax errors get through. Because the Microsoft interpretor is as lax as the compiler Windows will work with it but Linux will often barf on it. This can be anywhere from a mere annoyance to making power management or hardwre operation difficult/buggy/broken.

    (2) WiFi

    MiniPCI cards, even with the same chipset, may not work w
  • My experience (Score:2, Informative)

    by Aging_Newbie (16932)
    I came across a used Compaq Evo and successfully installed Mandriva LE 2006 on it as my primary laptop. I agree with your assessment of linux for desktop use and would have it no other way. Check what wireless card you plan to use - be sure it is supported in your distro. Quite a few sites have good wireless on linux information so just be aware and check.

    I use it primarily for Internet and documents (open office) and use wireless hotspots most anywhere without worry of all the nasty windoze exploits. I
  • I saw a ThinkPad x60 at LinuxWorld Canada a few weeks back. Working with Lenovo, a [Waterloo-based?] company has released free [beer or speech, not sure] drivers for the few bits that didn't already have drivers, such as the fingerprint reader.

    So that's a sweet laptop, just over 3lb, good battery life, and Linux drivers for everything. (I want one!!).

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