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Advice for Linux on a Laptop? 276

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 :)
  • 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
  • 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.
  • by harrypelles ( 872287 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @10:59PM (#15362868)
    I've found these guys very helpful in getting laptops working with various distros:

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

    See which laptops seem to have the best support and go from there.
  • Re:Yeah. Buy a Mac (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, 2006 @10:59PM (#15362871)
    bad battery performance. This was some time ago. But recent experience, with Dells in particular, suggests to me that even recent Linux distributions (we're using Scientific Linux 3 and 4) do not come close to the ease of use and battery life of a Mac.
  • 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.
  • Some suggestions... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:02PM (#15362885)
    1) Use a 2.6 kernel. If you don't, you're headed for a world of pain. Most wireless drivers don't work with 2.4, and there is no ACPI power management driver.
    2) Make sure your wireless card has a linux driver available. The alternative is 'ndiswrapper' (which uses your Windows drivers), and that's very unreliable.
    3) Make sure your laptop supports ACPI for power management. It is better than APM and has better support for sleep-mode etc.
    4) nVidia graphics cards are preferable to ATI. This is a point of personal preference, but nVidia's linux drivers are much better.
    5) Since you mentioned dual boot... Partition your hard drive 3 ways. One partition for the Windows installation. One for linux. Then a third partition (formatted as FAT-32) which can be accessible from both OS's.

    This anonymous post was brought to you by the image-protected password "anatomic"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Re:The MacBook [Pro] (Score:3, Informative)

    by kalidasa ( 577403 ) on Thursday May 18, 2006 @11:30PM (#15363024) Journal
    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'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: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.

  • Re:Advice (Score:5, Informative)

    by ottothecow ( 600101 ) 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.

  • 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)

    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.
  • Re:hw (Score:3, Informative)

    by digitalride ( 767159 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:07AM (#15363188) Homepage
    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 experience.

    As for buying a Dell or Thinkpad, be very careful, or you'll end up with wifi or other aspects that have no hope of running under Linux. Dell/Lenovo can change their hardware without changing the model name, so you never know exactly what you're getting unless it is used.

    I also wouldn't buy a Linux laptop from any place that does not specialize in Linux. We have ordered some laptops from stores with Redhat or Ubuntu preinstalled, but it is just a basic install and not all of the features are really working like 3D and full power management.
  • 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.

    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
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:15AM (#15363217)
    Seriously. In the case of a laptop, it's not as easy as just swapping out the mouse. Personally I can't even use OS X without a right button, and since other operating systems rely on that functionality, you can either do an annoying hack to emulate the right button, or you're screwed. Yeah, yeah, it's simpler, whatever, I don't give a shit. There's no good argument for a one button model, and if they wanted to appeal to the Linux (and Windows) users they should include two buttons and make them do the same thing in OS X. Oh, and then, if you're an ultra-power-user, you could even have a fucking second button in OS X. I guess that turned into a bit of a rant. ONE BUTAN.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • by thedave ( 79572 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:38AM (#15363302)
    Oh, yeah. One more thing.

    EmperorLinux [emperorlinux.com] specializes in configuring Linux laptops. And, they maintain a good stock of IBM's.

    Their markup is a little high, but their support is excellent.

    I haven't purchased from them, yet. But, I bought a support agreement and a depot install from them. I shipped them a latop, and they shipped it back with a fully configured Redhat. Very nice, very easy.


    PS - No, I do not work for them, and no they are not friends of mine.

  • by thedave ( 79572 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:52AM (#15363359)
    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, Spreadsheet).

      And, when my development environment crashes Windows, I just restart the VMWare session. When, updates are suddenly required that need a reboot, I reboot the session. If some really long process has to run (like Windows Update or a software install), I start a new session with a different project and use my spare time effectively.

    But, by far the most amazing use of that environment is the ability to start a windows server in one session, and clients in a few other sessions. And, test all the interactions without having sever computers set up. In fact, I was able to do some stress testing of my server, with 4 mixed operating system clients, while on the airplane!


  • by SerpentMage ( 13390 ) <[ ] ['' in gap]> on Friday May 19, 2006 @02:31AM (#15363658)
    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 Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2006 @03:26AM (#15363800)
    Try colinux: http://www.colinux.org/ [colinux.org] for another way to do this. I've used it on 3 laptops now and it works great.

    I run Mozilla and Thunderbird on the Linux side, with windows providing nice drivers for all my devices.
  • 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.
  • Re:Advice (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bert64 ( 520050 ) <bert AT slashdot DOT firenzee DOT 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.
  • 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.
  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @05:52AM (#15364196) Homepage Journal

    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 supported in Dapper however.
  • My experience (Score:2, Informative)

    by Aging_Newbie ( 16932 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:35AM (#15364633)
    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. In short, I love it.

    Now for the bad news ...

    I have tried linux on a wide variety of laptops without success. Unless you KNOW the built-in wireless will work, avoid built-ins and get a card that works. Sound is annoyingly unsupported in some laptops, and forget about using the modem. My Evo does have a lucent winmodem with Linux support but I am not inclined to deal with the driver because I have a better solution anyway.

    Instead, if you need a modem, I would recommend that you get a modem-router such as this one [provantage.com]
    because you get a hardware firewall and a general modem usable with lots of systems.

    So, my advice is to be very selective when you choose the laptop for linux, know what you are getting into, and if you get it right, you are in Nirvana.
  • Re:Advice (Score:3, Informative)

    by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <{atd7} {at} {cornell.edu}> on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:14AM (#15364832) Homepage
    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:2, Informative)

    by lukas84 ( 912874 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:14AM (#15364833) Homepage
    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.
  • by Ned_Network ( 952200 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:19AM (#15364865) Homepage
    I sell Linux compatible wireless cards [networkned.co.uk] and have had the pleasure of testing the Atheros, Ralink 2500 & prism54 chipsets. I think it was the acx100 chipset with which I had no luck at all.

    Whilst Ralink & prism54 cards work great under Linux, the madwifi drivers for Atheros are not bad at all. They are under really heavy development at the moment, so I do expect some glitches - I found that one version of the CVS snapshot worked perfectly for me, whilst the next week's failed completely - but madwifi has some killer features which are quite a bonus if you can use them. I guess it's the open-drivers & these features that made PC Engines choose atheros cards as standard options for their embedded PC boards [pcengines.ch] which they pitch as a "Wireless Router Application Platform".

    Specifically with madwifi-ng you can use an Atheros card in master mode, have your PC as a base-station, and you can have multiple virtual access-points (VAPs), each assigned a different interface. Thus you can have trusted clients connecting via WEP to one VAP and allow open-access for unencrypted access to another VAP (using a single wireless card), but firewall the second VAP using iptables so that clients using it can only access the internet and not the LAN. Finally, madwifi also supports 802.11a as well as b&g with appropriate hardware (and there are a few cards out there that do a/b/g); I guess that not many people need this feature, but I can see it would be useful if there's a lot of b/g/cordless-phone interference in your area &/or if you just want a point-to-point link for connecting two office LANs and you'd prefer it to be a little off the radar.

    Ralink's rt2500 might be a better chipset for someone who is coming from Windows and who just wants to install Ubuntu, but I wish I could get more of the Atheros cards (at the right price). If you're prepared to compile your own drivers & tinker a little bit to get it working then Atheros is surely the best wireless chipset for Linux available right now.


  • by bigqueso ( 562944 ) on Friday May 19, 2006 @12:57PM (#15366606)

    I bought a T-42p from EmperorLinux last fall with Ubuntu Breezy installed. Some things worked pretty well, like the wireless, but they didn't have a 3D driver for the ATI Fire GL card that supports suspend and hibernate. I have to reboot my machine everytime I need 3D hardware accelaration or use the non 3D accelarated driver.

    Some things that came broken:

    1. Fonts - They screwed up the xorg.conf file by pointing the font path to the old locations of fonts (this was their custom supplied xorg.conf file). I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out after support told me that they don't support user space programs. When I finally figured it out they told me that they recently discovered this problem, but had they contacted me and told me that this might be an issue? No.
    2. Monitory cloning for projectors - The display was chopped off on the left hand side and after troubleshooting it for days I tried a different configuration that worked, but didn't provide hardware accelaration on the projector side. When I called in for support they swore they didn't see the same issues, but it appears to be a driver issue. They also don't have any suggestions on providing the accelaration on the projector side instead of the laptop screen.
    3. 3D hardware accelartion and suspend - This never worked from the start. Granted this is an ATI driver issue, but they said it was likely that ATI would be updating the driver to do this properly soon. I've seen some drivers on the ATI web site that indicate this issue is fixed, but have I heard from Emperor about it? No. Even after repeated emails asking out it, my emails have gone ignored.
    4. Modem - The modem came unfunctional. They told me it was supported, but I doubt seriously that they even bothered testing it before it was shipped, otherwise it would have been clear that it was mis configured. They say they test the laptop fully before shipping. I guess they forgot this part of the laptop. When I asked about it finally, they gave me some 3rd party driver that requires registration in order to use it. Thanks a lot. I just want it to work without my own fusting about.
    5. Support by email - Their preferred way of providing support is by email. They try to have a 24 hour turn around, but sometimes I never get responses or I have to send the same email 3 or 4 times over the course of a week. This is unacceptable. I was even told over the phone once that I shouldn't call, but send emails when their web site clearly states that they do support through the phone.

    They have a 30-day money back garantee, so I suggest you try everything out right away. If something doesn't work you should ship it back, because it isn't likely that it will get fixed remotely unless you bug them to death.

    After months of fiddling I almost have everything working as I want, but I shouldn't have to spend this much time when I paid a premium for Emperor to do it for me. If I had the opportunity to do it again, I would have waited for the MacBook Pro. It would have been a lot cheaper in terms of support and my time.

  • Re:Advice (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2006 @01:31PM (#15366948)

    Certainly. The driver's SF page is here:

    Broadcom bcm43xx [berlios.de]

    Note that the driver will be in 2.6.17 when it's released.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly