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Advice for Linux on a Laptop?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago


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 (5, Informative)

WilyCoder (736280) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

ryanov (193048) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363248)

You have to understand that Linux People use a different language than regular computer users.

Whenever a Linux person says "Works Great" or "Well Supported", just mentally translate that to "Some code exists which may or may not do something useful or even compile".

Re:Advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363412)

Well, by supported, I meant that they all work under Linux. I have gotten all four types of cards to work at various times. As I mention elsewhere, I have had trouble with all of the cards (I probably should also mention that I've had problems with three of the four types of cards under Windows, too), but they are all supported and they do work. If you care to tell me which language "supported" means "works flawlessly under every possible set of circumstances" then maybe I'll add a disclaimer saying I'm not using that language.

Re:Advice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363368)

Yeah, the Atheros cards do have some problems, but nothing I said isn't true. I have never had trouble with them as clients, though - just as APs. But many wifi cards have odd problems under Linux. Intel cards constantly reset unless you turn off hwcrypto, Prism cards have given me trouble with hardware suspend and don't support WPA (maybe the newer ones do), and I've had trouble with Atheros cards as APs. Broadcom cards, as I said, use a reverse engineered driver which, I'm told, is slower and has less range under Linux (maybe that's improved by now). Therefore, I think wireless is a bit of a gamble under Linux, but all major cards are supported, as I said above. Intel is the best bet, which I also said, because everything works (once you turn off hardware crypto), the driver is based on information supplied by the manufacturer, and development is active (the Prism driver has, at times, fallen into disrepair).

Re:Advice (1)

pa-ching (814232) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362930)

Agreed; I have the Intel 2915 in mine and it's working like a charm. Be sure to use a recent kernel ;)

As for laptop models, I highly recommend the ASUS line of whitebooks. I have the Z63A myself, and it's very solidly constructed, stylish, and gets up to 5 hours of battery life if I undervolt and dim it a bit. Relatively light too. Other ASUS models have actual video cards, although this one is just Intel Integrated. It still works like a charm. The build quality is great for the value--and a nice "open-source"y benefit of whitebooks in general is that you have the option of just buying the laptop shell, and purchasing the CPU, RAM, HD, and wi-fi card separately, and no Windows tax. There's a 12" or so model too, if that's what you're looking for, and I bet there are plenty of new models I haven't seen since I made my purchase.

No horror stories to report as of yet, other than some minor frustration with SATA in less recent kernels. It isn't too hard to get the widescreen resolution running natively on X either. I haven't had to apply any kernel patches to get it to work, though if I want to attempt suspend-to-disk I probably will have to.

I admit that I did install Windows before Linux, as Windows doesn't like it the other way around--but I easily could have made this a Linux-only machine. Just boot off the CD like normal, and make sure you have a wired connection when you're installing. No problems here. Ubuntu's LiveCD worked fine when I tried it once.

You're probably aware of this, but if you search Google for, say, "Linux on Z63A," you get pretty detailed guides--someone even installed a forum devoted soley to the subject! The model-specific resources are definitely much better than the general "linux on laptops" pages, as you've probably seen. Cheers!

Now with Glare (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363438)

As for laptop models, I highly recommend the ASUS line of whitebooks.

I tried to buy one of these last night instead of a new MacBook because the MacBook has the "glossy" screen.

It turns out the new Asus models do as well. They even have enough honesty to call them "glare-type" screens on their website. The biggest problem was finding a dealer who could easily customize these things. I tried most of them on Where to Buy page and none were easy or had the options listed on the Asus site. If anyone can find an Asus with a Core Duo, bluetooth 2, 1394, integrated webcam and intel wireless without the glare type screen, please post (preferably 14").

All the same goes for the Clevo gear. There was exactly one Sager that fit the bill but it was too ugly for words.

Maybe I need to find somebody who will spray an antiglare coating on a MacBook for me.

Re:Advice (4, Informative)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363111)

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:ThinkPad, ThinkPad, ThinkPad (1)

thedave (79572) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363282)

I only have three things to say about this: ThinkPad, ThinkPad, ThinkPad

I'm on my third. I have bought my employees almost a dozen. Absolutely, no hardware issues. Their warranty support is amazing. And, every model so far has run linux extremely well.

I run Fedora Core 5, and everything just works. The only customization I did was to load the fglrx driver for the video (just to see the difference). But, the standard radeon driver does all my day-to-day stuff just fine.

Every single component worked without configuration (WiFi - Cisco, ENet - Intel, Bluetooth, IR, USB 2.0, Suspend, Hibernate). In hindsight, I guess I've never tried my modem.

I'm not getting real good battery life, but my current battery is 3 years old, and I use it a lot.


Re:ThinkPad, ThinkPad, ThinkPad (5, Informative)

thedave (79572) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:ThinkPad, ThinkPad, ThinkPad (0, Offtopic)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363600)

Oh yeah...my T23 ran mandriva/mandrake great and runs (k)ubuntu even better.

A girl who lives across the hall also has a T23 (with windows, but live cd's work jsut fine on it) that is equally as old as mine and works just as well...no hardware problems for either of us. A girl down the hall has a T43 which is just a beatiful system and a guy down the hall just got a t60 which is great (and the first model released after the branding switch).

The girl with the T23 just bought a macbook (on release day, they were in stock in the chicago store...she made what might be the largest impulse buy I have seen someone actually make) and it is really really nice...and osx is...kind of like linux. I may buy her T23 off of her just because mine works so well and I have family who I may be able to convince to use it if I give them a preprepared linux laptop that just works (like the thinkpads do). The ebay market has seen a HUGE influx of these machines so the price is way down. They must have just ended a lot of corporate leases or something becasue the price is half what it was a year ago even though other companies similarily specced (albiet crappier because tehy are compaq or dell) machines are more expensive than the T23s.

Yes...go thinkpads!

WiFi AND Graphics (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363281)

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.

Yeah. Buy a Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15362790)

Speaking as one who has run Linux on a Thinkpad, and hated it. Deals with people who insist on running Linux on their Dell and various other laptops. It's a nightmare. We have a bunch of Linux desktops on normal PCs. These work great.

It's just: if you want UNIX on a laptop, the Mac is an easy way to go.

Re:Yeah. Buy a Mac (1)

Poppler (822173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362848)

Speaking as one who has run Linux on a Thinkpad, and hated it.

I have had a great experience with Ubuntu on my laptop. Wireless, 3d acceleration, and even trackpoint scrolling were all enabled during install. Ubuntu even has an on screen display for the brightness and volume buttons on the Thinkpad without any manual configuration.

Re:Yeah. Buy a Mac (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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:Yeah. Buy a Mac (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363115)

I would say that is a problem with the note book in itself rather then a problem in the linux or windows running on that note book. Either way, my dell sucks the batery down too.

I'm looking at an optional extended life batery that is supposed to give more time. I'm wondering if the bateries in the MAC notbooks are already these extended life bateries or if the note book actualy manages the power better? My dell laptop show it has 4 hours charge remaining in windows and usualy lasts around 2 hours. In linux (mandrake and Knoppix) it shows 2 hours 25 minutes life on a fully charged battery but it usualy only last 2 hours. Rite now, i just keep two bateries charged and swap them out. Plus i have an universal AC/DC power supply that lets me charge in the car thru a cig lighter socket without needing to carry an power inverter around.

Re:Yeah. Buy a Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363009)

Eh, OS X is OK if you just want to open a shell window and fireoff some PERL scripts.

If you want a real UNIX environment, it doesn't cut it. The entire mac desktop and all Mac software live in it's own world away from the Unix stuff.

Unless you want to right click or run Linux 64. (1)

Myria (562655) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363026)

Unlike every other brand of laptop, Apple's laptops don't have a right mouse button.

Intel still hasn't made a 64 bit laptop chip yet.


Re:Unless you want to right click or run Linux 64. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Unless you want to right click or run Linux 64. (1)

Al Dimond (792444) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363681)

Speaking of that, are there any laptops out there with a true middle-click button? I'm not really in the mood to spend money on one right now, but trying to click both buttons at the same time to use X's "emulated" middle button is kind of a pain, and I'd keep it in mind for future laptop purchases.

Re:Yeah. Buy a Mac (3, Interesting)

Sean Riordan (611520) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363158)

Weird you should say that.

My Dell Latitude D600 is perfectly happy dual booting XP and Linux. Currently SuSE 10 and everything just works. Have had Ubuntu, Debian (Sarge and Etch), and Fedora on it at some point. Fedora works fine, but I didn't care for it. Ubuntu worked well but had issues with the Intel a/b/g card. Debian was great when it was great, a lot of work when it wasn't depending where I was in the sarge/sid the etch/sid cycle. Debian always hated my docking station as well. The current SuSE 10 install is pretty much flawless. The only thing not working is my Sony Erricson GPRS/EDGE/WiFi card and that is due entirely to my being to lazy to go look it up, and therefore haven't even plugged it in booted to Linux.

My laptop is my primary computer, for work and personal so it has to be stable and useful. I currently run about 60/40 booted to XP/Linux. For dev work both are needed and for network audits linux is a requirement. Gaming, Visio, and our ground system require windows. Between OO and picking up a copy of crossover everything else works fine whichever way I happen to boot.

Some things to watch out for that bit me here and there. Remember that with the Dell utility partition and XP installed you only have two primary partitions left and plan accordingly. What several people have said about a FAT32 partition is critical if you want to actually use you data. Watch which WiFI card you get. The Intels are the best bet. If you don't need triband, then the b/g units seem to work on more setups.

Re:Yeah. Buy a Mac (1)

moss1956 (246946) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363187)

I have been running Linux on my Thinkpad T41p since I bought it. I don't have a windows partition either.
I am currently running SUSE 9.3 on it.

As they used to say about used cars, "It runs great".

The wireless works fine, it goes to sleep, and I have emacs and latex. What more could you ask for?

hw (5, Informative)

goarilla (908067) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (3, Informative)

digitalride (767159) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363188)

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.

Funny You Mention Dell (2, Informative)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:hw (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363234)

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 from one place to another. The kernel also seems to get the CPU fan spinning even when the system isn't loaded, which is pretty weird.

IMHO it's not ready for primetime yet. I'd recommend just getting a Macbook, unless your goal is to try to improve the situation. That's the only reason I'm running Linux on a laptop.

Re:hw (1)

Trelane (16124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363298)

likely ACPI and/or 3d driver troubles? Have you tried just using the 2D driver with a fixed DSDT?

Re:hw (1)

mellon (7048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363626)

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 other hand you really want it to Just Work, I'd get the Macbook. You can run Linux on it if you want - I think the Intel GPU drivers are pretty good. :')

Re:hw (1)

Trelane (16124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363677)

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?

Re:hw (1)

digitalride (767159) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363394)

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

Our ATI chipset based notebooks work perfectly with suspend to ram AND disk, as well as every other feature you'd expect on a notebook. All this right out of the box, no tinkering required. No need to buy a macbook, you just need to buy from a Linux vendor who has chosen, tested, and configured their hardware and software carefully. Then Linux IS ready for prime time, even on notebooks.

Re:hw (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363760)

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 (2, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362837)

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! (2, Interesting)

zanglang (917799) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362865)

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 check out the wiki as well!
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/?action=fullsearch&context =180&value=laptop&titlesearch=Titles [ubuntu.com]

see what others have experienced (2, Informative)

harrypelles (872287) | more than 8 years ago | (#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:see what others have experienced (1)

yobjob (942868) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363558)

I kept a running blog (signature) of my installation of Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron 6000. From memory, Ubuntu detected all of the default hardware that is included in the Inspiron line. My other thoughts on Ubuntu... well, good and bad, but my general experience with using this laptop has been very good. Many internet reviews of the product put its battery life at 4-5 hours. I've managed 6.5 hours on the single battery, but that includes the odd smoke brake when the system powers down automagically. The hot keys for laptop functions are handy, such as auto adjustment of screen brightness - can be handy in many situations, such as if you want to preserve battery or reduce eye strain at night etc.

what happened to me (2, Insightful)

TLouden (677335) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362874)

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 going to get it working perfect or ever keep things as desired. It is delicate (thought problems are localized, it is linux) and different distros are wildly different on laptops. Ubuntu has worked well for me on this one but Fedora was better on my last, expect to experiment some before settling on the best option.

Ubuntu has yet to fail me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15362875)

I'm posting this from an Ubuntu-running Gateway M460, though it would take torture to get me to recommend a Gateway laptop. I'm on my third motherboard for this unit, and it was a "lemon" replacement for a M450. But everything works, short of the multicard reader.

I've also had fantastic luck with Ubuntu on every IBM laptop I've ever used, and my old Compaq 1800T works like a champ under Ubuntu. I've yet to find a situation where it wasn't able to handle the hardware and well.

Some suggestions... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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"

Re:Some suggestions... (1)

ryanov (193048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363247)

Interestingly enough, while 2.6 on a laptop is almost a requirement (from a usability standpoint -- features, etc.), I've found that wireless driver support is better in 2.4. Some of the third-party WPA supplicants require 2.4, and binary vendor drivers (sometimes the only solution for all of the features) are typically for 2.4 as well.

vmware (3, Interesting)

yagu (721525) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362894)

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 (5, Informative)

breadbot (147896) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363061)

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:vmware (3, Interesting)

irc.goatse.cx troll (593289) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363201)

You'd be even better off virtualizing it with something like CoLinux. Just boot the linux kernel inside windows and either run a vnc server in it to vnc to, or run an X server on windows and remote X to it from inside. Much speedier(and I assume less battery) than vmware.

Re:vmware (1)

freralqqvba (854326) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363223)

You might also want to consider Xen [cam.ac.uk] . Coupled with a CPU supporting virtualization it offers most of the benefits of VMWare with no slowdown whatsoever.

colinux works great for this, too (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:vmware (1)

metamatic (202216) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363186)

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...

Re:vmware for windows development (3, Informative)

thedave (79572) | more than 8 years ago | (#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!


Laptop Linux (2, Interesting)

mr micawber (803118) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362907)

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.

Sounds complicated (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15362911)

Wow, do you OSS faggots always make everything so complicated? Judging by the lies and bullshit disguised as elite-ism you regularly spew on the internet, I would have to say yes.

When you get done sucking Linus's tiny little cock, feel free to run Windows exclusively. Then you can be like the rest of civilization ;)

Considerations: (4, Informative)

slashbob22 (918040) | more than 8 years ago | (#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: (0)

Trelane (16124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363012)

Graphics - Mobile Nvidia usually has better support then ATI.
No no no no NO!

Intel has Free drivers in the vanilla kernel. I've heard the drivers work great. Not the best 3D, but suspend works great!

Re:Considerations: (2, Interesting)

Tragek (772040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363400)

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 that's Ok.

x41 (1)

lucky130 (267588) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362937)

If you like Ubuntu, you could probably do pretty well with a Thinkpad x41. I have the tablet version dual-booting Ubuntu and WinXP with both OS's running great (with /home mounted under both). Most features work out of the box under Linux and the rest are pretty easy to set up.

ThinkPad T-series (3, Informative)

Noksagt (69097) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362938)

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.

Re:ThinkPad T-series (1)

dalutong (260603) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363086)

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.

Re:ThinkPad T-series (1)

jtosburn (63943) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363167)

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 linux goes, since the hardware is a little bleeding edge, thus far I've chosen to run linux in a virtual machine using VMWare Player, for which you can download an Ubuntu image. No sweat, runs great. The X60 has an Core Duo which sports Intel's VT virtualization stuff. I don't know if the current VMWare Player takes advantage of that or not, but so far performance has been very good. Of course, add some memory if you go this route.

There are numerous pre-made images that one can download, including Debian, Gentoo, and a bunch of others. If you want to make your own, you need to buy once of VMWare's other products. Fair enough. And keep your eyes on Xen, too.

Re:ThinkPad T-series (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363269)

As a happy owner of an IBM T41 Thinkpad let me echo the parent. I have Ubuntu Dapper testing running on my lappy and have been thrilled with the hardware support. Suspend-to-RAM, suspend-to-HDD, integrated Atheros A/B/G wireless, Radeon Mobility 7500 (3D support with free/libre driver), touchpad (with vertical scrolling), DVD player, volume buttons, Ethernet and integrated audio all work great. Furthermore, Thinkpads have a reputation for their build quality and the T41 does not disappoint in this regard either. Because the T-series is not the newest kid on Lenovo's block Linux support for it has time to mature and it shows-especially with Ubuntu.

IBM Certified Used. (3, Informative)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363284)

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.

Buy A Big Seller (1)

domukun367 (681095) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362943)

You may have to pay more (IBM) or you may get a crappy product (Dell) however if you buy a laptop that is very popular, there are more likely to be drivers written for it's devices. If you are lucky, it will "just work" out of the box.

I had a good experience earlier this year with a Dell Latitude D610. It's a cheap an cheerful laptop, however OpenSUSE 10.0 was a breeze - after a trouble free installation everything just worked, with minimal configuration of drivers and hardware.

Ubuntu on a MacBook is my "ideal" system (2, Interesting)

zhobson (22730) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362955)

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 Windows codecs, this option doesn't exist on PPC. However for most other tasks it's quite sufficient.

I'm in the market for another laptop, and I will be continuing to use Ubuntu as the primary OS. The new MacBook seems like an excellent choice, except that Linux support tends to follow behind a month or two behind Apple hardware releases. Probably the MacBook Pro has cleared the path a bit, but I'm skeptical that I'll be able to use all the hardware features in Linux right away, and in that case what is the point?

While I can't offer too much advice regarding what laptop to buy for yourself, I'll tell you what my decision will probably be. Simply being an x86 gives the MacBook an advantage over the iBook for multimedia support. Even though Linux support for the MacBook will lag behind, there's no reason why I can't dual-boot OSX and Ubuntu for a while until there's enough hardware support to allow me to run Ubuntu full-time. OSX is a pretty respectable unix system and I'm sure I'd have fun using it for a while, even though experience has taught me that I will eventually get frustrated and go back to a free-software OS. Seriously. It's a cultural thing.

So for me it'll be a maxed-out black MacBook. If Ubuntu isn't shiny enough right away I'll use OSX to hold me over. I'll probably try running GNOME on it just for fun. ^_^

Re:Ubuntu on a MacBook is my "ideal" system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15362984)

I was thinking he should just run Ubuntu in a virtual machine on the MacBook and be done with it. But I guess asking this question on Slashdot might be a way to generate interest in getting the native drivers out more quickly.

My Thoughts (5, Interesting)

acidrain69 (632468) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362957)

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?

What I'm running (1)

SlappyBastard (961143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362972)

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.

The MacBook [Pro] (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362975)

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 is that Macs end up very well supported too in Linux. Combine that with the fact you are now using x86 hardware (which means it's in lots of laptops) and the drivers should be there very soon (if they aren't there now).

Plus there is the great Apple hardware. If you get the MacBook Pro, you get the cool glowing keyboard and screen that brighten and dim with the ambient light (note: no idea how well this is supported in Linux). The thing is thin, quiet (compared to most laptops), they are supposed to be running much cooler with the latest firmware update, they have the sudden motion sensor, front row remote (someone will make that work under Linux soon), magsafe power connector, and more.

They are BEAUTIFUL machines. OS X is fantastic. Give it a try. Worst case scenario, you end up with a beautiful laptop running Linux. Or you may just fall in love with OS X. Either way, it's great hardware.

Re:The MacBook [Pro] (2, Informative)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363024)

What distributions are there out there that can handle Apple Airport wireless out of the box? (Hell, or any wireless out of the box.)

Wireless (1)

Jac_no_k (5957) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363215)

I've found Suse 9.2 and up supports various wifi out of the box. I don't know about the Apple Airport though... The drivers seem to be wrapped up and can't be accessed directly so I can't seem to get airsnort to work with it. But then again I was (and still am) a n00b to Linux.

Re:The MacBook [Pro] (1)

apflwr3 (974301) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363773)

I could be wrong, but isn't the Airport card proprietary and not supported by Linux (which is one of his main concerns?) For that matter, is the Airport card even supported by Windows on the Macbook?

Not to be a dick, but I'm not sure you really paid attention to his concerns before suggesting the Macbook. He's looking for real world experience from people who've used Linux on notebooks extensively. He seems to be well aware of the existence of OSX and the Mac, but wants a machine that will run Linux with minimal hassle-- and there's no evidence right now that the Macbook will do so. Considering the machine was released yesterday I can't imagine you or anyone else can argue otherwise. I'm not bashing the Mac, but it's comments like this (gushing without substance) that get Apple users labels like "fanboy" and "zealot."

Posting from one... (2)

Saxophonist (937341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362985)

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't know what version is installed with Ubuntu, but I'm running 1.0.8). Sound buttons don't do anything; again, I don't care. ACPI works fine as far as the battery status at least. The Synaptic touchpad driver seems to work well enough, though I could stand to tweak some settings to avoid random mouse clicks. I haven't had time to mess with it yet.

The biggest problem I have is that, even for Linux, 256 MB is insufficient for what I want to do sometimes. I really wish I'd spent the extra money on more memory. Certain programs that I unfortunately need to use on occasion (*cough*acroread*cough*) can be real memory hogs.

The real point, though, is that I have a rather functional Debian system on my laptop.

Linux on a laptop (1, Redundant)

pfelelep (952023) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362992)

Be especially careful about whether your laptop's power management (battery management, auto powering down of components like disks, display, NICs etc.) is supported by your distro. You don't want to manually go to sleep or shutdown every 10 minutes or so in order to save battery power...

If you ask me, I would already have bought the MacBook, the black one just look gorgeous !

OS X is simply the best unix desktop OS around : it has the best plug and play experience around in terms of quality, it runs Office, Photoshop and Apache, and its excellent user-oriented optimizations makes everything feel snappy, especially with many apps open, an area where Windows definitively sucks, even on superior hardware.

Imagine that at last you can run it on the same kickass CPU's than PC's. Hell, you can even run Windows AND Linux natively ! For the same budget, I really don't see how one wouldn't want to run such a cutting-edge OS (and any other popular one) on such a beautiful laptop.

FYI I have been mac-only for years (I am a happy PC owner since 1 year but my main box is a G4).
Sorry for the enthusiastic biased style, but when it comes to Mac vs. Linux I just can't control myself ;)

Re:Linux on a laptop (1)

wall0159 (881759) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363556)

Funny you should say that. MacOS is def good, but there's something about the UI in linux that I prefer. Not sure what.

I run Tiger on my G4 800 iBook, as my main OS, but I just got an old laptop from a mate. It's an IBM ThinkPad 600e (P2 397Mhz, 96Mb RAM). I've just installed Xubuntu (The same as Ubuntu, but with XFCE instead of Gnome - it's much lighter). It was a piece of cake, and is excellent to use. I don't think I'll migrate away from my iBook, but if it wasn't for Protools (damn you, Digidesign!) I'd seriously think about running Linux on that too.

The only thing that I love about my iBook, that I doubt would happen under Linux, is the sleep functionality. My iBook wakes from sleep before the lid is completely open. That totally changes the way I use the computer. It's worth opening the computer to do 5 seconds of stuff - not the case when I have to boot Ubuntu that's for sure! (I just read here http://www.tgunkel.de/it/hardware/doc/ibook_g4_lin ux.en [tgunkel.de] that sleep works in recent Linux kernels. Can't verify that tho)

Summary: You should (provided you choose something sensible) be able to get everything working.

some random advice.. (2, Informative)

Ruie (30480) | more than 8 years ago | (#15362993)

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.

Re:some random advice.. (1)

Ruie (30480) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363045)

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.

Re:some random advice.. (1)

Jac_no_k (5957) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363174)

I have a Dell Inspiron 8600, which I chose mainly for the screen resoltuion of 1920x1600.

As the parent poster stated, Intel supplies the "centrino" drivers for Linux. I'm using Debian and you do have to jump through some hoops to get it working, but if you could follow directions, it's straight forward. Even with the drivers working, the client software from Intel on MS-Windows that manages SSID and different network passwords is not available. So it's a little clunky when I change locations.

I have the ATI Radeon 9x00 module. Can't quite remember what exactly what it is. The 2d drivers seem to work fine and is fast enough.

I did opt for the bluetooth module. It seems with a recent version of the kernel (I think 2.6.12 onwards) bluetooth support is built in. Again not as intuitive as MS-Windows but with a bit of jiggling of the config scripts, I've gotton my bluetooth MS Intellimouse partially working. I can't seem to figure out how to get the wheel, tilt, and thumb buttons to be recognized under X.

And lastly I've gotten all the powersaving bits working as well. The Intel SpeedStep, spinning down the HD, turning off the backlight.

So if you want a very high resolution display, you might want to take a look at the Dell Inspiron. If you can tolerate lower resolutions, many other smaller laptops do a good job, and are much smaller and lighter.

Powersaved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363008)

Be sure powersaved is installed. My debian laptop was a little furnace before installing it. Also use sleepd to get it to suspend2ram when not in use.

When checking hardware compatibility don't forget to check the more unusual/proprietary things on the laptop. LCD brighteness, jog dial, that kind of thing. The sonypi driver fixed several issues for my Sony Vaio z505, but I still don't know how to turn off the LCD backlight.

Thinkpads, whoohoo. (3, Informative)

tachyonflow (539926) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363022)

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.com (1)

Micah (278) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363023)

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 work well. No tinkering and hoping it will work.

I'm still very much a Linux guy and won't change my desktop. And I hope that the next laptop I buy after this Mac will be Linux based, and run everythig just as well as the Mac. But for now I'm convinced that MacBook[Pro] is the way to go for *NIX geeks.

I've it easier (5, Informative)

jsse (254124) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363047)

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.

Works for me (1)

jkj5301 (660159) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363054)

I'm typing this on my HP zv5000 laptop I got about 1 1/2 years ago. It's a heavy old thing -- not the best for carrying around a lot, but I got it for a good price. It runs Ubuntu just as well as my desktop -- which means there are some of the headaches you'll find with any given distro, but I'm mostly happy with it. I partitioned the 40GB disk into two, first thing after I got it, so it dual-boots to the original Windows XP. Actually, the desktop machine and this laptop are running Kubuntu (KDE), but I've had the Gnome version running too. Either one works -- just the usual idiosyncracies of KDE vs. Gnome. The built-in Broadcomm wireless works, with ndiswrapper and the Ubuntu (Debian) wireless tools. I've never had the extra buttons working (volume control, "www", "email" etc.), but that's not a big problem to me. My advice -- what I did when I bought this laptop -- is bring a Knoppix CD and ask to see it boot up before you buy.

I can speak on this, I guess. (1)

An Onerous Coward (222037) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363081)

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 refuses to hibernate properly, so I have to power down when I'm moving it from place to place.

There are certainly a lot fewer rough edges than there were back when I was first trying out the whole "Linux thing".

I have two Dells (2, Interesting)

kbielefe (606566) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Linux on Laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363113)

... abbreviates nicely as "LOL".

Coincidence? I think not.

No matter which you buy, (1)

munpfazy (694689) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363127)

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 to support pro-linux companies or you want to avoid having to pay much attention to hardware details.

On the other hand, if you don't use windows very much, it might be worth considering running vmware with a windows guest OS. It's a lot nicer than having to reboot every time you're forced to run windows. And of course you can use all your favorite linux backup tools and file transfer tools without a hickup. And, if you're cheap or resent paying money to microsoft, that way you can run the same windows virtual machine with a single license on both you desktop and laptop (or rather, divergent sibling virtual machines).

"No operating system" != Linux friendly (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363130)

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...

Dual-boot Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron 6000 (3, Informative)

lanzek (948620) | more than 8 years ago | (#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:Dual-boot Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron 6000 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363507)

Why bother with PartitionMagic? Just use GParted. There's even a LiveCD out for it. http://gparted.sourceforge.net/livecd.php [sourceforge.net]

Re:Dual-boot Ubuntu on a Dell Inspiron 6000 (1)

ryanov (193048) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363654)

I second that. My boss wanted to use an illegal copy of PM over GParted. I showed her screenshots side by side and she relented.

Amazing that even in a university, people don't trust free software.

Dual-boot caveat (1, Troll)

STDOUBT (913577) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363154)

"Might any of you have advice, anecdotes, success stories, horror stories, or general input?"

AFAIK, Laptops with Windows pre-installed don't come with the install CD. This means if you want to dual-boot with Linux, It's going to be really sketchy resizing the NTFS partition and using Linux on the remainder of the drive.

Re:Dual-boot caveat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15363264)

Almost all manufacturers will provide the Windows CDs for an extra $10 or so. In any case, installation CDs are always something that all Windows users should ask for whenever they buy a new system (what if the hard drive fails?)

advice (4, Informative)

itzdandy (183397) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363202)

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

for linux on laptops, try www.linux-laptop.net (3, Informative)

Mindcry (596198) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (2, Interesting)

glens (6413) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363283)

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 (3, Interesting)

smvp6459 (896580) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

My Experience (1)

quantaman (517394) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363491)

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 other posters have said it's open source and in the kernel (though I couldn't actually get it to work until FC5). The card is decent, good enough to play ppracer on low settings, though on higher settings it got choppy. Also running bzflag only 1/4 of the screen actually showed up. I haven't tested any games other than these two and have no idea of the cards stability/performance under windows.

For a graphics card my reccomendation is thus. If you want some real 3D Linux gaming, go with NVidia. If however your 3D gaming needs are slight/non-existant such as mine are, go with the Intel card. With the Intel card inclusion in the kernel means you don't need to reinstalling everytime you do a kernel upgrade, also I know myself (as well as others) have had stability issues with NVidia drivers in the past. I don't know how much development is going on with the Intel drivers but hopefully most of the bugs will be worked out in the next few months.

Sound worked fine.

As for ACPI it seems to be working well for the moment though I've had minor issues in the past, the only special buttons that work are sound, and I haven't tried the card reader or played with the Bluetooth much (sounds like it could work with fiddling). For the battery using wireless with the screen turned down I can go 2-2.5 hrs (haven't tried without wireless much).

At the end of the day my best suggestion is to get a live Ubuntu cd, head down to a computer store, and see if they let you boot it (the only store that didn't let me do so was BestBuy). That lets you actually see most of what works and what doesn't work, of course there is additional stuff you can get working with fiddling (or even by just running an update) but the more things that just work the better.

No problems with Dell Latitude (1)

joedoc (441972) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363557)

I inherited a four-year-old Dell Latitude C610 with a 60 GB drive, 512 Mb and a decent Pentium processor. For wireless, I use a Netgear WG511.

I run Kubuntu (Breezy) and Windows XP in this old warhorse with very few issues. The Dell has ATI graphics, and the original Kubuntu install detected it just fine. I also had zero issues with detection of the wi-fi card.

I don't do any gaming or anything particularly system intensive with this old warhorse, but it's getting the job done. I take it lots of places, so it's well-traveled. Couldn't ask for much more that that.

I've got great success... (1)

Hymer (856453) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363569)

With SuSE 9.1 and 9.3 on IBM ThinkPad A31p (get a "p", they got high resolution displays, my have a 15" 1600x1200 and A31p is still available some places). I also successfully installed SuSE 9.3 on my wifes HP Pavilion ZV600 (AMD Athlon 64), but I didn't check the WiFi. None of these are however lightweight... but I do not need a small laptop.
I've seen Ubuntu on IBM ThinkPad X and R run without problems and tried SuSE 9.3 on a ThinkPad 390X (600 MHz).

Beware of modem! (1)

beaver1024 (645317) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363663)

Most laptop modems are those crappy soft modems which require firmware/drivers that are hard to obtain and/or only works in windows. If you wish to use the modem make sure you get one that is Linux supported.

My experience, Linux vs Mac (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363693)

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" already. On Linux, I had to know the SSID, because while the internal wireless was supported well enough, it didn't support detecting networks.

I'd suggest you find someone who's got this working well on Linux before you attempt it yourself. Find out what card they used, and if yours is going to be different, boot a Knoppix on their laptop and make it work with that, detection and all. Once you're sure you know how to do that, boot the same Knoppix on a laptop with the card you're getting.

Other than that, my biggest problem was video. My video card was supported out of the box, and it worked fine, but the performance sucked for playing back DVDs. But then, when I finally booted Windows on the thing (because tech support demanded it), I found that Windows sucked at DVDs just as much. The wierd bit was, it could play some of the lower-quality DivX Anime that I'd downloaded. I suspect it was either the Silicon Motion card sucking, or the 1 ghz TransMeta processor being unable to handle DVD quality mpeg decoding -- but then, I think I tried decoding ahead of time, and finding no difference...

So, the main things to remember about getting it to "just work" are:

Test it. This is a general guideline for buying a new computer, although I tend to build Desktops and hope they'll work properly once assembled. But with laptop Linux, it's critical, mainly because of the Wireless.

Other than that, my only problems with that laptop came from dropping it, which is why I have the Powerbook -- it's durable.

Now, one more thing: power management. I never dual-booted, so I found hibernate to be very useful on that laptop. On the other hand, with working CPU scaling and the disk spinning down when unused, I could usually close it up and let it run for about 10 or 12 hours without having to hibernate or sleep. This Mac lasts days on sleep, but OS X has no equivalent to Hibernate.

You probably won't know whether Hibernate (aka Software Suspend, swsusp, suspend2...) will work for you until you try it.

And regarding that hard disk, my FS of choice was Reiser4, and I'd recommend that to anyone who can find a way of installing on it without losing their sanity. I used it for months before the official release, and it lost data back then. Not anymore, but running an experimental FS should just be that much more incentive to backup the most physically vulnerable computer you own. Reiser4 does half of "laptop mode" -- it won't flush to disk until it absolutely has to, and then it will generally flush everything it has. I actually went one step further -- I patched my kernel to ignore the fsync system call, replacing it with something along the lines of "return success".

Failing that, the laptop mode patches go a bit further anyway, although other FSes won't be as efficinent space-wise as Reiser4. Laptop mode will delay writes until it absolutely has to flush -- but when it has to spin the disk up for any reason, including reads, it'll make sure to flush everything before the disk spins down again.

That kind of behavior was what I missed on my Mac. They're both rock-solid OSes, they're not going to crash, but OS X on HFS+ spins the disk up much more often.

Liv CD to test it out (2, Insightful)

arnedh (894706) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363694)

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.

Check out www.discountlaptops.com (1)

xanalogical (808042) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363703)

About a year ago I purchased my second laptop from www.discountlaptops.com, to avoid paying the Windows tax. Although they don't provide Linux support explicitly, they understand what it is, use it themselves, and don't push Windows or get huffy when doing warranty work under Linux. They also discuss on their website how the laptop market works, in that the brandnames you see on laptops do NOT produce the units themselves, so you'd do as well buying from the OEM.

You should also become familiar with the term "whitetops", which is the market where you buy the laptop frame from an OEM, and then add your own RAM, WiFi PCI, internal video card (in some cases), hard drive, DVD or CD, producing a totally custom box.

I run Gentoo, carefully tuned to the laptop, and it runs very fast and has become my primary desktop. No Windows on it anywhere. Also get absolutely as much RAM as you can, as its more important on a laptop than a desktop to minimize disk spin up.

I've collected my tweaks and experiences on my wiki at www.taupro.com/wiki/ChemBook/HomePage.

I hate to say it ... (1)

jjw8 (796003) | more than 8 years ago | (#15363774)

Just use OS X (and Windows if you need it!).

OS X is fantastic! I'm a long time linux advocate, but I'm increasingly leaning in favour of using OS X as an alternative to desktop Linux. It's just a better desktop experience.

If you really are dedicated to Linux, any Centrino laptop with intel graphics and wireless is a sure thing. You might lose out on things like SD card readers, but the processors, wireless and graphics are fully supported.

Good Luck,
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