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Best Developer's Laptop?

kdawson posted about 5 years ago | from the work-horse dept.

Portables 672

s31523 writes "I love my current laptop, but unfortunately on my last trip the primary LCD went bonkers. It's an older Gateway (2 GB RAM Intel Pentium M 2.0 GHz, ATI M7). There are a handful of features I love about it: [1] Hot-swappable drive bay, with several components that can go in: CD/DVD R/W, extra battery, floppy drive, extra hard drive, memory card reader, etc. The extra battery option is especially appreciated — I can go 4-5 hours on battery power. [2] Docking station / port replicator: I like having my home setup with keyboard, network, and dual screens (a necessity). [3] It runs Linux. OK, I'm a wus, I actually have GRUB command three different OS's: Windows 98 (I have really old embedded software compilers that only run on 98, and yes I have tried every trick in the book to make them run on Linux), Windows XP Pro, and Ubuntu. I'm trying to find a replacement setup that offers the same flexibility and a little better performance. I am open to change as well. So, I ask Slashdot: What is your pick for best developer's laptop under $1,200, considering the features above?"

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ehh (0, Redundant)

Dyinobal (1427207) | about 5 years ago | (#29629285)

I go for comfort and portability when grabbing a laptop.

Re:ehh (-1, Offtopic)

Goldberg's Pants (139800) | about 5 years ago | (#29629339)

I've had several laptops and to be brutally honest, the best Windows based laptop I've found is... My Macbook. Seriously, I've not had Windows run as well on any dedicated PC laptop. And of course you can nuke OSX and put anything you want on there really as it is, essentially, a PC. Yes it's a bit pricey but build quality, stability... The thing kicks the ass of the other laptops. (And in one case the Macbook cost LESS than the PC laptop I replaced it with.)

This is the basic white Macbook. Bottom of the range, which was better than my mid to high range previous HP.

Re:ehh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629471)

And it meets none of the poster's requirements. Good jerb!

Re:ehh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629621)

Well, it meets number 3. Macbooks do a good job of running Linux. The problem is that most laptops now are going for more portability so swappable drives are becoming a liability since they take up more space.

requirements (3, Insightful)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | about 5 years ago | (#29629709)

A well made laptop needs a "port replicator" or "docking station" like a fish needs a bicycle. (Gloria Steinem reference unavoidable.)

Re:ehh (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | about 5 years ago | (#29629757)

2/3 of his requirements assume USB doesn't exist. Fuck yerb!

Re:ehh (1)

jma05 (897351) | about 5 years ago | (#29629481)

You are not really being objective. You are comparing your older generation notebook with your current generation Mac Book. That accounts for the price better than whether Mac is value for it's price (maybe it is, but that is a different argument). It would have helped if you detailed how you defined build quality and stability. Should be easy given that you claim remarkable difference, not subtle. And it would have been fair to compare the your current MacBook to a current Windows laptop (not that I expect everyone to own more than 1 laptop at a time).

one at a time (1)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | about 5 years ago | (#29629763)

Well, there are people here who have deep experience with many models of laptops, simultaneously. Typically this comes as a result of being involved with large enterprises, which buy thousands every year. Then there's the one I use, on the basis of that experience (a MacBook Pro). Frankly, soliciting advice from people who have experience with one laptop every three years or so, seems quaint.

Re:ehh (2, Informative)

flydpnkrtn (114575) | about 5 years ago | (#29629519)

Weeelll... you can't just nuke it and install anything yet. I tried to install only Linux on the Macbook I have only to find it uses EFI only, so until grub2 makes it into distros and it fully supports the Macbook EFI, you're stuck with having OS X around just to setup bootcamp (and emulate the regular BIOS, I guess)

I have read they don't have all the bugs nailed out in grub2/EFI/Macbooks yet, and this post: [] looks like it agrees with what I read. His test was done September 22nd...

That's been my experience, anyway. YMMV

Re:ehh (2, Interesting)

Abreu (173023) | about 5 years ago | (#29629777)

Isn't Grub2 one of the features of Ubuntu Karmic Koala?

Re:ehh (3, Interesting)

Hortensia Patel (101296) | about 5 years ago | (#29629637)

Build quality? Really?

My MBP's keyboard backlight was misbehaving within a couple of months of buying it. The machine regularly overheated playing games. The motherboard fried itself and needed replacement after a couple of years. The DVD drive is now extremely fussy about recognizing an inserted disc.

The last two Dell laptops I've owned each lasted well over 5 years with no problems.

Macs may have their advantages, but IMHO build quality is not one of them. You know, to be brutally honest.

Re:ehh (2, Informative)

onepoint (301486) | about 5 years ago | (#29629855)

I happen to agree with this poster about the dell laptops. I have had 3, the most current one I run is an Inspiron 8500 and it works very well. the others were also dell laptops.

I think the most important thing I do with my laptop is the cleaning, I bust it open every year, take out all the dust an 4 times a year I just remove the fan and blow that dust out.

it has survived decently well.

brutal honesty (-1, Troll)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | about 5 years ago | (#29629897)

Now, for the big money, identify at least two logical fallacies that you committed, in your brief post (allowing some conceptual overlap between them, you should be able to find more than two, pretty easily.)
logical reasoning fallacies []
top 20 logical fallacies []

Re:brutal honesty (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629979)

If you're so big on logic, why don't you find them yourself? Hypocrite. At least he had an argument. All you have is an insinuation that he had at least two logical fallacies. And you offer no proof, no premises and no argument to prove your statement.


Re:ehh (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629903)

Build quality? Really?

My MBP's keyboard backlight was misbehaving within a couple of months of buying it. The machine regularly overheated playing games. The motherboard fried itself and needed replacement after a couple of years. The DVD drive is now extremely fussy about recognizing an inserted disc.

The last two Dell laptops I've owned each lasted well over 5 years with no problems.

Macs may have their advantages, but IMHO build quality is not one of them. You know, to be brutally honest.

So we are supposed to judge all Macs by your experience with one example? I went through the overheating problems. I had to get the mother board exchanged twice before the machine started stopped overheating and it had a bracket glued to the inside of the body in above the DVD drive that came loose once, fell down and scraped the reflective layer of the top of an (expensive) DVD software disc when I ejected it. But then again I had been dumb enough to buy from one of the first Intel MBP batches off the assembly line, whenever a new line of computers comes out you'd be well advised to wait a few months for the teething problems to be worked out and I don't care which brand you buy. All the other macs I have owned PPC or Intel have functioned properly apart from one that had to have the LCD replaced due to a manufacturing flaw but that problem affected any number of PC brands as well who sourced their LCDs from the same manufacturer (including Dell). You have a point with the keyboard backlighting which didn't work properly on any Mac I had until a couple of years ago but then that was noting that couldn't be solved with third party software utilities. As for Dell being the pinnacle of reliability I have worked for a number of companies that ran large fleets of Dells and let me assure you they break down every bit as often as any other computers do.

Re:ehh (1)

siliconincdotnet (525118) | about 5 years ago | (#29629949)

Same here, after years of owning PPC macs and never having a problem, I've had endless trouble from my MBPs.

The first one I had was a first generation one and I kinda expected the worst, but it lasted three years with two trips into Apple Service (logic board replaced twice). The new one (last of the previous body style MBPs) is garbage though, it's been non-stop odd behavior that I can't pin down to any one thing. Crashes consistently and runs slowly with Linux or OSX. Won't buy another one.

Re:ehh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629751)

Well done sir, we're all happy to know that you use a Macbook. Please give us your home address so that we may leave tributes upon your sacred doorstep.

Re:ehh (2, Insightful)

thegreatemu (1457577) | about 5 years ago | (#29629799)

make sure you get the extended warranty then - I've had to replace the battery, hard drive, dvd player, and screen of my macbook, and this thing doesn't even get used when I'm not travelling.

I wouldn't go for Windows on Mac hardware (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629811)

With the quality, performance and price of "PC" notebooks today, you can get better battery time, better performance, better stability for less price. If you're into lightweight, you can get up to 10 hours battery time, for less money today. Just avoid Vista like the plague..

Mind you I am writing this on my Macbook Pro 17" running Windows XP. I can't stand OS X anymore (won't go into details here), so I installed Bootcamp and XP on it and am using it as my main computer now.

However, given the money, I would find a high-quality "PC" notebook (Lenovo or something like that?), with good sound and graphics. It may be hard to find, but with a bit of trial-and-error should be do-able.

The problem with my setup is:
1) Lack of proper BIOS, so forget about GRUB or any "normal" installation of Linux and "alternative" OSes. You are at the mercy of Apple's implementation and upgrades. Yes, you can find ways to work around it, but it's a big pain and it'll be "different" (oh noes!).
2) Had to find the "correct version" of Leopard, and several firmware upgrades, to make Bootcamp work correctly. Not all bootcamp versions give proper driver-support, or can be upgraded freely, and Apple gives only the last official version on their website. Eg. the camera wouldn't work for me until I had searched for a day and found some unofficial bootcamp drivers that both worked and installed correcly (not easy).
3) Utter reliance on Apple's bootcamp to make Windows work at all in native mode. If something goes screwy, eg. with a firmware/Bootcamp/Windows upgrade and Windows Restore doesn't fix it, prepare for hours of reinstalling everything.
4) If something goes wrong, total lack of support. You can't fix things yourself, like firing up a Knoppix disc and extract files. Oh, maybe you can in some obscure way, or pay for yet another Mac-utility, but it'll be a huge pain again.
5) So must rely on backup, and just wipe the partition if something goes really wrong and hope this is enough safety.
6) Windows on Bootcamp makes the computer hot and the fan goes on much more than OS X for some unknown reasons. Maybe because I have an older Macbook Pro, but OS X is better supported for sure.
7) Need third-party apps like Lubbo's Fan Control and Input Remapper installed to get basic "PC"-keys remapped, and better fan control. Not an optimal / supported solution. Macbook keyboard lacks several keys, like home, pgup, pgdn, and it'll take some time to get used to. Not quite as optimal as with these keys, so you rely more on mouse / trackpad.
8) Good solutions hard to find. I was lucky I found these solutions within 1-2 days.

All in all, I got it to work, but it's far from optimal and not somehing I would recommend to even my enemy.

On the other side, the Macbook Pro is great hardware. Great sound, great graphics. Lightweight and large enough to use as main computer. So all in all it is positive compared to most "PC" notebooks.

Best of all, I can use the trackpad all day, something I cannot do on most "PC" notebooks.
So if you're up for an adventure of hacking and travelling down the "bleeding edge" route, yeah, go for it..

But Apple's support for Windows is laughable. Even scrolling using the wheel isn't quite as good as in OS X.

Re:ehh (1)

atlasdropperofworlds (888683) | about 5 years ago | (#29629895)

I go for pixels. As many pixels as I can get for the price. I'll forgo a lot of other things except perhaps processor speed, because compiling times can be/are very long.

Unfortunately, it's very hard to get 1920x1200 (WUXGA) for $1200 or less.

I suppose the dell studio xps can be about the limit, and gives good enough pixelage (1920x1080) for about $1250. Thinkpads are pretty much the same (unless you're buying in canada, then don't bother - thinkpads are $1k more expensive there for some reason).

Multi booting? (5, Informative)

sakdoctor (1087155) | about 5 years ago | (#29629297)

Who can be bothered with that.
Any new laptop is probably going to have a bunch of cores and hardware virtualization, so put ubuntu on that, and virtualize XP and 98.

Re:Multi booting? (2, Interesting)

Shikaku (1129753) | about 5 years ago | (#29629385)

Wine is making a lot of headway, but a neat helper program allows you to install things easily and with a pretty good GUI called []

It uses scripts that has their own format to install Wine with a special setup that's taken care of by PlayOnLinux and the script. I think it's a great idea, and all that's needed is more scripts.

Re:Multi booting? (3, Informative)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 5 years ago | (#29629711)

Any new laptop is probably going to have a bunch of cores and hardware virtualization

I agree - using a virtual machine is nice, but be sure the CPU in your laptop supports it. Start by looking here [] and make sure. Virtual machines suck without hw support.

You'd be surprised how many mainstream laptop CPUs do NOT have virtualization support, especially many of the "Sunday Ad" bargain machines.

Re:Multi booting? (2, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 5 years ago | (#29629779)

Who can be bothered with that.
Any new laptop is probably going to have a bunch of cores and hardware virtualization, so put ubuntu on that, and virtualize XP and 98.

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see that the submitter mentioned what type of development he's doing. If he's trying to do game development, virtualization may not be ideal for him. However for anything else I'd agree with you - except I'd personally choose a Mac as my "root kit" (as opposed to a rootkit I guess) and run VMware-based instances of Windows, Linux, et. al.

As an aside - anyone have experience with how well the EFI-enabled grub (or any other bootloader that can run on a modern Mac) works?

Re:Multi booting? (2, Interesting)

Aphonia (1315785) | about 5 years ago | (#29629975)

you're going to probably need to virtualize win 98 at this point anyway - i cant even get it to boot on my MSI K8MM-V + Sempron machine - you'll probably need to try something newer for it anyway.

VMWare works nicely for this as does virtualbox. Plus if seamless virtualization actually works on your host OS, its pretty smooth.

Dell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629311)

Dell Prec' M4400 is perfect for dev'ing. But prolly not within your budget.

Easypeasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629327)

Macbook Pro. Run VMWare Fusion for your legacy stuff.

Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (4, Insightful)

Foofoobar (318279) | about 5 years ago | (#29629331)

All the Java developers at my work used Apple and I found this odd. When I asked one, they mentioned that it was built on BSD so they could use shell commands that they were used to on other Unix based systems. My wife had one and is a system administrator and found it very easy to VNC, SSH and manage most of her servers from her Macbook Pro.

I gave it a shot and have been able to do Objective C, Mono development, LAMP dev and just about everything without any problems. There effectively is not any language or environment that is left out and Eclipse and Subversion work as great as they do on my Linux box.

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629363)

While I think Apple is probably a good way to go, what you're paying for is mainly the support which is pretty decent, and the look.

Also, I don't think the author of this story could use a modern laptop, because win98 probably will not run on them.

Question for the article submitter: Have you tried VMware workstation?

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (1)

mysidia (191772) | about 5 years ago | (#29629527)

Windows '98 will run in a virtual machine, under e.g. VMware fusion.

Getting sound to work may be an issue, but otherwise, it works alright, and the performance on modern hardware is excellent.

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (1)

camperslo (704715) | about 5 years ago | (#29629785)

Win 98 also runs fine in VirtualBox, OSS free for personal use from Sun.

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629393)

Too bad Apple can't seem to keep their JVM up to date

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629703)

OS X Snow Leopard has Java, the same as Ubuntu Karmic and 2 updates newer than Jaunty.

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (3, Informative)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 5 years ago | (#29629907)

From jaunty:

$ java -version
Java(TM) SE Runtime Environment (build 1.6.0_16-b01)

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (2, Insightful)

Foofoobar (318279) | about 5 years ago | (#29629739)

Yes. That was my bitch once I picked up the apple as a laptop. Apple really seems to hate Java; they dropped the java bridge for Cocoa (but left it for all other languages including Ruby), they maintain the JVM separate and don't update it or patch it as they need to and many other issues. Yeah I have to say it seems like Apple hates Java.

However you can always install alternative JVM's

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | about 5 years ago | (#29629935)

I think it's two parts:

1) Apple is now really gunning for Microsoft and cross platform apps don't really fit well in their plans
2) The built in Java aesthetics (Swing) are fucking horrible and they probably don't want that on their machines.

Re:Why I chose Apple for my dev laptop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629609)

Macbook pro, use it for ruby and clojure development. Just ignore the fanboys, it's a nice machine and moving from ubuntu was a relief since I had to wrestle with everything alot less.

To each their own, this is my 1st mac and I dont see myself going back. Mind you Apple can get F-ed with their closed up iphone/ipod touch.

Thinkpad T-series (5, Insightful)

toppavak (943659) | about 5 years ago | (#29629341)

You can easily get one that will fit your budget of $1,200. The ultrabay drive is hot-swappable and you can get a Li-polymer battery to slide in there for extra staying power. Also, Lenovo has kept Thinkpad customer service to essentially the same level of quality that it was under IBM which, in my experience, has been nothing short of fantastic.

Re:Thinkpad T-series (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629371)

The ultra-bay is _NOT_ hot swappable in linux. Several times I've been distracted and messing around with my fingers I've accidentally flipped the switch popping out the drive. Every time linux has frozen.

Re:Thinkpad T-series (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629401)

Sorry to break your bubble on the Thinkpad T-series customer service, but it took Lenovo 2 weeks to get a battery onto UPS's system from the time I ordered. In other words, my battery died, I ordered a new one, and roughly a month later I got it. This is for the very expensive 9 cell battery that fits the T60.

To take that long to get a product to the customer speaks volumes about inefficiency on their part. Also, I am surrounded by Chinese graduate students who are studiously avoiding any purchases of the Lenovo's version of the thinkpad, mostly because they are under the understanding that quality has dropped, and that customer service has suffered considerably. My experience is in line with their attitude.

Re:Thinkpad T-series (3, Interesting)

bemymonkey (1244086) | about 5 years ago | (#29629953)

My experience regarding the customer service has been largely the same (although my Thinkpad is a cheap SL500 consumer series model), but for the price, I'm relatively satisfied with the hardware. The casing is feels cheap, the keyboard flexes a little, and there were a few internal mechanical problems (mainly cables not placed in the proper channels causing PCB stress+flex, and other stuff like that) that I had to fix myself before deciding to keep the machine, but in terms of build quality and important features (decent keyboard, awesome pointing device, wsxga+ on a 15.4" TFT) it's still better than anything else I've found at this price point ($800)...

Never having seen a modern T-, W- or R-Series model myself (I've only used older ones like the T4x and T60/61) I can't offer an opinion regarding those, but just extrapolating from my experiences with the SL500 (which is, as I mentioned above, the cheapest entry-level Thinkpad line - not even considered a real Thinkpad by most long-time Thinkpad users), I'd expect them to be better than other devices in their price range in terms of durability and input options.

Re:Thinkpad T-series (5, Informative)

tuffy (10202) | about 5 years ago | (#29629413)

ThinkPads also sport a 3-button trackpoint, which is very handy when running X11. In addition, it's not hard to find ones with compatible video and wireless cards.

Re:Thinkpad T-series (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629437)

ugh ... what a mistake to recommend lenovo machines. Besides all of the junk extra software which destabilizes any windows os, the hardware is crap. ever since i owned my first thinkpad (8 years ago) to the lenovo's of today, there is an issue where you have to press on the bottom right corner of the machine occasionally to stop the mouse pointer form wandering off the screen. their docking stations are also crap, causing os reboots from bad groundings which required an extra purchase of little rubber booties to shield the connectors on the dock. maybe i have been spoiled by the quality of mac, but just hold a lenovo and you will notice that it just feels like bunch of plastic junk (compared to the cheapest plastic macbook).

Re:Thinkpad T-series (1, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 5 years ago | (#29629715)

OK, if you want to remove the extra software, go into the factory restore software, and uncheck all of the checkboxes.

The way Lenovo's software works is, it goes through three passes - it installs an image of a clean OS with all packages in a directory, then reboots, installs the drivers, reboots again, then installs the desired packages, then runs sysprep and reboots again.

As for the "pressing on the bottom right corner of the machine" thing... are you resting your finger on the TrackPoint? I've never heard of that problem before, and I bet it's coincidental that you're going for the bottom right corner. Don't rest your finger on it, and if you do, give it 3 seconds to re-center.

The docking stations... ok, I'll give you weird crashes caused by some of them.

And, yes, the actual plastic on ThinkPads of late is incredibly cheap, but the chassis is magnesium, just like the plastic MacBooks, and the only plastic on a non-R-series is the LCD bezel, the keyboard bezel, and the palmrest.

Re:Thinkpad T-series (5, Informative)

swanriversean (928620) | about 5 years ago | (#29629685)

I use a Thinkpad X61 and it is fantastic (Ubuntu + virtualized XP).
(Previously I had a T43p which was also good.)
For your price requirements and the fact that you like the second battery, I would definitely go with a T series.
It is not just the customer service that is good, the quality is top notch. I've dropped both laptops on tile floors (the T43p twice) with the worst result being a bit of chipped plastic through which you could see the METAL body on the T43p.
Docking station is superb as well (I used it for both, but it is especially great with the X61).

I have also recommended the SL series to some family, but don't have personal experience with it.

Compaq Presario 1655 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629343)

I use a Compaq Presario 1655. It's about 15 years old, but works very well. The battery even holds a 2-3 hour charge in its old age.

Processor: 267MHz (Pentium 2 I think)
RAM: 64 MiB; someday, I may take full advantage of the mainboard and upgrade it to 96MiB, but so far, 64MiB has been enough.
Harddrive: 250GB (upgraded; hard drive was the only thing to fail)
Optical: 4x CDROM
Cost: $0; Got it as trash.

It plays all the important games well (starcraft in wine, and nethack). The neomagic graphics card doesn't have any 3d acceleration at all, so 3d games won't work, but hey, you said you were a developer :)

MacBook Pro (0, Offtopic)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | about 5 years ago | (#29629349)

Running a multiboot system like bootcamp. Yes it is more than $1200. Boo hoo.

Re:MacBook Pro (1)

Anonymous Showered (1443719) | about 5 years ago | (#29629391)

While I have a MBP 13.3 for dev work, it currently lacks:

  1. Docking port + station
  2. User-swappable battery. However, the 7 hours of battery life it brings is pretty decent, even while working with WiFi. You can, of course, just grab an external battery power pack from a vendor off the web.

Still, it's a good buy. I'd forget bootcamp and just virtualize the other OS with vmWare Fusion.

Re:MacBook Pro (1)

flydpnkrtn (114575) | about 5 years ago | (#29629557)

A docking port! I've run into the same issue... it really, really gets annoying plugging in DVI, keyboard, mouse, network when I want to take my Macbook to work!

Jeez Apple 1999 called they want their already solved problem back

(see here for thread started in 2006... [] )

BookEndz for the docking station nerds (1)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | about 5 years ago | (#29629973)

That's clearly too much work for these docking station whiners, try the direct approach: BookEndz []

Hey upstream docking station whiners! Have you heard of this new fangled thingy called Google [] ? You might like it.

Re:MacBook Pro (1)

adriccom (44869) | about 5 years ago | (#29629743)

The docking station for Mac laptops is third party: []

I have lusted for one for years...

How about repair? (5, Insightful)

Progman2000 (626305) | about 5 years ago | (#29629387)

Sounds like the Gateway/MPC 450-series laptops to me. The problem is usually the video system of the motherboard. Are you open to simply replacing the motherboard? Look at [] or [] . Either will sell you the parts or do the whole job for you.

lol (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629405)

I'm sure most slashdorks know this, but "docking" is 2 gay guys sliding their dicks together and pulling the foreskin over.

To Mac or Not (5, Informative)

Kagato (116051) | about 5 years ago | (#29629407)

I go to a lot of developer forums. Be it stuff designed in Java, PHP, Ruby, etc, there is one common thread I've noted of all the developers that present. 8 of 10 presents will use a mac. I switched a few years ago and couldn't be happier. I have VM Ware. Many people use VMs to run various windows versions, I like to use it to run Linux VMs that I eventually move off to other machines. Works fantastic. No need to reboot.

Now, if the OP is a .net person, well, Mac may not be for them. But there's something nice about being able to pop a BSD style terminal window.

Re:To Mac or Not (1, Offtopic)

Paeva (1176857) | about 5 years ago | (#29629631)

I work for a company that does .NET development (with a product that doesn't even work outside IE), and yet about 1/4 of the developers use a MacBook (including myself).

They're pricey, but I figure that the cost is really very low considering I use it all day every day. Even if you're just going to run Windows in a VM or Boot Camp most of the time, MacBooks are very high quality machines.

If you don't *have* to run Windows, MacBook wins hands down if you can afford it.

Re:To Mac or Not (1, Insightful)

brxndxn (461473) | about 5 years ago | (#29629661)

The reason I could never take MAC seriously for any sort of business is lack of docking ports..

My old machine (loved it).. IBM T41p.. still one of the best laptops ever made - though out-dated

My current developer machine.. Dell Precision M4400.. 2.53ghz quad-core.. not huge, durable, RGB LED 1920x1200 screen, docking port, display port (can present using display port to dvi adapter), XP 64bit.. great for virtualization

It drives me nuts to see how often MAC gets recommended as a laptop.. Sure.. it's the nicest one you see at Best Buy.. But no corporation should ever consider using laptops that don't have docking ports.

docking ports are a solution to a non-issue (1)

Gary W. Longsine (124661) | about 5 years ago | (#29630007)

You're cracked.

Re:To Mac or Not (1)

Medgur (172679) | about 5 years ago | (#29629747)

Ugh. Macs.

Disclaimer: I've been a Linux user since 1994.

For my recent position I decided to try full-time development on a Macbook Pro. Things have been... Less than pleasant.

I'm not used to a single application taking down the entire system, or frequent and unpredictable focus-switching. Those irritants came quickly, in the first few weeks. Common dev apps like the Cisco VPN, P4V, et al, behave very poorly in a Mac environment. Not an indictment of apple, for certain, but still a real irritant you end up having to cope with.

The hardware has been shaky as hell, too. My partition table got nuked after a standard update recently. The display frequently refuses to change brightness. Hell, I can't even use the damn thing as a laptop because when running a VM and a few idle applications the CPU cranks up and the heat hits 70C.

Not to mention the highly variant battery life. Sometimes it lasts unbelievably long, other times it fails to properly enter standby and it drains away without warning.

Now, trying to plug in peripherals has been a pain. The Microsoft Ergo keyboard I have ends up with a bizarre Command key mapping, and there's no clear way to define a per-device mapping. Now that I've remapped it the OS absolutely /refuses/ to revert the mapping. So now Alt and Command seem permanently swapped on the Macbook's integrated keyboard.

Sounds like I got a nightmare Macbook, eh?

Well, I had a Ti Powerbook a ways back too, ended up giving it away due to similar ongoing nuisances.

At least MacPorts brings some sanity to the package management...

Macs are beautiful. Hardened beauty like a finely cut diamond, and just as brittle too.

Re:To Mac or Not (2, Informative)

SigILL (6475) | about 5 years ago | (#29629833)

there's no clear way to define a per-device mapping

System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Modifier Keys, select keyboard to apply to. I've had per-keyboard mappings (one for my macbook's builtin keyboard and one for my Model M) since 10.4.x (Tiger).

Hope that helps.

Dell Latitude E6400 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629421)

This rocks for development: very good battery life, extra battery options (9 cell + slice), 14" is a good size if you travel, solid but not heavy. Get a Dell outlet system to meet your budget.

I have no problems with an XP + Fedora dual boot setup (I also have Vista for release compatibility testing). I put in a WD 320G hard drive since they only offered 250G.

If you can do these within your budget I suggest:
. Get A P series CPU for lower heat and better battery life
. Get the 1400x900 LED display

Only concern for you is that there may still be some issues with dual screen and docking as far as CPU throttling and heat. Check threads on

For serious GPU-based work (OpenGL, ...) and games you might not be happy but the more suited options will have worse battery life.

In general... (2, Interesting)

postmortem (906676) | about 5 years ago | (#29629439)

From my personal experience, if you want to have efficiency:

1. You will need as much screen estate as possible. Coding against spec? Against existing code? Against requirements? Writing tests against code? In all these cases you would want to have at least 2 windows open in parallel
Thus resolutions such as 1680x1050 or 1920x1080 are desirable. Don't go for 1280x800 unless portability is #1 goal.

2. Compiling ... Compiling ...
Investing in faster CPU will pay off in both short and long term. You won't be able to change CPU - almost not feasible.

3. Hard drive
Today's development requires a lot of tools open at same time, and often projects are huge with lots of small files.
Therefore, I recommend going for 7200rpm drive which will help you feel like you are using desktop (speed-wise)

4. Other stuff
Most laptops today come with lots of RAM, and decent graphics.

Easy: ThinkPad. (4, Informative)

outZider (165286) | about 5 years ago | (#29629485)

ThinkPad has the hotswap bays, excellent Linux support, excellent hardware support and turnaround from the factory, and there's always a 20% off coupon floating around. You can get a T series laptop with discrete graphics and well equipped for that $1,200 you're willing to spend, and probably far less. Not only that, but you generally get higher resolution displays than you get with Dell or Gateway laptops.

As for your Windows 98 installs -- why not use VirtualBox?

Re:Easy: ThinkPad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629565)

Thinkpads are quite nice and fairly cheap if you get a t42 or some other older models.

Value Line and save. (2, Informative)

NoYob (1630681) | about 5 years ago | (#29629969)

Lenovo has a "Value Line" [] that has the features that you need. The link has a comparison chart with the "Thinkpad" line.

If you can, why not save a few bucks and get the "Value Line" or be able to spend the extra money on more RAM, peripherals, etc.... or beer? I see a few features with the Thinkpad line that may be unnecessary for a developer.

Thinkpad is worth considering (1)

Matthew Weigel (888) | about 5 years ago | (#29629495)

I'm typing this response from a Thinkpad R500 :-)

Thinkpad docks are solid and have been around a long time, as have hotswap bays; some stuff like memory card readers are already present. Ubuntu works very well with both suspend and hibernate, many models support dual monitors via the dock (I think mine supports dual external monitors via the VGA and DisplayPort connectors, but haven't tested more than one external monitor; according to documentation two external monitors via the dock aren't supported), and the built-in LCD's resolution is extremely reasonable at 1680x1050.

And, of course, the keyboard is one of the best in the business (although I've heard vi users complain about the placement of the Esc key, getting proper spacing between F1 and Esc on a laptop isn't easy).

Re:Thinkpad is worth considering (1)

tetsukaze (1635797) | about 5 years ago | (#29629569)

I work almost exclusively with Lenovo Thinkpads and I have to say they are the most solid laptops I have ever touched. For the most part, a laptop is a laptop to me, but reliability is a huge concern for a computer that is constantly being moved around. I feel like I could beat a man to death with one these laptops and google map my escape plan with out any hitches.

I am not so enthusiastic (1)

jopet (538074) | about 5 years ago | (#29629605)

I am also typing this from a T500 -- I am running Ubuntu 9.04 on it and I keep having problems with the graphics. The laptop comes with an ATI Mobility Radeon and the default driver doesnt deliver proper 3D performance and the proprieatry driver causes problems and X crashes.
The keyboard is ok, but not the good quality any more that oler Thinkpads had to offer.
Also, Lenovo does not offer to sell the laptop without a forced Windows license.
Another problem at least in my country is that Lenovo does not offer alternative keyboard layout options or any other configuration option -- one has to go with one of the available models.
Finally, Lenovo support sucks bigtime.

Re:I am not so enthusiastic (1)

Matthew Weigel (888) | about 5 years ago | (#29629967)

I'll admit I have yet to hear anything positive about AMD/ATI's proprietary Linux driver, and it's been a while since anyone seemed to say nice things about the open source driver either. Mine has integrated Intel graphics, and it works great; I can't play 3D games, but a) I program on this laptop, not game, and b) it runs Linux; how high should your hopes really be?

I previously had a T21, and yes, the keyboard was a little better - I guess your mileage may vary how much worse you think it is.

Also, I'm not sure if you noticed, but the original poster seemed pretty clear about the intent to run Windows: this may bother you, but that doesn't mean it's a problem for someone else. For myself, I never intended to run Windows (much less Vista) on this laptop, but it seemed like an acceptable tradeoff for the rest of the laptop.

I hadn't thought about alternative keyboard layouts; that sucks. It's definitely something to take into account. Similarly I can't say anything about Lenovo support; definitely something else to take into account.

Predictible answer - Mac. (1)

raarts (5057) | about 5 years ago | (#29629509)

Buy a MacBook. Install 4Gb, buy Parallels Desktop for $50 or so and you can run every Windows and Linux in a Virtual Machine, and switch between them with Ctrl-Arrow. I recently did this and am very happy with it.

Re:Predictible answer - Mac. (1)

chrysrobyn (106763) | about 5 years ago | (#29629735)

While the Mac may be a predictable answer, it doesn't answer the challenge of a port replicator or a hot swappable drive bay.

While I have to disclose that I'm typing this on a 24" iMac Merom, and that i own 100 shares of Apple, the MacBook Pro comes closes to the challenge, given the hefty built-in battery and optical drive (and no need to choose between them), but only barely meets the price. You won't find a MacBook Pro docking station either. The processor will be a noticable upgrade, and a few vitrual machines will please you with convenience for the other OSes (but you'll want to cough up 50-100 for more RAM before too long if you go this route I think).

Given the poster's happiness with the previous machine, I'd suggest repair or finding a used machine of the same model. All the legacy hardware will still work. If you're really interested in a little better performance, make sure you have maxed out the RAM (can make a very big difference) and take a good hard look at SSDs that may fit your budget. A good SSD will completely change how you use your machine, and you'll quickly find that lower latency mass storage will greatly impact a variety of tasks you thought had already hit their peak (I recommend this article [] .

Re:Predictible answer - Mac. (1)

ToasterOven (698529) | about 5 years ago | (#29629769)

Macs are great machines, yes. But they're not for everyone. The OP specifically mentioned a hot swappable drive bay, the ability to use an extra battery, and docking ports as features he desires, and MacBooks have none of those. Sure, the new 17" MBP doesn't *need* an extra battery, since the built in can go a good 8 hours on one charge, but still, the ability to swap drives and easily dock your laptop are nice features. Personally, I've used OS X on a couple of Dell laptops, and found that it almost is better than using a true MacBook, simply for the extra things you can have that work great with OS X but aren't standard features on a MacBook -- things like built in card readers, fingerprint scanners, smart card readers, docking stations, etc.

Re:Predictible answer - Mac. (1)

raarts (5057) | about 5 years ago | (#29629915)

Mmm, you may be right, allthough I don't get all the fuzz about the Mac not having docking ports. I hook up my desktop hardware using USB and the DVI port. This way I get two screens, and the mac keyboard (which has a mouse connected). I can attach floppy, extra hard drives using USB as well.

Does a docking station really offer so much more?

Why "less than $1200"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629541)

You are a developer. Your laptop is your main work tool. You may be spending upwards of 8 hours per day working on the thing.

WHY OH WHY must it cost less than $1200? You are saving in the wrong place. A better laptop will pay off much more than some initial cost different over time. Price is irrelevant in your case.

My suggestion: Buy the best laptop than money can buy. MacBook Pro 13". Upgrade the HDD to 500 GB 7200 RPM. Swap the optical drive with an Intel SSD 80 GB.

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629547)

I really like Lenovos. It's what we buy for all our law professors.

I'm sure you can get a nice one for your price range, and they will basically always support all the features you need. That is just part of what they do. They really really understand legacy apps and hardware, and they strive to support it.

I'm sure any laptop you're looking for can do what you need, but one with the listed features? Only Lenovo still has all of that stuff methinks.

I always avoid HP/Sony/Apple b/c they are too proprietary for me. But that is just a personal bias.

Why Laptop? (1)

Gonoff (88518) | about 5 years ago | (#29629579)

Laptops, notebooks, netbooks etc all have their uses. (I am using one now while I watch TV). They seem to suffer from a couple of problems though...

  1. They are generally underpowered or expensive.
  2. They have cramped keyboards
  3. small screens
  4. You use them in un-ergonomic positions

Most of these problems are irrespective of the OS or make. These things are designed for specific uses, portability etc. If you want something to do your regular work on, get something with a full sized keyboard, mouse & screen. Laptops are good for meetings, travel and lounging in front of the idiot box.

Get a netbook or something for when you are away from your system and open a terminal session off it if necessary.

Re:Why Laptop? (1)

istartedi (132515) | about 5 years ago | (#29629801)

All of these problems are easily solved []

My laptop has enough power. If I wanted more, I could get a "desktop replacement" laptop; but I'm fine with what I've got.

When I'm not going mobile, I plug in a keyboard. I can even drive the classic AT keyboard you see in this picture, via adapters which aren't expensive at all.

I've also plugged in an auxilliary monitor.

My chair (not pictured) is not fancy, but it's comfortable enough for me.

As you can see, I've even got multimedia speakers plugged in. I watch vids all the time like this. The only thing I can't do is expand my hardware; but I'm not trying to build some neon game machine here. Once I got this laptop setup, I never looked back.

IIRC, there was an overpriced solution back in the day called a "docking station"; but modern laptops have all the power, and all the connectors you need to duplicate the desktop experience. I have a comfortable workstation that I can take on the road with me. I can't imagine why anybody would want a traditional tower case that's not mobile.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the case is open because I like the trackpad. I could use a mouse separately and move the machine off the desktop if I really wanted to do that.

Re:Why Laptop? (1) (646297) | about 5 years ago | (#29629941)

Unrelated, but I'd just like to say that "For all intensive purposes" should probably be "For all intents and purposes" in your sig.

Panasonic Toughbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629589)

Seriously. You have bays for everything, long battery live, dust and spill proof enclosure which will withstand a lot of abuse (military spec), touchscreen and a lot of ports including serial. You can used one on ebay for less than 1500 USD or new for a little bit more than 3000.

T400 (1)

dmitrygr (736758) | about 5 years ago | (#29629591)

Lenovo T400 has swappable bay (CD, HDD, extra battery). It has great LED-backlit LCD option. It has the enw intel mobile chipset so battery life is amazing (I get over 12 hours with the cd-tray battery and the 9-cell main battery)

Hmm Developer Laptop... (2, Interesting)

tonywestonuk (261622) | about 5 years ago | (#29629597)

So, I guess, you would want the laptop to come with Java preinstalled [] (if you a Java Dev), or PHP / Apache [] installed, if you are that way inclinded. For source control, best make sure it comes with a mainstream SCM software, something like Subversion [] and hopefully the same company will create an IDE that supports it out of the box [] , while at the same time recognizing that alternative IDE's are out there [] and provide support and assistance to those who want to use it. Of course, been a developer laptop, having a good Backup Strategy [] is important, you wouldn't want to loose all that hard work if your hard disk died now would you!. Finally, of course, that manufacturer would provide tools to allow [] alternative operating systems to run on their hardware so you can test your final product on different systems, or even provide links to third [] party [] software should you wish to run any OS in a virtualised environment.....

Shame such a company doesn't exist *sigh*...

Re:Hmm Developer Laptop... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629849)

a cocksucker got promoted to an asslicker

TROLL???? Moderator, are you on Crack? (1)

tonywestonuk (261622) | about 5 years ago | (#29629853)

Please remind me exactly why my post is troll...

I have a guess (2, Insightful)

NoYob (1630681) | about 5 years ago | (#29629933)

From the question:

Windows 98 (I have really old embedded software compilers that only run on 98, and yes I have tried every trick in the book to make them run on Linux)...

If can't get it to run on Linux, what will make it run on Mac OS?

Your post does have a bit of Mac Fanboy feel to it - just saying.

Re:TROLL???? Moderator, are you on Crack? (5, Insightful)

MrHanky (141717) | about 5 years ago | (#29629999)

It's about the 50th comment recommending a Macbook, despite the other 50 comments noting that a Macbook doesn't qualify for any of the OP's needs. It's a shame that buying a Mac comes with an EULA demading you work as a freelance PR agent for Apple. Also, it's a shame that you morons will recommend buying a Mac even when it blatantly isn't fit for the job.

If big is OK (1)

joggle (594025) | about 5 years ago | (#29629613)

I've loved my HP HDX series laptop. Now, it's probably the largest laptop you will ever buy, but for development it is awesome. It has an 18.4" display, built-in blue ray ROM, and two internal hard drives and an e-sata port for a hot-swappable external. I can easily run two virtual machines at the same time on it (using Vista as the host operating system) and there's enough screen space to arrange your development environment however you want.

If that is too large for you they also have a 16" version of the laptop.

As for its portability, I have hauled it all over Europe via backpack (using one of the giant Rick Steves traveling backpacks). It worked for me, but I'm young and didn't have to walk miles with it or anything. It was just small enough to be used on all the flights I've taken on so far. If it was any larger you'd have to be in business class to use it without interfering with others.

The base 18" version comes in at around $1200.

Re:If big is OK (1)

pz (113803) | about 5 years ago | (#29629823)

I've loved my HP HDX series laptop. Now, it's probably the largest laptop you will ever buy, but for development it is awesome. It has an 18.4" display, built-in blue ray ROM, and two internal hard drives and an e-sata port for a hot-swappable external. I can easily run two virtual machines at the same time on it (using Vista as the host operating system) and there's enough screen space to arrange your development environment however you want.

If that is too large for you they also have a 16" version of the laptop.

As for its portability, I have hauled it all over Europe via backpack (using one of the giant Rick Steves traveling backpacks). It worked for me, but I'm young and didn't have to walk miles with it or anything. It was just small enough to be used on all the flights I've taken on so far. If it was any larger you'd have to be in business class to use it without interfering with others.

The base 18" version comes in at around $1200.

Each to his own. My laptop, that I use for development, has one major criterion: it must be light, because I carry it around with me everywhere. Less important criteria: it must have a full-sized keyboard (so no netbooks). The sweet spot with those two criteria are things like the HP Elite series, such as the 2510p that I have right now. Not the fastest notebook around, and lacks many of the hot swapping features that the OP requested, but when I need stuff that the OP listed, I am invariably sitting at a desk, and a desktop computer does a much better job. More reliable too. For anything that requires serious computation, I ssh into my desktop and do it there. My laptop, as a result, weighs less than 3 lbs, and I can carry it with me everywhere.

Laptops are for portability. Desktops are for everything else. Why confound the two?

$800 Give away (1)

iCantSpell (1162581) | about 5 years ago | (#29629623)

This is the MSI GX630 specs. It's cheap, has metal casing, great battery, and is quality built.

Color Black w/ Red trim | Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium | CPU Type AMD Athlon X2 QL-62(2.0GHz) | Screen 15.4" WXGA | Memory Size 4GB DDR2 | Hard Disk 250GB | Optical Drive DVD Super Multi | Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT | Video Memory 512MB DDR3 VRAM | Communication Modem, Gigabit LAN and WLAN | Card slot 1 x Express Card | Dimensions 14.73" x 9.69" x 1.05-1.40" | Weight 5.6 lbs. | CPU | CPU Type AMD Athlon X2 | CPU Speed QL-62(2.00GHz) | CPU L2 Cache 1MB | Chipset | Chipset NVIDIA MCP77 | Display | Screen Size 15.4" | Wide Screen Support Yes | Display Type Wide XGA | Resolution 1280 x 800 | Operating Systems | Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium | Graphics | GPU/VPU NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT | Video Memory 512MB DDR3 VRAM | Graphic Type Dedicated Card | Hard Drive | HDD 250GB | HDD Interface SATA | Memory | Memory 4GB | Memory Spec 2GB x 2 | Optical Drive | Optical Drive Type DVD Super Multi | Optical Drive Interface Integrated | Communications | Modem 56K | LAN 10/100/1000Mbps | WLAN 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN | Bluetooth Yes | Ports | Card Slot 1 x Express Card | USB 3 x USB 2.0 (3rd port shared with eSATA) | IEEE 1394 1 | Video Port 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI | Audio Ports Yes | Audio | Audio HD Audio quality, Dolby Digital Live | Speaker 2 Speakers (2W) | Input Device | Touchpad Yes | Keyboard Standard | Supplemental Drive | Card Reader 4-in-1 Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS/MS Pro) | Webcam 2.0MP | Power | AC Adapter 120-watt AC adapter | Battery 6-cell lithium ion | Physical spec | Dimensions 14.73" x 9.69" x 1.05-1.40" | Weight 5.6 lbs. | Manufacturer Warranty | Parts 3 years limited | Labor 3 years limited

Potential Solution. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629651)

If you're a developer that doesn't need to move your computer everywhere , then probably getting a desktop would be a smarter choice. For the same amount as the cost of a laptop, you could get much better hardware for a desktop. Unlike a laptop, if it breaks, you can probably replace it with minimal hassle.

Asus G1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629657)

I've been using an Asus G1 for a year and a half and it's handled everything I've thrown at it. The CD drive died a few months after getting it though, but I have a history of making cup holders somehow. The entire G series is made for gaming, and it pulls it off pretty well considering the price point and battery life. Some of them have very recent GPUs that can run CUDA or whatever it's called, the base G1 that I own doesn't however. My machine comes with a 2GHz core 2 duo and 2GB of RAM, and can happily push 24MB/sec through it's USB connections (important note for us pirates :) ). Perl 5.6.x compiles in about 12 minutes if I'm watching flash stuff. There are 4 USB ports, neatly clustered in the back. It's a work horse :)

All of it's hardware works with minimal tweaking and no show-stoppers with Ubuntu, and I hear the rest of the G series is the same. The webcam is shoddy under windows but flawless with the right driver in Linux. Win7 likes it pretty well too, very snappy. There isn't a docking station for it, but I have the similar use-case of coming home and resuming my work at my desk, where I have a second monitor and a real network (and so on). It takes all of 15 seconds to plug everything in, none of the ports are hard to access or hidden or cramped.

One very nice thing about it is that all of the media keys and LEDs are user-accessible under Linux, so it's no trouble to have Pidgin light up the new mail LED when you get a message, or other useful things like mapping a key to a self destruct script.

As far as gaming goes, it plays everything I want it to play, which includes Crysis.

Lenovo FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629687)

I highly recommend Lenovo. They make a high quality laptop with the kind of keyboard that you can sit at and type out code for hours. I have their ThinkPad W500 and it is exceptional. Currently I dual boot. One is windows 7 and the other is Ubuntu. My Ubuntu install runs VirtualBox with VM's where I test out code for Windows servers and other environments. All in all while you don't need it to program I would recommend getting a machine with a 15 inch display dual core with atleast 2.4 ghz processor and 4 gigs of ram so that you can handle virtual machines easily. It will definitly help you out in the long run.

Virtualizing is "almost" the answer (3, Informative)

erroneus (253617) | about 5 years ago | (#29629697)

But as most/many people know, a virtualized Windows9x installation often doesn't work particularly well. In VirtualBox, it all but doesn't work at all because of the way "idle" time is handled. (I don't recall having much trouble using VMWare workstation long ago however)

Virtualizing instead of multi-booting is a far better idea for me. I use Windows XP on rare occasion and I definitely don't like taking my Linux down to run another OS.

Re:Virtualizing is "almost" the answer (1)

maccodemonkey (1438585) | about 5 years ago | (#29629775)

I use VMWare Fusion on OS X and Windows 98 virtualizes perfectly.

Re:Virtualizing is "almost" the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629891)

I've been quite successful using DOSEMU on Linux to get old Win98 compilers to work. Give it a try. Works great!

Licensing (1)

funkybunny (980769) | about 5 years ago | (#29629821)

You might have a problem with licensing, as if either of your original Windows licenses were OEM, you can't transfer them to new hardware. Not that I'm a stickler myself exactly, but Windows 95 (which you'll have to virtualise as you probably won't get hardware support for it any more). Or you can use a free virtulisation solution. My brother swears by the Sun one, but I'm not too sure about the Windows 95 support on it. My work supplies me a Dell Latitude 630 and I think it's barely adequate. The 830 is better, but they're still heavy and the battery life isn't great. I like Mac's, but you'd still run into a license issue unless you own a full copy of Windows XP, and I'm yet to see a docking station on a Mac. As far as I know you can't get full versions of XP any more, and if you did the $$$ mean more you spend on software the less you have to spend on hardware. I'd go with the ThinkPad myself. I have an old one I use at home, 1440*900 resolution, docking station etc. Runs dual monitors under Windows and unix really well and solid as.

For professionals? (2, Interesting)

juventasone (517959) | about 5 years ago | (#29629827)

There are surprisingly few professional notebook lines with a proper dock available.
  • Dell Latitude
  • HP Compaq/Elitebook
  • Lenovo T-Series

Any of these I recommend over home/gaming/entertainment equipment.

Non-glossy screen (0)

Britz (170620) | about 5 years ago | (#29629839)

Don't forget to get one without a glossy screen. It will limit your choices, but you can't work with a glossy screen. Trust me. These days the only models where they offer the option to get non-glossy will be business models. They are slightly more expensive, but also usually more durable.

Second, you should stop the dual-booting and start virtualization. VirtualBox or VMWare or whatever. I don't use VMWare, because they didn't have a deb package last time I tried and the rpm installation was pretty ugly.

For virtualization the best idea is to get virtualization support in the processor. AMD-VT or Intel-V. The cheaper Intel models dont have it. Which I think is very disapointing. I don't know why Intel does this and I don't like it at all. Because virtualization gets more and more important. Maybe they think they can sell new processors later, when people will need that feature. Because these days most people don't need new computers any more. Whatever it is: I usually would opt for AMD, but that REALLY litmits your choices, because business machines with AMD are hard to find. The only model for a good price I could find was the HP Compaq 615. It comes with glossy and non-glossy screens.

I also like the Latitude 2100 netbook:
No drive bay at all, no CD. If you need stuff, get them USB. Much cheaper than proprietary drive bay drives and features.

Obviously you will need to use VirtualBox (or whatever you prefer) to use other operating systems. And the Atom processor is not very fast. So maybe you won't take that one after all.

But netbooks are very nice, because they run very long and are very portable. The Latitude 2100 is the only netbook that comes with non-glossy screen.

What's the best developer's laptop? (1)

falconwolf (725481) | about 5 years ago | (#29629859)

I ask Slashdot: What is your pick for best developer's laptop under $1,200, considering the features above?"

The problem I have with this is the price. I too wanted a new laptop for development, and photography. After making a list of requirements, from a fast CPU to a fast and large hard disk drive, I looked at a bunch of laptops. The cheapest laptop I found that met the requirements was more than twice as expensive. Prices have come down since then and if you have an open mind on the hardware and software then I suggest you look at Apple's 13" Macbook Pro [] , it's base price is $1200 but of course if you want to run Windows on it then there's the price on an MS Windows license. You also have to consider the docking station, Apple doesn't make any though third parties do such as BookEndz [] , which adds almost $300 to the cost. A simple MacBook will be cheaper but if you want to run just MS Windows or Linux then don't bother with a Mac.


What the fuck does "developer" mean? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29629919)

It's quite as meaningless as "best end-user laptop?". Different people, different needs.

Get an Ubuntu netbook Remix to go with it. (1)

operator_error (1363139) | about 5 years ago | (#29629957)

My setup is a little different then what the OP is looking for, but it works well for me, in case anyone else is interested.

For 300 euros, I bought an Asus Eee 1000HE several months ago. The honest 6+ hrs battery life plus its weight makes it truly ultraportable, since I don't need to carry any cord or brick in my backpack. The Ubuntu Netbook interface works well on the small screen, and the CPU is efficient running Linux, & Firefox, etc. Skype audio/video doesn't work well I find (the Ubuntu Skype version is old), but Ekiga SIP does. In reality, the hours in-use is greater than just 6, because inevitably I'll get distracted, eat lunch, etc., so the sleep mode kicks in. I relax knowing the little thing has a fully encrypted hard disk, from these instructions: [] ..and also knowing that it is secure from malware, without the need to operate and pay for anti-virus software.

I cannot imagine running the XP OS (tax) that came with the unit, XP the interface seems like it would be too clumsy on the small screen, and with anti-virus etc. would slow things too much.

I have another 300 euro Compaq 15" notebook with a similarly installed Ubuntu OS so for me, the question when I leave the door for the day is: Do I need the larger screen, or true portability? If I'm just reading docs at the cafe, I love the Asus Eee PC. Each has a Logitech wireless mouse VX450 and a tiny USB nub that remains in-place 24/7. Its critical, (the batteries seem to last 1 year)

One key to everything working out so well, is my Dropbox acct which auto syncs files across home folders. In this way, I use the best suited of my two portable PCs for the day (big screen + brick, or more portable.) (Spider-oak has a better privacy policy than Dropbox though, and I'm meaning to switch). I figure both my Asus and Compaq cost less than half the price of Apple's cheapest notebook. But then in my work, I am happy using Gnome & firefox, etc.

For managing the Win 98 of the OP, I agree Virtual Box is quite capable, free, and runs well on Ubuntu. But not really on the cheap notebooks I described.

xenon! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 years ago | (#29630023)

I've found that laptops like the Asus G51 series (more or less designed for gaming) tend to be amazing for development as well. This is mostly due to the high quality of the individual parts, as well as a nice package, decent support, and redundancy built in, as there are 2 hard-drives built in, so you can run them in RAID 1.

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