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Ask Slashdot: GNU/Linux Laptops?

Unknown Lamer posted about 3 years ago | from the the-internet-tells-me-this-is-easier-today dept.

GNU is Not Unix 708

conner_bw writes "I'm an OS X user looking to switch to a Linux laptop. I like the Unix/BSD aspect of OS X. Simple things like when I close the lid the laptop goes to sleep, the sound card works out of the box, long battery life, minimum cooling fan noise, and a comprehensive but relatively straightforward backup system and 'AppleCare' package are important to me. What all-inclusive model of laptop and distro would you recommend?" He didn't mention it, but I am presuming that working Wifi should be on that list too.

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Not a troll but.... (4, Insightful)

SultanCemil (722533) | about 3 years ago | (#37825570)

Honestly, wouldn't a MacBook of some description be the best choice? You "like the Unix/BSD aspect...", hardware working, good battery life, AppleCare-type support, etc. Why switch? Are you looking for cheaper hardware? Philosophical leaning towards Linux?

Re:Not a troll but.... (2)

PowerMacG4 (575064) | about 3 years ago | (#37825612)

Exactly my sentiments.

Re:Not a troll but.... (5, Insightful)

SultanCemil (722533) | about 3 years ago | (#37825636)

Your username implies a bias :-)

Re:Not a troll but.... (-1, Flamebait)

Cryacin (657549) | about 3 years ago | (#37825854)

I would buy a mac, but I don't wish to support the legacy of a solopsistic narcissist.

Re:Not a troll but.... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825926)

So... nothing RMS codes either, right?

Re:Not a troll but.... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825704)

Because you like the feeling of completely owning and controlling your laptop?

Try a laptop from System 76. Everything works right out of the box.

Re:Not a troll but.... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825730)

I've got a System76 laptop. They're good, and they have good support. They're pricey though (but nowhere near as bad as Apple).

Re:Not a troll but.... (-1, Troll)

in4mer (181985) | about 3 years ago | (#37825614)

Because you want more than one mouse button, for instance?

Re:Not a troll but.... (4, Interesting)

GreatDrok (684119) | about 3 years ago | (#37825660)

A modern MacBook has no mouse buttons since it is multitouch. They are simply the best mouse pad on any laptop currently available.

My feeling having gone the other way some time back is that a MacBook is the cheapest way of getting a decent UNIX laptop with all the hardware working, plus the hardware is well built and the OS works nicely. You can even run Linux on a MacBook if you really want to go that route. The build quality of most PC laptops is so poor that you end up paying just as much for a good Windows laptop to run Linux as you would buying a MacBook.

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

PCM2 (4486) | about 3 years ago | (#37825800)

Speaking as someone who is not a particular Mac/Apple fan these days, but who does own a cheapie HP laptop, I second this sentiment. My laptop quite definitely does not have the best touchpad on any laptop currently available; in fact, it's a total piece of crap. (A lot of that is down to garbage drivers, though -- it's possible it would work better with Linux.) The unit is light enough and the battery life is good, but the overall build quality is crappy and slipshod. (Example: There are two USB ports on the right side but they're so close together that you can't actually use both at the same time because the dongles/cables won't fit.) The only possible advantage that I can see of going with mainstream PC hardware is that, particularly as Intel integrates more and more stuff into its CPU/chipset packages, laptops are becoming more and more generic; the chance that you'll have some oddball SATA controller or something is pretty slim. But the same is true of Mac hardware, since the models/specs are so tightly controlled.

Re:Not a troll but.... (4, Informative)

jmelchio (681199) | about 3 years ago | (#37826036)

Until recently I had an old PowerBook G4 and a Macbook Pro. When the Powerbook died I had to make a choice of forking out significant money to replace it with another apple product or get something cheaper. The Macbook Pro allows me to do iOS development which I need for work, the second machine is really more for wife and kids so it's not that important what it runs but I still like the idea of having a Unix/Linux system.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ubuntu listed several laptops on their site that would work with their distro so I ended up getting a Dell Inspiron 15 which I re-partitioned. After that I installed Ubuntu 11.04 without a problem and everything works after installation.
Wife and kids use the Windows 7 partition and I use the Ubuntu partition when I use it which is actually quite often. The machine is obviously not as nice as a Macbook Pro but it costs only a third of what the smallest Macbook Pro costs and as far as I've been able to tell it works just as well for most purposes.

If you're after a good Unix/Linux experience for a reasonable price I think this is a good option.

Re:Not a troll but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825672)

Because you want more than one mouse button, for instance?

Then go buy one?

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 3 years ago | (#37825938)

Because you want more than one mouse button, for instance?

Then go buy one?

Exactly. You want a mouse, buy one. A macs allows you to plug in whatever mouse you want.

Re:Not a troll but.... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825682)

A trackpad on a Mac supports multiple actions depending on the number of fingers placed when clicking. I bought my first Mac (and first Apple product ever, for that matter) six months ago and the transition from a multiple-button laptop mouse to a multi-touch trackpad was pretty quick. Now I get thrown off when I don't have it.

Re:Not a troll but.... (3, Informative)

itsdapead (734413) | about 3 years ago | (#37826044)

Because you want more than one mouse button, for instance?

You've been able to plug a standard USB 3 button/wheel mouse into a Mac and use all the buttons since last century - which is good, because mice are the one thing that Apple don't seem to be able to get right (although they've had multiple virtual buttons using touch sensors for years) . Their trackpads, however, are the best in town and support multiple buttons/scrolling via multitouch gestures. You can even enable 3-finger dragging, which finaly makes click-drag usable on a trackpad and is almost (but not quite) enough to wean me off a mouse.

Re:Not a troll but.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825622)

he wants to fit in with the cool gang at Slashdot



Re:Not a troll but.... (4, Funny)

exomondo (1725132) | about 3 years ago | (#37825678)

he wants to fit in with the cool gang at Slashdot



yeah but he wants a linux laptop ;)

Re:Not a troll but.... (1, Troll)

gknoy (899301) | about 3 years ago | (#37825628)

Perhaps he does not want the comparatively walled (though curated?) garden of a mac. I agree, though, almost all of the "just works" aspects that he want sounds like it would fit a macbook.

Re:Walled Garden (0, Offtopic)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 3 years ago | (#37825676)

As I see it this is the biggest soft downside to the Mac style.

Either you enjoy the comfy confines of PG, or you take a risk of some Bad Stuff appearing in return for freedom to do what you want with your machine.

So if the question wants Gnu-Linux, I don't think we should change the topic back to Apple.

Debian Mint Xfce edition maybe?

Re:Not a troll but.... (1, Informative)

MalleusEBHC (597600) | about 3 years ago | (#37825774)

OS X is not a walled garden like iOS. You can install apps and tweak the system to pretty much any reasonable degree. While there's always the fear that Apple is going to iOS-ize OS X, right now the Mac App store is purely optional.

Re:Not a troll but.... (2, Informative)

itsdapead (734413) | about 3 years ago | (#37825838)

Perhaps he does not want the comparatively walled (though curated?) garden of a mac. I agree, though, almost all of the "just works" aspects that he want sounds like it would fit a macbook.

A Mac isn't an iPad - Apple would like you to you use the App Store, but you can still run what you like. The compilers and dev tools are free. If you install MacPorts you get access to a huge range of FOSS projects. Others (E.g. LibreOffice, Eclipse) have native ports that don't rely on X Windows.

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825866)

comparatively walled (though curated?) garden of a mac.

You're confusing OS X with iOS again.

Re:Not a troll but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825638)

I'll +1 that.

Re:Not a troll but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825646)

Honestly - is the original poster trolling?

Who gets AppleCare for Linux...

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

L1B3R4710N (2081304) | about 3 years ago | (#37825952)

Exactly what I said when I read this. Linux support in my experience is "doesn't work? Google it. Still doesn't work? Ask someone on a forum." If anyone comes to Linux expecting that they'll have dedicated support they're in for a surprise.

Re:Not a troll but.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825648)

Hoping to save about 50% of your hard-earned money?

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 3 years ago | (#37825662)

That's what I was thinking too, perhaps if we knew exactly why an OSX Macbook was unsuitable this would be easier, based on all of the listed requirements that seems like the ideal choice. Like is there any specific reason for GNU/Linux?

Re:Not a troll but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825684)

Install linus on your macbook?

Re:Not a troll but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825930)

No, install RMS instead!

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

thrillseeker (518224) | about 3 years ago | (#37825958)

I think that should be RMS/Linus ...

Re:Not a troll but.... (3, Interesting)

SerpentMage (13390) | about 3 years ago | (#37825744)

I completely agree here. I have been looking at laptops to buy and quite frankly it is scary. The cheap notebooks are Windows proprietary s**t. And if you start to move to anything better quality with better hardware you get close to Apple hardware. I thought I was seeing things, but Apple hardware is not that much more expensive. And if you want to get anything without windows on it, well good luck with that!

I am not saying that you can't find a laptop, but it is truly becoming like pulling teeth. The entire industry outside of Apple has decided to jump on the Windows bandwagon. It leads me to wonder what happened to the separation of OEM from Microsoft? Oh yeah went down the tubers when the legal restrictions expired.

I am not impressed!!!

Re:Not a troll but.... (4, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | about 3 years ago | (#37825972)

I am not saying that you can't find a laptop, but it is truly becoming like pulling teeth. The entire industry outside of Apple has decided to jump on the Windows bandwagon.

I'm not sure what mythical age you're referring to when PCs didn't come pre-bundled with Windows.

What does seem to have changed, though, is that laptops now seem almost completely homogeneous. You can pick from just a few screen sizes -- 14" and 15.6" seemingly being the two most popular. But guess what? Whichever size you pick, they all have the same resolution: 1366x768. For the majority of models, the graphics will be powered by Intel onboard graphics -- which, by the way, are now actually integrated into the CPU dies. You can pick from a few different hard drive sizes -- 320GB, 500GB, and now 640GB being typical. Those will be 5400rpm drives, BTW. And the drive sizes will be closely tied to the CPU speed for pricing reasons -- so you might find a Core i3 with a 500GB drive, but if you want a Core i5 for just $50 more or so, it will come with a smaller drive. If you want the whole shebang, you'll have to pay more, plus they'll throw in something extra you didn't want (like WiMax or something).

Basically it's just an all-out price war, where all the manufacturers are producing virtually identical models while trying everything in their power to undersell the other guys. That means most of them are cutting a lot of corners. One reasonable shopping strategy is to find a configuration you like, list all the specific models that have those exact specs, and decide which brand you trust not to build a complete piece of shit -- but you can't even rely on brands these days, it seems.

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37826052)

"Windows proprietary shit"? Explain how Apple is not proprietary.

And as for hardware, Apple uses the same hardware pcs do. The only difference is the motherboard.

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37826076)

Apple hardware is not as good as you think it is. You can typically pay less for more and get build quality exceeding the shit apple shovels.

Re:Not a troll but.... (1, Interesting)

billcopc (196330) | about 3 years ago | (#37826088)

*dons troll-proof helmet*

I'm a lifelong PC guy who bought a Macbook about six months ago. It still feels "wrong", in that my home rigs all run Windows or Linux, which I've been using since, well, ever, so switching to the Mac is often confusing as I instinctively use the wrong keyboard shortcuts and whatnot. That said, I have been extremely impressed with the hardware since day one. It's the software that annoys me, but the machine itself is superbly built, the display has great brightness/colour and viewing angle, battery life is just fantastic, the keyboard has a good feel as opposed to the flimsy scissor-switch keys on almost every other laptop.

The downside ? Three thousand fucking dollars. Mind you, that's the 17" with 8gb Ram and a Seagate hybrid drive so it's fully decked out, but even the entry-level MBP is what, 1200 or so ? It costs as much as two similar-spec PC laptops, assuming you have a strong tolerance for Asus or Dell cheapness. I have not yet tried to install Linux on it natively, I suspect it would require some tweaking to support the Fn-keys, GPU and lid sleep/wake, nothing too difficult I guess.

For myself, PC wasn't really an option as my day job consists of mobile app development. Sure, I could have used VMware to cheat around the OS requirement, but I tried that and it was quite cumbersome and slow, and the battery life was also a key factor as every other beefy laptop I had tried would conk out after 90 minutes to 2 hours, tops. It's hard to find a 17" unit that isn't designed (read: hastily cobbled together) for A/C-powered gaming. This guy can handle 5 hours of iOS development on a single charge. It's not that I'm far from a power outlet, but I do prefer being cordless when I'm out and about, whether it's at a client site or the pub.

Re:Not a troll but.... (2)

hawguy (1600213) | about 3 years ago | (#37825750)

All of the above worked out of the box on my Thinkpad T520 with Ubuntu 10.04, 11.04, and 11.10. (depending on how you define "long battery life" -- my battery lasts about 20% longer with Win7 than on Ubuntu.)

I don't know what all "Applecare" gives you, but you can buy a Desktop support contract from Canonical for around $100/year: []

You can do UbuntuOne cloud based backups (depending on how much data you want to back up), or something like Dejadup or Flyback for local backups.

Re:Not a troll but.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825858)

> Why switch?

It's for questions like this that I admire RMS. 30 years after and he still explains "why switch".

I guess the utilitarian value of Freedom will never be perceived by everyone, if they can grasp the concept, that is.

Re:Not a troll but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825974)

Installing GNU/Linux on current Macs is not straightforward, and battery life sucks on Macbooks when running GNU/Linux. It's better to get a PC, even though Macs are often higher quality hardware, in my experience. I use a Macbook with MacVim, Unison, and Tunnelblick installed, which takes care of my needs. Mac OS X already comes with a terminal and the usual complement of software, including bash, screen, tar, ssh, etc. I tried to install Debian, mostly got it right, but was too busy to fix the quirks with the mouse and wifi. It's better to leave Mac OS X installed and enjoy the battery life.

Re:Not a troll but.... (2)

drjones78 (961270) | about 3 years ago | (#37826020)

The other option is to run Linux ON a Mac laptop. Most Mac's work pretty well with Linux. Sometimes newer models have some issues, but they usually get ironed out pretty fast, because there's lots of demand for them too.

While OSX is technically UNIX, it is much easier to do many Unixy things on Linux or traditional BSD's.

ThinkPads (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825616)

ThinkPad + Ubuntu will probably work pretty well for you. ThinkPads have tended to have good linux support for a very long time. Check out

Of course, they still come with Windows (you used to be able to order them without, but I think they have done away with that now) but they still work pretty good with Ubuntu. (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825632)

System76 is the closest your going to get to a Apple experience with Linux.
Pre-installed so you don't have to muck around with drivers
Comprehensive testing and configuration of the hardware by professionals.
Support and documentation.
Company officially supports Linux.
Provides custom driver bundles to make upgrading effortless as possible.
etc etc.

You will get NONE of those things if you go with a Windows system from a large OEM and then try to install Linux on it yourself. You will be your only source for OS support and hardware configuration. You can have Ubuntu forums and mailing lists, but to be honest the chances of you getting useful answers is about 1 in 4.

Re: (5, Informative)

Rastor (8752) | about 3 years ago | (#37825846)

Yeah, it would be good to get it from a supplier who has actually heard of Linux. So System 76 [] , or maybe Emperor Linux [] or The Linux Laptop [] or Linux-Certified [] or ZaReason [] etc.

Re: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37826008)

Second that. If you have the budget, get a gazelle pro with an i7 and Intel wifi (definitely worth it, intel's drivers are better).

The ODM is Clevo. High quality shit. It even comes with a very basic case.

It'll come with ubuntu on it. If you hate ubuntu, you can switch to whatever. I prefer KDE so I swapped it for kubuntu immediately.

Re: (0)

V!NCENT (1105021) | about 3 years ago | (#37826030)


Sony Vaio E-series with Fedora 15; KDE spin; x86_64.

You'll have a cheaper, higher quality component laptop that's extremely sturdy, with better windows management and trackpad.

Throw Apple care out of the window. If I call Sony, they are at my fscking doorstep the next day. Oh and 2 year warrenty, no freaking stupid complaints that you'd expect from some other companies.

And dear God; it can be ordered in trendy blue, so it doesn't look like a brick.

KDE multitouch is bliss.Seriously. Even on that trackpad.

Just make sure you enable RPMFusion and the world is yours.

dell or asus - windows tax (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825644)

I think any newer Dell or Asus are solid buys. The distro really depends on how involved you want to be. I find Arch to be a pleasure when it comes to solving problems because of the minimal patch policy.

Too bad you really can't avoid the Window tax.

There are actual lists ya know (5, Informative)

jmorris42 (1458) | about 3 years ago | (#37825666)

Ubuntu has a list of Certified Hardware [] for ya. But I have yet to get a Thinkpad at least 90% running. I don't have the fingerprint reader on my X200s working with Fedora but everything else works, including the dock. The boss's Thinkpad T520 runs Ubuntu and has everything working except audio through the dock, but dual DVI displays on the dock do work.

Of course once you get a laptop working expect updates to constantly break things until you just get tired of rolling back failed updates and just stop, only taking critical security updates you can't live without.

It is worse with Linux because almost no OEMs are involved in keeping it working, most aren't even involved in initially getting it going so folks have to guess. But raise your hand if you haven't had to roll back a driver or update on that 'other' popular OS. Last week I had to roll back a mouse driver on a Dell laptop to get the pointer working.

Re:There are actual lists ya know (1)

Maglos (667167) | about 3 years ago | (#37825822)

I like Lenovo SL410/Ubuntu/SSD combo; cheap, rugged, simple and fast.

Re:There are actual lists ya know (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about 3 years ago | (#37825826)

Of course once you get a laptop working expect updates to constantly break things until you just get tired of rolling back failed updates and just stop, only taking critical security updates you can't live without.

Is this really your current experience? I have to say that 4 years ago, I'd have to agree with you regarding Linux for even common hardware, though even then I only had that experience when upgrading major versions of distros, not everyday package updates. Even 18 months ago, I still encountered some issues installing a few standard distros on popular laptops. But I haven't had any support issues since then.

I realize people have been saying that Linux is ready for the mainstream for over a decade, but I've noticed a significant decrease in compatibility problems and hardware bugs in the past couple years. If you're still seeing things break periodically with normal updates, I think either (1) you have a system that has real compatibility problems with Linux, (2) you need a different distro, or (3) you need to be more careful about what sorts of updates you're putting on your system.

Linux Mint perhaps has the best reputation these days for "just works," and they rate upgrades in terms of how critical they are and the critical updates are generally vetted to be sure they won't break your system.

Re:There are actual lists ya know (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | about 3 years ago | (#37826082)

Most distros work on newer, UEFI-capable systems when in legacy/BIOS mode, though that's not always the case when trying to use native capabilities. UEFI has created some problems recently on x86 hardware, but they appear to be getting addressed. They were first really addressed with kernel 3.0 and have gotten better in 3.1. Matt Garrett was the developer to start figuring out what was going on, leading to a patch with an amusing description [] and a few bits of sarcasm in in-line comments. It's improved since then.

There are also some gaps in coverage stemming from grub not yet reaching a release state. Fedora was going to go grub2 across the board with F16, but some issues have stalled that for UEFI systems, which will have to wait until F17. Fortunately, grub-efi still works well enough to get it loaded, though I've not been able to get it to recognize the Windows partition on my work notebook and have to rely on the firmware's boot menu to handle that part. It means I have to pay attention when booting for the couple of seconds to hit F12, but it works.

I believe Ubuntu 11.10 also works well enough, as my last experiments were using a beta and I imagine that it's improved since then. I also tinkered with Arch, but couldn't get it to work properly. No idea how far they've gone in the last couple of months.

Re:There are actual lists ya know (1)

mathfeel (937008) | about 3 years ago | (#37825908)

I agree. I have the tablet version of x201 and to my surprise, the touch screen also works almost out of box. I had to google something, but it was quick. Fingerprint reader also doesn't work, but quite frankly I don't trust fingerprint authentication anyway so.

But I don't know where you go for support. I kept a small win7 partition just so that I don't run into the "we don't support linux" when CSR tries to blinding diagnose hardware issue over the phone. So far, never had to boot it.

Re:There are actual lists ya know (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825912)

How cool if Ubuntu became a hardware company like Apple

Re:There are actual lists ya know (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 3 years ago | (#37826000)

I installed Ubuntu on my Gateway-branded Acer Apsire 1 Netbook and its like they built the thing for Ubuntu. Everything works out of the box, even the wifi. Even the sleep mode stuff appears to work correctly. The only drawback to this is the hardware, this particular Acer didn't come with a bluetooth chip. Again, this is a hardware thing, once I got a bluetooth dongle placed on the USB bus I had everything I wanted. So I busted the bluetooth chip loose from its form and soldered it directly on the netbook's usb bus, now its a complete rig.

Good resource for *BSD (1)

Stuufman (1313417) | about 3 years ago | (#37825668) [] You know, if you feel like reading a shitton of dmesg, it's really helpful.

Why not virtualize? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825670)

You could also run Linux within a Virtual Machine on your Mac Laptop ... thereby you get the best of both worlds. If you want to run on bare metal, several Linux distributions are known to run on Mac hardware as well, so you could keep your laptop and just change the operating system.

Now, having said that, generally speaking you can't go wrong with Dell or Lenovo. I've been to many Linux conferences put on by RedHat and Novell / SuSE/ Attachmate, and I've seem more of those laptops running Linux than anything else out there. Dell offers Linux on some of its laptops (either Ubuntu or RedHat, depending on the model), Not sure on Lenovo, and there are some HP laptops that are offered with SuSE Linux Enterprise Desktop.

Good luck...

Re:Why not virtualize? (1)

drjones78 (961270) | about 3 years ago | (#37826054)

If he wants to run it bare metal, he can do that on a Mac laptop too - he can dual boot, or do linux all on its own. Mac laptops generally make great Linux machines.

My $0.02 (4, Informative)

someSnarkyBastard (1521235) | about 3 years ago | (#37825688)

System76 [] and ZaReason [] are both good dedicated Linux laptop companies. Personally, I have a Dell n-series [] laptop .

Re:My $0.02 (1)

someSnarkyBastard (1521235) | about 3 years ago | (#37825782)

As an addendum: Try to do some homework and get hardware that has open-source drivers already in the kernel; pay special attention to video and wireless drivers. As a general rule, I have found Intel hardware to be well supported across distros but YMMV.

Re:My $0.02 (1)

anlag (1917070) | about 3 years ago | (#37826080)

Cheers for that, some well juicy stuff on there that's tempting enough for my eventual upgrade. Would it be safe to assume that companies like these, selling dedicated Linux laptops, will have picked hardware that is thoroughly well supported by open source drivers? Obviously I would expect it to work with the pre-installed system, but over the years on my Thinkpad I've gotten used to having to work out occasional kinks every so often. No biggie, but if I could believe that will happen significantly less frequently, or dare I say not at all, that would make it worth it on a whole new dimension.

Just check the wifi/graphics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825700)

These are the components which I have had issues with on various laptops i've installed ubuntu on. Be sure to check 3d drivers exist for the integrated graphics, and the same for wifi. Everything else should "just work".

Biggest issue, IME: GPU (2)

CannonballHead (842625) | about 3 years ago | (#37825702)

The biggest problem I typically run into with installing Linux, nowadays, is the GPU.

The open source drivers are okay for most things. The proprietary drivers (currently, I have an nVidia based laptop for work and am running RHEL Workstation 6.1) tend to have issues.

For example, my current laptop, a Lenovo W520, cannot boot RHEL 6.1 if I have full ACPI enabled as well as the discrete graphics card enabled (BIOS switch; has both integrated Intel GPU and a discrete nVidia GPU). With some kernel parameter and xorg.conf finesse, I have a workaround with little issues... sleep works, brightness controls, battery monitor, etc.

Sound, integrated webcam, wifi, etc., all work fine.

If you don't care about GPU power and are just going to get one with integrated graphics anyways and use the open source drivers (like nouveau), that may make it easier.

There are a variety of online sites that have lists of laptops along with their various distro compatibility results. In general, I've had good results with Dell computers... and I actually haven't really experienced a wireless card issue in a while, nor a sleep/hibernate issue (and "sleeping when I close the lid" is easily changed; I like it not to sleep when I do that, so I disabled it).

Re:Biggest issue, IME: GPU (1)

robertkeizer (1596715) | about 3 years ago | (#37825874)

I also have a w520 from Lenovo at the moment. Before this laptop I used a Z60m from IBM ( Both thinkpad branded ). If you have the money and are looking for a sturdy (I regularly cut cheese on mine), long lasting (6+ years) laptop I'd recommend Thinkpads. Everything works out of the box thanks to acpi and such. Multiple distro's including ubuntu, fedora, centos, gentoo. The GPU is the only sticky spot, the drivers for optimus by nvidia aren't that great. Set the bios to either integrated or nvidia based on battery preferences. Rob

Buy a mac, download virtualbox, run what you want (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | about 3 years ago | (#37825706)

Done and done.

Re:Buy a mac, download virtualbox, run what you wa (1)

grub (11606) | about 3 years ago | (#37825910)


Re:Buy a mac, download virtualbox, run what you wa (1)

drjones78 (961270) | about 3 years ago | (#37826064)

Or buy a Mac (or use existing Mac), download Linux and dual boot and/or wipe out OSX completely!

ThinkPad W510 (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 3 years ago | (#37825710)

I use ThinkPad W510 with Ubuntu and now Debian. There are some issues, I had to figure out how to have the sound behave correctly, but barring a few small things I find it to be a good value system.

I Also Recommend Thinkpads (1)

SlashdotOgre (739181) | about 3 years ago | (#37826050)

I've been running various flavors of Linux as my primary OS on laptops for roughly a decade, and I highly recommend the Thinkpad line of laptops (originally by IBM, now by Lenovo). Thinkpads tend to use mostly Intel parts, and Intel has great support for open drivers (see or There's also a great community at ThinkWiki ( which focuses on Linux on Thinkpads. My current personal laptop is a T400, and everything works (suspend to RAM, hibernate, sound, video, WiFi, etc.). My wife also has a Thinkpad, a SL400, and likewise has no problems running Linux (it actually runs much better than Vista which it came with). I was actually able to get my T400 from Lenovo's Outlet without Windows installed (it came with FreeDOS), so I even got out of having to pay the Windows tax. The Thinkpad is Lenovo's business line, and the build quality (on their T & W series in particular) is fantastic, and personally I can't live without their Trackpoint.

I have found that if you don't mind doing your homework ahead of time (mainly checking parts on the "customize your machine" section of OEM sites), it's fairly trivial to find a machine that fully supports Linux. With that said, Thinkpads are still my top recommendation (followed by Dell's Latitude line which also has a Trackpoint). I have no connection with Lenovo; I'm just a happy customer. For the record, I run Gentoo on my T400 and my wife's SL400 (she previously ran Ubuntu on it).

Trick is not paying microsoft tax (1)

sparetiredesire (465731) | about 3 years ago | (#37825714)

If you can find something like the Dell Vostro v13 with linux preloaded (I did this a while back and got a nice ultralight for around 550 USD), you can avoid paying for Windows when you don't really need it.

I run both this v13 with Ubuntu, and a MacBook Pro. The v13 + Ubuntu LTS 64 bit is great but not as polished as the Mac experience. If you don't mind occasional use of a terminal window and more bugs in general I recommend it. It is very usable for me.

System 76 (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825720)

I purchased a System 76 laptop a few months ago after being on MacBooks for 7+ years and haven't looked back. My requirements weren't the same as yours so you might want to contact their customer support to ask specific questions, which I found to be responsive and friendly when I was researching them.

System76 (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825732)

I have been Ubuntu user for quite some time, but always on my laptop because I needed Photoshop for my job. This last go around I decided to purchase a laptop from a vendor that specifically sold Linux laptops. I chose System76 because they happened to have the best laptop to suit my needs. I have been very pleased with the purchase. I can't say that the laptop is fundamentally better than any laptop I have owned, however it has removed the primary problem with all my previous laptops - the scourge of trying to get Ubuntu installed with all of the correct drivers. This is simply no longer an issue. I would highly recommend going with one of these vendors - there are quite a few, just Google "ubuntu laptop". It may be slightly more expensive, but I believe that supporting businesses who are putting their money behind Linux is an important part of the movement and, at the same time, it really does save a lot of time and effort to have a machine with linux that works out of the box.

Thought of a new Sony VAIO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825742)

I recently bought a new Sandy Bridge based Z series Sony Vaio. With a recent Debian, pretty much everything worked out of the box - wireless (a/b/g/n) , hibernate/suspend, sound, magic funtion buttons. Also, with Intel graphics on die, 3d accelerated X all just works out of the box. Not a cheap option, but I'm very pleased with it - it's lighter than a MacBook Air. Getting Linux installed was a little annoying as you have to use DM raid to deal with the Intel "fakeraid" controller and the 2 SSDs in RAID 0 internally, but once that was done, it's been fine. Sony sell extended warranty coverage comparable to Applecare as well.

System76 (1)

cbhacking (979169) | about 3 years ago | (#37825762)

I've never actually bought from them, but it sounds like you'd be an ideal customer of [] - they provide pre-built Ubuntu Linux computers, including laptops, with good specs. Since they're building the PC and installing the OS, they can test the compatibility of everything. This is a lot better of an experience than you're likely to get with an off-the-shelf laptop + a downloaded Linux ISO.

System76 also provides support, although I have no idea how it compares with AppleCare... but most Linux computers are home-built (or at least home-installed) and any support you can get for them will assume you're using Windows. Linux software support is typically user forums, although commercial distros typically have support staff.

The quality of the software (for things like backup) is something I can't help you with - every distro is different in what it includes, most software can be installed on any distro, and often Linux software isn't so much a cohesive package as it's a set of tools for any task. Running rsync using a cron job is a pretty respectable way to do backup.

I'm not personally a fan of Ubuntu, but it's the most popular home distro, and if you're coming from OS X it should be a relatively easy adjustment. Besides, you can always install a different distro afterward. Unlike on a Mac, the OS is in no way tied to the hardware - most Linux distros can be downloaded for free and installed on any PC (including, incidentally, a Mac).

These issues are largely gone. (4, Interesting)

reiscw (2427662) | about 3 years ago | (#37825764)

This weekend, I went to Office Depot, bought an HP 2000 laptop for about $329, brought it home, backed up the windows image, and installed Ubuntu 11.10. All of the conditions of his post are met. Battery life is good, fan is quiet, sound works, closing the laptop lid causes the machine to sleep, etc. Not sure what he means about backup - I use grsync which is easy enough to back up my home directory to a flash drive (primitive, I know, but I've never been burnt). No special configurations were necessary to install Ubuntu. It's funny that people keep bringing up WiFi. The last time I had problems with WiFi on Linux was a Broadcom chipset on Ubuntu 8.04. After that, everything has worked without issue (and I could get it working by extracting / copying firmware). Sometimes I think a lot of the Linux complaints about sound and wifi are out of date.

I'm not sure what "AppleCare" is unless it's some sort of extended warranty / replacement program. Unless you're very unlucky, a decent laptop is cheap enough that you're better off self-insuring. While it might make sense for an Apple product (I'm being generous) I don't think it makes sense for a basic laptop workstation.

Re:These issues are largely gone. (1)

trcollinson (1331857) | about 3 years ago | (#37825916)

I absolutely agree. I run a HP EliteBook 8540w (Intel Core i7 with 8 GiB memory) with Fedora 15 and absolutely everything that he mentions in the post works fine. I run it dual monitor with a docking station and all the features you would expect run without a hitch. The wifi question always cracks me up since I have not had issues with wifi running linux on a laptop in years.

Unless you are looking for linux out of the box, I don't think any issue is insurmountable.

Re:These issues are largely gone. (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 3 years ago | (#37825992)

wifi might be okay (depends on the chipset, so just do the homework first). however, thanks to unending "progress" like pulseaudio (or shoddy distro packagings of pulseaudio, depending on who you believe), sound is STILL touchy on linux. at least on ubuntu, there's no guaranteed way to keep the sound stable, it just changes too fast.

A Chromebook... (1)

earls (1367951) | about 3 years ago | (#37825788)

...has everything you requested.

Re:A Chromebook... (1)

Nimey (114278) | about 3 years ago | (#37825962)

What the parent said. If you switch into dev mode it's even got a Linux shell environment.

Bit limited as to being a "real" computer, but fantastic if you stick to using Internet-based services like Google Docs or Yahoo Mail.

Power management can be problematic (1)

Just Brew It! (636086) | about 3 years ago | (#37825794)

There's been a lot of grumbling the past year or so about regressions in notebook/netbook power management which hurt battery life. Aside from that, I've generally had pretty good luck using Ubuntu Linux on laptops; but I haven't tried installing it on a new-ish laptop yet (all have been older HP/Compaq models).

System 76 (1)

anton.karl (1843146) | about 3 years ago | (#37825812)

I've been using a System 76 laptop for a few months and I am very happy with it. You don't lose the service relationship with the seller when you install Linux, because it has Ubuntu by default, and they are generally very helpful. All the hardware works fine. As for backup there are solutions to choose from which do not depend on which type of laptop you buy. As for battery life, I get 3 hours on my Gazelle Professional which is not as much as you get on other operating systems but decent for a 15 inch monitor Linux laptop. There is no Microsoft tax, obviously.

System76 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825814)

I fought to get linux on a samsung laptop so a better option would be: System 76 []

Fan noise? (4, Informative)

devleopard (317515) | about 3 years ago | (#37825816)

" ... minimum cooling fan noise ..."

I have a 2011 15" MacBook Pro. The new i7 quad-core + new GPU gets crazy hot. Often the temp gauge jumps to 80 degrees C + and the fans spin up. Those 2 fans maxed out at 6200 RPM is anything but quiet.


TheDarkener (198348) | about 3 years ago | (#37825824)

It gets really annoying. 'I presume he wants working wifi, too'... ok, how about a working video chipset? If you're presuming, and you live in a 3rd world country, maybe you'd presume he wanted a modem.

If this is dude's submission, don't mess with it, it just doesn't help the guy get the answers he needs. Besides, most wifi chipsets I've used recently have been pretty damn good.

More-so I am aggravated at the editorial nature of these footer comments in general. Nerds don't like editorials, they like facts. Maybe that's my assumption, but I've been reading Slashdot for 11 years now. It. Gets. flippin'. Old.

I probably should have ranted on some other, more deserving article footer comment...oh well. I love you guys


bmo (77928) | about 3 years ago | (#37825922)

>I probably should have ranted on some other, more deserving article footer comment

Nah, this one deserves it. The footer is a backhanded slap at WiFi support for Linux when it's greatly improved over the years. When I installed Ubuntu 10.04 on this laptop, which was current when I bought it, everything worked, including the touch panel below the screen and the infrared remote.

Trolling in the summary is bad form, and yes, it did get old a long time ago.



Bob9113 (14996) | about 3 years ago | (#37825968)

oh well. I love you guys

A worthwhile point that made me smile -- always remember, Slashdot, we wouldn't bitch about you if we didn't care. :)

I find this amusing (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | about 3 years ago | (#37825848)

You are amazed that the computer goes to sleep when the lid closes and sound cards magically work, but yet you want to get a linux distro? What is this like your second computer ever?

Macbook Pro (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825850)

I'm running Fedora on my Macbook pro. Everything works, sleep, sound, graphics, mouse (with multitouch), you get backup similar to time machine in deja-dup. To get at the wireless you need rpmfusion, and install akmod-wl. Plus, you keep your "applecare" as that just covers the hardware component. If you already own an apple, just install linux to that - if you are planning to go out and buy one, look at a Macbook air, or a 13" Macbook pro.

DO NOT get anything with a dual-gpu (Intel and ATI/NVIDIA, commonly in the 15" MBP) - To enable this you need to know how to EFI boot your macbook pro, and that is a world of hurt that I don't think you want. Sticking to the single GPU models, like the Macbook air, will do you nicely.

Stick with a Macbook (3, Informative)

John Bresnahan (638668) | about 3 years ago | (#37825868)

I used to run various versions of Linux on a couple different ThinkPads, and over the last few years (2006 - 2008 or so), each new release seemed less solid than the one before. I would spend days or weeks trying to hunt down fixes for various problems (sleep wouldn't work, WiFi wouldn't work, audio wouldn't work, etc.).

Finally, in 2009, I bought a MacBook Pro (17", 8GB RAM), and used that as my primary machine. Best decision I've made in a long time. I wanted one laptop that I could use for everything, and with VMs running Windows 8 and whatever flavor of Linux I feel like playing with at the moment, I can develop and run any software for any platform.

I might feel differently if I were a gamer, but I'm not, so this is the best setup. Since you're coming from a Linux system, I'm guessing that any games you might play are already available on the Mac.

Re:Stick with a Macbook (1)

John Bresnahan (638668) | about 3 years ago | (#37825886)

I screwed up the last point. If playing games is important to you, make sure those games are available for Linux.

Or, as I said above, stick with a Mac, and run Linux in a VM if you want.

HP EliteBook 8540w (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825932)

hp8540w running Debian "Wheezy". I will tell you that I have run Linux on literally dozens of models of laptops over the years and of all of them, the HP 8540w is BY FAR the least hassle to get going. My installation procedure was effectively this: I downloaded the net-install media from, burned it and booted to it, and when prompted I provided a USB key with the iwlwlan-*.ucode drivers on it (these are all located in the firmware-iwl*.deb package, by the way), and that's it. Everything else worked like a freakin' champ right out of the gate!

I run openbox, tint2, thunar, and nitrogen for my desktop, and I gotta tell you I am freakin' IMPRESSED. No bloat, so all eight of my cpu cores are free to do whatever I ask of them, and all eight gigs of ram hum gloriously along... I've been running Linux since 1995, and Debian or Ubuntu for the last decade. I will tell you that I had a number of problems with Ubuntu, but not Debian.


Apple, Dell, System76 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37825934)

GNU/Linux is not Mac OSX. If you want a linux laptop that works just like a Mac, get a Mac.

If you want something inexpensive, Dell Vostro V131 is under $500 and ships with Ubuntu 11.04.

If you want something more expensive, see System76, etc. Or the various Dell's that ship with Linux.

thinkpad (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about 3 years ago | (#37825940)

If you want solid service and don't want a Macbook, then Lenovo Thinkpad is it. The support is domestic/insourced (my service center was in Georgia). As long as you're under warranty (comparable or cheaper in price to Applecare, but a larger number of somewhat confusing choices), they'll overnight you a mailer which gets overnighted back. After the service (which in my experience was very fast), they overnight the laptop to you. It can't get better than that without local repair centers (=apple stores).

This was with an X61s, but I think it would hold for all real Thinkpads (business-class), i.e. not Ideapads which are junk anyway.

Caveats: touchpad/nipple not as nice as macbook unless you really like the nipple; the AC adapter will probably fail within 2 years (although they'll replace this for you); mine died 2 months after the end of the 3-year warranty.

System76 is the only other option I'd consider, but I have no experience with them. I wanted an ultraportable, which they didn't have.

Lots of fun (1)

metageek (466836) | about 3 years ago | (#37825948)

I couldn't care less about "just works". Half of the fun of running Linux laptops is the challenge to set them up to do all those things you want.

The other half is to see the Apple funboys fiddling with their Macbooks to make projectors display their stuff (that is when they find someone who actually has the right widget to plug it in).


Maybe trivial... Ubuntu Oneiric 11.10 (1)

feranick (858651) | about 3 years ago | (#37825994)

It should have (depending on the kind of hardware, you have (out of the box): 1. Backup, very similar to Time Machine, with the added advantage that you can actual performed a backup not only locally, but remotely or in the cloud (Ubuntu One)> Extremely easy to configure 2. Ubuntu One is very similar to iCloud, as it even synchronize with your phone. 3. Unity is getting more and more similar to OS X 4. You can pay for support.

or consider a netbook. also, avoid Unity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37826006)

I got an Asus 1215T for $275 new:

Everything worked OOTB with Kubuntu, including suspend to disk, sleep when you close the lid, wireless, and sound.

People have recommend Ubuntu, but you really want one of the other "flavors" of it, like Kubuntu or Xubuntu. Otherwise, you'll experience the whole Unity debacle. KDE isn't lightweight, but it works flawlessly on my netbook, which supports 64 bit extensions.

I run into this site the other day ... (1)

JoeZ99 (999617) | about 3 years ago | (#37826040) []

Just when I had bought a new lenovo with windows 7 on it.

PS: I'm not a spam machine.

Thinkpad X220 (1)

Alex Belits (437) | about 3 years ago | (#37826070)

Thinkpad X220 works without any problems, and is fully supported.

X220t version is fully supported, too (I had to make a patch for cellwriter to fix window layout -- as far as I know, it's not applied yet) but I consider tablet mode impractical under any OS.

XPS15 (1)

ADRA (37398) | about 3 years ago | (#37826072)

If you're up for a half decent price for a laptop, I found basically everything worked out of the box with the Dell XPS 15 (I7, etcc). I used Fedora 14 and I think there may have been some initial snafoos with video and Wifi. If there was, the fixes were straight-forward.

For Noise, everything was quite on the unit normally as long as you're not cracking out 8 threads at a time (like when I make a build it becomes quite a bit noiser). The one bug that is with the unit is the NVidia GPU. When you're driving two monitors, the laptop always runs the clock at full speed which means that the fan speed is never at minimal. When I'm just driving one monitor doing average work, I barely notice the noise at all.

Choices (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37826078)

A fairly comprehensive list:

macbook + (1)

Tsiangkun (746511) | about 3 years ago | (#37826090)

just get virtual box, and run linux on your mac book.
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