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stardotstar
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 11:00 pm    Post subject: Need to chat about notebook selection Gentooers Reply with quote

Hi guys,

I have been running Gentoo with XP on VMs on my corporate supplied ThinkPad R51 and it has been a great GNU/Linux machine because of the availability of notebook specific help on sites like ThinkWiki and here. Most likely because IBM made such a big effort to support the philosophy of the open source movement even if they did little more in practical terms they have made things like acpi and the ipw2200bg wireless card selection along with the ati/radeon drivers very easy to learn how to manage.

Unfortunately I have management who are not that impressed with my ability to run a non standard environment machine on their corporate network without any limitations to my ability to function - in fact I am able to do more more often than my windows constrained colleagues. I finally broke away from the dual boot with the almost flawless implementation of three Windows XP Guests running under VMWare Workstation 5.5 - a commercial product I happily pay for since it is so useful for me.

Now, I have been basically told that non-SOE environments are not allowed and so I must return my faithful R51 to a netbooted soe with Netware client, NAL and no local admin rights - it will be fun to see them struggle with why my team can't do so much of what they have taken for granted in the past... Anyway, whatever...

I now must acquire for myself a notebook which I can build as my own Linux environment and it must satisfy the following basic requirements:

1) Affordable - but certainly not budget - I figure up to about $4000AUD
2) Generously spec'd - 1G Ram, 120G HDD, Wireless (pref ipw2200 or similar), Dual Layer DVD/CD, about 15" Screen but 14 ok, all the useful stuff - onboard 100/1000 Ethernet
3) I want a well supported (by linux) graphics card which supports external displays - the ati I have at the moment (Radeon Mobilit 7500) which is OK but not too good on 3D or any external display support now that I have modular X...
4) No Silos - so the digital rights silo of a brand like Sony is out - despite the sexyness of the VAIO...

Can some notebookers make some points - I want to get this purchase right and have a personal machine that makes up for the lack of using a linux system all day at work.

More if I can think of it but if anyone wants to chat I would appreciate it.

Will
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 11:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can really recommend my Acer, it's a bit old, so I this model doesn't meet your requirements (travelmate 8006Lmi), but I've got everything important working.
You're right about Vaio's, they're too expensive and the build quality is crap, although they try and hide this with the sexiness. Have a look at the linux on laptops site, and see if they've got the machine you're after running.

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 11:57 pm    Post subject: Laptops Reply with quote

Hi,

I would stay well clear of Acer. I've worked in a bunch of IT departments and Acer's always seem to be terrible laptops.

I would go for Asus or Toshiba. Asus build the MacBooks too FYI.

Get an nvidia gfx card if you want good linux support (3d).

Most of the Centrino based laptops should work well under linux. (wifi etc is all functioning well.)

I'd personally get a revision 2 macbook whenever they come out, or by some sort of Asus Intel Core 2 Duo when they become available.

Kind Regards,

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 1:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I back the recommendation to stay away from Acer laptops. In my experience in helping people out, they suck a lot of times, hard.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Take a look at Clevo laptops, if you do a search on the Gentoo-wiki you will see a few models and information as to what other names a given model goes buy. The m38aw looks like it will more than fit your requirements. I have a D900k and I can tell you that Gentoo is running very well on it and with only one or two real annoyances that I have not had the time to iron out. Wireless works but due to some wierdness with the drivers I am having problems getting it to start up on boot I had to make a script to bring it up manually.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 7:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks guys that is invaluable discussion.

I am seeing a lot of pros for the Asus machines - they make good motherboards and from what I can see their notebooks are well spec'd and spoken of...

I have already toyed with the idea of going with an intel Mac; it would be really attractive if I could be certain that I could get everything going smoothly - I fear that, as always, buying into a premium brand has its drawbacks. Would be cool to use a new MacBook to run Linux alone though. I must look more carefully at them - I suspect they will be too exe.

The toshiba do get generally very good reviews and I am looking carefully at their range. The Quasimodo or whatever seems to get good overall reviews at the moment. They also seem to be reasonably OS agnostic although one gets sick of the range brochures with the "XXX recommend Windows XP" etc etc etc...

Any thoughts on the current ThinkPad post-Lenovo? To expensive I fear...

I really need this machine to last - so that is why I am not converting one of my old Dells - I have a C640 which is very capable but is nearing mid life at least and does not have some of what I need. This machine must be so well sorted that it becomes "old faithful", and I know that Linux is the best platform for such longevity. I am not chasing the 3D Gamer Dragon.

All this said, I never would consider buying a named brand desktop - but with notebooks it is a fine line between build quality, hardware backup and QA and longevity.

BTW what of the Dells and I hear that Alienware is now/been acquired by Dell?

Will
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 9:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I got my Alienware before Dell bought them, everything runs fine, intel pro wireless, etc. Great Nvidia card as well.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 9:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What's the concensus about Nvidia tainting the kernel - I have never had to deal with it...
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't buy dell... there acpi is really bad...
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shadowhunter wrote:
Don't buy dell... there acpi is really bad...

Know any brands that don't have crappy acpi implementations...?
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gentonix wrote:
shadowhunter wrote:
Don't buy dell... there acpi is really bad...

Know any brands that don't have crappy acpi implementations...?


My last Toshiba laptop had terrible ACPI. Stupid thing couldn't tell when the lid closed.

I currently have an ACER Aspire 3500. Its battery life is less than the length of a DVD and the wire came detatched from the plug of the power cable. I had to solder that back together. (My warranty had expired. Through a long process of the system not being able to power on, the power cable only working when I poked it with the multimeter, and opening the laptop to look for the problem, I managed to kill the touchpad. Nothing is wrong with it that I can tell, except that it doesn't work).

Never buy anything with an SIS graphics chip in it. Their website is full of lies such as "There is a linux driver for our graphics chip." It only exists because someone reverse-engineered it, and the driver doesn't do 3d because SIS won't give him the specs.

The screen is very nice though, and the ACPI actually knows when the lid closes and can tell me how much battery life I have left.
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 29, 2006 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So... Is Alienware out post-Dell? and is ACPI the main issue with the Dells?

I am beginning to feel quite privledged to have this ThinkPad.

Maybe I should look at the latest and greatest in the Lenovo's but that is gonna cost me. Certainly all the support and possibilities with the ThinkPads are big benefits - there is nothing on this system that I havn't got working fully or couldn't get working just by reading through the Gentoo Wiki and the ThinkWiki.

I suppose that is a very high recommendation from the very person looking for one :roll:

I am surprised to hear about the Toshi issues; and definitely looking for a machine with ATI or Nvidia - my personal experinece is Nvidia for the desktop (certainly for gaming in XP I have had more success with Nvidia than ATI and prefer it) but I would like to avoid tainting the kernel - so the ATI/Radeon drivers seem well positioned to be the go...

Still don't know enough about the macbook hardware to judge it but I wil research.

Some lappies have two drive bays now too - drool - 2 x 120G

Will
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

How about we tackle this another way?

What is essential?

CPU:
Capable processor that will have reasonable longevity. ie we will assume a notebook needs a life as a primary machine of 3 years (not unreasonable with Linux given the general nature of our needs and applications if we take it that it is not a gaming machine) - so I guess it has to be a dual core something...

Multimedia capability:
Able to play and burn dual layer media and handle all standard optical media tasks - DVD/CDR/W/RW
Good onboard sound and well supported sound card - audio in and out
onboard webcam?? (not necessary - but may become more so)

Networking:
Wireless b/g minimum well supported by solid open source projects that are not battling with major licence silos
Solid well supported 10/100/1000 Ethernet as above

Display:
Clear, bright screen which supports 1280x1024 (see video card) which has a good life span and reliable backlight and acpi support

Video Card:
All the basic essentials - hardware 3D (am not an expert so don't know how to list as DRI/ddc/glx/vbe etc)
enough memory to support these features without sharing system memory - ie min 256MB on board
and well supported by open source projects

Memory:
1GB high speed RAM (whatever that is at the moment) upgradable on the spare slot to 2GB

HDD:
100-120 GB SATA disk with some kind of shock/accel protection and possibly two bays to allow 240GB onboard

USB:
USB2 support with enough ports not to need an external hub if you use keyboard and external drive regularly

Other Connectivity:
Bluetooth??
iR??
Firewire?? (I'm unlikely to need these I suspect)

Security:
Many brands boasting fingerprinting and hardware keys??

ACPI:
thinkpad seems to be well supported - definitely needs to be able to suspend2 and detect lid and A/C/Batt power

Battery:
good battery life but not at the expense of flexibility. lion or lipo etc

Robust and with good support when it comes to replacing things like lcd inverters, power supplies, batteries and good solid build...

Too much to ask do you think?

What about an ONspec - open notebook specification? :)


I am very appreciative of the feedback so far - please keep contributing :)

Linuxonlaptops is good but short on discussion and expert advice.

Will
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 10:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stardotstar wrote:
How about we tackle this another way?

What is essential?

CPU:
Capable processor that will have reasonable longevity. ie we will assume a notebook needs a life as a primary machine of 3 years (not unreasonable with Linux given the general nature of our needs and applications if we take it that it is not a gaming machine) - so I guess it has to be a dual core something...

Multimedia capability:
Able to play and burn dual layer media and handle all standard optical media tasks - DVD/CDR/W/RW
Good onboard sound and well supported sound card - audio in and out
onboard webcam?? (not necessary - but may become more so)

Networking:
Wireless b/g minimum well supported by solid open source projects that are not battling with major licence silos
Solid well supported 10/100/1000 Ethernet as above

Display:
Clear, bright screen which supports 1280x1024 (see video card) which has a good life span and reliable backlight and acpi support

Video Card:
All the basic essentials - hardware 3D (am not an expert so don't know how to list as DRI/ddc/glx/vbe etc)
enough memory to support these features without sharing system memory - ie min 256MB on board
and well supported by open source projects

Memory:
1GB high speed RAM (whatever that is at the moment) upgradable on the spare slot to 2GB

HDD:
100-120 GB SATA disk with some kind of shock/accel protection and possibly two bays to allow 240GB onboard

USB:
USB2 support with enough ports not to need an external hub if you use keyboard and external drive regularly

Other Connectivity:
Bluetooth??
iR??
Firewire?? (I'm unlikely to need these I suspect)

Security:
Many brands boasting fingerprinting and hardware keys??

ACPI:
thinkpad seems to be well supported - definitely needs to be able to suspend2 and detect lid and A/C/Batt power

Battery:
good battery life but not at the expense of flexibility. lion or lipo etc

Robust and with good support when it comes to replacing things like lcd inverters, power supplies, batteries and good solid build...

Too much to ask do you think?

What about an ONspec - open notebook specification? :)


I am very appreciative of the feedback so far - please keep contributing :)

Linuxonlaptops is good but short on discussion and expert advice.

Will

I don't know how much 4000 AUD is, but might want to check out the new Macbooks, although not sure how Gentoo will run on one of those, supposedly it's been done with a modified LILO.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

tylerwylie wrote:
I don't know how much 4000 AUD is

Google wrote:
4 000 Australian dollars = 2 402.83465 Euro
4 000 Australian dollars = 3 051.6 U.S. dollar
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 11:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Q-collective wrote:
tylerwylie wrote:
I don't know how much 4000 AUD is

Google wrote:
4 000 Australian dollars = 2 402.83465 Euro
4 000 Australian dollars = 3 051.6 U.S. dollar
Oh definitely go with a Macbook then, not necessarily a pro, but the normal ones might suit you fine.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 11:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

why is the mac book so clearly the answer - I would love to be convinced!

I have no experience with the hardware and have only seen the macbooks with OSX...

I love the idea of being able to tri-boot Linux primary, OSX and XP secondary and tertiary :)
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 30, 2006 7:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

stardotstar wrote:
why is the mac book so clearly the answer - I would love to be convinced!

I have no experience with the hardware and have only seen the macbooks with OSX...

I love the idea of being able to tri-boot Linux primary, OSX and XP secondary and tertiary :)

To put it bluntly.
They are the sexiest pieces of hardware you can get.
They have long battery lives, good performance, fast ram.
And it'll be awesome to put gentoo on it.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 4:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Macbook Pro 15" with 2.16G duo is looking sweeter every time I go through the specs.
The dual layer, the hard disk protection, the super clean design, the magnetic power and lid, the gig ram the 120G drive the wireless, the ethernet, the ATI video card!!! Looks almost like my list above and I can't say that about anything else except my ThinkPad and this would provide the triple boot if I wanted it as a consulting tool - serious drool factor here me thinks.
I might just be able to afford it.


Have the whining noises and other gripes been sorted out?

I must begin to research the pros and cons of rejoining the apple camp - started with an apple ][e and ended with a MacLC2 - since then it has been mostly linux on intel - perhaps until now...

:)
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 7:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just get a ThinkPad.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

nom de plume wrote:
Just get a ThinkPad.

Agreed, if you have the money anyway, this is the way to go to have things Just Working.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Many HP (HP/Compaq) NX/NC laptops have been Linux certified by Novell and Redhat (the hardware just works). I'd recommend them beside recommending the Lenovo Thinkpads.

Most HP NX/NC laptops can also be bought without paying for a Windows license, if one doesn't want to use Windows (you get FreeDOS instead :P).
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem I see with the thinkpad is the dollars for something with the performance I am looking for.

I will have a good look at the Linux Certified machines that is a great Idea.

Will
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 31, 2006 11:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

shadowhunter wrote:
Don't buy dell... there acpi is really bad...


I have a Dell inspiron 6400, ACPI works great. Everythying works, video (intel though), wireless (ipw3945), bluetooth, card reader etc... highly recommended.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 02, 2006 1:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, it looks like a race between the safe ground of the ThinkPad - will probably turn out to be more affordable - and the bleeding edge of the MacBook Pro 15".

I am quite keen on the Mac for several reasons:

1) running OSX, XP as secondary OSs as a consultant is attractive - though I know I can run XP in VMs and the ThinkPad will run OSX if I try hard enough.
2) The form factor and combination of inbuilt functions is awesome.
3) I like the idea of working with the others who have invested in this platform and are developing it to work flawlessly with Gentoo Linux. It looks like a worthy challenge and I suspect it will get fully sorted and be a great experience in kernel and I/O hacking .
4) From a performance POV it will probably last the distance I want it to

But the ThinkPad is the "sensible" purchase:

1) Familiar hardware not just to the general community but to myself
2) Well supported for Linux and XP for all drivers
3) Excellent performance at much less of a premium than the Mac
4) More accessible from a hardware chop and change POV it would seem

I am going to have to do much more research on where the Mactels are at from the hardware and support POVs
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