Linked by Will Gunadi on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:11 UTC
Linux Today, there is no shortage of reviews on Linux on the Desktop, but I think we can benefit from more "Laptopized-Linux" experiences. As laptops keep dropping in price and increasing in terms of computing power, they really make a nice platform even for cpu intensive applications such as sofware development, desktop publishing, web design, etc. And as you will see in this article, installing Linux on a laptop is not as hairy as you may think.
Order by: Score:
Erm...
by Anonymous on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:22 UTC

...so you're saying that Linux now works the same on a laptop as it does on a desktop?

Haven't other OSes had this feature for, like, years?

Yes
by Anonymous on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:30 UTC

Yes, but this isn't an article about "other OSes". It's an article about Linux.

Linux on the laptop
by TaterSalad on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:30 UTC

I will agree with the author about linux on a laptop when he says its come a long way as compared to a few years ago. I don't mean in the application sense, because over time most applications improve, so I think thats a moot point. I'm talking about installation and set up. I have an old laptop, 233mhz 92megs ram 16 bit NIC, and install slack on it. Back in the day I had to download the pcmcia-cs package through windows, then go into linux, mount the win partition, copy the file over, extract, recompile, install.

Nowadays that package comes with most distros, I'm not even sure if its still needed anymore with the 2.6 kernels. But when I install slack now, it pretty much just detects the network card and all is good. Sound takes some reconfiguring, but it could be the hardware on the laptop, but it does work once its configured.

So yeah, I agree, setting up linux on the laptop has improved quite a bit from what I seen.

I'm lucky
by Bobmeister on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:35 UTC

I'm lucky....SuSe has gone on my laptop perfectly, unlike Windows XP, which needed some special drivers to make everything work. Install, boot-up, and go. Even the WinModem works (SuSE provided drivers installed on installation).....

Not bad....

Java
by Andrea on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:44 UTC

> Next, how can I get Java? Traditionally Java is a bit of a
> pain to install due to the fact that it is not Open Source.
mmm, no it's only a matter of debian's policies...

So if Ubuntu can't install Java ``directly" from their packages repository, such as Debian, please, pardon my ignorance, tell me why I should use it instead of Debian.

Linux Lappers
by Bob on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:55 UTC

I dual boot my Dell 600m with XP and SuSE 9.2, although just this weekend I tried the Kubuntu Hoary. They both installed and operate flawlessly, save the Broadcom wireless (something that ndiswrapper solves quite nicely).

Overall, I have to admit that I was tempted to try Kubuntu with all the fanfare as of late. But Suse has won my heart. I will leave Hoary on board until Suse 9.3 comes out then my distro swapping days are over. I'm locked and loaded with Suse on the laptop.

Thanks for your perspective. Great article.

GNOME and remote files
by Paul on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:00 UTC

To edit remote files, open Nautilus, from file menu select 'Connect to Server' and fill in the details about your SSH/FTP/Samba/WebDAV server and save. An icon to browse this should appear on the destop and can be used indefinitly from then on (even after reboot). To edit, just drag and drop files to to GEdit for instance.

...
by Nick Borrego on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:04 UTC

"...so you're saying that Linux now works the same on a laptop as it does on a desktop?

Haven't other OSes had this feature for, like, years? "

But laptop not everyone has the luxary such as I of owning a
whitebook which come w/ out an OS installed. If anyone, Dell should be selling their laptops w/ the choice of not having an OS installed, even if they feel like still charging the user for half of the price of the windows software along w/ the hardware.
And hardware compatibility is not a "feature"... It's a sad fact that vendors are lazy.

Nice Article!
by Michael_Valentine on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:05 UTC

Thanks for the great article. Looking forward to giving Ubuntu a try myself this weekend.

IBM thinkpad
by tobaccofarm on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:15 UTC

Nice article,although not for me but i think it's usefull for a lot of people.

After drooling over the IBM Thinkpad T41p for months, I decided that I've got to have one someday. Unfortunately that day is not today, the *$1000 extra price tag*

What's so cool about an IBM thinkpad? For the exra prize tag i allmost have an Acer AMD64 3400+ 512Mb FX5700 laptop.

I can without hesitation
by emacs on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:16 UTC

(or renumeration) recommend http://www.emperorlinux.com/
for your linux laptop requirements. Broad hardware selection, great customer service, expert technical depth. (Lincoln rolls his own kernel patches for extra goodness).
Perfectly capable of configuring all your hardware, dual boot, and distribution tastes for you.
Sometimes, you do get what you pay for.

Hardware?
by Ulrich Hobelmann on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:17 UTC

What about WLAN, TV-Out, software suspend ("sleep"), and connecting an external monitor?

we need better Wireless Support.
by aaron on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:29 UTC

We need better wireless card support.
apps that will Zero Config Wireless
"A"

Hardware?
by Cosmo on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:33 UTC

What about WLAN, TV-Out, software suspend ("sleep"), and connecting an external monitor?

At least if you buy a Thinkpad with the above features, you'll have it all working under Linux.

network configuration
by blk on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:33 UTC

you could try /etc/network/interfaces instead of your script

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp
wireless-essid foo
wireless-key BAR

ironically
by tobaccofarm on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:36 UTC

The article title ironically is:Linux on A Laptop: A *Tinkerer's Journal*

Power Management
by Julian on Tue 5th Apr 2005 15:52 UTC

It might very well be that your power management works just fine and only expects you to assign a key combination (which isn't there by default, because it's custom on virtually every brand).
Just open GNOME's "Keyboard Shortcuts" (not sure, mine is German) preferences applet, and assign shortcuts for every action you desire.
And, as was already pointed out, Nautilus can edit remote files just fine. In fact, I like the Nautilus way more than KDE's and I also like spatial mode, but maybe that's jsut because I'm accustomed to it.

Very nice
by Maxi on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:00 UTC

Finally something really nice - a review without talking all the time about installation and the programs that come with the distro. Instead something useful - well done ;)

Laptop Experince.
by Brian Hursey on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:09 UTC

I have been using Linux as my only OS on my Dell Inspiron 8000 for going on 3 years now. I have been able to do every thing I need development wise and school wise. I originally ran enlightenment r15 then I moved to kde and then to Gnome. Now I currently am running the cvs version of enlightenment r17. I don't see the difference really between using my laptop and verse's my desktop the only thing that I see that is a difference is the batter monitoring and wireless connection. I definitely recommend people to run Linux on their laptop. The only down side I see is if people want to dual boot they don't have the option of having a bigger hard drive easily. The featurs he was mentioning in Ubuntu are already included in Gnome so I really don't see what the difference is between the destroys besides user preference. I personally enjoy using Gentoo because of the speed increase I get because of compiling every thing for my system.

laptops
by Robocoastie on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:14 UTC

>> If anyone, Dell should be selling their laptops w/ the choice of not having an OS installed,

that would be insane. Have you seen all the proprietary buttons on Dell laptops? Ever tried to get power management and cpu throttling to run in Linux on Dell laptops? I have on my Inspiron 5150 and its an impossible hair pulling out experience. Big OEMs like Dell get Windows dirt cheap anyway from MSFT so if you want to not use half of your laptops features just banish MSFT off the drive yourself.

What's needed for laptops to be successful with Linux is for a laptop to be made FOR linux instead of converting wintel ones.

1) Build them so power management & cpu throttling works
2) build a little volume knob instead of buttons since buttons require drivers which Linux lacks. Same with brightness, suspend, cd eject etc... make those os agnostic.

RE: Laptops
by Brian Hursey on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:21 UTC

If you go into your kernel and manual config it you can get cpu throttling working on Dell Laptops Perfectly fine. Also their are kernel modules to fix the power management.

If you really want to use Linux you are going to have to manually config some things.

All of the stuff you mentioned above can be done in linux just do a little reserch.

KDE / GNOME: working together
by Amadeo on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:24 UTC

It is great to see an article that encourages use of a mixed KDE / GNOME environment. There are many GTK apps (like the GIMP), KDE/Qt apps (like Scribus, KDevelop), or independent apps (Firefox, OpenOffice) that you can mix together to make the perfect linux environment for _you_.

It is simply stupid (like UserLinux did) to exclude best of breed linux apps just because they use the "wrong" toolkit. In Ubuntu, even if these apps are not installed by default, they are supported in main, and just an apt get away.

In time, the basic foundation of both desktops will be gradually the same, thanks to the freedesktop efforts. And people won't even notice the difference between the toolkits.

Linux + Laptops = great combo
by Rho on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:25 UTC

Just yesterday I was working on a fairly new laptop that I thought had a hardware problem. So I grab my Damn Small Linux business card CD I had in my wallet, thinking it was worth a shot. The Knoppix-based hardware detection on it is wonderful... detected everything, even (thankfully) the integrated ethernet. And yes, this laptop had os-independent brightness, cd eject buttons.

@Brian
by Chris on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:25 UTC

In all my 2.3ish years of using linux (on well over 20 machines I'd say) I have once had to compile my own kernel or touch a kernel config. It was because the geniuses at ASL didn't bother to put in all the orinico modules when they built the kernel for their LAPTOPS. Oy, I couldn't believe that, but some linux vendors like to do strange things like this.

Most generic kernel builds will do most anything with modules; but occasionally a recompile is necessary for some feature. I wouldn't expect to recompile a kernel. But actually, it really is quite easy.. And when doing it on a fresh install, no matter how green and scared you are, you really have nothing to lose ;) . (So do it right away if you need to).

@Rho
by Chris on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:26 UTC

Do you know where I can get blank business card cd's? I really want some!

Sad
by Anonymous on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:33 UTC

the Author makes to many excuses to love his linux laptop.
stick with Xp dude.

Eh?
by Geert Hendrickx on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:44 UTC

cpu intensive applications such as [...], web design, etc.

Yeah, nothing but raw CPU power is needed to create contemporary websites.

Re: Sad
by DoctorPepper on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:48 UTC

the Author makes to many excuses to love his linux laptop.
stick with Xp dude.


I realize you are just being a troll, but I felt the need to respond:

Why? Why should he/she settle for an OS that doesn't suit them? I personally dual-boot my Dell Inspiron 1000 with Windows XP and Debian Testing. I spend the majority of my time in Debian, but ocasionally boot into XP to do something for work. I find Linux does pretty much everything I need it to do, and actually prefer it to Windows.

The whole idea of freedom, as it relates to software, is that it gives the users freedom to use the software they want, the way they want. For those of you out there that prefer Windows, good on you, enjoy it. For those that prefer OSX, same thing. Don't look down your noses at those of us that like Linux or one of the BDS's, because that's what we prefer.

Re: Hardware?
by Jan M on Tue 5th Apr 2005 16:57 UTC

@Cosmo

I have been owning a T41p for over half a year now.
Great mashine except if it comes to...

- suspend: ATI (FireGL Mobility T2) driver(?) f**ks up the whole box after resume.
- external monitor: unreliable and only in ascii mode
- tv-out: never tested

I'm tired of fiddling about. Any links?

Conectiva Linux
by Demis Gonçalves on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:02 UTC

Well, there is a good linux distribution called Conectiva. It uses apt as package manager and i think it better than other linux flavor. Some of you who wants to know a new linux flavor i recommend to try this. Using Conectiva Linux 10 you´ll experience a new way to use linux, little people know it, but i guarantee that some of you´ll like it. I use in my notebook and it works fine.

For download:

www.conectiva.com.br

My DM is better than Thine...
by Jason Mock on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:03 UTC

I think this is probably one of the best comments I have seen in an article such as this. I am kind of a new commer to linux, as I've only been working with it for the past 5 years (ish). I've played with everything from IceWM and KDE to Gnome and Fluxbox... All of them have something unique that they bring to the table worth tinkering with. Just for example, both Gnome and KDE support remote access to file systems via their VFS and KIO interfaces (respectively). While I may be in gnome, I may make use of KDE's kio as there are less issues with saving files back (as VFS has issues with this). But then again XFFM from XFCE4 seems to surpass all of them on SMB browsing simplicity... Here's the great part of all this... That's simply my likes and opinions... Just because I feel this way doesn't mean that you can't run fluxbox with kontact and epiphany. Let the beauty of linux, in it's ability to have this flexibility, shine as opposed to turning it into a turf war. But I totally agree with the article writer in that cross dm apps and usage is the best way to go... then your not limiting yourself...

@jan
by greg on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:05 UTC

I am not sure , but you could try Ubuntu -- i have read on the mailing list that a few ubuntu dev's use Thinkpads. My X31 works pefect with the Hoary-RC (suspend ram/disk and ipw2100 ).

http://www.ubuntulinux.org/wiki/HoaryPMResults/view?searchterm=lapt...

-best
-greg

Not so impressive...
by Francois Stiglitz on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:18 UTC

I've installed Linux on a number of Laptops recently though have generally used Mandrake. This article doesn't actually focus so specifically on issues unique to laptops.

As far as Linux on laptops goes... APM seems to work pretty well all around, ACPI, on the other hand, is a fickle beast. It turns out that many hardware vendors have bugs in their ACPI implementations and include in their OEM Windows install work-arounds. Fat chance that will help you Linux users.

Most PCMCIA cards, USB, and Firewire devices seem to automagically configure themselves just fine and I've had less isues with hardware under Linux than WinXP at this point (I never actually check ahead of time what support the OS theoretically has for it; these days I expect all hardware to come with a working XP driver and that if there isn't Linux support, someone's working on it and I can use the interim driver). Case in point, I just got a D-Link G650 802.11a/b/g card that include XP drivers. Installing under XP was not smooth (some issues with XP's ZeroConf implementation and the G650 driver fighting for control; ultimately it required configuration using the D-Link utility, but then switching to XP to manage the connection). Under Linux, I googled for a driver, found madwifi.org, and downloaded the driver. It took about 1/4th the time to install and get up an running.

Hibernate? That's an ACPI/APM issue and also requires disk partitioning to setup (which this author might not have realized). So far, Linux can hibernate on most laptops, but not all. Under both Linux and Windows, the support can be flakey and varies depending on the model (my Wife's Compaq Presario w/ WinXP SP2 can recover from hibernate about 80% of the time).

Battery life also depends. My experience is that if you can find a laptop where ACPI works under Linux, the battery life will generally be about 20-50% longer under Linux, depending on what you are doing (there are difference in the way the two operating systems handle caching of I/O and idling that account for the difference).

Other than that, I've never had issues with any features on a laptop (TV out, external displays, etc.) All seem to function as you'd expect. I've never tried a tablet PC, however, so I can't comment on the touch-screen.

New Debian Installer
by Dave on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:23 UTC

I've had access to older laptops for a while, and have tried a wide variety of distros on them. In the end I stuck with Debian Sarge with the new installer. I'm a relative newbie, and in very little time had my wireless with 128-bit encryption, dual boot etc. all working fine. I will say the new Progeny with the old RH installer is nice too though. Just my 2 cents. Debian is not nearly as complicated to install now as it was 1 year ago. Nice work guys...

@ Francois Stiglitz
by greg on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:26 UTC

Well written summery of your experiences -- just one comment

I am not sure what user/kernel space software suspend i am using (Ubuntu RC 5.04/2.6.10) but it does not require a dedicated partition. I think it suspends to swap can someone else elaborate ?


-greg

@cris, @greg
by Jan M on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:30 UTC

> Hope one of them is helpful ;)
No, sorry.

Won't switch from ATI- to Xorg-driver
Need the OpenGL performance (glxgears @ ~2100+ FPS).
Suspend-or-hibernate-unloading-the-fglrx-module is almost useless while you have to shut down X and so on.

xvnc for external monitor - well ;)

regards, jan

pre-installed
by static on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:32 UTC

It's nice buying a laptop with linux preinstalled. I can download xorg configs, kernel configs, and drivers from the place i bought it from (www.laclinux.com). the support saves a lot of time.. and, of course, i knew it would be linux compatible when i bought it. no research or guessing.

@ Jan M
by greg on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:36 UTC

I do not have the link but i have heard the ATI/Linux message board is fairly active and responsive --




-best
-greg

@grep
by Jan M on Tue 5th Apr 2005 17:41 UTC

thank's for the hint.

Remote filesystems on Gnome
by Anonymous on Tue 5th Apr 2005 18:16 UTC

"One of my biggest dissapointment with Gnome is that there is still not an easy way to edit files located in a remote machine."

This is just wrong. Nautilus and gnome-vfs lets you do this right out of the box. Instead of fish:// use ssh://<whatever>, or ftp://, or blah blah blah.

Problem with using programs when on wireless
by Toffe on Tue 5th Apr 2005 18:24 UTC

I had a similar problem on my laptop on Arch Linux. It had to do with the local loopback network device being set up. At least KDE wont even load without the lo-device. You might not have it on when using your wireless.

GNOME Remote Files Question
by Nathan O. on Tue 5th Apr 2005 19:05 UTC

Under KDE, I can access shortcuts to remote locations in all sorts of ways. I don't just have to go through Konqueror. Is there a way, in GNOME apps (the save / open dialogs) to use remote locations? I can't gleen that from previous posts.

@Jan M
by Cosmo on Tue 5th Apr 2005 20:29 UTC

Actually I had the very same issue with suspend to ram using the fglrx driver under Warty, but appearently it's fixed in Hoary. At least I for one can suspend to ram just fine without the need for unloading the fglrx module.

I'm also able to use an external monitor without any problems.

RE: Remote filesystems on Gnome
by Will Gunadi on Tue 5th Apr 2005 21:15 UTC

>This is just wrong. Nautilus and gnome-vfs lets you do this >right out of the box. Instead of fish:// use ssh://<whatever>, or ftp://, or blah blah blah.

That's what I tried first, but none works, nautilus pops up a box saying that "Nautilus can't display ssh://bla bla bla"

RE: Remote filesystems on Gnome
by Cosmo on Tue 5th Apr 2005 21:23 UTC

That's what I tried first, but none works, nautilus pops up a box saying that "Nautilus can't display ssh://bla bla bla"

Well, it works flawlessly for me too.

RE: Linux on A Laptop: A Tinkerer's Journal
by jerry on Tue 5th Apr 2005 23:21 UTC

I recently bought the Linspire laptop from Walmart.com. It worked ok but. I could NOT get registered for the free 45 day CNR account. I finally gave up and installed Simply Mepis. It installed flawlessly and even came up using the netgear ma111 usb wireless adaptor. And I was able to access my favorite programs from 'apt-get'. The Walmart laptop works just fine and i only spent an hour loading Simply Mepis and 6 or 7 favorite programs... Linspire could be easy, but I didn't have to register to use Simply Mepis... I am primarily a slackware user, but the Mepis livecd installer worked so well, I may never get around to trying Slackware..

RE: Anonymous
by Anonymous on Tue 5th Apr 2005 23:23 UTC

..so you're saying that Linux now works the same on a laptop as it does on a desktop?

Haven't other OSes had this feature for, like, years?


"Other OSes" usually have access to manufacturer specifications too. It's the difference between being dropped off in downtown NY city and being given a map to a specific location at the edge of town, and being dropped off and being told to "wander around until you find the place".


RE: Paul
by Anonymous on Tue 5th Apr 2005 23:26 UTC

To edit remote files, open Nautilus, from file menu select 'Connect to Server' and fill in the details about your SSH/FTP/Samba/WebDAV server and save. An icon to browse this should appear on the destop and can be used indefinitly from then on (even after reboot). To edit, just drag and drop files to to GEdit for instance.

This is fantastic for browsing. Unfortunately, Gedit can only open remote files read-only at the moment, and I believe that's as good as app support gets right now. Don't even think about trying vim. gVim tries to open remote files served by gnomevfs via sftp, but in every case I've tried it's failed (no access to keyring, perhaps). And if vim can't touch it, it's not of much use to me. For now, it's good enough to drag-n-drop from my ssh connection to my desktop, work there, and drag back when I'm done. It would be nice to get remote editing capabilities though.

RE: Paul
by Cosmo on Wed 6th Apr 2005 03:16 UTC

For now, it's good enough to drag-n-drop from my ssh connection to my desktop, work there, and drag back when I'm done. It would be nice to get remote editing capabilities though.

Do you desperately rely on using the mouse for editing with vim? Otherwise I'd suggest to log on to the remote machine via command-line ssh and use vim in the terminal.

Or, just use Xandros
by awful on Wed 6th Apr 2005 03:43 UTC

Seriously, four pages to talk about putting Linux on a laptop. I put Xandros on mine two years ago, it installed in 20 minutes and EVERYTHING worked perfectly.

for the record
by Anonymous on Wed 6th Apr 2005 05:01 UTC

would like to inform the author that apt-get and synaptic are available for suse and work extremely well. somebody with less experience would read the article get the idea that these great tools are only available for debian based distros.

@aaron:
by AdamW on Wed 6th Apr 2005 06:19 UTC

"We need better wireless card support.
apps that will Zero Config Wireless
"A""

If you've got a wireless network that can _possibly_ work without configuration (i.e., entering your encryption key), you've got a really insecure wireless network.

linuxcertified laptops
by peter on Wed 6th Apr 2005 07:30 UTC

my department has standardized on LinuxCertified laptops. They have been stable and have pretty much everything working with Linux.

v RE: Linux on A Laptop: A Tinkerer's Journal
by luna6 on Wed 6th Apr 2005 09:19 UTC

To cut things out in stone: Gnome is fully network-transparent through GVFS. If your Nautilus says it can't display ssh://blahblah then there's something wrong. GEdit can _not_ edit files through GVFS. This is design decision. If you want to edit remote files I propose using Bluefish or some other GVFS enabled editor. This works flawlessly for me ;)

Nice article
by Paul B. on Wed 6th Apr 2005 14:26 UTC

I just wanted to say I enjoyed your article. You gave me a chuckle this morning when I read it, which is a good thing. I'll be sure to check your blog from time to time.

ubuntu on a powerbook
by ssam on Wed 6th Apr 2005 16:04 UTC

ubuntu works great on my G4 titanium powerbook. sleeps when i close the lid, graphics acceleration on my radion, brightness and volume keys work, wireless works. dvd writer works. its compact fast good screen and battery life.

it even looks good :-)

Ubuntu
by Jimmt on Wed 6th Apr 2005 19:09 UTC

On my old powerbook Lombard I found running OSX to be tedious on the machine. It only had 384mb of memory and a 20gb hard drive. Running at 400mhz most poeple expressed that OSX should of ran well on the machine; however my experiance was not as good as most. I chose to install Ubuntu Warty (later upgraded to hoary). It brought my old Powerbook back to life and ran far much more effecient than OSX. I ended up selling my powerbook, with Ubuntu installed, and have now purchased a Gateway P4 1.6ghz 450LX. When it arrived I removed Windows XP and installed Kubuntu. I love the KDE interface and Kubuntu works with every device in my Gateway laptop including DRI on my Radeon. I am very pleased with the performance of it on my Gateway and will probably not look at another distro. Thumbs up to the Ubuntu team!

Jim

Notebooks & GNU/Linux
by anonomous on Fri 8th Apr 2005 17:43 UTC

"What's needed for laptops to be successful with Linux is for a laptop to be made FOR linux instead of converting wintel ones.

1) Build them so power management & cpu throttling works
2) build a little volume knob instead of buttons since buttons require drivers which Linux lacks. Same with brightness, suspend, cd eject etc... make those os agnostic."

The IBM Thinkpad I own running SUSE Linux v9.2 works with the volume buttons and throttles the CPU and screen intensity automatically between AC and battery.

True
by Aaron on Tue 12th Apr 2005 23:39 UTC

f you've got a wireless network that can _possibly_ work without configuration (i.e., entering your encryption key), you've got a really insecure wireless network.
but i was really talking about getting that card up and going "out of the box"
i strongly believe in security for networks!
"A"