Linked by Eugenia Loli on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 11:37 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems Go on, go around these gadget sites and read all that talk about netbooks and what not. Acer Aspire One this, MSI that, Dell Mini 9 this, Asus that. It feels like the second coming of laptops in this netbook revolution. But truth is, even back in 1999 you could find super-lightweight laptops in the market (for the right price). This 2005-released IBM Thinkpad X41 laptop that Geeks.com sent us, a well-known shop for computer parts, is one of the best Linux-compatible laptops you can buy today for cheap.
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Nice!
by hollovoid on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 12:41 UTC
hollovoid
Member since:
2005-09-21

Nice review, ive been looking for a older laptop to toy around in linux (and to ssh into my media computer when I dont wanna leave the couch). May have to check this out, I dont need anything powerful, and for the price, and its an ibm, looks like you really cant go wrong!

Reply Score: 2

Agreed
by Zaitch on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 12:43 UTC
Zaitch
Member since:
2007-11-23

I agree; I have a Centrino (Pentium M?) P1.7 Acer with a wonderful screen and wifi bought about 3.5 yrs ago. Ubuntu installs and runs flawlessly straight off the CD - performed about 6 months ago replacing windows.

I don't play games, but I do need access to web, office and command lines for remote access, so demands are modest. Investing in a new battery, and shifting a lot of regular non sensitive docs to dropbox sync helped. I can move seamlessly between multiple old + new machines in different locations without thinking about it.

Yeah, I wish the acer booted a bit quicker but once there, well, I can only type and think so fast, and I can afford a 2-3s delay opening larger apps.

If you go in with the right expectations, keep tight control - i.e. don't install unecessary bloat or over customise - and have a specific role for it then these machines can have great value and serve many more years.

I think in these economically and environmentally challenging times this sort of mass reuse will become a lot more mainstream - well, beyond ebay! - if it isn't doing so already. And good luck to it.

Reply Score: 1

Great review and very interesting read ...
by kragil on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 12:53 UTC
kragil
Member since:
2006-01-04

.. but I am sure Eugenia will complain about Ubuntus missing quality control or "broken" upgrade process or the bugs in a new release once 9.04 is out.

Truth be told every Ubuntu release has lots of bugs when it is released. But those are quickly squashed.
(Debian is different. My Lenny box hasn't seen a lot of updates since Valintines/release day.)

8.04.2 is that stable because it is LTS and at .2

Don't except 9.04 to be that polished.

( And yeah, I am all for the idea to give 10.4 the LTS stamp only once it reaches .1 )

Reply Score: 2

Tomasz Dominikowski Member since:
2005-08-08

I'm not sure if you know what LTS stands for. It stands for "Long Term Support". It has nothing to do with stability, software choices for an LTS release are as aggressive as usual, because it is easier to follow them up with updates than use older versions and try to communicate with upstream on an upgrade strategy.

Reply Score: 2

kragil Member since:
2006-01-04

You are right. In theory.

But Canonical has probably more paying customers for the LTS releases and so they will get that little bit more attention (testing, faster updates and fixes etc.)

As for the features: In an interview Mark suggested that the next LTS might not get totally new features (like PulseAudio in 8.04) and might only get the LTS label once .1 is released. (Can't find the interview at the moment, but I am 100% sure he said it.)

Reply Score: 2

_xmv Member since:
2008-12-09

I'm not sure if you know what LTS stands for. It stands for "Long Term Support". It has nothing to do with stability, software choices for an LTS release are as aggressive as usual, because it is easier to follow them up with updates than use older versions and try to communicate with upstream on an upgrade strategy.


which not only inherently make LTS release more stable over time, but also, since they've to support them longer, companies are using those, etc, they're trying to have something more stable here from the beginning.

so again trolling on words and missing the point

Reply Score: 1

Upgradability
by lproven on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 13:16 UTC
lproven
Member since:
2006-08-23

I run a Thinkpad X31 myself, bought for just under £200 from www.sterlingxs.co.uk - so this type of machine is available to UK readers too.

I found that when I upgraded from Ubuntu 8.04 to 8.10, suspend/resume started working, which it did not on the LTS release. So did Compiz, although horribly slowly. Hibernation still does not work, though.

One thing Eugenia does not mention is the upgradability of the machine. I put a 160GB 2½" EIDE drive in mine, but the X31 takes standard-sized notebook HDs. I have read that the X41 requires MP3-jukebox-type 1.8" drives - is this true?

And does it come with, or can it be bought with, a docking station? I paid another £30 for an Ultrabay station for mine, so I have a DVD-ROM drive and could install other OSs. Without one of these, the flexibility of the machine is much more limited. The docking station also can take an extra battery for doubled battery life - even more with an extended-sized battery.

Even with the docking station & the HD, it's a small cheap laptop, costing less than some "netbooks". (I have & am very fond of a real Psion netBook™, so I don't like to misuse the term.) It's much faster, with a bigger, better screen and keyboard, more expandability, more ports - and cost less! What's not to like?

Reply Score: 2

RE: Upgradability
by Eugenia on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 13:21 UTC in reply to "Upgradability"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

Yes, the X41 requires iPod-sized drives.

As for sleep/resume, it works out of the box on X41 with Ubuntu 8.04, so my model doesn't have problems with that at all.

Regarding the docking station, Geeks.com don't sell it. These laptops are coming "as is", with just a charger.

Edited 2009-03-23 13:23 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Upgradability
by lproven on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 13:24 UTC in reply to "RE: Upgradability"
lproven Member since:
2006-08-23

Thanks for the very prompt response & info!

I was talking with another UK IT journo at a VMware press event last year and we were comparing Thinkpads - his X41 to my X31. He commented that we would have preferred mine, partly for the ability to fit a bigger, faster hard disk. The X31 is a tiny bit bigger & thicker, but it's marginal.

And my modem works in Linux. Or at least, Linux says it's there & working - I've never tried it!

Here's hoping I get working hibernation in 9.04, then I can abandon XP on it. :¬)

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Upgradability
by StephenBeDoper on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 15:30 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Upgradability"
StephenBeDoper Member since:
2005-07-06

He commented that we would have preferred mine, partly for the ability to fit a bigger, faster hard disk. The X31 is a tiny bit bigger & thicker, but it's marginal.


That's exactly why I skipped the x41 and jumped from an x30 to an x60.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Upgradability
by dagw on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 13:52 UTC in reply to "RE: Upgradability"
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

As for sleep/resume, it works out of the box on X41 with Ubuntu 8.04, so my model doesn't have problems with that at all.

When you say work out of the box, do you mean that it automatically sleeps when you close the lid and resumes when you open the lid? The reason I ask is that it doesn't work on my x41 running xubuntu. I have to select suspend from the shutdown menu to get it to suspend, it does however resume when I open the lid.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Upgradability
by Eugenia on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 13:55 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Upgradability"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

Yes, it works just by opening/closing the lid. No additional action needed.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: Upgradability
by ba1l on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 14:54 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Upgradability"
ba1l Member since:
2007-09-08

The reason I ask is that it doesn't work on my x41 running xubuntu. I have to select suspend from the shutdown menu to get it to suspend, it does however resume when I open the lid.


Suspending when you close the lid is handled by something in the desktop environment, so that could be the difference. Maybe XFCE's power manager doesn't handle the ACPI lid closed event, but Gnome's does? There's probably an option for it somewhere.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Upgradability
by pawnhearts on Wed 25th Mar 2009 07:43 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Upgradability"
pawnhearts Member since:
2008-07-04


Suspending when you close the lid is handled by something in the desktop environment, so that could be the difference. Maybe XFCE's power manager doesn't handle the ACPI lid closed event, but Gnome's does? There's probably an option for it somewhere.


afaik it could be done with hal. u have to add rule to /etc/hal/fdi/policy/preferences.fdi
also u can use gnome-power-manager with xfce4

Reply Score: 1

Made a similar decision a while back
by trippinnik on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 13:19 UTC
trippinnik
Member since:
2009-02-16

3 years ago (before everyone was talking about netbooks) I bought a cheap X22.
The main drawback that you touched on in your review is the battery life. Only 2 hours! Netbooks are getting 6-9 hours. Besides the used batteries also have a short/unpredictable lifespan.

Reply Score: 1

Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

All the netbooks I had never had more than 3 hours of battery in their standard configuration, so I didn't feel bad for X41's 4-cell 2 hour battery. The 8-cell battery can be purchased from some battery stores, but it's too expensive in my opinion.

Edited 2009-03-23 13:24 UTC

Reply Score: 1

darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

It seems most retailers like to stock the three-cell batteries for netbooks, and most of them don't tell you that when you purchase. If you want the six cells you either have to specifically say so or go online and order.

Reply Score: 3

Dell D420 Core Duo
by fretinator on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 13:51 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

Another light-weight computer in this category is the Dell D420. PacificGeek has it for $349.

http://www.pacificgeek.com/product.asp?ID=108670

I just purchased an Asus 1000HE with XP-Home. I dual-boot with Ubuntu 9.04 Netbook remix. There are times I wish I had a larger screen, as my eyes are old. One of the main reasons I purchased the netbook was the battery life. The 1000HE gets 8 hours+ under XP, and about 5 hours under Ubuntu. Hopefully at some point I will be able to tweak it for better battery life under Ubuntu.

Overall, though, I agree that many people would be better served by getting a 3-4 year old light-weight laptop instead of a netbook.

Reply Score: 2

Comment by bnolsen
by bnolsen on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 13:58 UTC
bnolsen
Member since:
2006-01-06

And another one -- the compaq evo n410c (1.2 p3). Only thing non netbookish about it is the 12" screen. My wife used it as her portable laptop for bringing to customer sites for tax audits. Today it sits at home running arch linux...battery only holds a 30s charge.

Reply Score: 2

tablet?
by pooo on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 17:32 UTC
pooo
Member since:
2006-04-22

When I search on ebay for "thinkpad x41" I get tablet PCs with touchscreen. The article makes no mention of that. Am I looking at the wrong product or do these features just now work in Ubuntu?

Reply Score: 1

RE: tablet?
by dagw on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 17:56 UTC in reply to "tablet?"
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

There where two versions of the x41 one normal version and one with a wacom tablet screen (the version I have). Other than that I think the hardware is identical.

Unfortunately getting the touchscreen features to work under linux is seriously non-trivial. Just getting the pen to work isn't too hard, but making the screen rotate between landscape and portrait and have everything work is a complete pain to set up. Tablet PC's never really caught on in the Linux world I guess.

Despite all that though I'm totally in love with the tablet PC concept, and I'd be hard pressed to buy a laptop that wasn't a tablet now.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: tablet?
by pooo on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 18:11 UTC in reply to "RE: tablet?"
pooo Member since:
2006-04-22

I think it is the x40 that is non-tablet. This is what the wikipedia article says and I see no non-tablet X41s on ebay. I almost wonder if Eugenia didn't accidentally get the X40.

Also regarding your tablet settings issues, I found this site where it looks like most people are getting everything to work perfectly using intrepid:

http://liken.otsoa.net/blog/comments.php?entry=entry080617-120522

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: tablet?
by Eugenia on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 21:27 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: tablet?"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

Geeks sells it as a X41, so I don't know if it's really the X41 or the X40. Although I believe that they are two separate versions under the same name. The laptop I received had no touchscreen abilities out of the box.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: tablet?
by pooo on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 23:35 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: tablet?"
pooo Member since:
2006-04-22

I actually now think you are right. I did find a non-tablet X41 on Ebay also so maybe wikipedia's article is wrong.

Anyway, you just made me impulse buy the tablet version. Thanks a lot Eugenia!

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: tablet?
by benmhall on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 18:16 UTC in reply to "RE: tablet?"
benmhall Member since:
2006-03-08

Unfortunately getting the touchscreen features to work under linux is seriously non-trivial. Just getting the pen to work isn't too hard, but making the screen rotate between landscape and portrait and have everything work is a complete pain to set up. Tablet PC's never really caught on in the Linux world I guess.


Hmm.. I wonder if perhaps the X41 is trickier to setup than a Toshiba M200. I acquired one of these and have been just thrilled:

http://lnxg.wordpress.com/2009/01/21/my-newish-linux-laptop/

On the M200, rotating the screen was just done with an xrandr command. I found adding taskbar icons for an onscreen keyboard as well as rotate 90 and 0 degrees to be incredibly useful. True, it wasn't all done for me out of the box but it wasn't too tricky to follow a couple of how-tos and tweak from there.

I'm thrilled with Linux's support. The pressure sensitivity opens up so many choices. The Gimp is just a joy to use. What a treat!

Despite all that though I'm totally in love with the tablet PC concept, and I'd be hard pressed to buy a laptop that wasn't a tablet now.


Me too, or at least I will likely continue to own a tablet along with other laptops. It's just fantastic that we can pick up tablets like the X41 or Toshiba M200/M400 for a few hundred dollars. Ebay routinely has slate-style tablets for well under $500CDN these days. Most of them seem to use Intel for everything, so they are well suited to become Linux laptops.

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: tablet?
by dagw on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 21:13 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: tablet?"
dagw Member since:
2005-07-06

On the M200, rotating the screen was just done with an xrandr command.

On my laptop simply doing xrandr totally broke the pointer and touch screen since it didn't flip the mouse axis. So moving my pen up and down the screen made the pointer move left and right.

Then there was quite a bit of hacking to make the hardware buttons for rotating work, and even more hacking to make it rotate when I rotate my screen.

Reply Score: 2

Hope for the next version of Ubuntu
by bolomkxxviii on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 18:32 UTC
bolomkxxviii
Member since:
2006-05-19

I have a couple of old Dell laptops that don't work well with the current version of Ubuntu. With the next release I will give it another go. As for battery life, sorry but 2 hours just doesn't cut it. I get 6-7 hours on my Samsung NC10 with my typical usage (wireless on). 160 GB of storage is nice too. I am all for using old hardware but it isn't always the best choice.

Reply Score: 3

Measurements
by Christian Paratschek on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 23:18 UTC
Christian Paratschek
Member since:
2005-07-06

Could you please consider adding standard European measurements. That would be a great service to all your non-US readers. It's such a hassle to convert this stuff all the time. It seems like a simple multiplikation, but really it's about the "feeling" you have for measurements. If you write 1.4kg, I instantly know what you mean. 2.7 lbs means nothing to me. So it makes reading your articles even more comfortable.

Also, IIRC, as soon as 12/2009 it will be forbidden to sell "40 inch TV Sets", "13 inch Notebooks" and the likes in the whole EU. Measurements will have to be in the metric system (as it is for all other products too, some electronic stuff just had a strange exceptional rule that ends this year).

I know I might sound a bot picky but really just regard it as good service for your readers. I think a lot of people would appreciate that...

Reply Score: 3

RE: Measurements
by bolomkxxviii on Mon 23rd Mar 2009 23:45 UTC in reply to "Measurements"
bolomkxxviii Member since:
2006-05-19

I understand your point, but for those of us familiar with inches and pounds it is a pain to have to convert everything. Us inch/pound users don't know how heavy 1.2 kg is. In a perfect world we would all use the same measuring system (and language for that matter). If you convert all your measurements and we convert all of ours we will all simply be doing twice the work.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Measurements
by Christian Paratschek on Tue 24th Mar 2009 06:44 UTC in reply to "RE: Measurements"
Christian Paratschek Member since:
2005-07-06

I didn't mean to throw the inches and pounds out. That would be a great disservice to US and British readers! I just meant it would be great to include both, like "2.7 lbs (1.3kg)"

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Measurements
by Adurbe on Tue 24th Mar 2009 09:47 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Measurements"
Adurbe Member since:
2005-07-06

In the UK we are taught Imperial and Metric

Ask 99% of people here what their weight is they will say it in stone and height in feet

99% also quote the temperature in Celsius

I may naturally use it this way round, but I can convert happily in my head if another measurement system is used. I'm sure most (educated?) OSNews readers can do the same

Reply Score: 2

Awesome
by motang on Tue 24th Mar 2009 13:58 UTC
motang
Member since:
2008-03-27

Very cool, but I am really looking forward to the ARM based netbook, if that proves to be no good then I will definitely be picking on of these up.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Awesome
by Eugenia on Tue 24th Mar 2009 21:32 UTC in reply to "Awesome"
Eugenia Member since:
2005-06-28

Geeks.com sell a very cheap ARM one. Check it out on their site.

Reply Score: 1

At least they're good for something
by Phloptical on Wed 25th Mar 2009 02:31 UTC
Phloptical
Member since:
2006-10-10

The X40 series IBM's sucked hard. They were horribly underpowered when they were new, let alone today. Yes, they do take a 1.8" hard drive, a-la classic ipod. And good luck finding a cheap replacement drive. Honestly, you'd be better off rigging some sort of SSD.

We have a bunch of those X40 and 41 "notebooks" (and I use the term loosely) at work. I don't even want to give them out for loaners. They were turn in's by the road dog's and whiny suits who a) couldn't deal with the extra pound of a real notebook, or b) wanted to show off their e-penis in front of their equally whiny colleagues.

Useless electronic fad aside, if you can find an X60 on the cheap, you'd be much better off. Same overall size and you can put a nice standard sized 2.5" 7200rpm drive in it. But I guess 'utility and performance' isn't the point of owning a netbook, now is it?

Reply Score: 2

Not really says X41 owner
by 404error on Sat 28th Mar 2009 02:01 UTC
404error
Member since:
2009-02-12

I purchased my X41 around 2005 and having been running various flavors of linux on it since then. Much of the hardware is "supported," but recent "improvements" have made the system effectively unusable under many distributions (Ubuntu 8.04 & 8.10, Arch 2009.02, OpenSUSE 11.1). Improvements in power management cause the backlight brightness to oscillate between bright and pitch black (gnome-power-manager made the mistake of stepping through every brightness level when performing transitions). Improvements in X11 broke most of the extra keyboard buttons (like volume control; changes in the ACPI handling removed some important special cases). Other improvements in X11 cause the X Server to crash or produce rendering errors (the i815 driver was phased out because the developers did not want to support mode-setting in it, and the new intel driver provides terrible support for older chipsets). These bugs have been reported and some of them have fixes in the upstream repository, but many still effect users either because fixes do not exist or because distributions must wait for bug-prone projects to release something stable.

At any rate, I felt compelled to post a comment. I've been using linux for a little bit more than a decade, and trying to run linux on the X41 was something akin to the last straw. I've been putting up with the terrible interface and constant regressions for years, and finally decided the "linux desktop" was hopeless. I now use an Apple laptop and have no regrets.

Reply Score: 1