posted by Will Gunadi on Tue 5th Apr 2005 14:11 UTC
IconToday, 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.

I recently had the opportunity to setup a new Linux-running laptop after the demise of my trusty Sony Vaio. The goal of this article is to learn together from the ups and downs that I've gone through in installing and using Linux on the new laptop. In summary, it's light-years on the positive side compared to just a few years ago.

NOTE: This article is written based on the experience of using Linux on a laptop in a full-time (8 hrs a day) job as a Senior Developer/Build Manager of a software development shop.

Choosing a Distro:

Having cut my teeth on Slackware, Caldera, Redhat, SuSE, Mandrake, (and in more recent years, Gentoo and Knoppix) I have gone through pretty much all flavors of major distributions, therefore in this article, far be it for me to inflame the "oh-so-combustible" distro-war. Having said that, I chose Ubuntu "Warty" as the distro for the following reasons:

1. Ubuntu being pretty recent, has a huge selection of mature applications. Many have said that Ubuntu provides a pretty seamless desktop experience. I just have to see it for myself.

2. Knowing that Ubuntu is also debian-based, is enough to give me another reason to try it. Let me explain: For those who are new to Linux, one of the joy of using Linux is the freedom to choose from the ungodly amount of free applications out there. So having a robust and reliable package manager is a paramount matter. My recent experiences with debian-based distros like Knoppix have made me fall in love with the apt-get package management system in terms of reliability (90% of the time it does what it says it will do) and robustness (recovers from errors without messing up the whole system). I have been "dependency-burned" a few times using rpm-based package manager in my Redhat, SuSE, Mandrake days, but on the other hand I also have good friends who swear by it, so again, no distro-war here. NOTE: I read several reviews that mention debian in a bad light regarding ease of use, to that end, I suggest using Synaptic (type in: apt-get install synaptic), the front end to apt-get.

3. Since my SuSe days, I've been using KDE as the Desktop Manager. When I tried Gnome many years ago, I remembered it as a non-attractive alternative for KDE. So when I found out that Ubuntu is using the latest version of Gnome as the DM of choice, the tinkerer in me just can't stand the temptation to revisit Gnome. And boy, I am impressed. Now, before you KDE fans start typing nasty comments, read on and discover that KDE comes into the picture just fine later in this article.

4. Why not Ubuntu "Hoary"? It's not officially out yet at time of writing. Yeah, I'm rather dissapointed too, I heard it's supposed to be quite an improvement from "Warty".

Choosing a Laptop:

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 is enough to motivate me to find an alternative. Enter the HP dv1000 series (dv1156cl to be exact, but hey, who's counting?). It is recent enough (with all the bells and whistles that you expect from today's "multimedia" laptops). It is light enough at 5.5lbs, it is powerful enough (1.7Mhz Pentium M, 512MB, 60GB HD), and it is attractive enough (if you squint your eyes hard, from a distance, it looks like a 15-inch PowerBook <more droool!!>) with a beautiful glass-like wide-aspect-ratio screen and a sleek silver outer finish. Internal wi-fi, dvd burner, harman/kardon speakers, QuickPlay(TM) feature, and memory card reader sweetened the deal. I'm sold.

NOTE: Ever since I bought this laptop, I see a guy/gal with Thinkpad in *every* darn Starbucks(TM) that I visited. There they are, typing away... mocking me, taunting me...

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