posted by Tyler Bancroft on Tue 20th Jan 2004 21:00 UTC
IconI've been using laptops for a long time now. Not exclusively, but I've got plenty of experience with them. When it comes to hardware, laptops are nothing like any other systems. They use different motherboards, different graphics cards. Sometimes they use desktop components for things like memory, processors and network cards, but often those are specialized too. Laptops can be broken down into two major catagories: ultra-portable systems, designed for minimal weight and maximum battery life, and "desknotes", often using desktop components, large screens, and powerful graphics systems. I personally prefer desknotes because I like having a lot of power under the hood.

Test System 1 (Primary system):
Dell Inspiron 5150 laptop
3.06GHz Mobile P4 w/ HyperThreading
256MB DDR SDRAM
30GB hard drive
64MB NVidia GeForce Go FX5200 graphics card
15" SXGA screen
Broadcom 440x Ethernet card

Test System 2 (Secondary system):
HP Pavilion N3478 laptop
550MHz AMD K6-2 w/ 3dNow!
64MB SDRAM
6GB hard drive
4MB Trident CyberBlade chipset (shared memory)
12" SVGA screen

In the past, I've had next to no success installing Linux on portable systems. In the past couple weeks, however, I decided to take another shot at it. I picked a bunch of Linux distributions to test, and here's the first report. I just want to say this before I start: One of the most useful tools you can get is PartitionMagic 8. It lets you resize and play with partitions, non-destructively, from within Windows. Most people will be coming from Windows, and it's nice to be able to work with partitions without losing data.

There are things you need to do before you start. Of course, make an accurate list of your hardware. "I have an ATI graphics card" isn't going to cut it. You have to determine whether your laptop supports APM or ACPI power management. Finally, you *must* know what your monitor's native resolution is. Before you start, disconnect all external mice and keyboards. If you're going to use a network, modem, or anything else PC card, stick it in. On to the first review.

Red Hat Linux 9

To newcomers to Linux, Red Hat is possibly the most recognizable distribution. As such, new users are likely to gravitate towards Red Hat at some point.

I started off by downloading the three Red Hat 9 (Shrike) ISOs from various servers, and burning them to CD. Simple enough. Pop the first CD into your drive, reboot, and you're off to the races. (Note: If you're using something like BootMagic, disable it before you begin the install.

You're greeted by a boot screen that offers a bit more information. You can start in graphical mode just by hitting enter. If you have problems with the default resolution, (doesn't load properly, too big, etc.), you can change the resolution by restarting, and at "boot:", type "linux resolution=AxB", where A and B are your monitor's native resolution. (Eg, "linux resolution=1024x768"). Also, try "linux lowres". If things still won't work, boot into the text-only installer by typing "linux text". On my main system, I started the installation in graphical mode on my main system. On the older system, however, I couldn't get it to run the graphical installer, so I ran it in text mode.

Past here, I won't waste time with an over-descriptive walkthrough on the installation process. I'll just highlight anyting in particular you should do to make things easier.

The installer offers the option to perform a media test. Unless you've had problems installing in the past, and had to restart, you can skip this step. It takes a lot of time. After this, you jump into a graphical installer. You have to enter what language you want to perform your installation in, and your type or keyboard. Next is mouse stuff. If your touchpad/eraserhead is already working, great. Take the default selection offered. In case it can't autodetect your mouse/touchpad/eraserhead, however, you should try "Generic - 3 Button Mouse (PS/2)". If that doesn't work, try both the 2 button and the serial variants. If that still doesn't work, experiment.

Once you've got that out of the way, you can move to the part where you can do really neat things, like installing stuff. :)

The installer will search for existing Red Hat installations. (Pardon the redundancy.) If there are any, it will ask you if you want to upgrade or perform a clean install. For our purposes, we will assume a full new installation. You will now be asked what type of system you would like to install. Pick "Personal Desktop". Next, you get to partition your hard drive! What fun!

Table of contents
  1. "RHL9 on laptops, Page 1"
  2. "RHL9 on laptops, Page 2"
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