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!
6GB hard drive
4MB Trident CyberBlade chipset (shared memory)
12" SVGA screen
I didn't test exclusively on these systems, I also tested (or had friends test) on friends' laptops and desktops, as well as a desktop of my own.
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 Windows or a pair of floppy disks. 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 a (insert manufacturer here) graphics card" isn't going to cut it. You don't have to go overboard; you probably don't need to know your RAMDAC speed, but don't go too light on the details. 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.
I poked around and found Libranet. Libranet currently offers two options: download the free former version, 2.7 Classic, or ante up and pay for Libranet 2.8. I downloaded 2.7 and gave it a try. I was impressed. So I contacted Libranet, and they let me have a copy of 2.8 to review.
Libranet is based on Debian. This comes with both good and bad. Being based on Debian means that you have apt-get, one of the coolest things since Armand Bombardier sat down and hammered out the snowmobile. Bad? Debian means the Debian installer. That is, if Libranet used the default installer. Instead, you get something that looks like the Debian installer at a glance, but isn't if you look a bit closer.
If you download and burn Libranet, 2.7 Classic fits on 1 CD. If you buy 2.8, it's 2. Boot from the CD, and you get a welcome screen much like Debian's. Pretty much the whole installation is text-based. If you're like me, and you don't really care, good. If you're a child of the GUI, fear not, cause it's hard to get lost. Hit enter when you get to the "boot:" prompt, and you're off.