posted by Jimmy Oliver on Tue 16th Nov 2004 22:09 UTC
IconLinux laptop support has been in my experience abysmal at best. Things that just work when running Windows XP are either horribly broken, or simply not implemented at all under Linux. Many Linux distributions have little or no real ACPI support. Imagine using your laptop without a battery meter, or any noticeable fan control whatsoever. Due to the lack of mature ACPI support in most modern distributions, I have had to deal with a very large amount of suffering.


An hour into a coding session my laptop would just die without warning. The fan would run constantly, and battery consumption would suffer greatly. Strides have been made to remedy these issues, and SUSE has hit a home run with 9.2 professional. I have been using Linux for about 8 years, since Redhat 5.2 way back in 1997. Since then, Linux has made quantum leaps in usability for the common man. Linux on the desktop has come of age and is now an extremely viable home and enterprise solution for computing. Linux on the portable desktop is just now coming into it's own thanks to the hard work of SuSE.

There are two criteria that I believe make a portable computer usable; power management and network support. I'm going to take a look at SuSE 9.2 from those angles. I define power management as the ability to provide efficient use of battery resources. This includes fast power on and off and acoustic considerations. Network support for laptops is different from network support on desktops. Portable users need to be able to quickly swap between wildly disparate networking environments. One hour you might be on a corporate LAN with an hardwired Ethernet connection, and the next at the airport on a wireless 802.11x network. Laborious network configuration changes are unacceptable in these scenarios. Laptop users are agile and they require an agile operating system to keep up with the inherent transient nature of portable computing.

System Specs

I want to comment briefly on portable hardware . I know that some hardware has better native support than others under Linux. I am approaching this review from the perspective of a typical portable user who does not want to have to recompile their kernel to obtain a working system. I know that some windows hardware will not work out of the box without installing drivers, but installing and compiling are two different animals entirely. I am basing my review on my system. Your mileage may vary. If you have bleeding edge or unsupported hardware, your experience might be quite degraded as compared to mine. That being said, here are the specifications of the system used for the review.

  • Dell Inspiron 8600, Pentium M 1.5GHz (Centrino)
  • 15.4in WXGA Display
  • 768MB,DDR,333MHz
  • 32MB NVIDIA GeForce FX Go5200 Go
  • 60GB Ultra ATA Hard Drive
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home
  • Integrated 10/100 Network Card and Modem
  • 24X Combo DVD/CD-RW
  • Intel PRO/Wireless 2200 (802.11b/g) Internal Wireless

The installation of SuSE onto my laptop was on par with every other major distribution available today. Using a very attractive GUI installer I was able to resize my Windows XP NTFS partition down to around 10gig. I basically accepted the suggested partitioning scheme and modified it slightly to shrink the size of the Windows partition even further. This left the remainder of the 60gig drive available for SuSE. The ability to resize an NTFS partition at installation time is very nice. This avoids the complication of having to either boot a Linux liveCD such as Knoppix or purchasing a costly commercial application like Partition Magic. Partition resizing should be standard in all installers. I kept the windows partition around for the odd chance that I might need it for some reason or another. After all, I paid good money for that copy of Windows XP Home. I accepted all values by default except timezone which I modified to match the region where I reside. The default installation includes KDE for a desktop environment, and for office applications. The installation took around 30 minutes and 3 of the 5 included CDs to complete. Overall the installation was a pleasant experience. All of my hardware was correctly identified and installed, except for my wireless card, which I will discuss later.

Table of contents
  1. "SuSE and Laptops, Page 1/2"
  2. "SuSE and Laptops, Page 2/2"
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