“Although most modern laptops nowadays tend to scare people off with an ugly ‘Designed for Windows XP’ mark, it does not mean that alternative operating systems, like GNU/Linux cannot be installed and function equally well. In this article I would like to describe a few common issues with Linux on laptops and maybe bust a few myths about using GNU/Linux on mobile computers.”
GNU/Linux on Laptops
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2006-09-09 8:40 pmtwenex
I have SuSE Linux 10 on a Fujitsu Siemens and it works (almost) perfectly, including screen resolution, sound card, and acpi.
One or two of the buttons (for volume, etc.) don’t work, but otoh I never used them and I didn’t find out until a friend used my laptop. Fortunately there is a separate dedicated volume control on the headphone socket, and laptop speakers are funny haha anyway.
For wireless I just got a D-Link G650 (not 650+, as apparently that has issues.) (The inbuilt Broadcom is probably a lost cause.)
2006-09-10 10:21 ammoondevil
You’re right, but I don’t feel like buying extra hardware just to be able to run Linux without problems.
Specially since a few things I do on the laptop, symbian development/game related stuff, are only possible on Windows.
So if I already have to dual boot, carrying extra stuff around (WiFi card) just because of Linux, just doesn’t cut it.
Maybe in a few more months I will be able to find a working distribution.
we’ver sold a few laptops that had preinstalled windows on it — we directly deleted that stuff and installed SUSE 10.x.
only thing that doesn’t work are SD card readers. Not a big problem, considering that a reader via USB is below the $10 mark anyways.
Sound — no problem. Wireless — no problem. Resolution — no problem.
It may take another 10 to 15 minutes to tackle those items but that’s calculated into the price of the hard/software setup.
If you’ve used slackware since v2 (when was that ? I used slackware when the kernel was at v0.93plxx..) you know that it wouldn’t take much time.
Best of all is to get hardware that works out of the box. Everyone understands that C64 doesn’t run XP but people still are surprised they have to tackle little problems with off the shelf hardware. Note that having windows to work also takes quite some time but that is what the system integrators do for you. Get windows on your FSC and you will see that if you use stock windows, much of your hardware won’t work anyways….
2006-09-09 8:43 pmtwenex
I can confirm that. Reinstalling Windows on a Fujitsu Siemens requires a lot of patience due to having to handle driver cd’s.
Polishlinux.org article “Linux on laptops” is more of first impression than really analytic research of the topic. Never mind it does not even go in deeper details of what’s good and what should be improved to get better overall experience with Linux on notebooks. Too much generalizations for article to consider serious approach to the problem.
It is more a roadmap marking the bumps on your way to make your laptop usefull Linux powerhouse.
I’ve installed numerous Linux distros on various laptop machines with more or less success and never heard of any serious complains. Of course you have to make your customers, friends and whoever is future Linux-on-laptop user aware of certain limitations free operating system shows when dealing with “latest and greatest” in hardware arena.
Just couple weeks ago , for instance , I’ve installed PCLinuxOS ( my favorite distro) on six years old Compaq Presario 1200-XL118 model ( AMD K-6 500 MHz 192 Mb SDRAM ) and only lost functionality was external monitor. However my friend does not do presentations so the external monitor support for him isn’t an issue at all.
BTW, PCLinuxOS enthusiasts just started creating hardware list support WEB site.
For those of you who are into installing Linux on laptop I’ll post (not fully exhaustive) list of Linux tools and utilities you can use to further tweak your Linux installation on laptops beyond default configuration settings.
That’s for easier readings reason.
* kdeutils-klaptop=Battery and power management, including KControl plugins
* laptop-mode-tools=Userland scripts to control “laptop mode” Laptop mode is a Linux
kernel feature that allows your laptop to save considerable power, by
allowing the hard drive to spin down for longer periods of time. This
package contains the userland scripts that are needed to enable laptop
* synaptics=This is a driver for the Synaptics TouchPad for XFree86 4.x.
A Synaptics touchpad by default operates in compatibility mode by emulating a
standard mouse. However, by using a dedicated driver, more advanced features of
the touchpad becomes available.
* ksynaptics – KDE configuration for synaptics module
KSynaptics (previously QSynaptics) is a Qt/KDE based configuration
utility for the synaptics touchpad drivers. It uses the
synclient/syndaemon tools delivered by the X11 driver, which is
available under http://w1.894.telia.com/~u89404340/touchpad/
* qsynaptics=A QT application to configure Synaptic TouchPad
QSynaptics aims to help desktop users to configure their synaptics touch pad
that’s commonly used in laptops. The program uses Qt 3.2, is easy to manage
and performs the basic configuration steps to use your pad more efficiently.
The program is based on the X11 synaptics touch pad driver.
* 855resolution is a software to change the resolution of an available vbios
mode for the 855 Intel graphic chipset.
Later it was tested with succes on the following laptops:
– Acer travelmate 291lmi
– Acer TravelMate 661LCi
– Acer Travelmate 662
– Asus M3N
– Dell Inspiron 500m
– Dell Inspiron 510m
– Fujitsu LifeBook P5010D
* ACME the Versatile Keyboard daemon
ACME is a small GNOME tool to make use of the multimedia buttons present on
most laptops and internet keyboards: Volume, Brightness, Power, Eject, My Home,
Search, E-Mail, Sleep, Screensaver, Finance and Help buttons.
* cpudyn = A tools to control CPU frequency
This program control the speed in Intel SpeedStep, Pentium 4 Mobile
and PowerPC machines with the cpufreq compiled in the kernel.
It allows to reduce cpu speed in order to save battery and reduce
temperature of the processor. It can also put the drive on standby mode.
Tested with 2.4, Pentium 3 Speedstep Laptop (Dell Latitude),
Pentium 4 Mobile Laptop (Dell Inspiron), AMD Power Now, Apple iBook,
IBM Thinkpad. cpudyn is just a user space program, so it will work on
every processor supported by the kernel’s cpufreq driver.
* cpufreqd = CPU frequency scaling daemonis meant to be a replacement
of the speedstep applet you can find on some other OS, it monitors battery level,
AC state and running programs and adjusts the frequency of the processor according to
a set of rules specified in the config file (see cpufreqd.conf (5)).
It works only a kernel patched with the cpufreq patch, such as the
standard mandrake kernel.
You also need a supported processor, often found in laptop computer.
* fnfx = Toshiba laptop function key utility
FnFX enables owners of Toshiba laptops to change the LCD brightness,
control, the internal fan and use the special keys on their keyboard
(Fn-x combinations, hot-keys). The internal functions will give the
possibility to map the Fn-Keys to functions like volume up/down, mute,
suspend to disk, suspend to ram and switch LCD/CRT/TV-out. These
functions heavily depend on the system and/or kernel configuration.
You will need at least a kernel (v2.4.x, v2.5.x, v2.6.x) with ACPI and
Toshiba support (CONFIG_ACPI and CONFIG_ACPI_TOSHIBA).
* iflupgd=Detect and perform actions when an ethernet cable is (un)plugged
ifplugd is a Linux daemon which will automatically configure your
ethernet device when a cable is plugged in and automatically
unconfigure it if the cable is pulled. This is useful on laptops with
onboard network adapters, since it will only configure the interface
when a cable is really connected.
* irda = Utilities for infrared communication between devices
IrDA(TM) (Infrared Data Association) is an industry standard for
wireless, infrared communication between devices. IrDA speeds range
from 9600 bps to 4 Mbps, and IrDA can be used by many modern devices
including laptops, LAN adapters, PDAs, printers, and mobile phones.
The Linux-IrDA project is a GPL’d implementation, written from
scratch, of the IrDA protocols. Supported IrDA protocols include
IrLAP, IrLMP, IrIAP, IrTTP, IrLPT, IrLAN, IrCOMM and IrOBEX.
The irda-utils package contains a collection of programs that enable
the use of IrDA protocols. Most IrDA features are implemented in the
kernel, so IrDA support must be enabled in the kernel before any IrDA
tools or programs can be used. Some configuration outside the kernel
is required, however, and some IrDA features, like IrOBEX, are
actually implemented outside the kernel.
* KXDocker plugin=This plugin show the battery charge status, based on klaptop
(KDE Utility) The 0.3 release has support for new KXDocker 0.31
api and autoinstall!
* pcmcia-cs = The daemon for using PCMCIA adapters
Many laptop machines (and some non-laptops) support PCMCIA cards for
expansion. Also known as “credit card adapters,” PCMCIA cards are small
cards for everything from SCSI support to modems. PCMCIA cards are hot
swappable (i.e., they can be exchanged without rebooting the system) and
quite convenient to use. The pcmcia-cs package contains a card manager
daemon that can respond to card insertion and removal events by
loading and unloading drivers on demand. The daemon also supports hot
swapping, so that the cards can be safely inserted and ejected at any
* spic-ctrl = Sony Vaio SPIC Control Program
This utility allows one to query and set a variety of parameters on your
Sony Vaio laptop computer, including:
-AC Power status
– Battery status
– Screen brightness
– Bluetooth device power status
* tosh-utils = Toshiba laptop utilities
This is a collection of utilities to control a Toshiba laptop. It includes
programs to turn the fan on and off, to view the power mode, and to set the
Note that these utilities work with APM features in the Toshiba BIOS.
If your laptop’s BIOS only supports ACPI and not APM, then toshutils will
probably not work for you. Toshiba’s newer models tend to support ACPI
only, and therefore toshutils will not work with them.
* sylpheed-claws-acpi-plugin = This plugin for sylpheed-claws enables mail notification via LEDs on some laptops. This plugin for sylpheed-claws enables mail notification via LEDs on some laptops.
MacBook and MacBook Pro doesn’t come with a Windows logo and you can install linux on it ^_^
2006-09-09 7:52 pmmadcrow
Heh… But why install Linux when you already have a fine version of UNIX preinstalled?
2006-09-09 9:05 pmMorgan
Some may not be content with the limitations of the “UNIX” that is OS X. It’s a wonderful OS on its own and of course is tailor-made for the macbooks, but not everything that works in Linux works (or works as well) in OS X. I would consider the intel mac laptops to be the pinnacle of multi-boot laptops though; OS X, Linux and Windows should cover just about anything you could possibly need out of a portable computer, and all three work exceptionally well on macbooks.
2006-09-11 6:08 amhappycamper
Heh… But why install Linux when you already have a fine version of UNIX preinstalled?
because part of Mac OS X is open source.
Mellin said:MacBook and MacBook Pro doesn’t come with a Windows logo and you can install linux on it ^_^
Were there some issues getting Linux running with the Core Duo chip? I seem to remember there was. I could be mistaken. Do you have any idea which distros will run on the MacBook and MacBook Pro? Or does BootCamp allow any distro to install/run?
madcrow said:Heh… But why install Linux when you already have a fine version of UNIX preinstalled?
Because you can. Personally Apple has some great hardware. I’d love to see SlackWare running on a McaBook.
2006-09-09 8:45 pmtwenex
I believe they call it “Slackintosh!” 😉
2006-09-09 9:07 pmMorgan
Slackintosh is a PowerPC port of Slackware and would do you no good on a macbook, which is an Intel laptop.
2006-09-09 9:30 pmtwenex
2006-09-09 11:52 pmFinalzone
The test version of Fedora Core 6 runs perfectly on a Core Duo Mac Mini so it should work great on MacBook. I actually play around during the LinuxWorld San Francisco 2006. Ask Eugenia (yes, the editor herself) as she saw it in action.
My daughter’s laptop is an ACPI only Toshiba M45 series. Using Kanotix, all function keys work. The resolution is fine (1280×768). Both suspend and hibernation work flawlessly. Sound, and networking work (both wired and wireless). In short, Linux support is complete.
Then there is the machine that my son just got from Shoprcubed.com. It arrived with Fedora installed. It’s a cute Asus sub-notebook. It came with KDE and Gnome, but Gnome is the desktop environment they put the time into. KDE is an afterthought with this machine.
All function keys work (in Gnome). Hibernation works (better in Gnome). Sound works fine. So does the built in wireless networking (I’ve never had a machine where the wired networking didn’t work). I have a feeling my son will have to learn Gnome, since the point of buying this machine was to save setup time.
So yes, Linux works on Laptop. It works far better than it used to.
Buy an IBM Thinkpad. I have used Linux on various flavors of Thinkpads in last 4 years. They have always worked reasonably well. Everything worked for me (after some work): wireless, suspend/resume to memory, hibernation, external display for presentation, cpufreq etc. Heck, even the finger print reader works. The only thing that is not par with windows is battery usage. I see that battery on linux lasts 30 minutes less than on windows but that gap is also decreasing.
I will have to second the article’s recommendation, OpenSUSE is pretty good. 🙂
I’ve got a Fujitsu Lifebook and everything works out of the box (sound, network). Even the video resolution was correct the first time I started X.
I’ve got a slightly older Inspiron 8200. Ubuntu dapper works great. A few issues with docking and a cheap low power charger but hey network-manager and nm-applet work great.
After this little configuration hack I got suspend and hibernate working with the monitor (the monitor would turn off after X started and wouldn’t turn back on). This even happened in XP 100% of the time.
Now it works all the time. Sweet stuff.
Then there’s syngery when it’s docked.
That’s an awesome program for using one mouse and keyboard among UNIX, Windows and OS X. Not totally secure but it works great in my home office.
Biggest problem I have had is with standby and Fn Keys, both related to acpi. I have never been able to get acpi to work perfectly with ANY laptop.
Other than that, things are quite easy to set up. Nvidia, ATI drivers work fine (for me), wireless using ndiswrapper, cpufreq to control cpu speed and so forth.
The one thing i miss is standby. Its a pain to have to get back from hibernate everytime i close and open the lid.
The author says HP is well supported but in my personal experience, some models of HP have a funky sound card which requires some fancy drivers even in windows and i could NOT get them to work in Linux.
I am the happy owner of a Fujistu Siemens laptop and even though I have Linux installed I hardly use it.
The reason is quite simple, I am yet to find a distribution that works out of the box with my laptop.
Current problems are screen resolution, sound card and WiFi.
I could try to solve this problems, after all I’m a Linux user since slackware 2.0. However nowadays I think my time is better spent elsewhere, not tweaking with configuration files.