Long ago, Nostradamus foresaw that on
10/12/[masked]:27 AM, Ed Jahn would write:
We have more than 6 laptops
running Linux, since starting out with a discarded Armada 700 from
the late 90s.
This is a bit off-topic, but
After years of working with Windows, I want to get
started with Linux, and want to do so with a laptop.
I see various offerings on the Internet, but before
buying one, I'm hoping for a recommendation from someone
with more experience than I have.
I do mainly database work, so favor disk capacity,
memory, and IO throughput. Do expect to be working
mainly with Python.
Don't want to spend more than $1000. Would consider
used or refurbished.
One was bought new with Linux (Ubuntu)
installed from Dell. They all run Fedora now. You can't order
Linux preinstalled on laptops directly from the Dell website (they
got burned with a frivolous but expensive lawsuit from a student who
was mad that Ubuntu didn't run MS Office natively). You have to
request it via the chat feature.
We bought used laptops at PC Retro Warehouse in Falls Church. It
was a wonderful store. I say was, because they are going out of
business now. Not enough business. I don't know where another good
source of cleaned up used gear is.
Things to avoid in laptops:
1) Nvidia. Their stuff is probably the fastest consumer 3D graphics
support - but every laptop with Nvidia I've had to deal with
overheats. Nvida is fine for a desktop with stronger cooling. If
you can run a graphics and CPU torture test before buying without it
overheating, then it could be OK for a laptop. The Nouveau open
source driver for Nvidia works well for todays fancy desktops with
3D acceleration and simple games. Using all the Nvidia features
requires the proprietary driver.
2) Broadcom WiFi. A nagging problem with every laptop using
broadcom Wifi is that it disconnects under heavy network load (like
an update or big download). This is on brands from Compaq to Dell
to Acer. Try to get Intel WiFi. Try to get a laptop where the WiFi
is on a mini-PCI extension card - so you can replace it if it gives
you fits. NOTE - you can always add a USB WiFi adapter for $15 and
disable any annoying internal WiFi.
3) Intel 8xx video. You will only find this in really old laptops.
But Fedora 14 is the last Fedora distro that supports 3D on this
chipset - the developers just don't want to deal with it anymore.
The 9xx, 3xxx and newer chipsets are still well supported. One
exception is that the gstreamer framework does not properly support
Xvideo on Intel, so you have to use Xine to play videos (instead of
Totem or other gstreamer based players).
Things you need in laptops:
1) Memory. 1 G is the bare minimum for a mainstream desktop
distro. Try to get at least 2G. (Linux will of course run fine in
16M - with a stripped down kernel and programs.) You can actually
get work done with 256M and Fedora, including GUI (I still use that
old Compaq Armada 700). But that requires special install
procedures to bypass memory checks and lots of tuning to remove
unnecessary services. Supporting 4G or even 8G on a 32-bit
processor is actually *not* a problem with Linux (as it is for
Windows). Just use the PAE kernel. Hibernation (suspend to disk)
is currently broken for >2G ram, however.
2) Disk. 40 G is the bare minimum to install and run a
mainstream distro comfortably with space for media and stuff. But
only settle for this if it is a 64G SSD. You will want to run LVM,
keep /home as a separate volume, install new/alternate OS versions
in their own volume, etc. So 200G or more lets you do all that
stuff comfortably. Just the OS with minimal user files will run
comfortably in 10G. So if you have a 16G SSD, you can do useful
stuff on it. Just don't try to keep your entire music collection on
it. I run Fedora 14 on an 8G SSD (with 256M ram) on my XO-1. But
that is for selected applications, like Ebook reader, terminal,
3) 3D graphics Whether you agree or not, modern desktops have
largely moved to requiring 3D acceleration. So 3D support is no
longer a frill. There are still perfectly functional 2D desktops
available as options, however, if your laptop is other wise a
I, or another enthusiast, would probably enjoy going shopping with
you and chatting/advising while you install - if you are so