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This is where a Knoppix LiveCD comes handy. Burn Knoppix onto cdrom and take it with you to the computer store so that you can test computers before you actually buy one. If Knoppix works on a laptop, you know that debian will run on it.
Also, if you have no previous experience on running debian, you can take your time and practise by using the LiveCD without actually installing it.
Yes, that's what knoppix essentially is. There may be issues in updating your system with apt-get after installing knoppix onto hard disk and you're well advised to visit knoppix forums before doing the actual installation. You'll find a link to these forums from www.distrowatch.com.
You probably don't want woody for a laptop -- it uses old kernel that doesn't support the latest hardware. In a pure debian installation the new beta sarge installer http://www.debian.org/devel/debian-installer/ might be the least troublesome choice. Although, if you've got a PCMCIA network card in your laptop and the installer doesn't detect it, you may have to load the kernel module manually (and possibly also to configure network connection by editing files with a text editor). There are several threads in this forum that deal with these kinds of issues.
Knoppix was a great suggestion. In fact I am currently typing on a laptop that has the dual boot XP/Knoppix installation on it. There used to be this little hard disk installer (actually just a simple cloner, mostly) that came with Knoppix. With it you could get Knoppix installed on your hard drive in about 15 minutes! The problem is that it wasn't well maintained, and finally quit working, the latest Knoppix doesn't even include it anymore. Too bad I thought it was a great way to get a full sized Debian testing/unstable system installed.
Anyway, things to watch out for is Linux support for the modem that the laptop is likely to have (if you need it to work), make sure the ACPI (power management) isn't on the linux "blacklisted" list. Also, I haven't kept up-to-date on this: Is there good support for the Intel Centrino yet?
There's no shortage of Debian based live cds. Some have their own installer scripts. Knoppix can still be installed, if you want to. The FAQs have listed the steps to copy to hard drive, if you want to do that. Mepis seems to be a good version and I believe that there's a new version that's based on kernel 2.6, if I'm not mistaken. Good luck.
BTW, the Debian installer and a fast internet connection will also work quite well for your laptop, I think. As far as laptops.....try here and here for choices. And, look at the [url=http://www.tldp.org/HOWTO/Laptop-HOWTO.html]HOWTO[/'url] for installing linux on a laptop. Happy shopping.
I have a Dell Inspiron 5100 (2.8 GHz, 512MB memory) and I run Debian Sid (Unstable) as well as a 6GB partition of Windows XP Professional. I have had GREAT success with Debian and have been able to configure just about everything- even S-Video out. The laptop runs great, never too hot or anything, and Debian is the distro that I will continue using for a long while.
As was mentioned before, you may want to try Knoppix, Kanotix, Mepis, or any other live CD on the laptop you choose. That will give you a good look at what will work on your laptop as well as providing a good installation alternative if you don't want to use the Debian net install or the beta installers.
Originally posted by wartstew Knoppix was a great suggestion. In fact I am currently typing on a laptop that has the dual boot XP/Knoppix installation on it. There used to be this little hard disk installer (actually just a simple cloner, mostly) that came with Knoppix. With it you could get Knoppix installed on your hard drive in about 15 minutes! The problem is that it wasn't well maintained, and finally quit working, the latest Knoppix doesn't even include it anymore. Too bad I thought it was a great way to get a full sized Debian testing/unstable system installed.
Knoppix still has a HD install but starting with version 3.3 it has been upgraded. The new HD install command is 'knoppix-installer' not 'knx-hdinstall' which is obsolete. The new installer is actually a considerable improvement, things like automount for floppy & CD now work on the HD install whereas they didn't before. There is also two install modes...'Debian mode' & 'Knoppix mode'. Debian mode installs a Debian like system but includes the Knoppix hardware detection, etc, 'Knoppix mode' clones the Knoppix system to a HD install. Operationally this means it re-does hardware detection, recreates default fstab etc. with each boot. but it is close enough to Knoppix system that you can use it to make a modified Knoppix remaster if you want to.
Still one of the easiest ways to get a fully functional Debian system in one quick install.
debian is linux. The laptop problems with linux on cds are due to kernel shipped on the cds most of the time and do not occur on all laptops. installing linux on a laptop isn't a big hassle when you don't have to pass many kernel options to boot like sometimes with fedora, mandrake, gentoo,...depending on your laptop. for the version of debian, start with stable and see yourself.
I am running knoppix on a Toshiba 2410 laptop, when I found out how to access my XP ntfs files I booted M$ right out the door.
the only thing I could not get to work is the linmodem, I ended up borrowing my wife's pcmcia modem, and then buying her a new modem.
I had tried several other distros, but the one that had more sensible documentation and free support was debian.
One thing I have not been able to figure out is how to add screensavers, knoppix/debian has no screensavers.
I started doing a lot of tar, make, install, ect, until I found apt-get, best thing invented since vinegar and water.
I just took a look at KDE 3.2, I do not see options for the installs for debian, the tar.bz2 fails as "not a tar file". the "konstruct" installer fails due to a configuration setting in garchiver, which I cant find, so I cant change it.
I did apt-get update, install, I do this on a regular basis, I really like the apt-get way.
as a result, I have the x screensaver packages, I can activate each of them in demo mode, but I cannot get them into the automatic mode in the destop, when I try to set up the screensavers, the selection area is blank.
I tried to find where I may need to copy the screensavers to, I do not know the name of the "file" area where kde, or x would keep them stored.
Originally posted by upchucky I just took a look at KDE 3.2, I do not see options for the installs for debian, the tar.bz2 fails as "not a tar file". the "konstruct" installer fails due to a configuration setting in garchiver, which I cant find, so I cant change it.
anybody else been there?
I just noticed what you said about that tar.bz2. You'll have to untar it a bit differently and I bet it'll work. Try from the CLI. do "tar xjvf" instead if "tar xzvf". That file is bzipped instead of gzipped (better compression - smaller file). If it craps out on you, you may not have bzip/bunzip installed.
You could also apr-get install xscreensaver-nognome
it works as a independant screensa even though it appears in the kde screensaver menu, i'v not worked out how to run it through the kde control center if anyone has any luck in this dept ?