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Linux - Laptop and Netbook Having a problem installing or configuring Linux on your laptop? Need help running Linux on your netbook? This forum is for you. This forum is for any topics relating to Linux and either traditional laptops or netbooks (such as the Asus EEE PC, Everex CloudBook or MSI Wind).

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Old 12-08-2005, 07:37 AM   #1
jrbiochem
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Question Buying a laptop for linux/ dual boot- what are the pitfalls?


Hi all,

First of all, apologies if this is too general, and I am doing some independent digging, but I'm seeking some pearls of wisdom to save me some time!

I'm thinking of buying a laptop, with the intention of running it in dual boot with linux (probably Fedora, since that's what I'm used to!).

So my question is, what are the recurrent issues? Are there any makes of computer particularly badly supported? Integrated goodies that don't work? Conversely, what's really good, e.g. wifi works straight off (well, as much as is possible)?

I'd appreciate the pointers before I end up buying something, only to find it doen't work!

Cheers,

Jon
 
Old 12-08-2005, 06:01 PM   #2
hw-tph
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I think the most common pitfalls are these:
  • Most new laptops come with Nvidia or ATI graphics. None of these offer full documentation for their chips so there are no full featured (i.e. with hardware accelerated 3D graphics) free drivers available. Sure enough, both ATI and Nvidia offer half-assed binary drivers that sometimes work well and sometimes don't, depending on laptop hardware and software configuration. Don't expect any support from either company.
  • A lot of laptops come with wireless network devices that do not work fully or at all under Linux. Do not settle for evil NDIS drivers. Buying a laptop with a Broadcom chip won't make the support for these chips better since Broadcom have been adamant about not realeasing documentation. Intel, on the other hand, have released both documentation and drivers.
  • Most "6-in-1" (or whatever-in-1-or-2) card readers will not work. These are often "stupid" devices that require special firmware to work. This firmware is supplied encrypted, and decrypted by the Windows driver and uploaded to the device in order for it to function. Cracking the encrypted firmware is both illegal (in most countries, else highly doubtful legally and breaking all sorts of EULA's) and next to impossible.
  • Users expect suspend to work flawlessly out of the box. It won't.

Think about what's important to you. I like a good screen, and price was very much an option when I got my first non-second hand laptop. So I got one with a big nice screen (and a hefty weight). If I want a real driver for my network card (Broadcom - I don't practice what I preach all the time!) I'll simply get a good PCMCIA card. I have adequate graphics - my laptop is not for playing games so I'll settle for "decent" support. Sound is good, so is peripheral support. That works for me.


Håkan
 
Old 12-09-2005, 01:24 AM   #3
con
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Agreed! Especially the part about NDIS.
 
Old 12-09-2005, 03:44 AM   #4
reddazz
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I've just bought an Acer Travelmate laptop and absolutely everything works fine using Suse 10. Before I bought it, I checked what kind of hardware it ran ie chipset, motherboard, hard drive, soundcard etc and then checked for Linux support of those components. I was prepared for the worst but the first distro that I tried on the laptop worked flawlessly. I struggled to setup my wlan using ndiswrapper, but it turned out to be a problem with poor documentation and if I had got the right instructions from the start it wouldn't have taken me 5 to 10 minutes to configure the card.
 
Old 12-09-2005, 06:31 AM   #5
jrbiochem
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Thanks everyone- all useful info to bear in mind.

On the ndiswrapper point I have to say I had no luck with my desktop machine, but a commercial alternative (driverloader) which only cost me a few quid worked fine...... but I shan't be relying on that here if possible.

Graphics are going to be important to me, I'm going to be using some molecular modelling programs which might perform less than brilliantly with the more basic on-board graphics, I shall have to do some head-scratching about that.

Thanks again,

Jon
 
  


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