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Old 07-18-2011, 06:22 PM   #1
Don D
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linux-compatible minimum notebook/laptop advice


I'm afraid a few things have been misinterpreted by either my registration or my presence at the "newbie" forum. I am a retired computer engineer, not a unix newbie. However, I *am* a unix-notebook/laptop newbie, but I am looking to cut the cord, so to speak.

The number of you who have more knowledge than I about unix-compatible computers is probably legion. All I seek is a comprehensive summary of what you know, so I may buy the *proper* laptop without any effort or knowledge on my part.

I am not a gamer or an over-clocker (two of my kids are; I'm not sure of their kids), and I haven't moved to HD recording (yet). I not only don't do Windows, I don't do gnome or kde or even X as a general rule. I actually *like* the command line--*so* much less overhead. I neither need nor want a cutting-edge system. I plan to use the laptop only to get lame-compressed music from one of my desktops (using 10Base-x) and play it (digital usb out to stereo), then stand-by for user input (feedback to correct volume level), which will be used in perl scripts (someday maybe in C) to maintain the music database. I can get by with an AMD (I'd like amd64, but don't need it for music). Hell, I could probably get by with a 486, but probably no one ever made a laptop from one.

That is: a minimum cost (ie, very dated), slow cpu, >=120GB HDD, LAN (ethernet, if you go for the misnomer), usb, cd (I guess DVD would be nice, and it may be you can't *not* get one). I think that's it. I'd like it to come with gentoo, but I can probably figure the rest of it out.

Especially if I can come back and tap into the experience of all you LQ folks. Thank you very much.

Don D
 
Old 07-18-2011, 07:32 PM   #2
mazinoz
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don D View Post
That is: a minimum cost (ie, very dated), slow cpu, >=120GB HDD, LAN (ethernet, if you go for the misnomer), usb, cd (I guess DVD would be nice, and it may be you can't *not* get one). I think that's it. I'd like it to come with gentoo, but I can probably figure the rest of it out.
Don D
Given the weird nature of economics, it is now possible at least here in Australia to buy a new laptop for the price a lot of refurbishers want for a second hand one! You could search classifieds, auctions (real and online). As a general rule HP and AMD laptops are the ones to look at. Here the E PC's are more expensive than Windows ones. I prefer laptops to 10" notebooks or phones for ergonomic reasons. Just take a live CD and see how prospect performs.
 
Old 07-18-2011, 07:51 PM   #3
rokytnji
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My Asus EEEPCs (a 900 and a 701SD) and M&A Companion Netbook are Both Linux Compatible. My Wifes Acer Aspire One 5534 works OK with my persistent external SD Flash drives of AntiX and Puppy Linux also. Sound, Tap, Wireless, Flash all work.

Posting right now from

Code:
:~$ inxi -F
System:    Host: biker Kernel: 2.6.34-stevo i686 (32 bit) 
           Desktop Fluxbox 1.3.1 Distro: antiX-M8.5 Marek Edelman 16 February 2010
Machine:   Mobo: IBM model: 26474MU Bios: IBM version: 1AET64WW (1.20 ) date: 10/18/2006
CPU:       Single core Mobile Intel Pentium III CPU - M (-UP-) cache: 512 KB flags: (sse) clocked at 798.00 MHz 
Graphics:  Card: S3 SuperSavage IX/C SDR X.Org: 1.10.2 driver: vesa Resolution: 1024x768@71.0hz 
           GLX Renderer: Rasterizer GLX Version: 2.1 Mesa 7.10.3
Audio:     Card: Intel 82801CA/CAM AC'97 Audio Controller driver: Intel ICH Sound: ALSA ver: 1.0.22.1
Network:   Card-1: Ralink RT2561/RT61 802.11g PCI driver: rt61pci 
           IF: wlan0 state: up mac: 00edited
           Card-2: Intel 82801CAM (ICH3) PRO/100 VE (LOM) Ethernet Controller driver: e100 
           IF: eth0 state: down speed: 10 Mbps duplex: half mac: 00edited
Drives:    HDD Total Size: 80.0GB (12.6% used) 1: /dev/hda ST980815A 80.0GB 
Partition: ID: / size: 6.8G used: 3.0G (47%) fs: ext3 ID: /home size: 11G used: 1.6G (16%) fs: ext3 
           ID: swap-1 size: 1.04GB used: 0.00GB (0%) fs: swap 
Sensors:   System Temperatures: cpu: 47.0C mobo: 46.0C 
           Fan Speeds (in rpm): cpu: N/A fan-1: 4858 
Info:      Processes: 83 Uptime: 10 min Memory: 169.0/1008.7MB Client: Shell inxi: 1.7.15-1
Which is a Old IBM T23, P3, 1 gig of ram. DVDROM, triple booter with Windows 2000 Pro, AntiX, and Puppy 5.20.

My Amrel Rt 786 EX Laptop is Linux compatible also. I run Puppy on one swappable hardrive and AntiX 11 core iso with LXDE on the other swappable hardrive (they are quick change hardrive caddies).

Edit: I also have a even older IBM A22M , 1000hz, 512MB ram, DVDROM, Laptop that runs AntiX 11 with Sid repos enabled and a 2.6.38 Liqourix Kernel also.

Last edited by rokytnji; 07-18-2011 at 07:55 PM.
 
Old 07-19-2011, 04:28 AM   #4
cas194
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Minimal System

>>I not only don't do Windows, I don't do gnome or kde or even X as a general rule. I actually *like* the command line--*so* much less overhead. I neither need nor want a cutting-edge system.

You might enjoy something like my minimal system:

IBM A21m, running UNIX Version 7 for X86

Cost? Practically zero!
 
Old 07-19-2011, 06:14 AM   #5
Archiviste
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One resource to consult: Linux on Laptops (linux-laptop.net), if you want to see if a specific model of laptop works well (or not) with Linux.

Even if the reviews are distribution-specific (and you might not care about that particular distribution), it should at least give you an idea of what are the strengths and weaknesses of a particular model.

Edit: Oh incidentally, I've run several distros successfully on a IBM T41 and an older Toshiba Satellite (don't remember the exact model).

Last edited by Archiviste; 07-19-2011 at 06:15 AM.
 
Old 07-19-2011, 01:37 PM   #6
konsultor
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Faced a similar situation last month. Burned a new "Live CD" of my current distribution (OpenSuse 11.4) and went shopping. Tried several stores, rebooting about a dozen machines into Linux (you may have to adjust the boot order of devices in the BIOS; set them back when done).
Since I was in a hurry to replace a failed notebook, I considered but rejected buying on-line from a vendor who wouldn't collect the MS tax. As much as I hated to do it, I bought one off the shelf with some Windows version installed. Never got to accepting any license terms, just wiped it and installed Linux. Specifically, got a Toshiba model that only Costo sells. It's a dual-core, 64-bit CPU, but since I'm running a 32-bit OS (for reasons that may no long apply), the system monitor reports 4 cores. So the speed and capacity are more than expected. And the price was less than half the cost of a "Linux notebook" of comparable capacity.
 
Old 07-19-2011, 02:01 PM   #7
TobiSGD
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Quote:
Originally Posted by konsultor View Post
It's a dual-core, 64-bit CPU, but since I'm running a 32-bit OS (for reasons that may no long apply), the system monitor reports 4 cores.
It doesn't report 4 cores because of running a 32 bit OS, it most likely reports 4 cores because of Hyperthreading.
 
Old 07-19-2011, 06:13 PM   #8
throes
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Let me summarize back what I'm hearing. You've got deep UNIX experience, favor the command line, and would like to use inexpensive and efficient laptop hardware that is well purposed to the task at hand. That being scripted management of the music database and volume-normalized playback of lame compressed music streamed from another computer on the 10 base-x network?

You're here to get up to speed with what that relevant hardware might be given your specific needs and in general to collect related insights?

You can really do well to get yourself a netbook for this task. I'm quite a fan of netbooks because of the low power consumption and compact no frills design. Not to mention very low pricing. The two reasons you might not want a netbook is keyboard size and lack of a CD drive. If you need the CD drive then you're probably are better off with pretty much any other recommended notebook computer out there. I recently completed a project configuring a minimal desktop environment for a series of netbooks in order to get them to record video from Axis IP cameras. These were Acer Aspire One netbooks. They did the task perfectly and all the hardware seemed well supported under Linux. Mind you I did most of the configuration work by logging into the netbook over ssh and some remote desktop. This is because for day to day usage the keyboard on the netbook is just a little too cramped for my tastes. But for low power, low price and good Linux support I've been very happy with the netbook. You might even consider streaming music from the CD drive of another computer to the netbook to compensate for the lack of a local CD drive in the netbook. I've not missed the CD drive on the netbooks because USB keys have replaced the need for CD's mostly.

I wouldn't worry about what sort of processor is in the netbook. If you're doing command line only and the only CPU intensive task is to normalize the volume of each stream (so each song has about the same playback level) then you really don't need to care what sort of CPU is in the notebook. Many netbooks nowadays use the Intel Atom processor. Perfect for what you describe. If you change your mind and decide you want to fold proteins, or ray trace 3d environments then a netbook is not a good choice.

You mention interest in using "digital USB out to stereo". Does this mean you already have USB sound hardware you want to use? It would be worth googling the make/model of that hardware with the search term "linux" to see if the kernel supports it. Same goes for any other hardware you intend to attach. You might consider using the built in sound hardware most modern notebooks already have. This saves you the need to worry about adding USB audio hardware to the notebook. If you want to use some sort of high grade USB digital audio hardware (via SPDIF or Light Pipe) to your stereo, well I'm not sure that will make an audible quality difference with Lame encoded streams but I suppose it could. Again, the Linux kernel needs to support your hardware.

Lastly, I'm not aware of any laptops that come with gentoo preinstalled. I'm sure they exist but I think you'll be happier in the long run finding the right hardware and then installing gentoo yourself. I do remember gentoo being more effort to install from scratch than other distros. BUT the only hassle with gentoo IMHO is getting the X environment compiled with support for everything you personally need. Fortunately it doesn't sound like you need to worry about that with a command line only gentoo environment. I'd like to make a recommendation. Use a live X based "live cd" distro to confirm hardware support before installing gentoo. For example, download an Ubuntu live CD image. Then use the unetbootin tool to write that CD image to a USB key. Now use that to boot your notebook to Ubuntu. This is a quick way to confirm hardware support is present for all the components of your notebook computer (netbook or notebook). If anything doesn't work then a little research might be needed to confirm the linux support status of the hardware in question. Finally once you've confirmed hardware status then use unetbootin again this time with gentoo. Now you can go about installing the gentoo command line environment to the hard drive confident in the knowledge that all of your hardware is supported.
 
Old 07-20-2011, 12:39 AM   #9
rayfward
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Just a thought on the minimalist thing.
All distributions will allow you to disable services and that includes the gdm. It will still be there but you will only have console access.

Regards.
 
Old 07-20-2011, 10:10 AM   #10
zentara
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I run linux only, and when it comes down to it, you just want a good price for the laptop. My recommendation is go with a Toshiba, because they are decent quality and are cheap. The only sound problem you will have is internal microphone support is bad in linux, and you will need a usb microphone. My AMD64 Satellite was very inexpensive compared to high end brand names. The one drawback is it comes with Windows preinstalled, but Ubuntu 11.04 will install and work fine. Walmart usually has good bargains on laptops when the school season starts.<p>As far as running commandline only, you will quickly give that up. :-) You have to check out the application called Hydrogen ... a drum kit.

Last edited by zentara; 07-20-2011 at 10:12 AM.
 
Old 07-20-2011, 05:16 PM   #11
cyent
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Minimal system... my Android phone.

Xubuntu is an ubuntu flavour that specialises in low resource up to date linux. Check out their sepcs.
 
Old 07-20-2011, 05:47 PM   #12
snowpine
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Do you already have a distribution in mind? The major distros all publish lists of supported hardware. For example:

http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/
http://www.redhat.com/rhel/compatibility/hardware/

etc.
 
Old 07-20-2011, 08:00 PM   #13
theNbomr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zentara View Post
I run linux only, and when it comes down to it, you just want a good price for the laptop. My recommendation is go with a Toshiba, because they are decent quality and are cheap. The only sound problem you will have is internal microphone support is bad in linux, and you will need a usb microphone. My AMD64 Satellite was very inexpensive compared to high end brand names. The one drawback is it comes with Windows preinstalled, but Ubuntu 11.04 will install and work fine. Walmart usually has good bargains on laptops when the school season starts.<p>As far as running commandline only, you will quickly give that up. :-) You have to check out the application called Hydrogen ... a drum kit.
The list of ACPI problems (no solutions at all, by most accounts) on Linux Toshiba laptops is long and frustrating. I don't know if you can find out a priori that the Toshiba in question is Linux compatible, but I think you should at least check first. Bottom line is that Linux cannot control the fan speed, and if you do some heavy graphics GPU usage, it can/will overheat.

--- rod.
 
Old 07-21-2011, 02:47 PM   #14
rayfward
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I bought a Toshiba for my partner. It had Vista on it. It was so slow she wouldn't use it (in 2 years it had 28 Hrs usage). So I Minted it. No issues installing. WiFi worked on Debian and Slackware distributions out of the box.
Toshiba Laptops work well with Linux. My own is a Fujitsu which I had to fiddle with to get the WiFi working.

Toshibas are great it's a good choice. When mine finally kicks the bucket Toshiba here I come.
 
Old 07-22-2011, 03:07 PM   #15
kostya
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Don D View Post
I'm afraid a few things have been misinterpreted by either my registration or my presence at the "newbie" forum. I am a retired computer engineer, not a unix newbie. However, I *am* a unix-notebook/laptop newbie, but I am looking to cut the cord, so to speak.

The number of you who have more knowledge than I about unix-compatible computers is probably legion. All I seek is a comprehensive summary of what you know, so I may buy the *proper* laptop without any effort or knowledge on my part.
Perhaps ANY laptop (if it is not a MAC) you can buy will do .
Quote:
... I can get by with an AMD (I'd like amd64, but don't need it for music). Hell, I could probably get by with a 486, but probably no one ever made a laptop from one.
Yes they DID make 486 , even 386 laptops ! My, I've seen that monster: looks more like the plastic box where you carry your construction drill, rather than what we're used to calling "laptops" these days.
And NO, you probably CAN'T get by with any such thing to run a modern Linux distribution even in a text mode.
The humblest hardware I tried to run Linux on was Pentium MMX 200MHz 32Mb RAM, but you won't be able to run installation CD of any modern distro on such machine. Well, Slackware claims to install on such hardware, but that's a lie as their default install system kernel hangs the system. FreeBSD was the only system to install there.
But you can try some old releases still found on the web. For example, INSERT linux LiveCD can perfectly run even on such machine if you try early versions.
Quote:
That is: a minimum cost (ie, very dated), slow cpu, >=120GB HDD, LAN (ethernet, if you go for the misnomer), usb, cd (I guess DVD would be nice, and it may be you can't *not* get one). I think that's it. I'd like it to come with gentoo, but I can probably figure the rest of it out.
...
Ha, that will be *NOT* "very dated". Or, let's say, whatever notebook you buy that has a 120GB HDD will do just fine. Or whatever one you find that has a DVD reader in it will do fine for your "humble purposes". Seeing that by the time of appearing of 120GB in laptops the CPU would usually be around at least Intel Pentium 4 or comparable.

But here I have my own considerations about buying used notebooks. Just to start from the fact, that in notebooks reduced size is achieved often at the cost of reduced hardware capabilites/quality. Then spare parts cost double compared with desktop ones. Then battery doesn't last long and costs well enough. Then most parts can't be replaced at all. So, instead of trying to BUY an old laptop I'd recommend trying to check if any of your acquaintances have any such old junk in their junk rooms where they keep old stuff they're loath to part with. Perhaps they'll give it away for free? Of for a symbolic price?
Cause I check the prices they ask for their "refurbished" laptops and... I don't see why I should consider buying them and not the newest ones for the same price and definitely superior hardware. Even though, like yourself, I "don't do overclocking nor gaming".
 
  


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