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mysticpain 01-22-2004 11:26 PM

choosing a laptop for linux
I am running fedora core 1 on my IBM Thinkpad G40 right now as a dual boot system. (still trying to get it to recognize my ethernet & modem) Anyway I want to purchase a cheaper laptop to make my linux machine. What type of notebook would you recommend? I was considering an IBM Thinkpad 600x I guess I don't want to spend over $450.00. WHat cheaper machines will run with little problems?

misfit-x 01-23-2004 09:05 AM

I'm looking into that one myself. I've tried looking on eBay but most machines are more doorstops than anything else, unless you don't plan to do too much with them other than office/email stuff and don't need a CD/RW or (in some cases) USB. Keep in mind that I have heard that a lot of laptop modems won't work in linux due to the fact they are WinModems. The best would be to get a serial port modem (most laptops do have a serial port connection, so I am told) and use that instead. There may be some that work though.

You might want to go to for informaiton on laptop computers that run linux, modem issues and other stuff. is a good resource for getting winmodems working in linux.

Hope this helps.

sick-o-windoze 01-23-2004 09:18 AM

I would say continue to look at refurbished thinkpads. The IBM website has really good Linux support information broken down by model. They tell you if there are any hardware issues and sometimes give directions for how to get some devices working. I've bought some refurbished ones for clients from Insight and CDW (not for linux). They come with a 90 day warranty.

misfit-x 01-23-2004 11:21 AM

The problem is with refurbs, anytime I buy something that's been fixed, they barely last past their warranty period. :( What is usually wrong with them that they had to be fixed in the first place? And how do you make sure they don't fail past 90 days?

As for me, I'm wanting to replace my tower system, and add a USB TV card (to watch/record wrestling matches :) and an all-in-one scanner/printer. My idea is to save lots of space and make it very easy to move if I had to (with the economy the way it is, affordable housing is hard to come by anymore).

How long do refurb IBM thinkpads usually last? I need mine to last me at least 3 years...
It'll be the only way I can pay my bills, answer email, plus watch any TV (well, just one show unless I can pull myself away from that), and make photocopies of papers if I need to.

sick-o-windoze 01-23-2004 11:59 AM

If money is a priority, skip the second laptop. The 3 refurbs I got are still going strong 2 years later and theyre used constantly. Hey, it's a lottery with tech stuff. The odds are good, but you may just be the guy that gets hosed this time.

superbondbond 01-23-2004 12:13 PM

I just bought a laptop through RetroBox. They have a pretty good selection of older hardware. Mine is an Omnibook 900, and Slackware installed on it with absolutely no problems.

Scruff 01-23-2004 06:01 PM

I Have been looking at refurbished laptops for a long time and can't find anything worth buying. I just checked out Retrobox and it's the same deal. They want $700 for a PIII 1.0ghz, 256mb, 20gb, cdrom. You can get brand new laptops with more hardware for that price. For instance:

For $779 you can get an HP w/ 1.8GHz Mobile Athlon XP, 256MB, 40GB, CDRW/DVD, 15" TFT.

For $799 a Compaq 2110us Notebook Computer 2000+ AMD XP, 512MB, 60GB, CDRW/DVD, 15" TFT

$750 Apple iBook 800MHz PowerPC G3, 128MB, 30GB, CD-ROM, OS X 10.2, 12.1'' TFT

The way older stuff in the 450mhz 64mb range seem to still be $400+ with no guarantee on the battery that will cost you another $100 to replace. I'll just going to wait until I can afford a new one...

superbondbond 01-23-2004 06:51 PM

for $100 you can get 5 batteries from ebay. granted their used too, but they're affordable.

I'd much rather give new life to a used system using Linux, than buy a new system through a big retailer. That's just me though. (I don't have a need for the latest and greatest hardware. My PIII 650 with 320 MB memory running Slackware is a fast system)

I guess that's the beauty of how computers are built. There's something for everybody ;) Good luck finding a system.... :)

Scruff 01-23-2004 08:15 PM

Well it really all depends on price for me. I mean, I built my current box for like $1000. It's a pretty hardcore desktop for $1000. Now I could use a lot less hardware for a laptop. It would be used as they were first intended: to be portable and handle small tasks on the road. I'd use it mostly just for email and writing code. I can carry an absolute TON of documentation on even the smallest of hard drives, keeping me in plenty of reading/learning material regardless of my location. I would run Slackware+Fluxbox on it so it wouldn't need a ton of resources either.

But, I can't see getting 1/3 the notebook just to save $100 or so. If I could find one that would perform the tasks I mentioned for $350 or so I would definitely look hard at it. Bottom specs would have to be 600mhz, 192mb's, 5gb's (10 preferred).

There's the catch. I haven't seen anything remotely close yet. Those specs are in the $500-600 range and for another $150 or so I can get 5x the system ;)

superbondbond 01-23-2004 10:49 PM

I know what you mean. I struggled a bit too with the decision. Do I buy new as the prices for new laptops are pretty reasonable nowadays (like you quoted above), or do I get something used for a bit less?
What clinched it for me was seeing the notebook my boss bought for the office about a month ago. It's an HP pavilion (don't know the model #) 2.4GHz, 256 MB, DVD/CDRW combo, etc, etc... But dammit, it's just not that exciting of a machine.
I've been in love with most if the IBM Thinkpads, they are fine machine, right down to the design. I chose the Omnibook because the Floppy and DVD are external, and since I don't have a need for those ALL the time, so it becomes a VERY small, reasonably powered notebook, at under 4 pounds.
When you look at the prices for most business notebooks (The really small and thin ones), they're a lot higher than the bulky, all-inclusive, 7+ lbs like that Pavilion. It's just what I'm needing. But everybody's different.......

Scruff 01-23-2004 10:55 PM

I like the idea of the drives being external like that. I would hardly ever need them. Was your IBM pretty reasonable?

DavidPhillips 01-23-2004 11:56 PM

I had a Dell with everything external floppy, swapable CDRW/DVD Battery for over a year.

The thing is if your traveling you still end up carrying all of that stuff that you hardly ever use but may need. It actually takes up more space and weighs even more. Not to mention the inconvenience.

I prefer to have it all built in now after having a pavilion for almost a year now.

For your modem, and external on a laptop is just too much stuff to be portable. You can get a pcmcia card if your internal is not supported, or maybe use a cell phone.

A wireless card is a good thing to have as well when your traveling. Lot of motels, airports, and other places have wireless now.

superbondbond 01-24-2004 12:18 AM


Originally posted by Scruff
...Was your IBM pretty reasonable?
My ThinkPad 560 was my Dad's, which he just gave to me, doesn't get much more reasonalbe than that :D (I think you can get a similar one on RetroBox for around 50 bucks)
That one is just a Pentium I 133, 74 MB memory. It runs a very minimal install of Slack 9 (no X) and it does OK, and it's very thin and light.
(My Omnobook is almost exactly the same size).

Scruff 02-07-2004 01:56 PM

Well I finally found a reasonable laptop. I got lucky on ebay actually. I found an older 12.1" 300mhz 32mb Blueberry iBook that I used 'buy it now' to purchase for $240. I added a 128mb stick of ram for $30 and It's now running Gentoo very well. Turns out my wife likes it a lot and wants it for her own as it's 'cute', so I am now going to get a bit newer 6-700mhz 12.1" model. They can be had for around $600 @ ebay with reasonable hardware. I'll dual-boot it with OSX and Gentoo.

Keep an eye on those older clamshell types though. I got real lucky at $240 as I see some going for upwards of $450, but they are quite spunky with the right distro. I tried Yellow Dog on it so I could test the thing right away but it was mega bloated (based on Redhat). Spend a few days compiling Gentoo on one and you won't be dissapointed. The images on this LCD are very crisp and colors are accurate. You can't beat the G3 laptops for battery life, and Apple's quality of all their PC's is outstanding though I wouldn't buy a Mac desktop. x86 just stomps all over them for both cost AND performance, but as far as laptops go I am sold :D

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